Illusions

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Was he staring at me? No, maybe he was staring at the girl behind me. From across the street, I watched this strange man I had never seen before slowly strut down the sidewalk across the way. I hadn’t noticed at first, but now I could feel his stare burning into the side of my face. He continued to stare, and just as soon as I had reached the cross walk, he started to come my way. I found it a little strange that I had never seen him before, because in a town this small, it was difficult not to know everyone. By the time I was three years old, I already knew the name of our mailman, all of the people in the neighborhood, and the names of all of the people who worked in the grocery store. I saw all of these people as I walked down the street, passed the grocery store, and the post office, and made my way home. My blond hair was blowing softly in the slight breeze that came off of the nearby lake. The smell of fresh cut grass and newly hung laundry wafted from the tiny cul-de-sacs just down the road. It was cloudy outside which was very rare for this time of year, and the feeling of suspense lingered in the air. The tension began to build as the man got closer. My heart began to beat a little faster and I picked up my pace ever so slightly. I was trying not to show any panic in my expression, or walk, but it was next to impossible when he was trailing so close behind me. Unfortunately I lived quite a ways from the center of town, so it would take me a while to get home. From time to time the man would weave a little, and pretend to look in a store window, but he continued to follow me. Pretty soon the sidewalk became dirt, and the stores disappeared. Now there was nothing but me, the man, and open fields. My pace picked up a little more, for I could feel him closing in on me. There was a patch of trees up ahead, so I sprinted as fast as I could, and hoped to lose him when I ran through the short-cut that I never used anymore. The worn- out path that I had ran down countless times when I was little suddenly looked foreign to me. The sun was beginning to set, and the shadows of the trees stretched far over my head. My breathing picked up rapidly, and I could feel the burn in my chest. I did not stop to look behind me. All I did was run, and listen. But as I listened, I could only hear the sound of my beating heart, and the thud of my own foot steps beneath me. As the trees became thicker, and the roots popped out of no where, I started to stumble, and it grew harder to keep my sense of direction. Finally, I fell, and rolled a little bit before I hit a large stump. Everything was getting darker, and I could not tell if I had hit my head on something, and was imagining things, or if it was simply that the sun was setting, but regardless of what it was, I was struck with panic. I tried to get up and continue running, but I collapsed again. Suddenly, the man emerged through the curtain of darkness that seemed to be everywhere, except this time, I wasn’t afraid. The only feeling I felt was tiredness. And as soon as that thought had occurred, I let the darkness consume me, and my eyelids shut.
That light… what could it be? It slightly resembled headlights from a car, but I don’t remember ever getting in a car. I opened my eyes slowly, and drank in my surroundings. There was a light pink chair in the corner with its paint chipping as though it had been sitting in that exact spot for an eternity. I could not for the life of me remember anything about how I got here, and where exactly I was for that matter. I could still picture the man, however. I saw his plump face, and his scruffy facial hair that was just long enough to braid, and I remember his eyes. The eyes that had clouded my thoughts as I was running through the trees earlier now came back to haunt my thoughts. I panicked for a minute, and began looking around frantically for the man. But as my eyes scanned the room, he was no where to be found. I expected to feel relief, but instead I felt panic again. I knew he would appear at some point, and I had no idea what he wanted from me. I noticed something else about the room. It looked like it was once a little girl’s room, for it had pink paint on the walls, and a tiny rocking horse in the corner behind me. I hadn’t noticed where I was sitting until I looked down at the floor. I was tied to a small love seat that was a little wobbly. The time passed by slowly, and after what felt like hours, the door across from me opened with a creak. There were those eyes that had been etched in my memory, right in front of me once again. The only difference this time was that he looked about ten times calmer. I was not as afraid as before, but I was still on edge. A bead of sweat rolled down my temple, and collected on my chin before falling on my green cotton t-shirt. “Did you enjoy the food?” the man croaked. I was extremely confused. I looked around and found a plate of food near my feet. It didn’t look too bad, but I wasn’t about to taste it, plus I was tied up. I don’t see how he expected me to get to it. Speechless, I just looked at him, and hoped he would say something else, or at least realize that I couldn’t reach it. The silence lasted for about three minutes until I worked up the courage to say something. “Well, sir, I just woke up, and I can’t exactly reach it” I said timidly. He simply nodded, and walked over to untie me. His hands were shaking, but he was very gentle with me. Once I was free, I had a brief thought about bolting for the door, but I was more concerned with what he would do to me if I did, so I just reached for the food, and stared at it for a minute. “My mother makes the best brisket… go on, taste it” the man insisted. This all seemed a little strange to me. Did he chase me, kidnap me, and tie me up simply because he wanted to have dinner? That seemed highly unlikely. I broke off a piece of the tender meat, and hesitantly put it in my mouth, and chewed slowly. It actually tasted pretty good. The second it hit my stomach, I realized just how hungry I was, and started to devour the plate. I put it down once every last scrap of brisket was gone, and sank back in the tiny chair. The man stayed in the room with me, and just observed as I digested in silence. All of the anxiety and panic that I felt before vanished just as fast as the food did, but I did not stop worrying about the man’s intentions, or when he was going to let me go. That is if he let me go. Finally he got up from the wooden chair he was sitting in, and moved closer to me. It didn’t bother me in the slightest, because in that moment, nothing really mattered to me. Not my family, not my friends, and certainly not my education. It was a very unprecedented thought, for I was always very happy with my life. I felt tired again. How could that be? I had just woken up after sleeping for God knows how long. That was another thing I gave up on. Time. I didn’t really care how long I had been away from home. I slipped into unconsciousness again.
This time when I woke up, there was no light. Well at least there was no blinding light like before. This time there was only sunlight that streamed through a tiny window that was high up on the pink wall. I heard the door open again, but the man did not enter. This time it was an old woman that entered. She looked frail, and shaky like a leaf. I was afraid that if a wind came through, she would break in half. She hobbled over to me slowly but surely, almost as though she was in slow motion, and helped me out of the chair. I didn’t really need the help, but I wasn’t about to shake her off. She led me out of the pink room, and into the hallway, without saying a word. I was curious about where she was taking me, but I couldn’t work up the strength to ask her. “Do you have all of your things dear?” the lady muttered. “I didn’t have any things with me” I said confused. This whole situation was confusing me to no end. They treated me like this was a normal visit, and that this happened all the time. Maybe they kidnapped random girls on a regular basis? She led me down the dank hall way and down the stairs to a large landing where the man stood with his car keys in his hand. The man walked me to the car, and opened the door for me to get in. I still had no clue what was going on, until the women I assumed to be his mother called to me from the door. “It was lovely to see you again, my beautiful granddaughter” she said just loud enough for me to hear. My mind was baffled. I had never met these people before in my life, and I sure as hell was not their granddaughter. The man closed the door, and went around to the driver’s side. As we drove towards the center of town, I watched the scenery pass by, but did not take it in. My mind was still on the pink room that I had apparently spent the weekend in. These people were crazy if they thought that I was related to them. But then I thought back to my childhood. Like really thought. Suddenly, from the very back of my mind, an image came to me. A small pink chair whose paint was just starting to peel, and a rocking horse, which had just been carved and sanded. It came to me. Maybe this was my real life, and all the stuff before it was just an illusion. Or maybe these memories were made up? My mind was reeling when the car finally came to a halt in the center of town. I got out at the same exact spot that I had first spotted the man, and started walking home once again, hoping that this time I would actually make it home.





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