He thought his skin was getting better with age but it was his eyesight that was deteriorating. He bragged to a young acquaintance at work who wore nude coloured braces that he was proud of his front teeth, but he had forgotten that there were much abrasive work done on some alarming cavities. He had reached an age where joy could only be found with a good night’s sleep. Yet, the perfect sleep would awake him at the flick of a switch.
He thought about getting a dog in his 20s, but he was edging towards 45 and still, he was dog-less. He had once wanted to go to the gym to build on his scrawny body, but he gave way to a protruding stomach that proved to be a hindrance on a crowded train. He had wanted to meet someone after a failed relationship two decades ago, but he took too long to move on.
On his birthday, the rain clattered against the windowpane. He watched the shadows trickle against a dull wall for a good half hour. That took him back to a memory when he was five. He remembered it like it was just awhile ago, which made him think, 45 years of life, and poof.
The phone rang but he didn’t budge. He was expecting a courteous invite to an annual Christmas gathering, one that he had missed the past 15 years. Looking at the mirror, a shadow of himself, he wasn’t too keen again once more. He wasn’t sure how he’d spend the holidays, but he was resolute that it wouldn’t be with someone. He used to dread it that way, but in recent years, that was his preference.
In the evening, he wondered how the year after 45 would be; if he would get a negative on his medical exam, or maybe, by happenstance, an unfortunate accident might chance upon him. He ruminated on his nightly walks, drifting into the boundless park, so far ahead that he met the faulty streetlamp that signalled the edge.
The sounds of the woods at night flooded his ears and he saw that it was pitch dark. The chilly wind brushed by his sensitive goose pimples. He should’ve brought a sweater, he thought. It would take close to an hour to make his way back by foot. He then headed for the bus stop, just in time for the last ride of the night.
There were no souls to be seen, but only a dim illuminated pathway that led to a turn. Bats rustled the trees, and the owls hooted. There he sat, in his tracksuit, then, in shock at the man across of him a distance away; a presence that stood out in off-white, so cold and thin. He squinted, but still, he couldn’t be sure that it was a man.
He wasn’t afraid, but he was reluctant to approach the wraith. He was filled with curiosity but he had never been too daring. Just then, he could feel the headlights of the bus approaching. He decided that he would fixate his blurred vision onto the phantom and ask of the driver’s opinion on this matter.
“Can you see him?” was how he planned to probe. But before he could, the bus passed him by. A calm silence arrived seconds after; the crickets, the bats, the owls, kept mum. The man took a step forward, towards the wraith. The wraith backed a step, and wanted no part to play in his night.
Precursor to a Severe Chill, a short story by K.Lee
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