There is something in the corner of my room, in the dark. A shadow. I know what it is, but I don’t look. I can’t sleep; I’m afraid. I lie in bed, the blankets pulled up to my chin. It’s the middle of the night and tomorrow—no, today, to be precise—is the day of the interview. I would normally watch TV on long, pale nights like this when sleep shuns me. But I can’t go drifting on an ungovernable tide of information; I want to be able to control the thoughts and images that enter my head.
When I woke up, and before I opened my eyes and looked at the clock, I had hoped that it wasn’t the witching hour—that terrible time between three and four in the morning. Dark thoughts cling to me like leeches whenever I wake then. It’s the same with everyone. It’s natural to feel awful in the witching hour, when night is at its coldest and the human body is at its lowest ebb. Blood pressure, metabolism, body temperature—everything drops. No wonder more people are said to die at that time than at any other.
After I had pondered all this, I opened my eyes and tried to make out the digits on my clock. I swallowed hard; it had just gone three, of course.
Now I’m lying here, letting the words melt on my tongue: witching hour. I’m familiar with it; I know it well. But today is different, even darker, even deeper, than usual. The shadow in the corner stirs. I only glimpse it from the corner of my eye. It smells of bewilderment and fear and blood. A few hours now before the interview begins.
I try to compose myself. I tell myself I can make it, that Victor Lenzen will be under as much pressure as me, if not more. He has a great deal to lose—his career, his family, his freedom. That is my advantage: that I have nothing to lose. But it makes no difference to my fear.
There are people who would think me crazy if they knew what I was planning to do. I am aware of how inconsistently I am acting. I’m terrified, and yet I summon a murderer to my house. I feel vulnerable, but even so I believe I am going to win the day. Things can’t get any worse in my life. And yet I’m afraid of losing it.
I switch on the bedside light, as if by doing so I could dispel my gloomy thoughts. I snuggle up under the duvet, but shiver at the same time. I reach out for the battered old book of poems on my bedside table, sent to me years ago by some fan. I run my fingers over the binding, exploring the tears and creases in the thick paper. I was always a woman of prose rather than poetry, but this book has more than once brought me succour. It falls open at the passage in Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself’, which I have read so often that the book has taken note of it.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
It is good to read about somebody who feels the way I do. Once again, my thoughts stray to Lenzen. I can’t begin to imagine how the day ahead will turn out. Much as I’m dreading it, I can’t wait for it to dawn at last. The waiting around and the uncertainty are gnawing away at me. Daybreak seems so distant. I long for the sun, for its light.
I sit up cross-legged and drape the duvet over my shoulders like a cloak. I leaf through the book and find the passage I was looking for.
To behold the day-break!
The little light fades the immense and diaphanous shadows,
The air tastes good to my palate.
In the darkest hour of the night, I warm myself at a sunrise described by an American poet well over a hundred years ago, and I feel better, and less cold.
Then I see it again, on the edge of my vision. The shadow in the dark corner of my bedroom is moving.
I summon up all my courage and walk unsteadily towards it with outstretched hand. My fingers meet only with whitewashed wall. The corner of my bedroom is empty—only a faint smell of caged predator hangs in the air.