After

14 - Sam

I curse under my breath, instantly jamming the backspace key, deleting the words I had just typed on my desktop computer. I'm not ever going to get this right; no matter how many times I start and restart, I can't find the right words. It all feels so personal, like a hand has smashed through the screen, ripped through my chest to yank out my heart, and smeared it all over the Word Document page.

My blog was strictly for facts, for proving the existence of wendigos and other abandoned, thrown away myths. And in turn, it had attracted the audience of likeminded people, those who are unhealthily intrigued by the dangerous, the unpopular beliefs. The kind of people that would play Age of Mythology over Age of Empires.

How did the case go?

The comments on my last blog post are endless, insisting on an answer on that exact question.

My fans are obsessed. They are deluded, wannabe victims, wishing they could have had the experience I had. With those creatures. If only they knew...

Of course I couldn't hide who I was for long. My name had been plastered across news reports all around the country and people naturally suspected. I had eventually dropped my pen name and admitted my true identity. And that was all. The news reports did the rest.

But I feel like I can't hide all these things, these secrets, inside the cage of my body anymore. They are gripping my ribcage like the bars of a prison, shaking and rattling them, battling to get free.

I refocus my eyes back onto the computer keyboard, my hands hovering over it, readjusting myself back into my black, swivel chair. With a determined breath, I let my fingers fall onto the keys.

I've never felt truly alone. And now the truth of that has come true. Today I discovered that I have a photographic obsessed stalker. That changes a lot of things...

A distant crash shudders the room. My fingers freeze.

The room suddenly feels cold, an imaginary breeze creeping up the back of my neck.

"Hello?" I call out, my chair squeaking as it swivels. "Wolfie! Is that you-"

My words are cut off as I see Wolfie's lump of a body collapsed on the rug beside my feet, a far off thump perking his ears up, yanking him out of his sleep. My heart shudders. No matter how far off the noises sound, they feel so uncomfortably close.

I was sure we had lost whoever was watching us. The three of us had constructed a plan to confuse whoever was following - if they had still been with us, inside that courthouse. It had been Ashley's idea at first, and then Chris had helped me map out overly weaving pathways back to our apartments, making our destinations unpredictable and impossible to follow.

Almost impossible, apparently.

These photographers had only ever been watching us from afar. What had led one of them to break into my apartment? Maybe it was because I now knew what they were up to.

And I was an easy target, given that my apartment was on the ground floor. Damn, I should have pulled out all the stops and bought that third floor flat when I had the chance.

Chris had insisted on not letting me go back to my apartment on my own, his protective genes flaring up again. But I had assured him I would be fine and it would be in our best interests to confuse the stalker, forcing them into a quick decision to make; who to follow? At the time, I'd hoped they'd follow me - Ashley wasn't in a good enough state to have her anxiety rattling inside her skull over it.

Now, I wish they hadn't.

I press my index finger to my lips in a 'be quiet' action to Wolfie, before pulling myself slowly out of my chair, trying to stop it squeaking as much as possible. Wolfie obeys, heaving himself to his feet, his ears as sharp as arrowheads as his fur on his back pricks up like static. I can hear the faintest growl rumbling at the back of his throat.

Slowly, carefully so I don't creak the floorboards, I reach for a nearby, steel lamp - an art piece that never really did go well with my boho-esque decor of rustic red rugs and Indian patterned furnishings - and yank it from its plug in the wall, plunging the small, living room into darkness. The only light ghostly sheens across the room from my computer screen.

With shivering breaths - something I swear I can see in the dim, dusky darkness - and a lump resident in my tight throat, I inch forward towards the door to the hallway. Wolfie clings to my heels, his protective nature far more impressive than Chris'.

I'm getting closer to the door. The sound is growing louder as I grip the cold, sticky metal of my lamp with both fists. It sounds distorted, like rough, non-sequential footsteps.

"Okay," I breathe, my voice barely a whisper, but I'm sure I can hear it echo around the room. I nod towards Wolfie, bracing him and myself, before letting one hand peel away from the lamp and reach for the door handle.

Under my breath, I count to three. Grip the handle. Twist it. Pull.

As the door swings open, I latch both hands onto my lamp, ready to swing it, and Wolfie lunges forward.

And a figure clad in an orange jumpsuit stumbles out of my nearby bathroom.

"Josh?!"


"What the hell are you doing here?!" I demand, snapping forward and almost knocking Josh over.

He looks frazzled by Wolfie's presence, the animal growling gruffly at his feet. Swiftly, I call him to heel and he calms down, though Josh isn't so quick to follow.

"I, um... got out!" He answers plainly before spreading his arms out wide in triumph. "Surprise!"

I stare at him incredulously, my mouth agape. "You can't just break out of prison, Josh!" My voice cracks as I shout at him. He looks taken aback as if he'd honestly think I'd be glad to see him.

My eyes drift stiffly to my left to see my bathroom door open, revealing glass shattered all over the floor, glistening in the moonlight through the gaping, smashed hole of a window. My arms fly up in exasperation, my fingers tangling in my messy hair, panic rising up in me. I have a federal criminal in my apartment. I. Have a federal criminal. In my apartment. "Couldn't you have knocked?!"

Josh shrugs one shoulder shortly, bewildered at my anger, before rapping his knuckles in mid air, making a knocking sound with his tongue against the roof of his mouth. And he twists his words sweetly, "Can I come in?"


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