Finally taking off my apron for the night with a sigh of resignation, I make my way out of the café with the continued routine of wishing my coworkers a good night and the familiar chime of the bell to the entrance door as I pass through.
Starting down the sidewalk, I shifted my backpack into a more comfortable position and glanced at my watch. Already 9 o'clock, huh? It's been awhile since I've worked that late, but today was a busy day. Now that I'm assistant manager, I have the luxury to leave when my shift was over, but I stayed behind to help my fellow workers clean up from the end of the night. No objections to that.
A yawn escaped and my body suddenly felt heavy, I guess the combination of espresso and pure adrenaline is finally wearing off. I found my mind craving the sweet temptation of curling into my nice, warm bed, especially with these frigid winds.
I closed my light jacket around my neck, every chilled gust was cutting right through me. Maybe this jacket really wasn't a good choice to wear in the middle of autumn. With that thought, my pace sped up a bit.
I stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for what little traffic was on the road before I cross. I've walked this path so many times for the past two years that I can do it easily in my sleepy state, plus I enjoy the quietness and comfort of the night, it's much better than the hustle and bustle of the day in a big city like this.
About halfway home, I mentally check-marked to myself, the eagerness for warmth growing more and more. I started down a long stretch of road that eventually led into my own respective street. The path down was very well-lit, almost as if the street lights knew my nightly ritual and were guiding me back home.
I kept at a moderate pace. Not slow enough to where it seems like I'm taking my time, but not fast enough to where I'm speed walking. Suddenly, my ears picked up a small sound, almost like a cry or a mewl of some sort, and I slowed down considerably, sudden curiosity took over on what that noise belonged to.
The noise pitched up again and I strained to hear it. It's very faint, but sounded weirder than the first time, starting off high pitched and then evolving into deeper, guttural sound as it went on. It didn't sound natural, and I don't know where it's coming from.
As soon as the strange sound faded, the street light I stood below started to flicker rapidly. Chills wracked my entire body and the realization hit that the wind has died down for quite some time now. Shaking my mind off of sudden superstitious thoughts, I claimed the light above me happen to just be a little faulty. No big deal, that stuff happens all the time.
Not caring as much about the weird noise anymore and now really wanting to go home, I was determined to see it through, it was almost 10 o'clock anyways, I need sleep.
Before I even took another step forward all the street lights went out in unison around me. Panic started to swell within my chest as I looked around myself. This was not normal. Every street light in the street was out.
"….Miiiinnnneeee…" I jumped out of my skin and now visibly shaking. The sound came out of nowhere, almost like someone came right up to my ear and whispered it. Something is right next to me and I couldn't even see it! I looked around frantically, but nothing was out of sorts.
With shaky hands, I rush to pull out my phone, desperate for a light of some sort. I turned on the flashlight function and glanced around, finding nothing out of sorts, but found myself stopping at the face of an alleyway. What looked like a small black kitten was sitting there, its eyes squinting from the bright light.
Panic forgotten for the moment, I turned off the flashlight and went over to meet the kitten, crouching down to its level who met my stare. With care, I reached a hand out to pet it when it let out a little meow. What should've melted my heart turned into panic as it made the same disturbing sound I heard earlier, just without the deepness of it.
The cat eyed me, gave a nonchalant blink of its striking, yellow eyes and waltzed farther into the back of the alleyway. I watched it go, a little freaked and also curious to where it's going, I followed cautiously. The farther I went, the darker the alleyway seemed to get. After a few seconds, with no sign of the cat, I started to turn tail. I shouldn't be wandering down random alleyways.
I almost made my way out when I heard another noise behind me, wondering if that was the kitten, I turned around. A pair of the same yellow eyes met me at my own height, freezing me to the spot as my heart jumped into my throat.
A toothy smile broke out that belonged to those eyes, a look of hunger was all I could think of. Before I could even react, I was slammed into the rough bricks that made up one of the houses that created the dark alleyway. "Miiiiiiinnnnneeeeee…." It breathed, the same voice I heard earlier. It seized me around the neck, pushing my back into the brick wall.
I was staring at it straight to the face, and all I could make out was those piercing yellow eyes and a smile, it seemed to just blend into the darkness, as though made to camouflage with its surroundings. I was terrified, I wanted to run away, to leave and never go outside at night again if something like this thing is lurking around. It's grip on me was so tight, I was starting to feel lightheaded, the corners of my vision going black, any strength I had was weakening, my thoughts of escaping were bleak.
Suddenly, the pressure on my neck released. I was confused initially and I sat there for a second, catching big breaths but then wasted no time in making a run for it. I needed help! I needed to get away! The exit to the alleyway is so close! But the more I ran, the further the exit seemed. The walls of the alleyway stretched on, making it impossible for me to escape.
Tears burst out, panic exploded, I wanted out, I would do anything to get away! Crawl, climb, bite, gnaw, punch!
Suddenly, right in front of me in the entrance of the alleyway, that same small black kitten trotted up, almost like it was teasing me, and plopped itself down, watching. Those yellow eyes cut right through me and I was paralyzed. After a pause, it made another meow, this time it sounded demented and twisted, almost demonic like three voices were entangled within the one, the voices sounding similar to the whisper in my ear earlier.
Two shadowy masses wrapped around each of my arms and tugged me farther back into the alleyway, with the cat nonchalantly watching and listening, the last sight I had, as my blood curdling scream filled the quiet night.
I was dragged ruthlessly by the arms of this yellow-eyed monster, my bare skin scraping on the gravel in the alleyway, creating a sharp burn as I met every rock and pebble.
The alleyway was still as dark as ever as I turned my attention away from the exit point, where the cat sat, almost mocking me. My heart pounded in my chest, I had no idea what's gonna happen to me next, tears rolling down my face in fear and I tried screaming for help, anything, I would be so grateful. I'm going to die, the thought came across quickly and cemented in place as that was the only thing I was sure of at this point.
After a second passed, I abruptly stopped in place, but my arms were still constricted by this strange monster. The burning of my skin intensified as I lay there for a second, but my panicking worsened now, I didn't know what was going to happen next but I urgently tried to pull away from the grip it has on me but I couldn't even budge.
My chest contracted and was sore from my short, ragged breaths. I was sweating and no matter how much air I breathed in I felt like I wasn't getting enough, which was making me feel like I was going to pass out.
What sounded like deep hissing filled my ears, voices that all sounded different, like nails against a chalkboard. It hurt my ears. The darkness revealed several pairs of yellow eyes, which sent me frantically pulling and tugging my arms at an attempt to get away, my mind on overdrive trying to think of every opportunity to gain leverage to escape. There's more than one! They're going to kill me! I'm going to die tonight!
The arms that have a hold of me start dragging me again towards the unknown abyss of whatever was in this alleyway. Screams erupted from me and I was pulling my arms, hoping something will give in to my favor. To my surprise my feet are now dangling in the air, my body is being lifted off the ground now and I'm forced to look forward at my captors. The several fear-inducing pairs of eyes all stare me down as though hungry and I braced myself. I closed my eyes and hoped that if I am going to be eaten alive, it happens quick enough so I won't feel any pain.
I dangled there for what felt like forever, eyes shut tight and teeth clenched in anticipation, but I didn't feel any movement, or pain. I slowly opened one eye and noticed light coming through my peripheral vision, the sun was coming up. My ears were then bombarded with a strange collection of sounds erupting from the beings. I wanted to cover my ears, it was so loud.
They don't like light.
My back met the harsh ground once the creature loosened it's grip on me. Despite the pain wracking my body, I wasted no time in getting away from the creatures, gawking at the sight. There's four of them, and as the sun followed its path upwards it illuminated the creatures, making them look almost translucent. The light continued to seemingly burn them to where their screams just about stopped and they fizzled away by the sun, almost like water evaporating and returning back to the clouds.
I sat there for a while, marveled at what just happened and wondering how I was still alive. I let my body finally relax and relief washed over me. Eventually I got up, sharp pain finally settled in once adrenaline left and I found it hard to move. I pushed myself though, the urge to go home stronger than I could ever remember.
I approached the exit of the alleyway, shock making it hard to believe that I'm actually making it out of there alive. I never want to go anywhere near an alleyway again. As I limped towards my original destination, my eyes fell upon a black cat, the feelings of dread came flooding back as I remember it sporting the same icy stare of the yellow eyes, only this time in better light it looked exactly like my cat Pepper, with the same green eyes.
I paused my thoughts for a moment. Pepper died five years ago due to natural causes of a long life, how is this cat before me look just like it? Creeped out from the thought, I rushed past it, ignoring everything as I was desperate to just get back home.
Arriving home, tired and out of breath from my encounter, my legs instinctively brought me to my room. My mother seemed to be out at that moment, so thankfully that let me bypass a lot of exhausting questioning of why I never came home the previous night and why I probably look like a mess. It wouldn't be far off from the truth.
I collapsed once I got to my bed, exhaustion fully taking over, making my limbs heavy and I must've passed out on the way down to the pillow, I didn't even feel myself lay my head down.
I woke up to a start, a headache made itself fully known as it seemingly came out of nowhere. I cradled my head for a bit as I sat there in bed, the pain too much to bear.
The image of a bloody scalpel flashed quickly through my thoughts, setting me on edge.
Disjointed and in pain, I looked around my room, seems like I didn't sleep for long, it was still daytime out. To my horror though as my eyes passed over my dark closet which was slightly open, there it was again, the same yellow eyes and hungry smile looking back on me. I jumped out of bed.
Another wave of a headache hit me again, stopping me from moving. The image of a broken mirror and a bloody hand was all I saw.
Pushing back the strange thought, I rushed downstairs to the kitchen to grab a glass of water to calm my nerves, vaguely aware that my mouth was parched. As I rose the glass to my lips, a now familiar disturbing meow passed through the air. I spun around to meet the kitten that looks so much like Pepper, back to sporting those haunting yellow eyes I've grown to hate so much. The glass dropped to the floor as I scurried backwards away from it, the cabinets preventing me from going any further back.
A needle filled with anesthesia flashed through my mind, more pulsating pain.
The strange disturbing thoughts that didn't make any sense kept intruding against my will faster and faster.
I cradled my head with both hands. I couldn't think straight.
A body, badly stabbed, face down laying in a puddle of blood.
I heard screaming and wondered where it was coming from.
And then realized it was me.
A fountain of pills and the feeling of suffocating and wanting to throw up.
White. White all around.
The clanking of metal on metal.
Red and blue flashing lights.
Being strapped down in a chair against my will.
False promises whispered in my ears.
Death. Hate. Helplessness.
I felt hands on my shoulders, shaking me. I heard a voice cut through my screams and recognized it as my mom.
"Liam! Liam! It's alright, it's just me! You got to just calm down!"
Listening to my mother's soothing voice, the screams slowly stopped. I dropped my arms and looked up into her face, only to see an older man in her place and my surroundings changed, no longer my kitchen but a white room with a table that me and this man were sitting at.
"That's it, there you go, Liam." The man gave me a smile, the same smile that reminded me of the monster, and released my shoulders. Uncertainty fluttered in my chest. "You've slipped back into one of your episodes, which gave me quite a scare there by the end, but I'm glad you're back with us. Took you quite a while."
I must've given him a confused look, matching how I feel, because he felt the need to introduce himself. "Liam, do you remember me? It's me, Doctor Mannings. I'm here to help you."
The headache came back in full force and I groaned, holding my head up, elbows on the table. This doctor then proceeded to write something down in a notepad I didn't realize he had with him, I was able to make out words he mumbled like "meds" and "side effects".
None of this was making sense.
"Where am I?" I blurted out through the pain. I heard a heavy sigh. "I guess you don't remember anything," he paused, almost giving me a chance to answer, and with no response, he added, "the cycle continues it seems."
I didn't know what he was talking about.
"Where's my mother? Why am I here? I should be home, I have work tomorrow to finish at the café!" My voice raised a bit in intensity at the end of the sentence, I stood up out of my seat confused and angry. The doctor reached out and grabbed my wrist tightly, to the point where I couldn't pull away. My mind instantly flashed to the image of the monster.
For a second he gave a very intense look of unbridled impatience and his eyes gave away ulterior motives, and in that same second it was gone. He removed his hand from my wrist and cleared his throat, reclaiming his composure. My panic started to rise up again. After a moment of silently studying him, I hesitatingly sat back down in the chair, afraid of what would happen if I didn't.
"Now Liam," the almost fake interested tone returned to his voice, his earlier intensity completely gone, "you are not gonna like what I am about to tell you."
"There is no mother, no café, no home full of childhood memories. That is all a lifetime ago." I stared at him, hanging on every word he said. "You have been living in your past for over five years now, but in reality you've been staying here with me in this ward for that same amount of time."
My eyebrows furrowed in confusion as I try to follow what he's going on about, "We've come to this conclusion so many times before, old friend, and each time is the same. Only you never stick around in reality, but regress back to what you once knew as your life."
"I don't understand." I mumble back. He leans forward, getting closer to my face, the intensity creeps back. "Sadly, since the incident five years ago, you've developed a sort of psychosis where you suffer from hallucinations and your mind seems trapped from when the trauma happened, constantly reliving the event."
"What incident?" I ask, dread creeping in as I feel like I know the answer to it.
"One night after work at the cafe, you came home to your mother dead, stabbed by a scalpel." The image of the dead body, face down, covered in a pool of blood came rushing back. He continued, "we soon found you in an alleyway not too far from your place, a screaming sobbing mess. I have to tell ya, you were quite a pain to get in the ambulance, four of us had to drag you by the arms." The image of the red and blue flashing lights and the monsters wrapping around my wrists from earlier came through.
"This leads up to where I come in, Liam. I was chosen to help you. And through observing you every day and being able to talk with you, I can continue to help you and many others in this ward."
The images of false promises and forcibly being strapped down to a chair, surrounded by white rushed by.
I felt like I was going be sick. This man will be the death of me. I jumped out of my seat, rushing to the door of the room, only to find it locked. "Shhhhh, Liam, don't make so much noise," the doctor whispered sweetly in my ear behind me, as he has me pinned to the door. "Why, we aren't done talking yet." I felt the cold stab of a needle into the side of my neck, with the syringe emptying into me. After a moment, my vision began to blur and my body collapsed under me.
"We're gonna take such good care of you."
Everything went black.
Wiping the sweat from my forehead, I finally saw my shift through and took off my apron for the night. Time to head home.