He sits up suddenly, blinking in the dark, his eyes wide. Had something been chasing him?
What just happened? The normal fog of dreams wasn’t dissipating — it hadn’t been there. Something real, then, if only in the corners of his eyesight, in the hairsbreadth of space during a blink. When he looks over, to make sure he didn’t wake her, he can hear his heart in his ears and the back of his throat. Pressure closes in — it’s almost like drowning; for a moment he has to fight, not to panic.
When he slips out of bed, he is careful, wincing as the bed itself creaks, but his footsteps on the floor are quick and quiet. He makes the rounds of the house, makes sure they’re all safe, all right, all sleeping, and then he goes for the bottle.
His hands slide over the green glass of the red wine, but then he simply snags the green label instead, and a glass, though something tells him he simply might not bother with the glass, and he pads around for awhile, restless, gritting his teeth, thinking of clever words, now and again almost saying them out loud, but then swallowing them back down again like the bitter pills they are, until the scotch stops burning the back of his throat, because all of him is fire.
He stands in the kitchen for a moment, bottle in one hand, glass in the other, feet on the cold floor, and closes his eyes against the tide of thoughts that threaten, but the moment he does, he can feel it.
Something moving, something in the house.
It’s alive, and slipping quietly closer. Closer and closer, on little-cat-feet.
When he opens his eyes again, the world is darkly moonlit, and the only sound he hears is his heart in his ears, and the click-whirr of the refrigerator kicking on.
And his breath, coming faster.
When he blinks, in that instant, another step. Closer.
He pours quickly, the amber liquid sloshing over the rim of the cup, touching his fingers. He lifts the glass and drinks deeply, tipping back his head and closing his eyes against the fire of it. His eyes are still closed when he feels it behind him. Still closed when he puts down the glass, and the bottle, and breathes in, cold air against the fire in his throat.
Still closed when he feels the hand at his back, a questioning touch, even as his skin prickles with the sensation of cold.
Still closed, even as his heart races faster, and he turns, and opens his arms, beckoning, challenging.
The lips on his are sweet fire; they taste of clovesmoke. He knows this is not a kiss, this is only the memory of one, only the way to get from there, to here, intact. Only a message. He doesn’t even have time to whisper, before the world itself is sweet fire, too, and the agony that crawls from his belly up his spine grows so sharp, so hot, it’s no longer pain, but force, and he lets himself be carried on the rolling wave of it, the fire suffusing him until he is lifted to the balls of his feet, his head tipped back, his body convulsed, limbs thrown out in a strained pose of crucifixion.
The fire within him rages, a pulsar where his heart was, and he remembers only one thing.
He sits up, suddenly, blinking in the bright morning, his eyes wide. Had something been chasing him?
Bloody intense, Jones. That last long paragraph alone is pure art.
Thank you, Lewin.