Lenny Taylor felt how her heart beat in her throat as the light on her cell phone flickered then died, as did her phone's battery. Shit, she mouthed. She really should have charged it. Then again, she couldn't have guessed that a stray black cat would cross their path on her evening walk with Toby and that the Australian Shepherd would break his leash running right after it when it jumped off of the low wall it had sat on and sped off. He usually left them alone, but this cat had somehow managed to ensnare the dog's attention so much that the fifteen-year-old brunette's efforts to hold him back just hadn't sufficed. The dog had pulled as hard as he could and had managed to free himself and had chased right after the cat, in the direction of the old abandoned warehouse, which the cat had most likely thought to be a good spot to hide.
Of course, she couldn't return dogless, so Lenny, too, had set off in the direction of the old warehouse to retrieve Toby and go back at once. It hadn't been her turn to walk him for starters, but her younger brother, Dylan, had their parents wrapped about his finger with absolutely everything. She was going to have a talk with them about him when she and Toby were back... When the light of the posts by the side of the street hadn't carried far enough any longer, she had resorted to her cell phone, as it had been the only kind of illumination the teenager had had on her. It hadn't worked for long.
"Toby?" Lenny cried. In vain, she hoped for the dog to just come already. She didn't like the dark. She hadn't since she was a baby. "Toby?!" she called once more. She groaned. You could at least bark to give me any idea at all where you've gone, if you won't come, she thought.
She turned her head quickly when she heard a sound come from the back of the building. It wasn't really barking, but whining ── the kind of whining dogs do when incredibly scared. Visibly, Lenny swallowed as she slowly made to follow the sound. As she did so, she squinted and tried hopelessly to navigate the aisles with the light from the half moon that cast its way in through the broken windows. The property's owner had never really cared to fix them or do anything with the building at all since the warehouse was forced to close due to insolvency, before Lenny was born. She had not known it any other way than it was now ── cold, dark, dirty. Up until a few years ago, neighborhood kids had often come there to play, but now most of them sat in the new skate park, on evenings and in the weekends, if not to skate themselves then to watch. Lenny knew several boys from her class who skated as a hobby.
A loud hiss passed pink lips as the teenager stubbed her toe against a rack and caused a piece of metal to fall down from it. The metal clanked loudly against the concrete, and the sound rang as clear as ever in the abandoned building, for seconds after. She did not at all like the thought of navigating the rest of the property like this, too, but she didn't really have a choice, did she? "Toby?!" No response. "Worthless dog..." Lenny muttered.
The next step that she took, she felt another item underneath her espadrille. As she took her foot off of it and took a step back and looked down, Lenny didn't expect to discern anything more than a shape. As she did so, however, the moonlight that cast its way in illuminated the floor and the object that she had just stepped on unnaturally bright for a few seconds ── long enough for her to determine what it was. It was a rag doll just like the one she had owned as a girl. Its bright red hair, like blood, was made of old yarn. The doll's disproportionate, big blue eyes stared up at her as if it knew something Lenny didn't. The doll was incredibly disheveled. Its head was nearly entirely ripped off, the very last seams with which it was still attached to the rest of the body visible. Its orange dress was torn. Lenny could swear that she saw how the toy's big smile twitched, followed by a chillingly familiar maniacal laugh. Frightened, the teenager hopped over the doll and continued her path.
She hadn't had the doll for long.
Lenny's memory of the doll was, in fact, her very first, but it wasn't a happy one. Maybe that's why she remembered so well. Lenny's Aunt Jessica had gifted her the doll upon her fourth birthday. She liked her aunt, her father's younger sister, a lot, but she had never really taken to the doll, to put it mildly, despite repeated efforts from her aunt and from both of her parents to let her develop a liking for it.
The toddler hadn't cared much for it from the very beginning. Lenny's parents had hoped that her fondness for it could only grow by encouraging her to play with it. That night, when they put her to bed, they had given her the doll instead of her teddy bear to sleep with. Alas, it had been a first night of many during which Lenny had woken both of her parents several times with blood-curdling, spine-tingling screams, for she had felt herself be suffocated by an invisible hand and had heard maniacal laughter, however faraway, whenever the doll was in the room and she dared to close her blue eyes.
At four, Lenny Taylor hadn't really been able to put it in words, what she experienced when she was asleep. Also, despite her age, Lenny had guessed that it would sound too unbelievable and hadn't really wanted to be told that she was lying. What she had done, was push the doll in her father's hands and beg for him to just take it with him, every single time he came in to make sure that she was all right after yet another 'nightmare'. This had gone on for two weeks, until he had given in and had removed it from the girl's bedroom one night. His sleep, and his wife's, had been too disrupted for too long for him not to give in, if it meant that maybe they could all sleep a little better. The rest of that night had been absolutely peaceful, both for Lenny and her parents. Lenny's mother had eventually donated the rag doll to the local homeless shelter.
She felt chills run down her spine when she felt pressure on her throat. She lifted her left hand up to touch it, if only to make sure that she wasn't being strangled ── or not physically, at least.
Then she heard her Australian Shepherd again, louder and more panicked than before, and she began to pick up the pace, going into the direction the sound was coming from. She turned a corner and saw a long, fluffy tail. "Toby!" she exclaimed. "Where──"
When she came closer, she saw that all life had drained from the animal ── quite literally. Toby's eyes were wide open, but she knew he couldn't see. He wasn't at all moving. The sight of him that way made her remember the dog she had had before the Australian Shepherd, and particularly the moment when he was put down when his cancer had spread too much to ever cure from.
The girl sank down on her knees. As she fell to the side, too shaken to stay balanced much, and used a hand to support herself, she felt her hand land in a sticky, dark liquid. When she raised her hand in shock, she confirmed her thoughts... her fears. Blood. When she looked down, Lenny saw a puddle of blood grow steadily bigger, from underneath Toby's body. She felt herself begin to hyperventilate; she was not good with blood, female or not. She didn't scramble upright until a cold raspy voice broke through the silence, though.
"He was not supposed to come here. You should have held him just a bit tighter."
As she eyed her surroundings quickly, scanning them, Lenny felt her body become immobile, from fear. She stayed put as if frozen on spot, rather than react to the instinct to flee. Then she saw the man in the far corner of the dark room. He looked somewhat older, with long and thin gray hair stuck against sunken cheeks. The man's clothes were several sizes too large for him and dirty, as well as ripped, as if stolen from some dumpster. She wasn't far off. The man's feet were bare. Blood dripped off of the edge of the butcher's knife he held ── Toby's blood, she knew.
"What the fuck did you do to him?!" Lenny shrieked, although she knew the answer already. The girl's voice sounded stronger than she felt. She had always had a big mouth.
"I ensured he'll never set a single paw in here again."
The man slowly stepped from the shadows as he responded, so that he was barely a few feet from where Lenny stood herself. This way, she saw the unnatural, yellow color of his eyes and the gray and broken teeth in his mouth as he smiled at her in a way that didn't speak of what was called 'good intentions'. She took a step back, wanting to put some more space between them. In her mind, the teenager tried to remember the way she had come, so that she could run from the building as soon as remotely possible.
"You're not supposed to be here either," the tall and skinny man spoke. "You know, I do mostly prefer my girls a bit younger, and I usually select them very carefully myself, but maybe you'll do. You're a virgin, I'm sure, so you might just be the kind of tight I really like. Add in the angst and I'm sure we'll have a great time together. Your milky skin looks nice enough to put my teeth in, too. I bet it'll be delicious."
What? When her eye fell upon a 'missing' paper and she saw the black and white printed picture of a girl about half her own age with a dark bob and slight smile on a bike, she confirmed her suspicions. She knew what he was. The man was a predator who was not satisfied with only rape or murder or both. He kept trophies even, apparently.
Lenny's flight reflex got so strong at that moment that she felt how her body began to slowly unfreeze, and the girl realized that what she had to do now was run, nothing else. She ran, as fast as she could, the way that she had come. As expected, though, he had no intention of letting her go. She heard his heavy breaths and uneven footfalls as he sprinted after Lenny as fast as he could as well. She did not dare to look back to see how far he was or wasn't anymore. Despite the fact that she felt the stitch grow in her right side, Lenny kept going at a breakneck fast pace. She couldn't give up now. She couldn't let the predator catch her. He wouldn't spare her, if he did.
The pain she felt in her side became so much that it was all that raced through her mind, though, and she could barely focus on where the hell she was going. It couldn't be far anymore... She gasped when she tripped over the metal bar that had come down earlier when she stubbed her toe and fell, face down. The teenager tried to push herself up again and resume running, but she already felt a pair of arms tighten on her legs, and as she looked back, she looked into a face that was contorted with anger, like she had never even seen before. Panicked, she kicked as hard as she could, but... no use.
"You do not wish to stay for all the fun, it seems?"
In the two seconds that followed, the man had somehow managed to push the girl down with his body weight and one hand. She felt how he began to hastily unbutton her jeans with his other hand, and she screamed, as loudly as she could, and kicked... but she couldn't possibly fight him and win. As she felt his hand down her underwear, she felt how the bile rose high in her throat. She didn't manage to hold it back for very long. As she threw up on the concrete, everything happened incredibly quickly.
As the sickness from her stomach spilled across the concrete, the man loosened his grip just a little. As he did so, she saw the metal bar that she had tripped over inches from her head. They had struggled so much on the floor that it had come within reach once more. When she felt him loosen his grip, however marginally, she saw her chance and gripped it with one hand, then propelled it at him with all the force she had. When the metal met his temple, the man lost consciousness, nearly immediately; his limp form sagged down slowly on top of her.
When she confirmed for herself that he was not moving anymore, the metal bar shaky in her hand, she dropped her weapon before she scrambled, with difficulty, from under his limp body. Her hands shook still when she buttoned her jeans up again. Lenny felt more bile rise up in her throat, but she knew that she had no time to lose. As she swallowed the quickly rising bile, she felt the acid of her stomach contents burn her throat. Lenny Taylor didn't feel anything at all as she ran ── no pain, no stitch ── as fast as she could, back to her house... without Toby.
When the cops arrived to the warehouse, there was no body of a man or a dog. No blood ── either animal or human ── was detected at the scene either, regardless of how much of it Lenny claimed to have seen. The police didn't investigate anything further, for none of Lenny's story could be substantiated after a search of the building.
The cops did not at all believe her, nor did her parents anymore after a few conversations with the police. Due to the fact that everyone eyed her as the town freak, the once well-together teenage girl began to be what others feared she was ── more and more so each day that she was in the psychiatric hospital, as well. Lenny's parents felt like they had had no other choice, but to send their daughter to the asylum, two weeks after the incident.
"... made a great fuss again at lunch. It is so sad how such a bright young girl became the way she is right now," the head nurse said to her colleague as she held the door for her, as she passed through with a newly admitted patient in a wheelchair. "She did very well at school and hobbies and had a lot of friends, from what I've heard... and then all that changed one night, after she lost her dog on an evening walk? I don't get why she hung up this story, about a cannibal and a rapist. Police didn't find anything at all."
The nurse who pushed the wheelchair nodded as they walked in the direction of the patients' 'sun room', where they could play games and occupy themselves in other ways in the afternoons. "Indeed," she spoke. "It doesn't look like she's getting better either. She hasn't said a word, since she was brought in all these months ago, no matter how many types of medication they've tried to give her. She's entirely catatonic. I believe her parents are slowly beginning to realize she may be here for the rest of her life, too."
As the sour-faced head nurse returned to her station at the end of the hallway, to tackle the little pile of paperwork that had undoubtedly gathered on her desk since the morning ── new patients always required a lot of paperwork to be taken care of, and there had been three that week alone ── the other nurse pushed the wheelchair into the sun room. As she did so, she saw Lenny sit by the tall window as always, gazing mindlessly. Indeed, she might just be there for the rest of her life. There wasn't a happy ending for most of the patients, but still, this was exceptionally sad.
As she parked the new ward's wheelchair beside the wooden chair Lenny had occupied and taken as hers since day one, the nurse ensured that the man was comfortable, then turned and left the room, nodding towards two of her colleagues currently engrossed in a game of Monopoly with a middle-aged, red-haired woman who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia as she did.
Lenny turned her head very slowly when she heard a soft, familiar laugh, beside her ── a laugh that she had hoped to never ever have to hear again. Her eyes fell upon a pair of shoes so worn that the wearer's uneven toes were visible, in several places. She felt the acid burn in her throat, already. She felt the chills run down her spine. As Lenny lifted her gaze, she felt her breath catch, more and more as she reached a pale, sunken face framed with long, gray, very thin hair... unnatural, yellow eyes... and a smile made of gray and chipped teeth. She felt her stomach sink and screamed, even before the man had spoken.
"Well, well," a cold, raspy voice sounded. "It so seems we meet... again."