Waiting

The dusk-laden calm of the room was broken by the sound of a thud and a peal of high-pitched laughter. Out in the corridor, a door slammed and a man and woman talked excitedly as they walked past the door. All the while, he lay motionless on the bed, staring at the stuccoed ceiling. The folds of his white shirt and dark grey trousers lay loose on his skin. His palms lay flat on the thin duvet and his legs were outstretched, his bare feet hanging over the mattress edge. Only the small pulse of an artery in his neck betrayed that he was alive. Even his breathing was too shallow to be observed.

Down in the bar, he ordered a gin and tonic. Picking up the cold, glistening glass, he turned on his stool to regard his fellow guests. A middle-aged, overweight couple and their teenage son flicking through leaflets of tourist attractions piled on a table. Further away, a young couple dressed in t-shirt and jeans staring silently ahead, only moving to pick up their small beers and take a sip. No-one else. He turned towards the window. Traffic streamed along the road outside. Occasionally, a solitary figure walked past, their head bowed against the wind. He looked at his watch. 8:30. Too early.


The carriage rocked and the air was thick with the roar of the metal wheels. He stared at the ridged floor and a newspaper thrown down and forgotten. A headline caught his eye, but he didn't want to move.


He involuntarily stepped back from the platform edge as the train slid to a halt. Inside, he could see the carriage was almost empty. Stepping onto the ridged floor, he regarded the empty seats before picking one by the door. He leaned against the clear plastic divide, feeling the material of his jacket spread against the cold surface. Tiredness overwhelmed him, and he forced himself not to fall asleep. The carriage rocked and the air was thick with the roar of the metal wheels. He stared at the ridged floor and a newspaper thrown down and forgotten. A headline caught his eye, but he didn't want to move.

Neon lights and jukebox music filled the narrow street behind the line of shops. Boxes lay empty in the yellow light, their flaps lolling tongues blown by the wind. A man smoked a cigarette impatiently, throwing the butt into the gutter before turning into an anonymous doorway. Far away, a bus turned, its revving engine piercing the near-silence. He felt the rough tarmac through the soles of his shoes and stepped onto the pavement, dodging between the boxes and the street lamps. In a puddle, he saw the reflection of the top of a building and the dark blue sky. He stopped and looked up. Only the reflection was beautiful.

The door opened gently as he entered. He stood in the centre of the darkened room and glanced around. The carpet was threadbare and missing in places. Old magazines piled up on a dining table. A small sofa in the corner, a piece of tie-dyed cloth thrown over its lumpy cushions. On old television on a battered stand. After a few moments, he decided to lean against the windowsill to wait. From upstairs drifted the strains of music and animated conversation.

When she walked in, he straightened up. She stared at him, squinting in the darkness. Eventually, she spoke, slowly, emptily.

– You know you shouldn't have come.

No Way Home is available now on: Apple Books, Amazon, Google Play and Kobo.

Dear Lucifer & Other Stories is out now on: Apple Books, Amazon, Google Play and Kobo.
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