Fiction

The Nervous Dark

By Harrison Abbott

Miles came in. Loudly. He bashed the front door shut and woke me up. As he’d done before so many times. I loved the man, but, fuck, he was a noisy bastard, and I’d already spoken to him about being quiet. So I chewed, angrily, in my dark room, changing positions on the pillow. I heard Miles go into the toilet, crashing about. And I thought that would be the end of it. The clock on my table said 02:54. Then I heard the toilet flush. And Miles stumble down the corridor, his body roughing the walls. Then, without a knock, he opened my door. This nasal light spilled into my room.

“For fuck’s sake, Miles!” I yelled. “What is it?”

He was crying. Obviously upset. But he also reeked of beer and vodka, marijuana and old sweat.

“What’s up with you, Miles?”

“I’m hurt, Pete!”

“What do you mean? You’re injured?”

I couldn’t see him too well; just his silhouette in the doorframe. He didn’t answer. Only kept whimpering, holding his face in his hands. Miles had done this before: coming home plastered and distraught. He was an emotional guy and I told him that’s why he shouldn’t drink so much.

“Did you hurt yourself, Miles? What happened?”

“Not me. Everybody hurts me. I get it all the time … from so many directions. I can’t stand it anymore.”

“Did something happen tonight?”

“Nobody cares. Not one soul.”

“Listen, Miles. You should head to bed, man. Drink a pint of water and get to sleep. It’s nearly three in the morning.”

“Don’t you care either, Pete?”

“I do. But you’re not thinking clearly.”

“I thought you were one of the good guys, Peter.”

And then he started sobbing again. I was half naked under the covers; and I understood the basic dilemma: young men who have a bad night, coming home and thinking it’s the best idea to seek a peer out for help. But, Jesus H. Christ, I knew Miles would be chill in the morning. There would be a bashful apology that he’d approached me so.

“Miles. I can’t do this tonight. I have work tomorrow and need to get some rest. I’ll come and speak to you before I go and try and cheer you up. Okay?”

I could feel Miles looking at me in the nervous dark. He didn’t speak. He’d stopped with the tears. By the way he hung there he did look injured as well as drunk. There had been times in the past where he got beaten up. Miles tended to attract that kind of thing.

“Did some idiot attack you again, Miles?” I said.

“Huh?”

“Did you get battered? Was it some thug in the bar?”

“Most people are thugs …”

“Well, tell me?”

“Forget it.”

“I’m worried, now.”

“It’s no thing. I suppose you’re one of the best people, Pete. Even you can’t help me. Sorry to wake you up.”

Miles switched the hallway light off. Then he shut my bedroom door, leaving me upright on my bed, baffled. It was right then that I thought about getting up and going to check on him properly, see if he was all good; make sure he got the pint of water in and then slept. I regret not doing so, to this day. If I had just not been so grumpy. And I still don’t know what exactly happened with Miles that night. I never bothered enough to know the story, then. And it’s my curse, now, never to be able to know it. All I did was irritably head back to sleep. Stayed in my bed. Left Miles alone to deal with his mind. There were a few pops and pangs later in the night. I heard his door open and close a few times and then he went to the bathroom again. Thought it was just him going to bed.

When I woke up again it was 06:23. I didn’t even remember Miles at all from earlier on. Needed to pee.

It was super cold. December. There was a moon and silvery snow in the garden and the windows were sweating. I put on my dressing gown. And left my room and went down the corridor to the toilet. As I did so, I noticed that Miles’ bedroom door was wide open. Which was odd. Because he never did that. It made me pause, before I went into the bathroom, made me wonder. Then I flicked the bathroom light on, and went inside.

And screamed.

Miles was in the bathtub. The shower curtain was half-drawn and I could only see his knees. There was blood on the white tiles. Whole impressive streaks of it, crimson in the electric light. He’d taken his boots off before he got in the tub. And next to the boots was the breadknife. Which usually lived by our toaster; it lay on the carpet now, the blade grimy.  

I edged towards the shower curtain and pulled it back. Miles had put his big black coat on after he’d done the cutting, and his body was nicely poised inside the tub. He looked comfortable. I pulled his sleeves up and looked at them and his arms were shredded beyond recognition. Some of the blood caught the end of my finger and it was cool and syrupy. I didn’t want to check the pulse on his wrist because I was too cowardly, so I felt under his neck, under his lovely chin. Miles was a nice looking boy, too. Pearly lips. Hair the colour of Autumn fields. This thin nose with this enviable dimple in the middle.

There was no beat from his jugular.

I stood up and went to the sink and washed my hands under the tap and dried my hands and then switched the bathroom light off and abandoned Miles and went into the kitchen. As perverse as it sounds, I boiled the kettle. And made a cup of tea. Before I called the authorities. I thought about calling the ambulance first. But there was no point. So called the police.

This robotic woman answered the phone. Asked what the problem was.

“My friend Miles has cut his wrists. In the bathtub. He wanted me to help him last night, but I didn’t.”

There was this five second pause of silence. So I spoke again, to interrupt it.

“Miles wanted me to help him but I was too lazy. Now he’s in the bathroom and he’s not getting up. Can I tell you my address?”

Categories: Fiction

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