2022 Barrett Winner
5th Place Georgia Beatty
I see Her everywhere. Through the window, under the ice, in the water. I can’t sleep because I see Her face staring back through the chilly glass panes of my bedroom window. I can feel Her watching me everywhere I go. She whispers in dozens of voices. She watches with hundreds of eyes. Sometimes I feel Her freezing fingertips brush across my skin.
I know that I must sound crazy, rambling on about being watched by a woman that no one else can see. But I need to tell someone, whenever I try to talk to other people, they seem to just stare through me…
Thus was my endless, purgatory-like cycle of sleepless nights and stressful days. I avoided looking up for fear of seeing Her. I kept my eyes trained on the ground as I slogged through the ice and snow coating the suburban sidewalks. I kept my eyes down as I paced the linoleum floors of the local shopping mall, bustling with the activity that accompanies early winter. I kept my eyes down as I passed a crowd of people gathered in the street with candles. It wasn’t my business, and I couldn’t risk seeing Her because of it.
Maybe my fear was making me inattentive, though I had a close call with a car while crossing a street a while back. It was the first time I saw Her. I had looked up at the headlights and saw Her behind the steering wheel. Her pale skin clinging to a skeletal face. Black hair hanging in blood-matted clumps falling around Her shoulders. Her chest was hollow in a way that made Her look close to death. But worst of all, the part I feared most, were Her eyes; deep set and sallow, with blood-shot whites, pin-prick pupils, and scarlet irises. They seemed to penetrate my very soul in the moment that I saw her.
Since then, She has been following me everywhere. I have managed to cling to sanity thus far, but I fear I may be slipping. My hands, once soft and warm, were boney and pale when I looked at them. They must have been a stranger's hands because surely, surely this. Was. Not. Me.
My body, once strong and capable, was now weak and painful. It couldn’t be me, this body looked dead and gone. Surely, surely this. Was. Not. Me.
Despite my fear, I had to check, just once.
My heart was pounding loudly, deafeningly. No.
The feet carried me down the hall to the bathroom. Don’t look.
The stranger's hand turned the doorknob. She’s in there.
The corpse body moved in front of the sink. Don’t Look.
The head lifted of its own accord. DON’T LOOK.
My eyes met the piercing red irises of my nightmares. Not in a window. Not in the ice. In the mirror. This body may not have been mine, but I sure as hell was the body. At least that's what the mirror told me.
And mirrors don’t lie.