The house was empty, but for the fly trapped in the kitchen. It flew across the middle of the room, and then swung a left turn, diagonally back and then diagonally back again, stopping just short of the rooms perimeter, as if it was protected by an invisible force. Then, as if controlled by a Kamikaze mind, it dive bombed into the window, again and again and again. It slide down the window and rested for a few minutes. The morning summer sun was beaming its heat through the glass, warming the small room, and creating new noxious perfumes from last nights breakfast bowl.
A small, blue patterned bowl stood on the wooden breadboard, alter; saluting the sun. The creamy, full-fat milk congealed with the cornflakes radiated an acrid odour that clings at the back of the throat.
The fly recovered and made use of the delectable feast.
It wasn’t that it was a dirty house, far from it, if the fly would relocate to another room, it would find floral fragrances from potpourri bowls placed at strategic points, so as to catch the slight draft from air vents and open windows. At present, the only open window was in the bathroom upstairs which was never shut, whatever the weather. Usually the wooden Venetian blind was shut to keep the sun out and the breakfast pots were washed and left on the drainer, but this was a different scene.
He’d rushed out of the house at nine o’clock last evening, following the disturbance in the yard minutes before. He’d pulled the blind up to see what the noise was, and just caught an instant frozen image of a fox. Both were equally surprised to see the other, and neither seemed to want to move, as if they were competing in a ‘stare off’. The fox appeared to burn like embers in a dying fire, in the low evening sun. He turned respectfully and trotted off through the hole in the broken fence. Distracted by the scene, he realised he had strayed from his routine and would be late if he didn’t leave now; hence the present state of the kitchen.
A loud, metallic, sharp collision from a spring recoiling preceded a thud and a faint fluttering. A slight ripple in the air released a welcoming perfume in the entrance hall. On the doormat lay a small parcel wrapped in brown paper and string, surrounded by colourful junk mail confetti, and three letters. Some details were visible only on the parcel which read, Mr A. Stephenson, Hawthorn House.
Footsteps on the concrete slabs halted at the door, keys rattled in the lock, and the postman’s gift moved aside to make way for a man. He stood still for a moment as he noticed the parcel. A long dark shadow entered the hallway in front of him as the sun cast his negative onto the Victorian tiles, and the stain glass window above haloed a technicoloured image in the gloomy space. He gathered the parcel, letters and junk and locked himself in, hung up his Berghaus jacket on a hook and placed the objects neatly on the sideboard.
He was a tall man at six-foot-five and appeared clumsy with his slim build, all arms and legs and slow gait. Observers assumed him to be slow and simple; where in fact he was a quietly knowledgeable man. He was dressed in a navy blue uniform consisting of a heavy cotton trousers and shirt under which he wore a white t-shirt. The yellow insignia on the right breast pocket displayed two equilateral triangles, one under the other with the bases nearly touching. This represented ‘Kite Couriers’, a parcel sorting and distribution service, where the man had been working for the past twelve years. He liked his job; the routine of working nights, its predictability. Written in yellow on the opposing pocket was his name and job title; Aubrey Stephenson, Security Guard.
Aubrey went into the kitchen to get a glass of water to take up to bed, and coughed at the immediate smell. Realising what it was, his arms seemed to lengthen as his shoulders slumped in dismay. He was impatient now as this undone task would mean a delay in him falling asleep, and thus spending less time with Mary Duncan, the woman of his dreams. Aubrey managed to calm down enough to prevent carnage in the sink, and washed and dried the pots and cutlery in no time. The fly had gone unnoticed until he left the kitchen, and walked down the hall past the sideboard on the way up the stairs. It landed on the grandfather clock and remained still, giving Aubrey the opportunity to find a weapon with which to strike the annoying creature. The junk mail was within easy reach, so Aubrey put out his hand while keeping his eyes firmly on the fly but was thwarted by his frustrations and knocked the parcel onto the floor, warding the fly to unintentional safety.
Aubrey sighed heavily with his shoulders and tired breath. He left the parcel where it landed by the doormat and wandered wearily to his bed. He was considering forgoing a shower until he remembered it was mid week, so he could look forward to his freshly applied bedding. Smiling at the thought and thinking of Mary, he stripped off and showered.
The bedside radio read in green neon, eight-fifteen. Not too far behind schedule he thought and took a sip of water and placed the glass back down on his dog-eared copy of The Art of Dreaming. He nestled himself on to his left side away from the window, into a semi-foetal position, and thought that it wouldn’t take long till he was in REM. He shut is eyes and breathed rhythmically, to help induce sleep.
Aubrey never used to dream, he thought, or at least never seemed to recall any, except those nightmares that all children keep hidden in the basement of their minds. The door was often prised open by psychologists, or nailed shut by a hypnotherapist. Aubrey had chosen the latter for the childhood incident. He didn’t recall the exact date he realised he’d started dreaming again; or rather started remembering them, but like the changing of the seasons, the subtly grew into certainty. Aubrey became a happy man once again.
And now he was dreaming.
‘Look for your feet. Look for your feet. Look for your feet.’
‘I can see my feet…I’m awake.’
He looks around at his new environment, which waxes and wanes, and with a rush of energy he’s catapulted into…
‘Oh, that funny pain in my eye again. It feels like someone’s stabbed my eyeball with a pin. It’s almost blinding.’
‘Hadn’t you better see a doctor about that? You don’t want to crash the mini bus at work with all those old folk in, do you?’
‘No, I suppose not. Am sure it’s nothing. It’s only for a split second, anyway and it’s not all the time is it?’
‘Well, every Wednesday when you pick me up your hand goes up to your left eye and you’re complaining about those pins. And, it’s about this time too, about eight-forty-five.’
‘You’re right. How weird. What are you laughing at?’
‘I’m waiting for you to tell me you can hear voices next.’
‘Oh shut up Julie. Are we off into town then or …?’
‘Town. The weatherman says it’ll be a fine day.’
Sarah is such a funny girl. I love their Wednesday weekly trips out together, like Thelma and Louise. I’m glad I managed to catch them in the car. Now I can see Mary looking in the rear view mirror. Mary Mary Mary. I never see all of her face, just the eyes or her mouth, never the whole picture; much like a fractured Picasso image. She’s older than her sister whose face I see clearly, but from my impressions, they aren’t much alike. I see what she sees and follow her every move like one of her lost sheep. I wish I could speak to her but so far it’s never happened.
She’s parking up now and they’re off; probably to Café Royale. They always start Wednesday’s with a coffee and a muffin, despite having had their breakfasts. If the lightings right today I might get a glimpse of her in the reflection of the window or at least a smudged one.
What is that? I can feel something on my face. Damn. That fly’s going to wake me up.
‘Oh, my ear. I thought I heard a buzzing noise.’
Aubrey woke up confused as to the time and place he was in. The clock stated it was nearly ten o’clock. He was disappointed to find himself awake. He’s not worried about falling asleep again, that’s easy, but he may have to wait another week to see Mary. If he wanted to he could drive into town, to the café, but he thought that’s too much like stalking. Admittedly, when he first started dreaming about Mary he felt more a peeping Tom than an innocent observer of these real characters. It started off as a new kind of entertainment for him like channel hopping, and then he tuned into the regular visitors that he now sees.
When he goes back to sleep he’ll be spending time with Mavis’s canary, Colin, named after her dog who died. Her family thought the bird would be a good substitute as she no longer walked long distances anymore, and that wouldn’t be fair on a new dog, they said.
Aubrey was dreaming again.
There’s nothing much going on here at the moment. The Jeremy Kyle Show’s on full blast and Mavis is asleep in her recliner chair. Colin seems to be acting a bit weird today though. It’s almost like he wants to get out of his cage, all that fluttering and hopping he’s doing, and he’s not taking his eyes off Mavis. He’s more frantic now, squawking, trying to get Mavis’s attention I think.
A spotty face comes up from nowhere, a girl with badly applied makeup, laughing and hissing, and shaking the cage stand now. She looks behind her at Mavis who is still asleep, and then her pierced tongue pokes out the corner of her mouth in concentration as she unlocks Colin’s door. She races to all the internal doors of the flat and kicks them shut with her booted foot and grabs her stomach as she rushes to the window; it’s a battle between opening the window impeded by fits of laughter. She opens the cage but Colin backs away from the chubby, yellow stained fingers.
‘Get out! Get out, you dumb bird. Fly away home, Tweetie Pie.’
She grabs Colin and I can feel his panic as she squeezes a little too tight. She drops him to the floor and pushes him around with the toe of her black boot. Colin looks at her but remains still. His eyes follow her to Mavis who remains still. As he scans the area I notice two hearing aids at the bottom of the fish tank.
I know you can’t hear me Colin, but I’d get out of there if I were you.
He’s looking at her and rousing now, flapping his wings and taking off, flying round her head and out the window, knocking off a few feathers in the process.
Oh my goodness. I can hardly talk. I know something bad has just happened Colin, but this is the best feeling in the world. FLYING.
As Aubrey enjoyed his new dream experience, the fly navigated into the bathroom crashing into the frosted glass as a yellow feather floated through the window and rested in the sink.