LAST EDIT: 2/7 (little changed)
Before I begin, I find it necessary to point a few things out about the nature of this story. As you can see by the comments below, many have thought my intro was weak so I tried very hard to fix that. If you get past the first few paragraphs, I guarantee it'll be much better, though I think I have improved my first few paragraphs immensely.
I would also like to say that this short story is apart of an anthology involving everyday people in surreal situations. My point is that I may not describe the main character much, and even say her name at all (except maybe when another character is talking to her), but that's because this anthology is about people and not one particular person. The bigger reason for that will be explained in the last short story which will wrap them all up.
A middle-aged woman left her bathroom after she finished getting ready for the night. She snuggled in her bed next to her husband, and turned off the nightstand light. He put his arm around her affectionately, and she touched it back. She didn't feel like talking, or anything else for that matter. It had been a long day at work since everything that could go wrong did. She just wanted the day to be over, and thankfully, now it could be.
She closed her eyes, and hoped that she’d be able to fall asleep quickly. She had to travel two towns over for work the next day, so that involved waking up early. She was going to get up at four in the morning, so she needed sleep now more than ever.
But sleep didn’t come too easily for her. Her thoughts kept playing over and over on the presentation she would have to give tomorrow at the meeting. They were like an ear worm, the same scenes were playing over and over in her head and there was no use trying to stop it, unless she was to think of something else with equal emotion. And oh, she did think of things with more emotion. One of the thoughts that passed through her mind was the time she fell off her bike from going down the ‘scary hill' when she was seven. Her older brother dared her to go down the hill with her because she'd always been such a scaredy cat before. Of course, she followed through with the dare because older brothers are able to convince little sisters to do things they usually wouldn't want to. She fell rather hard, though she didn't go far. Pressing firmly on her brakes were to blame. She sprained her ankle and skinned her knee pretty badly, and she was scarred for life. But whenever she’d think of that memory or another equally horrifying memory, it would only pass through her mind once or maybe twice, until the same freak-out thoughts for his presentation would come through. If only worries could be erased. But finally, her worries slipped into the back of her mind as sheer exhaustion overtook her, and she fell into a deep sleep.
She was sitting in her comfy recliner: her special recliner her mother gave her when she moved out. It’s red and rather tattered, but full of memories. She had the newspaper in hand, and she read the title of the headline. It read: Another Life Ended By ‘The Hooded Killer.’ She looked at the picture, which was of this ‘Hooded Killer’. His face wasn’t shown at all, but was covered entirely with a hood. He was wearing a hooded robe of some sort. None of his body was shown at all. There was no draw strap below the neck.
Her breath caught in her throat, and she suddenly became very scared. She looked about after realizing that she no longer felt the newspaper in her hands. After looking all around her, she thought she was stupid; of course it must have fallen. But when she looked down it wasn’t there. She also looked under the recliner, but it wasn’t there either. She shook her head and was able to convince herself that she never had the newspaper in the first place.
Then, she got this feeling that she should look over to her right by the window overlooking the city. When she looked, nothing happened, but she still thought it was necessary to go by the window. When she made it to the window, she felt a soothing sensation, as if her husband were there massaging her back. She let the pleasure over take her, and closed her eyes, screaming with pleasure. She looked behind her in order to look at her husband lovingly, but when she turned around no one was there. She continued to turn, convinced that he was just moving along with her because the pleasurable massaging sensations were still occurring.
At that moment, she found herself falling from the now open window, and was plummeting to the traffic below. Before she could question how this happened, she noticed a black figure by the window. And then it did the unthinkable: it waved to her. She couldn’t tell if it was a ‘hey’ wave or a ‘you’re dead’ wave, but she wasn’t able to mull through this for long, because a second later, her body crashed to the pavement soundlessly.
She woke up sweating profusely. Her husband was still soundly asleep beside her, but she couldn’t stop breathing hard, even though she knew it was over. It was just a dream, after all. She’s never acted this way after waking up from a dream. Actually, she hasn’t remembered the last time that she’s dreamed. This dream was so vivid and so realistic- her condo in her dream looks exactly like it does in real life. Everything from the fish drapes on the window, to the little picture of her mother as a girl was to a perfect tee. And then of course, there was the deep feeling of foreboding throughout the whole dream. She knew something was going to happen… and then it did. As for the hooded man, she tried to convince herself that he was hilarious, now that she was trying to brush it off, thinking that a dream isn’t worth fussing about. Besides, she really had to get back to bed so she’d be able to do well on that presentation today… she looked at the clock, and it was already two thirty. God, I really only have three more hours until I have to get going… she thought.
After the meeting had ended, she wiped her brow and sighed loudly. She didn’t die; she delivered her presentation better than she had hoped. She doesn’t often have to speak for her job, but on rare occasions, it happens. It was funny, her job. It involved hyping up toilet paper, since she was in the advertising business. She had to show her new advertisement for it since she’s a graphics designer. Saying that it is- ‘so soft it feels like you’re on a cloud’, seemed rather humorous and silly at first, but now it felt as common place to her as, ‘do well in school, and don’t do drugs’ is to a teenager. Cheesy sayings and ads are a part of the territory. Since she always loved art, she figured that a career involving it would be her best bet. When she was a teenager she had hoped that she’d be able to be a Disney Pixar designer, but that never panned out. Besides, as her mother put it, ‘being in the advertising business is ‘safe’’.
She looked around to see everyone else getting out of their seats, and were headed to the room next door where lunch was catered in. She was so lost in thought that she didn’t want to get up quite yet. She watched as the last person was out of the door. No one had said anything to her such as, ‘hey, aren’t you hungry?’, because none of them were her friends. Though she loved her job well enough, she’s always thought that the people in the business aren’t that friendly. Or, maybe she’s just not likable enough for them.
Suddenly, she felt something hurting inside her head. No, it wasn’t a headache, that’s for sure; it felt like something was scratching inside her skull. But not the positive kind of scratch, it felt like a needle was slowly going up and down her head. She held her head in agony. It hurt so much that she didn’t even consider how improbable it was. Sure, some people may have had similar experiences, but if this has never happened in her life, why would it start now?
She looked outside. It was a beautiful sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. But then she blinked and when she opened them, the sky was as pitch as night, and it was so cloudy that no moonlight could seep through. She rubbed her eyes- refusing to believe this- even though her eyes were full of makeup. She looked at her hands in disgust when she saw all the makeup that came off. From the intense pain in her head, her eyes had watered a little, so that only aided in getting her makeup off. So, she ran off, scared of how the dark came about and also so that she could fix her makeup in the restroom. She didn't want anyone to see her horrible eyes! It wasn’t often that she would run in her old age, but it also wasn’t often that such strange things would happen to her either. Once in the lady’s room, she could forget it anyway.
When she was out in the empty hall, she forgot where the restrooms were. At least she didn’t see the dark sky anymore. She turned to her left and looked in the room where her colleagues were having their lunch. They were all eating and chatting, they didn’t care that she wasn’t there. No one noticed her out there. She didn’t want to ask anyone where the restrooms were, not only because she didn’t particularly like anyone here, but also because of the makeup smeared on her face. So, she decided to continue on in the direction she was headed. It had to be somewhere. She looked through every door in vain, because obviously normal looking doors aren’t where a restroom would be. She continued without letting herself freak. In an everyday situation, this wouldn’t be anything to freak over. But after that episode, it wouldn’t take much to scare her.
When she was about halfway down the immense hallway, the needle scratching came back. She held her head and massaged it, even though it didn’t help with her pain at all. The needle scratching seemed to be scratching from the front of her skull to the back, so on a whim she turned around. Maybe the restroom was on the other side of the hall after all. As she turned around, the pain diminished, and she sighed in relief. The lessoning pain made her slow down, but when it started to appreciate in intensity, she started to speed walk. It felt even better than it did before. The faster she walked, the better her head felt. And then, she started running, and even sprinting, the fastest she’d gone in decades. Now, the pain was just a sliver in her head. She laughed, at first child like, but it turned demented. The pain was almost gone!
Suddenly, the pain started to come back in full force, and she was so surprised by it that she tripped and screamed in pain- it was almost like she had no control over her vocal cords. She just wanted to lie there, but when it lessoned up a bit, she got up. It hurt again, so she tested her pain. She kept walking straight and it hurt more, but when she turned around, the pain alleviated. She looked to her right after walking a bit, and she finally noticed the restroom. She sighed with relief, and went inside. Finally, the pain was gone again, subsequently she decided to laugh joyously. Thankfully, no one was in the lady’s room, or she would’ve been looked at like she was insane.
She went to the mirror and frowned at her reflection. Her makeup was more smeared than she thought. She dug around in her purse, and took out a makeup remover pad, mascara, eyeliner, and eye shadow and put them on the counter. Her mother always carried her makeup and even her makeup remover pads in her purse when she was younger, so she developed the habit too. She always used to say that, ‘you never know when you’re going to need to spruce up your makeup’. Though she never thought there would be a time, she put her makeup in her purse too, when she was old enough for a purse. And now that the time has come that she needed to spruce up her makeup, she silently thanked her mother.
She wiped her eye down with the pad, and started applying her eyeliner first. When she had perfectly rimmed eyes, she reached down for her eye shadow. She put her hand exactly where she had set it down, but it wasn’t there. She moved her hand around the counter near her. She looked down, but she didn’t see the rest of her makeup or her purse. Her heart started to thud. She lost her purse! But oh wait- she thought- my stuff could have fallen, I guess… She looked under the counter, and searched frantically for her purse, but it wasn’t there! So, she decided that someone sneaky must have come into the restroom and stolen her purse!
She busted out of the lady’s room and hysterically searched for someone walking away, but, she didn’t see anyone. But of course someone could have easily gone into any of the nearby rooms, so she decided to check them. She peered into the room directly in front of the restroom, which looked like a big office for an important person. She just saw one person typing away on the computer, with no sign of her pink leather purse. At least she would be able to find it easily. Pink stands out more than brown or black. So, she quickly went over to the next room. This room was an empty conference room, so she went to the next one. The next room was a large office with many cubicles, so she went inside. She walked casually with purpose around the office, using her peripheral vision to look for any sign of pink. She wrapped her way around the whole room and never saw any sign of it. She sighed, but it wasn’t over.
She took the elevator down to the first floor to see the receptionist. She walked over to one of the ladies, trying to look as un-frazzled as possible.
“Hello, I would like to report a stolen purse…”
The receptionist looked at her with soft, concerned eyes, “What happened to your purse?”
“I set it down, and then someone took it without my seeing."
“Alright, what room did this happen in?”
“The lady’s room on floor seven.”
She started typing the report on her computer, and asked her a few questions so that she could be contacted later, such as her full name and phone number.
“We’ll get back to you as soon as we can with information on your purse.” She turned from sweet and understanding to cold and uncaring. She was already looking at the next person in line. “But… don’t you have security cameras or something?”
“I’m sure we do, possibly. But that isn’t my department. Now please- there are other people needing something.”
She couldn’t stand for that! Her purse had been stolen! She wasn’t playing around. Though not often forceful, she felt the need to be now. “No, I’m not going. Not until I see that footage! Could you get someone who knows something about the security cameras?” The receptionist did just as she asked without question. Maybe she should be forceful more often! She called in someone named ‘Ponzy’. Interesting name… she thought.
“Someone will be here for you in a few minutes, so could you please sit down until then? Thanks.”
She did as she was told; glad to get away from that rude receptionist. She had to wait for a good ten minutes or so, and she started to get anxious. She almost wanted to go up to the receptionist again and ask her when he said he’d come, but she didn't.
Finally, an authoritative large man came walking in. He said, “Someone wanted to see me?” She stood up and walked up to him, “Yes, that was me.” “So, you lost your purse, ma’am?” “Yeah, I did…” “Well, come with me and let’s see if we can’t sort through some recent footage…”
She followed him to the elevator, and he pressed the top floor which is floor twelve. The wait in the elevator was excruciatingly uncomfortable, what with the lack of conversation and all, but what would she say anyway? ‘Do you like your job of sitting through hours of watching security camera footage?’ That would be an awkward, strange conversation, especially since she didn’t care. She didn’t even know what he did exactly, except that that was a part of his job.
They walked to the end of the hall and went through a ‘staff only’ door which was opened by one of his many keys on his belt. They walked into a room with a single large computer which she thought was odd. She’s always pictured rooms like these to have lots of screens, but there’s probably a way to open up the footage of more than one camera, so it made sense.
“So, you said you were on floor seven, right?” “Yes.” He was sitting down at the computer and pulled up footage from every camera from the seventh floor. “Oh- take a seat…” She rolled the swivel chair he was pointing at over to the computer.
“Okay- let’s see… there’s only one restroom on that floor.” Figures, she thought. He rewound the footage to when she was in there and played it out. The camera only showed the sinks, mirrors, trash cans, and paper towels, not inside the actual stalls.
She saw no one in the restroom, except for her. The whole time it played through, she was staring at her purse to see where it would go. She was so transfixed on it that she didn’t even blush over how she had acted- now that a guy was staring at her half hour ago self.
It was almost to the point where her purse got stolen, but the camera started going blurry. “Huh, that’s odd,” He said. “I’ve never had a camera malfunction before.”
But she didn’t even hear him, because the pain was back in her head. It scratched her head randomly. Scratch….scratch……..scratch…..scratch, scratch.