(x) Days of Photography is a flash fiction/photography collaboration with Austin Andrews of Disposable Words. This is Day Eight.

‘There is someone out there,’ she mumbled under her breath, ‘Dread!’

He walks seven blocks into a part of town that is car parks and civic buildings and back alleys with endless tagging on the walls.

‘Their balance is on their toes — I can hear — taking small steps, arms outstretched in search of the light switch. That switch always is a trouble to find.’

The patrols are not much interested as long as he’s not mulling about. For this exact reason he can’t sit nor sleep in his car. He finds a toilet, pays enough money for ten minutes, and masturbates; just to kill time. His time runs out too soon and the electric door first beeps, then opens out onto the street.

‘She has delicate steps. She will not find me by darkness, even if I walked around the apartment, let alone in the crawl space at the bottom of the cupboard. Even if she opened the cupboard door she could not see me but for my eyes that might be seen between the gaps of tin cans of chick peas and whole peeled tomatoes. And even then my eyes would be red and camoflauged from straining in the dark.’

He stays away from the apartment having watched it all afternoon and drank too much coffee. In a want to know the movements of the loved ones who belonged to the man he killed. That is why I’m doing this, he thinks.

‘How right I was not to sleep in his bed. Why I wanted to, I don’t know.’

There was only one woman who came through his apartment. She was old, but well kept, and made her way up the ladder in the back alley and crawled through a bathroom window in routine fashion.

‘It has been quiet for some time. They are waiting for me to come out. I have been seen, but how. And now they want me to unhide myself. As sure as you can hear me, I will not do that.

But maybe they will wait forever in the dark; listening to my voice as it comes to them. My every small movement and breath one more clue to my whereabouts. Maybe they are unaware of my being here and are waiting for me to come in from the night through the front door. What could they do if I were here? I am here, obviously. They could report me.

Squatting. Pink and yellow forms would be required. “I want to report a squatter,” they would say. “How very noble of you, and your name is?” says our desk-job policeman. “I don’t see what my name has to do with it.” “Very well then. The squatter’s name, please?” says our policeman, efficient as ever.

“How would I know that?” Very true, this, they don’t know my name — at least I have not heard them whisper it. “Where is this squatter?” “In my apartment.” Strange, they have already taken possesion of the apartment in my day-dream. “If that is so, then I’m afraid I can’t help you.” Hooray, for our desk-job policeman!

“But you’re the police, of course you can.” That, my dear, is the mistake you have made. “Well, if what you say is true, then it’s not really squatting, and, oh, excuse me a moment.” He shuffles some papers together and shreds them. What efficiency in ignoring her claim! “As you were saying, you want to report a squatter but the place of residence is not abandoned.”

“That’s right.” “True.” And with this obvious fact he would not speak to her again. She would get the forms and they could be filled out with the utmost care. But what matters. Oh! I’ve never felt so sorry for someone in my life.’

‘This is a good kitchen, I tell you. Why my voice is still in a whisper, I’m not sure. Darkness will guide them to see many shadows, including my own, but they will not be able to touch nor see the very existence of me. If they are evn here now, or if I heard company when I have none.’

‘But there, I hear something. Those delicate steps walking across the linoleum floor, coming closer. If I turn my eyes I will find out, for they are less then two metres away from me. Only the kitchen counter between us. They have found the counter, and move around to the sink. They will come upon me any minute. Surely they have heard my voice. The steps, so close now, coming below me. I can not feel the movement of breath at human height, but from low down.

Shock! Fuzz against my legs, electrifying the hair along the length of my spine, gripping all the muscles to my bones. Warmth, pushing its spine up against my leg. This sensation I know, although it is old, is that of a cat. Calm! Even happiness, as fear rests in my stomach.’

He reaches around from behind her with both arms and covers her mouth with a rag. She quickly goes limp. He stands in the kitchen holding her up by her left breast and her throat.

The light and shadow did not reflect his thinking.

(to be continued)

Photo Copyright ©2008 Austin Andrews