He was walking down the dark alleyway all alone. He couldn’t remember how he got there, but he knew that he was supposed to be there. The amount of terror that ran through his body made him shudder as he stared into the shadows. After numerous tries to force the words through his lips, he finally managed to whisper, “Who are you?” After no reply, he again asked who was hiding in the shadows of the night. A hooded figure stepped out into the dim light in the middle of the alley. He did not speak, only held his hands out in front of him in an alarmed position. He appeared to be considerably taller than David, and much more muscular than him. He looked tense, as if he were frightened. When he spoke, his voice was the deepest that David had ever heard.
“David, I mean no harm. I wish for you to come with me,” he said through a very stern tone.
“What for? Who are you,” asked David, trying not to stutter out of terror.
“If you do not come with me, there will be consequences. They will harm you. I am here to make things easier and smoother, which I can only do if you come with me.”
David didn’t understand why, but he felt compelled to go with the man. He had to force himself not to follow the hooded figure back into the darkness. Within a few seconds, the hooded figure was completely out of sight, leaving David alone in his confusion and fright. “Go home, get a good night’s rest, and everything will make sense in the morning,” he told himself. But, he couldn’t move. His legs would not carry him as he wished for them to. He felt, in that moment, like standing there was his entire purpose in life. He was rooted to that very spot, still wondering if he should have followed the man or not.
“Consider yourself warned, David Attman,” came the deep voice out of the darkness. There was a flash of light and David knew he was alone at that point. He no longer felt that he had to stay there. He told himself it was all a bad dream and that soon he would wake up and forget about it completely. The entire walk home, he repeatedly told himself to just wake up, but he couldn’t.
The next morning, David woke up to the familiar, yet irritating, sound of his alarm clock. 6:30 already. He sat upright in his bed and rubbed his eyes before stretching and climbing out of bed. Suddenly, the memory of the previous night flooded his mind. He felt dizzy. He sat back down on the bed and took a breath before shaking it off and getting ready for school.
Sitting in Spanish class, David again was burdened with the memory of what happened the night before. This time, it completely took over his body. It was an episode of some sort, he thought. All he could see was the movie of the night previous playing in his mind. It was as if he were watching it on a big screen, when in reality he had his eyes wide open. His body was tense and stiff with fright. It was as if he were standing right back in that exact spot in that alley again. The words, “They will harm you,” played over and over in his mind like a broken record, in the deep, haunting voice of the hooded figure from the darkness. Everything was real to him in that moment.
“David? David, are you okay? You look ill. Do you need to step out for a minute? David? Someone help him,” he heard the teacher’s worried voice break through the barrier that the memory had put around him. He could hear her, but he could not see her. He could not respond to her. Torture was all that he felt now. He wanted to respond and say that he wasn’t okay, but something was stopping him. Control over his own body was something that David no longer had. He could hear the desks and chairs being moved as if everyone were in a panic. He could hear people’s voices but could not make out the words that they were whispering. David was in a complete trance; a complete episodic state of mind. He felt the hands, and then arms, of someone. The touch was foreign to him, so it couldn’t have been anyone he knew. The memory playing in his mind slowly faded away until everything was entirely black, and everything was peaceful.
“David? David, honey? Can you hear me,” came his mother’s high, piercing voice through the foggy realm that he was within. He felt groggy, almost as if he had been drinking heavily the night before and had a mild hangover. He rolled over and forced his eyelids open before answering his mother. When he opened his mouth to say hello to his mother, he noticed that he was not in his bedroom. The room was completely white and there was a curtain hanging not far from his face. He sat up as fast as he could, causing him to feel lightheaded and he almost fell right back over. He looked around and noticed his mother standing at the end of the bed and his father sitting in a chair near the door. There were wires connected to his chest and an IV in his arm. “Great, I’m dying,” he thought upon realizing he was in the hospital with no recollection of how he got there.
“How are you feeling,” he heard his father mumble from the corner.
“Like hell,” David spat out, quickly realizing how dry his mouth was. He quickly searched around the room with his eyes for something to drink, finding a water bottle on a wooden stand next to his father. His mother handed it to him and then sat down on the bed beside him.
“Honey, what happened,” she asked through a worried expression that leaked into her voice, but it was easy to tell that she was helplessly trying not to.
“I don’t know what happened. I went to school and the next thing I remember is waking up just now.”
“Your teacher says that you looked very ill in class and that you weren’t responsive. Did something happen?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is everything going okay at school?”
“Yeah, everything is fine. Everything is as it usually is.” His irritation with the questions was already beginning to show through his tone of voice.
“Don’t get snarky with your mother. She is just trying to get to the bottom of things. The doctor doesn’t have the slightest clue as to what happened. We are just trying to figure things out,” his father snapped just as the doctor knocked on the door and then entered. The doctor smiled as he came in and greeted David’s parents before turning his attention to David.
“Do you have any idea what happened to you, son,” he asked gently.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I don’t know either. My only explanation is that you had a panic attack of some sort in class. A panic attack so severe that it consumed your entire body and you went into shock. What I can’t figure out is why. You’re perfectly healthy. You have no history of any mental health problems. And you have no idea what happened, so we have no known cause. Some people just have these panic attacks randomly, but they usually have a history of anxiety, which you do not. I’m going to treat you by simply giving you a couple of anxiety medications that you can take if you ever feel like this is going to happen again. If you think it necessary, I can also refer you to someone to talk to. Other than that, I can’t really come up with any sort of medical explanation for what happened to you. I checked everything imaginable, even your brain functions. Nothing is wrong.” The doctor gave his explanation with zero expression on his face, making David think he wasn’t being very genuine, but that didn’t matter. David didn’t care. He just wanted to go home and sleep and forget about whatever it is that he couldn’t remember. He nodded, acknowledging everything the doctor had said to him, and laid his head back down to drift off to sleep once again.
Alone in his bedroom, David quickly woke up. “They’re watching you,” was the line repetitively playing over in his mind, in his own voice. He suddenly felt sick with anxiety at the thought of whoever it was watching him. He quickly searched the room with his eyes before springing up out of bed to turn on the light. Maybe he should take some of those anxiety meds, he thought. He reached for them and then thought of the hooded figure from the alley. He tried his best to shake the memory of that night. He couldn’t remember anything other than being terribly frightened of the stranger. Quickly, he opened the pill bottle and dry swallowed a pill, sighing with relief as it went down. Just the thought of getting some relief from what he was feeling put his mind slightly at ease. He climbed back into bed and stared out the window across from his bed. It looked like a nice day outside; it looked warm. Maybe he should try and go outside, he thought. He began to feel sleepy again. “What day is it? How long have I been in my room? Wasn’t I just in the hospital,” he thought as he closed his eyes. He couldn’t quite fall asleep though. He couldn’t help but think about his stay in the hospital. He still had no recollection of what landed him in the hospital. Could he have really had a random panic attack like the doctor suggested? It didn’t make sense to him. But neither did this feeling of anxiety he is experiencing. He decided to just shrug it off and go see what the rest of the family was doing.
David stumbled into the kitchen as if he were drunk. His mother looked at him with a worried expression and rushed to his side to help him stay steady. She helped him to the table where he sat in a chair while she poured him a glass of orange juice.
“How are you feeling today,” she asked as she handed the glass to him. He took a swig out of it and then placed it on the table in front of him before exhaling deeply and saying, “I’m feeling fine. You have nothing to worry about.”
“That’s good to hear. Do you think you’d like to go back to school tomorrow?”
“Yeah, sure, I could do that. How long have I been out?
“Nearly a week now. You’ve mostly slept, though.”
“Right, I knew that.”
He stood up and made his way to the door to the living room. He stopped in the doorway and turned around and looked at his mother and asked, “By the way, what day is it?”
A crease formed in his mother’s forehead, indicating that she was suddenly very worried. He played it off as if he were kidding and sarcastically laughed while saying, “I’m kidding, mom. Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”
He walked out into the living room and laid on the couch and turned on the tv. He flipped through the channels without even really paying any attention to what was on them. Mindless was the only word to describe how he felt right then. He thought that maybe the anxiety medication was kicking in and causing him not to feel anything at all. He had read about those types of medications before and remembered something about them causing people to feel like they didn’t have any emotions toward anything at all. He tried forcing himself to focus on the tv but he felt himself becoming cloudy. Detachment was starting to set in once again. The walls began to move. The tv suddenly became a lot louder than it had been before but he couldn’t remember turning the volume up. Everything was moving around the room and it made him start to feel nauseous. He quickly turned the tv off and sat there staring at the walls, which were still moving quite rapidly. He felt as if he were on acid or something similar to that. He’d never experienced something like this before.
Abruptly he awoke in the pitch black darkness of his room. It must be late, he thought to himself. He was drenched in sweat. Kicking off his blankets with his feet relieved some of the heat instantly. He still felt like he was in a fog of some sort. After closing his eyes to go back to sleep, he felt an overwhelming urge to search the room, as he felt as if someone were watching him. He opened his eyes and looked into the darkness. Struck with terror, he slowly climbed out of bed and made his way toward the light switch. He stopped before he flipped the switch and looked back into the darkness, saying, “I’m going to turn the light on,” as if warning the intruder to hide from him. Once the light was on, he saw that there were no obvious indications of anyone being in his room with him, but he still felt as if someone were watching him. It was making him feel insane. He began frantically searching about his room, trying to find a camera of some sort. He stopped and surveyed every small object that could possibly contain a camera, or that resembled a camera. After hours, his room was completely torn apart. His father heard him throwing things around and rushed to his door. He knocked once and then entered. Upon seeing the mess that was David’s room, he became angry and yelled, “DAVID, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? IT’S TWO IN THE MORNING AND YOU’RE IN HERE MAKING A MESS? WHY DID YOU DO THIS?”
David did not respond to him. In fact, it appeared as if David did not even notice his father were in the room. He did not acknowledge his father’s presence for even a moment. He continued to survey the contents of his room carefully while muttering something about “finding them.”
His mother appeared in the doorway next. Instead of being angry as his father was, she became instantly concerned and rushed to her son’s side. She grabbed him and pulled him in for a tight hug and held him against his will. After he began to stop trying to get out of her grasp, she asked him what was going on. He suddenly became conscious of the moment he was in and looked at his mother as if it were the first time he’d seen her. He told her that he was quite tired and just needed to get some rest. After assuring both of his parents that he was just looking for something and lost his mind a little, they allowed him to get some rest. But he couldn’t rest at all. He laid awake in his bed for hours wondering where the people were hiding the camera’s in his room and why he felt the need to completely trash his room like he had. Confusion set in, as well as drowsiness.
Once again, David found himself in the same dark alleyway, staring into the shadows. He was sitting on the wet ground during a rainstorm, hoping that the hooded figure would come out and tell him to go home or something. The hooded figure was not present, but David felt his presence anyway. He felt that same terror that had taken over his body before. A sudden moment of bravery struck him like a lightning bolt in the storm. He stood up and walked toward the area that the hooded figure had disappeared into on the night of their first encounter. He no longer felt scared, only curious and determined. Once in the shadows, David felt triumphant. This was quickly dissolved with worry. Screams echoed in the distance. Panic rushed in. He began to tremble. He could no longer control his body. He wanted to run out of the alley and go home, but he could not move from the shadows. Someone touched his arm, but he could not see who. He tried to call out to the person touching him, but the lump in his throat disabled his speech.
“They’re watching you,” the voice rang through the cold air, the hot breath of the stranger lingering in his ear, giving him the chills. His body was still immobile, but he felt himself being carried somewhere. He passed by his favorite diner, the bookstore, and his father’s office before realizing he was being carried farther away from his home. He was being carried out of town; into the unknown.
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