It all started after I had that damned panic attack.
I am a calm person by nature, always have been. Small stuff never bothered me, even while driving.
And I certainly had never been so negatively affected by something that I had a breakdown like that.
Of all the places for it to happen, it was at work during an important meeting with my boss. Luckily for me, it was a telephone meeting, so I was able to hang up, get my breathing under control and then call back; blaming my sudden absence on a bad connection.
There had been no trigger to speak of, the meeting was going just fine, I was alone in my well-lit office, surrounded by plants and art.
But something suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks… no; more like the realization that there was a charging bear coming right for me.
* * * * * *
“Instinct”, is what my roommate called it when I confided in her later that evening after I shot down the possibility that I’d just been working too hard.
“Maybe it’s like you knew that something was wrong? Animals can tell when something isn’t right. Like dogs and cats just before an earthquake. And human beings are just animals when you get down to it,” she had said before finishing off the last of her glass of wine.
I sipped pensively at my own glass as I stared out the window of our penthouse apartment.
“Yeah, but human beings need science in order to tell when it’s about to earthquake,” I sighed.
“I guess that’s true. Well, maybe your brain was just misfiring. Who knows?”
She left after chatting for a while longer to go meet her boyfriend at a bar across the city, leaving me alone in the apartment.
* * * * * *
Everything was going just fine, I was rewatching an episode of friends while I enjoyed my second glass of wine.
But then, all of a sudden, that feeling hit again. Panic, worry, dread… all rolled into one uncomfortable sensation that caused my skin to crawl.
Before I knew what I was doing I was back in the kitchen looking for a knife or something to defend myself.
But against what? I had no idea.
After settling on a meat tenderizer I began to patrol the apartment searching every room top to bottom.
But of course, there was nothing to find. Because there was nothing wrong.
* * * * * *
After scolding myself back into a state of relative ease I finished off the bottle of wine and another few episodes of television before turning in for the night.
I sat up for a little while reading as I always did before sleep with my blinds closed to shield my room from the city lights.
It was about a quarter past eleven when I shut the book and turned out the lamp.
The moment the light faded from the room the panic returned with a vengeance and once again I found my body moving before my mind could intervene.
I threw open the blinds allowing the city lights to pour in. But that did nothing to calm me down.
As I stood there in the dim lighting, I could feel the anxiety focus in a little bit. Soon I had a pretty good idea what I was so scared of.
Something was coming to get me. What or why I didn’t know. But I knew it, I knew it deep down in my DNA.
* * * * * *
I didn’t sleep that night suffice to say.
My roommate didn’t return either which didn’t help, although she texted me later in the morning to inform me that she had spent the night at her boyfriends.
Around lunchtime, I decided it would be a good idea to go out so that at least I was surrounded by people and if anything happened they could maybe help.
How wrong I was.
The moment I hit the streets I felt more exposed than ever. I knew that whatever it was that was coming, it could come from any direction.
The ground, the sky, left, right, behind and forward. Being in the open like this wasn’t safe.
But I also knew that my apartment wouldn’t be much help, so I found myself moving towards the police station.
I had no idea if they would help, or even believe me; I knew that I wouldn’t if I was them. But maybe they would agree to let me stay there or something.
* * * * * *
Unfortunately, I was only halfway there when the feeling got so much worse. What had been anxious worry and suspicion turned quickly into terror.
Desperately I swung my head back and forth to scan my surroundings.
I was across from a park where a group of children was playing catch with their dad. Some old men were playing chess under a tree and a busker on the road was strumming gently at an acoustic guitar.
Nobody around was threatening at all. But I knew in the back of my skull that it was getting closer and it wouldn’t be long until it arrived.
I knew then that the police couldn’t help me. So I turned up street, kicked off my high heels and began a full-on sprint to the downtown cathedral.
People stared, some laughed pointing at me. But none of that mattered, only survival did.
* * * * * *
As the tall spires of the church came into view down the street I felt a small pang of relief and momentarily slowed my sprint to a jog.
But that was short-lived, as an image forced its way through my eyeballs and into my mind.
A grinning figure, tall, gaunt, wearing a bathrobe with a massive chest wound with protruding ribs. No not ribs… fingers; big long fingers. Reaching, catching, clutching fingers.
The woman’s… man’s… thing’s lips were rotten and blistered with crusty yellow slime, and a few spots of the stuff stained its white bathrobe.
Where it was I didn’t know. But I knew it would be coming for me soon.
So soon in fact that there was no point in running anymore.
I stopped in the street, hands slack at my side and tilted my face up to the skyscrapers around me and the blue sky above them.
Tears rolling down my face, I stood and still stand, waiting for it to get me.
Credit: Thomas J. Sotvedt
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