IT’S DARK. I can’t see, I can’t see a thing. Thump, thump, thump! The sound of my heart is beating so fast through my chest. I’m scared, struggling to hear, struggling to concentrate on the sound of my surroundings.
‘Ssshhh!’ I mumbled to myself. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, I kept repeating. There we go, calm and still – as if I were air; no, as if I were non-existent. I hear something – voices? What are they saying? Where are we going? Are they taking me to where she is?
Now, we have stopped. I know we have – I can feel it. Come on, Alexa, it’s now or never. You need to get away. The car is moving again, but slowly. I can feel everything; I can hear everything – the sound of oil bubbling in the engine. The needle on the speedometer, we are moving at 30 miles an hour. How am I doing this? What is happening to me? What’s wrong with me? Am I seriously asking myself questions in sequences of three?
‘Now, Alexa!’ my mind screamed at me. My heart began to race with such speed. Thump, rolling, rolling, then stop. The pain I felt in my body was beyond words. There was no time for that – I pulled off the bag that was over my head. I could see from a distance that the car was turning around, coming back for me. Ignoring the pain, I began to run for my life...
“Alexa, Alexa – WAKE UP, WAKE UP!”
I heard the sounds fading in and out of my ear... hmmm, am I dreaming? My eyes opened, vision distorted, blurred. I was in a somewhat dark room, “where am I?” I thought, my head aching with pain. I sat up slowly, my hand pressed against my head, empty bottles of vodka and brandy, an ashtray full of weed and cigarette buds were all I could see at first.
“Oh, I am at home,” I thought. Then my memories came to me... we were out last night partying away like we always do on Friday nights. We must have come back here... Yes, we brought the party home; we were so wasted. I got up slowly, smiling to myself as I remembered bits of last night’s events. I hear something, what is that noise? Is that crying?
As I heard the cry, I looked around, and to my shock, I saw Jenna standing in the corner with a butter knife in her hand, pointing towards me. “What the hell are you doing?” I asked. “Aargh, my fucking head is killing me.” As those words left my lips, Jenna dropped the knife and ran towards me, right into my arms and held me tight. I suddenly pulled away from her, confused, but before I could say anything, my head pain got worse. Yes, my head was killing me and not due to the effects of alcohol, not because I was wasted; this was no hangover. This was different, something I had been suffering from for years, well as long as I could remember. I would get these attacks...
I remember one night I was sleeping, I woke up in a cold sweat, my head started aching, and this was no ordinary headache – the pain felt like I had been hit with a chrome bar repeatedly. I also began to see things, and then my nose would bleed. Sometimes, the images would be fuzzy like watching a pirate DVD where the cameraman is moving all the time, and the lens of the camera is filthy. And some dreams would be visible, seem so real as if I was projected right there at that moment.
I visited so many different doctors, I spoke to therapists, was prescribed to so many different pills to stop the pain but nothing worked. I even had a brain scan once. They said the structure of the left side of my brain was abnormal or some shit like that. I walked out after a while when they were in the middle of discussing my results; it was out of anger as it was clear the doctors didn’t have a clue what was wrong with me.
Jenna dragged me to a psychic once, the lady touched my hand and freaked out, screaming out all these weird words, saying I was chosen. I thought it was nothing but hokum and realized that if the doctors, the therapist or the ‘psychic’ couldn’t help me, no one could. I decided to sketch down what I saw in my dreams, or should I say my attacks, to see what they meant. I wasn’t that bad at drawing, so that helped, but after a while of looking through some of them, I could never understand what they meant, so I lost interest. This led me to my next option, cannabis, I did some research and apparently, cannabis... well, the THC, cures cancer by aiding with killing the cells and also helps with pain... well, that’s what was on a website, so I thought, “what the hell, I’ve tried everything, this may help to ease the pain.”
Well, that’s what I hoped for. It helped for a while... Well, I thought it did as the attacks had stopped, but who knows, I might have been too high to notice they were there. But after some time, they came back. I felt them, but I still kept smoking. I liked getting high. What can I say? So yes, that’s my story.
Jenna was shaking so much that I was beginning to move with her. ‘What the hell? What happened? What’s wrong?’ I asked. I always asked in a sequence of three, whatever the subject. She just kept looking at me; the fear in her big blue eyes had me worried.
Jenna and I went way back. We grew up together; she was my best friend, my sister, and my rock. We met and grew up in a children’s home, called the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum, a very strict home run by a group of prestige nuns. I know you’re thinking, ‘how did someone like me come from a Catholic home...’ well, I did. I read the Bible every day – we were taught the history of the Bible, not much on universal history life – we followed the rules of the text, and if anyone disobeyed, they were sent to solitude. Strangely, it was an orphanage where no one ever visited to adopt; we were just to be raised and leave on the 21st birthday; weird, I know. I later learned that it was a sham of some sort and they had breached so many acts that I knew to be possible. Even after extensive research, the actual leading franchise had shut down or evolved into something else years ago. I was so shocked when I came to learn these things; then again, it did explain why it was so secluded.
Something I always thought about during my time there. I remember the strictest of all nuns, Sister Beridith Clarke. Oh, she was a mean, frightening woman. Oh, how much I hated her, and hate is a strong word, but I’ve always used it so freely with her. She made my life a living hell, the number of times she shunned me to solitude just because she didn’t like my opinion about things. The number of times she beat me with her unique cane when she felt isolation wasn’t enough punishment. I’m glad to be free of her and that place, good riddance! But yes, back to Jenna and me. We also left together, or we like to say, escaped from the system at the age of 17. Five years later, and we are still going strong, have always had each other’s back. Or more I had hers, as she is so small, 4ft 5 to be precise.
She was always small. I remember the first day we met; she was the tiniest in the home we shared. A small frightened girl with brown curly hair, little freckles on her cheeks, which she claims to be beauty spots, not freckles, as she hated that word, and big blue eyes. I can always read her by looking into her eyes; that’s what drew me to her, and I have never left her side since. Nothing’s changed about her now, except for her height, and even though she is still small and she has gone through puberty, she still has the same curly brown hair just a bit longer and fuller and the blue eyes that I can always read.
I remember, once a day, the nuns would go off to have their prayer meetings, while we had, I don’t know, let’s call it recess. They would always leave one nun in charge, Sister Gracey Anny Mey, who was the oldest of the sisters. Her coordination and focus weren’t what it used to be, and she would often fall asleep on the horrible white rocking chair she practically lived in. Each day, thirty minutes into recess, Sister Mey would fall asleep then Jenna and I would go off to our secret spot and talk about the world and things for the remaining forty-five minutes. We would make up stories about who our parents were and why they left us. I used to joke that Jenna’s were a family of dwarfs and they disowned her because she was too tall. She hated that joke, and she would get me back by saying I was left because I was mix-raced and my mother was either white and scared that her family would disown her for sleeping with a black man, or black and ashamed for sleeping with a white man that left her hanging.
Yes, what a bitch so small but had such a sharp tongue on her. I would laugh it off and say it’s the twentieth century and it’s less likely that would be the scenario, but deep down, it would bother me and my mind would wander. Why did my mother never want me? Why don’t I remember her? I came to the orphanage at the age of six, but till this day, I have no memory of what my life was like before.
I never told Jenna about it. I just said I never knew her when we first had that conversation, and I never let her know it bothered me. I didn’t want to make her feel bad, she had a sharp tongue and said things that got us into a lot of trouble many times, but she was still my best friend, my sister, my rock. She would always be by my side even when the attacks started... she knew everything.
As I looked into those big blue eyes, I could see the fear taking over her. I could see something had frightened her to death; she had seen something so horrific and sick. The expression in her face, her body language was not how it should be. I have been around this girl for 16 years, I have watched her grow up into the person she is now, and I knew something was really wrong. Her eyes focused on mine then her mouth opened then closed once again. Confused, I looked away and started to look around and realized how dark it really was in this room – the curtains were closed, and the two doors were shut. The only source of light was a small lamp that was abandoned in one of the corners of the room.
Jenna and I didn’t live a luxury life, we came from nothing, so we made the best of what we had, and what we had was a small studio apartment. One room that we shared, one sofa futon bed, a box TV in the corner that rested on a second-hand wooden table that we actually found in the alleyway a few blocks from our home. It was a bit chipped when we found it, so I filed it down and painted it with some varnish. We had a table and chair that we found too, and we shared a wardrobe. We paid for the wardrobe and bed; of course, we are not tramps.
Jenna worked at Marlitos Marlos’ bar. Yes, the name is a little odd, it was a small bar hidden in the nightlife of New York City, as we lived in the city. I actually pitied the owner when I learned that it was his real name. I felt that his parents were pricks for giving him such a name that any kid would find a way to make fun of. I am sure he had a terrible childhood because of it, but surprisingly, he turned out to be a good man. Well, he had to be, after giving Jenna a job when he knew she had no experience. But weeks after starting, she became a natural behind the bar. There was something about being able to mix drinks and seeing their effect on people that excited her; her eyes would always light up when a punter got wasted from one of her cocktails. I think in her own little creepy way, she felt like she was this mad scientist or something, I don’t know. She is a weirdo like that.
And myself, well, I hustled whenever I could, and most of the time, I found myself at Marlos so I could keep an eye on Jenna, just in case something happens. I have always felt like I needed to protect her. There had been a few occasions where I would step in when a punter got too crazy from one of Jenna’s cocktails and felt like being a little touchy, feely. You might as well say I was the security guard that was not on a legitimate payroll. Marlos never complained about it; it didn’t bother him as he loved Jenna for bringing in the punters and it intrigued him to see a woman such as myself being able to throw a man out the bar.
I wouldn’t say I am strong, but being 6 foot was an advantage, especially when the punters were intoxicated. I also hustled sometimes when playing the bar games like darts and pool. I would always win and flirt a little too, so it’s a win-win. It’s not the most exciting life, but it’s ours, and we can do as we please without having to worry about Sister Clarke and her minions breathing on our backs.
I continued to look around while still stuck in time, thinking about Marlitos Marlos.
‘Where is my phone,’ I suddenly thought to break out my trance down memory lane. I looked back at Jenna; she was still and quiet. I looked into her eyes.
‘What time is it? Why is it so dark? What happened?’ I asked in my sequence of three.
“It’s 6 o’clock,” she said.
‘What?! in the morning,’ I said angrily. ‘why in the hell did you wake me.’
“No, no, in the evening,” she stuttered, interrupting me, then before I could comment back, she started repeating these words over and over. “It wasn’t a dream; the end is here. It wasn’t a dream; the end is here.”
‘What the fuck’ I gasped as I stepped back all freaked out, which was an overreaction, I know, but in the 16 years I had known this girl, she had never acted like this before. And I watched a lot of scary films that’s traumatized me for a lifetime; I thought this shit was getting way too creepy. Jenna kept repeating it again and again. ‘Jenna, Jenna,’ I shouted as I reached out and grabbed her shoulders, but she carried on chanting.
Really, I thought and did what any reasonable person would do -- ‘smack’
I slapped Jenna across her face.
“Ouch you bitch, what the hell?” She winced.
‘I am sorry, but you were starting to scare the shit out of me,’ I said as I loosened my grip on her shoulders and stood back a bit after letting go of her.
“I am sorry,” she said as she walked over to the futon and sat down.
‘You didn’t answer my other two questions,’ I said in an angry tone.
For some time, I had this thing where I asked in a sequence of three questions, and they had to be answered in the order they were asked; it had to be one after the other, no matter what was asked or how long the answer was, it had to be done. It irritated the hell out of Jenna but not more than it annoyed me. If it couldn’t be done, something would come over me; I would get agitated, sweaty palms then become erratic. I thought it to be some form of OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder), but Jenna told me it was YHDI, she never went into as what it was, and if there was a cure, so for weeks, I did research and more research.
I went to libraries, hospitals, doctors but no one had answers, then one day she put me out of my misery and told me YHDI stood for You Have Deep Issues and laughed in my face. That day, I could have taken her life and not cared. I was so angry, I was furious I had wasted weeks researching something that I thought was a scientific name, but no, it was Jenna being a bitch because it annoyed her the way I ask questions.
After several months of calming down, I was able to forgive her, and in all truth, I was able to agree with her. I did have YHDI for the simple fact that I didn’t always ask questions in a sequence; it just started one day, and I haven’t stopped since. I do not know what happened that day or really remember too tough on what could have triggered it, which is a mystery to me, just like many things in my life I do not understand. “O,” she said, interrupting my thoughts. “I, I, and I,” she began to stutter.
‘Jenna, what the hell man, you’re freaking me the fuck out,’ I shouted. ‘I wake up to you holding a knife to me, well a butter knife, the house is dark, and then you start chanting shit.’
“Ssshhh,” she whispered as she jumped up from the bed and shoved me against the wall.
‘What did you see,’ I whispered back. Jenna knew I was going to ask another two questions, so before I could open my mouth, she began to stutter.
“I, I, I woke up early this morning and I felt cold freezing, remember we came with Ric, Jae and Tracey last night?
Ric, Jae, and Tracey our good friends... ok, more Jenna’s than mine. Ric and Jae work at Marlos with Jenna, and Tracey is Ric’s partner. They were the only three people that we knew and grew close to... Our little circle of trust Jenna often referred to us when we all would be together getting wasted. I found it bit gay, to be honest, but hey, she loved it, and it didn’t irritate me enough to complain about it. Ric found it corny too, while Tracey loved it as much as Jenna did so they would sometimes do a little dance to go with it. Jae would always join, even though deep down I knew he couldn’t stand it but did it for Jenna’s sake. I had always known he had a thing for her, but Jenna’s just oblivious to the thought. Ric is short for Ricardo Mendes and Jae for James Mendes, known as the Mendes twins. After meeting him the first time, Ric explained he was the older brother, well by five minutes to be exact. Apparently, Ric claims when in the womb just before his journey to planet earth, Jae’s leg was dragged away, allowing him to come out first. It’s the dumbest story I have ever been told I have no idea why I am even retelling it. But yes that is his story and he feels due to being the older twin he is more superior to Jae for having the upper hand, so when they are debating and even when Ric is wrong, the “older” twin is always right... It’s quite sad, really but hilarious to watch. Hmm, Tracey... ‘Wait’ I thought... oh yeah, where are they? When did they leave? They did come back last night, didn’t they?’ I asked, scratching my head.
“I woke up, they were gone, and the front door was open,” she said, and as she began to tell her tale, I saw the fear return in her eyes.
“I thought that was weird, why would they just walk out and leave the door open, but I was too hungry to go back to sleep and there was hardly anything in the fridge except for that stale cheese and a drop of milk, so I decided to go to the store. As I started to walk down the streets, I didn’t realize at first because I felt so hungover,” she said then hesitated.
‘Go on,’ I pushed.
“After a while, I started to look around and”... She started to shake.
‘Jenna, man,’ I growled.
“Sorry, sorry, there were cars that were smashed, some had doors wide open with keys still in the ignitions, and I thought why people would leave the cars like that, something’s not right.”
‘So you’ve freaked out about some cars, Jenna. Really?’ I asked with the straightest stare I could do.
‘ow,’ I winced from her fist hitting my arm.
“You don’t understand. As I walked further and furthermore, cars on the road were abandoned, on fire, there were even police cars too,” she said, trying to control her emotions. “I don’t know why, I don’t know what possessed me, after all when I watch movies I complain about people exploring, but I continued to see what was going on and after passing a few more cars, I began to hear these moans, cries. I thought someone might be hurt, so I followed the sound.” She could no longer hold it in, stuttering turned to her body shaking, shaking to trembling, then she broke down, eyes flooded with tears.
‘Jenna, what did you see?’ I pressed again.
“Ja, Ja, James, he was I, I, I don’t know, I don’t know he was, it looked like he was eating Tracey.”
‘Bah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha,’ I burst out into laughter. That is the stupidest thing you have ever told me, nice try Jenna you actually nearly had me with the shaking and the stuttering. And that you’ve just seen a ghost look you got going on right now ha ha ha ha ha ha’ I laughed again, but laughter soon turned to silence and my smile was gone, I was serious once I saw no change on Jenna’s face. ‘So you expect me to believe that there is apocalyptic zombie shit going on right now?’ I asked, and before I could start my sequence, she cut me off once again.
“No,” she said back, angry. “This was different, Jae’s face and hands; they had changed.”
‘Yea, right’ I rolled my eye, sat down on the bed, reached for my box, and started to roll my spliff. ‘Smack’
Jenna smacked the weed out my hand.
‘Jenna, you are testing my patience,’ I shouted back at her.
“No, you don’t get it, you lanky fool,” she screamed back.
Yes, lanky fool, how I hated those words. Jenna would always call me that in an argument when she was outraged and wanted to make it known that she was not playing, I hated it so much I was quite sensitive at times towards my height, and she knew that.
“He had changed, his face looked deformed, and he looked exactly like one of your drawings,” she said while disappearing into the passage and reappearing with boxes. Dropping to the floor on her knees, she went through the boxes, going through all my books, searching. “Here it is,” she said then threw it in my face, which landed in my lap. Before I could respond, she came charging towards me, took the book off my lap and started flipping through to go back to the page she just found.
“Where has it gone? Where is it, ahhh,” she mumbled to herself. Look, look.” Waving it in my face, I took the book; it was a detailed sketch of a man, but it wasn’t a man at all, his face was disfigured. It looked scary, like some sort of demon but still familiar, the eyes were dark, evil, but again those eyes, I knew those eyes. I had seen them before; they were Jae’s. But how could this be? I drew this picture many years ago in my young life before I even met Jae, saw what he looked like, but this was him. I could see it so clearly now.
“This is what I saw... This was Jae,” she said to me with her big eyes piercing at me. As I looked into her eyes, I knew then she wasn’t joking with me, she meant what she said, but I refused to believe there were such things as demons to be true. This wasn’t a movie; I was ignorant to the fact.
‘This doesn’t mean anything,’ I said as I continued to make my spliff.
‘You was wasted this morning; it was probably a figure of your imagination.’
“Alexandra Nemesia, I am not lying, I did not imagine these things. I am not crazy; this thing chased me. I have never run so fast in my life. It ran up a wall for fuck sakes,” she grimaced at me. Whoa, she said my full name. She never says my full name. Only when shits going down like when we planned to escape the home Jenna said my full name. When we were squatting in some vacant flat when things were terrible, and we nearly got caught, she called out my full name. She hasn’t called my name since then, but I looked at her, ignoring my thoughts, still being in denial and ignorant to what she was telling me.
‘Prove it,’ I said to her as I inhaled a pull from my spliff and blew it out and upwards to the ceiling. Jenna was mad; she paced back and forth, then got the TV remote and switched it on. I watched her with a confused expression, then to my shock looked at the TV.
Static after static, blue then black green, sound, silence, an irritating recurring alarm was what all I could see as I watched Jenna flick through the channels. Terror and anxiety took over me. I began to feel the room spinning; I felt light. I am either scared out of my mind, or this is some good shit that I am smoking, I put the spliff in the ashtray and Jenna noticed how uneasy I became and helped me sit back down on to the bed. ‘What does this mean? I am freaking out, Jenna, I am freaking out,’ I gasped as I started hyperventilating. In the movies when the TV is like that, it usually means that everything is fucked up and everyone is dead. Oh my gosh, everyone is dead, Jenna. Oh my god, I’m dying... we’re going to die.’ I started to cry.
“Ssshhh, calm down,” she said as she looked into my eyes while resting both of her hands on my shoulders, grabbing me firmly. She then ran to the kitchen and came back quickly to me. “You are not dying; you are high. Drink some water. You need to sober up. You’re freaking out, calm down. I need you to relax, breathe in, breathe out and again; there we go; just keep doing that for me.”
Jenna was right; I was high as a kite freaking out. Her breathing technique was actually working, or I was still high and just passed the paranoid stage, who knows, but I started to calm down.
“You ok? I need you to be, Alexa, I can’t do this without you,” she said as I continued to breathe in and out.
‘Yes, I am good. I don’t know why I got like that,’ I said to her, but I was lying. I knew precisely why I got like that. The picture I sketched many years ago was real; Jenna saw it; how could that be? What is happening?
“Alexa... Alexa,” Jenna called. I snapped out of it and saw her staring right in my face.
Yea, I was just thinking,’ I replied.
“About what?” she asked.
‘Erm that’... I hesitated.... ‘that you didn’t answer my third question, nor did you explain it in the correct order.’ I wasn’t ready to admit that I believed her. I needed more proof.
“Really, Alexa?! I just told you something, and you want to come at me with that repetitive shit?” she barked. I stared at her. “Fine, I apologize that I answered incorrectly,” she said while grinding her teeth. “It is dark because I was afraid that there were others like Jae, so I barricaded the front door, closed the others and kept the curtains closed, so no one would hear or see us, to prevent anyone from coming here.”
‘OK,’ I said quietly as I struggled to process what I just heard. Jenna watched me as I sat in silence for a few minutes. I then got up and walked to the door that leads to the passage; I opened it and saw the wardrobe and a suitcase against the door. ‘How did I not notice the wardrobe was gone from the room,’ I mumbled to myself. I looked back at Jenna, I opened my mouth to speak, and before I knew it, I heard a sudden noise. It got louder, it crept up slowly, a silent ninja ready to make his move. Before I knew it, my mouth began to water. I knew what time it was, so I quickly ran into the bathroom and was sick in the toilet. Fear, shock, denial, or just effects from a hangover took over me, and that was the only way I could release it. Just as I finished and was about to flush it away, Jenna grabbed my hand. ‘What are you...?’
“Ssshhh,” she whispered before I could finish my sentence. She then helped me up and guided me back into the room, she sat me down then left but returned shortly with a basin of water and a wet rag, and she sat it on the floor beside me then walked over to the door and closed it slowly.
“Look, I understand you are struggling to take this in right now, and it’s hard to believe, but we have to be quiet, Alexa,” Jenna said quietly while walking over to me. I nodded back at her as I got the rag and began cleaning my face. “What are you thinking?” She asked.
‘I don’t know,’ I replied.
“Don’t lie, Alexa, I know you,” she snapped back.
‘OK, I lied. Do you want to know the truth? I’m thinking I am scared as shit,’ I said back as I gurgled water in my mouth.
“OK, ok, acceptance, that’s good. You believe me. It will be OK; we will get through this,” she said as she patted my shoulder.
‘You don’t get it; I am scared as shit because what you saw today is something I drew a very long time ago, and if that has become a reality, how do we know that the other things that I have drawn will not become real as well?’
She opened her mouth then paused, “But not one of them drawings were, I don’t know... good, happy. I can’t remember all of them,” she whispered to herself. “What do we do?”
‘If this is really happening, we need to go through all of them... Now.’ I said as I jumped up off the bed...