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Lesbian Sad Suspense

I was just following my routine, walking up the stairs, and out of the subway station on my phone as always. I’m not really sure how people used to pass the time without a smartphone and a solid pair of earbuds. There’s a reason NYC is the city that never sleeps, and even in the frigid mornings, the sheer decibels that everyday traffic reaches truly is a feat. Us office dwellers need the ways we can tune out the various tourists, honking, and yelling in the streets. What I didn’t know, is that my method worked so well. Because on this day as I exited the subway station and was hit with the usual frigid, January wind, I found myself completely alone. Not one fancy investment banker or even any cars on the street. Just me, my briefcase, and “She” by Harry Styles blaring out my limp earbuds gazing out to see a completely empty Manhattan.

The wind whistled through the empty streets, devoid of any life. I peered up at the skyscrapers all around me, attempting to sneak a peek through the windows to confirm my isolation. My mind raced as I thought back on what I thought was just my routine ride to work. Had I seen anyone on the subway? On the platforms? How did my train still run? Could it be that I really didn’t notice that there was no one anywhere on my entire trip walking to the subway, on the car, and then now? I’ve built up stamina, having to work myself through any number of bodies on my commute, which had I guess translated into numbness to my surroundings.

 I felt the ache of craving the shelter of a crowd, myself exposed on the street in a way I hadn’t ever been before. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled: just a cause of going scarf-less or were those eyes I felt on me? I whipped around and gazed back into the inky blackness of the stairs descending back down to the platform. The tinny sound of my earbuds playing lifelessly at my side filled the silence as the darkness glared back at me.

Frantically I looked down at the phone in my hand and checked my texts. My social media. Anything. Not one notification besides the progress bar inching forward on my music. My feet traced the familiar path to work, my eyes wandering through the streets that had been teeming with life the day before. As an executive assistant, I’m used to fading into the background of most situations, but my phone is usually ringing off the hook before I’m in the office. If something major was happening in the city; someone would have told me. Someone would have contacted me to not come in… Right?

Hands shaking, I tapped my way through my home screen and called the first person on my contact list: my boss, Agnes. The monotone drone of a dial tone worked its way through the hastily shoved earbud in my ear and I found myself nearly praying for her to pick up. My half-prayer went unanswered as the static of the call crackled in to a busy signal. Palms sweating, I thumbed a half-hearted text to her and sucked in a breath as my head collided with the front door. Ouch. Stupid.

         Looking in at the lobby of my building only confirmed my suspicions. The lights shone brightly and reflected off the gold detailing and polished marble floors, without a single trace of another human in sight. Each surface was shining, each sofa forming straight and perfect angles without a single thread of a pillow out of place. I cautiously entered the building, thumbing the elevator call button and floor number wordlessly, worrying my briefcase handle in my hands and tapping my toes anxiously. Meeting my own blank, amorphous gaze in the elevator door, I flipped my close-cropped auburn hair up and out of my face, straightening my posture. No need to look as worried as I felt.

In the elevator, I obsessed into a spiral. Where was everyone? Why wasn’t my phone working? I resolved to check out the windows in my boss’s office as soon as I arrived to see… anything really. The ding of the arrival to my floor startled me out of my thoughts and I stepped out onto more polished marble flooring.

Each desk was silent and still, with only the click of my heels on the floor echoing around me. My trek through the desks picked up as suddenly, anxiety and paranoia building as I felt the ghosts of the empty desks where my coworkers should be. Fumbling my keys out of the pocket of my coat, I quickly unlocked the door to the office and leaned against it a second, dropping my briefcase to the ground.

“There’s no one here. I am alone in all the world for all I know,” using my voice to root myself in this painful reality. Fearful again, I walked up to the familiar floor-to-ceiling windows with a perfect view of the East River, searching for any kind of movement to prove that myself wrong. As high up as I was, there wasn’t a whole lot blocking my view all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge, and as I scanned the horizon, I saw nothing. No cars, no cyclists, no pedestrians. No movement of any kind.

I sank into the luscious leather office chair and swirled around to thunk my forehead on the glass, desperate now in my search for sentient life. My heart leaped into my mouth as I caught a hint of white, swirling through the air. In an almost comic turn, a single plastic bag tumbled through the air below, having caught a gust of wind.

I moved my eyes up and out, pleading psychically to anyone who could possibly hear to just give me a sign that I was not alone. But there was nothing, and reality set in.

No one’s here.

No one cares.

Familiar thoughts circled in my head.

“Nasia! Why the fuck am I scheduled for three, back-to-back meetings with Celia, Arnold, and Kassidy when I specifically asked for my meetings yesterday to be canceled? I’m working through lunch!” the memory hits hard. Agnes has- had? - a volatile mood.

“Well, Celia called and said that this meeting cannot wait and—” I was cut off as a pump sailed past my cheek, nearly striking me dead center in the face.

“Well you can tell Celia to fire you for all I care! I need time to get my head on straight to focus on what’s best for this company!” Agnes slammed the door dramatically, leaving me alone at my post in front of her door. A silent watcher over the rest of the worker bees.  Just like now. I sank a little bit as fog descended deep into my bones.

It’s the end of the world and no one wanted to let you know.

No one even knows you’re here.

Suddenly, I wasn’t in control of my body anymore as a weight physically set in on my shoulders.

Like a ghost, I floated back through the office and out to the rooftop garden. It had been installed to help with the drudgery of office life and bring greenery into the gray. My coat dripped off my body, revealing my work outfit: a white blouse and black slacks. A gust of wind pushed into the corner, rattling the leafless tree branches, biting into my now exposed skin. What did it matter if I caught cold now?

Bare feet padding to the edge of the building, I hoisted myself up onto the ledge. Between my feet, a small crack began to form. Where did my pumps go? Doesn’t matter. Up high here, the city below seemed so small, so disconnected. All it was missing was the ant people. I closed my eyes, feeling the wind whip around me, and tipped forward.

ccRACK!

Hold on now. Bring her back. We’re losing her.

Falling wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I felt my body enveloped by the wind and tucked in, I felt peace. 

I opened my eyes and gazed back down into the inky abyss of the stairwell, descending into the subway. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled: just a cause of going scarf-less or were those eyes I felt on me? With the strangest sense of déjà vu, I checked the phone in my hand for any notifications. Wait, no I don’t have to do that. I already know that it’s just me here in the city. In the world? How do I know that?

Jeez she’s already relapsing again. Find a happy memory. Send her to the church?

A voice that isn’t mine compels me to turn right, and wandering through the empty streets of Broadway, I found myself drawn to a location I had frequented on many breaks in the city: Trinity Church. The beige, historic steeple deep in the middle of a bustling metropolis had always drawn me in. I smiled, remembering the first time Clarice had taken me here.

“This is actually the third iteration of a building called Trinity Church on this soil. The first one burned down, but the second one completely collapsed,” her sheepish grin creeping into her tour guide voice as she led me through the cemetery, our fingers intertwined. She was wearing the dorkiest outfit, khaki cargo shorts to match her rather, out-of-place hiking boots. Really tying it all together with a flannel and a dad cap; tufts of her dark curly hair peeking out beneath the edges of the hat, barely contained. We made such an odd couple: the crunchy granola history Ph.D. and the business casual secretary. She always said that I was more than my job, more than just helping these executive elites. In her eyes, I was never “just” a secretary.

“I did not know, please, tell me more Professor Quint.” It had always been impossible to not smile when Clarice was in the zone, geeking out about the history of our city. My hands caught on each rung of the fence as I circumnavigated the cemetery now, pain infusing with the memories.

“Why of course my dear scholar, Nasia! Now if you bend down to examine—” a high shrill ringing interrupted her as my hand flew to my pocket. Clarice’s shoulders tightened as she knelt, her neck craning to look up at me.

“Oh god I’m so sorry, it’s Agnes. I have to take this.”

Her smile swelled with sadness, and a tinge of disappointment. “Of course, babe, no worries. Take it. I’ll just be here.”

“Ok! I promise I’ll be back in like, 5 minutes tops,” I said as I swirled away from her. In the memory, as I walked away from Clarice, the image swirled and changed. I was getting in late, back at our shared apartment. Agnes had held me back late so that she could get work done last minute, and I didn’t say anything. 

“I’m home,” I called weakly, clanging my keys in the dish by the door. I looked up at the clock on the wall through heavy lids: 10:18 pm. Shit. 

“Hey. Welcome home,” Clarice leaned against the doorframe in our kitchen. “Do I dare ask how your day was?” the corners of her mouth were taught with the effort of trying to hold it together for my sake. Mad at me. Done with me.

“I had a really long day today. I’m sorry I didn’t call, Agnes had me--”

“Oh yeah. Agnes was holding you back late at the office. Like she always does, without any concern for how it affects you, your relationship, or even your emotional wellbeing! Did you remember that we had dinner plans for tonight?” Clarice exploded at the mention of Agnes. 

“Oh god Clarice, I’m so sorry. It totally slipped my mind,” my briefcase slipped out of my hand as I stifled a sob. “I’m just really stressed right now, but we’re about to hit the end of the quarter, I can take some time off right at the beginning to really rest and reset.”

“And then what Nasia? I love you, and you know I’m always here to pick you up, but the cycle will just repeat. You let Agnes take advantage of you, overwork you to the point of burnout. You’re always tired, always complaining and never doing anything to fix it. I need you to take a stand for yourself.” Clarice’s chest rose and fell quickly, out of breath from her outburst. Her face was twisted in concern and grief, lost in the passion of her words. 

         “What do you suggest then? What do I do Clarice?” I cried. She joined me on the floor. When did I get down here?

“I think you need to look for new opportunities for yourself. You’re qualified for so much more than you do now. You have a college degree--”

“I make good money at my job!”

“You’re in a codependent relationship with your boss! When was the last time you hung out with friends? Or talked to anyone that wasn’t me or Agnes? I’m tired Nasia, and I can’t be the sole pillar keeping you from crashing into this sea of doubt you seem content on drowning in. We all need support systems, not just support people.” She took me into her arms as I sobbed.

“I’m going to go to my sister’s house tonight. I need space to myself. Will you please call someone tomorrow?” I nodded. “Reach out if you need me, but only if there’s no one else. I love you, Nasia.” Clarice rose off the ground, grabbed her bag and went out the door I had just walked in. Not a single glance back.

The slam of the door jolted me back to now. That’s how we left things.  I pulled out my phone and I drafted a text to her. “I’m walking around Trinity like we used to. Really missing encyclopedia Clarise guiding me through the history of the city. I miss you. I’m sorry, call me if you can.” I pressed the send button but of course, I had no service. Why did I think that would work? My hands shook as I set down my phone at my side. Depression caught me in the web again, ready to strike with a killing blow. I’m too reliant, yet too anxious. I work too hard, except not on myself. I need help.

cccraCK!

The thunderous breaking of stone shook me out of my thoughts. Bells chaotically began to ring. What was that noise? Whipping around to face the church I began to panic further. Running up the length of the building was a deep crevasse, the darkness of it seeming to spill out into the day. The dirty brownstone was cracked perfectly down the middle, all the way from the base, through the clock face and up the steeple. Was there an earthquake?

The bells slowly rang, echoing off the buildings around me. With each toll, the crack worked its way wider and wider. The steeple began to sag down, when suddenly it wasn’t just sagging anymore; it was falling. I tried to run, get out of the way of the collapsing church. I closed my eyes and braced for impact.

***

The steady beat of a heart rate monitor pulls me out of my stupor. Groggily I try to look around me, but the weight of my head is far too heavy to look with anything except my eyes. I can tell it’s nighttime, the bright lights of the city streaming into my darkened room. At this point used to the disorientation of not recognizing my surroundings, I barely ask myself where I am.

 “Nasia! You’re awake! I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m Doctor Mayhew, I did your intake appointment here at Bellevue Psych. I know it can be disorientating to come out of the dream-like state.” A voice I keenly remembered but couldn’t place startled me out of thought. “Congrats on making it through your first round of treatment though! You have shown real promising growth. You must have questions.” Mayhew looked at me expectantly. 

“Uh, yes. What treatment? I don’t remember consenting to anything?” my throat was dry with disuse. 

“All good questions! You volunteered, in your psychiatric evaluation, to do a trial period with our experimental psychosis therapy. In this, we use different drugs to induce a sort of dream-state wherein the patient relives certain memories for therapeutic purposes. Under the close supervision of a team of doctors of course! We can see everything you see, and we do some course corrections through verbal commands.  Most patients do struggle with minor amnesia coming out of this, just because of the drugs we use to induce the state. It’s nothing to worry about!” I just stared dumbly back at him. His smile was unwavering, with his perfectly straight teeth. “Alright. I’m going to go and get a nurse to take over discharging you. Rest up,” and without another look back Mayhew left my room.

Alone at last my thoughts scattered. It was all just a medically induced psychosis to help me snap out of a depressive state. So clinical. Sitting up, I felt like a newborn with eyes glazed over with all the equipment I was hooked up to, not understanding one bit of what any of it did. The steady beat of my heart rate was so controlled. Eerily so. I traced the I.V. line with my fingers and watched it drip, slowly depositing an unknown something in my veins. My chest seized as I gasped for breath, and lost consciousness.

I opened my eyes and gazed back down into the inky abyss of the stairwell, descending into the subway. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled.

October 14, 2021 00:00

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