6 - Jessica
I can't go. He says I should, he demands it, but I can't. It's too soon. It's always too soon.
My hollow eyes watch the generic news report on the 22" TV screen, tracking the movement of Mike as he's escorted into the courthouse, his rough body smoothed out by a black, pin-stripe suit.
"It'll be good for publicity, Jess," he said on the phone. I kept insisting, kept coming up with excuses, my desperation piling up with every word. "Your career is built on your... experience with that incident. Your fans expect you to support the other... victims."
He doesn't believe me. He never has, not when the supernatural is involved. Greg has always been one for the literal, the scientific, the here and now.
But he saw me huddled up in that rehab centre and his eyes had flashed with money. Every morning I wake up and half expect him to phone me with the offer of a book deal. Of course, it would never just be an offer - it would be a demand.
I can see the title now; Torn - the autobiography of a woman who barely escaped the clutches of death.
Another generic book title.
The news report is still focused on the outside of the courthouse, the man in front of the camera repeating needless words over and over into his microphone; "Claims of monster attacks apparently led to the murder of this young girl. Will her killer be given the justice he deserves or-" I grab the remote and stab the off switch, cutting the TV screen to black before he can say, 'It's back to the studio, Jeremy.'
I'm huddled on the sofa, my feeble arms wrapped tight around my legs, my chin collapsed on my knees. I can't feel my feet. It's cold. Why didn't I put the heating on?
Or maybe that's just my skin.
My eyes slither around the room, stacked with appliances and furniture, my badges of wealth. My cocoon of stuff. Needless, endless stuff.
It shields me from creeping memories, flashes of mines and elevators and wendigos.
My cell phone beeps beside me, startling me out of my trance. I glance to the side, at the screen. I let out an exasperated sigh.
G: Where are you?
J: Not there
G: Get your ass there now!
I roll my eyes, pressing the off button and killing the phone screen to black.
The room feels empty, no sound of the television filling the space or Greg's insistent texting. I swallow, burying my nose in between my knees and closing my eyes. Here; I should be safe here, should be free of my nightmares. But they still haunt me - they squeeze in through the cracks in the brick walls and slither underneath the door.
My eyes are jolted open. The room buzzes with the door bell ringing.
I let out a long sigh. Greg; he doesn't give up. He had probably been waiting outside my apartment building just so he could haunt outside my door.
With heavy limbs, I drag myself off the sofa and, with bare feet, shuffle along the hardwood floor.
I don't even care that I looks mess right now - my hair tangled, my face smudged with make up. Greg has seen me worse. Not that he cares.
The hallway feels endless as I trudge down it, towards the front door of my apartment. My mind cultivates retorts that I can use to get Greg off my back without him firing me. I even consider offering him a blonde wig to go and impersonate me at the court if he's so insistent on feeding the press.
I reach the door, huffing away a strand of hair that has fallen over my nose, before grabbing the handle and yanking it open.
"What the hell do you want, Greg-"
My words cut off. Standing in the doorway is a man I've never seen before, his stature tall and lanky, his skin a smooth caramel. I narrow my eyes at him, my mouth running dry.
"Jessica Mallinson?" He asks, glancing down at the notebook in his hand, tapping it with the end of his crude, Biro pen.
"Yes?" I ask cautiously, lifting my head to force confidence into my bones despite my disheveled appearance.
The man tries a polite smile, lifting his eyes to meet mine, shifting his shoulders up to his full height, his black Mackintosh opened to reveal his loose, pale grey shirt. I can't help but notice he failed to tuck it into his jeans.
"Hi," he greets me. "I'm Tag Hunt. I work as an independent journalist-"
I scoff, shoving the door in his face. He jams his foot in the doorway, propping the door open, peering around it to me, his eyes strong and serious. "I've come to talk to you about the wendigos."