Lukas rubbed at his tired, grainy eyes, and attempted to still the thoughts that ran the circuit of his mind like joggers on speed. He tried vainly, to remember the last time he had managed to get a full night's sleep. Since the accident, he thought, then; "No, it was before that.' It was hard; but he vaguely remembered having difficulties sleeping at least a week or so, before his ill-fated train trip.
Much of the time leading up to the accident was still a confused blur to Lukas; little more than a mish-mash of images and half recollections. The doctors at the hospital told him that much of his recent memory had been damaged, and to not be surprised or worried if he found that events became confused in his mind. This was normal, they assured him, and would get better with time.
In many ways, his memory still functioned as it should; he could, for example, remember vividly, the time he had recounted to Helen, of his trip to the Tower of London, and the assault upon his psyche. Other memories, of other times, were recalled as easily. Others however, slipped away, whenever the fingers of his mind attempted to grasp them. No matter how hard he tried, all he managed to get was a fleeting image or two, before the memory slipped elusively away.
Lukas finally gave up and sagged back against his pillow. He gazed sightlessly up at the ceiling, dimly illuminated by the single low wattage lamp beside the bed. The spare bedroom was small; barely large enough to contain a single bed, a wardrobe and small bedside table. The small size of the room suited Lukas, however. He liked the enclosed sensation the room lent him; the feeling almost, of being back in the womb. He supposed that his therapist at the hospital would probably try and make something suitably Freudian of that; he managed to, with most things concerning Lukas. What was it, Lukas wondered, with therapists and their mothers?
Just beyond Lukas' peripheral vision, shadows mingled with true darkness; playing catch with the occasional flickering light that drifted in from outside. Small though the room was, the dim illumination cast by the low wattage bulb in the lamp was insufficient for anything more than reading by. Combined with the shade cast by partially drawn curtains, the effect was one of a pool of darkness, that layered the lower half of the room.
Helen hadn't yet got around to decorating the small room, and the ancient wallpaper was peeling in places. The faded flower print was dull, the colors muted by age. The plaster that covered the ceiling lathes was brittle; cracks criss-crossed the rippled surface like arterial highways.
At this time of the night- morning rather; it was, after all, almost half past three- Lucas was a low ebb. This was the time when the concept of ending it all was something good; something to look forwards to. It was harder, Lukas thought, to come up with reasons not to do it.
And why not? There was nothing left for him here; nothing worth going for, apart from endless hours and days staring at the walls, empty and lost within himself.
Except, he reminded himself, he had made a silent promise that he would wait until Helen had settled, and was able to go on without him. That promise was the only thing holding him back; preventing him from taking the tablets he had secreted in a coat pocket in the wardrobe.
"Only for Helen.' Lukas muttered, unaware that he had spoken the words aloud. He blinked a couple of times, each rapid flutter of his eyelids a sharp glassy pain, that sliced across the retinas and started reluctant tears on their way down his face.
God, but he wished he could sleep, if only for a few hours. A wave of self-pity almost threatened to engulf him, and he forced it away with difficulty. Helen or no, he thought; he didn't know how much longer he could go on like this. Once more his thoughts drifted of their own accord, to the small bottle he had slipped down the lining of his coat. The small white caplets had a name, but it was so complicated, Lukas could never remember it. The friend of a friend who had sold them to Lukas simply had called them his "knock-out drops', or "trippers'. Two of them, he had assured Lukas, would send King Kong to never-never land; Lukas had bought forty.
Once more, Lukas considered trying one or two, to see if they could help him sleep, but decided against the idea. He had tried a single caplet, on two earlier occasions, to see if they could help him get a few hours respite, but they had not helped. Either the friend of a friend had greatly overestimated the power of his wares, or Lukas was beyond their power to help him sleep. And, for the moment, at least, sleep was what Lukas wanted.
Whatever the reason, Lukas wanted " needed " to keep as many caplets in reserve as he could, for when the final decision was made. Thirty eight pills would be enough; they had to be enough.
A slight movement in the corner of his eye brought Lukas out of his dark reverie. Something was moving just outside the small window. A movement; faintly sinuous, almost liquid, as if a swiftly flowing stream was reflecting dim shadows upon the curtain fabric.
Lukas tried to track the movement with his eyes, but the motion of the shadows seemed to defy observation. If he tried to focus upon one spot, the faintly flowing pulse shifted, until it was once more just outside the tunnel of his vision.
More curious than alarmed, Lukas sat up, his focus and attention shifting constantly as he attempted to follow the course of the mysterious shadows. After a few minutes experimentation he found that, if he relaxed the muscles in his eyes, and unfocused, he was able to follow the dimly shifting stream a little better.
As he watched, the ebb of the shadows shifted; became part of the interior wall. With a jolt of surprise, Lukas realized that they were now partially inside his room. In the corner, where the back and left hand wall met the ceiling, a nebulous core had appeared; a less than quarter sphere of shifting shadow, that throbbed irregularly. Around, like water around a stone, faint gray pastels flowed. Splitting and reforming uneasily, as they moved through the walls.
"What the hell..?'
The shadow, or shadows, for Lukas could dimly see that, what he had originally thought was a single band of shadow was in fact, several elongated bands of dimly seen darkness; varying shades of gray, deepening in places to sooty black. They moved sedately, as they flowed from one wall to the other, avoiding the partially glimpsed nucleus as they crossed the intervening space between the walls. Behind, Lukas could just make out details of the wall and ceiling; cracks and faded flowers, seen as if through dirty glass.
The speed of the thing, or things, Lukas saw now, was not constant. Parts of the thing were so slow as to appear stationary, whilst other shadows moved from wall to wall in a matter of moments. Occasionally, the entire thing would pause, and seem to shudder imperceptibly, before sections would begin to move fluidly once more.
Lukas had no idea how long the shadow display went on for, before abruptly fading back into the walls as smoothly as it had appeared. As the non-colors faded, evanescing into the darkness, Lukas scrambled to the window and peered past the curtains.
For a moment, perhaps two, he thought he saw something; a momentary dimming of the streetlight outside the house. Then, there was nothing. The cul-de-sac looked the same as it always did; still and silent in the pre-dawn darkness. As he watched, a solitary cat made its careful way from one side of the small road to the other.
It froze in its tracks suddenly, and sat itself down in the middle of the road, its feline gaze locked on a point somewhere high above its head. Lukas attempted to follow its gaze, but there was nothing to see, except the low clouds that covered the sky.
After several silent minutes, the cat regained its feet, and completed the journey it had begun. It vanished from view behind a hedge, and the street was once more silent, and empty of life.