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I can't stop running. Not after I've come so far. My legs are weak and I'm out of breath, but I can't stop now. The halls of the asylum mock me with their echoes of my gasps for more air. The darkness pulls me into a trance that's only broken by the dim light of my lantern. My only defense at this point is my handgun, but against something like her it might as well be a straw with chewed up pieces of paper as ammo. I know she will find me despite my dodging of every trap placed for me to carelessly fall into. Now of all times when I have a chance at escape, my body has given up on me. I hear her screams behind me, the frantic crawling getting closer as well. It will all be over soon. Finally, my nightmare will end...
"Game Over" came across the screen before loading to my most recent checkpoint.
“Goddamn it, Sebastian!” I yelled at the TV. In a panicked rage, I let out a sigh of disgust, then shut down my PS3 because I very clearly needed a break to calm my frazzled nerves. “Three fucking tries and I still can't get away. The evil is within the disk, not Ruvik,” I snarled, snatching my pack of smokes from my bedside and going down the stairs as I considered giving up on the victory of beating hard mode.
Once in the garage with my jacket on and my lighter in hand, I expected a brisk, cold air to shock my system compared to the warmth of my bedroom, but I was surprised when I felt nothing. A smile crept on my face when I realized that the winter of Ohio had taken a brief vacation, giving way to room temperature weather and partially cloudy skies. I always loved games as well as the inevitable marathon that comes with getting a new one, but my favorite thing of all was when the weather is perfect for a calm walk around town. Thinking about the hellscape that awaited me once my controller is readied and the arguments of my family in the living room, I knew that I had to seize the rare opportunity to finally take a break from life in general. Carpe diem, right?
With a quick goodbye to my dad and sister and a hug from my nephew, I left down the small side-street we lived on and lit my cigarette, changing between calming nicotine and fresh air. I got out my phone and earbuds and started listening to some rock music as I enjoyed my walk. After about 15 minutes, I arrived at my own little quiet place: Another dead-end side-street off the main road, rarely used, but populated enough to keep my anxiety in check. It may not be the ideal place for most people, but to me it was a safe haven. I sat on the sidewalk and began to sing quietly to myself, time starting to fade away as I relaxed contently and cross-legged on the cement.
I'm not sure how long I was there like that, but it must have been quite a while because by the time I noticed her, she was already singing along to my own voice. I jumped a bit and fumbled for my phone to pause my music, half embarrassed that someone heard me and half scared that I wasn't even aware anyone was there in the first place. I took out my earbuds and smiled nervously as I managed out a hushed apology:
“Hey, sorry. I didn't know I was singing so loud. I thought no one really walked through here.” I stuttered a bit as I spoke, then bit my lip, a nervous habit of mine. I didn't know who she was or why she was there, but for all I know she could have been waiting for someone and I was the loud asshole disrupting her involuntary wait. I turned to face her and now I got a good look at her. That was a mistake.
She had long, dark blonde hair, a small and pleasant face, a thin frame that couldn't have been taller than 5'7", a thin hoodie, slightly torn-up blue jeans and Converse Chuck Taylor High-Tops. Once she looked at me was when I noticed her eyes. They were an icy blue that pierced me, but only in a way that I can only describe as a very close friend or family member holding you tight and telling you that everything is okay, and her smile drove that feeling home. She was gorgeous, and I couldn't have been more anxious. She giggled playfully in a soft voice.
“You don't have to apologize for anything. It was nice. I was having fun.”
I immediately looked away and felt warm, then realized that I was fighting away a blush, something that I had never done even in my most embarrassing and vulnerable situations. This stranger had done something to me without even trying that even my exes couldn't do with all of their effort. It made me happy in a way, but even more freaked out. Damn my anxiety.
“T-thank you. I-I'm glad you l-liked it,” I mumbled, now beginning to shake a bit like an anxious shiver. Seeing myself like this reminded me of why I prefer seclusion and people I know well, not to mention my laptop which is the only way for me to meet new people without having an anxiety attack. I wanted to get up and run as fast as I could, but something told me not to. Despite being able to come up with a million excuses on the spot and get out of jail free, I stayed there, fought through the anxiety and spoke up again, more clearly this time.
“So what are you doing way out here? Just waiting for someone?” I asked as I shyly looked back over at her. She shook her head.
“No, I was just going for a walk. I saw you and thought you looked like you could use some company.” She smiled again, this time calming me. She was right. Any seasoned rock fan can tell you that the bands I was listening to aren't exactly feel-good bands. Without going into detail, I was having trouble at home and with myself, and having someone to talk to would help immensely, even if it was just small talk. It was also reassuring to know that not only was I not ruining her wait for someone like I originally thought, but also that she cares about some random, lonely stranger singing to himself in the middle of the day and sidewalk. After that I admitted that I was going through a tough time, and she began to coax out my problems.
We sat talking for hours about my story and hers as well, and my anxiety melted away as the conversation went on. By the time we had realized what was happening in the world around us, it was already late into the evening, and we had already shared our pasts and present situations. I found out that her name was Alexandria, she was a half a year younger than me, making her nineteen and a half as she so proudly stated, and that she had recently moved here to get away from her family and her past, as well as some guy trouble she was having. She wanted to start fresh. She knew what it was like to feel how I did, so she was able to recognize it and she wanted to help. It turned out that she lived not far away from me, about a 10-minute walk from my house. Considering the time and how dark it was, I offered to walk her home. She was pretty paranoid about the dark, and I was too, so when she said "yes", we both started to walk happily, hand in hand. Normally, I would speed-walk in the dark of the night like this, but we walked slowly and calmly, enjoying the cool night air without a care in the world.
Those few minutes went by like seconds, and we arrived at her apartment in no time. When we walked up to her door, her smile that I had already gotten accustomed to had quickly turned to a frown, and she gripped my hand tighter.
“What's wrong?” I said, afraid I might have said or done something to upset her. She shook her head and sighed heavily, then looked up at me with those lonesome eyes.
“I had such a nice time with you. You're my only real friend here. My co-workers are nice, but they're just co-workers, and my neighbors are too reserved to talk to me. I... I just don't want tonight to stop,” she spoke quietly, and it seemed like she was on the verge of tears. I didn't know that our talk meant that much to her. After all, we had just met today. I could, however, understand the feeling of being alone. Hell, 90% of my time is spent in front of screens. I felt so bad for her, and I felt the same way she did to a lesser degree, so I got out my phone with my free hand.
“Well then in that case, why don't we exchange phone numbers? We can talk any time. Plus, I can easily walk here from my house any time you want to hang out.” I spoke in a reassuring tone and kept eye contact. “I know what happened in your past, but I'm sure from our talk that you know you can trust me. I promise.” I finished with a smile, and she finally smiled back. She hugged me as tight as she could, clinging to my chest.
“John, you have no idea what this means to me!” she yelled, face buried in my chest and positively overjoyed. When she let go, we got each others' phone numbers and she started to go inside. “Wait here. I want to give you something,” she said, then rushed in before I could respond. I waited outside the partially open door, and she came back not more than a minute later holding something behind her back.
“Close your eyes and hold out your hand!” she said excitedly. I chuckled and did so, shutting my eyes tight and holding out a cupped hand, not sure what to expect. Instead of dropping something in my hand, I felt a thin, rope-like material tighten around my wrist. “Okay, you can look now,” she said in a sing-song voice. When I opened my eyes, I saw that I was now wearing a hemp bracelet with a single, oddly-shaped, light red bead on it. I smiled brightly at her.
“Did you make this?” I said. She nodded proudly and tugged gently at it.
“Yep! I even made the bead! It's a special bracelet.” I couldn't help but smile, the expression seeming permanent at this point.
“Alex, you didn't have to... Thank you. I love it.” She giggled and kissed my cheek, then let out a cheerful “Goodbye!” before going inside. I stood there for a while, looking at the bracelet and thinking back through the whole day. Everything seemed so surreal, like a dream. I kept running the day through my head as I walked back home and thought how normally crappy everything seemed up to when I saw her. The bracelet is really nice, too. I didn't know how she would make a bead. Maybe she just painted it, I thought, since it had a weird texture. How she did it wasn't what was important, though. I had a good friend, and that's what mattered most to me.
That night, I slept great. I couldn't remember my dream very well, but it had seemed like a replay of my memories. When I woke up, I started the day with my usual cigarette and glass of soda in the garage. Not long after I had lit my cigarette, my phone went off, blaring a favorite song of mine for a few seconds. It was a text from Alexandria! She sent this.
Just woke up. Thinkin
bout u. Hope we can
hang out soon <3
She also sent a picture of her. It was of her smile, with her beautiful eyes being the focus. As soon as I saw it, I smiled and replied right away.
Just woke up too, actually.
Lemme finish waking up
and I'll text you before
I leave. I'm looking
forward to it :3
I thought about how lucky it was for her to have woken up at such a close time. Maybe things were starting to look up for me. Not long after, she replied.
Yay! ^-^ I'll see u then!
Don't go forgetting :P
I chuckled to myself and sent back a “No worries”, then got ready. A quick shower, change and snack, and I left.
I sent her a text to tell her I was on my way, then headed down the street. She replied soon after.
I'll b waiting 4 u <3
I smiled and kept walking, getting to the apartment building relatively quickly and heading inside. I knocked on her door, half-expecting her to open it and tackle me, but there was no response. I waited a bit, then knocked again a little louder. Maybe she was in the bathroom? It felt odd. She had been so attached, and then suddenly nothing. The abandoned, silent feel the apartment building gave off didn't help, either. Maybe I missed a text or something. I got my phone out to check it, but as I pulled it up, I saw something move in the reflection of the screen. When I turned around, she was right there in front of me. I jumped back, yelling “Gah!” She simply hugged me tight with a giggle and a quiet “Surprise!” I let out a sigh of relief and hugged her back.
“You really gotta stop surprising me like that.” I laughed as I spoke. She looked at me with her big blue eyes and smiled.
“But Johnny, it's so fun!” she said cheerfully. I nodded with a sigh.
“Yeah, I guess you're right. It is pretty fun,” I said. She giggled again, then let go and took my hand with a firm grip. We spent the day walking around town and talking. It was calm and uneventful, but fun to us. Through the whole day, she had never let go of my hand. Even when we had stopped at a small diner for lunch, she kept a very tight grip on my hand in our little booth. It did have me a bit concerned at one point, but when I looked into her beautiful eyes, I knew that it wasn't a problem. It was because she cared about me, she said. Things always seemed okay around her. Even when my anxiety flared up with certain triggers of mine, all she had to do was look up at me and tell me that there was nothing to worry about. That night was rough saying goodbye again. She was just as heartbroken. Once I had promised her I'd be back the next day and she re-tightened my bracelet, she was okay for the night.
The next several days were the same way. Wake up, get ready, spend time with Alexandria, go home and sleep. It was a nice routine we had. We kept it going for almost a week when I suddenly woke up to the sound of a hard rock song blaring from my phone. I answered it sleepily, still covered up in bed, when I shot up. It was my older brother. He lives out of town and works almost constantly, so I don't get to see him very much, but we're like best friends. We try to hang out every chance we get. He had told me that he finally had a day off and wanted to come pick me up to hang out, so naturally I agreed right away and started getting ready. I was beyond excited, and started thinking about what we could do. About that time, my phone went off again. It was Alexandria. I knew she would be upset, but I thought she would be able to understand. I called her to tell her the news.
“Hey, Alex. You remember me telling you about my brother, right?”
“Well, he just called me a little bit ago. Turns out he has the day off today. He's on his way now to pick me up cause it's been forever since we did anything together. I'm sorry I can't make it today.”
“Yeah, I'm really sorry. I didn't even really expect it. It has been a long time, though. Plus we can still text while I'm gone, so no worries.”
After that, she went quiet, then broke down crying. She was seemingly inconsolable. I felt so bad for her. It made me think back to the first night when I had to go, how she looked at me with those puppy-dog eyes. The image coupled with her sobs was too much. I told her I would cancel and be with her instead, and she stopped almost immediately. I made a promise, then hung up with her and opened up the contacts on my phone. I didn't know how he would react, but I knew it wouldn't be good. I just hoped he would be calm. Before I could get to his number, my phone rang again. It was – luckily enough – my brother. I picked up the phone, and he sounded pissed. He told me he was calling because he ended up getting called into work again, just recently getting off the phone with his boss. He explained that he had no clue why and that we would have to try for another day, and I told him that I didn't mind and I understood.
After I hung up, I sat on my bed, half happy and half in disbelief. His and his boss's timing couldn't have been more perfect or lucky. Things could have gotten bad if that wouldn't have happened, and right when it did. I suppose it wasn't too strange. Him getting called into work on days off certainly wasn't uncommon with his job, but the timing -
My phone again. This time a text from Alexandria, just checking in. I told her the news and that I would be over soon. She agreed that it was just a coincidence, then quickly changed the subject and said she would be waiting. I felt kind of bad and strange, but I knew once I was with her, she would help me feel better.
Through the day, she was a bit more attached than usual. Holding my arm instead of my hand, staying at my side, never letting go, just little things. She said she was just scared by this morning. It was kinda weird, but her explanation made perfect sense to me. That night when we got back to her door, she stopped me before I could even say anything. She took both of my hands and looked up at me.
“John, I have something to tell you.” I started to get worried when I heard that, but her smile kept me calm. It seemed like she was happier than ever. She was dressed up this time, too. I hadn't noticed till now that she was doing extra tonight, and for good reason, too. She told me that she was in love with me. Maybe it was just me being a guy, or maybe I'm just oblivious, but I was shocked. I had absolutely no idea that she could care for me so much in a week, especially this much. I hadn't even noticed any signs of it. To me, love isn't a word you can just throw around like confetti. You have to mean it when you say it. I could tell she meant it, especially considering the look on her face, but... what about me? I paused for a bit, very unsure. It was a big step to take and I didn't want to say something I wasn't ready to, but when I looked into her loving eyes, I knew for sure.
“I love you too, Alex,” I said with full confidence. She sighed happily and kissed me, then pulled me inside. Without giving away details, let's just say I didn't focus on what her apartment looked like that night.
The next morning, I woke up while holding her. Memories of the night before flooded my mind, and I was positively euphoric. As carefully and quietly as I could, I got up and got dressed, then went looking for her bathroom in the large apartment. As I looked around, I noticed how clean and organized her apartment was. Everything was perfect to a system. Movies alphabetized with no spaces between boxes and cases in perfect condition, remotes lined up and organized by shape and size, and when I found the bathroom even her make-up was color-coded and measured. It was very odd, but being a neat freak isn't a deal-breaker. I thought about the night before and my worry faded away instantly.
Once done in the bathroom, I went to the kitchen to make breakfast for us. I decided on pancakes and eggs. I started to get the ingredients and materials ready, but while getting the milk from the organized system in her fridge, I dropped it and the lid popped off, spilling out a small but sizable amount before I snatched it up. I needed to clean it up before she woke up, but I didn't see a mop or sponge nearby, so I went looking for a towel closet. Searching the large apartment, I came across a door with a key in the lock. The door seemed the most well-maintained thing there, and the key's handle was in the shape of a heart. My curiosity had gotten the best of me. Once I had found a towel and cleaned up the milk puddle, I unlocked the door and went inside.
Inside, I was in shock. The walls were covered in pictures of me, even pictures I don't remember being taken and some of me asleep or in the shower. There were pieces of chewed gum that I had, candy wrappers with my fingerprints outlined, even a dirty shirt of mine that I thought I had lost a few days ago. In the middle of the back wall was a computer with a camera and printer hooked up to it, all on a desk. I was downright horrified! If she had all this, then what could be on the computer!?
I sat in front of it and booted it up. I was greeted by a password screen and my face in the background. At first, I thought I was stuck and should just leave, but I had to know what else there was. I thought about it for a minute, then typed in "Johnny". The password screen gave way to the desktop. Checking the files, I found documentation of the things she had in this room, digital copies of all of the pictures, hidden camera videos of me at home, a digital journal, and a program titled "gptk.exe" with a strange target as the icon. I decided I would save the journal for last and launched the executable.
Once opened, I saw a GPS tracking map load up, one like you would use for lost children and pets. She was somehow following me at every single turn. I could even see myself moving on the screen as I adjust myself in the chair. I needed to figure out how and get rid of it. I moved my left leg. The dot barely moved. I moved my right leg. Almost nothing. My left arm. Nothing. My right arm. The dot jumped. I looked down at my arm, but all I had was – That's it! The bracelet she gave me! I wear it everywhere because of my promise, so she could easily follow me anywhere I go. I guess she really did make that bead or whatever the hell it is. I didn't care what it was. I was in a panic. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. All I knew was that I need to get out. Nothing else mattered. I took off the bracelet, threw it down, logged off the computer, shut it down, turned around and -
“JESUS FUCK!” I yelled. She was right there behind me again, wearing a robe and rubbing one eye.
“Johnny, where are you going?” she said softly and looked up at me with those innocent eyes. I stopped and stood still, unable to break eye contact.
“Alex, what is all this stuff?” I said calmly, though shaky. She smiled brightly and hugged me tight, still looking right up at me with those caring eyes.
“It's my Johnny room! I filled it with a bunch of stuff about you so I could always have a part of you here with me. It's way better than just a couple pictures and memories,” she said proudly. “Don't you think so?” I was very shocked at first, but now, looking into her comforting eyes, I could tell it was okay. Her eyes said everything her mouth didn't. I smiled and nodded, hugging her back.
“Yep. Way better. Good idea, love.” She hugged me tighter, then let go.
“And the best part is that now that you love me, you can be here instead and I won't need my Johnny room. I'll have my Johnny!” she said happily. “You are going to be by my side f o r e v e r, right?” she asked, holding my hand tight and looking right up at me with those perfect eyes.
I nodded with a smile. I didn't want to escape like the others. There was nothing else out there. She was my home and all I could ever need. Her eyes told me everything.
“Yeah. You're all I need. I won't go anywhere. T o g e t h e r f o r e v e r.”
Written by dhamb18