That Friday morning I woke up, noticed the bright sunlight and silently cursed. I rolled over to sit up; an orchestra of pain receptors started screaming in my head. This time I cursed loudly.
It took me a solid five minutes to sit up and another three to pick my phone off the floor. The room was spinning around me.
“Why the hell aren’t you in your office?” Asked the high-pitched voice.
“I’m sick.” I said. “And I overslept.”
“Another f-ing game?” Asked Laney.
Her voice made my headache worse.
“Yeah.” I said. “Another game.”
“Get your act together.” She said. “Or you’re out.”
“Okay.” I said.
“I’ll count this as a holiday.” She said. “Consider that a favor.”
“Okay.” I said.
She ended the call; I fell back into my bed.
I woke up at 2pm; my head felt as if it was back on my shoulders but somewhat larger than before.
I slowly got up, checked my phone, dismissed Laney’s missed calls and stumbled towards the bathroom. The floor felt under my feet as if it wasn’t properly solid.
I stood in the shower and let the water run down my body and in my mouth. Hydration, I thought, that’s what my brain wants.
On the way out of the shower I wiped the steam off the mirror.
“Fuck.” I said.
There was a long, red mark on my chest. I felt the swollen skin, the thin line that went straight across my chest.
Breakfast was more important; I suppose technically it was rather lunch than breakfast. Either way, fried eggs, bread and milk solve all problems.
I only reached Will at the third try.
“Dude.” He said. “You were so wasted.”
“I can feel that.” I said.
“You remember anything?” He asked.
“Nope.” I said. “What the hell did I do?”
“Thought so,” Will said. “You went crazy.”
“Why?” I asked.
“No, what did I do?”
“You really don’t remember?” Will asked.
“No.” I said.
“Dude, you danced on the street.”
“Oh.” I said.
“Like a waltz or something.”
Some images came back in my head. We totally destroyed the visiting team. I paid for a round of beers. Someone told me to take a cab. And then: dancing.
“Oh.” I said.
“I tried to stop you.” Will said.
“Thanks.” I said.
During the rest of the day a few more fragments of my memory came back. I didn’t remember falling, but I did remember seeing the man in the middle of the road.
“Look.” I said. “He’s dancing.”
“Who?” Asked Will.
“The guy on the road.” I said.
Will just laughed.
“He looks lonely.” I said.
“You are crazy.” Will said.
I danced with him. That’s what I did. I walked or rather staggered towards him; I didn’t even speak, and neither did he.
The dancer smiled at me and grabbed my hands. He led me in circles; spinning around.
“You are the woman.” Laughed Will somewhere behind me. “You are the woman.”
And I was. The man was leading me. But in that moment, maybe it was the alcohol – I didn’t mind.
I remember a sweet smell in the air – and then the man suddenly spun me backwards and left. I tumbled to the floor.
An awesome night my aching brain told itself while I was zapping through daytime TV. I fucking waltzed with a man.
Saturday I slept long and still felt tired, but the headache was gone and the red mark on my chest had nearly disappeared. At night Will gave me a call to go for another drink, but I wasn’t ready for that. Instead I checked my email for “urgent” emails from Laney. There were three; I worked through two of them and sent Laney my reply.Better get the boss in a good mood for Monday. I thought.
That Saturday night, while drowning my eyes in a sea of pixels, I heard movement outside. ‘Heard’ might be the wrong word; I don’t remember hearing something specific. I just had the feeling that there was something, a sudden urge to glance through the kitchen window.
“Wow.” I said out loud. “What the fuck?”
Right in the middle of the road was a man with a pale face and a black suit. His dark brown or black hair was neatly combed to one side and it seemed to reflect the streetlight.
He was dancing, slowly, alone, in circles. His hands were stretched forward, one at waist level, one at shoulder level, as if he was leading a partner across the dance floor.
I stared for a moment, then quickly stepped away from the window.
Will picked up after the second ring.
“What’s up?” He asked. I heard loud music and talking in the background.
“That guy is here.” I said.
“That guy is here. The one I danced with. He’s right in the middle of the street and dancing again.”
“How drunk are you?” He asked.
“Not at all.” I said.
“Sure.” Will said. “Get drunk alone then; I gotta go.”
“Wait!” I said – but Will had already hung up.
When I stepped back in the kitchen and carefully glanced out of the window the street was empty.
Just for a moment I thought I smelled a sweet scent, like a flowery women’s perfume.
I didn’t drink that night. I checked all doors and windows, and when my paranoia got too strong even searched the house. The doors were all locked. I was alone.
I slept late; still I woke up around 9am.
First I felt the pain, a burning sensation on my chest. When I tried to scratch it the pain got worse; I felt something sticky and wet. I pulled my hand away. The second thing I noticed was the blood on my hand and shirt.
What the hell? I thought.
In the bathroom I smelled a faint perfume again; as if a girl spent the night and left in the early hours of the morning. Did I check the bathroom?
This time the mark on my chest was not just a scratch; it looked like a thin cut. With the fading mark from two days before the cut formed a large ‘X’ on my chest.
What the hell did I do? I thought.
After applying disinfectant and roughly plastering the worst parts I again slowly searched the house. Doors and windows were still locked – and I was alone.
The day looked as if it would be relaxing; no one had time to meet up and so I planned to read throughout the day. Instead I ended up playing games. Just one more turn. I thought while I pressed the ‘End round’ button. I must have thought that at least 200 times, at the end of each of the latter 200 of the 250 rounds I played.
It was already 11pm when I finally stopped and a headache greeted me the moment I closed my laptop.
What am I doing with my life? I thought.
The dark outside felt threatening. I hadn’t left the house, still I felt the urge to check all doors and windows. The doors and living room windows were all perfectly locked.
When I got to the kitchen window I froze, then quickly ducked behind the counter. He was out there again, dancing this time right in front of my driveway.
I was too scared to move from the counter. I grabbed a knife. Every few minutes I glanced outside to check whether he was still there.
The man didn’t seem to look at me or even the window. He just danced, with himself and for himself, but with his hands holding and leading an imaginary partner.
After about eight or nine minutes he was gone. When I glanced outside I thought I saw him running in the distance – but it looked more like someone else.
When I walked out of the kitchen, the knife still clutched in my hand, I smelled the flowers again. Sweet, fruity flowers; definitely a women’s perfume. This time the smell was intense, as if the lady would stand right around the corner to the front door.
I took two steps back, slowly looked around the room. I held the knife with both hands to stop the shaking; it didn’t help.
Step by step I made my way around the corner. Every moment I was expecting some woman to lunge towards me. Cold sweat ran down my neck when I took the last, small steps.
The area behind the front door was empty.
I searched the house, every single corner where a person could possibly hide. It took me nearly an hour. There was nobody.
I moved my drawer cabinet behind the bedroom door and placed an old lamp at the edge of the cabinet so that even the slightest movement would make it fall.
My sleep was shallow; I felt hot and cold at the same time, my legs were restless. In my dreams I saw the man, dancing on the street; then suddenly his face close up in front of mine.
The lamp’s crashing on the floor woke me up; I grabbed the knife from my bedside table and pushed myself backwards against the wall.
The room was empty; no sound outside.
I waited about thirty seconds, carefully looking around the room; then I jumped out of bed, threw myself on the floor and looked under the bed.
Nothing except dust.
I placed more objects on the cabinet and stacked a few old weights in front of it.
I felt dead tired; still it took me even longer to fall asleep. But at last I slept and I slept deep and sound.
I dreamt of carving furniture. I was using a metal tool to carve patterns into a soft piece of wood. I was carving a message.
Then, in my dream, I smelt a sweet, flowery perfume.
I woke up. A woman’s face was right above mine.
I screamed and hit at her; she jumped backwards; I threw the blanket towards her and grabbed the knife.
By the time the blanket fell on the floor she was gone.
My eyes had been off her pale face for less than a second.
The drawer cabinet was still as I had arranged it; the balanced objects still on top.
My chest hurt; I felt a few drops of warm blood running over my skin.
The scent of her perfume still lingered in the air.
I didn’t sleep anymore that night. The scent slowly faded, but the cuts on my chest remained and kept hurting.
I let Laney’s calls go to voicemail.
This time the woman had made several small cuts, right above the previous ones. I only managed to read it about 11am, when I dared to push the fake protection of the cabinet aside and leave the room.
The cuts in my chest formed letters and words.
“He is mine.”
I stayed inside for the whole week. I didn’t even look out of the windows; actually I was very careful not to even get close to the windows or doors.
Laney didn’t accept my excuses. I offered to work from home and give up my holidays. On Wednesday I was fired.
But I didn’t care about that. I didn’t even think about it. I spent my days online and my nights with a knife, sitting in my bed with my back against the wall.
Monday and Tuesday night went okay. Wednesday I ordered a food delivery for Thursday.
Thursday night the food arrived; I heard the truck stopping and the heavy doors being opened and slammed shut. The young man rang the doorbell. I let him ring the doorbell twice before I slowly opened, my bathrobe tightly wrapped around my body.
“Hey.” Said the young man.
“Hey.” I said.
“You ordered food?” He asked.
“Yeah.” I said.
He pushed my credit card in the card reader.
The display said “Don’t remove card.”
“Usually doesn’t take so long.” The young man said.
“That’s okay.” I said.
For just a moment I had the feeling that I saw a man in a black suit in the distance.
“Any second now.” Said the young man.
The machine whirred.
The man in the distance came closer.
“Do you see someone, over there?” I asked.
He turned and looked.
“Sure.” Said the young man.
He took a step back and shook the card reader.
“Transaction failed.” He read off the display.
The young man pulled my card out of the reader and pushed it back inside.
The man in the distance was moving slowly from side to side; as if he was dancing.
“Seems to work now.” Said the young man.
The machine whirred, then spat out a piece of paper.
“Sign here.” He said.
I ripped the pen and paper out of his hand and signed with a shaking hand.
“You okay?” The young man asked.
“I just need to get back inside.” I said.
“Ah, I get it.” He said.
“The bathrobe,” he said. “You have a lady waiting in there.”
He handed my credit card back to me and picked the cardboard box up.
“Not really.” I said.
The young man laughed.
The man in the distance was close enough that I recognized his suit and his swinging movements and his raised arms.
“Don’t be shy.” The young man said. “I can smell her perfume.”
I didn’t smell anything.
I ripped the box from his hand.
“Drive fast!” I said.
I slammed the door shut in the young man’s face.
“Rude.” Said the young man.
A moment later I heard his footsteps shuffling away.
He walks too slow. I thought to myself.
I heard him laughing again.
“Hi.” He said to someone else. “A nice day for a dance, isn’t it?”
This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.