The woman’s piercing scream tears me from my sleep, shattering my blissful dreams as I explode out of bed in the moments just before dawn. I can’t see a thing. The woman screams again, her cries of desperation rising up from the street and through my third-floor window as I frantically kick my way out of the tangled blankets.
I crouch beneath the window, poking my head up just far enough for my eyes to clear the sill. I look down into the street below in a desperate search for the source of the blood-curdling screeches. A nearby lamppost casts its yellow-tinged glow across two figures. One lies motionless on the sidewalk, a dark puddle spreading across the ground from her lifeless body. The other walks calmly down the path, growing nearer and nearer to my window before stopping directly beneath my apartment.
I try to push myself away from the window, but my body feels as though it’s been paralyzed. I’m frozen in place, watching in silent horror as the man raises his head and seems to look directly into my eyes. His face contorts into a mocking grin as he runs a hand through his messy dark hair, taking on a dull reddish glow as the sun begins to peek above the horizon.
The movement sends a piercing shock through my chest, freeing me from my immobile trance. I throw myself back from the window, breathing in violent gasps as I scramble across the floor. My phone is on my desk on the other side of the room. I pick it up with shaking hands, struggling to enter my passcode once, twice, three times.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
My head is spinning; I can barely make out the woman’s voice above the sound of my own heartbeat rushing in my ears. I try to speak, my voice coming out as nothing more than a choke.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
I can’t catch my breath. My body feels numb, like I’m floating underwater.
“Hello? This is 911, what’s your emergency?”
“Miss, can you hear me?”
A voice floats through the inky black veil. It’s comforting, the way the words wrap their way around my mind. I feel myself bring drawn away from the darkness, my eyes opening into a bright light as more voices become clear.
“Is she responsive?”
“Yeah, she just opened her eyes.”
Squinting in the brightness, I can make out the figure of a man kneeling over me. He wears a dark blue jumpsuit, his hands covered with white rubber gloves. I can see the concern in his expression as he turns towards me once more.
“Miss, my name’s Everett. I’m a paramedic, and I’m here to make sure you’re all right. Can you tell me your name?”
“My name’s Aimee,” I say softly, clearing my throat.
“Aimee? That’s a nice name. I like it.”
“Okay Aimee, I’d like to ask you a few questions. What do you remember before you passed out?”
The memory comes rushing back all at once; it feels like I’ve been hit by a truck. A cold sweat breaks out across my forehead as I recall the man standing beneath my window. I can feel my body start to shake.
“He’s coming for me!” My voice comes out in high-pitched hysteria as I reach forward, grasping Everett by his shoulders. “You have to help me! He’ll kill me too, I know he will!”
Everett clasps my hands gently, pulling them down from my shoulders and holding them in front of me. From the corner of my eye, I see a woman making her way towards us from the opposite side of the room. She kneels down beside Everett, taking care that her pistol doesn’t bump against my desk.
“Aimee, my name is Officer Trisha Kirby. Can you tell me what happened earlier?”
I look into her dark green eyes, feeling a sense of warmth wash over me. Her long black hair is pulled back into a bun. A few stray curls frame her face, cupping around her chin. A single strand trails across her mouth, caught in her deep red lipstick.
“I saw-“ My voice catches in my throat. “I heard a scream. Out on the street down there. There was this woman on the ground and…blood…a lot of blood. He stabbed her. He stabbed her and I’m next, I know I’m next…”
“Aimee, I need you to take a deep breath now. Can you do that for me?”
I nod my head, tears beginning to flow from my eyes and down my cheeks. Everett pulls a tissue from his kit, placing it in my hands before releasing them. Officer Kirby gives him a nod; Everett picks up his kit and steps away, leaving the two of us alone.
“You say you saw a woman being stabbed down on the street? Did you see it from your window?”
I nod again, making a gesture towards the window with my hand.
“Can you describe the man for me?” She pulls a notepad out from her pocket, along with a mechanical pencil.
“He was tall, I think. Dark hair. And his face…”
“Did he have some kind of unique facial features?”
“Just his smile….his smile makes me sick. He stood under my window and smiled. I know he saw me. He looked right into my eyes with that mocking grin of his!”
I pull the tissue away from my face, compulsively ripping it into tiny shreds. The pieces pile up on my lap as they fall.
“Do you know this man? Have you seen him anywhere before?”
“Never!” I shake my head, beginning to sob once more. “I’ve never seen him in my life! I don’t know what he wants with me. But he’s not going to stop until I’m dead, I know it! I can’t get it out of my head. The way he looked into my eyes and saw into my soul-”
I pause, snapping my head to the side as two more police officers entered the room. Officer Kirby turns to face them as they both shook their heads in some sort of unspoken acknowledgement. She turns back to me as she speaks, her voice a bit colder than it was before.
“Aimee, you said this happened out on the street? Right outside your window?”
“Yes, by the lamppost. I saw the woman lying on the ground where he left her!”
“Would you came over to the window, and show me exactly where it happened?”
She holds out her hand to help me up from the floor. I refuse the offer, pushing myself up against the wall before making my way to the window.
“It was right over-“
I freeze, one hand supporting my weight against the window ledge, the other raised and pointing down into the street. The street is empty, save for a single car pulling away from the stop sign. Not a trace of blood is left on the sidewalk.
“I-I don’t understand…she was right there! Right there!” I jab my finger into the glass, leaving fingerprint smudges across its smooth surface.
Officer Kirby comes up from behind me and places her hand on my shoulder. I jerk away, backing along the wall until I bump into my bed, stumbling slightly before catching my balance.
“Why don’t you sit down, Aimee?”
I feel behind me with my hand, not taking my eyes off of Officer Kirby as I sink onto the edge of the mattress. I see Everett coming out of the doorway to my bathroom, a small orange bottle in his hand.
“Hey, what are you doing with that?”
He approaches me, coming to stand next to Officer Kirby.
“Tell me, how long have you been taking these?”
Everett hands me the bottle. His voice is cold and professional, but his eyes betray genuine compassion. I turn the bottle over, scanning across the label.
“I’ve never taken these! I’m not going to put this poison into my body so someone else can control my mind!”
Officer Kirby takes in a deep breath, coming to sit down by my side. Her voice is much softer now, more sympathetic.
“Aimee, those pills aren’t poison. I’m sure your doctor gave them to you?”
“What does he know?! He’s brainwashed, like the rest of you!”
She takes the bottle from my hands, turning the label to face me.
“Chlorpromazine. Do you know what that means? What it’s for?”
“Why should I care what it’s for? I don’t need it, and if you’re going to try and tell me tha-“
My sentence is cut off by the sound of the front door opening.
“Aimee, your family is here.”
My mother rushes through the doorway, running over to my bed and throwing her arms around my shoulders. My father makes his way across the room more slowly, using a cane to support each step. I haven’t seen either of them in months.
“Aimee, my sweet, sweet daughter!” My mother says softly into my neck, running her hand down my hair.
“Mom, what are you doing here?”
She pulls away from me, just far enough to bring her face level with mine.
“The police called us, honey. They told us what happened.” She pauses for a moment, her eyes growing red as she holds back tears. “Aimee, you have to take your medicine.”
“I don’t need any medicine; I’m not sick!”
“Aimee, what you saw earlier wasn’t real! That medicine, it’s not for a fever or a cough or something you feel…it’s for the things you see. The things you see and the things you hear that aren’t really there.”
I glance frantically around the room, making eye contact with my father standing silently by the bedside.
“Listen to your mother, Aimee. It’s so hard to see what you’re going through every day you don’t take it.” He takes another step forward, resting one knee on the mattress. “We want our daughter back.”
Officer Kirby hands me the bottle, her eyebrows raised in expectation. Reluctantly, I take it from her grasp and twist off the safety cap. I shake a single pill out into my cupped palm. I spend a moment staring down at the small capsule, noticing the weight of it in my hand.
“It wasn’t real,” I whisper to myself, squeezing my eyes shut tight as I swallow the pill whole. “It wasn’t real…”