It was awfully hot outside, and Tom, was dressed in a suit and tie. He was moving his feet fast to make it down the sidewalk and get to work on time. He almost tripped over his scuffling shoes, barely avoiding a fall, as many cars whisked past him on the street.
He saw the cross walk just ahead. Impatient to cross that street he took, long, quick strides to get there. But he just missed the signal. And the pedestrian walking sign now burned in red “Don’t Walk, Don’t Walk.” He stood there on the edge of the sidewalk seething; he was on the very edge, almost standing in the road.
Tom had just stopped smoking. When he noticed that he was unconsciously rubbing his thumb and forefinger together, he immediately stopped himself. He recalled earlier that day, when the therapist said he would do things like that when he went through the nicotine withdrawal. He would have twitchy fingers, anxiety, and even superstitious behavior if stressed.
A honking car speeding by within mere inches of him brought him out of his reverie, Tom edged back away from the street. Speeding cars were swooshing past him, obscuring his view of the pedestrian walk signal. He looked at his watch impatiently, His watch read3:00–lucky number.
Then a taxi whizzed past and blew the hot street’s contents up from the asphalt, and he grimaced at the grit thrown up into his face, covering him. It all smelled of hot tar. His forehead squeezed out drops of sweat that rolled down into his eyes, stinging them. He wiped his eyes, grimacing. And then he looked back up.
The cars kept swishing by but he got a glimpse of the crosswalk signal. “Don’t walk, Don’t Walk,” it glowed portentously through a speeding bus’ windows. Then he could not see the crosswalk light again for the cars passing.
He waited a long time to see the light again. When he did the pedestrian signal still flashed “Don’t Walk, Don’t Walk.” It seemed hours had passed since he looked at his watch. He looked at his wristwatch, 3:07 lucky number again.
Then he was quite angry as he realized that he had never pressed the pedestrian “walk” button on the crosswalk pole. His fingers twitched and in the heat, his nerves screamed in anxiety. He saw a broken compact mirror in the street. Bad luck—cannot cross here—No! this is the superstition the counselor talked about…I’m just hot and anxious—this is only nicotine withdrawal, superstition, twitchy fingers—and there is no such thing as bad luck.
He looked up and the crosswalk signal flashed, “Walk, Walk,” but Tom hesitated due to fear from the broken mirror, catch the next one, he thought. No…That is just superstition; it is the nicotine withdrawal nothing else. Walk now Tom, Go, Go, Go!
So he tried to make up lost time, and scurry across the street, but the crosswalk signal was already blinking red, “Don’t Walk, Don’t Walk.” Tom was standing in the middle of the busy street. The traffic light for the cars turned green. A car screeched to a murderous halt on hot tires. Then another car screeched to a halt, then another.
Tom touched the hood of one car; he was hot, and confused. From under the hood came a honk and Tom jumped. The cars with a green light could not move for Tom blocking them. They honked in a furious, disharmonious symphony. He finally came to his senses and scurried back towards from whence he came.
Damn it, never again, he vowed; it is the nicotine withdrawal and nothing else. Now you will probably be late for work at the bank at 3:20 p.m. He remembered the warning. “Tom if you are late just one more time,” the bank manager, had said, “I’ll have no choice but to let you go.”
Tom made it back to the side of the sidewalk from which he had started and he pressed the crosswalk button on the pole six times rapidly, anxiously. Sweat was now running off his brow and stinging his eyes again. He wiped his eyes so he could see. Sweat stuck to the starch of the neck of his dress shirt. He hated that. God, this is unbearably hot, and now, my damn job… I really wish I had just one god damned cigarette…”He looked up at the crosswalk sign. This was taking much too long,”
“Don’t walk,” “Don’t walk,” “Don’t walk,”… come on damn you, change to “Walk.” He had to make the next signal or it was his job. He anxiously looked down at his watch, and then his stomach sank in dread, his watch read “3:13,” bad luck, really bad luck. something ominous.
He looked up and the crosswalk signal flashed, “Walk, Walk” I do not know, maybe I should wait… I cannot go now—No stop it Tom! this is nothing but superstition again. Do not be a fool you have to get to work. “Walk now Tom, Go, Go, Go! Tom leaped into the street.
Instantly everything faded to dark. Suddenly something disconnected Tom’s brain from reality.
When Tom came back into conscious awareness, a dim light seemed to be falling around him. Where am I? Am I dead?
No, I am alive because I can feel my arms and legs moving. My mind works. I know who I am. I can think so I must exist.
Did a car hit me in the crosswalk? My arms and legs are fine.. But yes, that must be what happened, a car in the crosswalk hit me, but still I am alive. I am probably in a hospital bed right now, and unconscious. I will just have to wait in this place until my body awakens, then I shall reenter my body. Then there will be light all around me. Then I shall return to my body and be whole again.
Tom looked at his wristwatch. It was precisely midnight. A chill ran through him.
He found himself walking down an abandoned street of a vacant district. A dusty house of cards in the middle of nowhere made just for him. Why is this realm so dark? I can barely see. He did not know where he was, or where he was going. The shops unlit, the buildings sterile, everything smelled of yellowed paper, mildew and dust. He walked a long way in isolation. He checked his watch again; it was exactly midnight. That cannot be, it was midnight half an hour ago. I must wind my watch. Tom began to wind his wristwatch. Fully wound? How can my watch be fully wound? Something strange is happening here. I see no people. No dogs, not even sewer rats not even insects. This place is desolate. It is like being on the moon.
He instinctively knew that no one worked, or lived in this town because the streets were covered in a heavy dust and there were no track of cars or pedestrians in the dust. As he squinted, trying to see as he made his way down the alleys. He strained to see in the shadows. As he walked and the streets were so quiet, he could hear his own heart beating. Then through a cloud, a sick, pale moonlight shone down on a town he mistrusted. Smoke-like fog rose up from the ground in whorls and covered the streets. Tom looked at his watch again, exactly midnight. What is wrong with this watch? He shook his forearm and wrist vigorously. Then he looked carefully at his watch. The second hand is not moving and this watch stopped exactly at midnight.
A chill ran down Tom’s spine, he folded his arms over his chest. Tom noticed that he was soaked with sweat but cold.
He started walking along the vacant streets to keep his mind occupied. His shoes stepped in dust, which had the consistency of powder. It was as if Tom was walking on the moon. He looked behind him and saw the deep imprints from his footsteps. He kicked at the dust, curiously, and a cloud of powder filled the air. He coughed violently. He looked at his shoe; a layer of dust coated it. He tried to wipe his shoe clean by rubbing it on the back of the left leg of his slacks. He was irritated with himself. He was also beginning to be afraid because there seemed to be no life in this place.
Tom walked around the corner into an alley. Tom squinted in disbelief, as he was certain that he saw a person standing in the distance. Tom smiled and waved. The person waved back at him.
Tom ran, encumbered by the dust, towards the person. When he was close, he realized it was not a man. He saw it was a beautiful woman standing there. She was in a short dress standing in the shadows of the dark street. Tom thought; she is smiling at me and I feel greatly relieved and aroused… It is almost as if she has been waiting there for me to arrive.
Even in the pale moonlight, I could see her dress was bright red—and…her lips they were red as well.
As I walked to her in the night, her eyes were fluid in dark swirling colors, of red wine, Arabian coffee, and Indian ink.
“Your lips are stained crimson,” I said to her.
It must be from a drop of her pricked blood. She surely smeared the blood on her lips.
My curiosity aroused, I leaned in towards her and I said, “I imagine that you rubbed that foul crimson tint in between your thumb and forefinger and colored your lips with you finger didn’t you?”
She did not reply but smiled again in a most becoming way. She then licked her lips. Then she smiled at Tom. Her smile was amazingly seductive.
She wants me, and I want her passionately. I want to make love to her.
Then she spoke to Tom. She leaned into Tom’s body space and whispered, “I would adore it very much if I could kiss you. I only want my lips to touch your lips—so gently that it makes us both ache, our lips—like a butterfly’s wings gently closing, and scarcely touching,” then she exhaled into Tom’s face. Her breath smelt divine, like roses and lavender soap.
I must taste her lips so I will know if it is her blood.
As if she read his mind she cooed. “I want you to taste my lips. And when we pull our lips apart, I want to them to cling to one another, reluctant to part—like new lovers.” She smiled cunningly with those red lips against teeth so white that they shined, even in the pale moonlight.
And then Tom leaned in to kiss her. It was a long, deep, sensuous kiss. It is her blood on her lips; it tastes like a mild percentage of both salt, and copper. I liked that. But more importantly, how did she ever learn to kiss like that? Who taught her—that is the best kiss I have ever had. He smiled and pulled back away to look at her again.
That was when he saw it; he shivered in horror.
“What the hell is this—what did I just do? I did not kiss a beautiful woman I kissed a monster. As I look before me I do not see a beautiful woman in a red dress, I see a being with elephantine skin, large cracked lips, and thick mucus dripping off them.”
The monster wore a dark hooded shroud. When he put his hood back on, his face was no longer visible. He was a hood and cloak of darkness standing there facing Tom.
Before Tom could gasp in horror, Death had its cold bony handover his mouth. Death then exhaled a deep, foul, breath, emptying his lungs.
And before Tom could beg or say that one last prayer for forgiveness Death put its dry cracked lips on Tom’s mouth. Then Death sucked in from Tom’s body and snuffed the fluttering candle flame of existence, sucking his life out of his very soul. Death took Tom’s life into his foul lungs and walked off.
Tom had no more thoughts or cognizance. Tome left behind only a corpse lying in a hospital bed but was not aware of it. Tom was gone—forever.