A week has passed since the "incident", and it's the same every night. I wake up screaming, not knowing where I'm at, but knowing he's always there, always watching. I feel like I'm suffocating. My mom and sister think I'm going crazy, and that wouldn't be far from the truth. I'm always jumping, always turning in every direction, watching and praying he's not there. Every night he visits me with the same tormented cries of the girl I'd heard that day in the woods. I confronted my mom and asked around, but nobody knew who she was. I'm starting to think I'm turning into her; it's getting hard to distinguish her cries from mine. And my friends and family are doing nothing to help. I swear, they will all have me committed before they'll actually believe a word that passes my lips. That's what kills me the most. Not only am I being haunted every day and every night, but no-one believes me. I have no-one to talk to, no-one who can comfort me. I feel like no-one cares. I'm fighting this war all my own. Sometimes I wish it would just end, that he would take me away so the nightmares will finally stop. I don't even feel like I'm living my life. I'm not, the nightmares are controlling me. He's controlling me.
I get dressed in a blind rush, not even stopping to look in the mirror; I could care less what I'm wearing. As long as the screaming and the laughter are locked away, I'm alright. I look around my room. It's all familiar, but it seems so different. My eyes flicker to pictures of my family. My real family, or, that is, what my family was like before the accident. My vision blurs with tears, but I can't help smiling. I miss my life before, but the memories are sweet. They ground me –
My thoughts are interrupted by a loud rap. "Arie, are you ready? You're going to be late," my mother's voice rings tiredly. "It's already 8 o'clock."
"Yes, I'm coming," I croak. "It is the weekend, you know."
Laughter fills the hall outside, "Yes, but you promised to watch Caitlyn tonight."
"I know," my voice cracks again, constrained from the previous night. I don't want to go, but I don't want to stay either. It's already 8 o'clock. The words flash through my mind. It might do me good: to get away from this house. I sigh. If only I could get away from it all.
"Are you alright," my mom says, her voice becoming more concerned. "You sound a litt-"
"I'm fine, I'm fine," I say, annoyed. I grab my purse from a tattered old desk propped in the corner of my small room and rip my phone out. A message flashes across the screen, causing me to gasp in realization.
"Are you coming or what? – Faye."
My head nods forward in frustration. How could I have forgotten?! Faye! I'm supposed to meet her tonight. And, now I have to deal with Caitlyn. She is my sister, but having to take care of her every single night is starting to get to me. I want to be there for her. I want her to be safe. But, I feel like she's safer alone, that is, without me. She's only just turned thirteen. I want to protect her from what I have to go through. I'd be blind if I couldn't see what all of this is doing to her. She gets enough crap at school already without everyone harrassing her about me. They all think it's funny, and all I can do is keep it inside, wishing they understood and glad they don't know a thing.
An irritating buzz fills my ears and I shake my head, trying to make it go away. It grows stronger until it turns into a murmur, then it becomes clearer. Laughter; a sick, blood-curdling laughter.
I jump as my phone beeps again.
"Don't avoid me Arie!"
"Faye," I mutter under my breath, thankful something had stopped the... a shiver runs down my spine and I quickly write a response.
"I'm not!" I type as fast as possible, "And I'll be there, just give me a few minutes!"
The door slams behind me as I manage my way out of my room. Faye's been by my side since the begining; I've known her my entire life. She knows what I've been through. She was there when my father died. She's been there when I've needed her the most. Still, I haven't been able to tell her about that man from the woods, that tall, slender man.
"Caitlyn," I yell down the hall.
"What do you want?" The door across from mine creeks open, Caitlyn's head popping out. Her red hair is pulled into a messy bun and her bright green eyes are narrowed. I can tell she doesn't want to come just as much as I don't want her with me.
I roll my eyes at her, trying to relax myself. "You ready?"
Her lips purse, "Do I look ready?"
"Caitlyn, please. I don't have the time to play games," I say. "You're coming with me whether you like it or not."
She slams the door hard in my face. "Five minutes."
I take a deep breath, if only she knew. But, she does know. She hears me scream at night. She hears me talking about things she can't even hope to understand.
I shove my phone into my pocket. I wish I could stop thinking about it all. If even for just a second. I bury my face in my hands while leaning up against the wall. "Maybe I'll be able to figure something out," I think aloud, but stop myself; I don't want Caitlyn to hear me. She knows I'm going to see Faye. But, she doesn't know why. I have a plan... well... an idea of a plan. As ridiculous as it sounds, it involves the library. Faye's been working there this past summer and has access to certain things, like public records. And that's exactly what I need. If I could find someone, if I could find a victim... but then I get stuck. If I could find someone, what would I do? The answers are there, so close I can almost feel them; they are there, I just need to find them.
Caitlyn's door opens after the thought enters my mind.
"Took you long enough," I say jokingly. I know she can see things are wrong, but I still pretend.
She stares impatiently at me, then pushes me aside, heading for the front door.
"Let's go then."
She winces as I hit her lightly in the arm.
"Oh, don't act like it hurt."
She spins around and punches me back. "Don't punch me!"
A smile twists up the corners of my mouth and I start to laugh hysterically. I can't help it, she gets burned too easily.
Caitlyn snarls and grabs my hand, leading me out the front door, cursing nastily under her breath.
"Are you sure you want to go... after hours? I mean, what are you going to find? It's not like-" Faye's voice crackles over the phone.
"Faye, just trust me, alright. I'm looking for answers..." I trail off; I tried making something up: a reason why I wanted to go to the library, but she could see past it. She always can. She hates not knowing what I'm looking for and, in truth, I hate keeping her in the dark, especially considering she is one of the only people I can really talk to. She's my best friend and I can tell her anything, but this... This is different. Everything before... hadn't put her life at risk.
"It's complicated," I sigh heavily.
My eyes lock on the road ahead. It's starting to rain and the fog's beginning to climb over the windshield of the tiny Ford. I hate driving at this time and the dark is making it increasingly worse.
Caitlyn shifts in the passenger's seat. "We couldn't have gone earlier?" She mumbles bitterly, then adds, "Can't you just drop me off with mom?"
"No, and you know why," I say pointedly. Mom's been working the night shifts at the hospital in Franklin, a few miles outside our small town of Avery. If it wasn't for me, Caitlyn would be alone every night. "I can't just drop you off. She put me in charge and..." I take a deep breath, "...I would leave you with her, if I could. But-"
Faye's voice breaks the conversation, her phone still cracking in the background. "Can you two stop fighting for a second?"
I frown as she goes on. "Did you even hear what I said?"
She huffs, "I said, 'How am I supposed to trust you when you won't even tell me what's going on?'"
"Arie," she continues hesitantly, "Look, I do trust you, it's just..." she pauses. I can hear the determination in her voice.
"...You're scaring me. All this talk about hearing things-" I wave my hand at Caitlyn, looking at me suspiciously.
"You talk to yourself a lot," Faye says simply.
Great, I think, one more thing I need to worry about.
"And I can't help but listen," she says hurriedly. "But that's not the point. What I'm trying to say is that I'm worried about you... I want to help. Whatever it is you're doing, I want in." I force back tears. I want her to understand, but if she, or anyone for that matter, knew, than what would he do to them? That's one thing I can keep myself steady with: knowing that I'm the only one. I shutter at the thought. I can't fight the feeling that I am not the only one. Another question unanswered: Who else?
"You don't understand," I say truthfully to Faye. "The less you know, the better. You're safer that way."
"Faye," I snort. "Trust me, you'll know soon enough."
She huffs stubbornly. "Soon."