The sound was everywhere. There wasn't a room in the house she'd been able to escape from it in. Huddled, now on the floor. She pressed the small of her back against the painted sheetrock of the wall behind her. The sound, the maddening buzzing that was driving her mad felt like it was resonating in every neuron inside her mind. Her thoughts were broken, disjointed. Only the growing sensation of fear came through clear. Her arms stretched around her folded legs. She pressed her forehead against her jeans. The sound was an invading army of alien ships. Her fingers ran through her hair before lacing together behind her head. This isn't happening, she thought desperately.
She told them. SHE TOLD THEM. she told all of them. She wasn't crazy. Kurt Kobain said "Just because your paranoid doesn't mean there not all out to get you." Kurt was right. She knew he was right because that fucking thing was outside. It was outside and it was carrying a box in the metal claws that hung underneath it. She'd seen the damn thing just before she'd wrenched the curtains closed and crawled across the floor to the stairs that led to the basement.
It was a drone she knew that. She'd seen them in stores when she used to go outside before the thing that changed her life happened. She knew the drone couldn't fly by itself. Which meant someone was out there flying the drone right now. Someone who could be the monster that nearly killed her.
No one but Dr. Moran knew where she lived and why would Dr. Moran send her a package. He wouldn't. What if he found me? the thought haunted her. Her breath quickened. Slowly the realization that she was hyperventilating made it's way past the question.
"My name is Patricia Barnes, people call me Patty. I live at 243 Ashford Street." she repeated the words, repeated the exercise until her breathing finally slowed. She lifted her head. The evil humming buzz of the tiny engines that powered the drone were gone. Had it left the box? Maybe it took the box with it. As much as she wanted to believe the drone had left with the box she knew it wasn't true. An involuntary taste of bile creeped up in her throat. With a swallow she pushed it back down.
Her thoughts focused around the box. She would never be able to relax with it out there, threatening her. The box could be a bomb that would explode and kill her in the blast. There could be little cannisters in the box with timers on them that would release an odorless, tasteless toxin that would kill her without her even knowing it was happening. There could be poisonous spiders that would bite her. A gun could be attached to the inside that would fire as soon as the lid was opened. The hyperventilating started again.
"My name is Patricia Barnes, people call me Patty. I live at 243 Ashford Street." She repeated the words, waited for them to calm her. Waited for them to take her mind from the rabbit hole it was chasing. In her head she heard Dr. Moran's voice. You have to stop chasing rabbit holes, Patty.
Dr. Moran, why hadn't she thought of it before? She could call him. He would understand. He knew how affected she was. He would come over and get the box. But, her phone was in the kitchen and she was in the farthest corner of the basement. What if there was something in the box that could watch her? Then whoever sent the box would know exactly where she was. The monster might know exactly where she was.
"Come on, Patty." She told herself. She needed to be brave. She couldn't stay down here, not forever. She might be trapped inside her house, but she couldn't let herself be trapped inside the basement too. It had been hard enough accepting that her anxiety would never let her go outside again. Slowly, shakily she stood running the palm of her hand against the surface of the wall to steady herself. Her chest felt tight. Goosebumps popped out on her arms.
"Patricia Barnes, 243 Ashford Lane." She took a small step forward then another. When she got to the bottom of the stairs she looked up to where they ended at the kitchen. Her phone was just beyond that opening.
"My name is Patricia Barnes." She said, then started climbing. It was fifteen steps to the top. She told herself the blinds covering the window behind the sink were down. Her phone was on the table. She could sit on the floor in the corner between the dishwasher and stove and no one would see her then she could call Dr. Moran.
At the top of the stairs she lurched across the floor, grabbed the phone, and dove into the corner. She scooted her back up against the cabinets, hit the home button on the side of the phone and waited for Face ID to recognize her. When the phone opened she tapped at the screen but her fingers were too shaky. She kept touching the wrong places. Finally in frustration she said.
"Siri, call Dr. Moran." A circle swirled on the bottom of the screen. Then the call screen opened and Dr. Moran's name appeared at the top. With each unanswered ring an emptiness grew and dropped in the pit of her stomach. Halfway through what she thought was the last ring before Dr. Moran's phone would send the call to voicemail and with it the last of her hope, Dr. Moran answered.
"Patty is everything ok?" Silence. "Patty are you there?" She still couldn't speak. He was going to hang up soon and she would be alone, again. Alone with that box still outside her door. Her house was the only place she had left that was safe. Her life had been taken from her. Her ability to trust. Her ability to step outside her door without feeling the world crushing in on her. Evil had taken everything from her and now if she didn't find a way to find her voice and answer Dr. Moran the box would take the last safe thing she had. "Patty, I'm going to hang up" a fresh rush of panic rushed through her.
"Wait" she forced the word out.
"Breathe, Patty" Dr. Moran said. She knew she needed to breathe did he think she hadn't thought of that. "Wait to regain your calm, then tell me what's going on. Take your time. We'll get through this together."
"Doc" She said the word louder than she meant to. She had to get herself in focus. She had to tell Dr. Moran what was going on. She had to get that fucking box away from her door. "It's a box. It's in front of my door. I don't know what's in it. I don't know why it's here." The words were rushed, but she had said them. Dr. Moran would understand the urgency of what was happening. He would know the box had to go.
"There's a box outside your door?"
"Yes, a drone came. It flew out of the sky and dropped it off. I don't know what to do. Can you come over? Can you take it away?" She had to stop talking she was almost hysterical. Silently in her head she repeated. My name is Patricia Barnes. People call my Patty. I live at 243 Ashford Lane.
"I can't come over right now, Patty. I'm not in town. You say the box is outside the door-" She cut him off.
"I CAN'T BREATHE WITH IT OUT THERE!" Her breath was heaving in and out of her. Dr. Moran remained quiet for a minute before he spoke.
"Patty, I'm with my family. I can't come to help you. You're safe in your house. The windows and doors are locked the alarm is armed. The box can't hurt you. I can come by tomorrow, but I can't come today". She pulled the phone away from her ear, pressed the end button, and buried her face in her hands. Tears fell wet against her palms. It was happening her worst nightmare was happening. Her chest convulsed. Air froze in her lungs. A tight vise clamped down on her. She collapsed over on her side. Her breath wouldn't come. With one fist she pounded against her chest until her breath finally came. After she started to breathe again she lay on the floor breathing in heavy gasps trying desperately to push the box from her mind. Time passed in excruciating bouts of anxiety. She closed her eyes and tried to tell herself she would be okay.
When she opened her eyes again she was still on the floor. Lifting her head up she wiped wet saliva from her cheek. How had she managed to fall asleep? Rubbing her eyes she looked at the quartz countertop above her. She'd had the dream again. The outside dream. Running on the soccer field playing for the universities team on the last afternoon before the monster came. Her last moments of freedom before her life changed.
The box. The thought crashed into her. The box was still outside. Her breath increased. Her skin prickled. Her eyes darted over the floor until she spotted her phone. Reaching toward it, she called out.
"Siri, call police." The screen flickered to life. Emergency Call appeared across the top of the call screen. She hit the speaker icon and held the phone in her shaking hands.
"911, Where is your emergency?" She paused. What was she going to say, there's a box outside my door can you come and take it away. The silence was deafening inside her mind. "Are you able to talk. Can you make a noise, or tap on the phone so that I know you are need of assistance" Maybe if she didn't talk they would come and she could ask them to take away the box. "Caller do you need help?" She decided against silence. They would get mad if they got there and discovered she could talk.
"Yes." Her voice was slightly more than a whisper.
"Where is your emergency?"
"I need help." Her voice broke as she spoke.
"Can you give me your name and where you're located?" For a minute her mind went blank. She repeated her name and address literally a hundred times a day and now she was struggling to find it. "Are you still with me?" The operator asked
"Do you know your name and where your located?."
"Yes." She gulped. Her throat felt dry. "Patricia Barnes. I live at 243 Ashford lane."
"Are you home now?"
"Yes" She felt a light glimmer of hope. Maybe they would help her.
"What is your phone number?"
"(867) 555-0494" Her ability to answer the questions made her feel like just maybe this was going to be ok.
"What is the nature of your emergency?" The world dropped out from under her feet. She still had no idea what to say. How to explain the hell she was going through. "Patricia, are you still with me?"
"I'm here." She barely managed the words.
"Can you tell me what your emergency is?" It was now or never. If she didn't come up with something the operator was going to tell her they had to keep the line open for real emergencies and hang up.
"I need an officer." The sound of her own timidity made her feel small.
"Why do you need an officer?"
"There's a box in front of my front door. I can't go out there. I can't live in here with it out there. I have Agoraphobia. I suffer from extreme anxiety. I need help, please." The operator was silent for a moment.
"Are you having a mental help crisis. We have a new program. I can transfer you to a trained counselor that can help you." She could scream. She could literally scream.
"I don't need a counselor. I need an officer to come and take that fucking thing off my porch."
"I can call your doctor, Patricia or I can put you in touch with someone who can help." She pressed the end icon on her phone and tossed it away watching it slide across the floor. She rocked forward her fingers digging into her unbrushed black hair. She screamed into her knees until she didn't have a voice left. Eventually after a long time she slipped into a restless sleep.
When she woke up again the clock on the microwave read 2:03 am. It had been hours since the 911 call. If her hanging up on them was going to send a car they would have been here by now. She was on her own. Nobody was going to come. Nobody was going to care what happened to her.
Standing up her joints were stiff. The house had grown cold in the moments she'd been asleep. Walking to the thermostat she turned it up a couple degrees and listened to the heat kicking on. She was alone. Truly alone. The box had reminded her of that. She'd been alone since the attack three years ago. The nurses at the hospital told her, her friends had come to see her when she was first brought in but after months of coma they had stopped. By the time she woke up there was no one left. She remembered the question every new nurse who got assigned her care asked.
"Don't you have any family, honey?" Her answer was always the same.
"My parents both died from overdoses."
She stayed at Mt. Olive recovery for almost a year after she was released from Conemaugh Hospital. Standing now with the box still outside her door she thought of that early morning on the grass before she was taken to the hospital. Her blood running out of her. The shadow of the monster who nearly killed her disappearing. The sky turning to a burnt orange with the first rays of sunlight. Trying to move. Trying to make a sound, failing at both. The relief of hearing a voice calling the police. The feeling of fingers being pressed against her neck. An EMT asking if she could speak just before she lost consciousness.
Looking around the kitchen she felt a spark of the brave girl who had just been starting out in life. The girl before the monster. The girl who decided to live after he came. Who refused to die from what he had done to her. She desperately wanted to be that girl again and not the one who had woken up afraid in the hospital.
Gripping the counter top in front of her her eyes gravitated to the block of knives beside the blender. Before she realized what she was doing she took the chefs knife from its place. Turning the knife in her hand she thought about the one that had been stabbed into her. It could have been the same as this one. She remembered the police telling her a knife attack was personal. The detectives said her attacker was probably someone she knew. They said they had a good chance of catching them. But, the detectives never caught anyone. Her monster was still out there waiting for her. Maybe that was why the box was outside. She felt the skin on her face flush with heat.
Without stopping to think she started marching toward the front door. A voice inside her screamed at her to stop. But, her adrenaline was already pushing her forward. Throwing the front door open she stepped into the fresh air before going to her knees in front of the box. Then she raised the knife above her head and brought it down on the lid of the box. The knife sunk deep into the cardboard. Her hands smashed against the top of the box. She felt the blade hit the concrete sidewalk underneath the bottom of the box. Rocking back she pulled the knife out of the box. The flaps on either side of the box's top fell open as the blade came out. Her eyes gazed down into the box. She froze when she saw what was inside.
A note with a hole in the middle where the tip of the knife had gone through it was stuck to the bottom of the box. She sat back on the heels of her feet. Her breath held tight in her chest. Slowly she lifted the box off the ground. Holding it in front of her she stared at the words on the note. Anger boiled over inside her. The muscles in her jaw tensed. Her hands pushed in on the sides of the box. Rage, frustration coursed through her veins the way it did when she sat alone in her room hating herself for who she had become. A paranoid recluse who couldn't leave her house. Right now holding the damn box she hated more than ever the monster who did this to her Raising her chin toward the sky she screamed.
"Fuck!" She drew the word out stretching the single syllable across her breath. Her body shook when she ran out of air and the word trailed off. Standing up she felt a slight rain start to fall on her shoulders. Going inside she closed the front door behind her. The box lay on its side the words on the note taped to its bottom still visible. In the familiar messy script of Dr. Moran it read-
"I knew you could do it, Patty."