27 comments

Mystery

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

They are watching

I feel their eyes crawl over me as I make my way down the street, scattering the leaves that were laid to rest on the gravel road. I tossed a look over my shoulder. The empty street blinked back at me, the wind's taunts swirling around me. 

They are watching me. 

I forced my feet to hurry as I hurried along the sidewalk like a lost rodent. I won’t let them get to me. I won’t allow them to take and control every aspect of my life. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t! I shook my head as if I could shake out the thoughts of my paranoia. Shadows covered me like a thick blanket. For once, I embraced their cool, dark mystery. Their unknown plans and hidden lives, it calmed me. Soothed my inner waves of anger and fear. 

We are watching

“Stop,” I hissed under my breath. “You’ll drive yourself crazy.” I echoed the words of my psychologist, who was already convinced I was crazy. The voices that whisper in my ear, the shadows that follow, the footsteps that echo. All in my head. I made them up. 

Not real, not real. 

Crazy, crazy, crazy. That's what I am. 

I threw another look over my shoulder, startled when I actually saw someone. I looked back ahead of me, blinked, then looked again. There it still was. The figure avoided the pool of light that flowed out from a streetlight. The head didn’t move. It was set on me, walking faster, the pounding of his feet getting louder and faster. 

Nonononono

Not now, not today! I was so close. No

I jogged, kicking my feet faster and faster as the person behind me sped up as well.

 Run, run, run. 

Like a hamster on a wheel. 

Run, run, run, 

Never get anywhere. Stuck on the same track, same road, same cycle. Never broken. I suffer through the cycle of Sin and deliverance. Except mine goes past 7 times. It’s every day. I do good for a little while. I’m not being followed and I don’t hear dark whispers in the night. Then I fall. Shadows cascade around me and invisible gazes consume me. But there's nothing to guide me back. I have to crawl myself out of the dark abyss I created myself. No rope, no ladder, no nothing. Just my nails and hands. I swear my nails get black and chipped from the dirt. But no one believes me. No one believes that there is always a person following me. Watching me. 

Pound pound pound. 

Scuff scuff scuff

RUN RUN RUN!

Too late

A hand clamps around my mouth and my waist. I scream into the heard leather of a glove and kick out and around. No use. I’m gone. I’m dead. No one will look for me. 

“If you scream, no one will listen,” the voice whispered darkly in my ear. I stopped struggling then because he was right. Even if I screamed until my throat went raw, screamed my heart and soul out, no one would hear me. Not because they couldn’t, but because they didn’t want to. Ignorance is bliss when everyone around you is seemingly normal. Happy. Calm. Normal. Nevermind someone is sitting here, losing their mind and heart with every toxic breath they breathe. 

“There, that’s a good girl,” the voice purred, deep and throaty. He stroked my hair lightly, walking me backwards, hands still clutching my body tightly, but not deathly. “I can tell that you and I will have some fun together.” He stopped suddenly. 

“I am going to let go of your mouth and tie a ribbon over your eyes. Promise you won’t run?” I nodded. He reluctantly let go, I stood rigid as a board. I soon felt smooth, silky material slip over my eyes. He tied it tightly to where it wouldn’t fall off, but loose to where it didn't hurt. He took my hands and tied them as well. Then he led me around what I assumed was his car. He covered my head with his hand and helped me duck into the car. He slammed the door shut, sliding into the driver's seat. I felt his gaze crawl over me, taking in my rumpled shirt and wrinkled pants. My head screamed at me. 

Not Safe Not Safe Not Safe

Fight fight fight

For once, I ignored them. I couldn’t do anything. The worst this man could do was kill me. And honestly, that might not be so bad. It would rid me of the voices, the shadows, the scary world. This bad bad place. Full of people who don’t understand. They never understand. They won’t understand. Why would they? I’m crazy, paranoid, weak, vulnerable. I didn’t fit in. 

Fight fight fight

The voices echoed like a chant in the back of my mind

“I can’t” I whispered, soft and low so he didn't hear me. “I can’t fight” God, I felt so hopeless and vulnerable. Sitting there, shivering and whimpering like a kicked puppy. No one believes me. I was the crazy lady. I didn’t know what was real and what was fake. Never went out. Now you know. Now you know why I am so paranoid. 

FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT

Escape escape escape

Fight fight fight

STOP 

Let it go. Please. I can’t do it. I can’t. It’s too much. You have been the damned part of me, my soul, my life. But you have to leave. You are my secret sin. My punishment for being so weak. I know how weak I am. So leave me alone. Leave me be. Let me deal with life on my own. 

Fight fight fight

“I AM FIGHTING, DAMMIT!” I screamed. I clamped my mouth shut, wincing, waiting for a hit. 

“Leslie? You don’t need to fight, honey. Open your eyes.” A soft, female voice said. I peeled my eyes open. My therapist smiled gently back at me. I looked around. I was in a bed, white hospital sheets wound throughout my legs. “You beat them, Leslie. Your monsters. They are gone. For now.”

“I-what?”

“Your voices should be gone now.” She assured me, smiling. 

“Oh,” I said. 

She has to go. 

Not safe, not safe, not safe. 

Danger



January 26, 2023 19:18

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27 comments

Stevie Burges
03:06 Jan 28, 2023

Just reading about paranoia - let alone experiencing it - makes my heart pound. Thought you captured the horrors of it all extraordinarily well. Thanks for writing and submitting.

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Olivia Rozanski
12:48 Jan 28, 2023

Thank you! I really appreciate it

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Hannah K
21:29 Jan 27, 2023

Wow! Captivating story written through the eyes of someone with mental illness - possibly schizophrenia. So fascinating, and awareness-raising to imagine the world through the eyes of a person going through mental health struggles. I loved your two opening paragraphs. So poetic and well written. I particularly love the descriptions of the "scattering leaves," the "wind's taunts," the "lost rodent," and the "hamster on a wheel." I notice that you write most of this in past tense, but shift to present tense for part of it. Just an opinion...

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Olivia Rozanski
12:45 Jan 28, 2023

Thank you! I appreciate the feedback! I'll try out present tense in my next story. Thank you again

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Hannah K
13:03 Jan 28, 2023

You're welcome!

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Hannah K
17:55 Jan 29, 2023

I don't use present tense for fiction in general. I just think that this type of story lends itself to that because it seems that the character is experiencing paranoia very much in the present, caught up in the panic. You actually start in present tense. " They are watching. I feel their eyes crawl over me as I make my way down the street." And I liked it, which is one reason I made the suggestion. (For some reason I've had your story on my mind and wanted to tell you that.🙂)

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Olivia Rozanski
10:59 Jan 30, 2023

Thank you!

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Martin Ross
20:23 Jan 27, 2023

You create a mood so strong and pervasive my heart was pounding. I’ve had my period mental health struggles and sought the help and internal resources I needed, and Leslie was very relatable. As I work with folks in my community, I realize how powerful paranoia, delusion, and these days uncertainty can be. “For now” — potent proviso, and just the right note. Wonderful pacing, succinct prose, and a very crucial message. Thanks!

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Olivia Rozanski
12:48 Jan 28, 2023

Thank you! My hope was that people can relate to her and if they don't, at least be able to see inside the head of someone who has to deal paranoia and experience how it feels to have no one to understand.

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Joe Lynch
15:44 Jan 27, 2023

You have a poetic style that worked well for this story, especially the beginning. I also liked how you inserted some very short sentences...Well done.

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Olivia Rozanski
12:48 Jan 28, 2023

Thank you!

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Kelly Sibley
23:49 Jan 26, 2023

A difficult topic to write about! Well done.

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Olivia Rozanski
12:48 Jan 28, 2023

Thanks!

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Michelle Oliver
22:40 Jan 26, 2023

I enjoyed this story. It’s hard to write about mental health issues in a believable yet sensitive manner. I think you have managed to do that though. I was very much drawn into your MC’s narration. The interspersing of short sentences helps the mix up the pace and keep heightened the tension. I hope you don’t mind me pointing out a few typos that you might hopefully have time to edit. walking my backwards, hands still clutching my body tightly, - (walking me backwards) put loose to where it didn't hurt- (but loose) Full people who don’...

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Olivia Rozanski
12:56 Jan 27, 2023

Thank you Michelle! I fixed those typos (I never proofread my writing, though maybe I should). The style of short sentences isn't normally my style, but my English teacher suggested I try it out because, as you said, it heightens the tension and makes the reader anticipate more and want to read more. Thank you for you comment!

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Sonja Wallace
15:50 Mar 03, 2023

Nice. Seems like she is of a strong mind but overwhelmed by a culture of brainwashing.

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Murray Burns
03:09 Feb 09, 2023

Nice.

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BRUCE MARTIN
22:07 Feb 08, 2023

Hi, Olivia. Great story and great writing. I really enjoyed this story. You captured a disturbed mind beautifully. I was just slightly disappointed by the ending. I think you could make it a little more dramatic (unless your intention was to fade out softly). But, overall, excellent! I just noticed that you are a freshman in high school. That’s pretty incredible. Your writing skills are amazing for your level of education. But, then again, Mary Shelley was only 19 when she wrote Frankenstein.

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Philip Ebuluofor
08:24 Feb 06, 2023

Fine work. I don't think being paranoid is all that bad. Excess may be bad but in moderation? It is an advantage.

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Olivia Rozanski
12:46 Feb 06, 2023

True, very true

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Philip Ebuluofor
12:05 Feb 08, 2023

Of course. I witnessed life.

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18:55 Jan 31, 2023

Eeee. You set the atmosphere quite well. Great sensory imagery. Try tying the ending back to the beginning..."They are watching" should be the motif throughout. Also, try present tense verbs? That would work really well in this piece. The repetition is good in parts, but there may be a little too much of it here: Pound pound pound. Scuff scuff scuff RUN RUN RUN!

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Olivia Rozanski
18:57 Jan 31, 2023

Alright, Thank you! I have gotten many comments to try present tense. So I shall try it in my future writings! Thanks again

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Mary Lehnert
21:58 Jan 28, 2023

Thankyou for this, Olivia. To write such a story takes courage and I learned so much.

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Olivia Rozanski
12:38 Jan 29, 2023

Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

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Mike Panasitti
14:20 Jan 28, 2023

I agree with the comment about using the present tense for purposes of heightening the sense of urgency in a narrative. I think Leslie's italicized inner voicings interrupt the flow of the narration. Perhaps having a repeated phrase of exposition would better (and more poetically) represent her survival instincts. I thought of Leslie as a young (possibly adolescent) woman, so when she calls herself a "crazy lady" it conflicts with the way you depict her. Perhaps "mad girl" would be a better self-description. I was left wondering how Le...

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Olivia Rozanski
12:38 Jan 29, 2023

Thank you!

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