She's in the streets now, bare feet sore and achy as she leaves her home and starts to walk.
She hunches over, shoulders bared to the shuddering, chaotic world around her. It's cold out now, with the fall winds breathing ice across her face and fingers. She's blue and numb.
She trips over her own feet, breathless and hasty as she scrambles back up, hoping that someone will take notice of her. Her skin blossoms with angry violets and sickening yellow-greens, and even the high-collared shirt she's wearing does little to hide the bruises.
The sky bellows with thunder, and her clothing is heavy and stiff as she skitters around in the middle of the night, hands shaky and legs trembling as she hurries to find someone—anyone—that would listen to her.
Her movements are jerky at best as she spies the first person. She runs to them, shouts and claws at their clothes. They look around in confusion, feeling her touch but are unable to see or hear her. She can see them, alive and breathing and whole beneath her hands. They are warm and stable, though their eyes are wide in panic, staring at nothing.
They brush her aside.
She stumbles over a curb as she sees the next person.
She stops them, standing before them like a desperate animal. She says “please help me,” but they too, pay her no heed. They continue on, arms linked with their partner, as if she doesn't exist. But she does exist; she feels the aches and pains in her body and knows she is there.
As the third person passes her by, she fears something is amiss. Her mind is a dark, swirling mess of incoherent thoughts that only seem to become increasingly more vengeful with each passing moment she's left to fend for herself.
Her hands fiddle with the cross nestled in the folds of her scarf. Pretty little thing it is, but she hates it—hates it more than anything else in the whole damned world, because it has never once brought her salvation.
But she can't bring herself to get rid of it, and clutches it like it's the last piece of hope she has.
The rain doesn't seem to bother her as she paces restlessly around and around and around, path unsteady as she sloshes down the street, trousers wrecked beyond repair. Her coat is riddled with claw marks and holes, and crimson liquid meanders down her side as she limps by an old funeral parlour.
It's in the stained, broken glass that she sees him.
She blinks once, twice, and then hands are on her throat. Although, she notes, he doesn't have hands. Only flesh-toned harbingers of rot and decay.
Where are you going, a quiet voice whispers in her ear, my love?
The necklace lies like a heavy rock against her chest, breath coming in short gasps as her fingers try to pry loose the grip on her neck. Black dots swim at the edge of her vision, but she knows, eventually, that he will let go.
Only this time he doesn't.
My love, the voice purrs, you left me. The hands around her throat become tighter. Pained, hoarse cries leave her as she thrashes in the beast's hold, kicking at the form she's come to hate.
You left me, my love.
Rage. That's all she hears in his voice. She whimpers at the nail that rakes its way across her cheek, down to the necklace glimmering beneath her scarf. The beast is angry. Oh, so angry.
He lets go of her throat, leaving her to shiver and wheeze, folding in on herself to protect her body. The necklace is yanked off of her and the chain digs into her youthful flesh. The dark lines it leaves drip with a syrup the beast licks his lips at.
Little mouse, the beast taunts, canines flashing white in the all-consuming, abysmal darkness around her. Little mouse, you know who I am and yet you run from me? The laughter that flows from him is more of a howl to her ears. She sinks lower to the ground, huddled and distraught.
"Forgive me," she pleads, "forgive m-"
The air is knocked from her lungs as she's thrown backwards, crumpling with a strained groan as her back hits the bricks of the building behind her.
There is no escape, she thinks erratically, no escape. What a fool I was!
The beast coos. Come here, it says.
She weakly shakes her head, cowering behind her arms.
COME HERE, it roars, and in the deafening silence that follows, only her sobs of terror are heard.
Even though you have already departed from this world, it hisses, did you truly think you could hide from me?
“Stay back!” she shouts, thrusting her palms out. Her actions startle the beast, throwing him off balance as she races by—down the streets, through the alleys, in and out of countless shops as she tries to misplace the one thing that's come to haunt her dreams as night.
She whimpers at the thought of him. Of the one she thought she loved.
Of the one she thought would love her endlessly.
She had turned out to be so dreadfully wrong—for the man she fell in love with was no man at all, but a creature, a demon who thrived in the darkness.
And her humanity was the one thing it loved to prey on.
“Please,” she mutters as she all but collapses on the front of her doorstep, heartache present despite the terrors she's suffered, “please!”
Memories bombard her. His caresses and peppered kisses, his scowl and calloused hands. She wants nothing more than to get away.
Little mouse, the beast whispers, my love.
“Stop!” She screams, “stop it!” Her voice is thick and lethargic, as if she's sleeping.
She pulls at the door, twisting the knob and rattling it with such force it pops off. In the deep midst of her turmoil, she nearly misses it.
The sound of sirens.
There is an ambulance some distance away. It's racing down her street, racing towards her. This is when hope blooms in her chest. They would be able to see her, hear her...help her.
She watches the paramedics scurry out of their vehicle. Notices the way none of them spare her a glance, despite the way she beams at them and grips the doorknob in her skeletal hands. The first paramedic makes his way inside, shoving past her without so much as a grunt. He too, can feel her presence, but he has a job to do and doesn't delay his entrance when he sees nothing but thin air.
There are more sirens now. Cop cars and a black SUV. There's shouting coming from the back of her house and she's suspended in disbelief when he's walked out in cuffs, battered and bruised but with enough breath in his lungs to struggle against the men who are dragging him by.
He can't see her either.
He's thrown into the back of one of the vehicles and she twitches, doorknob falling to the ground.
She feels lighter, happier, freer. But then the stone walls of her home start to ooze and squelch with bloody rivulets, and she knows in her mind that it's over.
The door is wide open, gaping like the maw of some sort of devil as two more paramedics make their way in. She's sitting on the grass, now. Out of their way.
They wheel someone through the doorway and load them into the back of the ambulance. There's no mistaking the matted hair and broken limbs.
That is her.
A paramedic covers her gory face with a thick, white sheet. “Time of death,” he says, “9:01 PM.”
That's nonsense, she thinks, nonsense. She had left for her walk, had escaped, when the clock read 9:01.
And then her reality is shifting. It crumbles and deteriorates so quickly she's left a screaming, weeping mess. And still, no one can hear her.
Her neighbour walks towards a woman in blue. It's Eddie, a small, elderly man whom she had known for years. The man's eyes are rimmed with red as he sniffles into a handkerchief and mumbles, “I heard screaming again. It sounded worse than usual. And the noises, oh dear God, the noises.” The man weeps openly, apparently traumatized.
“The poor thing,” Eddie continues as he glances at her, sobering ever so slightly. He's not looking at the way she's crumpled on the front of her lawn, but at the body inside the ambulance. The one with the still chest and lifeless form.
The woman in blue looks sympathetic, “Take your time, Sir,” she says.
“She was crying for help,” Eddie murmurs, “I had never heard her cry for help before. I ran to the kitchen to the phone as quickly as I could. That's when I called 911,” he sucks in a breath, “but it seems I was too late.” Eddie blubbers again and the woman is patting his shoulder as he tries to catch his breath.
“What of the man?” Eddie asks, staring hard at the officer, “what's going to happen to that monster?”
The officer hardly bats an eye, “He's going to be locked up for the rest of his life, where he won't be able to hurt anybody anymore.”
There's a moment of silence before she welcomes the pain that's been steadily creeping up on her. As she feels herself being torn apart in a hundred different ways, as she wails in protest as she hears her legs and arms snap in two, she remembers the way she died.
She can feel the ghost of the knife in her chest as she lets go.
She stands up, eyes closed as the grass tickles the soles of her feet. She dwells within a sudden embrace of a warmth. There is nothing within her now but relief.
She blinks, feeling like she's opening her eyes for the first time, and takes a step towards the light.