An excerpt of Clear Blue Paranoia
by Mercedes Garcia
"Please don't hurt me."
"I don't want to die!"
Angela forced herself to sit up in the nighttime quiet of her bedroom. Her head throbbed from lack of sleep and her heart beat fast from fear of the unknown. She sat up and turned the lamp on, looking around the room as she did so. Her therapist told her to face her fears to prove that they were irrational. With conviction, she jumped out of bed. Before she could talk herself out of it, she opened her bedroom door quickly then closed it again when she didn't see anything. What was that noise? She asked herself.
She walked over to her bedroom window and looked through the thick, black security bars. She could see her back porch and the tidy yard that housed a few aged, tall trees. There was an old green fence, then a jungle-like yard surrounding another house across the way. Angela looked at the decrepit, old house and wished someone would tear it down. It wasn’t helping the night terrors that have plagued her for years. Every time she thought about it, she wondered who could be hiding behind its rotting wood, waiting for the right moment to attack.
Angela, you’ve got to get a grip. She told herself.
She turned the lights back off and got into bed, convincing herself that all will be well. But twenty minutes later, she still wasn’t asleep. The tree shadows seemed to be putting on a show and keeping her awake with the choreography. Worse, the more she watched the shadows the more she could follow along. It was as if the trees had something to say and it wasn’t good.
God, she thought, what was wrong with her? People had always accused her of being paranoid and tonight it was worse than normal. Five years ago this week, her father died, and it was still difficult to accept. It wasn't just that his death was unexpected, but the fact that she found him made it 100 times worse. His blue, decaying corpse etched into her memory like a cave drawing. Angela would never forget seeing his dead body on the kitchen floor of his lonely little apartment.
It had been two weeks since she had heard from him, which was normal. They weren’t exactly close and he had gotten so weird by the time he died that hardly anyone visited him anymore. She had been leaving messages for him for about a week, but he hadn’t been returning her calls. She called the landlord then, went to his apartment and knocked on his front door until the landlord appeared. The landlord opened the door with a master key and as he did so, the strong smell of old trash and rotting food assailed them at the entrance. Angela remembered giving in to the urge to gag.
She called out to her father, but there was no answer. As the landlord went off to the bedroom to see if her father was in there, Angela stood transfixed in the small living area of his apartment. The sun was shining through the cracks in the thick velvet curtains, highlighting the specks of dust flying through air. On the coffee table were small replicas of Jesus. There was Jesus with his arms open wide, welcoming visitors. There was Jesus holding a staff and Jesus with two fingers in the air, giving the sign for peace. The randomly placed Jesus figurines somewhat resembled a nativity scene, but Angela knew that they were permanent decorations in her father's home regardless of the season.
Angela remembered hearing the landlord walk behind her and into the kitchen. He gasped and came immediately out of the room.
"What?" Angela asked him.
The landlord tried to get her to leave the apartment with him, but Angela wouldn't go. She broke away from him and ran into the kitchen. Her father was on the floor, with his hand permanently clutching at his heart. His body had a purple hue and flies were circling his head. Angela remembered wanting to turn and run away from the scene, but was mesmerized by her dead father’s eyes. They were both open wide and seemed to say, “I told you so.”
If you would like to read the full story, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org