The knock, when it came, was surprisingly gentle. He climbed out of bed, careful not to disturb his lover and padded down the stairs of his modest house. The shadow of the other man loomed in the glass of the front door and filled him with a dread so absolute, he imagined fainting dead away, like the maidens in the old black and white films. If I did nothing, he would smash clean through that glass and claim me, he thought.
“You know why I’m here,” the man said as they sat in the small kitchen. His eyes burned blue in a way the man had never known. Even though he was clean shaven, there were traces around his face, shadows and lines, which made him seen unclean, somehow. He did not give a name and the man could only think of him, helplessly, as the Other.
“Yes,” he began to talk but the words trailed away under the weight of Other’s eyes. His cheeks blanched and he had an exquisite feeling of shame rush through him, as if he were back in the dark old days of school. Whatever bribe or appeal he had considered over the last, long year, dried up in his throat. When he looked up, Other’s face was still on him. His eyes never seemed to blink.
“Is there any way…” he began to say and then watched as Other’s head slowly tilted from side to side. It’s over before it’s even begun, he thought miserably. Without another word, Other rose from the table and walked back towards the front door. He followed him, pausing briefly at the foot of the stairs to look up towards the bedroom; the gentle beam of their night light cut across the hallway. Before he could call out, scream, sob and therefore doom them both, he turned away from the light and towards the night.
The car was boxy and clean smelling and for a moment, he wondered how many others had found themselves in the passenger seat of the car. He wondered what mishap had befallen the others, whether it was debt, sex or just God’s own bad luck. What had become of them, he thought, as the car drifted slowly along the deserted back streets.
“You follow until you fall,” Other said, not looking from the road in-front. For the briefest second, the burning blue eyes searched over him and he felt himself nod, even as everything inside him rioted against it. Other returned the nod and refocused on the empty road; no other car flashed by, no animals wandered into their path. It was as if they were the last two people left on the face of the earth.
The car pulled up and the barn came into view at the last moment. Other climbed out of the seat, clutching a torch and collected a bag from the boot. He looped in a long, terrible arc, finally arriving at the passenger side door. As he climbed outside, he looked to the barn and waited to hear something terrible, a scream or the buzz of a saw. Instead, there was nothing; even the trees around them stilled much like the roads behind them. It was as if the world waited for the next act.
Other stepped forward to the shack door and opened it roughly. He followed and saw only darkness inside. For a second there was nothingness everywhere; in his mind, in his heart, in his body and all around him. A sound broke the sensation and the torch cast a high, wide beam into the barn. He drew his hand up to his mouth, plugging a scream that somehow did not come. He was aware of the fingers around his mouth trembling and a feeling of absolute lightness he had never known. From somewhere, Other’s low voice spoke by the lobe of his ear.
“You follow until you fall,” he repeated and stepped inside, into the chaos. He followed, his hand still prised tight over his mouth, until he was inside.