Books Magazine

One Weird Night: A Short Story

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Janine is a heavy sleeper. I read somewhere years ago of a house getting blown up in a gas explosion. The only occupant was asleep in bed at the time. The explosion had blown the bed, with him still in it, up in the air and out into the street where it landed, still right way up. I truly believe that if this happened to Janine, she'd go on sleeping. Pedestrians would have to walk round her and cars pull out to avoid her until she woke up, as she usually does, if she doesn't set both her alarm clocks, sometime mid-morning. When I told her this, she gave me a withering look. She pointed out that she was the brains of the outfit, the one with the job. If she was hard to wake up it was because she was the one who needed her beauty sleep. Who was I to argue? She was right.

Me, I wake up at the slightest thing. If Janine rolls over, or the beams creak as the house cools down, or the cat jumps off the kitchen table downstairs with a soft thud, I'm likely to wake up with a start. And once I'm awake, there's no getting back to sleep. I can lie awake for hours. I'm not making light of it: insomnia can make your life a misery I know but, to be honest, it doesn't bother me as long as I don't have a busy day coming up. I quite enjoy it. Being awake when most people are asleep means your phone doesn't ring and you're free to spend your time as you wish. People generally hold to the view that we sleep night in order to lead fulfilling lives during the daytime. I take a rather different view. It's my belief that everything we do during the day we do to prepare ourselves for the seven or so hours we devote to sleep or, if we can't sleep, solitude. Night is my favorite time of day.One Weird Night: A Short Story
Janine and I always sleep with the bedroom window slightly open. I suffer from asthma and a constant flow of fresh air helps me breathe. Of course, it does mean that I'm more likely to be woken up by passing aeroplanes and barking dogs but being able to breathe is more important than being able to sleep and, as you probably realize by now, I don't mind that much about being woken up. The other night, though, I was disturbed by what sounded like someone moving about in the garden. I thought I could hear footsteps walking through the dead leaves that tend to swirl in piles on the lawn at this time of year. Twigs cracked. I got up and went over to the window. The moon was out, the sky was clear – it was one of those nights when you can see almost as clearly as you can in daytime. There was no-one out there as far as I could see but, just to make sure, I decided to go downstairs. I'd get a better view, I thought, through the patio doors.I pulled on a jumper over my pajamas and took the old cricket bat I keep for such eventualities out from under the bed. I could never bring myself to actually hit anyone with it but I hope the sight of it might scare people off. Okay, it's probably not a good plan. I hurried downstairs. I pulled back the curtains and peered out of the patio windows. Nothing. Perhaps, I thought, the sounds had been made by an animal – a fox, or even a badger. Moving about without being seen was second nature to them. I decided to go outside and take a look around.I slipped my shoes onto my bare feet and let myself out through the patio doors. Our garden, like all the others in the terrace, is a long, narrow strip of land. I've never been a keen gardener. Neither has Janine. I did make something of an effort, once, though. As a result, a line of planters made out of old car tyres painted white still stands along the edge of the patio. They've been full of weeds for the last year or two. Janine says I really ought to do something about them but neither of us goes out into the garden much. Beyond the patio, there's a lawn. One thing I do still do is mow the lawn now and again. A forest of bushes stretches beyond it that gets more ill-kempt the further away from the house you go. Right at the end there's a patched-up wooden fence. Beyond the fence lies the canal tow-path and beyond that, the canal. I made my way across the lawn, half-expecting some animal hiding in the shadows to break cover and run for it. I carried on through the bushes, past a rotting pile of grass-cuttings, all the way to the fence. I stood – I'm not sure for how long – gazing over it at the dark, shiny surface of the canal.One Weird Night: A Short Story
I turned back to the house. A rectangle of yellow light on the upper floor told me I'd forgotten to turn off the bathroom light when I went to bed the previous evening. Windows lit up like that always remind me of my childhood, of playing out with my friends, and of coming home in the evening at the last possible minute, or possibly a few minutes later. My mother would be running a bath, assuming, probably rightly, that I'd be covered in mud. It crossed my mind that if I were living in the kind of story I used to read back then, I'd go back into the house now and back to bed. I could imagine how it might go:After what seemed like only a few minutes, he thought he could hear noises coming from the garden again. He jumped up and ran to the window. The moon was still high and there was no doubt about it this time. Someone was moving about in the bushes at the bottom of the garden. He picked up the cricket bat again and hurried downstairs. Looking out through the patio doors, he saw that whoever it was had left the bushes and was now walking across the lawn towards the house. It was a man. He was carrying a cricket bat. To his horror, he realised it was himself. Powerless to stop himself, he opened the doors and walked out across the patio, passing his oblivious, zombie-like alter ego walking in...It would almost certainly go like that. The writer would have him trapped in some sort of weird time-loop. He'd have no life beyond the house, the garden and the moonlit canal. Janine, like a princess in a failed fairy story, would sleep for ever.

Dominic Rivron Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog