Thursday, April 15, 2021

Cross the Eyes by Josh Cassidy

 Sprawled out on his bed, Chandler relaxed after a gruelling day of labouring in the July sun. 

Flicking through the channels on his TV and thinking about what to eat this evening, he spotted the reflection of a woman in the TV from the open window behind him. At first, processing what he saw, he assumed he’d imagined it, dehydrated and exhausted from hauling bricks around a worksite all day. Shrugging it off he tried to calm himself, but then the unmistakeable noise of the garden gate’s bolt grinding open snapped him into life.

Leaping out of bed to look out of the window of his ground floor apartment, he saw a woman in the open gateway, surrounded in the overgrown branches that had bonded to the gate over the years. Her eyes were a piercing grey, dark make up surrounding them and a nest of blonde hair slick with sweat.

 Lips covered in a deep red lipstick, she smiled at him mockingly, as if tempting him to give chase.

 Chandler locked eyes with her and she troubled him instantly, she was as wild a woman as he’d ever seen, he felt threatened by her. Then he noticed the camera strap wrapped around her neck. 

‘What are you doing?’ Chandler yelled at her.

The woman laughed loudly for only a second or two and fled. Chandler kicked on his shoes and dashed outside to follow her. Chandler saw her skipping along the pavement with her back to him when he came through the gate. She was apparently in no hurry, almost like she was waiting for him to catch up. Chandler ducked behind a parked car and took a second to catch his breath. If I tried to tackle or detain the woman, any passer-by would surely assume I was attacking her, wouldn’t they? Chandler thought. Moving carefully using tree’s, bushes and car’s as cover, he pursued the woman for what seemed like hours, occasionally losing sight of her momentarily but finding her quite easily and this worried him. Was she letting me track her? Is it a trap? he wondered. He felt for his phone in his pocket but felt nothing, in the rush he had left it back at his apartment along with his wallet. 

‘Damnit’ He scolded, under his breath. 

Chandler followed the woman all the way to the other end of town, the infamous part of town rife with murder and drug deals. The local community had nicknamed it ‘The Ruins’. It was a miserable place, full of crumbling, grey tower blocks and abandoned cars.

Chandler watched the woman as she approached a line of garages and stood in front of the second door along, slipping under it and closing it behind her. Chandler sat down behind a burnt-out car on the rough gravel and pondered what his next step was. He supposed that he could return home and call the police, he knew where he could find her now after all but just as he was about to turn away and run home, he heard the garage door open again. He kept low and watched her from under the car. She appeared from the garage, looking as disturbing as she did before. She closed the garage door and walked  away, no skip this time, she walked with purpose around a corner and out of sight. 

Everything in Chandler told him to run the opposite direction and sort this out with the police, but he just couldn’t get the thought of the camera from his mind. Did she leave the garage door unlocked? he suspected she had. Chandler raced from behind the car, to the garage door and slipped under the door, closing it softly behind him. There was no light in the garage, but some light seeped in from the seams of the door. It didn’t illuminate much but there was a strong smell of candles and smoke. Finding the light switch, he flicked it and illuminated the room. 

‘What the hell…’ Chandler muttered to himself.

Grief washed over Chandler and he wished he had run the opposite direction, he wished he had called the police and not entered the garage. The walls and tables were littered with pictures of him. Photos of him sleeping in his bed, at restaurants with his ex-girlfriend, even of him stood atop a house he helped build last July. All of the photos were definitely him, his blonde hair, his stocky frame, the photos were so clear you could see the acne scars on his face but each of them had the same drawings over them. Thick black crosses scribbled over his eyes messily. The sound of the garage door handle shaking snapped him out of his shocked stupor and daylight filled the room as the door opened. 

The woman stood stunned at the sight of Chandler inside the garage. They both stood and matched each other’s stunned gaze for what seemed to Chandler as hours. The woman’s expression slowly turned to a sly grin and broke the silence. 

‘Do you like my collection?’ She said excitedly.

‘You’re crazy!’ Chandler snapped back. 

‘Aren’t we all?’ She replied snidely.

Before he could think she grabbed a screwdriver from a table and lunged at him. He stepped to the side just in time and she narrowly missed his stomach. Grabbing the woman, 

Chandler threw her at the table, knocking it over and spreading hundreds of pictures across the floor. Running for the door like his life depended on it, he reached out for the handle, just as he seized it the woman speared him in the calf with the screwdriver. Chandler wailed out in pain and pulled the screwdriver out of his leg. Waving the bloody screwdriver at the woman he screamed. 

‘Stay down!’

The woman looked up at him and then softly started to giggle.

‘See! We’re all a little crazy!’ The woman splutters out in between laughs.

Chandler lifted the door and ran away from the garage. He was limping heavily, but adrenaline pushed him through the pain. His mind was racing at a million miles, but he remembered he once heard about a police station that had been built on the outskirts of The Ruins, it had been in all of the local papers. The photo’s he had seen still lingered around his head as he looked over his shoulder again. He hadn’t seen the woman since he got away. She mustn’t have followed me? he assumed.

As Chandler turned a corner, he seen a horde of police cars parked outside the station, he had made it. He sighed relief and thanked god he had made it away from her. He slowed his pace down to a brisk walk, his heart pounding still but slowing with every breath. 

He crossed the road and was within a stone’s throw of the station when he caught sight of someone out the corner of his eye on the adjacent side street. Before he could turn to look, the woman leapt out at him and hit him hard with a brick across his forehead. He tried to let out a cry for help, but his voice had eluded him. Chandlers world faded to black.

Chandler woke slowly, his eyes blurry and his head pounding like a drum. He couldn’t move but he blinked a few times to try and focus his eyes. He was back at the garage, the same cheap swinging light and smoky smell. He turned his head to the left and she was there. He wasn’t surprised this time nor was he shocked at her deranged look. He looked to the right and this time he was shocked. Photos of other men looked back at him, he didn’t know any of them, but they all had the same crosses over their eyes and a candle lit in front of them. 

He looked down his body and to find thick black tape securing him to the table, he couldn’t move an inch. 

‘Why are you doing this?’ He whimpered. 

‘I like your eyes.’ She answered softly.

Chandler sobbed harder as the woman stood up and stooped next to him. She leant down, and he could feel her warm breath on his ear. Then she moved to another table and picked something up. She turned back towards him holding a long knife. Chandler frantically shook and wriggled around but it made no difference, the woman just stood, in a daze, a blank look layered on her face, almost trancelike. 

‘Please. Please just let me go home.’ Chandler begged. ‘I won’t go to the police. I promise!’ 

A small leer grew on one side of her mouth as she stopped over his heart with the point of the knife and slowly pushed it hard through his chest. The woman spoke softly as she watched the life drain from Chandler.

‘You are home. Your home is with us now.’

© Josh Cassidy

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