We measure and deny in the same breath,
Our worth in terms of others’,
For that is all we are.
We measure and deny in the same breath,
Our worth in terms of others’,
For that is all we are.
I must get to the end. I need to know what is at the end. What is the meaning of this path? Why is it here? I need to know. Quick, hurry, hurry hurry.
All of these people sitting on the path, they are in the way. They walk and idle along like they think it’s some game. Silly people. I will get to the end first, I will know what it all means. Quickly, quickly.
If someone gets in my way I will push them over. I will hit and kick them away. Punch, kick, push, bite. Hurry, hurry.
I think I can see the end. Yes. There is a man holding a mirror standing next to a large hole in the ground. As I approach I can see my reflection. I look old and wrinkled. There are moving images in the mirror. It is me walking. I can see the reflection of my walk along the path, as though I’m looking back in time.
I see myself walking along with my shoulders hunched over, eyes pointed down at my feet, and I look angry and annoyed. People around me are smiling and laughing, they are dancing and joking, jumping and singing. I feel sad watching my journey.
The man grabs me by the arm and says “This is the end of the path.”
He pushes me into the hole and all is black.
I love you. Those three words only mean something if you believe them. And somehow I couldn’t believe this woman was capable of love.
Originally I was one of her victims. She stalked me as she stalked all of her prey. One night after I switched the lights out and fell asleep, something woke me. A presence. As I regained my senses, I heard sounds in my room. Breathing and flittering. I opened my eyes and there was a dark shape standing next to my bed. I have heard that there is such a thing as a fight or flight response, and when a person is scared they will either choose to defend themselves or run away. I think I must be defective because I simply lay frozen, incapable of moving. Perhaps my brain thought if I didn’t move I would be invisible.
A hand reached towards my throat and my life flashed before my eyes, all 22 years of it, from hitting my brother with a golf club when I was 3, to the last time I kissed a girl, over a year ago. But then the hand stopped. The dark figure leaned down and I saw its eyes for the first time. It was a woman. Her eyes were large with long lashes, purple in colour, and slanted in a feminine alluring way. Surprisingly they looked sad, rather than malevolent. Her hand caressed my cheek. I was dumbstruck. Those eyes and her touch melted my terror away, and then I knew it was just a dream.
“Shhh… everything is okay now. Sleep my darling.”
Dream or not, she was there when I awoke. Light streamed in through my window. She sat in the corner in a ball, knees drawn to her chest, looking vulnerable like a child.
“Good morning. I’m sorry to have scared you last night.” She said. “I… I… I don’t know what came over me.” She looked confused.
I sat up, wiping sleep from my eyes. “Good morning. Were you going to kill me?”
She took a long time to reply. “Yes. I was. Until… your face… it reminds me of… of someone.” She was stumbling over her words.
We stared at each other for a minute or two. “Wow,” was all I could say. Having a relaxed conversation about my murder was surreal. “So you let me live because I remind you of someone you cared about?”
“Yes. My father.”
That morning we ate breakfast together. Gretchin was a tall woman, the clothes she wore were all black, the same colour as her long hair, which was tied in a pony tail. Her angular face was amazing to look at, with her large purple eyes, bright red lips, pale skin and perfect complexion. Her beauty was intimidating and I tried not to stare. She blatantly stared at me, making me self-conscious. I couldn’t hold her gaze and would shuffle in an awkward manner, looking at my plate, at my hands, up at the roof, trying to make conversation, all the while I felt her drinking me in, judging my every move with an unreadable expression.
It was the weekend and I had the usual chores to do. Cleaning, shopping, laundry. I thought about calling the police. I thought about this beautiful woman being dragged away by a police officer. Perhaps she would be bitter and come back to finish what she had started.
While I completed my chores she sat on the couch watching television. At one point in the afternoon I mustered the courage to ask if she had somewhere to go.
“Of course I have somewhere to go. Do I look like I’m homeless? I just want to stay here for a while.”
“Why?” I asked.
She paused, turned her captivating eyes to me, and said “Because I find you interesting. Is it okay if I stay a while?”
“Yeah, yes. It’s fine. I just… I’m glad we talked about it. Thanks.” With that uncomfortable reply I left to do food shopping, not entirely sure I could trust her in my house alone, but not really having a choice.
While I wondered the aisles at the supermarket I thought about my predicament. It really was insane. I had to get rid of her, but I was afraid she might decide to kill me again. Locks didn’t stop her. I figured the only way out of it was to fly to another country. Would she still find me? Was I really that important to her or was I just a random guy she had decided to kill? I needed to know her motivation. If I was just some random guy, perhaps she would agree to leave me alone and kill someone else. What a strange thought. I didn’t think it would work like that. There must be a reason she chose me, which meant she probably would not just leave me alone. Should I run?
As I pondered my fate next to the dairy section, a little idea popped into my head, a horrifying idea, one that stuck in my mind like a thorn. What if she liked me? What if… she wanted to be with me? The thought made me tremble with fear and excitement. She was an incredibly beautiful, lithe, sexy woman. Unfortunately she had planned to kill me. I needed to talk to someone. This was too much for my limited emotional intelligence. I needed someone with the social skills of a Hollywood “it” girl, and I thought I knew who to call.
“Whoa. So you’re telling me that this chick broke into your house at midnight to kill you, and now you think she has a crush on you?”
“Crush… do you have to use that word? It sounds so primary school. But basically yeah, that’s the situation.”
“Far out man, that is so awesome. I mean not for you of course, but, like, such a killer story. No pun intended. Man. So you want me to tell you what to do? I would just call the police and get her arrested. You don’t need proof dude just say you’re scared of her and she won’t leave your house. They have to take her.”
“Okay. Okay. Yeah that sounds good. I’ll go home and tell her if she doesn’t leave I’m calling the cops.”
“Um, you sure you want to do that? She is a seasoned homocidal maniac. I would just call them now.”
“No, no. I think she will listen to reason and leave.” At least I hoped so. Plus I kind of wanted to see her again.
When I got home Gretchin was still on the couch, laughing at reruns of Seinfeld. I took a deep breath.
“Gretchin. I was thinking a lot about this whole thing and…” Her intense stare had landed on me and it almost felt like a physical blow. “Gretchin if you don’t leave me alone I’m calling the cops.” I rushed out the last few words before I could chicken out.
She frowned and slowly rose from the couch. She walked towards me. I backed away, my legs were turning to jelly and I began to fall to the ground. She lunged towards me as I fainted and slipped into unconsciousness.
I awoke on the couch with a flannel on my head. I could hear Gretchin in the kitchen. She was cooking soup for dinner. I asked what happened.
“You fainted. I caught you before you smashed your head on the ground.”
“That’s it? I thought you were about to attack me.”
“No. Actually I wanted to kiss you. I don’t know why. I just felt like it. I’ll leave now if you want me to. I didn’t want to leave you unconscious, I didn’t think it would be safe.”
“I… I… what are you cooking? Do you always look so predatory when you’re about to kiss someone?”
“Chicken soup. It’s just a basic recipe my mum taught me when I was young.” She ignored the other question.
“I guess you should stay for dinner. You cooked it after all.” She smiled at me.
After a pleasant dinner I saw Gretchin to the door. She looked troubled. “Is everything okay?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t usually experience guilt, but I feel bad for what I did to you. I wish we had met some other way. It was your eyes I think. When I stalked you from a distance I never really had a good look at you, but when I was leaning over to choke you to death, your eyes were just like my fathers when…” Gretchin looked distraught, “when he died.”
For about the fifth time that day my brain was overwhelmed with the circumstances and what was being said. Nothing can really prepare you for moments like these.
“Thank you for not killing me,” was all I could manage. Awful.
After an awkward hug Gretchin wondered out into the night.
“Do you have a car?” I asked.
She continued to wonder out onto the street. “I’m alright walking, thank you.”
I found a letter about a week later, slipped under the couch, that Gretchin must have written while I was at the shops. It read:
I know I terrified you in your bedroom last night and I’m truly sorry. But you scared me too. When I stared down at your face, something fluttered inside me that I have not felt for a very long time. My heart skipped a beat and a rush of blood to my head made my knees weak. If there is such a thing as love at first sight I think that might have been it. Eating breakfast and dinner with you was delightful for me, chatting with you, drinking you in. You smiled once at me and I lost my breath. I may never know why you have this affect over me, and the only way I can describe this feeling is to say I love you.
I had a strange moment. To think that the woman who wanted to murder me said she loved me, and the fact that I kind of liked it, made me dizzy.
Perhaps I am insane, but I hope to see Gretchin again one day. Occasionally I sense that someone is watching me on the way to work or when mowing the lawn, but then the tingling passes and I tell myself it is just my imagination. I know that if she wants to see me she will show up.
The front door bangs as a young boy races out to his bike.
‘Use your helmet!’ yells Mum.
For a second Michael contemplates disobeying, but it’s right there hanging from the handlebars so he jams it on his head.
His bare feet pump at the pedals as he speeds through dusty streets.
Halfway down a deserted lane his right foot slips and his toes catch the ground.
The friction is enough to pull Michael sideways and he tumbles off the bike, skidding across the ground, bare skin against asphalt.
He stands up with grazed hands and knees and a terrible headache. The helmet is cracked.
Crying and screaming doesn’t help. He tries ‘Muuuummm!’ but nothing happens. The pain is excruciating. Mum always comes when I’m hurt. Where is she?
Michael picks up his bike and limps the rest of the way to school. When he gets to class his teacher immediately races over and asks if he’s okay. He is taken to the nurse’s office.
A few minutes later someone hands him a phone and Michael hears his mother’s voice.
‘I’m coming. I’ll be there as soon as I can.’ Michael feels a wave of relief wash over him. The tension dissipates, his breathing calms. He wipes away tears and lies back. Those words are all that matter sometimes.
This is his revenge. I lie here waiting for him to come to bed. He knows I struggle to sleep if he is not here.
In the past I have heard people say I know him better than I know myself and I never understood what they meant, until now. He is a wondrous book that I have read a thousand times and know back to front. I have memorised every line.
Please come to bed I murmur. It’s 3 a.m. To be fair he has insomnia. Most nights he comes to bed early just so I can sleep, while he must be bored out of his brain. Sometimes he reads but then I get mad and yell at him about the light.
I once asked him what he thinks about while he lies there not sleeping. He said Space and every possible area that my body could inhabit.
I try to imagine that now, my body floating through the universe, freezing solid in the darkness, burning up in a star, landing on other planets, some earth-like, some not.
As I drifted off to sleep with my imagination taking me on a cosmic journey the door edges open, he creeps in and slides next to me.
I feel bad for yelling at him earlier about dinner. I try to mumble an apology. He wraps his arms around me and that is the last thing I remember.