Dark Tales - Volume 1 by Dorothy Davies

EXTRACT FOR
Dark Tales - Volume 1

(Dorothy Davies)


Dark Tales - Volume 1

Night In Our Veins (Paul Edwards)

 

“What are you doing?”

Ethan looked up, and I managed to catch a glimpse of the picture he was drawing in his sketchbook – some demonic-looking creature with large, scabrous wings and the blackest of eyes. 

“It’s what’s been calling me,” he said. “The only thing that makes sense.”

“What is it?”

“Don’t know,” he replied, shrugging. “But it wants me. And the emptier and more lost I am the better.” He turned back to his work, picking up a piece of charcoal from off the table.

I left him to his art, feeling uneasy and concerned.

 

Ethan and I ventured out that night for the first time in a long time, finding a quiet corner in an otherwise bustling The Raven Inn. I thought going to the pub might do us both some good, but he was as distant and morose as ever.

I tried engaging him in conversation. “I rang my brother up earlier.”

He sneered but said nothing.

“He thinks I should contact my parents. Maybe they’ve changed. What do you think?”

He put his bottle of Diamond White down on the table, then wagged his finger at me. “Your parents are selfish, self-satisfied people. They want you to embrace everything they value.” He reached out, touching me lightly on the arm. “You should have grown up like them, didn’t you know? Career-minded. Conservative. Deathly dull and completely uninspiring.”

“Alex says they want to mend things. They want to know me again.”

He shot to his feet, knocking into the table, clearly exasperated. “I’m getting another bottle. Do you want one?”

I shook my head and he wheeled away, jostling his way to the bar.

 

Later, as we stepped out into the night, I told him, “Sorry.”

Ethan’s shoulders sagged and he looked heavenwards.

“It’s just that… I’ve been thinking a lot about my family lately, you know?”

“Why?” he said. “After what they put you through, you should just fucking forget them. Forget they ever existed.”

“It’s not as easy as that…”

“They don’t mean anything to you anymore, right? You’ve moved on. What’s the point in looking back?”

I stared down at the pavement, thinking: Why can I never find the right words in an emotional conflict?

“Hey,” he said, softening his voice, touching my shoulder. “I want to take you somewhere.”

He led me to a church on the outskirts of Cosham. It was run-down and boarded up, its walls smeared with graffiti. The silence and stillness of the place felt dislocating, and I shivered beneath my jacket. “Why are we here?”

Ethan didn’t reply. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a bottle of Diamond White.

“Smuggled this out of the pub,” he grinned, peering around me at the church. “By the way, you heard the legend about this place?”

I shook my head.

“Something moved in there and made itself at home. Hiding inside the church or in the graveyard somewhere, I’m not sure which.” For some reason I thought of that strange creature he’d drawn in his sketchbook the other day.

He turned his gaze on me, his smile gone. “If you can prove you’re serious, if you can show it what it wants, then it’ll gladly take you in.”

He necked his cider, then squeezed and cracked the bottle in his fist. Broken glass fell, sprinkling the earth. He held his hand up, inspecting the wound. “Don’t bleed anymore,” he whispered. “It’s like the night’s running through my veins.”

“Come on,” I said, taking hold of his arm. “Let’s get out of here.”

 

***

 

I woke the next morning to find Ethan gone; I was all alone in his bed. I forced myself up, shuffling out of the room and into the hall. His boots and coat were missing and a glance at the clock revealed I was due at work in under an hour. I dressed and was soon driving my rust-eaten Metro through town. I stayed away from the main road, choosing to pass the church we visited last night instead. It was there that I saw him, traipsing through the graveyard on his own.  

You heard the legend about this place?

I stamped on the brake, pulling up on the outskirts of a housing estate. It didn’t take long to find a payphone – there was one outside of a convenience store near the King Richard School. I told my boss I was suffering from a migraine, but I don’t think he believed me. Fuck him, I thought, slamming down the phone.

To the west there was a hill overlooking the church. I walked to the top of it, watching Ethan use his shoulder to break through the church’s double doors below.

I closed my eyes, listening to the branches of the trees clack around me. My mind backtracked; I reminisced over the first couple of months of our relationship, and how I’d thought – I’ve never known anyone quite like Ethan.

 

He was unique, beautiful, scary. He always wore black T-shirts, a long leather coat and a pair of scuffed Dr. Martens. To look at, he reminded me of that actor Vincent Gallo, from the movie Buffalo ’66; pale, gaunt face, unkempt hair, intense grey eyes embedded in cavernous sockets. He said from the outset that he didn’t believe in love, that he’d never had that feeling for anyone and probably never will. That wounded me at first, and perhaps a stupid part of me hoped to turn him around. Now I know better.

He let me move into his flat shortly after the fall out with my parents. Occasionally we’d go out drinking, but mostly we stayed in, ensconced within the flat’s walls. Ethan would sit on the windowsill, staring through the glass with such intensity that I’d swear he was projecting images from his mind onto the dismal wastelands below.

He introduced me to poetry, reading aloud from the works of Plath, Poe and Larkin. We’d stay up into the early hours, reciting our favourite poems or listening to indie-rock on his beaten stereo. Sometimes Ethan would draw with charcoal, producing weird and disturbing images in his sketchbook. I think his winged demon disturbed me most, though. In time Ethan grew disinterested in art; he withdrew into himself – away from the world, and from me, too.

I remember the first time he caught me alone with my straight razor.

“We really do belong together,” he said, an enigmatic smile flickering across his face.

 

I opened my eyes, blinking, refocusing on the world around me.

Ethan had finished his exploration of the church and was now pulling closed the gates. I thought about going down there and joining him, but I didn’t really feel like it; I felt strangely hollow and detached from things.

I returned to my car and waited until he was out of sight, then drove up to Portsdown Hill. I parked in a secluded spot overlooking a grey sprawl of tired-looking tower blocks and houses. The sea on the horizon was clean and white, like a thin strip of mercury.

I opened the glove compartment and took out the plastic case inside. It might have been a snap-case for a pen, toothbrush or comb. I unclipped it and tipped out my straight razor.

I tilted the seat back and rolled up the sleeve of my shirt. I put the razor to my flesh and began cutting, Ethan’s voice echoing around inside my head: “If you can prove you’re serious, if you can show it what it wants, then it’ll gladly take you in...”

I gasped, the blade slipping through my fingers, clattering onto the pedals by my feet. I lifted my arm up, staring in disbelief at what I discerned beneath the flesh…

 

***

 

The flat was silent, chilled. I threw my jacket onto the sofa and stood staring out of the window. The sky was grey and lightless and I prayed for rain to come and break the monotony. It reminded me that I hadn’t cried in such a long time. Suddenly I heard a noise coming from the bathroom. I turned around, calling: “Ethan?”

I found him in the bathtub, his eyes fixed on nothing in particular on the wall. For a horrible moment I feared the worst. Then he blinked, the grin spreading across his face looking like the rictus of something long dead. “Found it,” he breathed.

I turned away, prompting him to sit up in the bath and ask: “When you’re ready, you’ll come, right?”

“Yes,” I said with my back to him. “You know I will.”

I heard his razor scrape across the rim of the bathtub. I looked over my shoulder, watching him cut himself.

“I’m ready,” he whispered. “Just waiting on you now. I never wanted to do this alone, remember?”

It’s a comfort to the damned to have companions in misery, I thought, and wondered where I’d heard that from. A line from one of the poems we used to read, I supposed.

Something surfaced in his eyes then; something almost human, I sensed. He suppressed it, blinked it away.

“Cut me,” I said.

He sneered as I offered him my arm. Then he stood up and slashed me.

Seconds later the razor dropped into the tub with a splash. “You too,” he said, so faintly I wasn’t sure I’d really heard the words.

He cupped his long, cold hands around my face and kissed me hard on the mouth, but I tasted absolutely nothing of him at all.