The Stranger (Short-Story) - A young woman on a night out finds a body dumped in an alley under a car. TW: alcohol, drugs, graphic detail
The Stranger - Short-Story - Part 3
The next day she got two calls from the Unknown Number, one in the morning and one as she was about to fall asleep. She didn’t pick up either time. She tried to ignore the loud ringing as best as she could, but she was haunted by that soft breathing. Maybe it was Claire pulling a prank, but Lillian didn’t think she would’ve kept it going for more than a few hours.
On Sunday afternoon, as Lillian was cleaning up after lunch, she got another call. This time she didn’t feel afraid, just angry. She stomped her way to the living room, where her phone sat on the coffee table, ringing loudly. She picked up the phone and angrily said, “Who the hell is this?”
She didn’t recognize the voice. It sounded like a woman’s voice, but it was a voice so deep and cold that it made her shiver. When Lillian didn’t say anything, the voice continued.
“How did you feel when you saw the dead body?” the voice asked.
“How do you know about that?” Lillian asked right away. “Did the police talk to you? Who are you?”
“She really shouldn’t have acted so obnoxious, it annoyed me.”
“Did you know her? Did you know Amy?”
“She also shouldn’t have walked down a dark alley drunk and alone” the voice let out a little giggle, ignoring all the questions Lillian made. The voice let out a mocking sigh and said, “Only stupid people do that.”
Then the line went dead.
Later that same day, as Lillian was about to fall asleep after taking her sleeping pills, she got another call from the Unknown Number. During the other call, the voice seemed incredibly amused and mocking. Now, the voice seemed almost bored, dragging the sentences.
“Do you think I should do it again?” the voice asked in a childish way. “I miss the feeling of my knife cutting through skin, and the squeals… she squealed like a pig.”
“You’re sick, I’m not going to pick up your calls anymore.”
“Oh, yes, you will” the voice said, and again the line went dead.
Whoever they were, they weren’t wrong, because Lillian did continue to pick up the calls. Every day for the following week, The Stranger called. Lillian decided to refer to the person on the other side of the line as The Stranger, as it seemed appropriate enough. It seemed to Lillian that she was being watched, because the Stranger always knew exactly when to call her. Sometimes Lillian had just woken up, or just gotten out of the shower, or just finished having a meal. The Stranger seemed to always know exactly when to call.
Every time the Stranger called, she - because she was certain it was a woman - would give Lillian graphic details about the murdered woman. Lillian learned that what had triggered the Stranger to kill young Amy had simply been a spilled drink. That’s all it took. The Stranger put something in Amy’s drink and waited, then dragged her into the alley behind the dumpsters. Poor Amy in her drunken state only thought the Stranger wanted to make out. Just a drunken mistake, she must have thought. Her boyfriend wouldn’t mind. It sure was a drunken mistake, though, because before Amy realized what was going on, the Stranger had pulled out a butterfly knife from the front pocket of her jeans and started cutting her up. Amy tried to escape, tried to yell but she couldn’t, and the Stranger kept pushing her back against the wall. Amy had no strength left in her body. She was numb from the drug in her drink. After the Stranger had finished having her fun, she let go of the knife and pressed both her hands on Amy’s throat. She used both thumbs to press hard, using just the right pressure. With great pleasure, she looked straight into Amy’s eyes, which were slowly becoming empty and lifeless. Her face had turned purple and her eyes were bloodshot. She let out choking sounds while holding onto the Stranger’s wrists, but she wasn’t strong enough to make her let go. Then, Amy’s body went limp against the Stranger’s strong hold. The Stranger let go of her body, and Amy hit the dirty floor with a thump. She told Lillian that she was going to hide Amy’s body under one of the parked cars, and she had half succeeded. The Stranger had been smart, she used a flannel shirt that was wrapped around her waist to touch the body. She was pulling on Amy’s arm through the other side of the front of the car when she heard a group of people walking down the alley and talking loudly, so she did a half-assed job. It didn’t matter, anyway. She’d done what she wanted to do, and that was all that mattered.
For many nights, Lillian would have nightmares about the things the Stranger told her. She didn’t know why she kept taking the calls, but there was something that stopped her from rejecting them. She felt… curious. And she felt bad that she felt curious, because it made her feel as though she was guilty of the crime. She would wake up in the middle of the night, sweaty and panic-stricken. She started missing work, and as the days went by, she’d stopped leaving the house altogether.
One night Lillian was shifting in her sleep, her back and neck dripping with sweat, having a terrible, vivid dream. In the dream, she could see Amy Greene in life. She could see Amy stumbling down the alley, walking towards the parked cars. She saw Amy lean against the wall, trying to support herself. She saw Amy being cut with the butterfly knife, and she saw hands around Amy’s throat. She saw Amy’s life leaving her eyes, slowly and painfully. She saw Amy’s body collapse against the floor and -
She woke up to a dark figure on top of her. She saw only a shadow, but the weight was that of an adult person. Lillian’s arms were pinned against either side of her head, and the weight on her torso kept her from moving. She struggled against the weight, trying to get away.
“Stop fighting it, just embrace it.”
It was the Stranger. She was here, and she was going to kill Lillian. She fought harder, but to no avail. The Stranger lowered herself and spoke very close to Lillian’s ear, “Now you know exactly how it felt.”
Lillian allowed herself to be pulled up by the Stranger. She threw Lillian on the floor, hit her head against the bedside table, dragged her on the rug.
Lillian seemed to have the weight of a feather to the Stranger. She was pulled back up again, and dragged to her bathroom. “Open your eyes” the Stranger said. Lillian hadn’t realized she had eyes closed. “Open them!”
But now that she knew her eyes were shut, she didn’t want to open them. The Stranger was not amused.
She grabbed a fistful of Lillian’s hair, and banged her head hard against the mirror above the sink. Staggering, Lillian unsteadily tried to push herself away from the mirror, but the Stranger was faster. She hit Lillian’s head against the mirror once again, and this time the mirror cracked. “Open your eyes” the Stranger said again, but the voice wasn’t the Stranger’s at all. It was her own. She opened her eyes. There was no one behind her.
She stared at the reflection in the mirror and barely recognized herself. There was blood streaming down her right temple and her hair was disheveled. The crack in the mirror made her face look… split. Her eyes looked serene, and her entire being seemed calm.
She remembered her dream vividly and realized it hadn’t been a dream at all. She remembered leading Amy down the alley and she remembered Amy leaning against the wall. She remembered grabbing the butterfly knife from the pocket of her jeans and she remembered cutting Amy up all over. She remembered Amy trying to scream, and the squeals that escaped her mouth. Lillian chuckled lightly. She remembered her own hands wrapped around Amy’s throat and remembered how she felt as Amy’s life slowly slipped away against her tight grip.
“Stop fighting it,” Lillian said to herself, “just embrace it.”
© 2020 Carolina Correia dos Santos