Scarlet Glass

Velveteen shadows whisked across the floor as the daylight rays of the sun fled from the room and out of existence beyond the reach of his eyes. All was still. All was silent but for the constant beating of his heart that came from within. He wanted the ache to stop, and as he sat alone in the dark serenity of his room, he could almost feel his own reality lift from his outstretched hand that he couldn't see in front of his face. He felt it drift up, out of his soul, leaving him cold and so very alone. He closed his fist, and tried to find the life within himself as he rubbed both hands together, clammy.

The window was open across the room. He thought it was strange how none of the light from the street below made it into his little room or to his eyes. Not even a breath of wind was allowed in, and yet he felt something, something that made him flinch as though someone tickled the back of his neck. He jumped, looked around and only saw more darkness surrounding him in either direction. Though the sudden sensation was gone, he felt petrified, saturated with the spiteful weight of the darkness. He felt his hands start to shake. He felt like a little child again, cold and alone, only wanting to curl up into a ball in his bed and shut out the rest of the world. But he wasn't a child anymore; those days were long gone, just as his life seemed to be far beyond his reach, beyond his understanding.

He stood up out of bed and sauntered toward the window. His hands still shaking as he laid one upon the stone-cold windowpane, he stared at the murky-halo that appeared around his palm, reassured that he was in fact alive. His beating heart throbbed throughout his entire body, and it ached. As he stared out the window, down to the bluish-black asphalt soaked by the rain below, he felt something pulling his attention upward. He looked up to the top of the window, thought he saw something. It rained heavily some time ago, rain poured down the very window he stood before, but it wasn't raining now. Yet he squinted in the dim midnight light to see some kind of water trickle down the middle of the window. It was dark and he couldn't see well, but as his eyes adjusted to the faint lamplight and tried to see what was on the window, a putrid stench hit his nostrils. His hand that fogged up the glass found its way to his sweaty face, covering both his mouth and nose. He turned around, glanced back to his soundless room; the smell didn't come from within but rather—

He turned back to the window, looked up to the streak that now nearly spread to the level of his eyes. It wasn't water, he could tell that from the darker tint it had as it obscured the light from the street. Again he felt something rush through him, a wave of heat that made him fall to his knees, lightheaded. The soft velvet feeling on his neck flooded his mind, tingled down to his hands. He tried to make the feeling stop but the stench from outside only made the vibrations stronger, more violent. He gripped the windowsill with both hands trembling uncontrollably and pushed himself up to his feet. The window must be closed, the smell eradicated; but as he put all his weight on the window to close it, it wouldn't budge. The dark liquid trickled down the window in front of his eyes and dripped onto the sill. He stared at the liquid, the tingling sensation never far from his fingertips. And then he heard it, the sound of his own voice starting the first line of the Our Father. His eyes closed and burned, the image of a not-so-distant nightmare coming back to the surface against his will. It was— No, no.

The image glowed in the back of his eyeballs, he thought he would never be able to rub them hard enough to erase the vision of it entirely. He wanted to open his eyes so he wouldn't have to see that-that— No!

He ran and almost fell over a chair and into his bed, landed on the cold, dusty floor instead. All light melted into the lonely nothingness of the space inside, equivalent to the light of God in his soul. Beads of sweat rolled down the sides of his face like tears. He was weak, frightened like a little child in the dark, but unlike a child, no one would come if he cried, no one would tell him a bedtime story and rub his back so he could sleep, no one would care if he saw a disfigured apparition floating above his bed with a knife to his throat. He scrambled across the floor to a small table next to his bed, pulled the string on a lamp that destroyed most of the shadows within the room except for those he carried within himself. He felt stupid, freaking out over absolutely nothing. There wasn't anyone in the room with him, there was no sound but the quick ins and outs of his own breathing. He sat leaning against the side of the table on the floor, lowering his head into a still faltering hand. One deep breath and he raised his eyes back to the window. The street light appeared so much darker now that he turned on a light. He bit his lip as he rose to his feet, taking one step at a time toward the window, both curious and afraid. But there was nothing there. The window glass was completely dry. The stench, gone. Whatever he thought he saw was gone. He shook his head and laughed at himself. Again he put his hands on top of the window and pushed it down, closed. Then with one flip of the lock, he turned away from the window for the last time.

He took three steps toward his bedroom door and without realizing it right away, he felt something warm and wet on his hands. He figured the rain must have leaked in through the window and that's what it was, but when he raised his hands to look at it more closely, he swallowed hard. This only confirmed what he thought he saw dripping down his window earlier, though he knew it was impossible. Windows simply do not bleed.

Part Two

As the sun rose into the pink streaked sky, scaring away the darkness and the damp smell from the chill rain, he awoke with a sudden start. Sweat matted his straggly brown hair down in his eyes. He felt cold and wet like a puppy that did something bad and was left outside through a bitter and turbulent storm. Licking his salty lips, he looked around and found himself on the floor of his living room, his back against a small plush chair in one corner. The floor was as hard as sleeping out on the sidewalk all night; both his back and neck were stiff and ached when he tried to stand, a knee cracking loudly. He tried to ignore his innate curiosity to explore his room again, but there was something holding him back, something that told him to stay away, far away. Even though the bright morning light poured into the living room, it didn't seem to be the same for the other room, his bedroom. That's when he remembered, the strange thing dripping down the window. He didn't want to believe that it was real blood because the last time he— At least it wasn't spelling any words, as far as he knew or far.

He looked back to a clock on his "contemplating" desk. It read 10:30am.

"Shit," he cursed as he ran toward the bathroom to take a quick shower.

The second he stepped bare footed into the small half-bathroom, he felt lightheaded again, just the same as he did last night in front of the window. He gripped the side of the doorframe to steady himself. The sound of a radio signal fading in and out reached his ears, voices or music only half discernable. It was the same odd sound he heard a few times in the past, once was in that rain shower back in Arizona—a time he wouldn't dearly like to forget. As he stood in the doorway to his bathroom, the sound of the radio still stabbing through his mind, he rested his head on his hands against the doorframe. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and wished the image of...whatever it was he saw would go away. He wanted to call it a demon though he was hardly in the position to tell light from dark, demon from angel. He felt as though he stood on the edge of a jagged cliff in the middle of nowhere surrounded by noxious fumes and blazing flames all around; the epitome of taciturn oblivion or hell, he thought. He didn't know which direction led safely away from the edge or directly over the brink, though he knew he was destined to take the first step, in whichever direction the stars would take him. So with blind eyes, he took that single step of faith and opened his eyes to the truth. Ignoring the sound that made his heart beat with such a relentless ache, he stepped all the way into the bathroom and closed the door solemnly behind.

The sound stopped as if closing the door severed the transmission, the call dropped. He stood frozen in the dark bathroom lit only with a single white night-light. He stood still holding onto the doorknob from behind with one hand. Once his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light in the bathroom—and calming down as much as possible—he flipped the light switch on; the light over the mirror on the wall flickered twice then finally stayed on.

He looked horrible. He almost didn't recognize the man that stared back at him through the mirror. His hair was a mess, flying out in every direction and glued to his face in places. His eyes were red and felt heavier than they looked. Who was this person in the mirror? If he would have asked this question five days ago, he still wouldn't have had an answer, and he was beginning to wonder if he would ever find an answer at all, ever. Light or dark, angel or demon, good or evil? He felt like none of the above, like a ghost that is neither alive nor dead. And yet he had a choice to make. Would he tell the others what he saw last night or would he keep it to himself, a secret? His life was no one else's business but his own, though he didn't know if he could handle it all by himself, alone—completely alone.

The figure in the mirror looked tired, a kind of tired that drains away nearly all energy to leave one feeling empty and hollow. One can run from the truth for only so long. And that's what he felt like; like his entire life was a mad dash into the unknown, running from an unknown pursuer. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. The rough night was in the past, soon to be forgotten...

He pulled his white tee up and over his head and threw it in the corner of the bathroom. Looking back at the man in the mirror, he thought he was starting to see things again. He simply stood, staring at it: a single stream of blood, just the same as he had seen it on the window in his room. This time it was superimposed over his own reflection. It looked like a red tear falling from his right eye. The image was so convincing, he raised a hand to his face and felt to see if it was really there and not just a hallucination. But his eyes were dry, so dry they burned. Although the reflection appeared to be crying tears of blood, he—in actuality—was not.

Feeling afraid for too long, a sensation of anger at his own weakness swept through him. He snatched up a cloth by the sink and furiously began to wipe up the mess on the mirror. He stepped back to inspect the mirror again. It—he—appeared to be back to normal, no strange miracle ready to occur again. With another sigh, he tossed the dirty cloth into the sink, turned the water on it for a few seconds, then pushed the whole thing out of his mind.

He pushed the non-descript shower curtain back, turned on the water. It usually took a few minutes for the hot water heater to kick in. He was about to open the door and peer into the other room when he decided to test the temperature of the water one more time. He reached in with his right hand, quickly retracted his hand away from the water, scalded.

"Ahh, shit! God!" he cursed, retracting his hand and shaking it a few times. It hurt like hell, he thought, though a few seconds later the pain subsided, all except for his patience. He gave the nozzle a slight twist toward the large, half rubbed-out C. He fanned his hand and shook it some more, feeling the cool breeze it made. Sighing, he tested the water again with his other hand—just right. He pealed his beige slacks off his sweaty legs and tossed them in the same corner along with his shirt. Lastly, he stripped his plain white briefs off and added them to the pile before he stepped into the shower.

The water felt good. He tilted his head up and let the water pound the anxiety from his eyes and trickle down his back.