The newspaper sat uselessly in his hands. The paper rustled as the mid-morning breeze bustled in through the open kitchen window, gracing the table he sat at – his home-cooked breakfast all but untouched – for just a moment. His eyes were thick with tears. His lips trembled and he coughed once, twice, three times. The tickle remained. His dressing gown was matted with raw egg, patches of congealed yellow looking like snot or worse. His glasses slid down his nose, the tears now leaking freely from his eyes, but he didn’t move to catch them.
Music played from outside. Whether outside his house or just outside his kitchen, he didn’t know. His ears had begun to ring. The music was a low, sleepy aria that hummed with the force of a bagpipes low drone – though far sweeter to the ear. It sounded like an angel’s song, her last call into the mortal world before she vanished forever. He thought of Moira, his wife, and how she’d adore the music. She never played it in the house, not anymore. She had grown protective over her precious arias.
He tapped the back of his neck, the muscles there tightening and squeezing on his throat. It ached unnaturally, like a spectre of long gone guilt was there in the bright yellow kitchen with him, choking him from behind. He coughed again, once, twice, three times. He smiled on the last cough, bringing his hands to the rough patch of beard he’d managed to grow along the flabby gizzard of his neck. As if a ghost would stand next to the bananas in the middle of the day. But still the feeling in his neck grew tighter, more constricted. The newspaper fell from his hands, the wind scattering the pages free of the checkered table cloth his wife had hand sown two summers before. A section stuck to the table, mired in a trench of egg and tomato sauce.
His lips were dry. When he flicked his tongue free of his mouth he winced, it was just as dry, just as horribly, horribly dehydrated as his lips. The feel of dry flesh on dry flesh sent spasms of pain down the length of his neck. He reached for the mug of coffee on the table and glugged a luke-warm mouthful. His lips stayed moist for a second, his tongue even less. He moved his mouth, trying to call out, but his words deserted him, betrayed him, and left him silent in the kitchen haunted by the aria from outside.
Panic became a strange bedfellow then. He’d never in his life met the ghoul that inhabited his body now. His breaths were short. His heart thump, thump, thumped like a hare caught in a hunter’s trap against his chest. He heard the feeling laugh in his ear, just a soft moan by his left lobe and he knew in that second – that clarifying second – that Karma in all its Hindu glory was real. He felt the weight of an overweight man on his front, the pressure in his neck the kerb of a dimly lit street. He struggled with his belt buckle, his entire body feeling too full, too full, too full. And then, like the Angel singing the aria, she walked into the kitchen.
“Moira,” he gasped, his hands so slick with sweat that they slipped from the table and threw him to the floor. But it didn’t sound like her name. It was the final moans of a dying animal, the vowels the same but the consonants were cut up and drawn out, their blood and entrails staining the kitchen floor. She didn’t stop. She walked to the window and shut it tight against the wind. He tried to say her name again, like it was all a dream and he just needed her to hear him. He tried to say her name again but the pressure in his neck grew so tight that he heard the faintest, softest click in his neck and his lips froze, mid-part, in a horrid ‘o’.
Moira picked up the newspaper and sat by the kitchen table she’d loving decorated. The aria grew in tempo, in emotion, in volume, filling the house again with its haunting melody.
No longer scared sing.