The wheel of a shopping cart squealed as the vagrant pushed it along the sidewalk. Her long, ragged dress dragged behind her, collecting dirt and debris. Matted, grey locks hung from her head, a far cry from formerly bright auburn tresses. People gave her a wide berth in the street, feigning intense interest in their cell phones. They noticed her much more than she did them. All she saw was darkness.
She broke into condemned houses and abandoned buildings, sleeping on cushioned seats when she was lucky. Whenever the cops caught her trespassing, they’d put her up for a night or two. She never slept better than when she was in jail. She had a hot meal, a warm bed, and a building full of cops to keep Him away.
When the weather was nice, she slept in the park. She’d woken once to Him sitting beside her, watching her sleep. She’d run to the police station, screaming and crying. Had nearly gotten run over in the process. By then, everyone knew that Katie was crazy. They’d thrown her in the drunk tank until she calmed down.
He never touched her. Never even spoke to her. Only watched. Followed and watched. In some ways, that was worse. At least if he had hurt her physically, she would have had proof.
She couldn’t remember anything before the morning she’d seen him with the little red haired girl. Her whole childhood had disappeared in the wake of a single moment. Katie had been scared that day, but her dread was nothing compared to that of the child. Shaking and crying, she’d been laid out on a cold metal table in an abandoned slaughterhouse. The poor kid had lost control of her bladder. The smell of copper burned her nostrils, squeezing tears out of her eyes, when blood joined piss in a growing puddle beneath her.
Katie had told only the people she thought she could trust. Her friends who’d promised to love her forever. Her foster parents whose job was to protect her. No one believed her. One by one, the few friends that she’d managed to make had stopped sitting by her in the lunchroom. Her foster parents had reprimanded her for telling such horrific stories. The school counselor had bigger things to worry about than a senior with a bleak future crying out for attention. He’d threatened to have her expelled.
They’d said that the man she described didn’t even exist, and neither did the little girl. And even if they had, she couldn’t possibly have seen them. Katie was blind. If it mattered to anyone how she fared, they would have taken the time to help her understand. They could have told Katie that what she saw that day, and what haunted her still, was only a memory.