Slowly waking up from her dream, Sarah pushed off the heavy down pillows from the couch where she fell asleep the night before.  As she fought to keep her eyes closed, she was determined to fall back asleep so she could finish the dream sequence she had while she was sleeping.  In reality, it was a nightmare filled with chaos.  She remembered there was a struggled with someone in her dream and there was a lot of blood – a lot of blood everywhere.

Her head was groggy, but the imprint of horrific pictures from the dream was in her mind.  “Sarah, go back to sleep,” she demanded of herself, but she couldn’t slip back into that dream state once more.

Perhaps it was the blanket that had twisted itself around her legs during the night that made her feel uncomfortable and prevented her from going back to sleep.  Maybe it was her cell phone as it perpetually vibrated on top of the glass coffee table.  “Who in the hell keeps calling me anyway?” she wondered.

She felt irritated and finally decided that it was time to stop the hopeless battle and get up.  As she sat up on the couch, her head immediately began to throb.  She recalled that she threw a party the night before, but questioned her sanity, “The party was last night, wasn’t it?”

She wanted the fog to lift from her mind and decided coffee was the much-needed remedy to accomplish this goal and to ease her painful head.  As she stumbled to the kitchen in what felt like slow motion, she leaned on each piece of furniture as a guide to move herself forward.  She felt oddly weak and discovered that even her hands felt sore.

When she finally made it to the counter where all her coffee accoutrements were stored, she began the process of making coffee.  She took the coffee pot to the sink to fill it up with water and as she tapped the touch faucet for the water to flow, she noticed something on her hands.  Whatever it was, it was different shades of red and looked as if her hands were sunburned and flaking from peeling.  Still holding the coffee pot, Sara brought her hands closer to her face to examine what she saw.  Startled, the coffee pot slipped from her grasp crashing to the floor sending shattered shards in every direction on the kitchen floor, she cried “No, no, no!”

As she continued chanting no, she stumbled backwards trying to avoid the shattered glass on the floor from getting on her bare feet.  Suddenly and without further hesitation, her dream vividly flooded back to her.  She vigorously shook her head and felt the pinging sensation of adrenaline coursing through her body.  As a cold chill started to set in, she felt herself going into shock.  She started shaking as her teeth chattered.  “Oh my god, it can’t be real!” she exclaimed.  “After all, it was only a dream.”

But, Sarah knew it wasn’t a dream she had the night before and no amount of denial could remove the evidence that was on her hands – the dried blood she’d been looking at.  Instinctually, she knew it wasn’t her own blood.

Just like the coffee pot that shattered, reality came crashing around her and she turned to look in the direction of her bedroom.  She wasn’t sure what assaulted her sense of smell, but a sweet acrid odor came from the bedroom.  Slowly, and with hesitation, she continued moving towards the bedroom.  The sweet acrid odor became stronger turning into a sweet smell of rot.  Waves of nausea hit her as images of a struggle flashed in her head.  Sara’s could not contain control of her body any longer and retched at her feet.  “It’s not like I’m a cold-blooded killer,” she pondered, “Or am I?”

“So this is what cognitive dissonance is all about,” Sarah thought, still conflicted with the homicidal tendencies in her head.  Refusing to go any closer to the bedroom, she had no desire or need to validate those images.  Still, they were as real as the vomit at her feet.  “Damn!” she exclaimed.  As she turned to go back to the kitchen, her weak body, still shaking and in shock, made its journey back to the loft’s kitchen nearly impossible.  She was determined, however, to clean up her own mess from the floor.

As a young girl, Sarah dreamed of having an open space to call home.  After she took a position as public relations manager for a busy criminal law attorney in Seattle, she bought a loft in Fremont, Washington.  Her salary was top notch so she was finally able to buy her realty reality.

Seattle is known for its festivals and events where local artists display their works.  Sarah filled her loft with the works of local artists she’d collected at these events.  She also hung her own art that a local gallery exhibited.  The owner of the gallery was acquainted with the attorney she worked for and selected her work to be exhibited.  Sarah decided this was perhaps one of the perks of her new job and knew that working for such a colorful and well-known attorney would have other perks as well.

Networking is the key to anyone’s success and piggybacking on coattails is essential in order to move forward in any profession.  Networking and purchasing her home were the reasons she’d thrown a party.  Of course, networking at this party had nothing to do with her current employer and everything to do with her personal accomplishments.

Art gallery owners and artists of different mediums, along with their entourage were all invited to Sarah’s party.  She loved the entertainment that the entourage’s personalities provided.  It seemed to be suited to each artist.  Of course, her personal friends were first on her list, along with their guests.  Sarah had even invited a date for herself.  But, now she asked herself, “So, who did I struggle with?”

She pondered all these things as she stood over the kitchen sink waiting for the cold water to become hot.  Perplexed, she thought, “I liked everyone I invited.  So what could have happened?”

As she stood at the kitchen sink thinking, washing her hands and wetting a kitchen washcloth to clean the vomit from the floor near the bedroom, she abandoned her thoughts and transitorily gazed into nothingness.  The sound of the running water was hypnotic and she didn’t fight the trance that took over her mind.  She liked that numb feeling because it was a feeling without thought or terror.  The human mind in denial is indeed a spectacular event!  It can be a refuge when there are no rational answers to find anywhere.

Suddenly, she heard her name called from behind.  “Sarah.” She quickly turned around to look, but no one was there.

Her name was called from behind once more.  “Sarah.”  Only this time it sounded like a chorus of voices.

Since her phone had been ringing while she was in the kitchen, she thought that what she heard in the background was her friends yelling at her from the street below.  She tip-toed through the shattered glass on the kitchen floor once more and walked towards the window that faced 36th Street to see who was calling her name.  It would have been the logical window that someone would yell for her from the street below.

The view from this window was one of the reasons she bought the loft.  From this window she could hear, see and feel the pulse of Fremont.  She believed it to be the heart of Fremont.  She could see the Lenin statue that stood tall in the v-shaped intersection of a courtyard next to her favorite gyro shop.  Whenever Sarah looked at the statue it seemed to silently whisper to Sarah, “Welcome to Fremont.  You have arrived.”  The statue, however, never actually called her name.

Without warning, and in a booming voice, her name was called once more, “SARAH.”  Without thinking, she shouted back, “I’m coming!”

As she approached the window, she walked through what felt like crisp, icy air.  Her flesh crawled with goose bumps and the tiny hairs on the back of her arm and neck stood up.  “That’s really weird,” she thought as she stopped briefly to look for an air conditioning vent nearby that she knew didn’t exist.

She dismissed the creepy feeling that she felt inside and looked out to the busy street below.  It was a beautifully, but dismal day in Seattle and many passersby were cloaked in hoodies or under umbrellas.  She thought it was a bit ridiculous to find that no one was looking upwards for her and that her friend’s faces were not in sight.  Still, she searched up and down the sidewalk from her window hoping to catch a glimpse of one of her friends who might have just walked away.  She didn’t see anyone.

“Over here, Sarah,” she heard again.  She wasn’t sure where over here was and continued to scan the street.

“Sarah,” she heard yet one more time.  This time when her name was called it had a flange sound effect to it as if it was an echo.

Even though the sound of someone calling her name was still ringing in her ears, she was just about ready to abandon her search.  She raised her head and her eyes followed to meet a man looking directly at her from underneath a charcoal-gray homburg hat, wearing a matching trench coat.

When they locked eyes, Sarah felt a coldness deep within her bones.  She didn’t need to hear him say her name to know that he was the one who spoke to her.  She desperately wanted to pull her gaze away from this man, but found that she couldn’t.  He had an evil grin on his face and without moving his lips he spoke, “Yes, Sarah.  I’ve been calling for you.”

In the time it took Sarah to blink her eyes, he was gone.

~Kitty Longstocking