The chill of anticipation and release of tension combined to make Maeve shiver. She wanted the unexpected, dreamt of it. Her young soft flesh prickled at the very notion of the lengths one would go to, to surprise her.
She lies beneath her bed covers fully dressed holding her breath. She wants to be sure of what she heard.
Outside the chills of winters edges dissipate day by day yet the wind of an unborn spring still has the power to rustle leaves and branches . . . but not speak.
And that’s what it sounded like, a light voice trembling beneath her window. She pictured a boy, not far from being a man and in his hands a gift for her, a token of his affection. And she would offer her own gift in return. But no flimsy card or stock symbol, instead she would demonstrate her feelings with a kiss on the lips, her face to his, eyes closed.
If her friends could hear her thoughts now, she would be mortified. The idea of anxiously waiting for a boy to bring her a present and on this day, they would say it was tantamount to prostitution. It’s not affection he brings, they’d say, its deeds, rights and ownership. It’s a medieval bride price, setting her worth to that of a card and some garage bought chocolate. Have you no self-respect, they’d huff.
Maeve snickered. It’s as if she is some alien creature, a thing not of this world. Something so far removed from them and from reality as not to know their minds and their wants. But of course, no one wants to be wanted. No one wants to be needed or desired. It’s a conspiracy. Valentines is a corporate driven media induced ruse to get all women on all fours begging to be mastered. It has nothing to do with basic human needs and desires. And they say they are strong and smart and independent when their own logic makes all women weak willed fools, easily bought and controlled.
That sound again. It comes to her ear muffled but deep. It’s as if the boy beneath her window is talking to himself, psyching himself up.
Michael said he would surprise her. And now as she slowly peels off the covers and steps into her boots, she knows what he meant. It’s barely three o’clock, it’s only been valentines for a few hours and he’s already outside. His eagerness warms her blood, her hand presses low on her stomach as she first reaches and then passes her bedroom door. Her house is silent. The only sounds are from him outside and her heartbeat thudding in her ears.
That promised kiss is developing into something more substantial and definite in her mind as she takes every riser on the stairs carefully, silently her attention directed toward the door at the end of the hall.
Maeve’s hand caresses the handle of the door. Her movements though slow are purposeful. But her thoughts are far from mundane actions. She is in her mind already pressed against the boy, their lips locked, bodies entwined. Her breath is stuck deep inside her and she can feel him against her.
Her teeth close on the skin behind her lower lip now. This is not romance, it’s a necessity.
Michael is smart and handsome, he’s funny and confident enough in himself, with who he is to be self-deprecating and yet come out on top. He likes sports but can take it or leave it. He knows the words to ‘Thrift Shop’ but his favourite T-shirt reads, ‘If it wasn’t for Eddie Van Halen, I wouldn’t be here’. He’s not any one thing and in the vanilla world of bland high school cliques were not following the crowd is a capital offence, he is a flavour all his own.
The door opens slowly and Maeve steps out into the dark.
There is a little light. The air is warmer than she expected which is fine since she only has a t-shirt to protect her skin. The breeze, however, is constant. It comes from every direction and none all at once as if it’s pressing down on her.
She lightly clears her throat.
As her sight grows accustomed to the gloom, she realises that there is nothing by the door. There is no gift, no token, no sign. The street is not silent but the voice is gone.
Did he lose his nerve, a boy, not yet a man? Did she spook him? In her want did she imagine his presence?
But there is a sound. Though, something about it is wrong. It’s less a noise than a feeling. Strange to say but she hears it in her chest as if standing too close to a speaker during a concert. It’s a hum. It’s a vibration that ruffles her hair and her flesh. It distorts her vision.
Maeve takes another step, and another and one more until she is as close to the road as she is her front door.
Her street is like everyone else’s. After the road
But what of Michael, Maeve decides to call out before her over active imagination takes control.
Two things happen at once. She calls out, and a light in the corner of her eye catches her attention.
She turns and finally sees someone.
At one end of the street is a light, perhaps the high beams of a car. Between her and the light stands a figure. Its exact form is distorted by the light but Maeve sees enough to realise coming out was a mistake.
It’s too thin. Its limbs are too long. The legs bent like dogs are spread as if caught mid motion. Its arms are long and end in hands resembling something marine, something tentacled. It’s curiously shaped head turns and she knows it is looking at her.
Maeve steps backwards, averting her gaze. But her eyes have adjusted enough to see and see she does. There are others. They stand beneath windows and in open doorways. One is looking at her from behind the glass of a window in the upstairs bedroom of a neighbour. In its vast arms is a sleeping child.
The sound rises. Breathing becomes hard, tears flow free down her cheeks.
Maeve takes a second step back, toward the door, safety, her home, her parents, relief and stops. Something is behind her. She can feel it’s cold wet breath on her hair and neck. The fetid air comes down on her, from a height betraying the creature’s size.
Maeve wonders, how tall can it be and then feels pain as smooth fingers tipped with barbs like thorns wrap high up on her arms. She can feel some warmth beneath the cold grip as rivulets of blood begin their course down her soft young flesh.
The hum intensifies and a new sensation joins and mingles with her need for Michael, her fear and terror of what lurks behind her. It is the sensation of being pulled up and up. She’s not flying or levitating, it’s like being stretched until her body must… snap.
A Little Extra
I wrote Take Me after a pretty vivid dream in spring in 2016.
Unlike the story, it was me in the dream and it was summer.
I was a teenager waiting for a friend to call round. We had plans to visit a castle in the middle of the night, as you do, and while I remember standing by a street light and the stillness of the night. I don’t remember what happened next.
It’s as if I have a gap in my memory.