I don't sleep, though no sleep is something I've grown accustom to now to the point I've almost forgotten what it's actually like to have a good night's sleep. I don't text the stalker back again. I switch my phone off all together and actually take the battery out of it as if it would some how protect me. I rack my brains trying to think. Trying to work out who would do this to me. To Leah.
A part of me still believes it to be Gary, but the part is smaller now. Gary is like a total pacifist. Well physically anyway. I've heard him run his mouth to people before, hell, we all know I was on the receiving end of it, but he's not really a physical fighter. He tries hard to stay clear of fights and only attacks in self defence. Someone like Gary couldn't possibly stoop this low and beat up a defenceless girl.
Oh I don't even know what to believe or who to trust any more. It's all just fucked up. I can't even go to the Police because its clear what will happen if I do. Next time it could be fatal. Next time it could be a family member. My mum. My dad. My sister. Next time it could be Jeff. Next time it could be me, with a one way ticket straight to the morgue. When I first started getting these stupid texts, they never severely frightened me. They worried me of course and did scare me a bit, but really I thought it was just some asshole messing with me. But now. Now I'm terrified. I'm terrified what he or she is going to do next. I don't even know what their goal is here. Any time I try and ask what he or she wants I just get silly riddle-like replies that make no sense. Even if they want me dead for whatever reason, a tiny piece of me is actually wishing they'd just get it over with and kill me already so all this will stop. I've had enough.
I must, by some miracle, eventually fall asleep at some point because I open my eyes to mum waking me up telling me to get ready if I want to go with dad to see Leah in the hospital. My whereabouts of last night is never brought up again. They have either forgotten or they are being kind about it and just letting it slide since they know I'm home safe. Well that's a very minor weight off my mind.
I'm understandably quiet all morning in the house, in the car and when we enter the hospital. I cant even bring myself to tell the nurse who I'm here to visit so dad has to tell them for me. We're lead to a ward on the second floor.
"I'll leave you there then. I have to go for work. Make sure you get the bus straight home so mum doesn't worry."
"Thanks, Dad. I'll probably not be long. It's best to let Leah rest."
I take a deep breath before opening the door and walking in. It's just like before when I was going to see Catherine only this time there are more victims in beds in worse conditions. Some are bruised so bad there's hardly any traces of their natural skin colour on their body to be seen. One person has their whole face bandaged up. But the moment I see Leah, my heart falls to the floor and I have to furiously fight to hold back the tears because I know crying will make Leah cry too and I have to be strong for her sake.
Oh God, Leah. I barely even recognise her straight away. Both eyes are rimmed black. Her cheeks are swollen and bruised. She has multiple cuts and stitches across her forehead as well as bandages wrapped round her head which are lightly blood stained. And when she smiles at me weakly, I notice she has 2 teeth missing. She realises this and closes her mouth quickly, mouth instantly closing and her blue, painful eyes brimming with tears.
"I look a mess."
"Oh, Leah." I want to give her a hug but I'm too scared I hurt her so I just gently rest my hand on her shoulder but even then she winces a bit.
"Sorry! Sorry, I didn't think", I say quickly, removing my hand.
"It hurts. Everything hurts."
"Leah, what happened? Do you know who did this?"
"No. I can barely remember anything at all. I...I was walking home. I felt something hit my head and the next thing I remember, I was in here."
"You didn't see the attacker?"
"Not that I remember."
"Do you know at the very least if it was a boy or girl?"
"Give it a rest, Laura, I've had this from the police already. I told you, I don't know."
I'm not hurt by her sharp remark. I don't blame her for it at all really. I look at her poor face. Mum mentioned before I came here this morning that she was getting surgery done to her face. I didn't think the beating she got was that bad until now.
"On the plus side", Leah smiles at me. "The bastard didn't break my nose. Lucky me."
It wasn't really funny but we both laughed anyway. I admire Leah's spirit to still keep her positive go-lucky attitude despite what happened to her. I go along with it to please her.
"Well you better hurry up and get better. Who else am I supposed to call and bitch to every night?"
"I'll try my best, believe me. Maybe when I can fully open my eyes I can get my mum to sneak me my phone and I'll text you. Keep you updated on the patients in this word and the male doctors."
"Any cute ones, you let me know instantly."
"I hope not. With my face like this?"
"Well even beaten to a pulp, you still look miles prettier than me, so stop complaining."
We have a laugh to the point, it's almost like a regular catch up. We laugh a little too loudly we're told to quiet down by various nurses until one of them informs me visiting time is over. I give Leah a kiss and tell her I'll see her soon and leave.
I know I promised dad I'd get the bus home and I know it is the safest bet out there, especially in these circumstances but I walk instead. Walking helps me to relax and clear my head a lot more and I felt too sick to sit on a bus. It's a long walk, a good 30 minutes but I don't care. I could use the fresh air.
I still don't have my phone on yet. I left it at home with the battery still out of it so at least I can't get distracted by any creepy text messages. I probably have loads waiting for me when I get home but well that's then. Right now I want to try and forget all of that. I want to try and just relax and breathe before I think about what I plan to do next.
The walk is actually quite peaceful and content, right until I reach the famous bridge. I cringe and shudder at the thought of the last time I was walking on it, when I was staggering drunk, nearly lost my phone and passed out in Jeff's arms. I really was at the mercy of a psycho serial killer and here I am, still standing, still alive to tell the tale. Jeff doesn't want to kill me. I mean I realised that a while ago, but it's just nice to be reminded that I am safe with him. Despite the two times where he nearly has went for me, he never went through with them. He's never hurt me. Something stopped him both times.
Something inside of him.
I think about Jeff so much I don't even realise I'm not walking any more. I've stopped, holding on to the bridge railings and staring into the woods. When I come to, I realise that someone is actually in there. I can't see them but I hear them. Footsteps. Running.
They're coming towards me, starting of distant of course, but coming closer and closer. I don't tense up or feel nervous as its likely just a couple of kids but the more I listen, I realise that that's not all I'm hearing. I can hear loud breaths, gasping, scared panting. As if someone had spotted something terrible. As if someone where in trouble. As if someone where getting...chased.
All of a sudden some guy in his mid forties looms out behind some trees and trips over a branch. He's panting so loud and so fast, he sounds like he's about to have a heart attack. He has sweat staining his shirt and dripping down his had as if he has been running for miles. Maybe he has been. Can he get up? I sort of back up a little and he doesn't spot me until I stand on a twig that snaps and he immediately looks up in surprise. He still doesn't get up. Instead he holds his hand out to me which to my horror I realise is covered in blood.
"Help me, please! Call the police! HELP-"
Suddenly his eyes widen and there's this disgusting gurgling sound in his throat. I don't even realise it until blood gushes down his neck that he's been impaled through the neck. Eyes wide, blood rushing out his mouth, he still tries to call to me, but its impossible as the sharp object through his throat is roughly pulled out and impaled through it once again, this time lower down. The poor man can't speak or make any sound at all now, and within a matter of minutes, he goes limp and his head droops, lifeless eyes facing the ground.
I feel like I've gone into shock. I'm expecting to wake up and find this is all a dream or blink a few times and realise I've become lost in some stupid sick fantasy of mines but not this time. This is real. This is really happening. Of course I should run, but then I see the person who did this. The white hoodie eases my worries of being attacked next, but not the sick feeling in my stomach.
"Good afternoon", he nods at me, grinning wildly.
I give a very slight timid nod back and without a care in the world he slumps the lifeless corpse over his shoulder and strolls away, actually whistling. Not giving a shit about the fresh blood stains on his grubby hoodie. Not giving a shit that anyone could have saw what happened. Not giving a shit about who this man was.
Just like that.
A little mouse like squeak escapes my mouth. I don't know whether I'm going to be sick. Faint. Cry. Have an anxiety attack or what. My body doesn't seem to know either. My brain is still trying to process what the Hell just happened.
Just walk away, Laura. Just go home. It's safe there.
I let out a shaky breath and walk home, at a far quicker pace than before.