He turned out the light, lit a cigarette, and watched the street. The building opposite darkened. He developed his idea that behind one of its windows sat another, hidden observer. Usually, this would have thrilled him. He didn’t like to close his curtains, preferring the implied invitation of a nighttime room, lit or unlit, revealed to the street. Opportunity, from passing gazers, or idle watchers, in other windows, or on the footpath, would be stunned as soon as the curtains were closed. And in bed, waiting for sleep, he was soothed by the metallic light that entered the room, from the street lamps, the headlights of passing cars, and the moon, when it shone.

But he closed the curtains now. Would his supposed watcher have caught the sudden movement of fabric? This person, who existed for now only in his mind, may have a companion, may have malicious intent… But there was no watcher. Salina had said so. The building was empty, disused, and secured, and it had been that way for years.  Disused: but she couldn’t tell him why, or convince him of its history. “A library, I think. Then something else, then something after that. A nightclub, one time.”

There was no tangible reason for his wariness – he pulled the curtains back, revealing himself again. He continued to sit there, but he became jittery. He felt the pump of blood through his heart, and the threat of a tremor in his hands as he held the cigarette to his lips. Since taking the room, he’d been drinking more than usual, and responding to hangovers with restorative doses of gin. He wasn’t functioning at a regular pitch; the fault, not of his room, or of the neighbourhood, or of his nightly activities, at Junk and online, which caused him to be in a constant state of sleep-deprivation, but of his own choices. He could fix his life – if he wanted to, which he didn’t; or if his physical condition urgently demanded it. For now, he liked being slightly out-of-tune. He finished the cigarette, stripped naked, and got into bed.

© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2013.

8 thoughts on “Darkened

  1. Another good piece, Barry! I love the suspense: the building opposite darkened — although I think you kill this a bit by telling us ‘There was no watcher’ — let the reader figure this out. I especially liked the idea of being ‘slightly out-of-tune’.


    1. Thanks, Jennifer. ‘There was no watcher’ is Steven’s deduction, not the narrator’s statement, so it might be inaccurate. I just didn’t want to add a tag, like ‘…thought Steven’ or something similar, but if it’s unclear that it’s coming from inside the character’s head, I’ll have to rethink it. That’s a useful comment.


    2. I changed it slightly (hugely!), to: ‘But, there probably was no watcher.’ Do you think it’s clearer now, that it’s a thought coming from Steven? That there is still the possibility that there is someone in the building opposite?


      1. Yes — that’s better. Although the statements that it is abandoned may be sufficient. Then if there is a watcher it’s even more sinister than if it were an apartment or hotel room . . . .


  2. I would prefer it said, there was no watcher Salina had said so. It would leave the unknown element there rather than the probable. I’m totally loving these stories Barry. I too like that he is slightly out of tune and is quite ok being that way.


    1. Thanks L-J. I’ve had another look, and I think your suggestion adds even more of what I had in mind to the paragraph, so I’ve incorporated it. It implies that there has been a conversation between Steven and Salina already, about his idea of someone being in the building opposite. Perhaps up until now, he’s assumed it to be a benevolent presence. Thanks to you and Jennifer, the sentences now clearly show that these are Steven’s thoughts; and the possibility that he’s wrong, that there is a watcher, is there, because Salina might be wrong.


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