Laura Andrews woke with the night still clinging to her.
Her body ached with a phantom exertion. She had been back in the familiar landscape of the previous nights, but this time there was the voice, the voice of the Good Doctor, the one who had spoken to her so kindly.
Laura. Laura. Laura.
Her name was being washed across a black sea.
Laura, Laura Andrews, have you forgotten your marriage vows? Have you forgotten the promises that you made? In sickness and in health you said.
Forever and ever, forsaking all others
So, poor old Simon is dead. He’s as dead as a doornail and you, you’ve wasted no time in finding something else to fill your bed with?
“I haven’t slept with anyone. I have always been faithful to Simon. I have always been his wife and I have stuck by my wedding vows.”
Oh dear, aren’t we a little sensitive about that?
Laura knew what was coming next.
It was an odd place to have an accident, don’t you think? Is it not a street known for its prostitutes? They have a quaint name for it. The Red Light District; sounds so comforting. Christmas Eve, the celebration of the birth of light out of darkness, a time for the family to unite and your husband, your dear loyal husband is found dead in his car in a street used by prostitutes.
“It wasn’t like that, you bastard. It wasn’t like that. Simon was faithful. He was the most wonderful father in the world!”
Was he a good husband Laura? Were you a good wife?
Laughter arose from beyond the horizon and its power raised a wave that she could see grow and grow. Standing on the black-ash beach, Laura could see its approach and could hear thousands of angry voices. She tried to run, but the black ash held her fast. She could not even pull herself from this depth of sleep and feared that, if she could not escape, everything would be swept away. She would be consumed by its greed.
She was dragged along the floor of existence. She saw Simon chasing a girl along a dark street. She saw the funeral, the empty aisles where their friends should have been. She saw herself giving birth to Peter and then she saw Christopher lying in a pool of blood with rats racing over him.
She screamed and they laughed at her. She screamed from the depth of her being and still they tried to pull her on.
I will give you more than I grant many others. I will give you the face of your executioner.
And there was Michael rising up before her. He was looking as though he was going to strike her and her screaming took her over the edge of sleep into a darkened alleyway where a figure stood with something clasped in its hand. It raised it like an assassin would raise a knife and came toward her.
Laura turned and ran.
The darkness surrounded her every step and pulled at her attempts to flee. There were things moving on either side of her, dark slithery masses that watched through dead eyes. She knew that they were waiting for her to trip, to fall so that they could be upon her. They would rip at her flesh until nothing was left but the memory of the attack.
Ahead of her was a bluish light and there was someone standing within is sphere. The silhouette called out to her yet she was too far away to hear what it was saying. The footsteps behind Laura were quickening and becoming heavier. She knew that if she were to turn to look upon her pursuer, she would be swallowed up. What was there was not a man; it was something else, it was pain, pain that had lasted forever.
She looked down and as she did she saw that she was no longer running on her feet for they had worn away; she was running on legs made of wood that were splintering with each stride.
Run Mrs Andrews, run towards me.
It was the voice of her dreams. Laura turned and saw it, a manic grin behind the wheel of a black car, its headlights cutting the distance between her and safety. Its hunger was forcing her backwards, forcing her to lose her balance on legs that were turning to matchsticks.
And then she fell.
“Mum, Mum, Mum!”
It was Michael’s voice rising up out of the void.
Laura felt the stab of fear as she remembered the warning.
“Mum, Mum wake up, you’re dreaming. It’s only a dream. You’re okay. It’s me Michael.”
Her eyes flashed open and he saw terror written upon them.
“Get away from me,” she hissed. “Get away from all of us, you murderer.”