It was the eyes that woke him, sweat streaming down his face and the sheet stuck to his back. The eyes, piercing black in a sea of rancid yellow, like pus from the ulcer on his old mother’s leg before she gave up the ghost and died screaming in the back room.
The eyes, glowering at him, but only from the side, as if lurking from a dark corner, so when he’d turn to catch that glare, there’d be nothing but the darkness of shadow, of memory, guilt, the weight of which he felt on the back of his neck, pulling at those thoughts and deeds he’d worked so hard to banish.
He wiped sweat from his brow with the duvet cover, closed his eyes and ran the material along deep-etched lines borne of graft and worry, fear and guilt. And age. He was of an age where such things shouldn’t matter, where the peace of night – every night – shouldn’t be sliced open, disembowelled by accusing, knowing eyes, black in a festering sea of bile, a rank cancer filling his dream life, from dusk to dawn, every night, without fail.
Maybe things would change if he confessed. But that would mean admitting – accepting – that it was down to him. He stumbled to the basin and pissed, with pain, not caring if his aim was true. There wasn’t anything worth caring about, anyway. All was lost and gone, and life ran empty, like his bladder, shrivelled and wasted. Respite, hard-edged and alien, hid out of sight, akin to the dragon’s eyes, giving no rest, whether light or dark.
He could take himself away. Pack a bag and disappear. Who would know? There was nothing left to find – the years had passed and sound and smell no longer lingered, though he was certain, almost, that those leering eyes knew all that had been – remembered her cries from the back room – smelled the rotting leg left unattended – a witness to the horror of those final moments.
Those eyes, never there when he looked, yet always felt, would prove a constant reminder, a strangling weight, a rusting ball and chain, ensuring there could never be the safety of distance between deed and drowning guilt.
He shuffled back into bed and pulled the duvet up to his chin, exhausted but afraid to close his eyes. If only things were different.
BIO: Eamon lives in Sligo, Ireland, but hails from Dublin. From an acting background, he now prefers to spend his time writing poetry and long fiction. He's busy coming to terms with life as a realist.