HER DARK AWAKENING
TANJA KOLLING -BARBARA JAO
MY BLOOD RUNS COLD, AND I curse the nightmares that have invaded my life since I was a child. They’re becoming more frequent and creep me out. Sometimes they’re prophetic. When Tommy Clark fell off his bike on the way to school and hurt his head, I knew he would die. I also foresaw my mother’s cancer diagnosis and my Grandma’s death. I was smart enough as a kid to keep these things to myself, because Mom would have yanked me off to a therapist or, most likely, a priest—both the same to her. Sins were major on her don’t do list; nightmares were viewed as a punishment for some imagined wrongdoing. The penance for which would be hours of prayer, garbled by me so quickly that if God were listening, he would have needed an interpreter.
I’m alerted to the soft sound of running water. At first, I think it is rain trickling down my windowpane. Something tells me that this is different. I get up to investigate and it doesn’t take long to identify the source of the sound, especially when the pungent smell of urine invades my nostrils. Joe is pissing in my walk-in closet!
‘What the hell are you doing?’ I yell at him as I switch on the light.
He is obviously still drunk from the night before.
‘This is not the damned toilet, you idiot!’ Disgust immediately kills dead any attraction I felt for him.
He swayed past me naked towards the bed and the stink of sweat now mingling with the urine makes me want to vomit.
‘Oh no … no, you don’t. I want you out of my apartment. Now!’ I gather his clothes and push them at him.
‘For fuck’s sake, Leia. It’s the middle of the night.’
‘I mean it Joe. Out.’
A couple of minutes later, I hear him staggering around downstairs as he pulls on his clothes.
‘Leave the key!’ Too late, the door closes behind him with a slam and I feel nothing but relief.
The digital display of the alarm clock jumps to 6:01. Not worth going back to sleep but too early to get up as I have no early appointments today. Casting about for something to do, my eyes land on the dream diary I bought twelve months ago. It’s black, embellished with metal coloured curved flowers and is lying beside my bed, coated with a thin layer of dust. Okay, so I’ll never win any awards for housekeeping. I brush the dust off and pick it up. So far, most of the entries are about the recurrent nightmares that have plagued me recently.
There is a forest in my dreams which is not of this world. In it, I am alone and searching for something although I haven’t yet worked out what. It’s always the same. I can hear the desperate cries of women calling my name. Who are they? Every time I think I might be getting close to find out, the danger, which I sense is never very far, approaches and I wake in a cold sweat. A chilling thought crosses my mind; what if I don’t wake up? Jeez Leia, get a grip!
Summer is yet to begin, and it’s freakin cold despite the sun’s feeble attempts. My car has been sitting in the repair shop for two weeks. Against any sense or reason, I have a car. Most New Yorkers are on foot, using the subway or taking a cab. Parking can be both expensive and frustrating but I enjoy sitting in my car, listening to music, and letting my thoughts flow undisturbed with no other human energy around me. The obvious drawback is the traffic I battle every day and although I miss my car I’m not missing that particular hassle.
I raise my arm like the Statue of Liberty, but not inviting anyone poor or oppressed and hail a cab.
During the trip, I look for the name of my client in a mass of loose papers. I have a terrible memory for names, which has caused me embarrassment on more than one occasion.
Finally, the cab stops in front of an apartment building in the prestigious East Side. The potential buyer, D. Clayton, is already waiting for me in the lobby. He’s a well-dressed man, who looks to be in his forties.
‘Leia Walsh,’ I say, introducing myself with a warm smile and extend my now ice-cold hand towards him.
So, the D. stands for Daniel. Nice name, but I only know idiots called Daniel.
We ride up to the fortieth floor. I watch his face as the elevator doors begin to open. Seeing the expression on the client’s face as they get the first glimpse of a property usually enables me to determine what their decision will be. His eyes light up although he gets his excitement under control quickly and tries to act disinterested, so he can barter on the asking price. A certain amount is always added to allow for this, so the buyer leaves the negotiations happy and satisfied. The chances of selling the three thousand square-feet duplex, with a view of New York’s Central Park today, is looking pretty good.
He had seen most of the apartment when the doorbell rang.
‘Oh, that must be Jeanette.’ He looked at his watch to confirm this.
When I open the door, a short-haired woman in high heels, a too tight, deep cut dress, and a Dior jacket is standing before me. Jeanette, twenty-five at the most. It figures. Without even looking at me, she marches past, looks around, and makes a face. ‘Not happy. Not happy,’ she said in a much too high-pitched voice.
The two of them go upstairs, and I overhear him trying to talk her into the apartment. ‘Not happy,’ I hear her say again.
I would be more than happy if I could move in here, but nobody asks me.
He descends the stairs in front of her, presumably so that if she stumbled, he would catch her … unfortunately.
The chance of a sale is falling fast.
‘We’ll think it over,’ he says, a look of regret on his face.
After they leave, I stand by the window and enjoy the view of Central Park. Up here, there is such a feeling of peace. Looking down at the streets, everything seems so small, unreal, and transient.
Flying past the window, a seagull suddenly screeched. It sounds like a scream ... A scream that evokes a childhood memory that shakes me to the core:
Someone is screaming. I slip out of bed and peep from my door into the hallway where my mother and Grandma are standing outside Aunt Vera’s room. They seem really nervous and scared, and I hear Grandma say: ‘She’s damned. Satan has taken her soul.’
‘Father Reilly will help her, Mama. He will drive the demon out. You heard what he said.’
‘I hope so.’
Suddenly Grandma turned to my Mom, a note of urgency in her voice.
‘You must protect Leia!’
‘I will, Mama. I promise I will.’
Determined to find out what is happening, and also avoid getting cought, I climb out of my window onto the veranda which wraps around the house and peep into Aunt Vera’s room. What I see there shocks me to the core. The priest has my aunt pinned to the bed with his body, his hand pressed against her mouth, stifling her screams as she struggles beneath him. Her eyes meet mine and are filled not with fear but with rage at what is happening. I want to shout out to him to stop, but I’m afraid of what will happen if I’m caught so I don’t. Back in my room, I slip into bed, pulling the blanket up to the tip of my nose and eventually, despite feeling terrified, I am hypnotized by the fluttering of the curtains at the open window and I fall asleep. Moments later it seems I am shocked awake—my heart thudding in fright—by a loud agonizing scream, immediately followed by the sound of flapping wings. Not those of the Barn Owl, that lived in the Church tower and hunted at night. These were much, much larger.
Recalling that night, the small scar in the palm of my hand begins to itch. What did Grandma mean when she told Mom to protect me? From whom? A chill runs through me … or from what?