Irrational Fears

What Scares You?

Your secret is safe with me

Written By: Amanda Luciano

Part One:

"Your secret is safe with me." The words dripped off of his tongue like liquid sin.

What did I do. Fuck.

December is an anxiety ridden nightmare for me. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the holidays. Christmas has always been a big deal for me and come Christmas morning the relief of the production being over lets me enjoy myself. The journey there however is a different story.

I come from a relatively big family, the middle child of five. We have a tradition that every Christmas Eve we all sleep at the same house, even with all of us being adults. It's fun and now our children are starting to get in on it. Our parents divorced about 6 years ago but it never changed our mind about sticking together.

This year was the first year we ran in to any scheduling problems miraculously. My little sister, recently married, was not going to be in town this Christmas Eve so we agreed to carry out our tradition a little early this year. A couple nights ago we all gathered at my oldest brothers house, he had the biggest place and the most children so it made sense. Everything was going well, we busted out the board games and hot chocolate and got started with the festivities. After a couple heated rounds of Clue the kids started to fade so we put them to bed upstairs in the loft. The adults stayed downstairs and sat around the living room chatting about the latest news and our favorite memories.

The same stories never got old, we heard them this time every year and still laughed. The room was warm and wonderful. My brothers and sisters were the reason I made it. Our parents weren't really great, together or apart.

The five of us are what made it and I was very grateful for that.

After securing the "Santa" presents under the tree everybody started to head their separate ways. My boyfriend didn't accompany me this year as he stayed home to take care of our dogs. With so many people over I didn't think it made sense to throw two dogs into the mix. As everyone went off to their separate sleeping areas I pulled out my cell phone to give him a quick call before I passed out.

Voicemail.

He must have been asleep already, I sent a text anyways wishing him a goodnight and telling him I love him. I wish he could have been there. I laid my head down on the couch then and let myself start to drift, the last thing I remember was the Christmas lights bouncing off of the silver charm bracelet my sister had given me earlier. I was concerned that I hadn't taken it off knowing I would fall asleep soon. I didn't fight my heavy eyelids long enough to remove it.

I woke suddenly, very aware that I was no longer alone on the couch. A moment between dreaming and the real world found me hoping it was Andrew, my boyfriend.

It was not Andrew.

It was a man that I myself have never seen before, as I became increasingly more aware that this was a dangerous situation my posture changed. I was rigid, sitting in a mess of blankets on the couch.

I started to register the scene in front of me. To start there was a man, he looked normal but he smelled putrid. Like he had rolled around in a tub of vomit and piss. He had short dark hair and an uncomfortably large smile. His eyes were yellow and wide set. Maybe it was just a trick of the light.

To his left was a young woman, seemingly there by choice. She smiled something awful. Her teeth looked rotten, almost like they might start crumbling if you touched them. Aside from her mouth monstrosity she was beautiful. Long dirty blonde hair, big brown eyes and a petite frame.

I choked back vomit and opened my mouth to speak but before i could muster a word the man stopped me.

"I will give you a choice." He said shortly.

My eyes moved from the man to the woman and then back to the man. I didn't speak but he still continued.

"Your family will go unharmed if you complete one task for me." He looked for the first time away from me and to the woman. Her body language changed then, she was scared too.

"Or you can watch me rip them all apart." He spat.

I started to slide my hand along the cushion of the couch to find my phone but as if he could read my mind the man held it up in one hand. "Not a strong start, Scarlet."

"What do I have to do?" I spoke more loudly than I was ready for and I half hoped it might wake someone.

"You make your choice before I provide the details." He stepped closer then and I was sure I would vomit from the smell.

I swallowed hard. "Not much of a choice." I said as harshly as I could.

"I'll do it, what is the task?" I tried to relax my shoulders but failed miserably.

The man pulled a hammer from his coat and I physically felt the color leave my skin.

"You will kill this woman, using only the tool I have provided." He smiled.

I don't know how to explain the line of logic I was following but It seemed to me as if I did not have a choice. Somehow I was more scared of this man than anything else I had ever encountered.

I reached out and gripped the hammer, I was even more scared of him with the hammer in my hand. He flashed me the inside of his coat as if to warn me and I just imagined that there was certainly something more frightening than a hammer in his coat.

I approached the woman slowly, she never moved or flinched. Just stood against the wall next to the Christmas tree. I prayed she wouldn't look at me or fucking smile.

I braced myself and swung. The cracking sound that followed I will never be able to forget. I closed my eyes tight and just kept swinging until I didn't feel anything. When I opened my eyes she had fallen to the floor.

Her eyes were still open, even with the blood pouring out of her head and mouth. I caught a flash in the corner of my eye. It was my charm bracelet and it had blood on it now.

I stood there, half panting, looking at her crumpled body. Hoping that it was over.

I just killed someone.

I didn't fight back, I didn't try to run, I just obliged to this mans wishes to kill a stranger.

"Your secrets safe with me." The words dripped off of his tongue like liquid sin.

What did I do. Fuck.

He took the hammer from my shaking hand and disappeared. I couldn't hold back anymore, I started to vomit and I didn't stop until the violent dry heaving knocked me out.

I woke up in a hospital room. Andrew was at my side, it was bright outside. Did he know what I had done?

"Good morning gorgeous." He chimed.

I looked at him in horror and tears started to fall from my eyes. He leaned in and wiped away a tear, kissed me on the forehead and sat back down.

"How are you feeling?" He asked.

I couldn't get any words out, I just started to sob. Andrew held me for a long time. When I could catch my breath I asked him if my family was okay. He looked surprised.

"Scar, you must have gotten pretty banged up in that accident." A soft laugh escaped him.

"My brothers and sisters? The kids? What is funny about this?" I put all the energy I had into not erupting into tears.

"Scar, you don't have any brothers or sisters. You are an only child, your parents live across the country." The concern grew more apparent on his face. "You were in an accident, do you remember anything?" He asked more seriously.

"I remember everything." I whispered.

"You need to rest, baby. You have been through a lot in the last twenty four hours and I want to take you home for Christmas." He ran his hand across my cheek slowly.

I decided to give it up for now. I didn't know what to think about it. There were too many things for me to have imagined it all. Years of memories that wouldn't make sense to have manufactured myself.

Whatever had happened it had left me tired and I didn't have the strength to fight it. I decided to give in to my heavy eyelids and figure it out later. The last thing I remember was seeing the sunlight bouncing off of the charm bracelet my sister had given me.

There was still blood on it.


Part Two:

"I don't need a wheelchair." I protested.

Andrew was almost as stubborn as I was and I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn't going to budge on this. I sat down in the hospital provided wheel chair and sat quietly as he pushed me towards the exit. I had done well with staying calm to this point but for some reason the closer we got to the exit the more anxiety I felt.

Andrew had already pulled the car around and it was waiting for us just past the hospital doors. He had the same car I remembered, I had started taking inventory of my surroundings to see if anything else was supposedly different. So far the only thing other than my whole family situation, that Andrew told me was different, was that he was claiming the charm bracelet was an anniversary gift from him over a month ago.

He however couldn't explain to me why he had chosen THIS charm bracelet which is what continued to alarm me. One of the charms on the bracelet was a silver inhaler which was an inside joke my sister and I had. Nothing very romantic about an inhaler.

"I didn't notice that charm." he had laughed it off. Apparently still finding some comedy in the fact that my reality had changed.

"Memory loss is not uncommon for this kind of trauma, Scar." He was trying to be reassuring but I couldn't help but be upset that he didn't believe me.

I knew once I could get home I could investigate further and I planned to. When we arrived home, Andrew helped me out of the car and walked close beside me through the threshold of our home. It's the same house we had been renting.

As soon as we were inside I told Andrew that I needed a shower and headed for the bathroom before he could argue about resting. I closed the door behind me and locked it. I don't exactly know why but I just wanted a moment alone.

I surveyed myself in the mirror. The same long black hair, brown eyes, freckled skin. I had a small scrape on my cheek, cherry red. I could see no other injuries on my entire body. As per what I was told, I had hydroplaned on the highway on-ramp and crashed straight into the wall. My car was totaled. How could I only have a scrape on my cheek?

I turned the water on and stepped into the shower. I let the hot water run down my face for what felt like forever trying to retrace the events of that night. I had lost 3 days. I was at my brothers on Sunday night and woke up in the hospital on Wednesday.

I started to develop a headache thinking back on every time Andrew had met my family. How many nights we stayed up late talking about how hard the divorce had been. How many times he held me while I cried about wishing my parents had figured it out, how much I wished they would have been part of our lives.

He knew my family and I was going to prove it.

I remembered then the framed photos I had received for my birthday last year. Pictures of my brother Alex with Andrew and I. Pictures of my nephews.

I cut the water and wrapped a towel around myself. When I stepped out of the bathroom I could smell something delicious. Andrew must have been cooking dinner. I hurried down the hallway to where the photos had been hanging before, the same frame but different photos. I didn't bother to bring this up as I was sure I would get another chuckle and vague reassuring phrase.

I got dressed slowly, the only pain I felt was in my shoulder. I suddenly flashed back to that terrible smile, rotten teeth, pool of blood. I got dizzy and reached for my dresser to steady myself I heard something fall to the floor but focused on seeing straight before checking it out.

"Scar, come eat something!" I was out of time for now. I made my way out of the bedroom and down the hall to the kitchen. Andrew didn't cook often, usually only in times of extreme.

Andrew set the bowl of mac and cheese down and kissed me on the forehead. "What was that?" He asked lightly.

"What was what?" I was very confused at this point.

"I heard a loud noise from down the hall, did you fall?" He joined me at the table then.

I put my hand to my head, it was started to pulse with pain. "Oh that, I think something fell off the dresser. I forgot to check."

Andrew got up from the table and walked down the hall. He reemerged a moment later, "Thinking about some home improvement, weirdo?" He laughed.

I looked up at him to see him carrying a hammer. The hammer. I almost fell out of my chair.

"Where did you get that?" I looked at him in horror.

His body language changed then, the laughter left his body and he went rigid. "Scar, what is going on? You just told me you dropped this in the bedroom."

I almost didn't see him, hovered in the hallway. The yellow eyes gave him away but he didn't make a sound. The smell hit me then, that same putrid smell. He lifted his finger to his mouth and pursed his lips. I heard the SHH in my ear as if he was standing beside me.

I couldn't move, I was frozen. Andrew rushed over, placing the hammer down on the table. He grabbed me up in his arms and carried me to the bedroom. I couldn't take the pain in my head any longer, I was going to throw up. Andrew laid me down on the bed and I could see his mouth moving but I couldn't hear anything through the pounding in my ears.

I squeezed my eyes shut in an attempt to ease the pain but nothing changed. I opened my eyes again and he had moved to the doorway to turn the lights out. He walked back towards me and put a hand on my cheek, all I could hear was a high pitched noise as I struggled to make out what he was saying. He leaned down then and I noticed the yellow color in his eyes.

"Your secret is safe with me."

I screamed and thrashed away from him. He ran back to the door and turned the lights back on. He looked horrified. We sat in blaring silence for an eternity before he told me he would give me some time alone to rest and shut the door behind him. My headache was immediately gone.

Same bed sheets, same wall paper, but I think this is a different Andrew.


Part Three:

I think there is something wrong with Andrew. He seems like the same person but... tampered with. I don't know how else to explain it but it's almost like someone opened him up and changed some things around in his head.

I sat on the bed collecting myself for a while. My headache was gone but i had a deep pain in my mouth. The clock on my bed side table told me it was only 8:13PM. I locked the bedroom door and proceeded to look for my laptop. It was hard to miss, a rose gold Macbook that usually sat on my nightstand but it wasn't there.

Shit.

It must be in the office. I adored our office on a normal day, we had taken a spare bedroom and put two desks in it. The wall space surrounding his side held different batman memorabilia and his collection of hot wheels. Mine had some of my Disney stuff and some art prints from adventure time that I loved. In the middle were all of our instruments. It was a room full of what we loved and we would sit in there to work on various projects together.

I couldn't stomach being around him but I needed to find out what the fuck was going on. As quietly as I could manage I unlocked the bedroom door and stepped out into the hallway. It was completely dark. No light at the end in the kitchen and it was completely silent. Maybe he had left.

It occurred to me then that it was silent. No noise. My dogs, where were my dogs? I gained some courage in that moment and ran down the hallway and through the kitchen to the back door. It was dark and there was nothing out there that I could see. I turned on the lights in the kitchen and living room, which are connected, but nothing. Just the same old couches and entertainment center.

I hurried back down the hall and past the master bedroom, I entered the office and turned the light on. Just like I left it and there was my laptop sitting on top of my desk. I grabbed it and hurried out of there to check the last bedroom, as I exited the office I caught something in my peripheral vision but when I spun around there was nothing there.

The hallway was still dark, a light I left on in the living room still lingering. I didn't have the emotional capacity to put much into it and just kept on down the hall. I reached the third bedroom and threw the door open, half closing my eyes. Fear wasn't keeping me from making sure my pets were alright but it was still there.

Nothing. Just the collection of junk I remember being here before. I rubbed my sore jaw and the tears came next. Even if it was possible that Andrew had taken them out with him there was no sign of dogs here. No crates, no food, no toys. Nothing.

I started to panic, whatever happened Saturday night I couldn't live with. It took my siblings, it took my dogs and it changed the love of my life.

I walked back out into the hallway and immediately regretted it.

Andrew.

He looked, wrong. His skin looked like it was loosely pinned on and his mouth was gaping open. He took a step toward me. "Scar?" That wasn't his voice.

"Who are you?" I screamed with more authority than I thought I could muster after all of this. "Where is Andrew?"

He swayed then and I noticed his knee buckle. Well, I thought it had buckled. It had actually began crumbling as he tried to step towards me. The skin on his face drooped further and his eyes went that familiar shade of yellow.

The smell hit me then and I swallowed hard to try to keep myself from gagging. I decided to try to make a break for the front door, I booked it down the hallway and took a sharp right turn in front of Andrew.

I ran into him so hard I almost wouldn't have believed it was a person I hit. I dropped my laptop and it skid across the floor. I looked up in horror to see the source of the smell. It was him.

Short black hair, yellow wide-set eyes, too large of a smile. He stood calmly and held a hand out towards me.

"Don't fucking touch me." I got brave. What could I possibly stand to lose at this point?

"Miss Scarlet, quite the mouth on you." He cackled.

I put my hand to my aching mouth then and pulled a hand covered in black liquid away.

"Smile dear!" He grazed my cheek and I did. I smiled. Was I losing my mind?

He took my hand then and led me towards the door, we passed a mirror in the foyer and I noticed that my teeth were rotting.

He led me back towards the living room, only this wasn't my house anymore. This was a home I had never been in. I started to feel that pounding in my ears, as if someone had taken a hammer to my skull. Ironic. I noticed then that there was another woman in the room but I couldn't register what they were talking about. I flashed her a smile and leaned against the unfamiliar wall.

My head was pounding faster now and I tried to blink the pain away but it wasn't helping.

You know that sound you hear when you leave a concert? That high-pitched whine? That's what I heard next. I stood confused in the middle of some confrontation these two were having.

The woman looked terrified, she was standing a few feet in front of the man with the yellow eyes and impossible smile, the only thing between them was a coffee table. I still couldn't hear what they were saying but the relief in my head made me smile. As wide as I could.

The woman looked at me then and I felt serene. Somehow I felt like I could float away.

She took the hammer from him then and walked towards me. As she swung wildly I felt the warm blood fill my mouth and ears. I fell to the floor and laid there in a pool of my own blood. As I looked up at her, I started to choke on my own blood and that high-pitched whine left my ears. I could hear her sobbing and I swear I could hear the bile rising in her throat.

"Your secret is safe with me." The words rolled off of his tongue like liquid sin.

The woman who had just beaten me to death began to vomit.

This looked familiar.

Once she passed out I watched the man pick up her body with ease and disappear.

I woke up on the couch in my brothers house. It's Friday and he swears that last night was the night that we all got together for our Christmas Eve tradition. I checked my phone and had a good morning text from Andrew accompanied with a selfie of him in bed with the dogs.

Everything is how I remember it.

My charm bracelet was still on my arm, I quickly slid it off when I noticed that there was still blood on it.

I don't know how to explain what happened but I needed to share it, I needed someone to know.

My brother walked me to the car and helped me load up the gifts I had to take back home with me.

"I almost forgot to ask you, why did you have my hammer out last night?" My brother looked purely curious.

I tried not to let the horror fill my expression.

"It's not a big deal, just wondering what you were working on. I figured it was a Christmas surprise." He cracked a soft smile. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to but you know your secret is safe with me!"

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