'The Watchers' by Jenny Woodhouse
The high bark of a vixen wakes him from a tangled, menacing dream. When he looks out of the bedroom window (his bedroom, now) there’s a full moon. He switches off the lamp. Shapes
appear: dark shrubs, paler masses of lavender bushes, bare branches. Above them the park, peaceful and empty. The house is peaceful too. The cock crows at the city farm and he takes comfort. But when he comes back from a pee he spots them, anonymous figures, sitting on the bench.
He wakes again at seven. He’s been dreaming about Betty. She was following him along dark corridors, again and again. The moon is paler now. Betty used to change with its phases, even when her body cycle had dried up. Full moons were dangerous times.
He looks out of the window. The watchers are still there. It’s chilly this morning. Too cold for sitting on a park bench. Gulls strutting close. So no dogs. Then why are they there? Nobody goes there except to walk dogs.
Something’s up, he thinks, going downstairs. He holds on to the stair rail. He’s iffy on his feet this early. He puts the kettle on, makes his cup of tea. It’s easy to carry one mug up the stairs.
Can’t carry two at once. He used to say that to Betty. Took hers up then drank his in the kitchen. Like the hired help. Now he can have his tea in bed, in comfort.
Are they watching him through the window? Do they know? He pulls the curtains to. Betty liked them closed. He prefers light, even at night. Can’t stand the darkness. He takes his tea downstairs. He’ll have to drink it in the kitchen, just like before.
He hears her calling him. Betty. It can’t be, he buried her a month ago. It’s a gull, screeching in her voice. He stumbles out into the garden, waving his arms, but the gull takes no notice. It sits on the chimney, defiant, unmoving, like Betty. Even now she won’t leave him alone. Dead and gone, he’d thought, out of sight and out of mind. Aspirins instead of her heart pills. But she will be with him, disembodied, to the end of his days. Like the watchers in the park. And the full moon.