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Behind Closed Eyelids

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It was everywhere.

All over the newspapers, the television. The night it happened half the town already knew about the vicious night stalker murder. The event had spread like wildfire. Mother’s quickly set curfew for their children to be home before sundown, because in a small village like Saginaw, Michigan - where everybody knew everybody else - anyone could potentially be a victim … or the killer.

Maribel Athens was the lucky one, the survivor. She hadn’t been home the night the murderer crept into her house and brutally slaughtered her family - but she was the one that found them. The police hadn’t released any details about the crime, but rather they sent out a warning: “Anyone under 18 must be home by seven. Keep patio lights on - the killer won’t strike if they think they’re being watched. Lock all doors once everyone is home. Don’t let your family out of your sight.”

Maribel, actually, was the one that asked for the cautionary announcement to be sent out. Word on the street was, she even begged the police to do her that one favor - in memory of her beloved family. Even though the night stalker hadn’t struck again and no one else had been targeted - the police still sent out the warning, to ease Maribel’s mind.

Everyone knew Maribel had a paranoia problem. She was always in the psychiatrist’s office, taking medications, talking to therapists. She even committed self mutilation once - but no one complained this time, no one called her crazy, no one dismissed the police’s warning because now, everyone agreed that Maribel had a reason to be paranoid.

?

*



It was the type of fear that made you want to kill yourself. A manifestation of both unrealistic and realistic desires. Like the murderer was there but then he wasn’t.

Her heels echoed off the pavement; bouncing from the stone walls, the ringing sound crashed against her eardrums - mocking her like some kind of horror story.

He wasn’t far behind her - that much she could tell. His breathing was heavy, and rapid; but low, like he wanted to keep from being heard.

She pushed herself forward, like an arrow aiming for it’s target. From where she was, she could see her apartment building - but the closer she got, the farther away it seemed.

He was gaining on her, and soon she knew she would feel him on every inch of her body; wrestling her to the ground and taking the last remaining person that carried her family’s name to the grave.

She sped up, her breathing growing rapid. She started counting the steps; one, two, three. Her apartment was only a few feet from her now. Tightening her hand around the keys in her left palm she pushed the last remainder of the fight she had, and took off up the stairs - igniting the porch light like fire.

She could still hear him behind her.

Without slowing down, she slammed into the front door - her chest colliding with the doorknob like a knife. Fumbling with the keys, all the anxieties spread up inside of her, thousands of voices screaming at her to run. Her heart pound against her chest, beating faster and faster.

It was the type of fear that could set you on edge in the middle of the night when you think you are going to die.

Suddenly, she was enveloped - her mind was crowded with so many thoughts, she had lost track of where he was; his breathing, the heavy pounding of his boots against the floor. And now, he had his arms around her, his mouth to her ear.

“I guess you beat me this time,” he whispered.

Spinning around Maribel looked him straight in the eye.

“You’re just a slowpoke,” she smiled.

“Oh really?” He laughed. “Well, let’s see whose talking the next time I beat you.”

She flicked his nose. “Like that’s ever going to happen.”

Placing his hands on either side of her face he tilted her head up and pressed his lips to hers. Around them, snowflakes fell creating patterns on the ground below.

“I should get going,” he whispered through their lips. “I have work tomorrow and I can’t be late again.”

“Will you come over tomorrow night?”

He kissed her forehead. “Of course.”

Pulling herself away from him, Maribel’s hand lingered in his grasp.

“See you tomorrow,” she whispered smiling.

He nodded slightly. “Tomorrow.”

Turning around, she placed the key in the lock, and stepped inside. Behind her, she could hear Jacob’s footsteps jet down the stairs and off into the night.

Maribel’s next door neighbor, Mrs. Rogers was coming down the at that moment with a bouquet full of roses.

“Good evening Maribel,” she smiled.

Maribel nodded, and smiled back.

Mrs. Rogers was one of the few people out of this town who didn’t judge Maribel based on her psychiatric history. Mrs. Rogers was a good woman, who based others on the content of their character - not their medical record.





*

It was a type of bliss that could only be saved for a fairytale.

He felt like dancing, like singing, screaming, anything that would let the world know how utterly and irrevocably in love he was with Maribel Athens. Despite what anyone had said about her, all the “cautionary words of wisdom” they swore they knew, she wasn’t like the tales they told him. She was sweet, caring, intelligent, funny, beautiful, adventurous - but of course no one would believe that if he told them. All they would ever focus on is how she used to slice her body up with a blade, how she used to take medication like candy, how she used to talk to herself when she was alone. And then, the murder happened and that gave them even a more reason to talk, to tell him not to go after the damsel in distress. They told him not to save her. But he had too, didn’t he?

It didn’t matter to him anyways, his mother never approved of his relationship with Maribel, she said “it would only tie him down. That he could go somewhere in life, but Maribel’s disorders and known paranoia would only keep bringing him back to this same small town.”

Jacob had told his mother to let his relationship be, because he knew her like no one else did - so what they thought was insignificant. He was in love, shouldn’t that count for something?

Of course Maribel didn’t know. They had only been dating exclusively for two months - and he didn’t want to risk anything by telling her those three simple words. But the more he thought about it, the more his heart exploded with passion and he just couldn’t keep it in anymore.

He remembered the first night he looked deep into her eyes and saw the vulnerability and the pain - she was so beautiful, and the more time he spent with her the more beautiful she became. Until he looked up at her and all he could see was a Goddess.

He praised her, worshipped her, loved her; and as far as he knew - he wanted to be with her forever.

Stopping in his tracks, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, like fireworks exploding on the fourth of July. The more he conjured her face up in his mind, the more he could feel the butterflies rise inside of his stomach and take over his entire being. He loved her - he knew for sure, he had always known he was going to fall in love with her. The only problem he faced, was telling her. But now, in this moment, he needed to tell her, she needed to know, because in a world of pure darkness where no one is safe - love is the only light that can lead you out of the tunnel.

Letting out the breath, he opened his eyes - turned around, and headed back towards Maribel’s house.

?

*

It was her reflection that scared her more than anything…

She stared at herself in the bathroom mirror, watching the light sparkle off her skin like diamonds. It was beautiful, the way she was reflected - like a painting in a museum. But no matter how much Maribel tried to convince herself that she was normal, or even pretty; she could still taste the medication at the back of her throat. She could still vividly see the scars beneath her clothes.

She could still see her family’s mangled bodies.

At least they were protected now.

The blood had seeped into her dreams and turned them into nightmares. Taking over so much, the most sleep she got now-a-days were two full hours. Every noise was a threat, every voice belonged to the killer, every omen was a warning and all the lights had to be kept on at night. The lightest creak from a stair outside was like a scream; a scream that suddenly blended and became her family’s.

The fear was so overwhelming she started to get panic attacks when her next door neighbor would come home late at night and jingle the key in the lock. Whenever she heard a dog bark outside she swore it was because the killer was finally coming to finish what he started.

But then, there were those blissful nights where she would fall asleep and no sound would wake her. But the world would crackle with noises and none would ever reach her ears - Maribel would finally, finally sleep like the dead.

However - it came with a price; it was like a curse, those two hours of sleep. The witch would let her sleep for a limited amount of time - 120 minutes - because every blissful night of sleep, at the end of the second hour, her mother would scream her name.

Maribel!

And then the real life nightmare would start all over again.

*

He could see his breath coming out in little puffs.

It was so cold he could barely feel the tips of his fingers. He lost track of time after 30 minutes so he wasn’t entirely sure how long he had been standing outside her apartment building. He would’ve called her through the intercom to let him in, but there was something about having him wind up at her door, telling her he loved her that made it much more romantic.

So patiently he waited until someone came in, or someone went out.

*

It was haunting the way her mother screamed her name.

Like she was still being tortured to death after all this time. Like she was being murdered over and over again whenever the sun went down.

The thought of her mother suffering in such a way tore at her heart - because that was something Maribel never wanted for her family - to go through such a pain she, herself had to face on a daily basis. She would’ve done anything to destroy anyone who would ever harm them…

But their murder triggered her paranoia to such great heights, she couldn’t leave her house for days for fear of being targeted. The voices in her head would scream whenever she was in a crowd, whenever she was alone. Her body would react on it’s own accord, tense up, freeze, constrict, and fall back into herself. No matter what she was doing, she would drop it all and run upstairs to the comfort of her bed and hide beneath the covers - trying her hardest to reminisce on the times when she was just a baby and there were no doctors to tell her there was anything wrong with her. There were no doctors to prescribe her medication or people talking behind her mothers’ back. There was no threat of self mutilation or suicide because she was the black sheep of the family. There was nothing but her, her mother, her father, her brother and sister, and the snow.

She was safe from the monsters there.

Not even the voices could really hurt her.

Because she was in the safest place when she remembered her childhood.

Suddenly, the light in the bathroom flickered, and she was brought back to the present.

*



Finally, someone had come out the door.

He might as well have frost bite by now, but in the end it would all be worth it once he saw the look on her face when he told her; he loved her.

Cupping his hands around his mouth he blew warm air into them, and rubbed them together so the friction could catch them on fire.

The lobby to the apartment building was dead quiet, and all you could hear were the hundreds of tiny echoes coming in from behind peoples’ doors. There was no one coming in, or leaving the building, no one was standing by the front door or even sitting on the couch beneath the stairs. There was absolutely no one - it was just him, alone with his drive to tell Maribel.

Gripping his hands tight together, for the first time that night he felt the fear. The fear of her rejecting him and leaving him in the cold of the night, with nothing to take home but the pain of his first heartbreak.

They were terrible, the thoughts running through his head - but he knew he could do nothing about it. It was a once in a lifetime shot, if he didn’t tell her now, he never would gather enough courage to ever try to tell her again. And if he didn’t tell her, he wouldn’t know what would happen in their relationship - even if they didn’t make it at least she knew he loved her, disorders and all. And at least he gave it a chance and made a move instead of letting the passionate fire rage in his heart. Love was a powerful thing, he knew that. And even if she didn’t love him the way he loved her he was still going to save her no matter what, he was going to prove his mother and everyone else in this godforsaken town wrong.

Maribel Athens may have been different, but she was still a wonderful girl, and she was the most amazing woman he had met in a long, long time. And no matter what he was always going to love her, and she had to know.

Taking in a deep breath, he started towards the stairs, and marched straight up to her apartment without looking back.

*

It took only a split second before she was taken hostage.

The voices in her head were relentless this time. They came all at once, bombarding her tiny mind with outbursts that silenced out everything else she used to be able to hear.

This time however, they were making her go absolutely insane.

The killer’s coming!

Maribel’s hands shot up to her head, and in an attempt to block them out she cupped her ears and screamed back at them.

“SHUT UP!”

But the voices didn’t quiver.

The killer’s coming!

The killer’s coming!

Protect yourself Maribel!

He’s after you now!

Keeping her hands over her ears she clumsily ran out the door of the bathroom and into the living room.

The killer’s coming!

Stopping dead in the center she screamed at the top of her lungs.

“LEAVE ME ALONE!”

Why Maribel?

Maribel he’s coming.

Maribel kill him before he kills you!

Maribel, Maribel, Maribel

Don’t end up like your family!



She took off running again.

She crashed into everything, sending all the pictures and tiny glass figurines shattering to the floor, destroying the last tangible memories she had of her family.

*

He was standing in front of her door, staring at the number on the outside: 314.

All his emotions were overtaking him now, clashing against each other like Titans. The “yes” and “no” fighting to see which one would conquer - so far the yes had taken the lead since he turned around at the corner to come back to tell her. But it was never to late to run all the way back home and never have to face himself with this decision again.

Love was such a powerful emotion - with the ability to destroy you in the blink of an eye. It was the most dangerous thing in the world, yet it was something someone would sell their soul for without a second thought. Love was the one thing that could fulfill someone’s life even if they had no money, no job, no house. Love was just that emotion that made you feel like you could take on the world with no second thought. It gave you the power to go on with your life even if you were alone.

Love was beautiful, and Jacob knew he needed it. Even if Maribel didn’t love him back, if he saved her, stayed with her long enough, eventually she would fall for him and he would show his mother and his family the beautiful woman that she was. But even if he was alone in this emotion, the simple fact that she knew would make him feel like the luckiest man in the world because love was weird like that. Even if one people out of two felt it, it still made that one person feel on top of the world.

Slowly, Jacob closed his eyes.

He could hear the battle raging on, the “no” practically screaming for it’s life. But even Jacob knew it would not win. He was already here; there was no turning back now. This was the one chance he would have to risk it, and for Maribel he would risk even his own life.

*

She never won, ever, no matter how hard, or how long she fought - she never, ever won.

Now, she was sitting in her kitchen, legs curled up to her chin, hand tight around a butcher knife, with the voices continuously ringing in her ear.

He’s here…

He’s here…

Just outside that door…

Rocking back and forth, she whispered. “I have to protect myself. I have to protect myself. Just like I protected my family…”

*

It was now or never.

Opening his eyes, he took a deep breath and knocked twice.

Knock, knock.

*

The sound was loud, and scared her half to death.

Knock, knock.

Slowly, very slowly, Maribel got up from the floor.

He’s here.



*

It was a while before the door finally opened.

Jacob probably knocked four more times before the hinges began to creak.

It was creepy - like the scene from a horror movie; or a nightmare. The door slowly swung open, revealing the messy scene inside. For a moment Jacob couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even move. All he saw was the ruble that was left, and an empty living room with no body.

“Maribel’s in there.” He thought.

And then it was followed by a second more gruesome thought - the killer is in there, he finally found her.

On pure adrenaline, Jacob flew into the house and a moment later was hit by a blunt object before he was completely engulfed by darkness.

*

The clock ticked, the pen scratched the piece of paper.

The fluorescent light flickered.

“Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

Tick, Tock.

“He was chasing me…”

He wasn’t far behind her - that much she could tell. His breathing was heavy, and rapid; but low, like he wanted to keep from being heard.

“He followed me all the way to my apartment…”

He was gaining on her, and soon she knew she would feel him on every inch of her body.

“I was able to maintain a lead, but when I reached my apartment building…”

Suddenly, she was enveloped - her mind was crowded with so many thoughts, she had lost track of where he was; his breathing, the heavy pounding of his boots against the floor. And now, he had his arms around her, his mouth to her ear.

“He caught me…”

The Police Therapist looked up at her.

“How did you manage to escape?”

“By the time he reached me my key was already in the lock. All I did was twist it and open the door. Thankfully Mrs. Rogers was coming down the stairs at the same time, so he ran.”

Turning around, she placed the key in the lock, and stepped inside. Behind her, she could hear footsteps jet down the stairs and off into the night.

Maribel’s next door neighbor, Mrs. Rogers was coming down the at that moment with a bouquet full of roses.

“Mrs. Rogers?” The Therapist asked.

“Yes, my next door neighbor.”

*

Two Police Officers and a lawyer were looking in the interrogation room through the one sided mirror.

“Have either of you questioned Mrs. Rogers?” The lawyer asked.

“Yes,” Officer Kennedy answered. “We asked her if she had seen Maribel that night, and she said she had. She also said that she had seen Jacob leave Maribel at the front door, as he usually does whenever he drops her off after they’ve gone out on a date.”

“How long were Maribel and Jacob seeing each other?”

“According to Mrs. Rogers and Jacob’s family, Maribel and him had been going together for two months.”

“Have any other incidents like this occurred? Such as Maribel attacking Jacob?”

“No, not that we found. Everyone usually described her as quiet, and shy. The type to go into a corner when there was a gathering.”

“Did you find out why Jacob had gone back to her apartment after dropping her off?”

“No, we couldn’t find anything.”

“Was there any sign of forced entry?”

“No. Her door had been opened with a key.”

The lawyer nodded. “So she killed him.”

“It looks that way.”

“But the question is,” The lawyer leaned against the frame of the mirror. “Was it premeditated?”

*

“What happened when the intruder came into your house?”

Maribel leaned back in her chair, and closed her eyes. Bringing the memories she tried to forget to the front of her head.

“I was in the kitchen cutting carrots…”

Legs curled up to her chin, hand tight around a butcher knife, with the voices continuously ringing in her ear.

“When I heard a strange noise outside. I looked towards my door, and that’s when I saw the knob twist.” Maribel paused, taking in deep breaths. “I ran to the door when it suddenly burst open and knocked me to the ground…”

The therapist stared at her, watching as she played with a strand of hair between her fingers.

“I don’t remember what happened after that…” She whispered.

Crossing his legs, the Therapist straightened the bottom of his suit jacket.

“Maribel, can you tell us about the night your family was murdered?”

It was the question they knew she would eventually be asked. They knew her past would be brought to light after being in the police station for the second time within the span of six months - the witness to two separate murders.

Two separate murders with the same M.O.

But no matter what happened, what cases were brought forth, no matter what crimes rapists, murderers, pedophiles, and kidnappers always committed - the truth was far more terrifying than the lie. And no one would ever be prepared for it, even if they promised themselves nothing would ever shock them again.

“Murdered?” She whispered. “My family wasn’t murdered. They had to be protected, they’re with God now. I protected them.”

Maribel!





*

“So what do you say doc?” The lawyer asked.

The Therapist crossed his arms and looked through the mirror at Maribel. She was sitting patiently, tapping her fingers on the table as her eyes darted around the room.

She was an angelic picture of innocence - yet deep down she was made in the devil’s image.

“Well, she’s a schizophrenic, there’s no doubt about that. She hears voices on a constant basis.” He turned towards the lawyer. “But it’s much more than that.”

“What is it?”

“She has Delusional disorder, which was previously called paranoia disorder. It’s a type of a serious mental illness that’s called ‘psychosis’ in which a person cannot tell from what’s real and what’s imagined. People with delusional disorder experience non-bizarre delusions, which involve situations that could occur in real life, such as being followed, poisoned, deceived, conspired against, or loved from a distance. These delusions usually involve the misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences. In reality however, the situations are either not true or highly exaggerated.

People with delusional disorder are often able to socialize and function normally apart from the their delusion, and generally do not behave in an obviously odd or bizarre manner.

There are six types of delusional disorder,” he began counting them off on his fingers. “Erotomanic, Grandiose, Jealous, Persecutory, Somatic, and Mixed.” He turned back to the glass where Maribel was standing up and walking towards the mirror.

“What does that mean Doc? What are you saying, she’s delusional?” The lawyer asked.

The therapist turned back to her. “Absolutely. She has Persecutory delusional disorder. People with this type of delusional disorder believe that they or someone close to them, are being mistreated, or that someone is spying on them, or planning to harm them. And sometimes, they will go to great lengths to protect themselves, or their loved ones.”

“So what you’re saying, is because of this delusional disorder, Maribel murdered her family, and then her boyfriend of two months?”

The therapist nodded his head. “Precisely. However in this case, she killed her family to protect them and send them to God.”

“So why did she kill Jacob?”

“Because - as I stated earlier, people with delusional disorder cannot differentiate between what’s real and what’s not real. So sometimes in her mind Jacob was her boyfriend, and sometimes he was the person that had originally been stalking her and her family before she sent them to God.”

The lawyer and the therapist both turned to the glass where Maribel was standing right in front of them, twirling a piece of black hair between her fingers.

*

It was her reflection that scared her more than anything…

But she always stared at herself, trying to find the stories beneath the lines in her skin… in the back of her eyes. She always sat in front of a mirror for countless hours trying to figure out the person behind the mask, who was there when she couldn’t hear her own voice, the person who was absolutely insane - it caused her to take at least ten different medications a day. But no matter how hard she tried, no matter how hard she searched, she could never find the other person. Never find the answer to the question she continuously asked.

“Who am I?”

Then, it was the night she heard the scratching at her window. Her sister had told her it was just a branch blowing in the wind; but Maribel knew better than that. She knew it was the stalker, the killer who had been watching her family for days - and it was about time someone did something about it.

So later that night, when everyone was fast asleep, Maribel crept into the kitchen, got her father’s butcher knife and quietly walked back up to her room, where she continuously stabbed her brother and her sister until she saw their souls fly up to heaven.

It was when she was standing over their bed, her nightgown covered in blood - when she heard her mother scream.

“Maribel!”

Then as quietly as she could, Maribel murdered her mother, and her father and watched them go to heaven and join her brother and sister.

“I’ll be there soon.” She had whispered.

It was that night Maribel knew who she was - a guardian. Someone given the duty of protecting the ones close to her heart, and never letting them down. But there was still something that nudged at the back of her mind since that very night. Something that bothered her whenever she was allowed to think about it, but she was never really able to finger out what it was.

It was her reflection that scared her more than anything…

Because she looked exactly like the killer.





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