Introduction to a longer horror story.
Anne’s grip on reason had not yet slipped so far that she took her friends’ work commitments at anything other than face value. Life is busy, or at least hers had been, and there were only so many hours in the day. But some company would have been nice.
Maybe, in time, she’d get used to it. The emptiness of her days. The feeling that life, like a controlling, possessive boyfriend, had tricked her, trapped her here, so that it could move on and have a better time without her. Beyond her window the sun was beating down on Capel Street with a fierce intensity, as though it was determined to give Ireland its entire yearly quota of sunshine in an hour. There was a group of loud young people on the streets below, gender indeterminate for the most part, dressed as they were in identical white vests and dark glasses. They were laughing and shouting as they unfurled rainbow flags and painted colourful banners while a glamorous creature in a short cocktail dress and suspiciously defined calf muscles tottered about on size 12 stilettos presiding over the ceremonies.
It looked fun.
“Fun” was a word that didn’t come easily to her these days. She’d moved into the city centre because she wanted to be part of things. But living in this tiny flat over the sex shops and pubs of one of Dublin’s liveliest streets hadn’t made her part of life. It just reminded her how apart from it she was. She wished she could go outside and assimilate into the colourful group below, so she could laugh and shout and smile and help them stick their rainbow flags over every available surface. It shouldn’t be too hard. They looked open and friendly enough. But something held her back. It wasn’t shyness, it was something more profound. Something almost like fear. It was as if something, some higher power, had decided that she belonged here, on this side of the window, while the sun that couldn’t stretch far enough to banish the shadows from her lonely apartment beat down on the happy, vibrant life out there, on the other side of the glass. Anne belonged in here and if she tried to go out there something would stop her. She just knew it even though she couldn’t explain how.
She slumped into the chair in the corner and picked up The Exorcist. She’d never been a big horror fan but lately it was the only thing that could hold her attention. She didn’t believe in all that nonsense but it was almost comforting sometimes to pretend that she did. To imagine that all it would take to fix her would be a priest and some holy water. The doctor had given her pages and pages of blood test results and not a single one had shown that there was anything wrong with her, but there was. Her mam asked why she was reading The Exorcist. “Is it not terrifying?” she had said. Of course not. Terror, for her, was living as she did now, with no idea what was wrong with her and no idea when this suspended animation was going to end – or even if it would. Would she ever recover? Would she ever get her life back? Compared to that, a few beds flying around the room, speaking in tongues, and a slight misappropriation of a crucifix isn’t much really.
She jumped when her phone bleeped. It hardly ever did anymore. “How you doing baby?” and a smiley face. Fuck’s sake. Takes more than a smiley face to put things right. And “baby.” What kind of man really thinks it’s appropriate and in no way patronising to call a fully-grown woman “baby?” She wasn’t going to text him back. What was the point? He wouldn’t stay long anyway. They never did, when things started to look a bit difficult. She turned the page and immersed herself in fictional demons, so that for at least an hour, she could forget her own.