Papers were strewn everywhere, tiny squares unfolded and wiped clean. Kate was desperate for any granule she could scrape onto the table. She craved the noise, the rushing swirl of energy that left her without a chance to think. WIthout a chance to see.
She slumped behind the coffee table, pulled her knees to her chest and pushed back at her hair with trembling hands. No money, no drugs. No way to avoid what was in front of her, no matter how often she looked away.
“What the hell, Kate!” Startled, she looked up to see her roommate, Johah, standing in the doorway with his hands on his hips. “Look at yourself; this is pathetic.” He grabbed a handful of the small papers and tossed them at Kate. They fell like confetti, and though she knew they were clean she instinctively grabbed at them. Like a child grabbing at candy falling from a pinata.
“I can’t do it, Jonah. I try not to look at him, try to ignore him but he just stands there looking at me. He’s there all the time. And his eyes, I can’t stand his eyes.”
She buried her face in her small, boney hands, refusing to look up, determined not to know if the specter was looming. Hiding held the added benefit that she didn’t have to see the distrust on Jonah’s face. He was the only person she’d told and as great a friend as he was, she could tell he dismissed her stalker as a drug-related delusion. He didn’t understand that the man was the cause, not the result of her drug use.
“Kate, you were doing so well,” he said as he sat across from her, on the other side of the coffee table. His voice was softer, had lost the edge of his previous words. “Stop the drugs and this man will go away. I swear.”
There was desperation in Jonah’s voice, a need to be her saviour.
When she finally replied her voice was small, the words falling heavily from her lips, weighted by exhaustion. “You don’t understand, and I’m too tired to explain again. I just need some sleep.” She pushed herself to standing and swayed slightly from the incredible effort it was to remain upright. Every muscle in her limbs trembled.
“Will Michael be coming over later,” she asked before making her exit, hoping for a negative reply. Michael was Jonah’s new boyfriend. They’d been together just a few weeks. He seemed inoffensive enough though she’d met him only briefly, but the last thing she wanted was more people around. Unfortunately when you share living space, you don’t always have the right to make that rule.
“He will be. Don’t worry, I’ll clean up. Just go to bed.”
She lifted her blue-eyed gaze and could see the disappointment in his eyes. There was nothing she hated more than the idea that she had let him down. Her best friend. He’d been there through her initial recovery, and she felt she owed him some sanity. But he just could not and would not believe what she said when she tried to explain the man.
Even now she could see him hovering in her peripheral vision. Looming like a shadow on the corner of her life. He didn’t ever speak, just looked at her with those eyes, those awful eyes.
Squeezing her own eyes almost shut she turned away, and shuffled off with halting steps towards her room. Kicking off her torn jeans, she fell into the bed, not bothering with the covers. Behind the closed door of her room, she buried her head in her pillows and tried to slow her breathing to normal. Calm herself, because no matter how deeply she buried her face, she could not ignore that the man was here in the room. His eyes bore a hole through her back until she could do nothing but turn to face him.
She clutched the pillow in her shaking fist and, taking a deep breath, turned her face.
The man was no longer standing. He was crouched down, his eyes mere inches away from her own.
She jerked away and whimpered in fear, cowering into the corner of the bed. If only she had some coke, some speed, she could create a world in her mind that he couldn’t penetrate. Without, she had to face her fear in the image of his dark eyes.
Was he even real? No one could see him, but to Kate he was as solid as Jonah or Michael. And why did he not speak?
“Who are you,” she asked, hating the quiver she heard in her own voice. “What do you want?” Her desperation was mounting in her tone.
The man said nothing, but stood to his full height. Over six feet tall as he hovered over Kate. She’d never looked so directly at him, and the longer she did, the more she cowered into her corner. His eyes, so dark and so full of hate. The muscles in his face worked beneath his tanned skin, his jaw clenching and unclenching. He made no move to approach, just stood over her staring, always staring.
“Are you here to hurt me?” Even as she asked, her words tentative, she knew it was a futile inquiry. Would he really admit if it were his plan to hurt her in some way?
She hadn’t expected the vehemence of his response. No words were spoken, but he shook his head from side to side and paced as though he had a purpose. His eyes kept shooting to the door. His posture was the perfect image of frustration.
Kate unfolded her legs and leaned slightly out of her corner. A thought occurred for the first time. “Are you trying to help me,” she said softly, barely daring to hope that she could have been wrong this entire time.
His nodding was as strong an affirmation as she could have asked for. To say that this put Kate at ease would be overstating, but she relaxed a little. Her breathing was back to normal, but the physical need for the drug was ever-present. She wiped the sweat from her forehead as she considered how she could communicate with the man.
Again his eyes shot to her door. Michael had arrived and she could hear the clinking of glassware. Conversation and laughter. All of the sounds of a normal life. It was what she managed to have for herself until she’d turned back to the drugs.
“What is it you need to tell me,” she said haltingly. Her voice caught, weak with need.
The man never said a word, but his pacing sped up and his tension was clear. Never had he been anything but stoic, an unmoving presence in her line of vision, staring her down and igniting her fear. This constant motion was less unnerving, but his eyes were as insistent as ever, trying to convey an unspoken message. A message of fear, anger. Evil.
The pounding at the door caused her to jump, a small cry escaped from her lips. She imagined it was Jonah, checking to see how she might be doing. When the door swung open she was shocked to see Michael standing there. His presence filled the doorway, but he made no initial move to enter the room. Suddenly conscious that she wore only a tank and her underwear, she grabbed a corner of a sheet to cover herself.
The man tensed from head to toe, his hands clasped in fists at his side as he glared directly to where Michael stood.
“Hey there, Kate. I heard you were feeling off today. How’re you doing?”
The words were kind, but there was an edge to the tone that caused Kate’s hackles to rise. She was covered in gooseflesh, but had no idea where withdrawal ended and instinct began.
“I’m fine. Where’s Jonah?”
The man turned to Kate, and it was the first time she’d seen desperation in those eyes.
Michael took two steps into the room. “Jonah is sleeping,” he answered, a gravelly note she’d never noticed thick in his voice. “He’ll be sleeping for awhile.”
He took two more steps. The man looked to Kate and shook his head.
She sat tensely against the wall.
Michael reached the edge of her bed, and a glimmer caught Kate’s eye as he pulled a knife from behind his back. When she looked in his eye she knew that his was what evil looked like.
And as the knife sliced across her throat, she looked over Michael’s shoulder and watched the man fade away.
Denise Kelly LeBlanc currently spends her days working in the ever-creative field of banking, and her nights dreaming of escape to the country and life as a full-time writer. After some early success in print and ezines, including Zygote Magazine and Bewildering Stories, she is working hard to re-enter the world of regular writing.