My eyes flutter open.
I’m panting. My arms are shaking. The covers are soaked and sticky and pungent.
I sit up, terrified to look down at the sheets.
I do anyways.
No stains. Just…water. Sweat. My sweat.
I squeeze my eyes shut.
The memory flashes behind my eyelids. I see his own dark green eyes, narrowed into slits, staring into mine with anger and shock and horror. I watch my hand sail through the air; it cuts through the space smoothly and gracefully. I see the blade of the knife as it sinks into his chest. I hear his hiss of pain. It wasn’t difficult, not really; I thought I’d meet more resistance, or feel bone, or something. But it slid in without a hitch, right to the hilt. And I stared as the blood slithered across his shirt in intricate red veins, the color vivid against the pure white. I watched it, mesmerized by the richness of the color.
This was not a dream. I can feel it as real as if he were still lying in front of me, dead upon the floor, the blood dripping onto the carpet, forming an irremovable stain.
It was here. It just happened minutes ago.
I stiffly get out of bed. I can’t calm down. My heart is thudding so hard against my chest that I can actually hear it thumping away, frantic, eager to run and never return to this body––this life.
It was a first date. I decided to offer him a drink at my apartment. We chatted some more. Some kissing. I remember his lips were cold and hard. I didn’t want it to go beyond that, not yet. But he kept pushing. I could––and still can––feel his finger on my leg. It was gentle and seductive at first, just a whisper; but, then, it became forceful, as he pinned me against the kitchen counter, his teeth latching onto my neck––
I grabbed the knife. I panicked. I swung it, not caring where it went or how it landed; I just needed to get him off of me.
And then…he died. I watched it happen. I killed him.
I saved myself.
I wrap my hands around my bedroom doorknob. It’s already wet with my sweat. My panting intensifies as I turn it.
Silence. There’s just silence.
I slowly ease across the threshold and walk to the kitchen, my legs shaking.
Nothing. No body. No blood.
I glance to the countertop. The knife rack sits still and serenely, the blades glinting in the morning glow. Not a stain in site.
It doesn’t make any sense.
My phone vibrates in my pocket. I jump. Then, robotically, I take the device out of my pocket and fumble to click the answer button.
“Hello?” My voice is strange; it’s about two pitches higher than usual. I clear my throat.
“Analise? You’re alive? What a surprise. You still on for tonight?”
“Tonight? What’s tonight?” I swallow. This conversation is…familiar. Too familiar. It's happened before.
“The blind date, dummy! You on?”
“What? Please don’t tell me you want to bail again. I swear, I put so much effort into setting you up this time––”
“Felicity, listen to me. I already went on the date. Last night. It––it––it didn’t end well. I don’t…I don’t know if Sean––that man––is even okay. Or...alive.”
A quick breath of exasperation on the other end of the line ensues. “Dammit, Anna! How did you figure out his name?”
“It was Beth, wasn’t it? Ugh. I should’ve have known not to tell her. She never knows when to keep her mouth shut––”
“Felicity, listen to me!” The words explode out of my mouth, burning and vicious.
I can’t hear anything on the other end of the line for a moment. Then, I hear a cough. “Uh. Anna? You okay?”
“Felicity.” I take a deep breath. “Felicity, please listen to me. I know what’s going to happen tonight. I don’t know how, and I don’t know what’s going on, but this guy is bad news. Please. Trust me.”
I hear her annoyed sigh. My heart sinks. “Anna, please. You can’t keep this act up forever. I know you’re not into the dating game, but I’ve spent weeks trying to set this guy up with you. He’s perfect. Just give it a shot. Okay?”
“Please? For me?”
I close my eyes. I can’t convince her. She won’t ever believe me. “Fine. Okay. I guess I’ll meet him.”
She hangs up.
I lean against the counter, breathing hard.
Maybe it was all a dream.
It doesn’t make sense. But there’s nothing here––no blood or body or any trace of murder.
Maybe I’m simply going crazy.
I spend the rest of the day sitting on the couch, watching movie after movie. By five o’clock, I can’t remember a single thing I’ve seen on the screen. Just a blur of colors and pictures.
My phone buzzes. I know its Felicity. Making sure that I’m getting ready.
Slowly, I slide from the couch and gather myself together. It doesn’t take long; I’m not myself today, and all I can see is the knife sailing through the air, the body on the ground, and the spreading blood across the shirt. But I step into a dress and brush my hair back nonetheless.
I am going crazy. Certain insanity.
The clock strikes six, and then I’m out the door, shuffling into an Uber that takes me to the restaurant.
My throat is dry. It’s difficult to breathe. I force out the deep exhaling sighs anyways, forcing my heart to slow and willing my hands to settle. They’re relentlessly moving, my fingers intertwining over and over again.
“What?” I glance at the driver, distracted. He turns his balding head to me.
“I said, we’re here.”
“Oh. Right. Thank you.”
I step out of the car and pull my jacket tighter around my shoulders. The restaurant rests in front of me; an Italian place.
I’m not surprised, of course. I knew this was the restaurant.
I shake off the chills beginning to run up and down my spine.
The interior is warm and cozy. Soft.
“May I help you?” The hostess smiles at me.
“Yes. I’m looking for…” I hesitate. “I think the name would be under Felicity Mantis.”
“Oh, yes. Right this way, ma’am.”
I follow her as she leads me through the restaurant, past happy couples and smiling families and light laughter. She turns a corner and aims for a table near the back, where a man sits in a corner booth.
My heart freezes.
Familiar dark green eyes peer up from a menu, narrowed in slits as they study me. A chilling smile with bright white teeth flashes. He's slender, his body curving over the table, hands clasped delicately under his chin. He's wearing a green shirt that matches his eyes under a black leather jacket. I can see a silver watch glint on his left wrist.
The knife. Sailing through the air. Blood. Spreading across the white. Slithering.
“Hello. You must be…Analise, correct?”
I stiffly sit down across from him. My jaw is wired shut.
"You okay there?”
“Yes. You can call me Anna.” My voice is surprisingly smooth and stable.
“Sean. Nice to meet you.”
I say nothing. My stomach flips over and over itself.
“I…I have to go.”
“What?” A glint of annoyance blazes across the green irises. He licks his lips, quickly, his tongue darting out so fast I wonder if I imagined it. I blink. The irritation is gone instantly, replaced by hurt. “Oh. I’m sorry. Do you have another engagement? I was really looking forward to tonight, you know. Felicity's told me so much about you.”
“No. I mean, yes. I mean…” I clear my throat. “I’m sorry if Felicity led you on, but I…I don’t want to do this. I’m not interested. I mean that in the most respectful way possible, truly. I’m sorry for wasting your time.” I feel relief as I stand to leave.
Suddenly, I feel a cold, firm hand gripping my arm, the nails digging into my skin. I freeze, and turn to see that face and those green eyes and those white teeth, just inches away from mine.
“I was really excited for this, and I think you’re being very rude,” he hisses calmly. Quietly.
I look at him. For a moment, fear courses through my body. But then I feel…certain. Sure. Right.
I feel resolve.
I look directly into his eyes. “Get your fucking hands off me, or you'll regret it,” I say softly.
His lips press together in a thin, disturbing smile. “I highly doubt that. Now sit back down."
And for some reason, in that instant, I know exactly what to do.
I imagine what had happened. The knife, the blood, his dead body. I imagine it all again, right in front of me. I recall all the gory memories, especially of his face, his mouth open in a perfect horrifying scream.
And his face freezes.
His mouth is paralyzed mid-smile as he looks down at the knife on the table. And for a moment, just for a moment, I see it in his eyes.
He knows what would have happened tonight, as I watch the complete and utter fear reflect in his gaze. He stares at my fingers delicately resting upon the blade. He knows what he would have done. He knows how I would have reacted.
He knows he'll die if he continues. He knows how I'll kill him.
He slowly raises his eyes back to mine in undeniable, delicious terror.
And he releases my arm.
I cast one last look into his petrified green eyes. I grin. And then I tighten my coat around my shoulders and turn away to the exit, smiling all along the way.