Afflicted on 92nd

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers
Based on a dream my friend shared with me about a lady who moved into a dark basement and hid her face.

Submitted: November 08, 2018

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Submitted: November 08, 2018

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Adara parked her car on the corner of 92nd. The street was empty and impossibly quiet as it often was around a certain hour. She made her way out her car and towards a building. A building in which the landlord rented only to people ... In similar situations as she had found herself to be. The door paint was chipped and the number was faded, so really you had no idea the numbers of your address if you ever happened to find yourself living there that is. The landlord wasn’t much help. He was cold and a man of few words.

“What does the number matter?” He had said when she called, “You know where you live, and no one will ever find you. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

Yes, she thought, she did want to hide. She didn’t care if she had a proper address; this man had offered her a place to live in peace; to hide from the world, and that was enough.

 

When Adara opened the door, and hesitantly went to flip the switch. The lights didn't turn on. It was a good sign. For her, at least. She couldn't stand the light anymore. It's was painful. It reminded her of the fire … and the pain.

On the windows there were large blankets the landlord had tacked to the wall to completely block out any remaining light; he knew her situation.

 

The floor was wooden and creaked as she took her steps.

She set down a box, and could smell the must- something damp.

She stepped back outside. It was easier on her, because it was night; still, she made sure her face was completely covered.

 

She shuffled over to her little car . There was still a couple boxes she needed to go through. She was rummaging through the stuff when she heard the sudden sound of footsteps behind her, slowly approaching. Someone was walking on the sidewalk.  Someone had broke the silence.

Her stomach dropped as she turned to see who was approaching.

It was a man. He looked kind. Unafflicted.

 

*************

 

Mark reluctantly approached the figure. The figure was standing there in an oversized raincoat and their face completely covered with some sort of scarf and darkened sunglasses.

 

"Um, excuse me...ma'am?"

 

There was a pause but then a wary response: "Yes?"

 

So it was a woman, as he suspected. A young woman underneath the otherworldly get up she had on.

 

"Is everything all right? Are you in need of any help?"

 

"Oh, I am fine ... Yes, perfectly fine. Just moving in to my apartment," Adara was careful with her words. Adara picked up a heavy box, trying to hide her face and body. She acted so strange.

 

Mark noticed there was still another box in the car.

 

“Do you need help carrying these?”

 

"You're very kind," She replied, allowing him to help, trying not think where this could lead. She should have said no. This man could be dangerous. Who knows what he was doing on 92nd this time of night. It was usually a bad sign.

 

He waited for her to lead. She suddenly realized she wasn't moving, and quickly walked along to the door.

 

"Here it is," Adara said.

 

"I'm sorry... Where?"

 

"Well, right here. The door in front of us." She answered, confused.

 

Mark was very confused himself, because he could not see a door. Just an empty alleyway.

 

The peculiar woman suddenly reached out her hand, as if reaching for a door knob and then it slowly appeared out of thin air;

The door she spoke of. It’s as if it were there the whole time. Was the dark playing tricks on him?

 

She opened the door, balancing the box in her hand.

 

The man slowly and cautiously walked behind her, then waited. The house was completely dark.

 

“Where’s the switch?” He asked.

 

"...oh, I'm sorry. My power is out."

 

"Oh..," Mark replied setting the box down. The door was left open and a distant street light barely made her figure visible. He reached into his pocket for his lighter. One click and a small flame appeared. The woman gasped, and instantly swung her head in the opposite direction.

 

"W-whats the matter?" The man asked, his voice shaky, taken aback.

 

She answered softly and in distress, "It's the light... The flame. I-I can't."

 

"But why?" The man wondered , flicking the lighter shut.

 

"My face was burned off. It was my punishment for smoking. I can't bear the site of the flame or the heat. I don't mean to be rude, but I can't look at you."

 

Punishment? Someone had done this to her?

Mark didn't know what to say,

 

“I-I apologize. I shouldn't have disturbed you like this."

He thought to leave her alone in the house, but felt he should stay. "I think I should go. I don’t want to bother you,” he turned towards the door.

"I moved into the dark because it feels better. And I can hide," She told him. She wanted him to stay. She needed someone to talk to.

 

The man replied slowly, walking back towards her

"Did I hear you right … about your face-  someone... Who did it to you?" He could hardly form a sentence , still in shock.

 

"The punisher of course." She answered plainly.

 

"Whoever did that to you should be punished themselves-"

 

She cut him off- "Shh! Have you lost your mind? Don't say that! He'll hear you!" She whispered frantically, "That's about the worst thing you can say!"

 

Mark suddenly felt very ill and terrified. As if something deep in his being knew what she meant, but his mind couldn’t comprehend it.

 

Adara didn't speak again for awhile. She bent down and started pulling out objects from her box.

 

Mark looked back at the door and slowly started to take a few steps toward it.

 

Adara spoke suddenly again, "What's wrong with you?"

 

"I’m sorry?" Mark asked, with one foot literally out the door, still not sure if he should go.

 

"I mean, I saw you near the streetlight, and you looked fine to me. There’s nothing wrong with you?"

 

He let out a nervous laugh, "Not at all. Why does there have to be something wrong with me?"

 

"Well, you're walking 92nd. You must be afflicted? I haven't been here long, but I've only ever seen people of my kind wandering the streets."

 

"Your kind?"

 

"I mean, disfigured in someway, or with some affliction, you know, because of the punisher?"

 

Mark started to fear the lady had completely lost her mind, and it was doing no good engaging in this delusional conversation.

 

"I'm not afflicted at all, lady."

 

"That's funny." She muttered.

 

Then an awkward pause...

 

"I don't mean to be rude either, but I should be getting home."

 

Adara was confused. Was this man not afflicted by something? Surely he had to be.

 

“Do you know what would be the quickest way to Orchard?” He asked.

 

The lady shook her head, “ Sorry, I don’t know … I don’t get out much. I only know 92nd.”

 

“Thanks anyway. Take care of yourself,” Mark gave her a quick goodbye, then hurried out the door before she could say anything else.

 

It was a mistake; going down this road tonight. He'd never went this way before, but there was a guy at the bar who said this way was quicker …

Suddenly, he thought back.

The guy at the bar...

Images raced through his mind. The man sitting next to him at the back … the scar above his lip .. the eye patch, seemingly unimportant at the time but now it all seemed to have more meaning. There was kid kicking and screaming , throwing a tantrum out in the street. “He deserves to be punished,” That’s what the man had said as they stood outside the bar.

 

Punished.

The word rung through his mind like a haunting bell, on loop it kept repeating.

He should be punished. Punished.

 

Mark's mind snapped back to the present moment. He was still standing on the street.

He needed to calm down.

The man was just a stranger. He couldn't be connected to this girl or her strange delusions.

Just his mind playing tricks on him.

 

Mark tried to forget it as he walked along, but just as he was getting his bearings, a man appeared out of the shadows, stumbling forward, limping, his mouth bloody.

He moaned, indiscernible, walking straight past Mark.



 

"Hey!" Mark called out, grabbing his arm, “What happened to you? Do you need me to call an ambulance?"

 

"Leave me alone, " the man croaked, pulling away and walking further ahead.

Mark stood motionless then went to reach for the phone in his pocket, but it was gone.

Did he leave it at the bar?

 

"I can't just let you walk away, you need a doctor for your leg!" Mark yelled, hurrying to catch up with him.

"Do you have a phone I can use?”

 

No reply.

 

"Hello! I said--"

The man pushed past him again, “I have to get away .. The Punisher’s coming.”

 

Mark let the guy go. He couldn't force him to accept help. Maybe he could get to the police somehow. Not knowing what to do, Mark continued on the street hoping he'd get to a familiar road.

It seemed to be a miracle when he came across a phone booth near an empty gas station.  He hadn't used one in years.

But there it was. It seemed to be still in service. In fact, it looked brand new.

 

Mark rushed over to it.

He put the phone to his ear, but remembered he wasn't carrying any change.

He hit the wall in frustration.

He looked down and there was a small bucket of change on the floor inside the booth. There was a faded label: "The desperate will be punished."

Strange...

Mark felt a tinge of fear, but ignored it and mindlessly grabbed the coins placing them into the slot.

 

He tried calling the police, but there was no answer.

 

No answer from the police?

 

He then called his wife, many times, until he finally got through. It was mostly static. Then robotic and fragmented.

She said:

 

“Mark ..no.. Where... You... I Can't ....you"

 

Bad connection.

 

"Just listen to my voice, Anna, if you can hear me. Call the police!" Mark yelled, "tell them I’m at 92nd street! And to bring an ambulance. There’s a guy with a limp, he needs help."


 

He hung up, giving up on the phone.


 

POUND POUND POUND

 

Mark spun around, eyes wide.

There was a man standing there knocking with a glare.

How long had he been there?

 

It wasn't just any man. He realized It was the guy from the bar.

 

Mark reluctantly opened the door to the booth.

 

"You don’t have money?" The man questioned, angrily.

 

"No."

 

The man raise his eyebrows as if he didn't believe him.

 

"Not with me now.  I just used the money from that bucket.”

 

"Of course you did, ya freeloader. You’ve always been a freeloader, but not here,Mark, " the man kept talking, now in a quiet tone, an odd calm to his voice, "not here, mark. People don't freeload here."

 

"Look, I'm sorry I took money from your little bucket. I just want to get home, all right? You told me 92nd would take me to straight to Orchard, but I’ve been walking around for what seems like hours.."

The man just stared at him, eyes squinted.

 

Mark grew increasingly frustrated, he figured the guy was drunk, probably even more now then he was before at the bar, "Do you have any clue how to get to Orchard from  here?”

 

"Just keep walkin', " the man answered slowly ... Playfully…  as if they were having a casual conversation,"I'm sure you'll find it.”

“Yeah, thanks for the help,” He replied sarcastically, moving to leave.

“Before you go..." The man paused, then, with a psychotic look in his eyes,

"You have to be punished!" He pulled out a switchblade then quickly slashed Mark's hand and fingers.

 

Mark yelled back and pulled away. Then gave the man a quick jab to the chest with his elbow.

 

"Come here! I'm not done with your greedy little hands,"

 

Mark stood in shock, then started running as fast as he could, catching the guy off guard.

 

"I'm not finished with you!" The guy screamed, making no attempt to follow on after.

 

He ran with only one thought in his mind: I need to get off 92nd. Just find a different road. Any way out. Just out! And far away.

 

He realized after a while that he was back where he started.

The same streetlight where he helped that woman.

Panting, he ran ahead, coming to a three way stop. He saw a street sign and a familiar road not that far away. It was only  vaguely familiar, but it was something. He smiled, relieved.

 

Adara watched from her window. That man … he’d escaped the punisher. No one had ever escaped.

 

Mark was walking now, wincing has he held his injured hand.

All of a sudden, as if passing through an invisible barrier , the air felt lighter, the smell changed. Someone walked past him. Just a normal guy eating a cheeseburger. A car turned and parked at a motel.

The sound of gravel under the tires, wind blowing, leaves shuffling.

 

It was no longer silent.

 

"Hey!" Mark chased after the man with the cheeseburger, startling him a bit.

 

"Do you have a phone?" He asked.

 

The man looked at him, his face and his hands. "Geez! What happened to you, man?"

 

"You wouldn't believe...I- I just need a phone." He was out of breath.

 

"Yeah, of course. Here."

 

The guy dialed the police for him.

 

“911, what’s your emergency?”

 

"I was just assaulted by this maniac ... He followed me to this street from the bar and attacked me ... Another guy was also hurt … and a girl… I think he hurt her too.. I don’t know.. my hands all cut. I think I need an ambulance, but I can’t … I don’t-”

 

"Okay, sir. Slow down. What street did you say," The Deputy asked.

 

"92nd."

 

"92nd? Are you sure?"

 

"Yes, I’m sure! I'll probably remember it the rest of my life after what happened tonight.”"

 

"There is no 92nd street in Rockford. You’re in Rockford,correct?"

 

"Yeah! I think so..."

 

"There's no 92nd. Not since the 80’s. Maybe it was a different street.”

 

“No…it was. I’m sure it was.” Mark stated, lowering the phone from his ear. Confused, he looked around with a dazed look on his face.

 

“Sir?”

 

No response.

 

“Sir, maybe you were on a different street.”

 

“We’re on Orchard.” The man with the cheeseburger butted in.

 

Mark snapped out of his daze, glanced at the man and then brought the phone back to his ear, “Uh, maybe it’s Orchard,” Mark said into the phone, “Maybe it happened on Orchard.” He didn’t sound sure.

 

***

 

Later that night and the next morning the police looked for the drunk on Orchard and for the guy with the limp, but there was nothing.

 

Nothing on Orchard, anyway.

 

But in a bar near 92nd, the drunk with the eyepatch had just found his next victim.


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