All Alone Here (A short story) - Chapter 5

By Jectoons | jectoonsnetENG | 17 Apr 2021


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Aside from the nightmares, the first couple of days were alright. I stuck to the routine dictated to me by the e-mail. I dusted the furniture, cleaned the floors, washed the windows, watered the plants, even organized the little tin soldier collection on top of the stereo. On the second day I went to buy groceries, and on my way back I stopped by the garden center to get some new grass for the mound.

By the third day there were less and less things to do. Part of the house-sitting business is for the place to look occupied and so less likely to be broken into, anyway, so the chores were now winding down. No point in cleaning stuff I had already cleaned, and dust took a couple of days to gather again. I started, then, to make up new chores that would keep my mind entertained, away from self-destructive thoughts. I took out all the cutlery and cleaned it, piece by piece, then rearranged it by size. I sorted through a drawer full of keys, testing each of them in every lock I could find, and separated them in “useless/useful” labeled Ziploc bags.

On the fourth day, despite my mild sleep deprivation, I swept the whole house from top to bottom, raked the leaves in the garden –subconsciously avoiding the spot under the palm tree–, and went out and bought paint to retouch fading and cracked spots on the walls.

I mostly kept away from the neighbors, limiting my conversations with them to a “hello” or “good day” whenever I ran into them, which thankfully wasn’t very often. Other than that, my only interactions were texting and calling my parents, and texting Mr. Sierra or Jacobo to let them know all was fine.

All the extra chores had the intended purpose of tiring me out to have a good night’s sleep. But no matter how hard I tried to exhaust myself during the day, whenever I went to bed at night and fell asleep I was assaulted by dark, hazy visions that woke me up repeatedly. I paced around the room, then up and down the house, until I collapsed on a couch and managed to rest before the dawn came, but even this sleep was plagued by mini-nightmares that never allowed my mind to feel fully rested.

On the fifth day I found I had absolutely nothing else to do. Due to my lack of sleep I was practically going on auto-pilot; so, the lack of a purpose made me wander around the house for an hour or so, until I laid down on the grass and finally had a wonderful, long nap.

I don’t know if it was because it was daylight, or if being outside helped, but that sleep was glorious, dreamless bliss. When I woke up I found myself full of energy. I decided that I would take a break from being inside the house and go for a walk around the town.

Alarm set and doors locked, I walked aimlessly through the streets until I arrived downtown. It was cloudy, but the warmth of the air made it seem impossible that it would rain. The change of scenery was surprisingly beneficial for my state of mind. I was still tired, of course, but the walk and the air, and being around people made me feel more awake than I had in days. It made me feel better.

San Felipe was a small, quiet town, with just one movie theatre and about three or four churches. The streets were paved with stones, and the oldest houses gave away the place’s colonial past. The huge haciendas had been turned into small self-contained neighborhoods, their colorful facades and elaborate ornaments a treat to the eyes of anyone walking the town’s streets. It felt as if time moved slower there than anywhere else. That romantic perspective was a product of how fondly I thought about my childhood, and while things had changed since I had last been there, the nostalgia it evoked gave my tired mind a moment of respite.

I bought an ice-cream and walked down the street without a destination in mind, until from a few blocks away I could see tops of the tall trees in the zócalo, the main square. I sat under the shade of one of the trees, on a heavily ornamented bench, and closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I listened and smelled and experienced all that surrounded me.

All of a sudden, my forehead felt burning hot, and I opened my eyes, thinking that either I had been bitten by something or that a new headache was coming. But as soon as I opened them, I saw that a few meters in front of me was an old man, leaning on a column, staring at me. He was dressed in a button-down shirt and had a straw hat on. His hands were behind his back, and he wore very worn out sandals. His eyes were impossibly wide, unblinking.

First, I pretended not to notice and went back to my quiet, eyes closed enjoyment of the zócalo, trying to get distracted by the sounds and the breeze that now caressed my hair. But soon my forehead was burning again. I stood up and decided to walk around, away from this old man and his eyes. It wasn’t long before the burning sensation started on the back of my head.

Before I knew it, I was running down the street, pushing my exhausted body to its limit, freaking out passersby. I ran and ran, not caring about where my steps were taking me, turning here and there randomly, until I hid behind a big green wall, out of breath but sure I had lost him. I peeked out from the side, and to my relief the street was empty.

Eerily empty and quiet. The only sound I could hear was my breathing and the rustle of my clothes.

Now I needed to figure out where I was so that I could head back to the house. Maybe it had been a mistake to go out, after all. I took out my phone and looked at the map to find a way back, a way that would keep me away from the streets where the old man could find me. When I raised my head from the phone, he was there, right in front of me and staring deep into my eyes.

I gasped and backed away, feeling my back come into contact with the wall, and I tried to be angry, to demand that he explain why he was staring at me and following me, but I could not. I only felt shame and sadness. He spoke.

“Misplaced. You’re wrong”.

I blinked, unable to reply. He looked at me more intensely and said, “It’s wrong”. Then he turned around and walked away.

The strangest thing happened then: As I watched him go, I blinked and suddenly the street was full of people. People in cars and pedestrians stared at me, confused. Some of them looked like they had been staring for a long time. The old man was nowhere to be seen. I felt so exhausted. I walked away from the stares and called a cab, hoping to fall asleep at least for a little while on the way back, but to no avail.

When I arrived it was still daylight. I paid the driver, and after locking everything I went straight to the guest room. The bed was cold and comforting, but my body heat made everything warm and I kept changing positions to regain that coolness. I felt myself start to relax. The quiet was

comforting, too, and my eyes gave in to the tiredness.

I sprang up, terrified. My mind suddenly slipped into a pool of thought that I needed to get out of, a pool of dread and death and anger, and at the bottom of the pool was that old man’s face and his deep, tragic voice. I got up, let out a small scream, scratched my head and told myself to stop, STOP thinking.

Ok.

Ok, it was gone.

Reluctantly, I laid back in bed. Sleep took me before I had the chance to think again.

In my dream I was a kid again, but I was also an adult. I mean, in my head within the dream, that’s where I was me, an adult, but my body was that of a child. I sat in the passenger’s seat in a space that I knew to be a car, that could be nothing but a car, but that I also noticed looked absolutely nothing like a car. I knew it was one, though, and that’s why I sat there, looking out the window, watching the trees and the rocks and the mountains go by so fast, that everything surrounding me was a blur. Suddenly it was dark out, the headlights turned on, I turned around and my dad (but not my dad) was sitting in the driver’s seat, hands on the wheel. He was wearing a white cotton shirt, so (soft) white, that it outshone the headlights, it absorbed the headlights, it projected the light out front so that we could see it all. I tried to speak, but just a whimper came out, and I didn’t understand why, why with all this light I felt so terrified, so undeserving, so empty.

“Poor Bernardo”, said my dad, “All alone here and stuck with me”. And I remembered that he was not my dad, and we were not in a car anymore, but in a wide valley. My not-dad was nowhere to be seen (but he was there), and I didn’t want to be alone. I walked and walked and walked. I was barefoot, and the soft grass became hard, manmade ground, and I realized I had already seen this. My feet hurt, I was an adult once more and my feet hurt so much, so much that I couldn’t breathe.

I was covered by light from above, from the side, from behind, and I couldn’t understand where it was all coming from. But I knew that something was on its way, and that it would get there soon and destroy me. I wanted to wake up before it killed me, before it sent me to that nowhere I know everything eventually goes to, a nowhere I know has always existed and that has stalked me from deep within my mind, souring every happy memory and destroying all that’s good. A nowhere I never want to visit.

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Jectoons
Jectoons

Animador e ilustrador mexicano // Mexicanimator. Escribo cosas en Español y en Inglés.


jectoonsnetENG
jectoonsnetENG

The posts in english from my blog. Reviews, short stories, essays and the like. https://www.jectoons.net/category/english/

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