Sarah and David had been very happy once. They were the type of couple that made other people envious and deprived. They had hit jackpot when they had met each other those many years ago. Knowing Sarah and David Bright you would know that they were good people. They would do just about anything to help out a friend in need. Knowing this, makes it so much harder to believe they ever deserved what happened to them. So, if the rule goes that no matter how kind and gentle and law abiding you are, evil and despicable things can happen to you anyway, some I guess would say, how can God exist at all.
The day that sealed their fate was a Tuesday, and the time was 10:08am. That was when the last unopened box had been carried inside their new house and the door had closed behind them. Sarah had a smile on her face that was beginning to hurt. David brought in a bottle of wine and poured it into two glasses. They stood in contented silence, sipping their wine, and scanning their eyes over the walls, and the door frames, and the polish wooden floors. This was their home. They’d finally done it. If you had known the happiness and satisfaction they had felt right at that moment it would be hard to believe the misery and depression that would fall upon them like a thick heavy tar that they wouldn’t be able to get out of.
It wasn’t long before the arguments began, starting with petty disagreements, fraying patience, to blinding uncontrollable fights that lead to damage and days of not talking. Sarah would find herself sobbing in the bath, why, she was not sure. All she knew for definite was the continuing clawing feeling of despair in the pit of her stomach. Something bad was going to happen.
David would spend most of his time in front of the television alone, after Sarah had silently sulked up to bed without him. He didn’t bother asking her what her problem was anymore, and he wasn’t sure he gave a shit anyway. He just kept replaying his head how much better he was before they moved in together, maybe now he was really seeing a different side to Sarah. After all, she never stopped whining and disagreeing with him. Battling against him twenty four seven. What happened to the fun loving laid back Sarah he remembered? It was these many times alone in front of the television that he would begin to hear someone preparing food in the kitchen, a familiar sound of running taps and clinking plates and cups. Time and time again he would question whether Sarah had snuck back down the stairs when he hadn’t looked, and time and time again he would walk slowly into the kitchen and no one would be there. He had said once to Sarah how their walls must be thin because he could hear everything the neighbours were getting up to, Sarah let him speak but she never replied. She seemed to be doing that a lot lately. There, but not really there at all.
All this bad feeling and unusual events would lead up to a normal Saturday night where another big fight between Sarah and David was beginning. David was almost shocked to hear his wife’s voice after so many weeks of limited conversation. She was screaming at him now, her piercing voice was hurting his head. She was screaming so loud, he knew that much, but he couldn’t make out a single word she was saying. He was looking into her eyes and he saw the hatred, he saw the searing anger behind them. She was so terrifyingly angry but why? David tried to remember, but he honestly couldn’t. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been trying to listen but it was like he had woken up half way through.
But now David was getting angry himself, he hadn’t done anything; at least he was sure he hadn’t. What right did she have yelling at him like this? He had grown quite accustomed to her silence and now her howling was really pissing him off. It seemed to have grown to an unreachable level when he eventually bellowed, “Shut the fuck up!!” He hadn’t even realised he had a wine glass in his hand when he slammed it down onto the table.
The pain of the broken glass slicing clean into his hand helped to rip him out of the red mist that had descended him. Beautiful crimson blood began to drip and splatter onto the kitchen table. David took his gaze off this wounded hand and looked up to see Sarah was gone. He heard the faint sound of their bedroom door slamming shut. Jesus Christ was he stressed. He reached over for his cigarettes, smearing blood accidently over the packet. He lifting the top to see there was no cigarettes left; frustrated he threw the empty packet across the room and threw himself back down on the sofa.
He didn’t want to do this anymore. He was just so tired, so unbelievably tired. At that moment David’s eyes closed and he began a descent into a deep dark slumber.
Sarah opened her eyes and was faced with the illuminated green numbers on her digital clock. It was 3:15am. She felt hangover but she hadn’t been drinking. She turned her body to see if David was lying beside her, he wasn’t, but that wasn’t unusual anymore. Then in an instance she remembered their fight. By remembered, she meant she knew there had been one but what about she didn’t recall. She pulled her legs over the edge of the side of the bed and felt her feet touch the cold wood floor; she felt a chill spread up them, but then a different kind of chill spread up her. She caught a dark face and hand slowly closing her bedroom door as if leaving. The fear inside her was immense, a fever seemed to spread through her and the fizzing inside her body was uncontrollable. Whoever it was had smiled at her, she didn’t remember any of their features but she knew unequivocally that it had smiled at her. It wasn’t a friendly smile; it was a ‘got you’ smile. It wasn’t David, it couldn’t have been David, she was certain she could hear his snoring downstairs where she had left him. She just sat there at the edge of the bed, eyes wide like saucers, just watching as the door slowly clicked shut. It seemed to be a few minutes before she could move her body again. Had she really just been paralysed with fear?
Slowly she left the bedroom and walked down the stairs, the stress was overwhelming. As she got to the second to last step she could see David asleep on the sofa, but she also noticed the small pool of blood below his outstretched arm. Without thinking, and almost forgetting about the mystery intruder, she rushed to him and inspected his hand. It was a deep cut, most probably needed stitches. She would have to take him to the hospital in the morning. She took some bandages out of the first aid kit and gently bounded his hand.
As she watched her husband sleeping, analysing the lines of his face, she remembered how much she loved him. What had happened to them?
She must have sat back in the armchair after nursing to David and fallen asleep because when she awoke she was in the lounge. She looked at the sofa where David no longer was. “David?” She called out; at first it came out like a whisper but built up volume towards the end. David appeared in the doorway of the kitchen with a piece of buttered toast in his hand.
Sarah cleared her throat to speak, “How is your hand? I think we might have to take you to have it stitched up”
David looked at her confused and cocked his head, “What?”
Sarah was now starting to feel uneasy. “You cut your hand last night, I bandaged it, you were bleeding everywhere, and it was quite…deep”
David pushed his hand into her face like an unruly child. Sarah stared hard at his hand, it was fine. No cut or wound of any kind. Her mind began reeling, she didn’t feel so good.
“What are you going on about Sarah?!” He said irritated.
Sarah sat there in disbelief. It wasn’t a dream; she knew it wasn’t a dream. David left the room and carried on making breakfast in the kitchen as if he didn’t have a care in the world. As she sat there retracing all her memories of last night, trying to make sense of it all, her eyes suddenly rested on an empty cigarette pack down the side of the display cabinet. That uncontrollable fizzing feeling seized her body again. It was a cigarette packet covered in blood. She almost flung herself across the room to retrieve it. Yes, it was David’s empty cigarette packet with dried dark brownish blood on it. When she shoved it in David’s face a moment later, David’s body language completely changed. She saw the man that she loved turned into a small vulnerable child. She could tell looking into his pale clammy face that he was remembering finally the events of last night, like the banks of the river had burst and the water was flooding into his mind. He turned from her, and as he walked away she heard him whisper under his breath, “What is happening to us?”
She had never in her entire life felt so alone and out of control.
A week after that event Sarah and David seemed to be walking around like zombies, getting up, going to work, and eating dinner separately, Sarah sleeping in their bed, David sleeping on the sofa. Close friends and family began to suspect that there were problems in the marriage, but didn’t dare ask. One afternoon Sarah caught David rubbing his neck, and coughing, but his coughing was more like retching, and he was struggling to breathe. Sarah asked him how long he had had it, and he said a couple of days. She took the cough syrup out the cupboard and placed it on the table in front of him, and that was the only act of sympathy she gave, but soon his retching and coughing was keeping her up at night. She found herself staring at the ceiling listening to that awful noise, praying that it would stop. The sound of it filling her with such dread she began to sob. She sobbed until she fell asleep; hoping for a second that she never woke up.
She was half asleep, but she came to the realisation that someone was tucking the sheets around her body like she a mother tucking her child in, but instead of love and security it felt like someone was trying to imprison her, trying to immobilise her. She opened her eyes but her vision was blurry. The voice that filled the room that night made her wet the bed. It was a raspy voice like scrapping gravel, and it sang her a lullaby.
“Hang, hang, the man, so he swings gently in the breeze, cut him down, and slice his crown, and feed him all to me”
The terror that she felt was overwhelming it felt like it had such a hold on her she was going to implode. Sweat soaked her entire body as she rattled with an unimaginable cold. The lullaby was repeated multiple times and then came to an abrupt stop. She lifted her head expecting to see the smiling figure from before above her bed but there was no one, nothing but the darkness enveloping the room. Her head wouldn’t stop racing, she couldn’t catch a breath. She needed to get out of this house. She needed to escape right away.
She pulled her coat around her, and slipped on what ever shoes she could find and she ran down the stairs calling David’s name. “We have to leave, we have to leave” She seemed to be screaming hysterically.
David was hearing Sarah wailing again and it was pissing him off. He didn’t bother to open his eyes, he just turned his body to a more comfortable position, and muttered “You can leave, I am staying here”
Sarah left that day. She didn’t think to stay with her husband, the man she had been with for nine years, the man she loved and would have protected. She was a wild animal trapped in a cage, biting and scratching and twisting just to get out. As she ran down the street, her mind was blank; she ran and ran with no destination in mind, just to run away from all the pain in her life. Eventually when she came to her senses she walked to her sister’s house and asked to stay the night. Her sister of course understood. The sister she saw in front of her was weary, scared and pale. “Have you had a fight with David?” Sarah just replied, “Can I sleep, can I just sleep please.” So Sarah’s sister settled her in and looked over her little sister with concern.
In the morning Sarah’s sister convinced her to have a hearty breakfast, cup of tea, and go home and make things up with David. She lectured her about how they were good together and that the move and worrying about finances had probably stressed them out and they were taking it out on each other. Sarah ate her breakfast, thanked her sister for her help, and walked home. She felt so much better, lighter, brighter, but as she approached the house, her stomach dropped. She didn’t want to go inside; she never wanted to go inside again, but she was going to made things up with David, she was going to convince him to sell the house.
As she pushed her key into the lock, that awful consuming sickness began to push stomach acid up to her throat. She wasn’t sure she could do it. With the last shred of courage she had left she turned the lock and walked inside. As soon as she was in the house she heard running water, the noise was strangely soothing. She began to call out his name as she climbed the stairs. Every step she took she strained her ears to hear any movements around her. As she reached the landing, she noticed water seeping out from underneath the bathroom door. “David?”
She knew in an instance that when she opened that door her life was going to change. Something so bad she couldn’t stomach it was going to be behind that door. She had to see it; she had to finish whatever this was. So she placed her sweaty palm onto the door handle and opened the door. The scene she saw before her stole all the air from her lungs. Weird spots began to dance in front of her eyes.
There was David. He was hanging in mid air.
He was staring right at her, eyes filled with terror and despair. He began to make that coughing retching sound again, but it sounded muffled in Sarah’s ears, all she could hear was her heart pounding in her head.
They stared at each for a minute, in complete and utter disbelief, Sarah staring up at him and David staring down at her.
Water was still pouring over the sides of the overflowing bath and filled up the floor around her trainers. She slowly looked down at her feet and watched it slither around her foot as if it was an island, and that is when she saw it.
Two footprints in the water, two foot prints devoid of water. As if, someone invisible was standing there, holding David up with their bare hands and before Sarah could piece it all together, and all too familiar lullaby broke the suffocating silence…
“Hang, hang, the man, so he swings gently in the breeze, cut him down, and slice his crown, and feed him all to me”