Short story: Vincent

Sometimes, it is too much to take.

Sometimes it is too much to handle.

Sometimes it’s just too much.

 ***

Vincent opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. He was sweating. In the moonlight, he could see the shadows from the branches outside, dancing gently in the midnight breeze. Next to him, Sarah mumbled something in her sleep and scratched her nose.

His thoughts started to play, just like in the old days. He struggled to keep them on the bright side.

Think happy thoughts, Vincent. Happy thoughts.

Think about your life. It’s been good up to now, hasn’t it? College, love, job, family. Isn’t it worth it? Why ruin it?

Think about Sarah, her bright eyes, her kind heart, her generous spirit. A wonderful woman.

Think about the kids. Tommy, with his baseball cap, wielding a bat as tall as him. Tommy, with ice cream all over his face laughing and squirming when his Dad tries to clean him up.

Lizzy. Oh, Lizzy with her big mother eyes and gentle manners. His little princess who cried over that dead bird she found in the garden as if it was the greatest loss in the world. Lizzy, with her little smile and her long ponytail.

Think happy thoughts, Vincent.

Don’t do it.

Think about that promotion, waiting for you just around the corner. Employee review is only a week away and Jonas said you’re moving upstairs, to Management. And if Jonas says something, it comes true.

Come on, Vincent. Don’t blow it. You’ve buried the craving for years, and you can keep at it. Maybe it hasn’t gone away, maybe it won’t, but the fact is, you’ve kept it under control. And under wraps – that’s real important, Vincent, ‘cause if anyone finds out, if you get caught, then woe is you. It’ll be over; Sarah, the kids, the job, the promotion – even that fishing boat you’re saving up for. No trout, no salmon, no tilapia. You give in to the craving, and you can kiss it all goodbye.

Goodbye. You hear, Vincent? Just stay in bed, breathe, cuddle up with Sarah if you must, but you just stay there and let the craving pass.

But it didn’t.

Minutes dragged on, and shadows grew longer, they stretched from the ceiling to the walls, long, wicked, gnarled fingers that reached out to him, and spread over his body and squeezed him so hard that his breath caught and his heart tightened.

He couldn’t believe it. This time, it was bad – just like the last time it happened, some twenty years ago. It was at camp. Him and his team had just gotten back from a secret night swim at the lake and snuck back into their house without anyone knowing. And then, laying in bed and staring at the ceiling – just like now – Vincent saw the shadows growing long and the fingers crawling toward him, slowly, menacing, horrible and terrible and downright evil. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t breathe. His heart tightened.

And then it came, the craving. It was the first time, and it was powerful, a rabid beast, a crazed wolfman, that uncontrollable monster that tore up from the depths of his soul and grabbed his little body and shook it like an earthquake, like a rolling wave, like the very scream of the abyss itself.

Just like now.

That night, twenty years ago, Vincent jumped out of bed, still in his underwear and run out of the house. He stopped for a second, holding his breath, palpitating, his pulse pounding in his ears – do it do it DO it DO IT – and then his legs took over and he ran like a maniac, like an animal, like the wind, and he tripped, he fell and just kept going on all fours, on threes on twos, until he reached the forest and then he plunged deeper and deeper into it, cutting himself on the bushes and the low branches and the stones.

He stopped. He was in a small opening, in the dark, alone and he wasn’t afraid. He looked up at the full moon, and his eyes widened. He took it in like a drink, the white light glistening on his sweat and blood and he smiled.

Then he did it.

A little before dawn, Vincent came back to the camp. He dived in the cold lake to wash himself up, and snuck back into the house.

He slept only two hours, but he woke up more rested than he’d ever been. He ate double breakfast, and was non-stop for the rest of the day. He felt stronger, powerful – almost invincible.

But that evening, he knew. He knew he couldn’t do it again. He couldn’t just give into the craving. He couldn’t allow it again. Because then they might know. He was lucky the first time, but if they found out they’d tell his parents and then who knows what they’d do to him. They’d send him away, that was for sure. Maybe they’d lock him up somewhere, maybe the basement and throw food at him every now and then. No, they couldn’t find out. Never, ever, ever.

Never. Maybe he’d lose his family over it. His job. The boat and the fishing.

Don’t do it, Vincent. Stay in bed, let the fingers crawl past you. Morning will come.

But sometimes, it is too much to take.

Sometimes it is too much to handle.

Sometimes it’s just too much.

Vincent got out of bed, still in his underwear. The monster, the wolfman, the beast, the animal, it was there again, swelling inside him like a tornado, the earthquake that shook him to his core again and again, driving him mad with every vibration, breaking down his soul with every pulsing wave – do it do it DO it DO IT – and that was it.

He went to the kids bedroom first. They were asleep. He did it there and went back to Sarah. When he did it there too, she was asleep.

And now? No forests to run to. No lake to wash into. Where? WHERE? His heart pounded like a hammer and he held his breath.

The basement! He could finish there.

In the moonlight pouring through the narrow windows, Vincent did it. He did again and again and he let it drive him, carry him with its power and force. His sweat glistened in the white light again, just like that night twenty years ago. He already felt invincible. It was like he had been asleep all those years between that night and now, but it was there again, the beast, the monster, the animal, filling him, swelling inside him with every sweat-soaked motion, driving him, feeding him, taking him to –

“What are you doing?”

He stopped and stood still. Sweat dripped from his hair, but it felt cold now.

Behind him, Sarah switched the light on, killing what little of the mood was left.

“Vincent?”

He didn’t answer. He just stood there, his naked back to her.

“Vincent?” A little scared now. “What were you doing down here?”

There was no way out of it. She’d seen him. She saw him doing it. It was over. There was only one thing he could do. Poor Sarah. She’d never know what hit her.

Vincent breathed out, and turned around. All the power seemed to have left him. With slow, bare steps, he walked over to his wonderful wife and took her trembling hand into his. Then he looked into her eyes.

“It’s ballet. Tchaikovsky – the Swan Lake. I saw it when I was a kid. I can only do the opening moves.”

***

Later on, lying on the couch, Vincent stared at the ceiling again. No shadows. No fingers. No nothing.

Sarah had been upset, but she left him with a “we’ll talk about it in the morning”. He didn’t follow her upstairs. He needed to be alone.

He felt calm and good. He got caught and that seemed to take something out of it. Made it weaker. Lesser.

One thing was certain: he could never do it again. He shouldn’t. He was lucky tonight, but who knew who would see him next time.

Next time? There wouldn’t be a next time.

Vincent closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Never, ever, ever.

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