Painting a picture with only letters and words is not so easy as it seems. Pia realised this now more than ever. The pressure of having a deadline only exacerbated the issue. Some days she sat, staring at her pen and paper or screen or typewriter; not even a single dot made it on to the page. She had invested in a typewriter when she came across it in a second-hand book store, the only regret being immense pain in her fingers after writing a few pages. She loved the slightly rusted machine, though, with its small circular keys. The letters were barely visible after years of fingers rubbing them away, but Pia knew a keyboard back to front and blindfolded. She had hoped the typewriter would inspire her with its old-worldly charm and the mystery of stories typed out with it in years gone by.
Some days, she could not stop writing, not even for snacks or essential breaks. Her spectrum of motivation did not have a middle – only nothing or everything all at once. She seemed to be falling on the blank end more and more often.
“Pia, you better not be staring at that paper. It’s been three hours” Jeremy caused Pia to jolt upright in her seat.
“I’m not” she lied.
“Uh-huh. So, if I come in there and find a blank page, I get to pour this spoon of sauce on your head instead of letting you taste it?” Not many people would know he was being entirely serious. Pia had suffered many onslaughts of the condiment variety. She quickly drew a sketch of a hand with the middle finger raised exceptionally straight.
“Very creative, Pia Janine” he mused, having reached her side with said spoon at the ready. He always enlisted the use of her middle name when she was procrastinating, whether it was her own fault or not. He held the spoon in front of her mouth, and pressed it up in to her nose as she attempted to taste some. “Oh, fabulous, tomato with a garnish of snot” she sighed. Jeremy smiled, then fed her what was left. She immediately noticed how famished she was, and how in love she was.
Three months later:
“Hey, what’re you doing out here, aren’t we supposed to-”
“We have to go” Pia cut Lyall off “gimme the keys to the van” she shoved her hand towards him and turned her head away.
“Uh, okay, but aren’t we gonna get in shit because we-”
“Just give me the keys, and I’ll handle Samantha. We need to get out of here right now” Pia was in the drivers seat with the van running before Lyall had a chance to process his bemusement. She didn’t know how, but whoever spoke to her inside that mansion had caused her such fear that she truly believed she was in danger. Her stomach was knotted so tightly, she could scarcely take a breath, and her hands would not steady themselves.
“Pia, are you okay? Did you see som-”
“I didn’t see anything. I’m fine, I just don’t feel well. We can come back when I don’t feel like vomming” she lied. She was a spectacular liar under pressure, which was both fantastic and horrible.
“You mean vomiting… You could at least let me finish one sentence. You’ve been weird with me ever since I started. Have I done something wrong?” Lyall did not make eye-contact, instead dismantling his camera and cleaning the already pristine lenses.
“Yes, vomiting. My brother says vomming.” she explained, feeling foolish. “It’s not you, I just feel sick. I haven’t eaten anything today” Pia felt that familiar rejection of her own words and tightened her grip on the wheel. Lyall was a perfectly good photographer, and easy to work with. She just never took to people being nice. Kindness wasn’t something she experienced a lot throughout her twenty-seven years.
“Okay, but that doesn’t explain why you’ve been so cold to me from the first day I started” Lyall sounded genuinely hurt. Had she really been that dismissive? She forced herself to reflect on her first meeting with Lyall. She vaguely remembered being amused by his eagerness and perhaps she had come off as condescending…
“I’m sorry. I just-” Pia slammed on the breaks. The van screeched, shuddered, and came to a halt.
She had glanced over at Lyall to show she was being truthful. He was gone. His equipment, clothes, and mobile were in a tangled mess on the seat. “Wh… Whe…” she had temporarily lost her ability to form words. Her heart was pounding so hard, she could feel the rapids of blood through her veins, culminating in drumming against her skull. She sat, completely still, her foot bonded to the break pedal and her eyes flicking from his clothes to the window, and back. Her mouth was open and she wanted to speak, but her mind could not comprehend this. As the shock waned, and allowed her to move, she slowly
pulled the hand-brake up and pushed the gear-stick in to park. She left the van running, and opened the door, eyes still on the space where Lyall had been. She forced herself to take deep, heavy breaths, as she rounded the front of the van. Each step took extreme focus, and she could hear every piece of gravel crunch under her shoes, above the symphony of pounding in her head. She kept herself steady, or tried to, by placing her hands one over another on the van as she went. Her heart was still beating so hard, she had to place one hand on her chest as she reached the passenger side in the hopes it would keep the muscle from bursting through her rib-cage.
There was no sign of anything that might give away Lyall’s whereabouts. This was not surprising, Pia reasoned, as he had vanished. Lyall had vanished. Where the fuck did Lyall go. This was not a dream, Pia could tell when she was dreaming. This was a living, breathing nightmare. She used all that was left of whatever courage she had to reach out and pull the handle on the door, hoping to make sense of this absolute lunacy. As her finger-tips neared the handle, she felt a freezing burst of wind rush past her hand. She whipped it back up to meet her other hand against her chest. It might be winter, but the weather was so completely still that Pia knew this was unnatural. She drew in as much breath as her lungs could hold, closed her eyes, and let the air escape slowly. “You’re only freaking out because he… Disappeared.” it sounded even more insane when she said it out loud. She quickly darted her hand forward, and grabbed the passenger handle to open the door.
Then the pain started – intense pain, and her vision ceased to function. She had been thrown backwards, landing flat on her back in what felt like a roadside ditch. She could not move, and she could not see, paralyzed by pain and darkness.
“I told you we shall make it exciting!” that regal voice from the mansion rang in her ears. Pia wanted to scream, and run, and hide. She still could not move, and she still could not see. She was trapped in her own body, and the last thought she had before she gave in was of that night Jeremy pushed sauce in to her nose. The thought only made her more terrified.