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Man in the Storm
“Happy anniversary.” I said to myself sarcastically. I wasn’t somewhere romantic, surrounded by rose petals and several courses of food. I wasn’t dressed up in couture clothing with my hair cascading down my back and a shy smile on my face. My hair wasn’t done at all and neither were my nails. In fact I don’t even think I had shaved my legs the night before when I was in the shower. The worst thing was, I was alone. My husband was out of town on a business trip. He said it was urgent and that he had to go otherwise everything he had worked for was nothing. Useless. And so here I was all by myself stirring macaroni and cheese at my stovetop.
The cold tile was hard beneath my feet and it was so cold that I left my meal on the stove and I wandered up to my bedroom. The kitchen was connected to the main hall when you first entered the house and I shuffled into there. The lights were flickering and I gently pressed the light switch off and then back on. The lights remained constant. This was the new house that we had built together and some of the electrical issues hadn’t been fixed yet. I leaped up the wooden stairs with the oak banister and past the balcony-like landing. I reached the top of the staircase and I was faced with the dark hallway that lead to my bedroom. This new house was still unnerving to me. It was unfamiliar even though I had spent a year pouring over the blue prints. I turned the light switch on and headed through. I passed the entryway to the living room with all of the newest furniture from France. My feet barely made a sound as I passed by the nursery. The nursery that was empty, that was a horrendous reminder of what could never be. The door was open and I took the time to close it before I continued on my way. I made it into the master bedroom and I passed by all of the other clothes to get to the shoe section of my closet. All of the clothes pressed around me felt slightly claustrophobic, but I pushed even harder. I dug my slippers out of the back and slipped them onto my feet.
“Much better.” I mumbled to myself. My cold toes had found their home in sheepskin slippers. I sighed in content just before I heard the hissing of the water overflowing on the stove.
“Dang!” I said as the water created a mess. I wasn’t looking forward to cleaning that up. I wasn’t looking forward to doing much of anything. I served myself the macaroni and ate it slowly at the counter. I looked out the window that overlooked my grand backyard and saw that a storm was rolling in. In moments it would be upon me. I sighed to myself. It was another summertime storm and I was getting sick of it. The edge of the forest was just beyond my view, but I could sense that it was there. I instantly remembered that I had left my garbage out back and that was just an invitation to any wild animal to come and dine right outside my house.
The macaroni was dry in my mouth and I put the bowl in the sink, unfinished and hardly touched. I went to the glass door that separated me from the wilderness and slid it open. The garbage was halfway across the lawn and strewn all over the place. I pulled my robe around me tighter and ventured out.
The wind whipped my hair around my face and my robe was ripped open. I was unable to breathe for a moment. I put my back to the wind and took a deep breath. I hurried over to the garbage and threw it into a sack. I rushed back to the house just as the rain poured down. I was soaked through with rainwater and I was chilled to the bone. I took off my robe and threw it on the chair by the dining room table. I admired my new wooden floors and thought how smart I was to have the dark wood in the dining room contrasting to the tile of the kitchen. I stood and admired it for a moment and then I resolved with myself to go and change into warmer clothes and crawl into bed and complain about how awful it was to spend my anniversary alone.
I had changed my clothes and was just crawling into bed when the power went out. The wind was howling around my house and tearing at all the walls. My heart thumped in my chest. I was terrified of the dark. Nothing was worse than being alone in the dark.
“Come on, Allie. You’re not a child anymore. You should be over this by now.” I chastised myself. I waved my hand in front of my face and saw the movement. “See, it’s not totally dark, not like cave darkness.” I said to myself trying to cheer myself up.
I slipped out from under my satin covers and planted my feet firmly in my slippers. I brushed my hair out of my face and cautiously walked towards my open door. Lightening flashed and my whole room lit up and for several long moments that image was burned on the inside of my eyelids. I dropped to my knees and shivered violently. No anniversary could ever compare to how sucky this one was becoming.
THUD! THUD! THUD!
The banging was coming from my front door downstairs. I felt frozen with fear and found that my muscles would not respond to my will. I took several shallow breaths as the thudding stopped. Whoever it was I wasn’t going down there. I was a rather wealthy woman home alone and I was not taking any chances.
After I regained motion of my limbs I went over to my big master bedroom window. I peered up over the ledge and found an unfamiliar car parked out front. The windows were tinted pitch black and the car was covered in mud and grime. I slid back down and landed heavily on my butt. I took a deep breath. I stood up and fumbled through the dark out into the hallway. I wanted to make sure that my front door and all of my doors for that matter were locked up tight.
I stubbed my toe on the doorway and I yelped in surprise. The pounding began again. This time more insistent. I felt panic crawling up in my throat. Why wouldn’t this person go away? I heard a muffled curse through the house. The person outside was frustrated. I silently and quickly made my way down the stairs. I was moving too fast and suddenly the reliable feet I had grown so used to slipped out from under me and I landed hard on my tailbone. I howled in agony and realized my mistake too late. I clamped down on my tongue hard. The iron taste of blood was thick in my mouth. I felt it sliding down my throat hot and fast. I choked back the gasp I had almost made.
The front door was giving way and my heart was pounding in my throat. The lights flickered back on. I clenched my eyes shut and saw the silhouette of the potential intruder against the glass on the door. I panicked. That silhouette was easily twice the size of mine and I launched myself down the stairs in time for the power to die once more. I raced into the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife firmly in my palm. I held it in front of me with the skill of a knave. The pounding stopped and I heard my cell phone ringing upstairs. I was too frightened to go past the front door of my home. What if my intruder was already in? What if he was waiting for me just beyond the entryway into the kitchen? He had the advantage if that was the case. I crept forward, as my eyes adjusted to the dark. I made it into the dining room before the crashing of glass made my screams the only thing that was real.
That was definitely the backdoor, the one entirely made of glass. My knuckles, if I could have seen them clearly, were white with tension and strength. I quickly spun around and faced the door that my intruder would be coming through. My hands were slick with sweat, and I could feel the hair on the back of my neck raise up in anticipation. A trickle of sweat slipped between my shoulder blades and made me shutter. A shadow passed in front of me and I stabbed out with my blade.
The screaming of my attacker was piercing. His voice was hoarse and deep and definitely masculine. I felt him fall to the floor and hold his own shoulder. I felt his arms grabbing at me and I swung again as blood spurted across my cheek. I wiped it away while holding back vomit in the back of my throat. Familiar hands reached out for me and I swung again with my dagger until there was no movement at all. Blood covered every inch of me, and I turned away and puked onto my gorgeous wooden floor that moments before I had allowed myself to indulge in. I had just killed someone. My pulse was pounding and I felt a dizziness that would never leave me my entire life. I felt my knees give way underneath of me and I collapsed next to my victim. I shut my eyes and tried to block out all that had transpired that evening.
I felt hot and cold all over. Sweat ran across my body mixing with the blood while I shivered uncontrollably. My mind was racing. How could I explain this to Cody, to my parents, to the authorities, to the victim’s family? There were no words yet invented that could describe what I was feeling; knowing that the last piece of innocence I held and clung to was savagely ripped away by own fear. Tears began to escape from my eyes and I let them fall. The hot sticky mess that was all over me was enough to make me want to shower, but I was paralyzed. I felt that I owed my victim a moment of respect and peace. I had never killed anything in my entire life. I had never had to take a pet to the vet and have it put down. I had never even owned a goldfish that I would’ve had to flush down a toilet in one of the worst funerals a child can partake in. Both of my grandparents were still alive, and so were my parents and aunts and uncles. I had miscarried, but the doctors said that a fetus doesn’t really constitute a life when it is only a few weeks past conception. I had avoided death’s icy cold grip my entire life.
Inside the house, everything had changed. Outside nothing had. Inside a life had been destroyed. Outside life was created and nourished. Inside I was raging like the storm.
Wind whistled through the broken back door and I felt it tickle me, but I had no response. I was cold and hot and sticky and stiff. Rain pattered all over my new wooden floors by the mess that my victim had made. The coolness of the storm did nothing to cool the heat in my body, or help with the chill that didn’t disappear. I didn’t realize it, but I was clutching the blade of my knife so hard that my own blood was running down my hand and onto the floor hot and fast. The pain of my skin being torn and ripped was pale compared to the pain that killing someone caused.
I placed my face in the ruined palm of my hand and sobbed. I don’t know how long I sat there crouched by a cold dead body, but when I finally came to the sun was shining through all the east windows. My stomach was upset as was I, but I felt a kind of peace. Not in a sadistic way, but a relief that the storm had finally passed and the dark had been vanquished. A relief that even though the storm was horrible and all-consuming the sun had come again and all was as it should have been.
I didn’t want to stare into my victim’s face, but I felt as if I owed him that. That one last thing that I could give him. Panic clung to me like an unwanted lover, and I slowly swiveled my head to gaze at my victim.
I felt confusion at first. His chin was smooth and slightly waxy, his skin was a dark chocolate color and his lips were parted just a little bit for me to glance at his perfectly white and perfectly straight teeth. I didn’t dare move my eyes up to meet his, but I did anyway, while my heart sank in my chest and my panic increased. His eyes were dark brown and almost carefree looking. He stared straight ahead almost like he was looking past me. His eyes were too far apart to be considered handsome by most people in the world, but they were the one thing that made me love him. His eyes were the only way you could tell what he was feeling, and to have the ability to read him was a gift that I had held dear to my soul.
My mouth was held open in surprise just before the screams tore out of my throat. My tormented cries vibrated in the world around me. Even with the sun shining brightly outside I felt as if the dark had enveloped us. Tears streamed once more down my cheeks as I looked down at my victim. As I looked down at Cody.