Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature, Summer Soap, a daily fictional serial told over 12 episodes. The latest Soap, called Bleach, was written by Beau Williams, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. You can catch up with previous episodes at echolive.ie. In this penultimate episode, Matthew is thrown out when he tells Jordan that he and Orla are in love... and his nightmare continues outside
SHE needn’t have flicked on the bedroom light, the dim hooked moon lit up the important parts of the room. The shrill tear of Jordan‘s voice jolted Matthew awake.
Matthew’s fight or flight response had kicked in. He scurried over Orla’s body like a rat and fell onto the floor where he promptly stood up and collected himself.
Orla now leaned awkwardly and her right leg dangled out of the bed. Outside, the night was the black of dirt and the rain came down by the shovelful.
“Jordan, let me explain. We are in love.”
“Get out, Matthew. You get out of my house right now.”
Neither of them moved.
“Jordan, I know it sounds insane, but I need this. I need her.”
Jordan’s eyes never left Matthew’s. They burned through him. Her hair was frazzled and her breathing quickened as her shoulders rose and fell to the pulse.
“You need her? She’s dead, Matthew.”
His skin began to flinch and crawl as she yelled.
“She is a dead woman and you used me to get to her. You are horrid and gross and broken and you are leaving my house right now.”
She took a few steps towards him. He could feel her anger through the room. It grew with each step. He looked to Orla and wished he could cover her ears or close her eyes.
“Can we do this in the hall?”
She took one more step towards him. She was inches from his face, poked a finger into his chest.
“Get out of my house.”
“Well, what about you! Why is she even here? Did you kill her? Was she even your housemate?”
Jordan put both hands on his face and pushed him up to the wall with a crash.
“How dare you! You don’t even know her. To you, she’s is just something you found. You don’t love her, you just want her.”
She let go but remained inches from his face. He smelled the alcohol from the night on her breath.
“Orla was my friend and she got sick.”
Tears began to well up in Jordan’s cracked red eyes and she trembled.
“I promised I would always take care of her. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
She spit when she talked and Matthew was getting nervous.
“And you, you used me. I told you not to break my heart.”
She poked him in the chest.
Matthew looked to Orla, back to Jordan, then swiftly moved out the door. He jumped into some clothes, grabbed a jumper, and left. Jordan locked it behind him. The rain lashed on.
Matthew had walked to the bottom of the hill in the rain without an umbrella or his phone or his wallet. He was confused and exhausted.
He found a park bench on the river near the Franciscian Well. It was under a big tree which didn’t offer a lot of protection but it was more than none.
He curled up and stared at the rushing river until he fell asleep.
When the nightmare came, lightning cracked the world in two; it lit up everything. All the street lamps were out save the one nearest Matthew.
In the dream he was shaking. Beside him, a woman in a thin, creamy silk nightgown shuffled past. Her swollen green-tinted body hung on its bones like a rug on a chair and she moved without lifting her feet. She reached the guardrail that separates the footpath from the river and climbed over it. She didn’t hesitate, she didn’t look back. Before he could register what was happening, she leaned forward and tumbled into the River Lee.
Matthew jumped to his feet and looked over the rail. He spotted her, she started to sink down as the river carried her away. He ran along the edge until he caught up to her, climbed the rail and leapt into the water.
There was a splash and the river was a piercing cold. Matthew became disoriented. The river tumbled him; he quickly forgot why he had jumped. He could no longer find the surface. He opened his eyes under the water, the bubbles and rocks rushed by as he was dragged under and pushed up.
He did his best to steady his body. As he did, the river slowed to a halt as if someone had turned off the tap. He sunk to the bottom and let his feet touch the rocks. The water was now crystal clear and still as a pond.
Matthew looked up past the surface to the ledge where the rain still poured. Another bolt of lightning cracked and lit up the sky.
Standing safely behind the rail were Orla and Jordan. They stared down at him from under a lemon-yellow umbrella. He swam up towards them and crashed his head suddenly against something. He pounded his fist against the surface. It was solid. It was as if someone had laid a sheet of glass over the top of the river. He hammered it with both fists.
They stared down at him. Heads cocked to the side, they didn’t move, they just looked at him as if he were a rat trapped under a water glass.
Matthew panicked. His body began to twitch as he swam to the wall. The surface was solid there as well. He was running out of time. He looked back up to the woman and he tried to get their attention.
“HELP ME!” He yelled to them, but only bubbles came out.
He saw Jordan’s lips move and somehow could hear her calmly and faintly through the water, “Matthew.”
He stopped clamouring. She spoke again more clearly as if she were in his head. “Matthew, get up.”
He felt a hand grip his shoulder.
Matthew jolted from his dream and screamed. In front of him stood Jordan in her ox-blood jacket. She held a lemon-yellow umbrella.
“Matthew, baby, get up. Come home. We have work to do.”