Three Floors Above

Chapter 2, Scene 1: He Was Another Man

            After my appointment with Doctor Andrews, I went straight home, though I'm no house-wife. I'm no entrepreneur. I'm not on maternity leave, have not been for years now. This was irregular, especially at eleven in the morning. I closed the car door calmly, not to make a sound, and walked up the cobbled-stone path. We live in one of those innocent suburban houses, on one of those quiet streets where every house looks like it was designed by the same unambitious architect.

            When I turned the key in the lock, it refused to click. Just as I suspected, the house was already unlocked. He was at home. No, not my loving husband; Michael was not home. This was another man. Same body, same face. Mick. That's what the boys called him. He needs help more than I do.

            I tried to remain calm as I gently closed the door behind me. I stopped myself, about to stomp the snow off my boots. Unlacing them, I placed them gently on the rubber shoe-mat to melt. Again, my migraine throbbed. I wanted to scream. No, they would hear me.

            They would be downstairs, assuming he was back into his old pattern. The backyard patio-door, a floor below, was to be left unlocked. So was the gate at the back of our yard, conveniently open to the parkway. A house can only be so far from its local high school.

            I tip-toed up the carpeted stairs, avoiding the creaky step. Every house has one, even the houses as new as ours. As long as you listen for it. But just one. The others are silent by comparison. Maybe it was my medication, but I do not remember walking down the upstairs hall. I just remember leaning against my bed and tucking myself under the soft, pink covers. And falling asleep.

            No, no. I did not fall asleep. I tried. I tossed and turned for a good, frustrating ten minutes. Then I reached for the remote at the bedside and clicked on the television. A soap opera I was taping. I was two episodes behind, but I figured I would not remember any of it clearly when I woke up.

            I fell asleep with the remote in my hand. At some point, I reckon I must have rolled onto it. And after a few buttons had been pushed, I was not watching my soap opera at all. It must have flicked first to Input 1 - the black screen of the empty, turned-off DVD player. Then, at some point, it got muted. And again, Input 2 - that hidden camera I had suspiciously installed in the basement a year ago when this whole fiasco began. Luckily, the volume was low and I was asleep. And the remote fell off the edge of the bed, and turned off. Or maybe I had had the foresight to use the sleep-timer function. In any case, the television turned itself off.

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Chapter 2, Scene 2: They Brand Her A Cuckold

            It was one of those dreams I would only be able to recall just after waking up. Except, because it was so poignant and disturbing, I remembered it long afterwards. I think Doctor Andrews was wrong - the paranoia is not healthy. Not at all. That is what the dream was. A nightmare. A conspiracy. A day of frightful gossip.

            The street barbecue was to be a month away, when spring came. However, I dreamed of it. Kyle Andrews at the grill, flipping priapic hot dogs. They were the naked, nearly hairless loins of adolescent youth. Burning and searing at the mercy of his tongs.

            Linda and Helen were together, arm in arm, chatting to a group of neighbours from down the street. I knew what they said, though I did not hear them. Tales of young boys, thirteen and fourteen. Their lunch breaks, spent walking down the parkway to visit the open patio door - where the naked man stood invitingly.

            "Cuckold!", they laughed and pointed. They did not cringe. They did not pity. They laughed at me. It was a word for a man, and because Mick was bisexual I guess they felt it to be accurate. And I turned, embarrassed, to look across the street. Michael was there, crying. He wasn't Mick, at that moment. Mick was elsewhere, talking with the young men from across the street. Those twins, with their hair gel and baggy pants.

            And I turned again, to look back at my neighbours. Kyle was sitting in his therapist's chair, beside the barbecue. And he thrust a fork in my face, and on the end was the most grotesque thing I have ever seen. Marked by the blackened grill marks. Dripping with oil. Stabbed by the two prongs of the fork. Bulging. Erect. This was no sausage.

            As if all was innocent, he patted his oven-mittened hand against the purple leather therapy couch. It was the shiny purple of tumescent glans.

            I woke up with a jolt. That was all I remembered of the dream. Never before had my unconscious mind flaunted a message so - so disturbing! I leaned over the bed and vomited.

The End

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