The rain was torrential, unrelenting. My hands were slick on the steering wheel as I leaned forward, chin over my knuckles. I appeared to be alone except for the car and the rain and the darkness outside. But I knew I wasn’t.
I didn’t glance into the back seat. Do not glance into the back seat.
There was nothing but me, the car, the dark, and the rain. There was the road, too. Void. Not even deer were out, though I was certain the moment I let my guard down one would flash across my vision. I squinted, trying to see past the watershed. My eyes flicking left and right for the signs of anything moving in the brush I couldn’t really see.
After an eternity, I pulled into the gravel driveway. The rain had stopped by then, but fresh enough that the drips were still loud, falling from the huge Victorian house in front of me. Dawn was still hours away. Electric lighting reached out from the windows, hungrily, illuminating the ill-kept yard and gardens just enough to determine that they were in truly sorry shape.
I didn’t glance back at the car as I shuffled up the steps to the front door. I already had what I needed. My fingers slid into the front pocket of my jeans and deftly inserted the key they found into the front lock.
“Did you do it?” she asked, taking my coat.
“Did anyone see you?”
I didn’t answer for a moment. Then, “He’s in the back seat.”
“… I’ll take care of it.”
“Thanks. I’m sorry.”
“You always are.”
I sighed. “Where will she be today?”
“You’ll find her in the woods out back.”
I didn’t go out immediately. Nor did I find my room and sleep. I paced a bit, rummaged through the bookshelves and liqueurs and finally settled on a splash of something that might have been whiskey and flopped down on the soft chair near the stairs. It would only be a couple of hours until dawn. I listened to the lingering drips outside as I sipped my drink and remembering how I’d first found this place so many years ago. In my dreams.
I jolted awake, but as usual, no one was there. The table was empty except for the green mood lamp in the center. Sunlight, weak, was trickling in through the gaps in the heavy curtains.
There was no sound except the soft thumps of my boots on the hardwood floor, even that barely audible. When I opened the front door I was not greeted by the sounds of birds or insects, just the impotent faded glow of a morning that seemed to have died before evening being truly born. The gravel path was empty, and I turned away from it, instead heading around the side of the house and into the woods behind it.
She was small today, I almost stepped on her in the brush. She was the chair of a doll today, broken and forgotten. She held up a mirror, and in the reflection I saw nothing but and endless river of her.
“I’m ready to go back.”