by Ed Hayles
Through the bevelled glass of my front door I can make out a Spanish dancer in a pale yellow ruffled dress. Her coal-black hair trails wildly over her face as she spins seductively. She reminds me of one of the happiest times in my life when love hit me, for the first and probably only time. I was bad to her though, as I was to all my women. Her bare arms are outstretched and she holds a pair of castanets in each hand. Her clicking and swaying mesmerizes as I hide amongst the coats hanging in the hallway. I smell the cigarette smoke that remains imbedded in my overcoat from the days when I used to indulge in the filthy habit. I want to dance with the Spanish girl badly but resist, afraid of having my heart ripped out. She spins faster and faster and her clicking soon becomes so loud I have to cover my ears to stop my eardrums from bursting – then silence.
I peer out between the coats. She’s gone but a slight male figure sporting a ‘pied piper’ hat approaches the door. He taps firmly on the glass with what looks like a silver penny whistle. My heartbeat picks up pace as I conceal myself deeper amongst the various materials. Isn’t this my ex-wife’s poncho? The perfume that clings to it irritates my nose and I try hard not to sneeze. I bury my face into my old student badge-covered denim jacket to muffle any sound that may explode from my mouth. The figure starts to play a warming melody and I relax. Just for a moment I’m floating on a cloud scored with raindrops. I want desperately to open the door to hear more clearly. I stand steadfast though. I remember playing guitar in a rock band. I was good….we were good but I wasted golden opportunities succumbing to drink, drugs and dangerous dalliance.
Scratching sounds bring me back to my senses. Thunderous scurrying raises the hairs on the back of my neck. The piper’s song has become frantic and tuneless as rats throw themselves against my door. Their long diseased tails are poking through the doorframe and hinges and bloodied fur sticks to the glass. The smell is rancid and combined with the piper’s whining, makes me want to vomit. I pinch my nose and hold my breath – then silence.
The quiet starts to slowly calm me. My shaking body composes and my erratic, heavy breathing regulates. It feels safe to come out but I now hear whimpering. It’s coming from a small child. She sounds distressed. I step cautiously from the coats. The crying is spilling from a young girl’s lips on the other side of the door. My heart is breaking. I need to comfort her.
My stomach is in knots. My daughter wept like this when I smacked her across the head too hard…much too hard. I walk closer to the door and go to place my hand on the latch. It was the alcohol. I would never hit my child sober. I would never intentionally cause her to fall against the sharp corner of the kitchen counter and for it to penetrate her temple. Tortured with guilt, I held her limp body close to mine and tried to bring her back to life with my heart pressed against hers.
The tears are streaming from my eyes now. My child, my sweet girl, I’m so sorry. I fall to my knees and feel icy cold air rush through every gap in the doorframe and it slaps me back to my senses.
Again I am hit by an evil putrid smell as I peer through the keyhole to find the most hideous blood red eye staring back. I collapse and laugh manically. Close…but he won’t get me today.
Ed Hayles is an Englishman currently residing in South Africa. A singer/songwriter for many years, he is now following what seems to be a natural path into the world of literature. He is currently writing a novel but during his many breaks he likes to try his hand at the challenging formats of flash fiction and short stories. Here is a link to a recent music video/song of his https://youtu.be/2BigGZ_v4C8