The phone has stopped ringing and there is no thumping. He rolls the foam between his fingers, over and over. An amber glow peeks in from behind the thin, worn curtains. His eyelids flicker back and forth. What? It feels strange and new. He hasn’t slept in – how long? Next to him on the arm of the chair is the TV remote which he flicks. Nothing. A blank screen. He sits and watches. He waits.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow, he’ll come. Told you he would.
The hum from the kitchen fridge hangs in the background. The TV buzzes and casts shadows around the around the room. Into the box Jack places it all. Everything. All that he can remember. All that he knows. Every last drop. Regurgitates the whole lot until he wonders if the box will be big enough. When he comes tomorrow he will drive a hefty bargain. He seals the box tight and drifts off into sleep.
Three knocks. He feels his heart quicken. He jumps to his feet and stumbles through the vines to the front door.
‘I’ve been expecting you,’ he calls, and pushes his hand through the leaf and wood towards the door handle; he hardly remembers where it is. The branches part and in he walks. Is he a man? A creature? What? A man-creature. The vines twist and twine and wrap around him, as if they are his pets.
His face is long and drawn and when he smiles it reaches up to where his ears should be, to the tiny holes at the side of his head. Papery skin is stretched across them, threaded with small dark veins.
Jack feels his own skin stretching; splitting and cracking just as was foretold. It hurts but he smiles. I knew you would come…
The excitement begins to change; becomes rotten, as if a million maggots are starting to gnaw at it. The man-creature is changing. His face is shifting, his eyes are changing colour. He recognises that shade of green. His insides swim; he can’t breathe. The man-creature’s smile gets deeper and deeper and Jack feels the rupture of the skin on his back. He isn’t smiling now
Vines stretch out from the arms of the man-creature, they feel their way through the air and travel to the floor behind the red chair. His father’s chair. His chair. The box is pulled out and it makes Jack sick as it passes him, as if he can smell and taste every foul thing that is inside.
The thing places its nose close up to the sealed cardboard. Its grin is now bigger than ever. Teeth protrude from behind those thin lips and sink into to the box, tearing into the contents. A long serpentine tongue makes its way into the hole that has been created, tasting the contents of Jack’s life. Eating. Devouring. Savouring its flavours.
Now the vines search for Jack. They are pulling and tugging and dragging him toward the creature and back out to the covered front door.
He knows he has no choice. It shouldn’t be like this. A thousand screams pierce his head, ricochet around his body.
Jack looks up into sharp green eyes. Yes, he recognises that shade. It is the exact same colour as his father.