Fear. I still feel it, like a wind, brushing down the cheek, a stern hand putting me in my place, making the hard forgetting reality remembered. And I remember. Each and every night it’s the same. Same feeling of dread, the same side street I get, the same flickering street light that keeps on switching on and off, back and forth, until my mind begs for sanity. And there he is. Waiting for me at the end, with the knife in one hand, and my head in the other, as I keep walking and the only thing my eyes witness is the silver grin, that damn smile that reflects the moonlight. And I cannot escape. Something keeps pushing me towards, making my feet disobey the commands that my body issued, as I walk further down that street, I can feel the stench of his breath, itching my neck as I go on, all the sounds around disappear, as the only thing left to be heard is his faint giggle, the sound of his enjoyment and the drops of my blood hitting the dirty floor. That gruesome picture, painted by the faint moonlight, of the killer that haunts my dreams, that damn sight of him holding the head that spins, by the long hair, I cannot see, the eyes to whom they belong, but the neck of mine, the straight line that goes abroad, it hurts so much as if a scorching knife is pressed on it as I gaze upon the gruesome image of the killer, then and there, I know…
That I am the victim he grabs every night. I try to run, but to no avail, as I am frozen by the primal fear that consumes my body, as I look at his grim face, to those yellow teeth that slowly shimmer on the pale light of the broken, flickering lamp, as his messy long hair waves in the cold wind, he smiles and screams and…
I am awaken…
Daylight always breaks off, holding me in its embrace, as I slowly find comfort in the new dawn and thank her, that at least someone is there waiting for this poor wretched soul to weep on its shoulders. It’s been weeks now. Every night I go to sleep, and every damn night it’s the same dream. Same man, same street and the same outcome. It’s been so long since I had peace, since the demons of my nightmares gave me rest and in this routine I began to find comfort, as it has been that long since the last day I dreamt of nothing.
I slowly get up, trying to gather the thoughts that scatter, but to no avail. How many days now I tried to make sense, as now it became clear, this is not a mere dream but a message. It cannot be repeated so long for so loud without the purpose for it to be heard. And I am getting it. Loud and clear. Sitting on the edge of my bed, drenched in cold sweat I admit defeat, knowing one more night has passed without me realizing the meaning hidden in the cold, murderous images that were presented.
But somehow the first light cancelled all that, as if it is embedded in our human nature as soon as we witness daylight that all of our troubles are washed away. As if the sun is an ally of sorts, how funny it is, we fear the dark because we don’t understand it, yet we celebrate the light, not knowing anything more of it either.
Sitting on the edge of my bed I hold my head, a mind full of thoughts, racing by like lights on a highway, a mere incoherent jungle of nonsense. And I keep thinking to myself… Is this loneliness of thoughts really the right decision, as I am willingly putting myself away. It’s not like I don’t have friends. No. I am happy in that regard, I reluctantly admit. So why do I choose so selfishly to fight my demons on my own, why am I waking up in cold sweat, shivering on the edge of my bed for weeks now?
What is there to tell? How would they react? Sam is my best friend. She practically took me under her wing when I came to this city, was just a small country girl with small dreams, it was Sam who embraced me and made a friend of a stranger. And I know exactly what she would say. Oh it’s just your imagination, the same imagination that landed you this job. It’s just in your head. Huh… My imagination. Then why does it feel so real? This isn’t just a dream. I can’t shake this, this feeling of dread, of this impending doom, as a storm that’s brewing on the horizon, I feel it, something bad is coming.
But there is no tomorrow, yesterday is far in the past, only today exists that much I learned in my life. No matter what, to dwell on broken dreams of a shattered mind is a past time I perfected, a habit I decided to drop, but seems to me some things you just can’t escape.
Since I am awake I might get ready. I always liked taking my sweet time, slowly doing the mundane tasks to start the day just so I can escape my thoughts. The sad truth is, no matter what you do to lose time, no matter where you run, the things that are burrowed deep inside your head always find a way to crawl out. As I slowly got out of the shower and started to brush my teeth, my hand swipes the foggy mirror, revealing the picture I never learned to endure much. The bags under my eyes are becoming harder and harder to cover, the sweet cost of trouble is becoming to show. I stop for a minute, holding the toothbrush still dangling from my mouth, as I push both of my arms on the mirror, I start to look deep into the stranger on the other side. Never liked her, not because of her looks, which were decent, or so I was told, no, I despised my supposed image only because I knew what rot and dirt lies underneath the skin, what black tar pumps that thing were the heart is suppose to be. As I look at the eyes I hate, passing the look by my crimson hair, I feel she is mocking me. As if when I shortly look away, she smiles and winks. But as soon as I put my eyes back on, the mimicry of my action resumes. On and on, I try to turn faster to catch it, but I would swear that from the corner of my peripheral vision is see the reflection smile. Jesus, am I that crazy? What am I saying? I need to get that coffee, make it triple, black as my soul and strong enough to set me right, even if it kills me. Shit, I am late.
As I walked down the street, with the new born sun warming my face, I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t belong there, the people, many in form, shape and number, brushing me by like drops in the rain, yet amongst that faceless crowd I felt like an intruder. An outsider that didn’t invite the curious eyes of the beholder, yet with every step of the way I felt them on me, thousands of them, simultaneously imprinting their mark on the back of my head I felt their gaze, curious, judging, demeaning, burning a hole in my soul. With each inch I passed by, as if I could hear the humming of their smirk, the silent whisper that shouted, ringing in my ears, the all familiar judgment. From the burden of their judgment, my head dropped, facing the curb, as the pace that was slow now turned almost to running. I didn’t know was it all in my head, their beckoning, the wishful sorrow of my attempt, or was I simply mad? As my head went further down, I could hear it distinctly, the laughter that made my tired heart skip, as the tears started to rush from the weary eyes that were denied rest, my pace shifted to a faster gear, brushing a man down, hitting his shoulder. I tried to apologise, but as my face greeted his, I saw it, there and then, the most vile smirk of a human nature, just staring at me, not saying a word, with eyes wide open he just stood there and looked at me, with no words or remark, he showed no anger or emotion, just this intent. As our eyes interlocked, fear consumed my body and I ran away, never lifting my eyes from the cold ground, too afraid to face their mocking look, I continued to sprint, then walk faster, with his smirk still on my mind and I wondered…
“Hey you with me?” I heard the annoyance in Sam’s voice.
I looked around her, seeing I was at my desk, with an annoyed Sam sitting on the edge, looking at me as if she expected a few decent words to come out of my mouth. She just stared at me, with a blank expression on her face, letting me know that her long monologue was done and it was my turn to respond. But what was there to be said? All of the sudden I found myself at my desk, not remembering how I really got here and now seeing at the hanging clock from the wall it was already 6 P.M. Did I come this far in my insanity? That not just did I lose myself in the dreams that were pushed down my throat to relive them, but now the waking hour of this waking world was slowly taken from me? I had no memories of how I get here, yet suddenly Sam was in front of me, eye poking me with her stare to respond.
“So?” She asked, impatiently waiting for an answer.
“Uhm… Yes?” With my puppy like eyes I stared back, not sure what was there to say.
Without second thought Sam went down, squatting to the floor, as I was still baffling, sitting on the chair, she took a deep breath and looked me directly behind the glass of illusion my eyes held, as she held my hands I could already feel her concern.
“Look I get you don’t want to talk to me about it and I ain’t pushing sister. But for the past few weeks you’ve been… Distant. As if a part of you ain’t completely there.”
With hope and concern irradiating through her heart I watched the one who held me through some of the worst times in my life whole, and before her I stood without word. It’s not the question of what to say, but rather should I? While I held her hands even firmer, through my mind her faint voice echoed.
“Oh it’s just your imagination. You are a writer for fuck sake, they pay you to have a broad imagination.”
There would be something along those lines and the non avoidable offer for a drink or dozen. It’s not that I didn’t trust Sam with a share of my burden, far from it. It’s just that I was always reluctant to share, my problems were my own and my thoughts…
Like poison they spread, contaminating every happy notion of hope that could be conceived just for its amusement, as before, I knew the well of sorrow that dwelled deep within, the water that was stored came from a already rotten soil.
“I am fine Sammy.” I tap her hands and get up, trying desperately to avoid any further questioning.
“Fine. I won’t pry. That is if you buy the first round.”
The night went by in a blur. One drink became four or five, I can’t remember exactly, as each one was followed by laughter, and as they piled on so did the joy my heartfelt for the first time in a while.
“Let’s toast for us.”
“Let’s toast for all the good exes.”
“What was his name again? Derek? Mark?”
“For the both of them!”
Toast after toast I forgot about my darkness, all issues that carried a certain weight like I left at home, as now not even the people around us existed, only Sam and me, as we blended into the chirping of the crowed, we were gone.
But in between all that laughter, as if those same eyes from my dreams started to follow me, as I felt a creeping sensation of coldness shifting down my neck. Sam’s laughter suddenly became distant, like an echo of a cave, a stone thrown deep down the well, I could hear her voice slowly fade away, as the only sound left in that bar was my shallow breath, the beat of my heart that suddenly felt like stopping, a fading music of a dying play, as if the curtains started to fall on the tale of my life, I could see it there, vividly, the cold air hanging from my mouth. And with the chilling embrace going down my spine I turned around and screamed. On the glass window, leaned with a killing intent stored behind those dead eyes, stood a man in old dirty clothes, with a messy long hair, grinning the remaining of his yellow teeth at me. From all of the patrons in that bar, dozen, hundreds of people in, his dark eyes only focused on me. The moment stood still, what felt like a thousand years, as he captured a piece of my soul, I remember, suddenly, the dreams we shared, the countless of times I relived, the moment of my death. And as his dirty hands caressed that glass, I felt the cold fingers etch in my neck, as it became hard to breath, he smiled and laughed more, as he watched me suffocate and I felt it, the stench of his breath on my neck.
As I shouted, the room suddenly resumed with life, the music stopped and every look of every human in that place befell onto my shoulders, as they watched and judged as I still tried to grasp for the sweet sensation of air and peace, they all thought I was mad.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Sam asked worried, as she jumped out from her chair, holding my shoulders worried.
“I… Can’t… Breath…” I tried my best to speak, but the words were a distant memory as all I wanted was air.
“Everything will be OK.” Sam held me close in her arms.
“Come on, let’s get you some air.”
As Sam rushed me outside, I looked around at their faces, every mouth was on me, every gossip of their toxic word I felt rushing against my mind in an instant as they all looked and judged. Sam got me outside, took me beside the bar, at the back of an ally, as I leaned to the cold wall, finally manage to breath.
“What’s wrong? Do you need some water?” Sam asked worried about my well being as I saw the color leave her face pale.
I wanted to say it, to explain what happened, as I weighed the outcome of her words, asking myself constantly would she judge me, would she understand and even if it mattered at all what would she think as all I needed now was an ally, someone to understand.
“His eyes…” Was the only thing I managed to whisper.
“What eyes?” Sam asked, even more worried than before.
“Who? Hey you are starting to get me really worried now!” Sam said with fear in her eyes.
As she came close in front of me as I still had my back against the wall, for some reason my head turned right, throwing my gaze to the shadow bound ally, and I saw it. The same street from my dreams, every stone, window and paper, directly positioned same as the sight that kept coming to me for weeks now as soon as I would close my eyes. And on the end, covered in darkness, there he stood. Just a silhouette in the excess of light that was trapped from of nearby lamp that flickered, but undoubtedly it was his presence that, like a cold hand, grabbed my heart that felt pain. As if I had a heart attack, I grabbed by chest and screamed in pain, making Sam worried as she yelled for help. I couldn’t move, speak or breath, as my eyes kept fixating on that man, I fell down hitting my head on the cold dirt, with Sam over my body, I just watched him creep back into the shadows, as I felt the undying dark falling on my eyes, they slowly lost the image provided and out of their own accord, shut down. With Sam’s voice in panic shouting for help, I fell slowly into the darkness of despair, what felt like rushing back into the dreamland that I so much wanted to avoid.
And then out of nowhere, I heard an unfamiliar voice…