Martin stopped suddenly and looked around. He had no idea where he was or how he got there. He saw a bench at the side of the road and sat down. He closed his eyes but quickly opened them again when the images that seem burned into his eyelids appeared. It all came flooding back to him, he could not escape them.

Two years had passed since that night. It seems like the only memories he had were that night. And now, there was no escape from eternal grief. He couldn’t remember the last time he had even slept or ate.

A car pulled up at the side of the road and a man got out. ‘Getting dropped off by a colleague after a working day,’ he thought. As the man closed the car door, Martin caught a glimpse of himself in the window reflection. It startled him; he looked awful, dishevelled. He ran his hands through his messy mop like a comb and tried in vain to calm the curly mess of a beard on his face. He thought, ‘If only she could see me now, what would she say or think?’ Tears filled his eyes. He looked at his feet and his head, dropped into his hands, like it had suddenly become a concrete block. He wept uncontrollably.

After a while, Martin gained his composure and looked up again. Through red, tear stained eyes, he saw her. His heart leapt into his mouth. He almost exploded if truth be told, ‘I… It couldn’t be…’ he thought. He cleared the tears from his eyes with his palms and looked again. The woman sat across the street on another bench. Her long dark hair swept across her face in the breeze. He got up and walked to the road almost trance like. A car horn blared and he felt himself falling backwards; someone had pulled him back from certain death. He got up and collected himself, turned to thank the hero but nobody was there. His mind instantly turned back to the woman, he looked over at the bench, she was gone!

He ran across the street, not looking again. Cars swerved and parped their horns, he didn’t notice. He reached the bench and he saw her, walking through the crowds of office workers finished for the day, going home or out for drinks to wash another day off. She was walking slowly with her arms hugging herself tight, he followed her. Heart pounding in his chest, he felt alive again.

The woman stopped in front of a hotel and stood looking up to the sky. He looked up and saw nothing, she continued to stare. He wondered what was captivating her. He looked back at her and she was gone again. He saw her out the corner of his eye, going through the wide open doorway into the hotel.

He ran over and went quickly up the stairs. He saw her stepping onto the elevator. He ran, but the doors began to close. He saw her clearly and was sure she saw him but couldn’t be sure. ‘It can’t be her, but it is her double,’ he thought. He tried in vain to get there, but the doors closed in front of him as his hand lay flat on the lift doors.

The woman watched the dishevelled man run towards the lift as the doors were closing. He had a wild look in his eyes. She was going to hold the doors but something stopped her. She caught his eye just as the doors closed. “Martin,” she gasped. She pushed the button for next bunch of floors and got off on the 2nd floor and ran to the stairway, through the open door and down the stairs. He mind blown, her heart shaking. ‘It can’t be him,’ she thought, even though every fibre of her being wanted it to be. She got to the foyer and scoured the people looking for the wild eyed dishevelled man. She could not see him anywhere. She ran back out of the hotel and stopped at the top of the stairway and darted her eyes around the street, dusk was falling and it wasn’t easy to make people out. Nothing. She ran into the street in search of the wild man.

Martin splashed water on his face and tried to compose himself. ‘Nastassja,’ he thought, ‘my love, my angel, my life. God how I miss you.’ He knew it couldn’t be her but he wasn’t giving up. He planned to clean himself up and gather himself and try to find out whom the woman was. He was sure if she stayed at the hotel, she would be back down stairs at some point and he wasn’t going anywhere until he saw her again.

He looked at himself in the mirror, he closed his eyes, again the images appeared. This time he closed his eyes tighter, he wanted, no, needed to see again… That night flashed before him; the rain, the van, the men, those masks, the screams, the darkness, the horror… They ran through the rain, laughing. Nastassja screaming with glee as the rain drowned them. He grabbed her arm and swung her into his arms at the corner of the alleyway that lead between two buildings. They embraced, a long slow, passionate kiss like it was their first. The rain fell hard. They barely noticed the van draw up beside them as if going into the alley. They didn’t notice the side door open, nor the three men rushing out. Martin only saw the mask, the devil mask, blood red in the darkness he hesitated for a slit second, a split second that would haunt him for the rest of his life; Nastassja was snatched out on his arms. The look in her eyes would again haunt him the fear, the shock, the shear terror in her eyes… Her head smashed off the pavement, she was thrown into the van. He froze, shock, he couldn’t move. He saw the baseball bat, too late… darkness fell over him… He opened his eyes again, he was on the bathroom floor, screaming! He lay there for a few minutes gathering himself and pulled himself up to the sink. He splashed water onto his face again, took a few deep breaths and left the bathroom.

Nastassja wandered the streets in vain. It was dark now, she sat down on a bench and gathered herself. Her mind flashing back to that fateful night; the last time she had seen her husband. ‘Martin,’ she whispered to herself, ‘god how I miss you.’ She remembered the look of shock on his face, the helpless look I his eyes, then sharp pain and darkness as her head was smashed off the concrete. She had woken up in the hotel room, she had never left, she had no idea how she had got there or what had happened to her or Martin, she felt lost. She rose now and headed back to the hotel. She climbed the stairway and entered the lobby… she saw him, he stepped onto the elevator and the doors closed behind him.

Martin had entered the foyer again and stood at the front desk. He tried to speak to the concierge, he ignored him. He tried to speak to the 6ft model like receptionist, she ignored him too. He stood back in the lobby and thought ‘I can’t take this.’ He figured his mind was playing a cruel sick joke on him and he would never escape it. How could he? There is no escape from a fractured mind, a broken heart and a world so cruel, he had to end this. He walked over to the elevators and pressed the button.

Nastassja furiously pressed the elevator button. She watched as it rose to the top floor but did not begin to come back down. She shouted out to the bell hop but he ignored her. She pushed the b*****s again and again, nothing. She ran to the stairway and ran as if floating up the stairs, 20 flights, she felt no pain in her legs. ‘Martin,’ she thought, ‘my love, it is you, I’m sure of it.’ She reached the top of the stair she saw an open doorway leading to the roof. She froze. Suddenly, a familiar feeling came over her. She burst through the door just in time to see Martin leap from the roof… She screamed his name and ran to the ledge, it was too late. She fell to the ground onto an old newspaper and broke down. She could take no more, she slowly got to her feet, climbed onto the ledge and jumped.

Martin got to the top floor, he saw an open door leading to the roof. He felt suddenly he had been there before but I his mental state paid no notice. He moved to the roof edge and looked out over the city. There was nothing for him here. He kicked the newspaper that was at his feet to the side, he climbed onto the ledge and jumped, falling freely through the sky he was sure he heard Nastassja calling him but knew it couldn’t be. His last thoughts were of his angel, blackness…

The roof was empty now, silence fell on the city. The old newspaper fluttered in the wind. The date showed exactly two years ago that night. The headline read ‘Lovers Found Murdered in Devils Close’.

Martin stopped suddenly and looked around. He had no idea where he was or how he got there. He saw a bench at the side of the road and sat down. He closed his eyes but quickly opened them again when the images that seem burned into his eyelids appeared. It all came flooding back to him, he could not escape them…

The End