Cornered, I let my bare arms drop to my sides. He leans in close with his pasty white, sweaty face. I smell the sickly sweet stench of his rancid breath as he hovers within an inch of my eyebrows. He reaches for my neck, but I crouch down and squeeze past him, my legs scraping the rusty metal guardrail behind me. I focus on an escape path just to the right and between some parked cars. But, I cannot move. On all fours now, I try to scream, but I make no sound. I claw at the dirty pavement and dare not look back. Just as I feel his massive grubby paw grab my right foot, I shoot straight up in bed. Terrified and shivering, I hear a pained groan escape my own lips.
~ ~ ~
The alarm on my iPhone trills at six-thirty a.m. I roll over and hit snooze. I feel like I have been run over by a Mack truck, or maybe something between a hangover and the flu. I close my eyes and the image of my nightmare returns to me. I start to sweat, and discounting any benefit to remain in my king-size bed, I turn off the alarm and throw my legs over the side. Wincing and wearing only panties, I immediately notice the bloody patches on the backs of both legs. Now I am really freaked, but with my boyfriend, Jordan, out of town, I have to try to put this nightmare out of my mind. Can I, I wonder? I throw on gray yoga pants, careful to avoid my injuries, and a white hoodie.
Walking barefoot past the white double-entry front door of my first-floor luxury apartment and toward the galley kitchen to get a cup of coffee, I double check to see that the front door is locked. It is not locked. I rack my brain trying to remember what time I had gone to bed and why is the door unlocked? Nightly, I have a habit of running through my before-bed, secure-the-fortress routine multiple times. It is not so much an OCD thing but more likely a paranoid thing. It goes like this: program the ten-cup coffee maker, check that the gas oven is off, turn the latch on the dining room sliders, hit the gray Audi’s remote lock button enough times that I hear the beep as do, probably, all of my neighbors. And, finally, I lock the front door. So, did I last night? And, why don’t I remember?
The aroma of French Roast brewing pulls me back to the present moment. So, I had set the coffee to start. I run to the sliders. They are secured. For dinner, I had ordered Chinese take-out; no need to check the oven. But, in my growing state of panic, I check the oven anyway. It is cold. I run, despite my body aches, back to the front door and grab my car keys from the black metal wall hook, hesitating only a moment to notice the black dirt beneath my nervous-chew fingernails. I fling open the front door and rush to my car in the trellis-covered and paver-finished driveway. I wrap my hand around the silver driver’s side handle and stop cold. Through the smashed window, I see drying blood smeared across the white leather seat.