The foxes were scavenging in the moonlight.
God, I couldn’t remember the last morning that I hadn’t seen them on their breakfast rounds.
Clicking off my desk lamp and moving away from the window, I wondered if the foxes felt the same ambivalence towards me – their friendly local insomniac.
Dawn was getting later and an autumnal orange glow was starting to crackle on the horizon, signalling a temporary break from my shadowy vigil.
Was he out there?
I tightened my furry dressing gown around my waist and clicked the kettle on again. The six chimes from the parish church gently shook my neighbours awake as I waited for it to boil.
Returning to my desk, in a change to my usual absent minded scrolling, I tipped out the contents of the small cardboard box which had recently arrived in the mail.
Inside, a single blister strip of sixteen peuce pills and the usual folded up leaflet of contraindications.
The pills rattled within their plastic bubbles as I studied them for some sort of explanation; the drums of my brain already thumping a familiar tune.
“Where, when, why, how, what next.”
The merry-go-round never seemed to stop.
It started off the way these things usually do. A Friday evening spent flirting in a hotel bar, ending up in room 671 for a nightcap. I couldn’t believe my luck. He seemed alright, you know, a charming, ok looking guy. I’d had a tough week. He flattered me.
Not my usual style, but I am ashamed to say I was drunk and became terribly wrapped up in feeling seventeen again.
Fast forward fifteen minutes and I was standing in my petticoat, staring down at a dozen black and white long lens photos strewn across the boudoir. All of me. All documenting several months of me going from A to B.
I will never forget that withering feeling. The realisation. My stomach churned as I caught sight of my flabby white thighs in a full length mirror. I certainly wasn’t dressed for the occasion.
He had hunted me down.
It was only then that I noticed that his teeth were yellow and his lips were terribly stained with red wine.
Steadying my nerves with the long anticipated night-cap as he explained what he wanted me to do, I was struck by how dull my own image looked when presented to me in paparazzi form, plodding the same dreary route day after day.
Maybe that’s why they chose me.
The unlikeliest of candidates.
He had not expected my resilience.
I blew at my black coffee, pressing the scalding mug against my lips, pain turning into a pleasurable, numbing sensation. I looked again at the pills.
He probably was out there right now. I didn’t even bother closing the curtains anymore. An act that started in a fearful show of defiance. To show him I wasn’t afraid, retaining a modicum of control.
It didnt make a jot of difference to him, the photos kept landing on my mat. Day after day.
And now the pills.
I had listened. I had said no. Where did that leave me? I knew stuff. Dangerous stuff.
I unfolded the crisp leaflet from the pill box. Side effects may include fits, fainting, heart palpitations, nausea. Symptoms I would gladly accept to rid him from my life.
I tore apart the box.
I knew it.
The tiny print of the message was unequivocal. Uncompromising. Clear.
Do it, or die.
You have until midnight on Sunday or I’m coming in.
Note: although I won a Top Row Three badge for this Halloween submission, nobody but nobody left me any feedback on the story whatsoever, which I thought was really unusual. Would really appreciate hearing your thoughts/suggestions as this character’s story is one that I’m considering taking forward to a longer piece. Thank you!