By Angela Gallagher
THERE’S a faint ticking from the engine as the car cools down so I can’t have been here long but it feels like forever. I am waiting for something to happen.
It’s one of those car parks with motion-sensor lights in the ceiling so they come on sequentially as you make your way up the floors; very environmentally sound I’m sure, but in my current state of mind a little spooky. It’s quiet at this time of night – no movement, and the designers obviously didn’t factor in the possibility of people just sitting in their cars – so the lights have gone off now. I could put on the courtesy light, but I don’t.
The ticking has stopped and time seems to have skipped on, like I’ve lost a slice of it. I’m suddenly aware of my breathing: it’s the only sound and it seems unnaturally loud and quick. Why is my chest pumping up and down like that? Like I’ve just sprinted across the car park? Is it the anticipation? Am I having a panic attack? Or have I, in fact, just sprinted across the car park? For the past few weeks my mind hasn’t been my friend so any of those is a possibility.
There have been experiences some might call supernatural – I certainly have struggled to categorise them. Then there have been the lost moments, when I have felt something has picked me up and skimmed me like a stone across my own timeline so that I have touched it only at intervals. Am I having some kind of blackout or seizure or is my mind blotting out something so awful it can’t cope with the memory of it?
I notice the car doors are locked. I don’t remember doing that.
I’m a scientist. My life is structured and analytical and known; everything has a logical explanation. That belief orders my world, and apparently my world falls apart when logic is challenged. That’s become clear in the past few weeks. After everything that’s happened, after all that I’ve seen and can’t explain I feel like I must be going mad. Surely some sort of neurological aberration is the only explanation. And yet…
But which would be the scarier? The fact that I’m losing my mind or that there are things in this world that science can’t explain?
I look out into the dark expanse of car park and hear something. Footsteps. Someone returning to their car? There are no cars now except mine. On the concrete floor the sound ricochets round the walls like a pinball. The steps are slow and measured and every few there’s a little skip, the ball of the foot hitting the floor like a tap dancer, creating its own unique rhythm: tap, tap, tappitty tap; tap, tap, tappitty tap. Light is now leaking into my view as the bulbs progressively come on further down the car park, lighting the way for the approaching feet. Tap, tap, tappitty tap. I am frozen.
I can see most of the car park now. The lighting process continues its journey along the ceiling as the steps get closer and until my car is fully illuminated. The steps are reaching me. Tap, tap, tappitty tap.
Of course, there is no one there.
I see the light, I hear the steps – but there is no body attached to them.
The steps come to a halt, apparently just outside my car. The sound of my breathing fills every space they left. Something is there.
Suddenly the lights go off and the world disappears. My brain feels like it’s about to explode with the effort of trying to make sense of this.
I unlock the doors.
© Angela Gallagher 2016