incisive

Celeste looked at the red mark in the centre of her palm, the place where the knife had snagged. It was a shallow wound and had not bled much, but the scratch remained still after all these weeks. Shouldn't it have healed over by now?


The shock was worse than the injury, the trauma of being stabbed. She'd spent many turbulent nights unable to sleep, imagining the diseases coursing through her bloodstream at any given moment. But the tests had all come back clear, the cut had been clean.


The woman who stabbed her kept appearing in nightmares, the same chain of events every time, memory informing dream. Six weeks ago, Celeste had seen a ragged lady huddled under sheets in a doorway on the Rue Godot De Mauroy. The old woman looked close to death and it was very cold that day, so in a fit of guilt and sympathy Celeste had emptied her wallet for the poor wretch. It was a relatively small amount, about 50 Euros, but much more than she usually gave to the down-and-outs and everything she had on her. As she walked away, the old woman sprang from her nest, babbling some incoherent language. She desperately gripped Celeste's arm and pulled her towards a break between the buildings. More embarrassed than afraid on the bustling avenue, Celeste weakly resisted the matriarch's efforts, and was dragged further from the main street into a dimly lit passage.


Outside a pair of very old, very tall doors, the old woman unclasped her hold and slipped through the entrance. Celeste stood unsure, senses overwhelmed, instincts silenced. The doors were then wrenched open from within, and a younger woman now faced Celeste. It was the person who haunted her dreams, the shifting figure with the fixed stare and skin markings, speaking a strange dialect with purpose. The phantom grabbed Celeste's wrist, deftly pricked her palm and disappeared back through the entryway. The sound of bolts sliding firm could be heard. This is where the dream always ended.


After several hours spent in A&E, Celeste reported the incident to the police and they checked on the address. No-one fitting the description of either woman had been found, and the likelihood of uncovering a motive was getting slimmer by the week. The more Celeste thought about the episode, the weirder it seemed. But life in general was getting stranger, astonishing things had been happening lately. People seemed friendlier. The bonus that had been denied last month was suddenly offered. Patterns in her colleagues behaviour were clearer, concepts easier to grasp. Celeste was completing her tasks with ease and assurance, and her work was finally being noticed by the higher-ups. It was unexpected to say the least. And the mark on her palm remained.

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