The blaring alarm breaks through the peaceful quiet. You chose the loudest alarm you could find. You like being snatched from your sleep by the psychotic shrieking of a siren that has the potential to wake the dead.
You like it because it’s effective. You sit up on the second peal of the horn, shut it off, and climb out of bed.
You are a creature of habit. Each day is much like the last. The slight smile on your sleep bleary face hints that you like it that way. You pour your coffee, which is already brewed because you programmed it the night before. You sip slowly while flipping through the paper that was waiting outside the door.
You prefer the physical paper to the internet. You like to touch the dusty pages and breathe in the lingering smell of ink and outdoors. You don’t even object to the occasional paper cut that causes the black and white to be tinged in red. Most of all, you like the paper because the black and white blends together to make many shades of gray. The world is gray, and its news should be too.
You linger in the shower because the hot water feels exquisite. It warms you and wakens you more than the coffee did. The towel is soft against your skin. Your lotion is vanilla scented.
Outside, you smile at the gray sky that others frowned at. There’s a skip in your step as you walk to your first class. Accounting. It was a surprising choice for you. Accounting is black and white, but maybe you chose it in a desperate attempt to search for the gray. Ethics is next, followed by psychology. Now there’s a pair of classes that are all about the gray. No wonder they’re your favorites.
It’s raining as you make your way back to your apartment. You love the feel of the cool droplets on your skin as much as you loved the stream of warm water from the shower. Your smile lightens up the gray of the sky.
You grab the mail and flip through it as you go inside. Mostly bills. You set them on the table as you stare in interest at the plain gray envelope. Your name is written in neat block letters. There’s no return address.
You open it, pull out the single sheet of paper, and read. As your ever-widening eyes move down the page your hands start to shake. Your breath comes out in short gasps. You haven’t even made it to the bottom of the page when you can no longer hold the paper in your trembling hands.
It falls to the floor with a flutter…
…My own hands tremble with anticipation as I watch her.
I smile at the blood that drips down her finger. She’s prone to paper cuts. It’s an endearing quality, but maybe that’s just because I love the sight of blood. Or maybe it’s only the sight of her blood that I love. It pleases me that this particular paper cut came from the page of my letter. The letter that described the day she just had.
I watch her everyday. What else do I have to do?
She glances around with wide eyes that aren’t quite blue but a shadowed shade of gray. I imagine that I still have a heart, that it is beating fast, threatening to burst its way through my chest in a desperate attempt to reach her. Soon, I tell it.
She looks right at me.
And straight through me.
She doesn’t see me yet. Soon, she will.
Her purse sits on the table and she reaches inside. She clutches the gray canister of pepper spray in her long-fingered hand. She locks all the windows and closes all the curtains. She goes through each room and looks through every nook and every cranny. I almost don’t want the fun to end. If only she lived in a larger house, but it’s time to end this show and get what I came for.
She steps out of the hall and back into the kitchen, where I stand holding the letter I sent her in my pale, ghostly hand…
…Grace screams and falls back against the wall. Her ragged breath is in rhythm with her pounding heart. She wonders if the neighbors heard her scream, but she knows it doesn’t matter.
Surely they heard Dave scream that fateful night. The moon was full and the stars were bright. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen, making the night gray instead of black. He screamed long after he should’ve stopped. Someone must’ve heard, but no one came.
Will they come now?
“Dave,” Grace whispers.
He smiles and opens his diaphanous fingers, letting the letter flitter to the floor.
“Hello, Gracie,” Dave says, his voice echoing hollowly throughout the room.
She flattens herself against the wall. “Y-your dead.”
“Yes, I am.”
She’s frozen in terror, unable to do anything but look into the everlasting eyes of the man whose life she stole. “Y-you aren’t supposed to be here.”
He moves towards her, gliding gracefully across the room, leaving glistening glimmers in his wake. “And where should I be? Heaven? Hell?”
Somewhere underneath her fear she finds that she’s fond of his voice. It isn’t harsh, but it isn’t soft. It’s neither black nor white. It’s somewhere in between.
It’s gray, and she likes the gray.
“Y-yes,” she answers, not sure where she thinks he should be.
He is now mere inches from her frightened eyes. “It’s neither Heaven nor Hell. It’s somewhere in between. I’m in the gray, Gracie.”
“Y-yes,” she whispers, lost in his eyes. Remembering them then, and seeing them now.
“Shall we see where you shall go, Gracie?”
“Yes,” she says, and this time there is no stutter.
He slides up to her, skimming against her skin. His gossamer lips touch hers and he sucks, siphons, steals…snatching away her life until her body is a shell and only her soul is left.
Somewhere in the gray.