“Your father nearly broke his back trying to carry your sister upstairs”.
“I swear to god -”
“We just can’t understand her, she was doing so well”.
Kay almost laughed.
“If you could come over, try to talk to her, she listens to you…maybe if you were here?”
“You’re too hard on her”
Snipping chives in to whisked eggs, Kay was listening to Schubert on her headphones. She had recently learned that Schubert’s symphonies could tame wild cats. Navel to spine. Navel to spine. She imagined a piece of string pulling the top of her head towards the ceiling as she grated some cheese on to a plate. Then, reaching to light the hob, her arm flipped the bowl and, turning, she watched her omelette, blooming across the counter.
Kay lay on the sofa, watching a tv show called Lifewrecked. From his cell, half in shadow, a killer was explaining how his violent nature had been largely motivated by ambition. He had once struck his mother for beating him at Snap, he confessed, and, while she had lost all hearing in her left ear, his flute remained undamaged. Then, leaving a vicious pause for effect, he held up the instrument for the viewer to see. The show ended with the killer turning his back to the camera and playing an exquisite piece of music on his flute.
This week’s killer is the WORST! Now I’m TOTALLY spooked! Scream emoji.
Muting the sound, Kay sat for a while, listening to the wind in the chimney. She pictured Rob’s tent, perched in the dark on the Welsh mountainside, and him, within, fast asleep, after twelve hours non-stop trail biking. Sweet dreams, she whispered, and switching off the tv, she went upstairs to bed.
Kay had recently invested in an expensive weighted blanket scientifically proven to help with sleep and anxiety. Lately, she had never slept better and, since she had bought it, she rarely woke in the night. It was specifically meant to reduce stress and calm the body of people suffering with depression. Not that she was depressed. She was just a bit twitchy.
Love you more than life. Heart eyes emoji.
Her nightly routine consisted of plugging in to the shipping forecast. She found it way more comforting than all those relaxation recordings; echoes of the rainforest, dolphin blowing. She also liked to record and listen to the football scores: Manchester United 1…. Queens Park Rangers 2, which reminded her of childhood trips in the car with her dad.
Getting under now and…reelaxzzzzz. Sleeping face emoji.
The weighted blanket was a single, which lay on top of Kay’s side of the bed. Rob tended to kick off the duvet in his sleep and, as well as its proven soothing qualities, the blanket secured her section of bedding. Two birds, one stone, Rob had joked, and they had laughed and then made love on top of the blanket to make a valid point. They made love a lot. Before Rob, she had thought she was asexual. She had discovered the opposite with him. More often lately she was the one to initiate new positions. She was thinking about a particularly novel alignment they had achieved last weekend when she fell asleep.
Around 3am, a high-pitched scream startled Kay from a deep sleep and she was suddenly wide-awake. She lay for a time, listening, wondering if she had imagined it. Rain pounded the skylight above the loft stairs, and she tried to recall her dream. She couldn’t remember a single detail, although a tangible residue lingered, an abstract sense of dread. Her heart thumped and sweat pooled in the dip between her breasts. She wiped it away with a pillow.
Her phone was on the bedside table, and she stretched her arm out from under the blanket to grab it. She saw she had five missed calls from her sister and a missed call from Rob, just past midnight. She called him back and it went straight to voicemail. He had probably rolled on to his phone in his sleep, she thought, he had done that before.
I need you. 13 praying hands emojis.
Kay switched on the lamp and tapped out a text to her sister.
S.T.O.P. STOP!!STOP!!STOP!!STOP!!STOP!!STOP!!STOP!!STOP!! JUST. FUCKING. STOP!!
She opened Facebook. The first post she saw was from an old school acquaintance, a girl who used to pull her hair out in clumps.
Laura is feeling scared. Scream emoji.
Kay had not seen Laura in decades. She always scrolled passed her posts which, mostly, were spiritual quotations about loving and being loved. But now, on an impulse, Kay commented; a single question mark. And, instantly, came Laura’s reply.
I’ll DM you!!
A second later Kay’s phone pinged, and the thought crossed her mind that she shouldn’t be in this situation, at three o’clock in the morning, interacting with someone, someone. She had known Laura as a girl, barely. But also, as a girl, she had known her enough. She glanced at Laura’s message.
I’m ALWAYS SCARED…
Kay switched off her phone and, counting to ten, she pushed away the weighted blanket, rolled out of bed.
At the kitchen table, she flicked through a cookbook. From a be kind to your mind mug, she drank her tea. A rosebush scraped against the window. Intermittently, the boiler clicked. Kay found the recipe for Flourless Chocolate Brownies, stuck to another page. Peeling it away, she ripped the paper, and into the crack, she tucked the torn piece. She felt a waft of cold air around her neck, and she closed her dressing grown at her throat. The wind moaned, rattling the stable door. Outside, the gutter dripped. Standing up, she got a glass from the cupboard, and she poured herself a brandy.
“Alexa, open Hoover Sounds”.
Kay stared at herself in the bathroom mirror. Running the cold water, she rinsed her face. From her pocket, she pulled a strip of tablets and, on to her tongue, she popped a blue pill. Turning the tap, she dipped her mouth to the faucet. Then, with an electric toothbrush, she cleaned her teeth, fiercely, for exactly four minutes.
On the bedside table, Kay didn’t check her phone. She got straight under the blanket, turned off the lamp. Pale light leaked through the shutters. Lying on her back, Kay closed her eyes. She could hear the birds, outside, peeping. She tried to picture a lake. Instead, her sister’s bloated face swam into view. Turning over, she concentrated on her body. If she fixed hard on a bit of herself, by itself, she could enjoy its separateness. It was another thing she did to help herself relax. She started, now, with her left toe. But she couldn’t stop thinking about Laura. The blanket wasn’t helping. Zopiclone should kick in soon, she kept telling herself, Zopiclone will kick in soon. But she knew that it might not work if she. If she. Kay turned on to her other side and, again, on to her back. She imagined herself floating on water. The blanket was the sun baking her bones. She began to drift.
Kay woke again to the sound of screaming. After a few seconds, she realised it was the landline. She lay, heart hammering, waiting for the ringing to stop. But on and on it rang. Nobody called the landline, she thought, nobody. The blanket held her still. Underneath it, Kay pressed her hands together, and she drew them to her chest. The ringing carried on. “God”, she said, “Please, can you help me, God?”
Jane Idrissi is a writer from London. Her background is in film and TV and she has been commissioned to write original screenplays and scripts for BBC and Channel Four. Jane has created and developed multiple comedy series with Tiger Aspect, Talkback and Objective, among others. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck and her work has appeared in Mechanics Institute Review. Jane recently completed her first novel and is currently working on a short story collection. You can find her on Twitter @jane_idrissi (although, mostly, she’s too anxious to tweet).