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I run down the slick sidewalk getting ready to cross the street. Holding my briefcase above my head to catch as much of the rain before landing on my face, I clutch my jacket closed in front as the zipper broke. I don't wish to be soaking all the way through my top. Of all days to forget an umbrella I can’t believe it was this one.

It seemed today was the day for everything to go wrong. I spent all day in court. Forgot my tennis shoes this morning and now I have to run and get to the subway in killer high heels, at midnight no less. Only to repeat the day over tomorrow. Sleep is the only thing calling my name.

The streets are bare. Only a person here and there, working on getting out of the cold rain and into the safety of a warm home and dry clothes, like I am trying to do.

I look over my shoulder to cross the street. A man stands in the middle of it. He's wearing a cheap suit with a trench coat and holding an umbrella, which forms a halo of water to cascade around him. The streetlight illuminates his shadows. Only his gleaming white teeth shine into a morbid smile.

The out of placement of this man forces me to pause in mid-step. The hair on the back of my neck sticks straight up. My gut tenses as my heart trips. I want nothing more than to be in my home with the doors and windows locked. The energy emanating from this man is dark. Hostile. Evil. Evident, even fifty yards away.

Everything about his confident stance and large build petrifies me. Forces me to bring 'he-who-shall-not-be-named' to mind. Instantaneous flashes of my past. A past I spent thousands of dollars in therapy to process bangs and claws to the forefront of my mind. All my trauma working every angle to bring panic and chaos to the center of me.

My spine locks and my body shivers. Not from the cold, but from memories. My chest constricts. Then starts to heave, as my mouth releases an uncontrolled whimper. Shocking myself to the present, I clamp down my thoughts and take a steadying breath.

Mindfully, I count... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1…

“I am in control of myself. I am in control of my life. Nothing and nobody has a hold on me.” Reciting my mantra helps bring me back to focus. To rational thought.

Everything inside me knows none of this is true. Everything I am seeing is part of everyday reality. My mind is conjuring my personal demons due to my stress and a long day. Not to mention the anniversary of his death is only two days away. That man is a stranger. Sharing the same street as me.

I know my demon is dead. I helped put him in prison. I watched him receive the lethal injection.

5... 4... 3... 2... 1…

I shake my head. The fatigue of the day is getting to me. This is not the same man. It cannot be. My mind is playing tricks on me.

5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

Although, I am not going to be sticking around. I turn from the man. The sloshing under my feet is loud as I race towards the subway. Wishing I had called for a cab before leaving the office.

Stepping onto the curb I look behind me in search of the phantom man, but nobody is standing there. Jutting my neck forward, squinting my eyes still doesn't make anybody appear.

A crash causes me to jump, but it is only a guy running on the opposite side of the intersection. He tripped into the garbage can.

I sigh and hurry down the steps into the subway station. Protected from getting wet anymore, the cold was beginning to bury bone deep.

Two nights have passed and nothing innocuous has occurred. I was correct in that I was reliving the same days again. That tends to happen when I am in court. And the strange evening did not bring about anything more. Relief is a major consolation.

Again another long night, it is almost hitting midnight and I am running to catch the subway. At least this time I remember my tennis shoes and it’s a clear night.

Rushing around the corner to cross the street for entry to the station stands the man from the rain, planted firmly in my path. My heart slams into my chest as I slip catching myself before I fall.

His malevolent smile makes my pulse jump. The lights of the street lamps spotlight his face. I never believed before, but this proves that ghosts have to be real. It’s the only explanation. The only way this monster is here.

Glaring at him, I am unable to move a muscle. I am frozen as the pounding in my ears makes me feel I am living an Edgar Allan Poe poem. A nightmare has come to life.

My mind atrophies as my eyes water. Soft cries needle their way out of me. My hands seize. My feet and legs are numb. I feel like I am falling into a pit, but my body stays standing.

Reality is gone. I can’t tell you if there is anybody else on the street. Or what is happening with the weather. Every cell in my body is honing into him. Gearing itself for flight. Figuring how I am going to survive this time.

Fears paralyze me into mush. All the fighting and self-defense classes I have taken, wiped from my memory. Bad memories after horrendous thoughts flood me. I never learned how to defend against him physically, only mentally. After all, I saw him die.

“It’s only polite to say hello.”

My eyes dilate at his familiar growl. The sound that always demanded I stay on my feet and be ready for anything.

“Surprise! Do you not have anything to say?” His cruel lips curl.

“You’re dead.”

“You sure about that. You really think they would have killed me? With what I can give them. With what I know. I’m an asset honey.”

Shivers erupt up and down my spine. The look in his eye is what I had learned to run from. The knowledge that what is going to happen next is going to hurt.

“Honey, you will never be free of me.”

Something inside of me shifts. His arrogance sparks a flame in me. My mind locks in and everything I have learned these past few years starts trickling back to me.

5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

“I am in control of myself. I am in control of my life. Nothing and nobody has a hold on me.” I say.

“What was that?” He raises his left eyebrow.

Everything falls into place. I no longer have fear of him. I worked so hard to be free of him, just because he shows up alive doesn't belittle all the work I made in therapy. Now I get to bring what I had learned into reality.

“I am free of you. I am through with you. You will no longer hurt me, Daddy.”

I turn and run, fast. He could never touch me when I ran.

July 30, 2020 02:26

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1 comment

Deborah Angevin
07:04 Jul 31, 2020

This is the first time I read a story where the protagonist recites a mantra... Well done! Would you mind checking my recent story out, "A Very, Very Dark Green"? Thank you!


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