A Skulk – Part VIII
by Timothy J Jarvis
Part VIII of ‘A Skulk’. The first part can be found here.
Some days later, Waclaw was walking past the front of Holly’s block and saw the young man, the one he’d seen with her, in her bedroom and on the street, waiting outside. Slowing his pace, he watched asquint, saw Holly answer the door and the young man reach into his bag, take out a bottle of wine, present it to her. She stared at the young man as if she’d never seen him before: bemused, but placid. He clasped her hand. She began shaking, and he loosed his hold, stepped back. Huddling down in a corner of the porch, she retched a few times, then spewed an off-white froth. The young man moved closer once more, muttering comforts. Holly began to wail, high and eerie. Reaching out, the young man went to stroke her hair, but flinched away on touching her. He dropped the bottle. It smashed, and the wine flowed out, pooled in hollows. After staring aghast at Holly a moment, the young man turned, ran away. She ceased her keening, grinned horribly. Then, looking up, glared at Waclaw. There wasn’t the faintest sign she recognised him. Shuddering, he hunched into his coat, strode on.
Over the next months, Waclaw often skulked by the window of his flat, slyly watching Holly. Her belly swelled. She waned wan and sickly; it was a hard pregnancy. During this time, several ranting love letters from Melanie, scrawled on crumpled, filthy sheets of paper, were pushed under his front door, but he didn’t see her again. Work continued on the block of flats, but it was slow, held up by bad weather, defaulting suppliers, disagreements between members of the site crew. Waclaw passed through these days in a kind of fugue, present in body, but in mind, elsewhere. Everywhere he looked, a phantasmagoria of his homeland overlaid the drab, grimy London streets. He stopped writing, couldn’t find it in him to do it anymore. Several times he rented a copy of Littleblood again, watched the film through on fast-forward, seeking the dream of the trenches. But he never found it. He wondered, though only abstractedly, if the copy he’d first watched had been a pirated version containing scenes excised from the official release. Several times, always late at night, returning home from a drinking bout, or a long shift at the site, he thought he saw, out of the corner of his eye, a man dressed in a bear’s hide. Whenever he turned to face this apparition, though, he found it gone.
To be continued…