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By Adam Smith All Rights Reserved ©


Short Story

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I moved halfway around the world thinking that it would help me get out more and finally meet people. And here I am on a Saturday night at home doing the same things I did before. Work and sleep. Work and sleep. That’s all I seem to do lately. Whenever I have free time I wind up doing nothing but parking myself in front of my computer sharing random pics on Facebook. Hoping for some likes or comments, just so I don’t have to admit how bored and lonely I feel.

It’s nights like this that leave me wondering where I went wrong in life. I know I do have friends out there, somewhere, but when I get low like this, it’s hard to imagine that I actually know them. Separated by distance and wires, I feel the emptiness of my apartment even more. If I wanted, I could call them up, but even that seems like too much effort. I know it’s not always this glum, a larger part of it is probably just the lingering storm blowing around outside my door, but still I sit festering in my own misery as I scroll through pages of posts looking for some distraction.

I’ve just about made up my mind to brave the storm and take a run to the nearest convenience store, when I see her. Hiding amongst the pictures of cats and memes and trolls is an image that stops me dead. I just stare at the pale girl staring back at me with gouged-out eyes. Her dark red hair flowing down along the curves of her face creating a striking mix of blacks and reds and whites that draw your eyes again and again to the twin rivers of rich red pouring from the black holes of her eyes like endless streams of tears. A ghastly drawing from some horror page intended to shock and disturb, but something in that gruesome portrait resonates with something deep inside me. To me she is beautiful. To me the thin curl of her lips hold a secret far greater than anything the Mona Lisa ever could. To me she is a goddess. A dark muse on a dark and lonely night. I share the image before I even know what I’m doing.

I sit, trying to discover why the image moves me so. There’s just something so powerful about that rough drawn image. For a moment I forget about my need for food, about my crushing loneliness, I forget about everything but her, the girl in the image. She stares into my soul with sightless eyes. It’s probably sick and twisted that I should feel such a way about what others would see as nothing more than a blatant shock image, but I do. I really need to get out more.

I turn away from the page and continue my aimless surfing. Time passes and I receive a message from a friend demanding to know why I had to share such a thing. That it would give her nightmares. I don’t know why I clicked share, my mind was too caught up in the surge of emotion the image evoked. I can see how others would deem it horrific, how they’d see nothing but the gore. I don’t even like gore myself most of the time. I send an apology, saying I only shared it because I thought it was cool. I don’t mention the things I felt for it. Everyone has a different taste for horror, and some none at all, but dropping it in the middle of cat posts and gag pics was probably crossing the line.

I close the computer and reconsider my plan to duck out and grab a bite. The weather outside is terrible, but it hasn’t started raining yet. If I’m quick I might make it back before it gets any worse. A harsh wind blows and I freeze looking up at the door. I didn’t hear anything, but I’m suddenly filled with anticipation for the knock on my door. Suddenly sure that there is someone out there in the cold, raising a hand to knock. I wait as a thousand horror movie tropes and clichés fill my head. There is someone out there and any second now I’ll hear the knock. Any second now. Any second.

But nothing happens and the feeling subsides. I pry myself to my feet and rush over to the door to prove to myself that there was never anything to fear. I pull open the door and glance outside. Nothing and nobody, just a cold dark night. Letting myself get worked up over a scary image and a gust of wind. I didn’t even hear anything, I just panicked over how well that scene of horror would work if it were to happen. I’ve seen plenty of horror movies. I know when a jump scare works best and when a scene needs quiet and a hundred different ways of building dread, and on nights like this my imagination knows how to use these tools to their utmost effect. Just jumping at shadows that aren’t even on the wall.

I’ve decided not to bother going out. Even if it was all in my head, I think riding around in the dark isn’t going to help. I’ll just take a shower and muster the will to find something to cook. I bolt the door and wait to see if that feeling will return, but nothing does. The pin of that grenade has already been pulled. I was so sure I was about to hear a knock on the door. I don’t know what I would have done if there had actually been something there, but it’s over now and I can move on. I think I’m spending too much time in my own company.

I climb into the tiny shower room and start the water running. Barely enough room to stand up with the door closed. Just one small wash area to wait in while the water heats up. Every time I take a shower, I have to throw my towel across the washing machine out in the hall so that it doesn’t get soaked. When the water’s running there’s not a thing in this tiny box that doesn’t get drenched. It’s a nice apartment, the first one I’ve ever owned, but at times it can feel way too small.

I let the water run over me, taking comfort in the warmth as my brooding returns. I never go anywhere, I never do anything, I’m in a foreign country, if something were to happen how would they know? The seed of thought takes root and I ponder what would happen if the bathroom door got stuck. If I couldn’t get out. With the bolt drawn on the door it would be hard for anyone to force their way in. And who would even notice? I’m sure work would wonder where I am, but probably not enough to actually look. I wonder how long I could survive with nothing but water.

Feeling claustrophobic, I turn off the taps. I need to get out of here if only for a while. I reach for the door, but I’m suddenly hit with that sensation of anticipation again. There is someone standing on the other side of this door, waiting for me. I listen carefully, but there are no sounds. It’s just like before, I’ll open the door and find nothing there. I’m sure of it but still I’m too afraid to move. I can feel them waiting for me, lifting their hand against the steaming glass. I can almost see where their blood smeared hand would stain the glass.

And just like that, I know who is waiting for me on the other side of this door. It’s her. The girl from the drawing. I know this with every fibre of my being. She’s standing there with her hand pressed against the glass, crying her ceaseless red tears from missing eyes. She’s been waiting for me. Her name is Angie. She’s right here with me, separated by only a thin thickness of glass.

I still hear no sounds. I still see no ghostly visions. For all the world it is as though nothing has changed, except that growing sense of anticipation that any second it will happen. That that doubting voice insisting that my imagination has run away with me is wrong. That when I open the door I will find a red-haired girl in a blood-drenched hoodie standing on the other side. That until I open the door Angie is both there and not there. Real and not real. I won’t know for sure until I force myself to open the door.

My breathing grows heavy as I tingle for some sound that will help tip the balance. Something that will tell me that there is nothing to worry about. That it’s all in my head. But still a quiet voice whispers up from the back of my mind telling me that even if it is all in my head, that still doesn’t mean she can’t hurt me. The certainty of her existence is all the form she needs. I can feel her standing there. Waiting for me. She has been looking for me. And now she’s found me. Perhaps I was the one who called out to her.

In some dark way I know she loves me, but that doesn’t mean that she won’t hurt me. She wants to be with me. She wants me to love her like I would love no one else. Angie is more than some mere ghost. She is as real as the air I breathe or the light I see. She is thought made flesh and dreams spun into life. She waits for me to open the door. To believe just that little bit more. To allow her the existence she so sorely craves.

I am alone, but I am also not alone. She is there and she is not there. Alive and dead. The product of an overreacting imagination and a concrete reality all the same. All I need to do is open this door and I will know for sure. I can go to her if I want. If I dare. I can see her hand pressed against the glass. I place my own upon it. Angie waits for me. I can open the box at any time, but I don’t know what I’ll do. I don’t know what I’ll find. I don’t know what I want to find.

I open the door.

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