Five Years

Five Years

At first, she thought it was a dream, but she’d felt the whisper of breath tickle her cheek and the gentle stroke along her back. Elise stared up at the strange shape of pale light on the ceiling. Outlines of things in the room began to take shape in her consciousness, but she couldn’t shake the feeling someone else was in the room with her. She slid her legs from underneath the covers and sat on the edge of the bed. Over her shoulder she glimpsed the shadow move across the face of the window to the corner of the bedroom. She held her breath. She stood up, steadying herself against the night table. She reached to turn on the lamp but pulled her hand back. The shadow moved from the corner past the dresser and stopped at the edge of the doorway. She thought she knew who it was but refused to believe it.

“Keiky?” she asked in a whisper. She wanted to move toward the shadow but she couldn’t feel her legs. The shadow disappeared into the hallway. Once again, Elise tried to move toward the door but slumped to the edge of the bed. What was happening? She knew it wasn’t a dream. But if it were Keiky, why had he waited five years to come back to her? Or maybe he hadn’t. Maybe he’d come to her every night for five years but she’d never awoke before tonight.

Maybe five years was just a blink of an eye to Keiky now. What did she know about where he was? She must go to him. She stood up and once again steadied herself against the edge of the night table. In the dim glow of the streetlight through her bedroom window, she walked unsteadily toward the door and out into the hallway. The door opposite her bedroom was closed. She had kept it closed for five years, ever since Keiky’s death. He used to stay in there when the drugs wouldn’t let go of him. He never wanted to disturb her sleep, but she never slept. She stayed awake and listened to his moans, wanting to go to him but knowing it would only make matters worse. She felt helpless.

She opened the door cautiously. She looked around the dark room. She felt a sudden chill and flicked on the light. She turned around to look back into the hallway and then back into the room. Nothing. She turned the light off and stood in the doorway letting her eyes adjust to the darkness. Nothing stirred. She stepped into the hallway and closed the door. She glanced into her bedroom and then down the hallway. In the dim glow from the kitchen nightlight, she caught a glimpse of something move into the living room.

“Keiky?” she asked again. She walked slowly down the hallway, steadying herself against the wall. At the end of the hallway, she glanced into the kitchen and then into the living room. She could make out the furniture in the dim light from the streetlight. Her eyes moved across the window to the far wall but caught no movement. She stepped farther out into the living room to scan the wall between the living room and kitchen. There were only the outlines of paintings. Nothing else. She turned to look at the wall along the entrance and saw nothing out of the ordinary. The shadow of the empty coat rack in the corner startled her. She hadn’t thought about it in years. Keiky used it, she never did.

Her eyes moved back to the window and stopped on the outline of someone sitting on the couch.

“Keiky?” She let out a short gasp. She took a step forward. The shadow remained motionless. “Is that you?”

“Sit down,” Keiky’s voice told her.

Elise felt for the edge of a chair and eased down into the chair never taking her eyes off of the shadow. She waited.

“I’m sorry to disturb your sleep like this,” the voice said. “But there are things I thought you should know about.”

She listened intently but remained silent.

“You have grieved for five years, a long time,” he said. “And you would go on grieving, I realize now. It is too long.”

“I don’t understand,” she said.

“How could you?” he said. “There is so much you don’t understand, but that is why I am here now. I hope to make you understand some of it.”

“How?” she asked.

“You must listen to me carefully,” he said. “I understand this must seem strange to you.”

“Why now?” she asked.

“Hopefully, this will become obvious to you once I have the chance to explain,” he said. “First off, death isn’t as you supposed it to be. No one ever leaves, they just pass into a different reality. Some people who remain behind understand this reality. They are few and far between but they do exist. You need to seek out someone who understands. She will tell you what you need to know. I can only share with you what happened when I was alive, I can’t tell you about my existence now. You will need to find someone who can.”

“I don’t understand,” Elise said. “Why can’t you tell me everything?”

“She will explain that to you,” he said. “I am here now only to tell you that you need to move on with your life. I wasn’t who you thought I was. You have made me into someone I wasn’t. You don’t miss me, you miss that person you created in your mind.”

Elise looked around the dark room and back to the shadow on the couch. Questions raced through her mind but were gone before she could ask them.

“I know you have questions,” the shadow said. “But you must listen. I cheated on you. I had secrets. I withheld things from you which is the worst kind of betrayal. You deserve love. You never received it from me. I was unfaithful.”

“I don’t believe you,” Elise said. “You aren’t Keiky, you’re an evil imposter.”

“No, I’m Keiky,” he said. “And you’re right, I’m an evil imposter. You see, Elise, no one is who they claim to be, not while they are alive. It is impossible. Human beings take on different identities in order to feel their way through the darkness. It is only after death that we find light. And our true identities. Don’t feel sorry for me. And I’m not asking you to stop loving me. In fact, I hope you can love me even more. I need it. But you need to find love here and now. You can’t go on living in the past.”

“But you weren’t like that, I know you weren’t,” Elise said. “You’re just saying that now so that I’ll forget about you.”

“I’m not asking you to forget about me,” Keiky said. “Quite to the contrary, I’m only asking that you try to understand life here is one of illusion and shadow. Nothing can be what it seems to be.”

Elise refused to believe him. He had always been faithful to her and to her alone. She knew it. And this shadow now wasn’t going to convince her otherwise. No, this shadow is the illusion, not her life with Keiky. She stood up. She was in the midst of a nightmare. She needed to wake up. She turned on the lamp next to the chair. Light flooded the living room. The shadow was gone. She walked over to the couch. Nothing. Just as she’d suspected. But when she looked down she saw an impression in the couch. And the chill returned. She turned around and walked back to the lamp and turned it off.

She slumped into the chair. Nothing. He didn’t return. Had he said everything he needed to say? Loneliness overcame her. She stared across at the couch even though she knew he wouldn’t return. Not now. A fierce sadness clawed at her heart when she realized it could be another five years. Five years. What is that to Keiky? Nothing. But a lifetime to her.


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