Waking up is usually energising. A new day starts, with endless possibilities and expectations. It is not any of these, however, when you wake up screaming.
I thrashed around, half expecting to feel the numbing pain, but all that was left was a fading memory and sweat-soaked bed sheets. This was getting worse with each day. Being the third in a row, I didn’t want to know what would come next.
I sighed and slowly got up. At least there was an advantage to these nightmares. I didn’t need an alarm clock. Looking through the open window, I patted myself on my head. I think I was expecting to wake up like this. I believe if you have fresh air to inhale, your sleep will be more peaceful. Or not. Why is it that fate is constantly trying to prove me wrong? I stretched and left the room.
In the bathroom I gazed into the mirror above the sink. One could say that I would have got used to my own reflection by now, but it’d be an understatement to say the least. Bright eyes stared back at me, eyes full of sorrow. No, I am not getting melancholic. It was how I looked at the world, back then. Other than that, I could say that I had average features–brown hair and brown eyes, lean and agile–but ever since my teen years I’d always wanted silvery hair. Don’t ask me why, maybe I was a fan of Tolkien and I hypnotised myself to strive for it in the future. And yes, I almost forgot. There was something strange about my left cheek. On it, there were three lines, branching out of a somewhat larger base – something like a very small tree, except its branches went across each other, curving upon themselves and the vertical base line. People said it’s a birthmark, but quite frankly I’ve never seen anything like it. Maybe that was the reason I liked to have silvery hair; something to go along nicely with the scar. Something to set me apart. Something to attract attention, as if being the sore thumb wasn’t enough.
I glanced around–found my watch on a small shelf near the door–and seeing that everything was in order, did my usual morning chores and went out to the small hall.
Feeling just a tingle of hunger, I decided against eating at home. I could always eat in my office, since I usually arrived about an hour before the official eight o’clock. Besides, it was more pleasant outside. I got dressed–just plain jeans and a white shirt–and looked around. Mobile phone, keys, wallet, a couple of documents I’d need: everything was OK. I started whistling a small tune as I stepped outside and quietly closed the door behind me. The flat I lived in appeared in better condition on the outside than it really was. There were 7 others besides mine–luckily the neighbours were quiet–but sometimes I wondered why everything I had looked at seemed so… dull. Dull colleagues, dull flats, dull life… What if it would be different for a change? I didn’t need excitement every day, but… why did I have to endure this dullness?
The weather seemed to listen to my prayers. I generally like winter the best, at least I’m not melting, but this time it was something acceptable even though it had just turned into autumn. I started strolling down the street, feeling the refreshing breeze on my cheeks, enjoying the dawn as everyone should at least once in a while. According to my watch, I had almost two hours left – plenty to have a pleasant walk and a morning meal.
A small park extended to my left, a perfect place for young couples to hang out – and there they were. Two people sitting on a bench, talking. Maybe a bit early for my taste, but then, we are not the same. A chubby man, not older than 25 and a girl beyond my wildest imagination. They hadn’t noticed me, although I’m sure I was an amusing spectacle standing there, gaping. The guy could have passed as an average citizen, but the girl… I only saw her from half profile as she faced him, but even that was breathtaking. I remembered what my literature professor had told me once: “Literature is a fine art. But it would take years and years to analyse a single poem, to say the least.” I thought I understood her back then, but at that moment, standing there and staring at that beauty, I realised I was wrong. The things that single cheek evoked could fill a book, if not more. Gentle, yet powerful, confident and strikingly innocent, as if everything she gazed on had a hidden beauty of its own. Her shoulder went up and down, as if shrugging. Her image tickled something at the back of my mind, but I was too busy staring to notice.
Their last sentences drifted to me on the morning breeze:
“… this is the last time, Kira … can never find him without him knowing … but as you wish …”
“I don’t … he knows … he’s here … you can never make me give up. Not now.”
My breath stopped in my throat. The name Kira was very familiar. A fragmented memory–a man holding a knife and gritting his teeth–came to me. Where had I heard the name? Why did it feel so much like Deja vu?
Something was wrong. The guy facing her now stood up, and, glancing straight at me pulled her to her feet.
He held my gaze as he slowly unsheathed a knife, taking an unexpected care to let its whizzing sound reach me through the park, as though he deliberately wanted me to hear it. I stood rooted to the spot, mouth agape, and looked at him with shock. My brain wasn’t registering the things that were happening. Why would that man kill her? Even stranger was the fact that he was letting me see it, as if he was challenging me to stop it.
I continued to stare, transfixed, at the girl’s back and the young man’s crooked grin that was full of vicious contempt. The uncaring quality of his gaze, the daring posture, the unflinching expression as he effortlessly lifted the knife to her throat turned my blood to ice. I couldn’t see her neck, but I could imagine it slit at any moment–Gods, not her, not like this! I opened my mouth to shout, but no sound came out.
The girl said something. Her back was straight, her shoulders drawn back confidently. She seemed to be not scared at all. This should have put me at ease; I should have walked away. But I didn’t. I wish I had.
The man gave a dismissive shake of his head, drew the knife back, then brought it forward in a killing stroke. I could see the knife going forward, the edge of the blade slashing from left to right, the early morning Sun making the tip gleam, and I heard the woman’s scream in my head. My eyes slid shut of their own accord, and I half-turned to walk away; to forget that this ever happened. But the scream never came. There was no sound at all, in fact. For a moment, everything was silent as if in shock…
The woman uttered a single, simple, and normally meaningless word that chilled me to my bones then, a surprising sound within the silence: “lornath.”
Then, I heard a scream. But despite all my expectations it wasn’t her who had screamed. It was the man. And that was when I began to run.