|HEAVENLY NIGHT by Andrew Openshaw|
A tall bookcase caught Jill’s attention, as she squinted through the dry ice. An ornament sat alone on the top shelf—a china cat with green eyes and a spout arcing from its groin. Its’s body vibrated along with the baseline and iridescent lines spun from the cat’s eyes and drifted down, displacing dust on each surface.
Someone blocked Jill’s view. She let out a long sigh and her shoulders sagged.
Matty danced nearby, ogling every girl who entered the room. Jill glared at him until he jerked around with a coy smile, his cheeks colouring red.
“Matty, come on!” she shouted above the music. “Let’s go outside, it’s almost midnight.”
He continued grinning at Jill, his hands punching the air and his body writhing to the rhythm.
Jill stood to face him. She was almost his height with her leather boots on. “No, Matty. You promised, remember.”
Matty avoided her stare, and his shoulders slouched in defeat.
“I’m going outside,” she said. “It’s your loss if you’re not there.”
Jill grabbed her coat from the hall and went into the garden. She wiped away a layer of frost from a bench and sat down. The long narrow space was lit up by fairy lights, which snaked around its edges. Each tiny light stretched beyond an acceptable radius and out into the night. A shed in the far corner was also cloaked in a shimmery veil. And every blade of grass flickered and danced, even after Jill closed her eyes and gave herself a sobering shudder.
Her body sunk into the seat and she gave out a satisfied moan as an embracing warmth flowed through her. She was about to get up and join the dancing blades when the back door burst open and out came Matty. He stopped, shook his head and slid across the decking, his shoes drawing harsh lines in the frost.
“You should come indoors,” he said, as he sat down next to Jill. “It’s fucking freezing out here.”
Her heart sunk when she smelled his smoky breath. Jill shifted on the seat, a dull ache returning to her stomach. Snow started falling in heavy clumps.
“Matty,” she said. “This is where I need to be right now.”
Taking a long drag on his joint, Matty scuffed at the snow. He blew a stream of smoke into the air, which mixed with Jill’s perspiration. “You seriously believe this?” he said, and flicked the joint, sending several hot rocks tumbling to the wet ground. “Look, I admit we were pretty spaced-out at Charlie’s, but believing those visions? Come on Jill, that’s crazy. You’re being unreasonable.”
He took another toke on the joint and passed it through the back of his hand. Jill guffawed at his gesture, but when he refused to take his hand away, she stood and cowered over him.
“For fuck’s sake, Matty. This is real, I’m not making it up. You said you saw it too! Are you a fucking liar?” she screamed.
Matty arched back, blew out more smoke and folded over into a fit of coughing and laughter.
Jill counted to five. “Will you put that out? It’s making me sick,” she said, as she slumped down again on the bench.
Matty flicked the joint away. It travelled through the air and burst into a delightful firework as it bounced off the fence.
Lying back with his head on the table, Matty stared vacantly up at the stars. Jill snapped out of her trance and gave him a friendly punch.
“You saw what I did, didn’t you?” she said. “We were here, right here, on this night.”
Matty shuffled into a seating position and stood to brush snow off his back and trousers. He sighed, his breath clouding the air. When he dropped back down, the bench creaked, and snow jumped off the table and onto the ground.
“Yes, okay. I saw it too,” he said. “But I saw some fucking weird things that night.”
Jill gritted her teeth. She was about to begin another explosive tirade when the shimmering lights draped along the fence pulled her back to a rational calm.
“Matty, please,” she said, in a soft voice. “You admitted it felt different. The peace which descended on the room. How we two were separate from the rest. Totally focused and in tune with each other...”
Matty started coughing again, using it to mask a laugh. Jill ignored him and kept talking.
“...but I was sober and more conscious than I’ve ever been in my entire life,” she said.
Jill’s skin prickled as she relived the memory, and her heart started racing. She frantically unbuttoned her coat to let in the cold air.
Matty’s face twisted into an expression of contempt. “Look, yeah it was weird,” he said. “But I sat for ages watching Tom’s head bob around the room on a meat hook. The wall opened onto a huge garden, and I followed a cat down a path. It was summer outside. But none of it was real.”
Jill’s heart slowed down, but now she gripped onto the bench, absorbed by the gathering snow as it nestled onto the paths and grass.
“But we were crying,” she said. “And they held us and told us it was all fine. And you said making this sacrifice was good; that it was my life and you’d be there with me when it happened.”
“Listen. Can you hear that?” said Matty, jumping up and pointing to the house. “The Christmas songs are on, it must be almost midnight. Let’s go inside eh? Be with everyone else.”
He reached out a hand, to help Jill to her feet. An ethereal mist rose up Matty’s fingers and arm until the whole limb and shoulder had become a ghostly apparition. Jill gasped and rose to her feet. Matty’s eyes were gone and instead were two glowing white orbs.
When she reached her fingers into the curling smoke, his hand returned, as did his eyes, and he was Matty again, speaking in condensing tones.
“…this could be the last year everyone gets together. Why miss it?” he said, gathering Jill’s hands in his.
“Get off me, let go. I’m staying right here!” she shouted.
Jill’s head was spinning, and a tingling sensation returned to her limbs. “I’m so loved, so wanted. All my heart is yours,” she said, gazing up at the sky, as snowflakes fell on her face.
Matty let his arms flop to his sides. “Why are you being like this Jill?”
“How can I not be?” she wailed, tears streaming down her face. “How am I supposed to feel?” She flung her head back to shake away the snow. Wet strands of hair came loose and fell over her face. “Matty, please go,” she said. “Leave me alone. I want to be alone.”
Matty kicked snow off the decking and onto the grass. “Fine,” he replied. “Tell you what, I’ll go and see-in Christmas and come back and sit here with you, okay? And we’ll wait together. How does that sound? It’ll be romantic, I promise.”
Jill didn’t respond. As Matty walked back to the house, vivid colours from his coat stretched into the night. The snow had retreated, revealing the skeletal trees around the garden’s border. And the frosted grass created an illusion of overlaid animation.
Moaning contentedly, her palms all sweaty, Jill unbuttoned the rest of her coat and took it off. The sky shimmered, and the few visible stars blinked off and on. “Matty wait! Oh my God, look. Look!” she screamed, standing and waving her finger at the heavens.
Matty spun on his heal. “What can you see?” he said, running back across the decking.
“There in the sky, it’s moving!”
Jill was shaking. Matty, put his arm around her, pulling her in and letting her head rest on his shoulder. He kept staring up. “Is it not a satellite?” he said. “Or, maybe it’s a shooting star. Why don’t we make a wish?”
Jill shushed him and raised her arms in the air. “Listen, Matty. There’s the music, like last time. Can you hear it?”
Matty gritted his teeth and pretended to listen. “That’s fucking Band-Aid. Jill, and it means the countdown will start soon.” Come inside, please com… Oh, fuck!” Matty shielded his face, as the sky tore open. The shed windows shattered, and a white light shone down into the garden.
Jill was laughing manically. “It’s incredible!” she wailed. “Come on!”
She started pulling Matty towards the bottom of the garden.
“These drugs...” he mumbled. “...we should go inside.”
“It’s not drugs Matty,” Jill said, her voice calm, her attention focused only on the light. “You’re not high. Don’t you realize that? This is greater than any drug, way more powerful.”
The fairy lights blinked back on, and the plants and trees stilled. A hole in the sky remained. Sparks crackled around its edges and several green vines dangled down through the gap.
“This is fucked up, I’m going in,” said Matty.
“No, you’re not,” said Jill. Her face was beaming, and she gave out a little shriek. Grabbing Matty’s hand she twirled him on the grass, forcing him to act as her maypole. “Come on!” she cried and started pulling Matty closer to the light.
The cold punched Matty in the gut and his vision blinked back into focus. A lead slab hung around his neck as he took in his surroundings.
“Jill...” he said, in a warbling voice, his bottom lip shaking. “I don’t think you should go near those…whatever they are.
“It’s my way in!” she screamed. “A ladder to the stars!”
“Jill, no,” said Matty, pulling her back to the decking. “This is not right, we need to get inside now.”
Jill dug her heels into the grass and pushed her face right into Matty’s, her arms wrapped around his neck, her knee forcing his legs apart.
“They’re calling me,” she said, in a sultry whisper. “This is it. God, I feel so good. So… clear, so relieved. Tell me you feel it too?” she said.
Jill loosened her grasp on Matty and he struggled free.
“They need me!” she shouted, her voice a deep growl. Jill’s eyes had become glowing white orbs. She tore off her jumper and stood in a thin vest. Her skin pulsing with a fiery charge, she turned again to face the light.
“Don’t go,” pleaded Matty, “I don’t want you to go. Noooo!”
A bolt of electricity struck Jill in the chest, and she fell backward in the snow. Vines wove themselves around her. The light blinked off and the hole in the sky disappeared.
Detective Carol marked the scene to memory for the report he would have to submit in the morning—Christmas morning. Stepping carefully along the snow-covered decking, he reached down to retrieve the end of a joint. He sniffed at it before depositing it in an evidence bag.
Next, the body. Again, he walked cautiously across the grass, his torch lighting up the garden. He stopped to log the shed with its windows smashed, glinting shards of glass covering the path around its perimeter.
He unclasped the radio from his jacket. “Arrived at 52 Parkside Close. I confirm one body, male, injuries unclear, lying face down in the snow. Resident says the deceased came outside with his girlfriend around 23:45. She has since disappeared. No one appears to know her whereabouts. The name is Jill Buller, 5’7, brown shoulder-length hair, nose piercing, tattoo on the back of her neck. Red woollen coat. Sought for questioning. Over.”
A line of silvery dust caught on the breeze, coating the snowflakes and the branches of a nearby tree. Detective Carol brushed at the powder which had landed on his coat and sniffed his fingers. His legs became heavy and he stumbled around, searching for somewhere to rest his hand.
Distant voices were shouting from the house. “You alright, mate?”
Detective Carol was already on the ground, though, staring up at the stars swirling around the night sky. A comforting warmth crept from his toes and up to his head. “They need me,” he mumbled. His lids closed, and he drifted into a deep sleep.
NO OVERGROWN DEVILFISH GETS BETWEEN LONG JOHN SILVER AND HIS BOOTY!
John Silver has retired to a pirate paradise in Madagascar, renouncing his adventurous life on the high seas. The appearance of a ship from England changes his plans.
Lady Arabella Smythe is searching for her missing husband, last heard of in the Indian Ocean, seeking the lost continent of Lemuria. The only clue to Lord Smythe’s current location is the name of a man he previously encountered—Long John Silver! Silver only agrees to guide her ladyship when he learns of the priceless treasure in the temple of the Lemurian squid god.
Can Lady Arabella trust this rascally old seafaring man? What horrors will they encounter on the lost isle? And what is the destiny of the mysterious savage who accompanies them, the man the pirates call Tattoo?
Now available from Amazon.
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