This is part of the short story Carry On that is being posted a chapter at a time, Monday October 3rd through Friday October 7th. This is the second chapter, titled Tuesday.
You can view the previous chapters here, or by clicking on the chapter titles in the tool bar to the right.
It was another cool morning and Joe was having a hard time getting out of bed. The windows had been left open again last night and a chill had settled in the house. He laid in bed with the blankets pulled up around his shoulders, glad that he had yet to swap out his winter flannel sheets for the lighter cotton ones. To add to his troubles, had woken up with a sore throat as well. He took a moment to consider calling out of work, he could blow a personal day and just lay in bed for the rest of the day. Thinking better of it, he kicked off the covers and got up to start his day.
All the bones in his back cracked as he stretched out the kinks from the night before, the crack crack crack the only noise inside the small bedroom. His eyes flitted over to the nightstand where a framed photo sat next to a glass of water. Reaching out he took the water without giving the frame more than a passing glance. There was no need to look too closely at the picture, he had every detail memorized. The long honey colored hair that hung just past Lisa’s shoulders. The small scar on her right cheek. The large happy smile. Putting the water back on the night stand he cleared his throat. It took a moment or two before he was able to push the painful memories out of his head. The thoughts had nearly paralyzed him. The longing and sadness warming his chest and creating a hot lump that he could not swallow down. But it passed, he had gotten better at swallowing his feelings down. The sadness, the anger, the shame.
Joe found himself once again lost in thought at the kitchen table when the sound came. Click click click through the kitchen window. He was tempted to stay where he was and not look upon that ugly visage again, but curiosity won out. As Joe rose he swayed slightly, his vision clouding for a moment. “Woah.” He whispered as he steadied himself on the back of the chair. The sore throat from earlier this morning had abated but with the darkening vision the pain came back. He cleared his throat and moved to sit back down when the click click click came again. Click click click.
Walking to the window, Joe pulled back the curtain. The bird from yesterday was back, but he was not alone. There were now two of the large carrion birds sitting on the roof of his car. Both of them had turned towards the movement when he pushed back the curtain. Their beaks seemed larger than they should be as they glared at him. Joe cleared his throat once more, maybe a little louder than he normally would have, hoping to startle them away. Instead they looked back at him with mild interest. The darkness threatened to cloud his vision again as he stood there. Joe hung his head as he gripped the sides of the sink and closed his eyes, willing the darkness away. After a moment his vision cleared and he looked out the window, the birds both gone now, as if they had never been there in the first place. Filling a glass with water he took a few deep gulps and looked warily at his car. When he was sure that neither the birds, nor the darkness, were going to return he put the glass in the sink and left for work.
The driveway sat empty until dark. Joe pulled in and turned off the engine, sitting quietly in the dark for a moment before making a move to go into the house. He was still shaken up from what had just happened in the parking lot at work.
He had felt poorly all day. The dizziness coming and going. After considering leaving early to go home and rest, he decided to stick it out. When the day had finally come to an end and he was able to walk out that door he was relieved. But that relief was short lived, because as he walked through the semi-dark parking lot to get to his car he discovered that he was not alone. Something moved quickly near his car.
A moment later his eyes had fully adjusted to the gloom and he saw what had caused the movement. A vulture had been sitting in the shadow of his tire. The vulture, having seen Joe, crouched down and spread its wings wide and shifted its weight from side to side, click click click. Joe stopped in his tracks. He and the bird remained motionless, their eyes locked together. A hiss came from the bird, low and angry. A warning to Joe, “Don’t come closer” it said. Or, Joe thought, maybe it was saying, “Come on in. It’s cool in here. It’s cool and dark.” An invitation.
Stomping his foot and breaking eye contact he waved the bird away and hissed back, “Get lost.” The bird held his ground for one more moment before pushing off and taking flight. The sound of the large wings flapping through the otherwise quiet night made Joe shudder.
Soon, they said.
Each flap issuing the warning, or maybe the reassurance, soon. Soon.
Now Joe sat in his driveway, trying to shake the fear he felt in opening the door to get into his house. He was beginning to feel poorly again, and although the night air was cool, his skin felt flushed. In the end, the desire to get in and lay down outweighed his fears. He pushed himself out the car and into the house. Once inside the house the fear abated and he almost felt silly. Maybe it wasn’t a vulture in the parking lot. It was dark and he hadn’t been feeling well. Hadn’t been feeling well for a few days now, actually. Maybe I am coming down with something, he thought as he walked through the house turning on a light in each and every room.
Joe pulled the covers up to his neck as he got into bed later that night, shivering slightly at the cold air coming through the window. He was suddenly exhausted and desperate for sleep. His eyes fluttered twice before he closed them for good. Just before his conscious thoughts slipped away for the evening, he registered two things. The first was that the pain in his throat had spread down, sending an unfamiliar burning towards his stomach. The second was that in the distance, he heard the flutter of wings and a soft click click click.
The end of chapter two.
Click here to read chapter three, Wednesday.
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