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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.

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Published in Random Rambling

Jess

Jessica West (West1Jess) is pursuing a state of self-induced psychosis (reading, writing, editing). She lives in Acadiana with three daughters still young enough to think she’s cool and a husband who knows better but likes her anyway.

0 Comments for "Haunted"

  • Karen

    Reblogged this on In a small compass… and commented:
    A great story by Jessica P. West. It makes you wonder about why people just do not seem to care. I hope you like and/or appreciate it as much as I do.

    Reply
    • Jessica West

      Thanks, Karen. I was doing some thinking a while back, really focusing on events and consequences. I had a picture of a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart in my mind, and I wondered what happened to her that caused this? The closer I “looked” at her, the more I learned about her.

      Her bedraggled hair hung in clumps, but when the sun caught it just right, I could see hints of auburn glinting beneath the surface. She was moving along slowly, but not limping or injured in any way that I could tell. Moving in closer, I realized she was blind. As writers, we can get even closer than that. I walked a mile in her shoes in that moment when I transcended, and now she haunts my memories.

      Because of this particular writing exercise, that began as a sort of personal challenge regarding distance in writing, I see everyone differently. The real people, not just characters. Writing has not only opened up a whole new world for me, but it’s shown me a new way to view my own. I like to think it’s making me a better person. More compassionate. I’m still learning. 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading, and for all your support and encouragement.

      Reply
      • Karen

        This watching and noticing – as well as caring – is something many people neither do nor comprehend. You followed this homeless woman with your heart and mind. And you cared. You cared in a way that she really haunts your memories, and made you write this really intense story. A story I am going to think of for quite a while.
        I am very glad that you do not mind my reblogging your stories. You are an awesome writer, therefore I nominated you for the Sunshine as well as for the Blog of the Year 2013 Awards. 🙂

        Reply
      • Jessica West

        Oh wow! Thanks, Karen. 🙂

        Reply
  • Nillu Nasser Stelter

    Another brilliant piece, Jess. You made me see Katie’s plight in so few words. The description of what was being done to the little girl is truly horrifying. Thanks for posting x

    Reply
    • Jessica West

      Thanks, Nillu. I went on another introspective walk with this one. What started out as an exercise using distance in writing to make an impact turned into something else entirely. I hope, more than anything, that people read this and learn to be more compassionate. Events over the course of our lifetimes, and our coping mechanisms, determine who we become. Or more likely reveal who we are. Still have some walking to do. 🙂

      I appreciate your steadfast support and encouragement. You’re the best, N! <3

      Reply
      • Nillu Nasser Stelter

        Yes, it’s so easy to judge other people without knowing the full story and from my own perspective have felt recently that the less time I have, the more pressured I am, the more judgemental I become. The story was for me a wake-up call to open myself up to the daily stories around me.

        A fab portfolio of flash fiction you’re building up, Jess. Can really see them as a cracking e-book going forward ;). Loved the one about the street dog too.

        And always a pleasure xx

        Reply
      • Jessica West

        🙂

        Reply

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