* * *
Steven bolted upright and looked around. “Lindsay?” he asked, his voice shaking. There came no reply. He was certain that he had heard her voice. He blinked his eyes, the sleep clinging to his eyelashes. Lindsay is dead, he thought. He wasn’t dreaming, so why was he so sure that he heard her voice?
She’s here for you.
Steven paused and contemplated the voice’s utterance. What did it even mean? The fleeting thought of Robert bringing Ruby to see him at the halfway house enraged Steven but was immediately dismissed. They wanted nothing to do with him, so for them to come here didn’t make any sense.
Steven froze; he felt icy fingers claw his back. It was Lindsay’s voice. Steven could only conclude that he had lost his grip on reality.
Steven, I’m here.
Steven squeezed his eyes closed. Maybe if he didn’t see her, she wouldn’t be real.
I am real.
“Lindsay?” He asked, straining to hear her voice in a room filled with snores. “Lindsay,” he repeated, “where are you?”
I’m right here.
Steven’s eyes snapped open, and he whipped his head toward her voice. It sounded as if it were coming from the long hallway leaving the communal sleeping room. He rose and crept toward the kitchen. A wave of unease washed over him when he remembered his last time in the kitchen.
He leaned against the wall and considered for a moment that he was indeed insane, but he caught a glimpse of movement in his periphery. He turned his head and his breath caught in his throat. He wasn’t sure if the shadow of a figure was blurry from his wet eyes, or if his brain just refused to allow the shape to coalesce into what he knew it to be.
Her ghostly image appeared to flicker in and out of existence. The only constant was her face, and the familiar frown she always wore. Her face was a pale that only existed in death. Her eyes were wide and bloodshot. She wore the same clothes she had on that day in her apartment, but they were frayed and torn as if she had walked through barbed wire. Blood poured from her wounds and puddled on the hallway floor.
He could only stare at her. The voice screamed that she had come to him over and over. His brain willed his legs forward, but he seemed to be frozen in time, unable to do anything.
Be with me, Steven.
Lindsay’s lips were still pressed into a frown and didn’t move to match her words. She sighed, and her visage faltered, causing Steven to flinch. He closed his eyes again, only for a moment, and when he reopened them, she was gone. He looked around the empty hallway to find his beloved.
The tears flowed freely now. “Lindsay?” he whispered, but the echo of her presence was all that replied.
What had he just seen?
Do what you know is right.
Steven sunk to the floor and his body shook. He closed his eyes, but Lindsay’s pale face was all that he could see. The voice was bad enough, but now Lindsay haunted him.
He tried to act as if nothing was bothering him, but he kept catching glimpses of her. She would appear in a doorway, and seemingly walk through. Her movements were slow, and it looked as if she expended great effort to be there. Her voice would float down the hallway. She continually pleaded for him to join her.
The fleeting images of her weren’t what truly terrified him. She would be standing in a doorway as he passed, and she always looked angry. More than once, he was afraid that she would lunge at him.
Do what you know is right.
Steven flinched. Lindsay’s voice had joined the constant bombardment.
Do it for them, do it for me.
Her voice undulated and compounded. Echoes overlapped, and it sounded like a demon. Now he could feel her presence and hear her voice. How long would she haunt him?
“Please,” Steven begged the chorus of voices, “please just leave me alone.”
I need you to be with me.
Steven pressed his hands against his ears.
Please, Steven. I love you.
“Shut up!” screamed Steven.
For a moment, Steven thought the voices had left him. The constant undercurrent was gone. He exhaled and stared at an empty hallway. He heard movement behind him.
He spun, and fell to the floor; mouth hung open, a silent scream on his lips. Lindsay approached rapidly, her movements deft and purposeful. She no longer faded in and out as if she were a ghost. The blood that pooled at her feet rolled toward him, and he drew his knees to his chest to keep it away. Lindsay’s unblinking eyes stared at him.
I thought you loved me.
Her lips matched her words, but her voice seemed far away. He tried to reassure her, but he found that his throat refused to cooperate.
Lindsay nodded as if Steven had responded. Be with me, she said.
Lindsay walked past him, and through the kitchen door. Steven scrambled to catch up, but he paused at the kitchen door. His hand rested on it. He wasn’t sure if he could go in there again.
It’ll be okay, Steven.
She caressed the cooking implements attached to the magnet on the wall. He found himself withdrawing the knife he had held less than three weeks ago.
Do what you know you should.
Steven whimpered, and Lindsay offered a rare smile as if she heard the voice.
He admired the reflective surface of the serrated steel.
Do it for me.
Steven brought the knife to his arm. A glint of reflected light formed a line across his forearm. Even in the low light, he could see the reflection of his arm in the knife. Goosebumps and hair on his arm danced against the pulse in his vein just below the surface.
Do it, Lindsay insisted.
He pulled the knife away from his arm.
Please, Steven. We can be together forever.
“No!” Steven screamed and slashed the knife at his former girlfriend.
Her eyes grew in horror, and she vanished before his eyes. Steven dropped the knife, the clatter grating on his ears. He had almost tried to kill himself again. All because of Lindsay.
He eyed the knife on the kitchen floor. It was in living color, but the rest of the kitchen had faded to mute tones. The knife was the only thing that seemed real to him. Even Lindsay felt like an apparition.
The voice fell silent.
Steven came to a decision. He turned on his heel and stomped out of the kitchen.