It’s been four months since move-in day for the university and life has not been the same ever since. It seems like just last night I was walking the stone walk in between the parkway and the foreign exchange dormitory when I began to feel someone behind me.
It was late, maybe eleven or twelve, and I had just got back from work. I was half asleep and dazed from the long night of bagging and slaving over the customers at Ingles. As I began walking back to my dorm room, I noticed how cold the night was. It was by far one of the coldest I could ever remember. I breathed in the musky air; it was thick and rancid. Slowly, as the footsteps from behind began to pick up speed, I began to hear my name be called slowly, “Anna. Anna, I want to talk to you.” I began to run, but he just stayed right behind me. Fiercely, I turned around and stared in his eyes trying not to show him my fear.
“What do you want?” I demanded.
I recognized his face but couldn’t remember where from. It was like I had seen him previously and had already looked right into those deep brown eyes before. He came closer whispering my name with every step. I tried to run, but it was too late. I screamed, but it seemed as if he took my voice and held on to it in his tight grasp between his large dry fingers. My legs buckled into place as his claws dug into my skin like a knife sliding through a stick of butter. His sweat dripped from his pores and a haze of old cologne filled the atmosphere. My teeth were chattering and my hands were shaking fiercely. I heard him murmur but could not make out his words. Once again, I tried to scream but I couldn’t make a sound. With all of his force, he threw me down to the hard concrete below and my world turned into a vast silent blackness.
I woke up shivering in the darkness between the branches of a large bush well hidden from the world. I stood up, looked up into the stars above and began to run. Birds squawking loudly in the distance sang songs of fear and misery. I couldn’t think about what happened and all I wanted was to be back in my room away from the dangers that lurk in the night. I wanted to delete everything that just happened as if I could jsut hit the delete button on my computer and erase all the files that the trashcan contained.
However, I couldn’t delete it, and I still can’t. Four months later, I am still a slave to him. Since that night, he has locked me up inside my own body and has made me stranded from the world in a galaxy of my own. I see his thin deep eyes when I sleep and I have nightmares every night that he will once again return.
Mocking me every time I leave my apartment, the birds fly as a large group covering the sky. They glide through the air as if they were searching for prey and land on the next tree as soon as I am free from their range. I stare into their eyes, thin dark brown eyes glare back at me. They know everything that happened that night, even after I went unconscious. They taunt me of my uncleanness and they share my secret among themselves. I hear their songs as I run to my next class and try to block the noises out of my head.
“Anna Fisher,” The English Professor takes roll. “Is Anna Fisher here?”
I raise my hand high to the Professor’s voice and he nods when he sees it. Every morning he waits for the verbal conformation of presence from all the students with the last name up to Fisher, but after me he looks up for every student’s name until “Ziao.” It is almost like he is waiting to hear the same friendly voice that answered loudly “Here, Professor” the first day of class.
I walk the halls head down in silence and blend into everyone else heading toward their mid afternoon classes. I don’t speak because after that night early in the year, I realized no one ever listens. Even if I scream on the top of my lungs, no one hears. He took my voice and I don’t even know his name.
I sit in my dorm room and stare out the window, the birds are watching me. Their dark brown eyes stare into mine trying to tell me something. Their voices are of the stranger’s, as if he communicates through the birds. They sing songs all at once like they are waiting for something. They hide in the trees and look at me, laughing because they see me huddled by the red velvet window curtain holding a single white rose.
It came earlier today in a small package from The Flower Boutique. I opened it thinking it was from my Mother as an early 19th birthday present. Slowly I read the card attached to the flower, “One white rose to keep you company. One white rose to tell you I miss you.” The color reminds me of a snowstorm in the depth of January and it is as flawless as a new candle with a perfect wick. I hold the flower with the sensation to burn it in front of the window so all the birds can see it and instead I eye them in disgust.
It wasn’t the first present I had received since I moved in. No, one came almost every month. A chocolate heart that probably came from Krogers, a stuffed valentine bear most likely marked half-priced at Big Lots, and before the flower, a set of sterling silver coated Cherokee brand earrings from Target made their way into my mail box. Each present contained one gold card with one or two sentences telling me how he waits for me, never anything more. They were rapped in plain brown packaging material so perfectly it seemed like I would be looking at a display at the local UPS store. Nothing, not even a stamp or mailing address distorted the perfect parcel. It was only my name in a cursive much like the French Script type on Microsoft Word that was disrupting the bare exterior.
“Someone is waiting for you in the lobby,” a voice came from my doorway; it was someone from my floor. I looked over my shoulder at the tall blonde girl, stared and didn’t say a word.
“He says it’s urgent, you better come fast.”
I started to tremble and looked into her eyes. She had eyes filled with joy and comfort and carried a sense of passion for life. I don’t know why, but with her by my side, I started to loose my fear of who I was going to meet just nine floors below.
As I exited the elevator an man that much resembled my own father with his soft blue eyes and genuine smile approached me, “Are you Ms. Anna Fisher?”
I nodded my head.
“A young sir died earlier today in a car wreck about a block away from the campus and when we found him this picture was in his hands. Is it yours?
I looked right at the picture, it was me one year ago lying on a bench waiting for a bus to go to Chicago in order to visit my Grandma. A grungy middle-aged man wearing a red pleated jacket asked if he could take the photo of me for his art gallery posted in town. As he was snapping one shot after another I remember looking into his thin dark brown eyes and feeling a sense of terror. He kept glaring at me, and even after the film ran out, he stood there just five feet away until my bus pulled into the depot. Remembering thiseincounter, I whispered to the man, “He is dead? From a car crash?”
“Yes, but I need to know…This picture, is it of you?”
“I was visiting my grandmother a year ago; I was on that bench for what seemed like forever because the bus got delayed.”
The man looked at me and asked me if I would be able to come to the police station for questioning. I nodded.
As we arrived at the Twenty-First Street station, the police asked if I had seen the man anytime after the bus depot incident around town. It was then that I described the dark night at the beginning of the school year. I told him of how the man smelled and the way his broad stature was illuminated from the moon light, the way he spoke, and the power he possessed within his eyes. I mentioned my state of darkness caused by the crash of his large dry hands against my face, and then waking up blinded from the world. He trapped me inside myself and controlled me. Ever since that night I felt his presence lurking behind me and I new he was close, ready to strike again.
The police looked at me and I could see his tears bottled up above his cheeks. He said sternly, “It was tonight. Tonight was the night he was supposed to come back for you. In his car he had a revolver on the passenger seat wrapped in a pink scarf. Was that your scarf, Anna?”
My heart began to pound almost twice as fast as before while I listened to his voice and I replied, “Yes,” and my interview came to a close.
As I got out of the squad car and walked back toward my dormitory, I looked to the trees towering over the buildings. The birds were no where to be found.