Thomas Magee awoke on the bench, bewildered.
The dampness of the early autumn morning hung in the fog, needling its chilly tentacles into every pore on his body. The salty sea air curled into his mouth with each breath.
He sat up clamoring through his thoughts to remember the night before. Memories slipped into the distance as if he was racing into the fog to catch the misty air itself. Fragments of images snickered at him from the edge of his consciousness, begging him to give chase and then disappearing into the mist when he did.
"Julia," he lamented out loud as he grasped the memory before it escaped again, "I was with Julia."
He sat up, massaging the stiff muscles in his neck.
He cupped his hand before his mouth, breathing out and quickly inhaling through his nose — the stench of too much whiskey and beer mingled with the odor of stale morning breath.
The sun stabbed at the moist air sending its shafts of light through the retreating defenses of the night.
Torment stabbed into Thomas' heart. He knew where he was. Julia first ran her fingers through his hair, sitting on this very bench. They shared a first kiss that ignited a passion consuming every emotion and spawning a week spent wrapped in each other's arms — the days and nights aflame with ecstasy and affection.
But then it all ended. She was gone.
Authorities grilled him for hours on end, watched his every move for weeks, and picked his life apart. A year later, he still flinched when someone knocked hard on his door, expecting to be hauled away for another round in a dank interrogation room.
Her disappearance captivated the local press and drew whispers in the shadows wherever he walked.
The fog rippled and battled with itself as the morning breeze tangled with the tall grass of the cliff. Glimpses of the ocean appeared and disappeared far below the bluff as Thomas rose from the bench. He walked to the edge, peering down to watch the tide pounding its way back to the base of the cliff, wrapping its watery arms around the rock formations far below.
Off in the distance, snuggled against the sea, he could see the town he once called home. Perhaps, today would be the day he declared his freedom and left forever.
The sunlight broke through the morning clouds, and the seabirds floated through the rays appearing as angels before plummeting toward the sea.
Back home he walked, knowing that today would not be the day that he fled from the disparaging glances and silent accusations of his neighbors because today might be the day that she returned.
Another day passed him by in a blur. Evening found him again mounting the stool in the corner of the pub. He was always a loner but was more alone now than before — an insect at the edge of a picnic, hoping to steal a morsel of food, but fearing the hand that would smash him should he try.
The barkeep set his drink on the bar, and Thomas stared into the golden liquid.
The hands on the clock strained to make their appointed rotations while the partons came and went. One glass became two, and two became four.
"It's time for you to go," stated the barkeep. The words hung in the air, waiting for recognition, but receiving nothing more than the chiming of the small bell that hung above the door as he left.
The door closed behind him, and he walked into another foggy night. Misty formations inched across the narrow sidewalk. Thomas closed his eyes, wishing the night would take him forever into its icy embrace.
It was her again. He knew it.
"Julia," he cried into the shadows.
The words faded as he chased them down the cobblestone street.
"Julia," he cried again staggering in the direction of the sound, passing the homes filled with inhabitants dreaming fantastic stories devoid of the loneliness that consumed his days and nights.
From the dark alley, he heard the faint calling of his name again. The iron bars of the tall fence at the end of the alley knocked against his hands as he groped his way in the pitch black.
The voice was closer now, just beyond his sight on the other side of the fence.
"I'm here," he pleaded to the shadow in the distance. "I miss you; I need you."
"Will you leave and come with me forever?" inquired the tender voice.
"Yes," replied Thomas without hesitation.
"Meet me at our bench in an hour," she softly commanded, "but bring Harry Wright with you."
"Why?" he asked into the growing silence. A chilly, damp wind brushed across his face as he waited for a reply that never came.
His thumbs hammered his mobile phone, "Harry, this is Thomas. Meet me on the high bluff in an hour. Julia is back!"
To be continued...
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Crypts & Cannibals: A Collection of Short Horror StoriesHorror
Darkness. Terror. Monsters. Ghosts. Demons. When you close your eyes, what do you fear? Escape to a place where reality is twisted and demented to serve the purpose of evil. Look in the mirror and a sinister spirit stares back at you. Uncouple yours...