I stare at him. I stare at what's in his hand. A mobile phone. (A/N Cell phone, for you American readers XD)
Oh my God. It has been Gary the whole time. I was right all along, I knew I wasn't going crazy! But why?! And more importantly...was I right about Andy too? Is he lurking around somewhere ready to grab me?! I stare around cautiously then back up when Gary takes a step forward to me. He looks confused for a moment. Then annoyed.Actually, furious.
"It's been you the whole time?!"
I stare into Gary's eyes. He looks just as confused as I am. He glances at the phone then looks back at me, eyebrows knitted, teeth gritted slightly.
"It...was you", he stutters. "Look Laura, I know what I said was blown out of proportion and I shouldn't have acted as I did, but there was no need to pull a stunt like this!"
"A stunt like...what?"
"Okay I understand you might be upset and angry, and I understand I did say things, but this has gone too far!"
"Gary! I have no idea what you're talking about!"
"Yes you do. All these creepy messages!"
"From a blocked number saying all these things about "watching myself" and insulting me no end and even knowing where I was and what I was doing like some kind of stalker. Its bizarre, weird and just...creepy, Laura!"
I don't say a word. I can't say anything. Instead I silently take my phone out of my pocket, open the texts from the Stalker and hand the phone to Gary. He gazes at it. I see his eyes dart across the screen as he reads everything, his face slowly turning pale. I just watch, feeling my stomach churn but at the same time I put together the pieces of the puzzle. All those times at work I saw Gary stare at his phone then stare at me, giving me cold glares but at the same time looking confused and startled. Every time he stared at his phone his jaw would clench and his hands would shake. The whole time I thought it was rage as he sent me threatening, freaky texts under a false number.
The total opposite.
He's been receiving the same messages all this time.
And he thought I was behind it all.
Well until now. I see him swallowing, sweat trickling down the side of his head, his face the colour of snow by the time he's read the final text message. I gently take the phone off him. He just stared at where it was in his hands. I can almost see the cogs in his head spinning as he recalls and recollects everything.
"It's been going on for weeks. No actually. Months", I say, lowering my head. "I thought it was you all this time. I thought it was you and Andy."
"Andy? What's he got to do with it?"
"He shouted at me for what happened between us and he said the same stuff as the messages said. I thought...you were both wanting revenge. For what I...did to you."
Gary stares at me then sighs.
"I'm...sorry, Laura. You didn't do anything. I did. I mistook everything. You were just been a nice friend to me and I should have accepted that. I didn't mean to call you those things. I was just angry. I hate..rejection. It's all I know."
"It's okay, Gary. I understand."
"It's fine. Really."
"Get the Hell out of here?"
"Sounds like a plan!"
We smile at each other and turn round to make our way down the hill when we hear a familiar sound.
We stop and look at each other. With everything just gone on, I almost forgot that even though the stalker isn't Gary...that only rules out one person out of my list of possibilities.
I take out my phone, holding my breath but I'm confused, and slightly relieved, to realise I don't have any text messages on my phone. It wasn't my phone that made a noise...
Gary takes his phone out of his pocket and I see his eyes darken and his fist clench tightly round the phone, shaking with adrenaline. I don't bother try speaking to him because I know he probably won't listen to me. Instead I crane my neck to get a look at his screen...and suddenly I'm shaking too. But mine isn't due to adrenaline. Mine is due to fear. On Gary's phone isn't a text message. It's a picture. A picture of us. A picture of us right now, where we're standing. And its taken from just inches away into the woods.
I instantly back up, gripping a bench with my hands. Gary on the other hand isn't so fearful. He's just angry. I try and grab his arm but he shakes me off.
"Gary! Don't let it get to you-"
Gary suddenly sprints into the woods to find this stalker of ours. I shout his name frantically, trying to get him back. It's no use. He disappears into the darkness. I hear him shouting and swearing endlessly and I desperately call his name again. He's being an idiot! This is exactly what the stalkers wants Gary to do! This is going as they have planned!
Suddenly I realise everything has gone eerily silent.
I try and subdue my gasps of fear and racing hearbeat to listen out for anything. I can't hear Gary. I can't hear any footsteps. I can't hear anything at all bar my own blood drumming in my ears.
"G-gary?", I call out in a little mouse squeak, then resort to a hushed tone. "Gary...are you there?"
I shakily take a step forward towards the opening leading to the woods, still gripping the back of the bench so tight, my knuckles have turned white. I know now I definitely should be heading towards a different opening to the woods and making a run for it but I can't just abandon Gary. I know with his good will and protective nature, if something was going wrong he'd practically ORDER me to run but I can't do it. I can't leave Gary alone up here.
"Gary? Can you hear me?"
I take another step forward, desperately trying to slow my breathing before I have a heart attack. I'm starting to miss Gary's swearing and shouts of fury. It's too quiet now. Its too quiet it's just scary. I don't like it.
The sound of my phone breaks the silence. This time it's definitely mine. I really don't want to even pick up my phone but I know I'm going to have to. The last thing I want to do is piss off this potentially dangerous stalker, who's somewhere up here with me, 222 metres above ground. I guess jumping is not an option. I take my phone out and look at the screen.
It's a message alright. From...Gary?
I blink in surprise. Maybe he's messaging me telling me its safe. Maybe he's mesaging me to warn me the stalker is on the way. Maybe he's telling me where I should hide or run to. I better not waste time, especially if its any of the last two messages. I glance once more time into the woods, then open the message.
It's not a text.
It's a multimedia message.
I look at it. My eyes widen with horror. My stomach churns. I drop the phone. It smashed a part on the floor but I don't care about that at all. That's the least of my worries. I collapse on the floor beside it and let out a scream, my hands covering my mouth. No. No, no no no no no! Gary! Not Gary! No!
Oh God, Gary, no! NO!
I sob quietly punching my smashed phone, then punching the ground over and over. I feel rage consuming me, each punch becoming harder, so hard my knuckles begin to bleed. I don't care if they're shattered into pieces. I can't think straight. I don't care. I'm passed caring about any of this now. This is it. This has to end. It HAS to end NOW!
"WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?!", I scream into the quiet, dark woods. "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?!"
I stand up, fists clenched, not caring if the the whole town can hear me scream. The whole goddamn world can hear me for all I care.
"SHOW ME, WHO YOU ARE! REVEAL YOURSELF, YOU BASTARD! I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!"
Right on cue, a figure makes it's appearance behind a large tree close by. It's someone in a hoodie but not a white hoodie. A dark smokey grey hoodie, hood up, covering their face as well as the darkness. Each footstep is loud due to heavy boots and I see familiar red stains on the hoodie. I only become more enraged as I know that it is likely Gary's blood. I feel sick but forcefully keep it down. I try and shake the horrific image of Gary I received from my mind but I know it'll be permanently scarred into me forever. And the one responsible is standing right in front of me.
"Who ARE you?!"
A grim silence.
"HELLO?! CAN YOU HEAR ME?!"
I know they are just doing it to further taunt me and I know I shouldn't let it get to me but I can't help it. The more they ignore me, the more angry I become, and the more angry I become, the more I feel like I'm losing control.
"TELL ME WHO THE FUCK YOU REALLY ARE!"
They take another step forward but that's all, keeping their head down, the dark, large hood shielding their identity. I desperately want to rip it off and look them in eye but I notice something in the large pocket in the hoodie and I realise how risky it'd be. Especially seeing what they did to poor Gary. I'd be next. I calm down a little, lowering my voice, but I still sound shaky.
"You've been stalking me for so long. You've been sending me scary messages, threatening me. You've been doing the same to my friend. You physically attacked one of my other friends, leaving her in hospital and now with a fear of going outdoors. And now...now you just took the life of someone I cared about. You terrorised him too with your creepy messages and now you killed him. Why?! Who ARE you?!"
"Haven't you already guessed?"
I stop. It's a male voice, a deep, dark voice. Not Jeff's anyway. Or Andy's. But I recognise the voice. It's one I hear often, definitely.
"If I had guessed, I wouldn't be asking you, would I?", I retort back, mainly to get them to talk more so I can try and work out who's voice it is.
"I've been here. You see me nearly everyday. You talk to me."
It's like some kind of riddle here. I see him nearly everyday. I talk to him. Who?! What male do I talk to and see often?
Jeff of course, but this isn't Jeff. It's not his voice, his presence or his stature.
Of course I would see Gary all the time, but well I know it's not him now...
Andy? I've talked to Andy. But this isn't Andy. I barely see Andy. Besides he wouldn't do this. Not to Gary, his best friend. God, he'll be heartbroken when he finds out about Gary but really this isn't the time to think about that.
I shake my head, trying hard to think. Then I remember the name that was whispered to me the other night on the phone.
"...Dom? Dom...is that you?"
I'm right aren't I? It is Dom. It must be! He is alive! But I don't get it. I don't see him nearly everyday or talk to him. I believed he was dead all this time, how COULD I talk to him?! But regardless, this must be Dom. He's the only other possibility.
"But you're not far from the mark there."
What the Hell does that mean? Not far from the mark? I'm getting sick of all these little riddles. I'm sick of that smug, deep voice. I'm sick of the sarcastic, stern way he's talking to me, like I'm some sort of stupid little kid. Like he's more superior than me. Like he's in control of me. Like he's the boss of me or something. God, he almost sounds just like-
Oh my God.
I know who he is.
My eyes fix upon the dark grey hood. I tremble with fear. My eyes fill up. This whole time. This whole time. This whole FUCKING time!
The boss of me, I said.
And guess what?
He knows I know.
"Ah. The penny's dropped has it?" He lifts his head and puts his hood down. I look at those cold eyes, that harsh smirk.
It's all too familiar.
For one simple reason.
"Hello, Laura", he smiles.
I swallow hard, my voice catching at the back of my throat, so all I can do is whisper his name.