A Higher Authority

His plaintive voice echoed out through the fog and across the water. “Arienne!” Again he called, this time with a greater urgency than before. “Arienne, for Christ’s sake! Don’t piss about.” Laurence could no longer tell which way was the end of the jetty and which was the start, he had turned this way and that so many times looking for her. As if in desperation, he finally cried, “Look, come back. OK? Enough is enough.”

“Here I am, silly.” Arienne stepped out of the eerie mists, giggling as she did so, her dark cloak swirling around her feet, creating whirls from out of the evening’s dense moisture-sodden air. Quite theatrical, she thought. Laurence did not appreciate it the same way as she did – he actually seemed furious.

“You shouldn’t wander off like that.”

“Why ever not?” she smiled.

He looked into her eyes, a dark serious frown covering his face, “You just shouldn’t. Not here. It isn’t right.”

Again she smiled, “Why?”

Laurence stepped over to Arienne and took her by the shoulders. He moved in close to her until his nose was almost pressed against hers, his offensive breath hanging conspicuously between them. The blood had drained from his pink, slightly flabby features, and Arienne suddenly stopped smiling. She began to look a little worried. Looking her straight in the eye, Laurence lowered his voice to barely a whisper.

“Do you not understand what’s happening? This place. This…” His voice choked halfway through his sentence, as his fingers pressed through the velvet of Arienne’s cloak and into her shoulder. “You were gone too long.”

“A moment or two, that’s all.”

“No, it was longer than that – an hour maybe. Time here is … odd, somehow.”

She pulled away, nursing her shoulder. “You’re odd. I think I’d like to leave now.”

Laurence snorted, but continued to look her in the eye. “You don’t get it, do you? Pick a direction – I don’t see the end. There’s nowhere to go.”

“But that doesn’t make sense, there’s always a way off – either the end of the jetty, or the start – I mean, it’s fifty-fifty, right? And if we pick the wrong way first, it’s just a lightly longer walk back. Come on, let’s go. I mean, it’s not like it can go on forever, right?”

Arienne reached for his hand, and Laurence reluctantly let her take it. She pulled him forward into the mist, and as they started to walk side by side, Laurence felt his sense of dread rising more strongly. He knew that this just wasn’t going to end well for either of them.

They’d been walking for a few minutes, when Laurence asked Arienne, “when did we get here, can you remember?”

“Well, earlier this evening, I suppose – don’t you remember?”

They’d stopped walking now, and Laurence turned and looked at the water.

“No, that’s not right, I … I remember it differently. The lamps weren’t lit. Was it dark? Actually – no, I’m not sure I remember it at all. Tell me the first thing about this place that you remember.”

“Oh, you’re just tired. And crabby with it, by the sounds of it.”

“I’m serious!” the pitch of his voice rising, as he spun round to face her, “stop fucking about and THINK! What’s the last thing you remember? In fact, wait – who the fuck are you?”

“Stop it Laurence, you’re scaring me”

He stepped back from her, his hands outstretched, but she came forward to close the small gap between them. He stepped back again, “Stay where you are. I mean it.” He closed his eyes tightly and opened them again, perhaps hoping in some way that everything would be different when he did, but of course it wasn’t. It was the end of a day he didn’t remember, in a place he didn’t recognise, with a woman he didn’t know. That’s when he heard the rumble – a deep rumble that vibrated in the pit of his stomach. He pushed Arienne, and as she fell to the floor he turned and ran back in the direction from which they’d come.

He wasn’t a particularly fit man, he knew that, so it was only a few minutes before he became out of breath and needed to stop. As he bent over panting, his hands on his knees, he looked behind him, but there was no sign of her. He listened for footsteps, but none came. He even listened again for the rumble, but he heard nothing. He didn’t care, and started to run again. He just wanted to get off this damned jetty.

After a while he thought his chest was going to explode, either that or his legs would give way, and as he stopped and sprawled on the floor, he suddenly remembered something about himself – he was married. Or had been, right up until he’d killed her by overloading her with insulin. He’d needed the money to pay off his loan shark, who he’d subsequently also killed. In his panic, he’d accidentally run him down with his car on his way to pay him off. He felt dizzy. As he pressed his forehead to the boards, another sudden rush of images hit him. He knew Arienne. Not only that, but he also knew that she was incredibly dangerous. Christ, what was going on?

“Here I am, silly.” Arienne stepped out of the eerie mists, giggling as she did so, her dark cloak swirling around her feet, creating whirls from out of the evening’s dense moisture-sodden air. Quite theatrical, she thought. An especially nice touch, she thought, was the Berretta nine-millimetre in her left hand.

“Fuck.”

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