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Even though in the end, this information will have little to do with what I’m about to tell you, I still feel it needs to be said before we get started; I began using drugs when I was twelve because of severe depression and anxiety. My mental state was extremely fragile and I quickly devolved and was using intravenous drugs by the time I was fifteen. I was on the road to nowhere and everyone in my family was sure I’d end up killing myself eventually. I found out I was pregnant when I was sixteen.
I had no support from my family and my daughter’s father had no interest in being involved. I could have easily aborted or given my baby up for adoption but something in me told me she was meant to be mine. She saved my life, I got sober and worked my ass off to make sure I would have everything she needed when she joined this world. My daughter was born in September, five months after I turned seventeen. We lived in a small dingy one-bedroom apartment in the middle of Dallas. I was alone with very little support and spent most of my time working or giving her all the love I could. She was a little over one years old when it happened, one of the worst days of my life. It was a Saturday night and my only true friend had convinced me to go out with her, she had insisted her mom didn’t mind baby-sitting. I of course trusted my friend’s mother to take care of Jamie, she was as close to a mom I had since after Jamie was born. I allowed myself to get excited and packed up an overnight bag and loaded up the car.
The drive from Dallas to the town my friend lived in was about a 30-minute drive and it was already dark when we started our drive. Traffic was light and the familiar drive went smoothly for most of the way. I reached the stoplight and flicked my blinker on to turn right onto the street leading to my friend’s house. We were two-minutes from her house…only two-minutes…
The car was sitting still and I was staring at the red light waiting for it to turn…and then my car wasn’t still anymore. It was crumpling and spinning into the intersection and its glass was shattering all around us. It took me maybe thirty seconds after the car stopped that I realized we had been hit, we were hit hard and fast. My daughter’s car seat was now wedged in between my seat and the passenger seat because the backseat had been crushed completely. She wasn’t making any noise and I knew that wasn’t right…that couldn’t be right. I looked back and could still see her chest rise and fall. I had to force my door open and I had to touch the broken window to finally get it to give. I didn’t even feel the pain, I couldn’t feel anything. I was screaming but I don’t remember if I was saying anything or just screaming.
The backseat doors were crushed and jammed and there was no chance of me opening them. I climbed back into my car and managed to get Jamie free from her car seat. I could hear the sirens and could see the other car involved, both driver and passenger screaming in pain. They had hit me going 60 mph full force as if my car wasn’t even there (We later found out that the driver was drunk and high). The ambulance arrived and immediately rushed Jamie and me into the back.
The entire time at the hospital is a big blur to me and I can only remember the key details. They put Jamie on a board and stabilized her neck in case there were any breaks. Her breathing was slow and she wasn’t responding to much stimuli. We were there for 19 minutes before the machines started ringing and alarms began to go off. “Ma’am we believe your daughter has some internal bleeding, we need to do surgery immediately.” I barely heard the doctor’s voice it was as if he was talking to me from a far distance. All I could do is nod. As I sat waiting to hear how she was when I started to feel the pain. My whole body ached and the cuts on my hand stung.
The next day the hospital staff told me all the paper work was finished and that I could take Jamie home. I can’t remember them saying just how they were able to help her, all I could think about was that I could finally take my daughter home. Her recovery was long and difficult. It took her a year to finally be active and responsive again. She was almost three by this time. My depression had become increasingly debilitating in the year it took for Jamie to become a normal toddler again. Upon her recovery I was overjoyed and refused to let anything bad happen to her again. I found a way to work at home and allowed no visitors. I still kept in touch with friends and my family who had reconciled with me after hearing news of the accident. We would talk on the phone and text as I answered their questions of how I was handling everything.
Despite being isolated inside our tiny apartment, Jamie thrived and we spent our days laughing and playing. At night I would place her to sleep in the only bedroom and then I would go to work on my computer. It wasn’t until she was four that it started. In the beginning I had no idea what was waiting for me at the end of everything that happened in the next year. Jamie was very smart and very well spoken, I’d like to think this is because I spent so much time working with her during our days locked in our apartment. She could describe things well, had a large vocabulary, and generally spoke as you’d expect an older child would. On a Tuesday night I was still up at 2 am working on my computer, the more hours I clocked the more money to support us.
I heard the bedroom door creak and out of the darkness came Jamie, she looked sad and pale. “Mommy…there is a man in the room, he woke me up and told me I need to come with him.” A small detail of my apartment is that there were two front doors, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. We had always talked about nightmares and the difference between real and imaginary and she understood that well. Because of this my first thought was oh my god…. somehow someone got in through the door. I thought that Jamie would know the difference between a dream and a real intruder. I locked her in the bathroom, grabbed a knife and tip toed into the bedroom. The door leading outside was still closed and locked, the only door open was the closet door which I typically left open.
I soothed Jamie and told her it was just a nightmare, that no one was coming to take her from me. “Did you know that you saved my life? And because of that I will always protect you, I will make sure you never leave me” I whispered to her as I rocked her back to sleep. Night after night she began waking up at 2 am to tell me about the man. “Mommy he pulls on my arm and tells me I have to come with him, he needs me to come with him.” Each night I would do a round on the room just to confirm that it was only a nightmare. I couldn’t let anything happen to her…she was my everything…I must have her with me…having her was meant to be. I stopped talking to my friends and family. I was scared they were going to take her because of how bad her nightmares were. I was scared they were going to say I should be able to protect her and that since I couldn’t make that nightmare man go away I was unfit to be her mother.
I began panicking on a daily basis and my anxiety was a constant now. I couldn’t work anymore, every night that I tried to work I knew I wasn’t able to protect Jamie fully. Every night I sat in the bed with her while she slept. I didn’t allow myself to sleep, I took caffeine pills and drank energy drinks so I could watch her perfect self all night. This seemed to help. The nightmare man didn’t come anymore and we were beginning to feel happy again. Jamie continued being a happy little girl and was growing into the most amazing person I had ever met.
It has been a year since the very first day Jamie encountered nightmare man and it has been two weeks since she last saw him. The caffeine and the energy drinks aren’t working anymore. I’m so tired. I can’t play with her anymore or keep her happy. I just sit in a daze as she sits next to me sad and lonely. I know she needs me, she needs more from me…but I can’t risk losing her. I have to be awake so she won’t have to experience nightmare man. She saved my life! The least I could do was watch over her. It was 1:30 am, Jamie was in a deep sleep and I could feel myself starting to slip. I blinked…1:45 am… I was falling asleep…I couldn’t stop myself. “You have to come with me…please! You have to come before it’s too late! You have to trust me, we are going somewhere safe and wonderful. That’s it, take my hand…” I shot up from the bed and saw it was 2:01 am and I was alone in my bed, covered in sweat.
My chest tightened as I frantically searched my apartment looking for Jamie. There was no sign of her anywhere. All the doors and windows were locked and there was nothing to show anyone was here. The realization that she was gone began to sink in and I broke. I sobbed uncontrollably on the floor until the sun began to rise. I finally found air and called my mom, our relationship had improved greatly since the accident and I needed her now. “Hello? Casey? Oh my god thank god you finally called, no one has heard from you in two weeks and you never gave any one your address. We thought something had happened to you! How have you been handling everything? I know it’s not easy but we love you and we are sorry we weren’t there before.” I sat gathering my thoughts as I became numb and found my voice, “She’s gone… someone took her. I don’t know how… the doors and windows are locked. I don’t know how someone could have gotten in. I didn’t mean too but I fell asleep and she was gone. We have to find her… I have to keep her safe… I have to protect her. She saved my life.” I was monotone and in shock. “Casey… baby you’re scaring me. What are you talking about Casey… who is gone?” what did she mean who was gone!? “JAMIE! JAMIE IS GONE! THE NIGHTMARE MAN TOOK HER AND I HAVE TO GET HER BACK! WE HAVE TO GET HER BACK! SHE CAN’T BE GONE, I NEED HER!” The line was silent for moment as I caught my breath. “Casey… you need to tell me your address right now. I am coming to help.” I told her where to find me and she hung up.
It took her 45 minutes to get to my apartment. When she knocked on my door I hesitated. After less than a minute I opened the door to let my mom in. “Casey, I need you to sit down. I need to tell you something. This is mostly my fault… I let you isolate yourself and didn’t check on you more to make sure you were ok.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? Jamie is fucking missing! My daughter is gone! After everything we’ve been through, I cannot lose her! You have to help me!” I didn’t understand why she wasn’t understanding how serious this was.
“Casey, I am helping you. Just please sit down and listen to me.” I reluctantly sat down and rested my head in my hands. “Casey… you remember the accident, don’t you?”
“Of course I remember the fucking accident! Jamie wasn’t the same for so long! It took everything I had in me to get her better! And now she is gone!”
“Casey… please…” I sobbed silently for a couple of minutes before she continued “do you remember the doctors working for hours to fix the bleeding in Jamie’s stomach? How they told you the impact caused severe organ damage? Casey… they did everything they could. She died at 2:00 am that same morning. It took them a while to get all of the release forms ready and then they told you that you could take her home to be buried. Her funeral was beautiful. You buried her in a beautiful lot, I think about that every time I visit her.”
“What? Are you fucking crazy? THEY SAVED HER! THEY SAVED HER AND I HAVE BEEN KEEPING HER SAFE EVER SINCE! SHE IS MISSING! WE HAVE TO FIND HER!”
My mother sighed before she said “Ok…I will call someone who can help.” The ambulance came and along with it was a psychiatrist. She explained to me that I must have had a psychotic break after the death of my baby and that she was going to take me to live in a hospital where they can help me. I refused and demanded they were wrong, they needed to help me find Jamie, we needed the police. The psychiatrist nodded toward the paramedics and said “I’m sorry but at this point it’s not your choice anymore. Ok gentleman, we are going to have to sedate her.”
I woke up the next day, in what is apparently now my room. The doctors and caregivers visit me frequently and hold me down to make me swallow pills. The pills make me feel nothing and I can’t think straight. Every time they come in I beg for them to help me find Jamie. Today I have been here for a month I think and they still won’t listen. I tell them about nightmare man and how he took my perfectly healthy daughter and all they say to me is “I’m so sorry Casey but your daughter died in a car accident when she was a baby.” No one will help me… no one believes me. They allowed me paper and a pen so I’m writing this. This is my plea to you to please, for the love of god, please help me find Jamie. She saved my life… I need to save her. I will not stop until I save her.