- Vol. 08
- Chapter 07
She started out by feeding it cat food. Turns out it prefers biscuits. It’s very favourite is peanut butter, offered on a teaspoon.
Bella listens to the slow currents of Adam’s breathing. Out of the corner of her eye, she watches his chest rise and fall as he is carried gently through the flow of sleep. She pictures the floors above and under them. The other bedrooms, same but different. The blaze of her wide-awake eyes, her sleepless nothingness, sandwiched by floating, peaceful bodies. As above, so below.
Her bones jangle inside her. She presses her knuckles to her temples, imagines trying to explain it all to Adam. Explain it is something she just has to do, for both of them. She imagines her teeth like the keys of a xylophone, words wobbling out of her in a mess. As within, so without.
She lies still. Waits until it is so late it is almost early. Until the chalky green light of spring starts to seep under the curtain. She slips out of bed, freezes at the door to check Adam hasn’t woken. Pulls on her dressing gown, adds a scarf. The clunk of the lock matching the thud of her heart.
In the stairwell, she sits, pressing the palms of her hands into the burn of ugly industrial carpet. The tang of disinfectant catching at the back of her throat, the air fogged with dust.
Like a statue, she waits for the echoing click, for the flood of automatic light to evaporate. Looks for the oil slick shimmer of its eyes in the dark.
It won’t come out until the light is gone.
Over the months Bella has visited, it has grown stronger. It moves more easily, fluidly. Her eyes adjust, taking in it’s milky sheen, almost luminous in the shadows. It nuzzles its head into her palm, cold to the touch. She threads her fingers through it’s fringed mane.
It has trailed tiny blossoms across the stairs, like scraps of torn up paper. A secret note that has been destroyed. She doesn’t ask where it has been. She struggles to believe winter is almost over. Her breathing becomes less jagged. It settles in her lap, seeking out the biscuits she stowed in her dressing gown pocket. The skin of her legs is as pale as its long belly. She is getting paler with each passing night. She feels its reassuring weight against her ribs.
She sighs deeply, and it looks up at her, dark eyes pleading and full of promise. It bares its teeth in a kind of smile. A low, honeyed voice, somewhere between a promise and a threat. “You are doing well. You are keeping me going. You are getting stronger. You’ll be safe. You’ll be safe with me. We can go anywhere. We can do anything.”