What is it about being naked that makes someone feel so vulnerable? I mean, really, are you suddenly stronger with clothes? Maybe if you’re the type who goes around wearing steel toed boots and Kevlar, but if you are, something tells me that even in the buff you probably know more than the average Joe about self-defense and would stand a good chance in a fight either way.
I attribute my particular fear of having to fight nude to the classic Psycho. Chalk it up to poor parenting that my earliest childhood Halloweens were not spent dressed as Snoopy out getting mountains of candy, but were instead spent in a darkened room, alone, and with access to cable TV.
The shower scene always stuck with me, traumatized me you could say, and brought many a day where family fights would erupt over me staying firmly locked in the single shared bathroom until I was fully clothed and ready to face whoever was on the other side of the door. It is a habit, a fear, which saved my life a little over a year ago.
I live in a big city, and with it comes big city crimes. Nightly news reports of robberies, shootings and the like are not uncommon. Still, I liked to think myself well protected. I lived on the second floor of an apartment building, which coincidentally means a pre-installed alarm system came with the package. The front desk was manned at all hours of the day, and my place was at the rear of the building, facing another building directly behind my own. I could see their 24 hour security guard booth from my bedroom window and between us sat a tall dividing wall. You could say that the nightly news didn’t give me much bother.
All those thoughts of security went out the aforementioned bedroom window in the course of a single night.
I normally take my showers in the morning, but this evening I just felt like soaking under the hot water for relaxation more than for hygiene. I went through my pre-shower check. Front door locked, windows locked, sliding door locked, alarm up. I sauntered into the bathroom, and firmly closed and locked the door behind me.
I stood under the warm jet stream, eyes closed and hands outstretched toward the water, soaking in the calm when I heard a rattle. I quickly opened my eyes and ripped back the shower curtain. The door was closed, the handle was still. It wouldn’t have been the first time I imagined the scene.
I took a deep breath and slipped back into the water, trying to let it go and relax my now tense muscles. A few minutes passed. It must have been my mind, and then I heard a thump on the door and the rattle once again. One hand slammed down on the water faucet while the other once again tore back the curtain.
The door was still closed, but I was sure that it wasn’t my imagination anymore. The whir of the bathroom fan seemed deafening. The door handle was motionless, and any sound beyond that was muffled by the fan. My eyes strained watching the knob, my hair and body frozen with fear even as rivulets of water continued to stream off me.
Suddenly the handle started convulsing and a loud thud rammed against the door. I screamed as I sprang out of the tub and shoved my body against the door. The figure on the other side rammed against the door again, and I felt the impact run through me. I screamed again. A deep chuckle responded.
My body was trembling from the tips of my soaked hair to the points of my numbed toes. My back remained firmly pressed against the door, bracing for another attack. None came.
A minute passed, two. It seemed like an eternity when I heard that chuckle again, but it seemed to come from a lower height than before. I looked down and saw the knife reflecting my body against its silver surface. Its edges were smeared with what I knew instantly as blood.
I slammed the light switch off, refusing to let the menace outside get any kicks from seeing how terrified I was inside. The whir of the fan stopped, and the only sound I was left with were the shallow gasps of my own breath. I heard the knife slip back out from the crack beneath the door, a slow deliberate withdrawal making me all the more aware of its presence so close to me.
“Come on out, my little shower princess…..”
My breath caught in my throat and I could feel my heart nearly bursting from my chest. The voice was low and deep, like his laugh, and deliberate. I didn’t respond, I couldn’t even begin to think. I was trapped, and the only way out was through him.
I started screaming at the top of my lungs, the terror and desperation more real than any of the horror flicks I’d ever watched. I hoped my neighbors were home. I hoped that because I sometimes heard their weekend parties, they would now hear my pleas for help.
I screamed until the tears were running down my cheeks, mixing with the shower water and dripping from my chin to the floor below. “Help…” It was barely a whisper, but he heard it.
“Honey, ain’t no one gonna help you now but me.”
He didn’t try to ram the door again, and the handle remained motionless throughout the hours that I stood silently crying. I heard him moving through my apartment, heard a scratching on the other side of the door, but he didn’t try to get in again.
I stood like that in the dark; cold, wet, and naked until the rays of daylight began to shine from underneath the bathroom door. I didn’t know if he was still there, waiting, and so I just stayed where I was, waiting.
It was eleven in the morning when I heard the shouts at my front door. I couldn’t understand them, but I screamed in return. I heard my front door shatter and the quick thud of many boots rushing into my apartment.
“Ma’am? Ma’am, where are you?”
I demanded that the officer push his ID underneath the door before I opened it. It didn’t matter that I was naked; I fell into his arms, breaking down and sobbing all over again while someone else covered me with a blanket.
I returned to my apartment only once since the incident to gather my personal belongings, some of which were missing. I knew I would never feel safe there again.
I was right about it being blood. My captor killed not only the security guard from the building just behind mine, but also the young couple who lived next door to me. My alarm system was bypassed by a simple magnet, and the latch on my sliding door was easily pried open. Both facts have left me with a severe distrust of the token ‘security’ features thrown into apartments in order to close the deal.
These facts also let me know that he could have broken through my flimsy bathroom door or its weak lock any time he wanted to. Perhaps he just preferred playing with me. Or maybe the message he left carved into my bathroom door has yet to come to pass.
“I’ll see you soon, my shower princess.”