She slammed the door shut and managed to twist the knob for the deadbolt only a moment before the door began shaking and a heavy fist crashed on it over and over in a frenzied rush of energy. She backed away from the door, staring at it without really believing that any of this was happening. She wasn’t really seeing the door or the bright, encouraging words framed next to it or the flower wall stickers. She couldn’t feel the wall she had just backed into or the hard wood floor she had half-fallen, half-slid to. She didn’t realize she was rocking back and forth or feel the cold tears of her fear and pain or hear the high-pitched mewls interrupted by her fast breathing. She was frozen, unable to move or do anything more. It had taken everything she had to put that door between her and the man who was more demon than human right now.
“Fuck! Open this fucking door Denise!” More pounding, this time it sounded like a foot had joined the fist. That’s going to cost me part of my deposit. The thought was just as detached as she was from everything that was happening. Whatever that was. She hadn’t taken any time to process what it was that she had seen, what it meant, why he was so angry when she hadn’t done anything wrong. Not really. “I’m going to get the manager to open this door if you don’t open it now. Do you hear me?”
She heard his words, the last three sharp reports on the door before his heavy foot steps moved away. The silence was almost worse than the deafening threats and pounding of only moments before. At least then she knew where he was. She knew he was on the other side. Now… now she could imagine him behind every door, every wall, every window. Those thoughts shocked her into movement. She scrambled away from her entry way walls and crawled on hands and knees to all the windows and patio door, quickly locked all the latches and pulled all the curtains and blinds closed. Each closed and blocked window blocked more light until the entire apartment was dark, darker than it had ever been for her. Darker than the scene she had barely escaped.
The last room she found was her bathroom. There were no windows and the door was actually a heavy wood with another dead bolt. She quickly locked the door and fumbled in the dark to find the cabinet that held her towels. One was shoved under the crack before she dared turn on the light. Her cabinet, a heavy antique find from Craigslist, was pushed up against the door, every scrape and squeak and squeal making her heart pound a little more until all she could hear was the sound of her blood rushing through her veins, every heartbeat the sound of his footsteps on her floor.
It was many long minutes later-or was it hours?-she managed to calm down enough to remember that her phone was still in her pocket. Her blessedly charged phone that managed to get more than one bar of signal even in the middle of her old apartment. Her shaking fingers mis-dialed twice before she managed to hit those three numbers every child in America is taught by the age of four, 9-1-1.
“9-1-1, this is Karen, what is the nature of your emergency?”
“I think I witnessed a murder,” she whispered into the receiver.
“Are you in a safe location?”
“For now. I’m locked in the bathroom of my apartment. He knows I’m here. I think he’s going to kill me, too.” Her voice cracked on the last thought. He was going to kill her. She knew it. The police wouldn’t get here in time. He was outside her door. She hadn’t heard him, but he had to be. She could feel her heart racing again, reminding her that she wanted to live.
“What is your name and address?”
“Denise Woods. 8920 S Bellview Boulevard, apartment 52. Please, he’s going to get the manager to open the door.” A creak sounded somewhere in the building. Somewhere close by. Please, please god, help me.
I have police on the way to you right now. Can you tell me about what you saw?”
“It was in his apartment, he’s in 25,”-“In the same building?-“Yes.” Another creak, a child shouting somewhere above her. “He… he had a knife and she… there was so much blood,” her voice was shaking and she was no longer in the relative safety of her bathroom. She was there. Again. The bloodied apartment below. Everything was red, bright, shining red. Except for her face. Her face was white, the white of a ghost. Her eyes were still open, but nothing was there to see. Then the flash of something metallic. She had ducked out of instinct, pure, blind, terrified instinct. The same instinct that drove her away faster than she had ever moved, up the three flights of stairs and past her door and now here, locked away from the entire world, as likely to die of fear as a knife.
“Denise? Denise, please keep talking to me. Tell me what is going on.”
“I hear something, I don’t know what. I’m so afraid. I’m going to die.” A scrape, too close to be from another apartment despite what she desperately wanted to tell herself. “I think there’s someone in here with me. Someone’s behind the door.” Her voice was softer than ever, but it wouldn’t make a difference. He already knew where she was.
Then there was shouting. And screaming. And gun shots. Something falling on the other side of the door. More shouting. Multiple sets of feet running. And screaming. There was still screaming.
It took them ten very long minutes to convince her that he was dead. Blood, oh god, more blood, was staining her towel, what bit of it she could see on behind the cabinet. More blood.
The phone was across the room, a shattered heap of electronics. It was dead too. As dead as the woman.
At least the screaming had stopped. She had no idea that it had been her screaming.
It took another three hours before she was willing to move the cabinet, another five minutes to unlock the door. It was only her mother’s voice that finally convinced her it was okay, he was dead, she was safe. She knew, she knew it wasn’t true. How could it be true? She would never be safe, never again. He was going to find her and he would slice her up slowly, make her suffer for betraying him. Even as her mother wrapped her up in her old afghan she still kept on her bed and held her through the ambulance ride to the hospital she could feel his eyes on her, looking at her from everywhere. She heard the soft creaking of his feet on the floor. She felt his breath on the back of her neck. Her mother’s soothing words and tight arms around her did nothing to make him go away.
She was found on the bed in the bare room of the mental hospital. A gag made of one of her socks was stuffed in her mouth, her eyes still wide open and tracks of dried tears a silent accusation to everyone who didn’t believe her.
There was so much blood. So very much blood. Blood still dripped from the saturated bed to the pool beneath it. Plop. Plop. Plop. A knife pierced a note on the bedside table. The same message she had been writing over and over the last six months. With one exception. The very last line was different. Four new words, the black pen marks traced in cracked, brownish-red blood.
I hear something I don’t know what I’m so afraid I’m going to die oh god he’s here.