There was a lot about the COVID-19 virus that wasn’t understood. For the health of the general population, being put on lockdown was completely understandable. But knowing the reason and even agreeing with it doesn’t make it any easier to endure.
Clay is beginning to feel the mental strain of being at home all the time. He is sick of his furniture, sick of his books, and sick of everything else in his bubble world. That’s the reason he sneaks out to go for nocturnal walks around the neighbourhood. And he isn’t the only one. One evening, he begins to regret he ever left the house.
As walks past an abandoned wreck of a building in a very unsavoury part of town at night, he gets a sense he is no longer alone. He picks up the pace and hurries away, but no matter what he does, he can’t shake the feeling someone, or something, is following him. He calls out into the darkness and immediately regrets it. Rather than knowing if anyone is there, he’d much rather know if he’s going to make it home or not.
The night was particularly cold. He could see his breath form small clouds before dispersing into the dark. The chill seemed to eat through the fleece of his parka, not enough so that he was cold, but enough to let him know it was there.
He headed for Central Avenue, which was eerily deserted for such a relatively early hour. There were two cars at the petrol station on the corner. Another three cars at the lights. Apart from those, the roads were quiet. The darkness was silent.
He crossed the main road and walked along Central Avenue into suburbia. The tree-lined street made the shadows thicker and more menacing, although Clay felt at ease. He didn’t sense anything amiss. Things, bats, whizzed past in the darkness. He knew they wouldn’t hit him. They were expert flyers. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked, and then another dog somewhere further away replied.
The sound of his breathing was loud in his ears.
He reached the park by the high school and turned down a side street, which brought him out onto the road that ran parallel to Central Avenue. He was lost in thoughts, so absorbed by them that if he’d been asked what he was thinking about, he wouldn’t have been able to answer. The cold was beginning to creep into his flesh. Subconsciously his pace grew a little faster.
By the time he arrived home, he was shivering.
After a quick shower, he climbed into a warm bed. Thank God for fleecy sheets. He closed his eyes and let his mind wander. Once it fixed itself upon something, it would examine it in such infinite detail that it wore itself out and sleep came. Tonight, his mind could not fix on anything. He kept his eyes closed, but his mind would not settle. He tossed and turned, until suddenly, for no reason that he could discern, he got the distinct impression there was someone else in the room with him.
He opened his eyes, his heart already beating a tattoo, his breathing already erratic, and spied the figure immediately. It was standing in the doorway, barely distinguishable from the night it wore like a shroud.
“Who are you?” he stuttered, his play at courage betrayed by the break in his voice.
The figure stepped forward.