So Close to All This Water

Chris Castle
They say they came from outer space.

She walked into the room, lit the candle. It twitched, rose, and she waited; been weeks since she flinched. She placed the bowl down, stood back and listened to the shackles. It lurched into the weak light, fingers climbing into the bowl, and as it began to feed she lowered, sat and brought out her own plate of food and the two of them sat in the near dark until they were both finished.

She took the bowl and placed them in the sink, wiping them down with the rag as best she could. She turned the dial on the radio, even though she knew it was dead. A force of habit. She tidied up as best she could, flicked the dial off, all the while a piece of paper, sat there, in the corner of her eye. Eventually she finished, sat at the bare table, and pulled it out in front of her.

She re-read the instructions, her voice humming quietly. Struggled to read her own handwriting at points, remembered how horribly she’d scrawled it, listening to the other woman’s voice, uneven, breaking; her own, dried in panic, disbelieving but still writing it all down. And all of it was true in the end. She looked up to the calendar, followed the twenty-seven crosses marked off. The blank dates somehow seemed bigger than any others. She read the last point, fixed on the space as she did. She folded the paper into a small square and put it into her top pocket.

She made her way to the window. Everything was still empty, the bodies turning slowly until eventually they would just be dust. No one walked up to the overturned cars, no dogs running in or out of the smashed shop doors; just the nothingness. She counted the houses, saw she had two left on her side of the street, the jewellers and the bookies; jobs for tomorrow. She turned to her left and saw the flicker of the sea. She wondered if it had started to turn in colour yet, clog with all that had happened. She stared at it for a long while and then she turned and headed back down to the stairwell.

She lit the candle again, watched it lurch forward. It was agitated, she knew, from the break from routine; food at dawn, food at dusk and now this. It stayed leaning forward, looking to her. Not looking for the bowl. She smiled at the attention, and sat down, facing him.
“I wonder who you were before this.” She opened the bottle of wine, poured it into her glass. He twitched at her voice. She’d only spoken briefly before, like orders, following the paper.

“Your name, what you did for the job, if you were married, had a girl.” She sipped her drink, surprised by the sting on her lips. It was the first drink she’d taken since all this began.
“But after, more than that. What type of person you were. If you were kind or generous or mean and petty. I lay awake, wondering if I was breaking all the rules for someone who hated people.” She drank again. She felt a warmth from it, felt the constant tense of her body slip for a few moments. She leant forward a little.

“When they knocked after the first few days, I don’t know why I kept you hid, alive. I don’t know what I thought. I don’t even know if it’s cruel or kind to have kept you like this, alive, or whether I should’ve let them take you and have done with it all.” She filled her glass, held it in her hands, cupped, it like it was hot.

“I guess keeping you here, the routine, the risk, it kept one thing from thinking about myself and my own…situation. What I was left with. I’m alive, right? Are you even alive? Do you understand me?”

She felt a sudden surge of anger. She waved her hands, re-opened the question over and louder. She looked at it, but it didn’t react, didn’t move. Her voice grew hoarse
and as she stopped, looking up. Her hands were outstretched, her face raging, and it sat helpless, dumb. She bought her hand to her mouth and edged back to the floor.
They sat there for a while in the shadows. She drank another cup and poured herself another. She coughed, shuddered, put the cup down. And all the while it stayed motionless, looking at her, the candle where the bowl should have been.

“Your…you’ve been here twenty-eight days now. I’ve been told after twenty-nine…it says you’re …term expires. I mean, you don’t look like you’ve…deteriorated. But it’s hard to tell. No offence.” She tried to smile, but she couldn’t quite manage it.

“You’re going to die tomorrow. I don’t know if it’ll be at dawn or dusk, if it’s true, it’ll happen soon.” She looked up into his empty eyes. “Maybe the stillness is part of it. Maybe it’ll be at midnight.”

She pulled herself up, drinking the last of the wine. She moved around him, opened the back doors. She unravelled the chains and pulled him into the early evening. A few feet away was a ramp which led to the boot. She dragged him along into the boot, slammed it, got into the car, and turned the ignition which she’d checked that morning.

They pulled up to the beach, over to the car-park and onto the rocks and sand. She parked and climbed out, not looking to the water yet. She moved round, opened the trunk, and pulled him out. The legs gave way and it sat, looking out to the sea like a tourist. She looked around for anyone, anything, but it was still, quiet. She turned away, stepped up to the foam-edged sea and looked in.

The water still rippled and broke. There were rocks and sea weed. She thought the tone of the water had shifted or if it was the blood of the bodies. She wondered about the marine life, how they were affected. Or was it all in her imagination? The water was still beautiful. She smiled for the first time in a long while. She stood there, the water lapping against her boots, no sensation but the sand in her ears. The water rippled and then changed. Half seen faces, an upturned palm. What she knew rising up in the reflection. She shivered and turned away, the water breaking with her movement, the splashing dying away as she started to run to the sand. She returned to the body. Now that it was in the open, it did look weak, broken. Had it looked any different? She didn’t know. It was swaying, its breathing laboured, its hand upturned on the sand as if it were begging. She walked over, not feeling right then, sitting upright, her back to the sea, so she settled next to it. It was night, full now, the stars and the moon appearing. It had not reached the skies yet. She wondered if it could, if it would kill the stars.

They sat in the darkness together. She wondered if she were more exposed now, in the dark, to them. If an attack came now…she wasn’t sure if she would run anymore. Or if she’d let herself slip away, succumb. Become something else. Become part of something else. She looked for, followed the sway of the body. For a long while she talked, told him what she felt, what she had managed to do, all the things she had failed in; things that were important; things that didn’t matter; she talked and looked down to the body, out to the sea. They sat in silence, until the dark became light again; the same place, the same spot, but something else. She’d watched it for a long while by then, saw the swaying slow down, the movement falter. As the sun broke, it fully began to wheeze and tighten.

She stood up. She walked around, unlocking the chains. She walked back, saw the body tilt. She lifted the arm and climbed inside it. She lay underneath it and held it close, rocking with the shuddering, jolting movements, until it stilled. She felt its chin sag forward to rest on the crown of her skull. And she lay there for a long time, feeling the stillness envelope her under the sun.

Rising, she stepped away, took one glance, and walked to the car. She turned the key and she drove away from it all, further onto the sand and into the sunlight.
© 2010 Chris Castle. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Chris Castle lives and works outside of London, England and has had 300 odd pieces published in various places; his main influences include Ray Carver and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.
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