The Beauty of Grey

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Chapter 2

The moment I stepped through the threshold of my home, something felt off. Uneasiness seeped deep into my bones, making me apprehensive to close the door behind me in case I had to make an urgent run for it.

I tried to convince myself that I was being irrational. I came home to an empty home every night because it was my routine. I came home to a pitch black home every night because it was my everyday norm. The only need for concern would’ve been me messing that up; causing a small disturbance.

But yet my breaths were shaky and my hand was tight around the handle of the door. Some sort of premonition whispered rumours into my ear; a pesky sixth sense if you will. They say the human mind is often able to detect something is wrong before its set in stone; much like a person close to death is able to predict something climacteric before it happens.

My paranoia only became enhanced when I heard a creak sound from the living room; the heaviness of a foot stepping onto hardwood flooring. At least, that’s what my imagination decided on. A chill scurried through my body as an angry blush burned my cheeks.

I was being ridiculous. It was all in my head.

But it wasn’t enough to stop me from calling out. “H-hello?” I questioned, my voice trembling. Instinctively I moved to place my hand into my jacket pocket for my spray, only to remember I didn’t bring my jacket to work today. I had forgotten it at home as I rushed to work, nearly late. It was upstairs in my bedroom.

I was greeted with a dead silence, and I began to feel stupid and jumpy for no apparent reason. Slowly I closed the door behind me, the click of it shutting nearly enough to have me jump out of my skin. I worried that I had suddenly become clairvoyant and was able to detect spirits; although I was still unable to see them.

I turned on the light and looked around, trying to scope my area for something out of place. A cushion on the floor, a side-table shifted to the left, a window opened wider than I had left it. But everything looked normal. What the hell was wrong with me?

I slipped off my tattered converse and kept my keys in my hands. I usually hung them up on my key rack upon entry, but something swayed me to hang onto them. I tucked my keychain in the palm of my hand, but kept my car key poking through; a makeshift pocket knife if needed.

I didn’t move, so the other creak I heard wasn’t caused by me. I wondered for a brief moment if it was the house settling, but decided against it. The house settling made a different sound; almost like a fist pounding from beneath the floorboards or within the walls. This sounded an awful lot like a footstep from above the floor.

I spoke again, this time my voice more shrill. “Hello? Is—is anybody there?” Silence responded, and I started to think that I was hearing things—going crazy. Maybe I was coming down with something serious that had escaped doctors test and was left undiagnosed for too long, and it was beginning to kick in. “I’ll call the police.” I threatened, despite the fact my nearest phone was in the kitchen.

The odds certainly were against me. I was totally screwed.

A wall divided my front door and the living room, so if someone was hiding behind it I wouldn’t be able to see them until it was too late. The creaks had sounded from that general vicinity. So I stood at the front door for maybe two or three more minutes; waiting, listening intently. But I heard nothing. Absolutely nothing. Silence encased my home with a solemn eeriness.

I sighed to myself, convinced that I was just coming down with something. Feeling ludicrous, I hung my keys on the rack and proceeded to turn off the light. But my steps, still, were hesitant and slow. My apprehension meant something, and I could configure that then, but I didn’t know what exactly it meant. Floorboards creaking meant little, and an unprovoked premonition didn’t do much to make you feel sane.

The moment I stepped past the dividing wall, however, whatever paranoia I felt before was solidified and suddenly had reason as a thick arm wrapped around my waist. As I opened my mouth to scream a hand was instantly clamped over it, stopping me before I could even make a peep. Terror swam through my blood like deadly parasites.

I continued to scream into the muffled hand as I began to flail my body around, making myself more strenuous to hold onto. My arms waved wildly in the air as my legs kicked at anything that surrounded me. I might have hit his shin once or twice, but it did little in regards to him easing up his grip.

He was beginning to stagger backwards, however, and I realized he was taking me back to where he had been looming before. I didn’t know why he was dragging me back instead of trying to force me out of the door like any motivated assailant would, but it brought me more...mental levelness. I was still in my territory—my home.

He slammed his back against the wall, keeping me flush to his body. I stopped screaming and let out something between a whine and a whimper, squeezing my eyes shut. He had my body in such a way where even my free arms and legs could do little damage, but it didn’t stop me from trying in vain. It was no secret he had the better half of me so far.

“Calm down,” he demanded, his voice gruff like a smokers; familiar at the same time, although I couldn’t place where from. He wasn’t struggling to keep me in place—no, he was irritated that I wasn’t giving up yet. “If you calm down, I’ll let you go.”

And it was a risk. If I calmed down, it could give him enough time to slit my throat, take any valuable possessions of mine, and leave my corpse behind. He may have wanted to murder me in cold blood, waiting until I was steady to get the perfect angle to kill.

But, on the other hand, he could actually give me enough space to allow me leeway to get away; whether on purpose or not. There was a sliver of hope I held onto that this intruder would not kill me. I decided I needed to cooperate if I wanted to take the chance to get away.

So I stopped throwing myself around like a child in the middle of a tantrum. I bit my tongue to prevent myself from making any rash sounds, but I did not open my eyes; scared I had made the wrong decision.

True to his word, however, he let me go. The moment he did I was impulsive, trying to break away from him completely. He was much faster than I was, though. Grabbing me by my biceps he forced my back to the wall with enough exertion to earn a wheeze from me.

I let out a sharp cry, not from pain but from fear that I truly had made the wrong choice. He had gotten me out of one position only to throw me into another. He didn’t let go of my biceps, and I realized he didn’t have intentions of letting me go at all. He just wanted to readjust me.

So we were facing each other.

I kept my eyes shut, worrying I would break down into tears if I were to look at him. I never imagined I’d be in a position where I’d have to ward off an attacker. I had never been so terrified; my knees felt weak and my lips trembled. I drew a blank, too, unable to put my motor functions to use again.

He removed only one of his hands from my bicep, keeping the other one there so I wouldn’t feel secure enough to try and run again. Not that I would’ve been able to, however. I was frozen from fear. My only hope now was that he’d pity my vulnerability and leave me with a warning.

What I didn’t expect him to do was grab my chin with his removed hand. There was a gentleness in his touch; a tenderness that if anything terrified me more. Did he have intentions to take advantage of me—force himself upon me?

He tilted my head up, and a whimper passed my lips. I squeezed my shut eyes tighter together as I felt tears gather behind my closed lids. “P-please.” I pleaded before my mind was able to process the fact I had just spoken.

"Edie,” he said once he was finished tilting my head up. The fact that he knew my name was slightly alarming. It must’ve been someone I came into contact with at work at least once, but my terror prevented me from deciphering who. I bit my tongue harder; drawing blood. It hurt, yes, but it did the job from suppressing any sound. “Open your eyes.”

I wouldn’t right away; couldn’t. I felt like my body weight was enough to shatter my ankles. If my attacker didn’t have a hold of me I might’ve collapsed. If I opened my eyes there was a chance I could die from fright.

“Edie,” he repeated; his voice taking a sharp edge. He was growing more and more annoyed, and I was growing more and more rattled. Especially by the fact that the way he said my name sent chills down my spine. ”Now.”

Slowly—painstakingly so—I cracked my eyes open like I was stepping outside on a bright day without sunglasses. I blinked a few times, trying to push back tears, like I was readjusting to the sun. It was nearly pitch black, save for the moonlight that peered in through the windows, outlining everything in its path.

The man in front of me included. I had to blink a few more times in order to reassure myself I wasn’t seeing things. I wasn’t. The unrealistically handsome man who had come into the gas station a week ago was my assailant. They say good looking people were people you were less likely to be weary of, because their looks created a barricade between what we viewed as malevolent and benevolent.

I had fucked up thinking he meant no harm to me at all despite the danger he exuded.

“Edie,” he said again, as though he enjoyed speaking my name. My stomach curdled as more chills lapsed down my spine. “I mean you no harm.” He promised, but I wouldn’t believe him. You don’t wait in someone’s house after dark and attack them after they come home and expect them to believe it’s harmless.

“What the—” I blinked, feeling shocked—going into shock, maybe, too. “Why?” I whispered, startled and confused and blindsided all at once.

“I can’t explain it to you now,” he responded with his gruff, baritone voice. I shuddered and pulled my chin from out of his hand. He allowed me, but not without giving me a fierce glare. “You have to trust me when I say I won’t harm you.”

“G-get out,” I stammered, heart racing like a jackhammer. “I won’t tell anyone about this as long as you leave now. G-go.”

He gave me a crooked grin; something between menacing and commiserating. He shook his head slowly, eyes linking with mine. “I can’t leave...not without you.”

“What?” I hissed frantically, bringing my hands up to his chest to push him away from me. Again, he was quicker than I was. His hands wrapped around my wrists as he pulled my body flush to his, his heat rubbing off onto me. I shrunk beneath his critical stare, unsure of how to react. “Y-you—no.”

He bent down and buried his face in the crook of my neck, his nose inhaling the scent of my skin. He held his breath for a moment before he exhaled, his hot air fanning over my flesh. “I don’t think you understand.” He whispered.

“No,” I shook my head, agreeing with him. For the time being, he was calm and content. I, on the other hand, was still attempting to get my shit together. I narrowed my eyes, realizing the advantage that had just been handed to me. He couldn’t see my face to gauge whatever I was planning. I hardly knew what I was planning. My impulse had my back, though, knowing what to do before I did. “You’re right.”

And so I reared my knee back and swung it forward, hitting his groin. Instantly his hold on my wrists slacked, and I ripped myself free of him before I pushed his chest. He staggered backwards a few steps, pained and stupefied. I didn’t stay to watch the scene play out.

I turned around and darted up my stairs, taking them three at a time, using my hands to boost me up quicker like a dog. About three quarters of the way up I heard the man let out something I could only describe as a furious roar, before he began to chase up the stairs after me. I let out a scream, fearful he’d catch me before I could evade him.

Once I was done running up the stairs I sprinted down the hallway and threw myself into my bathroom, slamming the door shut behind me and locking it. I flicked on the light and began to look around anxiously for anything I could use as a weapon. A hairbrush, a razor specifically intended to prevent cuts and scrapes, and a brand new bag of toilet paper. Nothing in here was hazardous enough to harm a fly, how could I use it against a man who was a weapon himself?

And in my haste I didn’t think to run into my bedroom for the bear spray. Had I not been in such a terrible scenario I would’ve face-palmed.

I threw open the shower curtain and grabbed my shampoo bottle, realizing that it was probably my best bet. Out of all the other things I had stashed in my bathroom, the shampoo could do the most damage. I could aim for his eyes, blind him, and try to get away for the third time. I was just praying that the third time was a charm.

I shoved myself against the wall, facing the door head on. As though it was a shotgun, I held the shampoo out in front of me without the safety on, ready to aim and shoot at any given moment. My whole body was shaking, adrenaline lighting me up like I had been struck by a bolt of lightning.

My faux moment of glory didn’t stick around for long, though. A quietude had settled within my home, unless you were able to tune into the heavy footsteps that were sauntering down the hall at a leisure pace. To walk at this pace was to deepen my fear. He was doing it to intimidate me, maybe scare me enough to submit and tuck tail.

I wouldn’t.

So I stood and waited as his footsteps got nearer and nearer to me, heavier and heavier, louder and louder. His footsteps sounded as heavy as barbells dropping to the floor from a great height. I was praying he’d fall through the floor before he got too close to me. I knew it was wishful thinking, but a part of me remained optimistic.

Even as I could hear that he was no more than three footsteps away from where I was hiding—well, not hiding. I would’ve been berserk to think that he didn’t know I was in here. But it felt better to pretend I was hiding; like there was still the possibility of him not knowing where I was and giving up his search for me.

My heart plummeted into the pit of my stomach as he stopped directly in front of the door. His feet created shadows as big as mountains on the glossy hardwood flooring, almost enough to tint the whole room a shade darker. I held my breath, scared to make even a small sound. It was ridiculous, sure. But I did it anyway.

“Edie, come out.” He ordered, leaning against the door. It creaked as he pinned his weight against it, as though he was trying to get comfortable; like it was a nightly routine, stalking women and attacking them.

“N-no.” I stammered, cursing myself for not keeping my voice strong like I had hoped for. I realized that I hadn’t done anything smart to fend him off except for kicking his groin. Other than that, I had managed to corner myself in a bathroom without a phone to call for help. I hadn’t done much to set myself up for success.

He chuckled, a mocking chuckle that told me he knew that I knew just how fucked I was. “If you don’t come out, we both know what I have to do. We both don’t want me to have to do it.”

“But why are you doing this?” I screeched. “We hardly shared a conversation and now you’re trying to seize me from my home!”

He slammed his fist against the door and I nearly jumped through the roof, thinking he was going to try and pound right through it. He was big enough where I knew he could punch right through the door, so I was more surprised than grateful when he didn’t.

“I told you I can’t tell you,” he snapped like he had the right to get short with me. “But I’m not leaving here without you.”

“No!” I screeched, but didn’t feel triumphant about my outburst for long. “I’m not going anywhere with you.” I said under my breath, knowing there was a slim possibility I was saying the truth. Somehow, the man managed to hear it. It seemed like such a trivial thing to dwell over, but the abnormality of it hit me later.

“You’re not going anywhere with me?” He asked, voice too calm. “Want to place a bet?” It was a threat—a malicious promise that hid behind the questions.

“What are you going to do?” I whimpered, concerned. He interpreted what I had queried as a gentle provocation, and was more than willing to rise to the challenge.

“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in!” He yelled as he kicked down the only thing that separated him and I, his seething figure coming into view.

The door clambered onto the floor and I let out a bloodcurdling scream, my hand squeezing the shampoo for dear life as my eyes bulged out of their sockets. I was locked up, my arms stiff as I squirted shampoo at him; doing little damage as its contents emptied onto his abdomen rather than hitting his eyes.

He stalked towards me, his stance nothing short of sinister. I unfroze rather suddenly, waving the shampoo up and down to hopefully at least land a drop in his eye. However, he didn’t give me time to perfect my shot. When he was a foot away from me I threw the bottle at him, but he swatted it like it was nothing but a fly. The bottle whizzed in the air and hit the mirror, shattering it like it was a thin sheet of ice. His arm was the equivalent to a baseball bat.

“No!” I hollered as he grabbed my forearms, pulling me towards him. Again, I struggled against him, doing my best to anchor my feet to the floor to become unmovable. But I was reminded of our drastic size difference because he dragged me like I was styrofoam.

He removed his hands from my forearms and instead placed them on my waist, lifting me into the air like I weighed nothing. I let out another scream as he swung my body to the side, stepping over the glass. Once we left the bathroom he set me back onto the floor, making sure my feet didn’t come into contact with the glass. A nice gesture...for a psychopath, of course.

I pushed against him and he replaced his hands around my wrists. I didn’t scream or yell again, knowing my efforts would be for no reward. My squirming arguably wasn’t either, but it was costing him time. His lips were pulled tight as he continued to drag me with him as he walked backwards.

In the middle of the hallway wall there was a side-table with a lamp on it. I could utilize it, but I had to spin us around unless I wanted to miss my opportunity. I exerted all of my weight onto one leg and managed to place myself in front of him. Not giving him time to readjust I brought my knee up to hit him in the groin, and in order to defend his jewels he had to let go of one of my wrists to push against my knee.

With my freed hand I reached for the lamp and yanked the cord from the wall. In his mad dash to defend his groin he left his head open, and I swung at his skull full force. By sheer luck it disoriented him, enough where I was able to slip away again; dropping the lamp.

I sprinted at full speed to the stairs, believing I could run out of the front door in time before he caught up to me. I was sorely mistaken, however. The moment my foot hit the first step, thick arms wrapped around my waist and tackled me. I let out a grunt as we toppled forward, the stairs getting closer and closer to my face.

Until he flipped last second. My attacker took the impact, rolling us over so I landed on top of him. We tumbled tumultuously down the stairs, the man taking the brunt end of this rapid fall. It was nerve wracking, however, because I expected at least one of us to break one of our limbs.

The only thing that broke, however, was the potted plant I kept in the corner of the landing. The mans back hit it and crushed it, the freshly watered soil seasoning us as we laid there. With adrenaline and hope still burning in my blood I struggled to get away from him. His arms were were secured like a chain around my waist, however.

Shards of clay lay amidst the dirt, and preparing myself to create another weapon I grabbed one of the large shards that poked through. I stabbed it into his bicep, making sure I had wedged it in there good. Blood instantly surfaced around his stab wound, but the man didn’t let out as much as a groan.

Unhooking one arm from around my waist, he simply grabbed onto the shard and removed it from his arm and tossed it across the room. My eyes widened as I stared at him, his eyes glinting evilly in the dark.

“I didn’t want to do this,” he stated as he reached into his back pocket with his free hand and pulled out a syringe no bigger than my thumb. He removed the plastic from the needle with his teeth and spit in the direction he had tossed the shard of clay. “But you leave me no other choice.” He finished.

I opened my mouth to scream, but he stabbed the needle into my neck and my mouth snapped shut. He injected the liquid into his target vein before taking the needle out almost as quickly as he had put it in. I let out a squeak, feeling strange right away; fuzzy.

My assailant let me go, only because he knew I wasn’t going to make it too far. I wedged my body away from his and proceeded to crawl forward, feeling sluggish and drowsy. He had drugged me—that was a no brainer—but the effects weren’t immediate. It had hit me seconds later.

I crawled maybe half a foot away before my body gave out. I slumped onto the floor, my arms beside my head as my cheek rested against the cold flooring. I took a deep breath, seconds away from unconsciousness, unable to do anything to fight it.

My assailant got up and crouched beside my head, and before my world faded to black I felt his rough, calloused hand brush a ringlet away from my face. I slurred something incoherent, and when he chuckled it echoed and sounded miles away. It was the most ominous, unpromising sound I had ever heard and that’s when it set in that my life was no longer in my hands.

I was out like a light right after.

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