by Sarah Haskell
Everywhere there are people: walking, studying, talking with friends, running to their next class. Two arms brush on the crowded quad. The girl’s eyes follow his.
“Sorry,” Sophia whispers. Quiet footsteps signal his departure.
The bell rings signaling the hour. BUZZZZZZ. At once, attention is turned to devices sitting in pockets.
The announcement was from the campus dean:
Attention all students and faculty, Freshman, Linda Boss has been found dead on campus. Classes will continue for the rest of the day. The FBI has classified this as a serial killing. Please be cautious.
The collection of people gasp.
Unaware the killer stands with them, a sly smile pasted across his face. His mind filled with the events of the night before:
Thundering footsteps. The trees shrink in the distance. Her breathing labored and her pace slows. Darkness surrounds her. Turning her head slowly back, eyes wide, chills running up her spine. Footsteps of thunder and hurry, and above her, the sky opens. CRACK. The white light illuminating me in the distance. Oh good, she sees me. Frozen, as though her body is paralyzed. The distance between us shortens. Feet stuck in quicksand, perhaps? Or is it the fear running through her veins? One swift movement. Now the once beating heart has been silenced. The thrill fills my veins, a rush of euphoria. Hopefully, this high lasts enough.
Within seconds, you feel the thundering of feet, as the crowd knows they are late for class.
He causally takes calculated steps to his seat. His eyes fall upon everyone and everything. Blending in, he seems invisible. Before class begins, a moment of silence is held: the two girls murdered were from this class. The droning voice of the professor wears on. He spends his time watching Sophia. Feeling his stares, she turns, a smile on her face. He winks back at her.
It will only be a matter of days. She will be MINE.
The hour passes. A group goes into discussion. Within them, he watches her, blending in, appearing ordinary. Unaware she is targeted, she sits next to him. Happy to see a familiar face. Now, the connection has been made. Constantly twirling her hair, smiling at him; he sucks in the attention. Winking back, after class they exchange numbers. Eric is his name.
She was pretty; the first girl. Long brown locks, and emerald green eyes, the image of a goddess. Exchanging numbers-- that’s how it all started. Lindsey, so beautiful. He wanted her so bad. Three days until his high. Her screams echoing in his head. Her last breath. The life draining from her eyes, all that hope gone. She didn’t even know. Such a stupid girl. So naive, at least, she gave him the high.
The bell rings six. RING RING RING RING RING RING. The sky is dark as charcoal, with bright small lights shining within it. Gentle footsteps and the smell of fresh air: trees, roses.
I see you, Sophia
Chills run down Sophia’s spine; hairs standing up on the back of her neck. It’s only the cold from the rain, a thought running through her head. BUZZZZ. A text. Pictures of the last girl. A video. What the…
A surprise for you, dear.
High pitched screams ringing through the air.
Please I’ll give you anything.
Please don’t hurt me!
Shrinking trees in the distance, and thundering footsteps show their surroundings.
CRACK. BOOM. CRACK. BOOM.
Shorter and shorter the distance becomes.
In front of him, she stands frozen.
Her body paralyzed, fear freezing her veins.
Her face ghostly pale.
Please no. Please no.
His hands wrap around her throat.
The hope drains from her eyes.
She falls limps in his arms.
Throwing her on the ground, he walks away.
The video stops.
A text: Do you want to be next?
Quickly her head turns left and right. She spins around, knowing someone is there. Whispering, who are you? Why me? With fear pulsing through her veins, she hurries back to her dorm, where the bloodied rose sits at the step. For you my dear, is all the tag says. The nightmares haunting her, leaving her attacked and alone in the dark hours of the night.
A day later, blue skies relieve her of fear. She tells her friend the story of last night. They offer no support, her fear stays there haunting her every step, every breath. Feeling alone, she must find one who will help.
She writes upon in it in class, showing the fear dripping from every pore.
Eric questions the long look upon her face. She gives him every detail, giving her piece of the haunted memory to him; saying she wrote it in her journal. Hoping the professor might offer help.
Small mind. WHAT help could the lousy old man do?
His smile fades. With a jerk he turns.
“I can help you,” venom dripping from his voice.
“Really, You can? Thank you so much!” delighted smiles occur from Sophia.
I can help you….his mother would always say that. I can help you and she would leave him alone. Broken, he was broken. He imagined choking her, the life draining, hurting her as she hurt him. The women who birthed him, a damn disgrace.
Within the next few days, the connection grows: walking her home at night, listening to her concerns, worries. Fleeting butterflies occur in Sophia, warmth and safety cloud her mind.
Eric is her savior.
Yet the nightmares stay; roses covered in blood, her eyes clouded and the lighting illuminating the figure in the distance. His hand around her neck. The breath she craves, disappearing. Every bone breaking, every nerve popping; her life gone in an instant. He walks away. The figure leaves her death as his high.
The past four nights consist of the same routine:
Classes end when the clocks strikes 6:00. RING RING RING RING RING RING. Sophia’s steps are slow, acting as though to be cautious but are not. Next to her the figure, for once not blending with the shadows of the night. Each step quieter than the next. Crickets chirping and the hollow of the wind, their only companions, but the cold slowly seeps into their bones. Sophia’s chill grows. Reaching her dorm at 6:30, another bloody rose awaits her.
Each day a different question:
Do you love me, my dear?
Are you scared of my desire?
When will we meet?
My dear, when will you love me?
She prays; begging God to save her. Save her from the figure.
“Please save me. I have no strength. Save me.” Sophia begs every night...unaware he is always watching.
As the sun rises, the glow offers no hint of the days dark ending. Not a single cloud, calm breeze, and the warmth hitting all the people on the quad. Sophia smiles. Maybe today she will be saved. Maybe today.
He watches her:
Today is the day my dear. Today, the day your breath will be last. The hope will fade from your eyes. Today, your life and limp body in my hands. I hold your fate dear. TODAY I AM GOD.
Calculated steps and easy breaths; the only way she will make it. She smiles at Eric. Goal one: to get through class. Her professors wear on and on. Daydreams filled with horrors: blood, screams, the crack of lightening. Jerking and jumping all day, she cannot achieve peace.
He watches her.
Should this time be different? Should I let the blood run out of her veins? Her breath clouding the air; her last breath. Blood is beautiful, the flow of a heartbeat, but breath is the key to life. The only thing his mother took from him: life. The ideal life. Why should she live? This girl deserves death. Let her blood run free. Let her breath die. LET ME BE GOD!
Classes offer no safety: he plans her death. Chills: a constant reminder of her nightmares.
No. God will not answer her prayers.
The night hits. The chill forces all to stay inside except two: Sophia and him. The clock rings. RING RING RING RING RING RING. Six o’ clock. One step, two, three, four, five...on and on. Each step closer to the nightmare. Each step closer. The chill haunts, Heartbeats faster than a drum. BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM BA- DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM. CRACK. In the distance; lighting hits. The lion roars in the clouds, and the sky opens. Chilling her bones. The nightmares stay, remain in her visions. Step 14...15...16….17...18...19...20.
CRACK. He turns to her; a sinister smile appears. Two seconds; his arms wrapped around her. Hyperventilating, she pushes at his arms. Kicking and kicking. Teeth clamp down on his arm. A string of curse words. Thundering feet. She’s off.
“Please. Please God save me. Why? Why me? I thought we were friends. Please.” Her screams disrupt the quiet. Rumbles and roars of a lion. The rain; each drop mimicking her heartbeat. Thundering footsteps faster and faster and faster. Choking on air. THUMP. She falls. BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM BA- DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM. CRACK. The figure illuminated in the distance, so close. Fear freezes her veins. Frozen in the nightmare. God didn’t save her. God can’t save her. His feet come closer and closer; each step a knife in her heart. Each step closer to the end of this nightmare.
“Please. Please leave me here. Please. I have done nothing to deserve this. Please.”
Hands wrapped around her throat.
Their eyes meet: blue and green orbs staring back at each other.
Fear and Desire.
Hope draining, and the fear draining.
BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM
ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum ba- dum
ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum ba- dum.
The figure’s next high achieved, at the expense of her life.
He looks at us…….
YOU my dear, are you next?