It’s Writers Island time again.
The prompt this week is impulse.
Here’s my story –
The trees edged the street, leaning forward like old ladies looking into a pram. It was a fortress of leaves, a clutch of branches that cast a watery green light onto the road. Rae stood at the front of the house, feeling the cool breeze at the nape of her neck, enthralled with a sense of liberty.
This time she had been held hostage for two days. Locked in that windowless, silent space where everything was black. Bound with rope and thick tape so that she could only move one foot a fraction, couldn’t even flex her fingers or incline her head until the pain, tears and frustration grew beyond lament.
It was her fault. So he said. That man. Her husband. She hated him so much now that she couldn’t even utter his name without a murderous rage descending. Yes it was her fault, she had forgotten that he wanted fresh peas for dinner, not frozen. How dare she have the audacity to serve him frozen.
It started with taunting, name calling, hitting her on the body where no one could see. Where Rae couldn’t see if she forgot to look. Her clothes covered the bruises but not the pain. Sometimes it was so bad she had to lean forward when she walked, clutching the sides of buildings for support. People made comments on her health, her colouring – white tinged with blue. She knew what they meant, she could see it when she looked out into the world, like a grey gauze was pinned to her eyes.
After several months when he realised she would not cower before him, he began to lock her in the room. At first she screamed, kicking the door until her feet grew numb, and she trembled as if sick with fever. Then she accepted it, not fighting, embracing instead the sense of regret that she had ever married him at all, as a way of facing her prison.
With acceptance of the quiet, the dark, came reverie. And something else, a change, a departure, an impulse burnished with jeopardy.
It started with a fluttering around her feet, difficult and restless. It was cold and unsettling. Once she had walked along the beach and had seen blood on the sand. She thought it might have belonged to a bird that had damaged its wings on the rocks or the cliffs above, but there were no feathers or little foot marks. It bothered her for weeks, that blood, turning dark red in the wind. She scoured the papers for evidence of foul play but found none. Over time the image of the blood faded but the feeling arising from it remained, mottled with dread, stronger than ever in her confined prison.
After the fluttering came an energy, rushing upward, pinpricks by the thousand, seeking her breath, her bone, her surrender. She was tied up, bound. She had to be free. The energy bounced against the walls where she was jammed, crammed in like a toy in a basket. She thought of, dreamed of, wanted to be free. And the doorhandle began to turn.
She thought he was back, either to release her or taunt her some more, but nothing happened. She held her breath, counting to one hundred, forcing her breathing to slow, and then the doorhandle turned once more.
The door burst open and she fell into the hallway. She struggled, wanting, dreaming, thinking of her bonds being broken and they fell away like torn paper chains.
She stumbled to the living room. The television was blaring. He sat there, the man she couldn’t name, staring glassy-eyed at the screen. He was drinking beer at two in the morning, dropping the smooth green bottle onto the rug when he saw her. She watched, fascinated as the beer spread in a plume, foam flecked just like a wave.
‘How the hell did you get out?’ he asked. He fumbled in his pocket and held up a key. ‘How the hell did you get out?’ he asked again.
‘I won’t be locked in there again,’ Rae said. ‘I am not yours to do with as you please.’
His response was less strident than she expected.
‘All right,’ he said. ‘We’ll see.’
The next few weeks were full of exultation. Rae sang, smiled, swayed with purpose. The energy surrounding her was incessant, vehement, making her feel like she was standing directly in a headwind. At first she resisted the impulse to do more, to make things move of their own accord, but soon she couldn’t help herself.
She drew books from shelves, glasses from cupboards, opened curtains with a single thought. If the day grew cold she thought of a blanket emerging from the linen press, or a thick pair of socks, and they appeared as if blown there by the wind.
She was delighted, enthralled, white-faced with apprehension at her new power. She felt she had entered a world only dreamed of in stories.
He had to spoil it. As she knew he would. Rae had let the milk run out. And the bread. It meant no toast for his breakfast in the morning. And his tea. How he hated no milk for his tea.
He came at her, roaring. Bending her neck like a sapling, filling her with a rush of despair. ‘You will be punished,’ he shouted, pulling out the cords for binding. She was surprised, shocked that he kept them in his pocket.
‘No,’ she screamed. ’ Never again.’
She managed to break away from him, fleeing to the garden, running out into the street and down the hill to the cliffs. He followed, hollering, filling the air with terror.
Rae stopped when she reached the cliffs, feeling the creaking basalt beneath her feet. It was a long way down. People always said that when standing at a great height, almost churlish at stating the obvious: It’s a long way down.
Tell me something I don’t know, Rae thought.
The waves collided with the rocks. The sea was gleaming, stars glittered on its surface, a black, glossy mirror.
He was beside her, eyes red, nose streaming with the touch of the night. ‘You will go home right now,’ he said. ‘You will get in the closet and stay there until I tell you to come out.’
‘No,’ Rae said.’ You will not tell me what to do anymore.’
She felt the pinpricks start once more at her feet, He moved towards her. She felt the impulse rise. She thought of rocks breaking away at his feet, falling into the gaping maw of the sea. The rocks fell. He fell, blinking and clutching at the air, stunned into silence.
In the morning she saw him, stranded on the rocks. His head on the sand, oozing blood like a plum split open by a bird. The blood had blackened in parts, thick as paint, the heat of it vanished like smoke.
Rae stood as the gulls circled, as the early morning fishing boats sounded their horns, straining for a sense of dismay but finding she was unashamed. Slowly, like a child wading through water, she turned away from the horizon and walked home. She didn’t look back.