I haven’t slept in three days.
The first night afterwards, I sprawled out across the bed, my shoulder catching in the hollow you’d worn into your side, and slept like royalty. The second night, I heard what I thought was squirrels in the walls, and I covered my ears with a pillow that still smelled like your shampoo to drown them out. The third night, the noises grew louder, and I ventured downstairs to find the source.
I wondered, at that point, if it was you. Foolish , I told myself. Idle fancy. I watched you die. I bent you and broke you and took you to pieces, I fed you to the furnace and watched it consume you. There was nothing left of you but ash.
When I reached the furnace room, the noises had stopped. I returned to our – my bed, chased the spots of warmth that hadn’t faded away while I was up, and managed a few fitful hours of sleep. If I’d known what was coming, I would have treasured that night more.
The fourth night, the noises were louder still. I could hear the pattern, then, pinpoint what they were—the beating of a heart, echoing through the pipes. It must have been my own heart, I thought at first, but I could hear that pounding in my ears as well, off-beat from the noise in the walls and growing faster. No, this was you. I threw your clock at the wall and screamed for you to shut up , but the sound kept me up all night.
Two more nights of your heartbeat making the house shake, two more nights of the walls rattling and my head throbbing in time with the beat, and here I am, staring at the wall with my hands clamped over my ears. Even after death, you can’t leave me well enough alone.
I thought I saw you this morning. I walked past the door to our room on my way to the kitchen and there you were, lying on your side of the bed like you had every morning for years. Then I blinked, and you were gone.
I’m not even sure which parts of this to blame you for. A week ago, I never would have imagined being haunted by ou. If I’m being haunted by you at all. Grief, sleep deprivation, guilt—so many possibilities that aren’t you ruining my life from beyond the grave. But I just can’t believe that I’m imagining that heartbeat.
I hear you during the day now. Not constantly, never long enough to get used to it, always ebbing and flowing, with moments of silence to lull me into complacency. Sometimes I think about driving down into town and bringing someone back here, making them listen and seeing if they can hear you too. But I think facing the look in their eyes when they don’t (and I’m certain it would be when , not if ) would be worse than living here alone with you banging at the walls.
I went down to the furnace room again, just to check, just to make sure you were really truly erased. I dragged the poker through the furnace and saw nothing but ashes and wood. You’re gone . (You’ll never be gone.)
Last night I walked out of the house at two in the morning. I couldn’t stand that infernal beating any longer, and I was sure I could drown it out if I got far enough away from you. I didn’t even take the car keys, just walked into the night in my pajamas and slippers. And I was right – the further away I got, the quieter your heart became, until I could barely hear it. I’d made it to the road down the mountain when everything went black.
When I came to, I was in the basement. Did I dream leaving, or had you pulled me back somehow? Whatever the case, your message came through loud and clear. I’m as trapped here as you are.
I’ve started sleeping again, or maybe I’m blacking out. I keep finding my way down to the basement during the blank spots in my memory, staring into the flames. I can see myself in them, bent in half like I bent you to fit you through the furnace door, my limbs snapped and my skin blackening as the fire licks at it. All the while, your heart beatbeatbeats away.
I found your ring tangled in the sheets today. The metal had begun to melt and blacken. I could’ve sworn I buried it with the rest of you, in the corner of the basement, once the fire had taken everything it could. I know I did. I ran to the basement, but the floor was smooth. Then I saw it, what you were playing at – make me dig you up, spread what little evidence there is across the room for anyone to see. I’m not an idiot, you know.
All night, every night, the infernal racket doesn’t stop . I’ve been eyeing the kitchen knives, thinking of taking them to my ears, but I’d still be able to feel the beat resonating through me. I can’t even hear my own heart beating anymore, with how loud yours is. Maybe I’m the one who died, and I’m a shade wandering through our empty house while you live in the light.
I saw you breathe your last, I saw you burn to ash, but I can still hear you.
Take me back to the basement with you, I don’t care. Tonight I’m setting the whole place ablaze. You can burn me, but never forget I burned you first.
The cashier looked at me funny when I bought all the kerosene, but I just told them I was stocking up for the winter. It’s isolated up here, you know. Easy to get snowed in. Have to keep the stove burning until spring.
Good luck stopping this, you bastard. Tonight I’ll have some peace and quiet, one way or another.