(© Joseph A Polega)
Not without help.
She had half a bottle of Ambien leftover
from a bout with insomnia two years ago so she took one with splash of water
from the bathroom tap.
Cindy didnít know if it was the potency
of the drug, or the psychological comfort if provided, but she soon found
herself drifting towards sleep - already forgetting about her mysterious friend
and hoping he was doing the same.
The phone woke her up at four in the
It sat buzzing on the table beside her
head, next to the clock radio that flashed the time across the room with extra
large digital numbers. The clock was made for seniors but Cindy liked being
able to read the time in the middle of the night without the help of her
She swung her feet off the side of the
bed and made fists with her toes against the thick carpeting. The effects of
the drug hadnít worn off; manufacturers suggested getting at least eight hours
of sleep before becoming active and Cindy had barely managed four.
It was hard to read the screen with her
blurry vision but as she did the memory of last night drifted back in a haze.
There was another incoming message.
Cindy looked from the phone down to the
table, over to the drawer sitting slightly ajar, then back again.
She closed her eyes pondering, began to
sway, and would have fallen back asleep if not for the buzz in her hands.
She read the message with a head full of
Cindy jumped out of bed, now fully awake. She
looked around the room expecting the worst - only to curse her girlish anxiety
when she found nothing.
Then she noticed that Butch was gone.
The dog normally slept in bed with her
all night; eventually claiming most of it as his own, and usually didnít get
out until Cindyís morning was in full swing.
The bed was empty as was the floor all
"Butch?" She called out to the empty
His bowl was in the kitchen next to the
back door and Cindy hoped to hear him lumbering back down the hallway dripping
water from his snout.
But there was nothing.
She walked over to the door, leaned her
head out into the hall, and peered down towards the dark kitchen.
"Butch?" She could only muster a faint
whisper; if Butch were around he probably would not have heard.
The phone vibrated, catching her off
guard, and she dropped it as if it were electrified. A new message stared up at
her from the floor.
ALL ALONE NOW.
Cindy stared down at it in disbelief,
and then backed up against the bedroom wall watching the phone like it was a
bomb about to explode. She slid down to the floor; pulling her knees close to
her chest and rocking like she was trying to keep warm. A sick realization grew
inside her head.
He was watching.
She crawled across the bed, keeping low,
over to the window facing Canal Road. Other than a few parked cars, the street
was empty and dark as were the houses across the way. A dog barked a few doors
down. It wasnít Butch. His bark was deep and thumping as opposed to this oneís
Cindy closed the curtains after taking
one more cursory peek outside. She turned quickly and screamed as she caught
her own reflection in the full-length mirror that lined the closet door.
She didnít recognize herself in the
The phone came to life again across the
room. Cindy walked over to it gingerly, ignoring the urge to smash it into a
thousand pieces, and picked it up with badly shaking hands.
YOU SHOULD SEE THINGS FROM MY
The message was flagged out with an
attachment. Her gentlemen caller had sent a picture. Cindy heart raced; she
took a couple of deep, ineffective breaths and opened it.
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