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What you hold most dear
The black ink wept down the page like cold, dark tears, the loopy, cursive writing smudging and blurring until the cruel words were completely illegible. The newspaper clipping wilted beneath the heat of the flames, like a dying flower, as the fire crackled and spat spitefully.
Alyssa sank down wearily onto the chocolate coloured lounge, the dark circles beneath her eyes almost visibly deepening at the resigned movement. She laid her head back, sighing in defeat, the words from the threat repeating in her mind as though she still clutched it in her hand. The broken tap in the kitchen steadily dripped, like the thud of the footsteps of an attacker, and Alyssa shivered.
The death threat had arrived just days before, and each time she reached down to pick up the morning paper from her driveway she’d felt as though she could feel eyes on her back, boring into her very soul, feeding on the fear and paranoia that was eating away at her once calm and reasonable mind.
“You’ll be dead within the week,” the threat taunted, “Killed by the loss of what you hold most dear” At first the words had seemed somewhat familiar, but after a while the fear wiped all reasonable thoughts from her mind, not allowing her to think clearly, let alone figure out the puzzling threats.
She spent the day hiding inside her home, only venturing out occasionally, when the white-washed walls of her house began to make her feel claustrophobic. The kitchen tap began to drip faster, increasing the tension that was already taut around the room.
And to add to her already mountainous troubles, sleep was a luxury she was a just a few dollars short of being able to afford. Each time Alyssa nearly had sleep in her grasp, the howl of a dog, or the squeal of car brakes would jolt her awake.
Every creak of the gate, or knock at the door, or ring of the doorbell sent her on a frantic search for a suitable weapon against whoever might wish her harm. But what she really needed was a weapon to use against herself: a weapon to kill the fear and paranoid urgency that was taking over her mind.
As the day went by the trees outside began to cast dark, flickering shadows onto her window, providing yet another thing to fuel the fiery fear inside of her. Her bare feet paced the hallway, creating thuds that she could nearly imagine were the heavy tread of an assailant. Her eyes darted around frantically, each flick in time with the now almost hurried dripping of the tap.
Soon it was not only fear that had knotted itself inside of her, but an insanity that ate away at all reasonable thoughts. She sat down upon the couch, gazing unseeingly into the distance, as though waiting impatiently for death to come.
Her eyes began to wander, as she pondered who the threats were sent by, and why anyone would hate her so much as to wish her dead. A sigh escaped her firmly set lips, as another question surfaced in the sea that was her mind: where had she heard the words on the threat before?
But despite her efforts to get her fearful mind to logically work out the questions, she just couldn’t, the fingers that held her loose grip on sanity were being prised away.
The dripping of the tap hit its peak, reaching an urgent crescendo that ceased the minute she caught sight of the knife gleaming on the kitchen bench. It was just too much for her irrational mind to resist.
It was at once the pinnacle of her nightmare, and the answer and conclusion to her suffering. In the last moments before she did it, one final logical thought entered her head, she realised what it was she held most dear: her reasonable mind, and her sanity, and the loss of it had led to this moment.
And as Alyssa plunged the knife deep into her heart, she smiled, as her eyes brushed over the newspaper sitting on the counter. She’d finished her last logic puzzle, solved her final mystery, found the weapon she needed to silence once and for all the paranoia and fear eating away at her mind.
“Police have been scouring the house of much loved crime writer Alyssa Stevens for clues about her sudden suicide,” the news reporter announced, just a few hours later, “So far only a burnt newspaper clipping has been found, which appeared in the local newspaper, has been found, it reads: ‘You’ll be dead within the week, killed by the loss of what you hold most dear.”