From the Corner of His Eye

Submitted into Contest #97 in response to: Write a story that involves a magic window — or a window like no other.... view prompt

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Urban Fantasy Thriller

In a spare room on the second floor of his house, Erik fixedly stared at the closed window. It looked like an ordinary window: two thin panes of glass, white wooden frame— just a simple country-style window in a simple country-style home. He stared, and he stared. It was for hours that Erik gazed at the window, unsure why he was so transfixed by it. He could see his reflection in it: his short, espresso-brown hair and clean-shaven face, and his piercing sky-blue eyes. The presence of his image felt odd to him. It felt wrong. He got the inclination that he should ignore the window altogether, and, for the past three months, he had. Before, Erik never had the time to even notice this window, let alone the room it was in. But, here he was—just him and the window, staring increasingly intently at it. And for a moment, Erik felt the window staring back at him. He shivered, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. 

Erik had worked as a stock trader downtown; he conducted business over golf or drinks, loved the thrill of the market, and said things like, “You gotta spend money to make money!” Right until the end, he had been working long hours at the office, attended many happy hour business meetings, schmoozed the bigwigs from the corporate office while they stayed in town. Having such a well-paying job allowed Erik and his husband Adam to buy this house only a few short months ago. They’d purchased a humble little two-storey cottage home, with three acres of land and no neighbours. Adam had always dreamed of living the farm life away from the hustle and bustle, but Erik was more of a city person. They made a compromise and moved just far away enough to be able to breathe in the cool country air, but close enough to the city so that it was only an hour’s drive away. Then, they hired the most acclaimed interior decorator they could afford and had the place completely updated— all except that one room. It isn’t that they couldn’t afford to do it, or that they didn’t want to, they’d simply… overlooked it. But then the market crashed, Erik lost his job and all their savings disappeared in rotten investments. Now all Erik could do was think about that room and that window.


Cautiously walking up to it, Erik ran his fingers along the side of the frame, trying to figure out how to open it. His fingers passed over the dull edge of a nail that pierced through the frame into the moulding. Looking closer, he noticed another nail right beside it, and then he saw even more around it. Twenty-two, he counted. Sighing heavily out of frustration, Erik turned to leave the room and slammed the door on his way out. He’d have to deal with it later, Adam would be home soon.


While Adam was away all day long teaching, Erik was left at home with nothing but idle time. He’d casually peruse the paltry job offers online, plan elaborate but modest dinners for when his husband came home, he’d bite his fingernails almost religiously, or otherwise, he would fuss around with the placements of tchotchkes, returning to one in particular on the mantle over and over, only slightly changing its direction each time. Without a job, without direction, Erik felt lost. He wanted nothing more than to be able to get out of the house and do something spectacular again and feel important again. His talent was being wasted here, he thought. But now he’d discovered this ominous window in his home, and though he didn’t want to notice it, his curiosity had a hold of him. The window had given him purpose. 


That night over dinner, Erik told Adam about the window, who listened politely but who clearly did not share Erik’s enthusiasm on the topic.


“I mean, it’s a whole room we just didn’t care about!” Erik declared. He excitedly thrust his knife back and forth through his eggplant parmesan until the knife screeched the plate underneath.


“No, yeah, for sure,” Adam responded, wincing at the sound of steel on porcelain. He twisted his fingers through his medium grey hair, bored.


“I’m definitely going to get it open tomorrow. Definitely. Definitely, I am.”


“How’s the job hunt going?” Adam slouched in his chair and knew the answer already. 


“I’ve been looking. Trust me I have, but there’s nothing worth my time. It’s not like I enjoy being cooped up here all day.”


“Well, it’s just that it’s been two weeks already, we have a mortgage to pay and I can’t do it on my own with only a teacher’s salary…”


“I said I’m looking, okay?” Erik snapped. Adam toyed silently with the vegetables on his plate. “Anyway, I think tomorrow I’ll get a hammer or a crowbar or something and try to pry it open.”


“What are you talking about?”


“The window!”


“What window is that again?” Adam asked through a sigh.


“The one I keep talking about! The one that you don’t want to notice! Yeah, maybe I’ll get a jackhammer or something if those tools don’t work! That’ll do it for sure!” He laughed as he spoke, his mouth full. Erik chewed on his vegetables, grinning the whole time and looked at Adam in his hazel eyes, though it was more like he was looking past him rather than at him. Adam dropped his gaze downward, disappointed, and continued playing with his food.


***


The following morning, at the crack of dawn, Erik rose out of bed, saw Adam off, and set to work on the window immediately after. He had barely slept all night thinking about this moment, shifting endlessly with nervous energy and anticipation. From the basement, Erik retrieved Adam’s toolbox and marched quickly upstairs to the spare room. Erik dumped the toolbox upside down, dropping all the tools, nails, and screws everywhere, creating a cacophony of metal clinging and clanging against the hardwood floors. He frantically rummaged through the mess to locate the hammer and began fervently trying to pry out the nails from the window frame. He managed to loosen and remove a good half of the nails, but the other half weren’t sticking out far enough to get at with the hammer as easily. Grabbing the flathead screwdriver, Erik leveraged the tip of the tool against the frame of the window and, using the hammer, pounded the screwdriver into the frame. With reckless abandon, he tore pieces of the frame, along with the nails, from the wall. When finally he wrested the last nail from the frame, Erik was elated. This was it. This was the moment he’d been waiting for, for all his life it seemed.


Erik lifted the window open gently and gave the window the respect he thought it deserved, savouring the moment. When he’d opened it fully he felt as though he’d never truly seen the outdoors before, not really. The clean-smelling autumn air crept in and wrapped around his body, caressing his face as though he was being invited to come outside. A calm, gentle feeling washed over him.


Erik, still holding the screwdriver, reached both his hands through the window to welcome whatever sensation had been beckoning to him. He felt a lightness in his arms, weightless as though his arms were submerged underwater. Erik’s hands began to tingle, and the screwdriver lifted out of his grasp ever so slowly, rising into the air. His eyes opened wide, and his smile followed suit, and he let out an innocent chuckle of astonishment. He observed the tool rising upward like an invisible hand reached down to grab it from on high. This is what Erik had been waiting for. This was the meaning he’d been searching for. Erik thought the last couple of weeks finally meant something, that he’d finally escape the torment of the day-to-day monotony of living in this house, with no job and no prospects. Finally, he had something. He had this.

Erik, gripping both sides of the open window frame, excitedly put one foot on the other side, then his head, then the rest of him until he was completely on the other side, only, instead of falling, it was like he was floating in stasis. His body tingled, like pins and needles after going numb. Erik turned his hands over in front of his face in amazement, then he looked at his legs, his feet, he couldn’t believe it, he felt like he was glowing.


“I’m flying!” he shouted to the world. “I’m actually flying!” He laughed uncontrollably, startling the birds in the nearby tree. They fluttered past him before settling back down on the house. He began to drift upwards, and the wind blew and twirled him around like a top. The scent of daisies and lilac filled the breezy air which danced around him. With childlike wonder, Erik delighted at the moment, drinking in every last bit of how marvellous it was to be weightless and hovering thirty feet in the air. 


Then, slam! Erik spun around to see that the window he’d climbed out of had closed suddenly. The colour faded from his cheeks. He leaned toward it, but he didn’t move. He just kept lifting into the air. He was about fifty feet above the ground now, and panic and horror replaced his feelings of joy and bewilderment. Erik flailed his arms and legs, imitating first the breaststroke, then freestyle, then simply flailing around. He tried to traverse through the air and get back to the house, but, unlike water, the air had no traction. Instead, he only twisted and turned around in place, while he continued to rise higher and higher. 


“Help!” Erik gutturally screamed. But no one was around to hear him. He screamed again and again to no avail. Just a slow, gradual rising in the air. He screamed his voice hoarse for as long as he could, then he just wept.


The October sun was now beginning to set and, though it felt like an eternity to Erik, only a few hours had passed. It was a calm, cruel and torturous ascent through the sky. Eventually, Erik had drifted so far up that his house looked like a miniature model— like a child’s toy. He longingly stared at his home the entire time he strayed further away until he finally witnessed Adam’s car pulling into the driveway, home from work. Reinvigorated and hopeful once more, Erik screamed for help through his sobs. Erik bawled into the palms of his hands when he realized his husband couldn’t hear him, his tears streaming from his eyes and falling to the earth. He needed Adam. He wanted him. He wanted him to hold him tightly in his strong arms, to not let him float away. But the space between them had grown immeasurably. Erik let his limbs hang loose in the stratosphere, losing all hope of escaping this situation, and he resigned himself to his fate.


***


Adam pulled into the driveway to his quaint country home, and stepping out of his car, he felt a drop of water land on his face. Fearing it was about to rain, Adam hustled to get his things out of the car but, looking up, he didn’t see any clouds. Odd, he thought. 


He collected the mail at the door and shuffled through the letters. Bills. With a huff and a groan, Adam dropped the mail and his things at the door and hurriedly made his way to the bedroom on the second floor. On his way, Adam noticed something out of the corner of his eye. It was a room; a room he’d never really seen before, and it was empty except for his toolbox which had been haphazardly thrown about along with all of its contents. 


“How very odd,” Adam vocalized. “How did this all get here?” He speculated how his toolkit could have possibly gone from the basement to this strange little room. Had anyone been there? He got nervous. Furrowing his brow, Adam bent down to clean up the mess. As he stood up, Adam gasped. He hadn’t noticed that there had been a window in the room this whole time. He was worried someone had broken in. But, using his tools? It didn’t make sense to him. 


He felt the sudden urge to collect his hammer and a few nails from his toolbox and seal the window shut. He replaced the bits of the window frame that had been torn off and he tightened them securely with nails, firmly closing the window shut from possible intruders— he assumed. When he finished, just for a second, Adam thought he remembered something, but couldn’t quite grasp what it was.


“Déja vù,” he remarked to no one. “This has been a weird day.” He picked up his tools and left the room, closing the door behind him.


Suddenly, Adam found himself standing in the hallway holding a toolbox in his hand.


“W-what am I doing standing here with this?” He spun around in place, puzzled. There was nothing around him to indicate why he was just simply standing in the middle of an empty hallway with his tools. “Madness.” Adam put them away in the basement and moved on to his bedroom, but he had a funny feeling, like butterflies in his stomach. He glanced back behind him as if expecting to see something, and, just for a second, he thought he saw a door in the hall. But when he looked again, he didn’t see anything. 


“Weird,” he said through his breath, “like déja vù, or something.” He stopped. Had he already said that? Hesitating a moment, he pushed the thought out of his head and moved inside his bedroom to lie down on the bed. Closing his eyes, he began to wonder. In the back of his mind, he felt like he was forgetting something— something important. It was like reaching for a memory that didn’t exist, and it was nagging at him. 


Adam turned on his side and opened his eyes. He knew why he felt uneasy. The mortgage payments were catching up to him, and he was worried he couldn’t afford to keep living in the house of his dreams. Besides, his king-sized bed, all these rooms, this big house… It was all too much for only one person, Adam thought.


June 11, 2021 21:14

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