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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

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Submitted: December 07, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 07, 2017




An icy breath escapes through my gritted teeth, scorching the back of my throat. The frigid air is stifling and the only sound I hear is that of my steady breathing. The dimly lit street light flickers, as I slide my hand into my back pocket. I tug my fleece glove off with my mouth and take out my phone. 11:30pm. “Shit.” My increasingly numb fingers are useless on the touchscreen. I slide my glove back on. For a while, I’m stuck in my own thoughts not even paying attention to where I am going, my boots crunching on the thick dirty ice beneath my boots. My decently long walk home from the library is muscle memory. Two blocks down 6th Ave, make a right on Pine, cross the bridge, and its about 4 more blocks down on my right.

 It was when I was crossing the bridge over Creek Lake when a faint shuffling sound in the brush hitched my breath and my heart faltered. My body freezes without my consent and my eyes shift rapidly from left to right. My hypothalamus builds up the courage to turn my body around and scan the midnight air. I see nothing. Even my eyes cannot adjust to the pitch-black scenery, the lake water blending in with the nearby trees.  I remind myself that its almost midnight and it’s best not to walk so late at night alone, especially as a woman. I reproach my paranoia…but part of me knows that bodily instincts are there for a reason. Well, there’s no use waiting around here to get jumped.
 I force myself to continue without looking back. I don’t hear a noise the rest of the way back, but…something feels wrong. My amygdala and hypothalamus are in overdrive pumping norepinephrine and cortisol through my veins. When a threat is perceived to be over, your hormones are supposed to return to normal levels. I still feel my heart pounding against my ribcage. 
I practically trip as I run up the three stories to get to my apartment door. 

I push the door open. It’s unlocked. “Huh,” I mumble. Paige must have forgotten to lock the door again. Great. On a night like this, I am already feeling a little less than secure. I leave my damp boots outside the door and start delayering my clothes. My bare feet are cold as they creak on the wooden floor. I notice Paige’s lights are on as I pass by to my room. Weird. She always keeps her door open when she’s home. I unlock my bedroom door and almost immediately plop right onto my bed. For a few minutes, I don’t move, my eyes shut, willing myself to sleep for just a few minutes. My mind is drifting off…thinking about the grant proposal I am supposed to be writing for more lab supplies…. when suddenly I hear a muffled chuckle coming from her room. My eyes bolt right open. I jolt up in bed. “Pai…?” I say, silencing myself before I even finish. I don’t want to wake her up if she’s asleep. I pull my phone out of my pocket and send her a text. 
You up?

Her message came a minute later. Yeah, I’m at the laundromat. What’s up?

I felt my throat close up as I typed out a response, Oh…I thought you were home because your light and tv are on. I fidgeted in my bed until I got a response. 

Are you sure? I turned everything off when I left, including the light.

My face paled and my bowels turned to ice water. I vainly tried to swallow any saliva in my mouth. Your light and tv are both on Paige. I can hear the tv…

It felt like a lifetime waiting for a reply. I was too scared to move. Finally, I heard the sweet sound of a reply. I don’t want you to get scared…but I think someone may have been in our apartment. I am completely sure I didn’t leave anything on. Can I call you? 

Shit. Shit. Shit. I try to get up and lock my bedroom door, but I am frozen to the spot. Damn you, amygdala. You there? Paige asks, after receiving no reply from me. I force my thumbs to send a reply.

NO. DON’T CALL. What if they are still in your room? 

Whatever you do, DON’T go in there. Call the police. 

The police?... I contemplate, no way that would fly. I can’t call the police because my roommate’s tv and light are on in her room. That would be ridiculous. Also, I don’t want to make a peep, just in case. Just breathe. I put my phone on silent as my brain works a mile a minute to figure out what should be my next move. I can’t possibly sit here and wait around for something bad to happen. Surely, if someone was still in there they heard me come home and walk past the door. SHIT. They know I am in here. Why aren’t they coming in here and bludgeoning me with an ax? 
I can’t hear over the pounding of my heart on my eardrums, sweat stings my eyes as I try to look around for any clues on how I can escape my demise.  My fingers tremble as I look at my phone again. Three missed texts from Paige. 
I’m coming home don’t move! 
Why aren’t you answering? Hello!! Are you okay??
I’m almost there, a few blocks away. 

I seriously need to take control of my body, right now. I close my eyes and sharply take in a long breath. I press firmly with my hands on my thighs to control my shaking. I let out a long exhale and open my eyes. You always do this to yourself, you freak out over nothing. Get a grip, walk straight into the room, and see that nothing is in there and Paige really did just forget to turn off the tv and light. She’s not always the most reliable person really. Sometimes she does really forget to lock the front door. I scan my eyes over my room. If I am going in there I might as well take a weapon. It’s a shame I don’t play baseball. I really could use a baseball bat right about now. 

Bingo. My eyes settle on a glass candle sitting on my dresser. That would surely do some damage. I reach across my bed to pick up socks I left on the floor. I slide them on, I will probably make less noise with them on. I silently make my way across the room, the only noise resonating from the tv in Paige’s room. Golden girls, it sounds like. Since when does she watch TV land? Now my breathing gets quicker and my heart fluttering faster. Finally, with a candle in hand, I press my ears against my door, listening intently for any other sound of movement. Absolutely nothing. As quietly as I can, I creak the door open half an inch. I peer out. Nothing. The living room is as I left it. I tip toe over to Paige’s room, conscious of every step and my less than rhythmic breathing. I get up to the door and I stop breathing, for fear of making a sound. I put my ear against the door and listen for something…anything. The only sound I can hear over my beating heart is the tv.

I wipe the sweat off my forehead with one hand and grip the candle tighter with the other. I push the door open. I quickly scan the entire room with my eyes and hold up the candle. The tv is on but nothing is out of place. Desk slightly messy, as usual, and some laundry on the floor. The closet is half open and nothing unusual is inside. I lower the candle and let out a huge sigh of relief. I step inside and decide to call Paige and let her know that I was just being paranoid and laugh at her for being wrong about the tv. No answer. Huh, that’s weird. She said she was almost home anyway. I decide to wait in the living room. I turn around to leave the room when something catches my eye on the wall next to the door. Written on the wall, next to the doorway, was a message. Paige. The message was dripping. It was written in blood. As I realize this, I’m already halfway down the stairs out of the apartment. My vision is clouded and the frigid air stings my throat. I bolt right across the street. I don’t know how long I have been running when my legs give out on me and I smack against the slick pavement. 

I must have knocked out because when I come to, I hear muffled voices. I force my eyes open. My vision is blurry, but I see a couple standing over me with their dog. “Miss are you okay? Hello? Miss?”. Their voices sound weird. They say something else but the sound of their voices are drowned out by a loud ringing in my ears. I try to stand up, but there is a shooting pain in my leg and a loud groan escapes my lips. My forehead is pounding, and I can’t feel my legs. I hear something about 911 over the sound of ringing. I look down at my legs and see I’m barefoot. Shit. I’m going to get frostbite out here. How long have I been running for? I push myself off the ground into a sitting position. Dizziness washes over my body. The couple is still standing over me. The lady is talking on the phone. I look around and I’m not sure where I am. Suddenly, I feel a warmth spreading across my back. Someone just put a coat around my shoulders. I start to close my eyes, wanting nothing more than to fall asleep right there……. Paige! 
I snap out of my daze. How could I forget? I grabbed my phone and dialed her number. Come on, answer, I begged. It rang five times before cutting off.

I feel a weird churning in my stomach as I text her. Paige what the hell! Call me!! ASAP. 

Painful seconds tick by, and I barely notice in the far away distance a whirl of red and blue lights. Out of nowhere, I feel a warm liquid dripping off my forehead and it renders the vision in my right eye useless. I quickly put my hand on my forehead and a stinging pain greets me. I feel a relatively deep cut and warm sticky blood. Great…just what I- a ping interrupts me. 
It’s from Paige. I have never been so delighted to get a text from her. That is until I open it. I feel all the blood drain from my face as I read the text over and over, and over. 

Hello Lauren. Paige is not available at this moment. But when I am through with her, you can have her back. C- 

Uncontrollable sobs start to rack my body. My cold, frigid body. Just then, a police officer crouches down beside me and starts asking me a million questions. I just keep crying. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I just can’t stop. They tell me it’s freezing outside, and that they are going to put me in the car. I don’t resist as two officers carry me to a squad car and lay me down in the back seat. A warm trance envelops me as I listlessly watch the passing street lights out of the window. I try to count them in my head ask they whisk by 1..2..3..4..5..6..7……….

“Lauren” a barista calls as he slams down my double shot americano on the counter. I engulf the steaming hot coffee into my hands and breathe in the java goodness. I savor the warmth for a few seconds before pushing my way outside into the crisp air. It has been two and a half weeks since Paige went missing and the incompetent police haven’t made any headway in the investigation. Everyone is starting to give up hope. And I hate admitting it but so am I. I can’t get over the text that bastard sent to me. He destroyed the phone right after, so the police were never able to trace him. Although my best friend is gone, life still goes on. I am back in the lab and am having a tough time adjusting. I am starting to despise being in the lab, I loathe those awful stares of sympathy. Anyway, that is where I am headed now. I started back a week ago now. I am covering double the rent until I can find a new roommate. Pathetic isn’t it? That I am worried about finances at a time like this.
It’s 4 pm and I am wrapping things up in the lab. I’m tweaking an experiment for my dissertation when I get a call from the lead investigator in Paige’s case, Detective Calloway. “Hello, Lauren?”, His voice sounds more weary than usual and I feel a lump form in my throat. 

“I am terribly sorry to have to tell you this, but your friend's body was found in the woods about two miles outside of town. We would appreciate it if-”. I slammed the phone shut. 

All of a sudden, my body felt as if it was being weighed down by a ton of cement bricks. I attempt to hold down my choking sobs as I grabbed my coat and quickly maneuvered my way out of the lab without saying goodbye to anyone or even cleaning up my workspace. It wasn’t until I got into the stairwell that I let out a loud sob. My legs couldn’t take me any further and I slid down onto the ground on the dirty stairwell burying my face in between my legs. I don’t remember how long I sat there rocking back and forth. 

Two days later the funeral was held. It was a picturesque day in a quaint little cemetery outside of the city. The snow had let up and the sun was shining. The only warmth reaching my face from the glow of the sun. The funeral procession was in full swing and I was hanging slightly back. I could not grasp how life was supposed to move on from this. It was all too real. I regained my composure and walked fast to catch up to the tail end of the procession. We were finally at the headstone and the priest was starting his homily. It was slightly ironic, the lush scenery in contrast to this dismal occasion. I bit down on my cheek in an effort to stifle a forming tear. The priest was going on and on but what did it matter anyway. She was gone. There would be no more movie nights and sushi nights. 

Worst of all was, the bastard was still at large. It’s possible that the evidence from the body dump will lead to something but I’m not too hopeful. 

It was at this point that the body was lowered into the ground. I clenched my teeth and tried not to look over at Paige’s parents. I have this overwhelming feeling of guilt, but I can’t even say why. For the rest of the service, time stood still, and I stood motionlessly in a kind of stupor. I don’t even remember leaving but here I am walking back to my apartment, muscle memory triggered, my feet dragging on the floor. 

It’s almost dusk when I arrive back at my apartment building. Step by step I trudge up those bloody stairs. For some reason, they are harder to climb up than usual. As I am rounding the corner, something catches my eye at my doorstep. A yellow envelope is leaning neatly against the door. I cautiously walk up to it and scan the corridor, not expecting to see anyone. I carefully pick up the envelop and see it is addressed to me, Lauren. No return address. A feeling of lightheadedness sweeps over my body. Sliding my finger under the slit, I take out a neatly folded piece of paper. My hands trembling, I hastily open it.
See you soon,
C - 

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