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Resonance: Chapter Three

       Last updated: Friday, September 17, 2004 02:16 EDT



    Graham spent the rest of the day in turmoil. What the hell was going on? Was the girl insane or part of some elaborate joke?

    He couldn’t fathom it. If it was a joke, what was the point? To frighten him, to make him do something stupid? He could imagine Ray setting him up, he could imagine Ray persuading a girlfriend to play along. But he couldn’t imagine Ray not being there to watch. That wasn’t Ray. He’d have to be there and he’d have to make sure he was seen to be there.

    But if it wasn’t Ray?

    It had to be mistaken identity. The girl had mixed him up with someone else. That or she was insane.

    He looked out for her on his journey home that evening. Once or twice he thought he caught a glimpse but either he was mistaken or she didn’t want to seen.

    Gradually he pushed her out of his mind, burying himself instead in ritual and extra counting. There’s nothing like monotonous exercise to cleanse the mind.



    Graham performed his ten o’clock door locking ritual; lock, unlock, breathe and count, right-handed for the front door, left-handed for the back. He latched the chain on the front door and bolted the back. And then did it all again.


    You can’t be too careful about home security.

    Or overlook the fragility of memory.

    He scribbled ‘Tuesday’ on a Post-it note and pressed it firmly to the front door, burning the image into his memory - front door locked, Tuesday. He repeated the process at the back door. He knew only too well the fear of lying awake in the middle of the night, unable to remember if he’d locked the doors, unsure if a memory came from last night or the night before.

    Peace of mind was worth the extra effort.

    Which made him remember the girl’s warning about the note. He stood for a moment at the foot of the stairs, wondering. What if she was right? What if people were going through his rubbish?

    He went back to the kitchen, picked up a box of matches and set the note alight, holding it between his finger and thumb for a few seconds before letting it fall into the ash tray by the cooker. He watched the note crinkle and blacken then took the ash tray into the cloakroom under the stairs and flushed its contents down the toilet. Let someone try and piece that back together.



    He awoke suddenly in the night. Everything black except for a grey veil of light at the bedroom window. Something had woken him. He wasn’t sure what. A noise, a voice - something - nearby.

    The girl’s warning flew into his head - people want you dead.

    He froze. Listening. Everything quiet. Everything except the thud of his heart in his chest.

    There it was again! A scraping noise coming from his back garden! He got up, instantly, threw back his covers and fell out of bed, landing on the carpet on all fours. He stayed there for a second, ears pricked like a dog. Not sure what to do.

    The noise returned, not so loud this time. What was it? Was someone trying to break in? Or was it a cat?

    He inched towards the window, fighting his fear. The curtain rippled slowly in the cool night air. His window was open. Just an inch, he liked the fresh air. Had that been a mistake? Should he have heeded the girl’s warning and kept it locked? Maybe he should close it now, pull down the sash and lock it tight? Or would that draw the killer’s attention?

    Calm down, Graham. Why does it have to be a killer? It could be a burglar, a twelve year old kid on a dare, a scavenging dog.

    He rose to a crouch and crept towards the window. Everything seemed lighter as his eyes gradually became accustomed to the dark. He moved to the side of the curtain and stretched up on tip toe. Slowly he pulled the edge of the curtain back, an inch - no more - just enough to peer down at the garden.

    Nothing. The small back lawn, the flower beds - everything grey and empty.

    He eased the curtain wider and leant further in. Still nothing. No movement, no noise. He could see all the back garden now, all except the area immediately below the window.

    He stepped gingerly across the room and out into the corridor, the carpet cold and soft against his bare feet. He’d check the front, the box room curtains were open, he’d have a good view from there.

    He tip-toed towards the window. The houses across the street stared back, grey and silent, not a single light in any window.

    He edged closer. He could see the street now, two lines of parked cars, his front wall…

    His gate! It was open. He never left it open. And no one had come to the house, no one had knocked at the door or pushed anything through the letter box. He’d have heard, he’d have seen.

    Someone had to be out there, now. They’d left the gate open for a quick getaway. They were around the back trying the windows. That’s how they worked, wasn’t it?

    He flew back to his bedroom. He had to find some clothes, he had to get dressed, he had to get out.

    People want you dead, her words wouldn’t go away. He threw off his pyjamas, searched the darkness for whatever clothes he could find.


    He froze, one leg in a pair of trousers. The sound came from his back door, he was certain of it. The sound of a lock being turned. He had bolted the back door, hadn’t he? Back door locked, Tuesday. The memory came flooding back. But what day was it now? Wednesday? Thursday?

    He hopped and pulled at his trousers, one leg was stuck and the other was cramping. Shit! Shit! Shit! He fell over, still pulling and stretching. He had to get out. He had to get out now!

    A low thud came from downstairs. Then another. Graham swept the floor with his hands, frantically searching for his shoes. He found them, struggled with the laces, grabbed his jacket, his keys, his wallet.

    He flew downstairs. People want you dead. He had to get out. It was his only hope. There was no telephone in the house. He was alone, totally alone.

    His hands closed on the chain at the front door. He held his breath as he slipped the chain and slowly, noiselessly, opened the door.

    A window smashed behind him. The kitchen! He pulled the front door towards him and squeezed through, easing it closed behind him - no ritual, no counting, barely a breath.

    Had he been seen? He prayed not, he prayed that whoever was breaking in had been too busy working on the kitchen window to notice him slip out the front.

    He stepped lightly toward the open gate, slipped through, glanced back towards the house. A circle of light flitted alone in the darkness - a torch light - ascending the stairs.

    He turned away, head down, walking fast, trying to suppress the noise of his feet on the paving stones. The night was so quiet. If he ran they’d hear him for miles.

    The moon shone through dappled clouds, its light haloed in a giant circle. In the distance, the orange glow from a line of street lights bled into the sky. He walked on, stepping through the moonlight. Was the man alone, was there a lookout in a car?

    He felt like he was wading through treacle, would the corner never come? People want you dead. Was this what it was like to be at the epicentre of an unravelling? Had all the others he experienced been mere aftershocks? Was he about to disappear like his father?

    A door slammed behind him. He ran, no point being quiet now. A car door slammed, an engine started. Graham ducked around the corner, tyres screeched behind him. He ran out between two parked cars, racing across the road in the darkness. More tyre screeching, the car had reached the corner and was turning, its headlights swung round, light bouncing off the avenue of trees and parked cars. Graham ran ahead of the beam, keeping low, the path ahead alive with light and bouncing shadows. Trees loomed out of the night, twisted branches dancing between grey and black.

    The car was catching up. Seconds away. Graham ducked lower, keeping to the shadows, praying he was hidden by the line of parked cars. There was an alley up ahead, a footpath between the houses, too narrow for cars. If he reached it the car couldn’t follow. By the time the car had driven around the block Graham would be gone.

    Unless the driver stopped.

    And followed on foot.

    Graham ducked into the alley, praying his exit had been obscured in the shadows, praying never to hear the squeal of brakes. The car flew past. Graham held his breath. A deep darkness descended as the alley curved between high wooden fences. It snaked left then right. Light appeared, the distant glow of shops along the High Street about two hundred yards up ahead.

    Still no sound of brakes.

    A moment’s optimism soon smothered. People want you dead.

    He ran faster. The lights of the High Street drawing him onward. He’d be safe there. There’d be people; witnesses, passing traffic, police cars. The alley opened onto a cul-de-sac; more lines of cars and houses in darkness. He pounded along the pavement, the lights of the High Street bouncing closer, he could see them through the film of water that covered his eyes. Pain was everywhere; his lungs, his chest, his legs. His nose ran and his head hurt. But he kept on running. He had to.

    People want you dead. The High Street grew ahead of him, the shops, the lights, the faint noise of traffic. He was nearly there. A girl sat in a shop doorway opposite, a girl with bright orange hair. He was running towards her. She stood up, waved. He was crossing the road, barely glancing right or left.

    “In here!”

    She pointed to a huge cardboard box at the back of the doorway. Her hands began to fold back the flaps at the mouth of the box.

    “Come on! Inside.”

    He could see the darkness within, bright lights all around, safety beckoning, could he trust her, was it a trap? Before he could answer he was diving, full length, hitting the marble tiles of the doorway on his hands and knees and sliding, scurrying across the cardboard flaps and into the blackness beyond. The flaps closed behind him, darkness descended and all around was the lingering smell of stale sweat.

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