understanding the power of the mind
Annie’s eyes shot open, and she stared at her bedroom ceiling in the pitch dark of night, the image of a barn owl tattoo still floating in front of her eyes as if it were seared in her brain. She blinked rapidly a few times and the image slowly faded. Like when you accidentally stare straight at the sun and have the brightness etched in your vision until it finally disappears, she thought muzzily, pushing herself up into a seat. She wouldn’t be able to sleep now, not after dreaming about the barn owl tattoo again, for the third night in a row. It obviously meant something. She glanced at the clock next to the bed, 5:18 am, and sighed and threw off her covers, and got up padding towards the kitchen and the coffee maker.
Annie Headley was used to seeing things. She was a psychic after all. But she usually only got visions when she was helping people find out what had happened to loved ones who had disappeared or died, or she shuddered at the thought, murdered.
She’d never had recurring dreams of something. And of something as odd as a barn owl tattoo. When she was contacted by family, or police, to help out, she could ask people questions, to get a foundation of where to start. With this, just an image of a barn owl perched on a sprig of purple flowers, there was nothing to go on. No one to ask questions, no one to give her a starting point, a lead.
She took her cup of coffee to the living room, opened her computer and typed into the search bar: Barn Owl Tattoo. She didn’t have high expectations. She scrolled through photos of owl tattoos and then froze. Her tattoo was staring back at her. It was exactly the same as in her dreams.
She clicked it and the photo took her to a tattoo parlor website. Success! she thought as she found the address and jotted it down. It was a local place and not too far away. She snapped a photo of it with her phone and waited for the shop to open.
At five minutes past nine, Annie Headley strode into the cramped tattoo studio like a woman on a mission. The little bell above the door clanged loudly with the force of her shoving it open in her haste. She walked straight up to the small reception desk and shoved her phone in the face of the young girl with the green and black hair, intertwined in braids down either side of her head. “Excuse me,” Annie said, almost as an afterthought. “But do you know who did this tattoo?”
The girl chewed her lip-ringed lip as she took Annie’s phone for a closer look. “Hmmm, yeah, I think that might be Iris. Iris!” the receptionist shouted into a larger area behind her.
From the back there was the constant thrum of high-powered needles. And then it stopped. A few moments later, a woman, who Annie assumed was Iris, appeared. She was slim, dressed all in black, with hair to match and tattoos up and down both arms which were on display as it was summer and everyone wore t-shirts or tank tops.
“Do you know who you did this on?” the receptionist asked Iris.
Iris looked at the photo and then at Annie.
“Who’s asking?” she said, her eyes narrowing in suspicion.
“My name is Annie. Annie Headley. I’m a psychic,” she paused as she watched the two women exchange glances that she knew would happen. It always happened when she mentioned what she did to others - besides those who had hired her, of course. “I’m normally a psychic investigator, but right now, I’m just wanting information because I keep on seeing this tattoo in my dreams, and I’m trying to figure out why.”
Iris nodded slowly. “Okay,” she said the word in a long drawn-out way as if she wasn’t sure if she believed what she heard. Annie was used to that.
“Sure, I guess there’s no harm in giving you their contact info. After all, it’s just a tattoo.” She turned to the book on the counter and flipped through the pages. “He’s a regular. Or used to be, but haven’t seen him for a while until recently, so he shouldn’t be hard to - oh! There he is.” Iris took a small card with the tattoo shop’s name and contact info on it and scribbled something on the back.
“Here you go,” she said, handing it to Annie. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
“Thanks,” Annie said with a bright smile. “Appreciate it.”
A little while later she found herself standing outside a small, nondescript plain house on the edge of town in what seemed like a fairly nice area.
She knocked on the door, cleared her throat, and waited.
A moment later a tall man opened the door, looking down on Annie. He had dark blue eyes under chestnut hair that was mostly hidden by a ball cap. He wore a t-shirt with a design of a wave on the front and dark jeans with bare feet. “Yes?” the man asked with a slight frown. “Can I help you?”
“I hope so, yes,” Annie said. “I was given your name and address by your tattoo parlor,” she began.
“My tattoo parlor?” The man’s frown deepened, confusion flitting across his face.
The words tumbled out of Annie in a jumble as she rushed to explain herself.“Yes. Um. My name is Annie. Annie Headley and…this might sound strange. I mean, it will sound strange, but I'm a psychic and I’ve dreamt of your tattoo for the last three nights and I don’t know why and it’s driving me crazy and …well, I was wanting to find out why so I thought maybe visiting you would help me find answers.”
“I see,” the man answered slowly with that same slow nod that Annie got from most people trying to assess whether she was crazy or not.
“Yes. So, that’s why I am here,” was all she said in reply.
The man nodded again but didn’t say anything, just looked Annie up and down, taking in her normal jeans and her average cranberry-coloured shirt and her favorite plain black sneakers. She at least tried to brush her unruly mop of curly and frizzy hair until it resembled something that should be on a human, even though it felt even more curly and frizzy in the summer humidity.
She smiled in a way she hoped was reassuring.
The man sighed. “Okay, I guess you might as well come in if you have questions.”
“Thank you,” she said appreciatively, following the man inside.
He led her to a small, but comfortable living room and gestured for her to take a seat on the couch.
“So, what do you want to know exactly?” he asked, taking a seat in a worn blue armchair opposite.
“First, again, this might sound really weird, but…can I see your tattoo? It might give me some more information,” Annie said, feeling awkward and uncomfortable asking a stranger to show her his tattoo.
He shrugged and pulled up his left pant leg, turning his calf towards her. And there was. The barn owl tattoo with the open wings sitting on a branch with purple flowers.
Annie wasn’t a tattoo person but she couldn’t help but admire it in person. “Wow, that’s beautiful!”
“Thanks,” the man said. “Got it for my mom a few years ago. Memorial tattoo.”
“I’m sor-” she began, wanting to offer her condolences, but she was hit by another vision as she continued taking in the art on his skin.
She jerked back as if she was physically punched and had the wind knocked out of her.
She saw movement in front of her as if she was watching a play unfold and she was in the front row.
She watched as a man, or, she assumed it was by its size and shape, walked up the pathway towards the house she was currently sitting in, breaking in through a window around the back of the house and entering. She watched as this shape made its way up the stairs to her left and into the bedroom that she hadn’t yet seen. She saw the man sitting across from her sleeping in bed, and this shadowy and indistinct shape removed something from its waistband that had a familiar glint, and lunge forward.
Annie gasped, raising a hand to her mouth.
“Are you okay?” the man opposite said, leaning forward out of concern.
Annie nodded, slowly lowering her hand. “I just saw something.”
“What?” the tattooed man asked with curiosity.
“I saw someone, a man, I think, break into your house and go upstairs and into your bedroom. And I think he had a knife and was about to attack you!”
The man’s eyes widened. “Wow. Okay. Huh. I don’t really know what to say.”
Annie shook her head in sympathy. “Either do I, to be honest.” I’ve never had any premonitions. I’ve never seen something that hasn’t happened yet.”
“Did you see the man at all? Could you see what he looked like?”
Annie shook her head. “No. I could see everything else clearly, but the person, no, they were just a shadowy shape.”
“Oh,” the man, who Annie suddenly remembered was called Glen, said, a note of disappointment or concern, or both, in his voice.
“Do you have any enemies?” Annie asked bluntly.
Glen shook his head. “No, none that I can think of. I’m just your run of the mill nobody. I’m a delivery driver. Deliver stuff to grocery stores. Nothing exciting.”
“So you don’t know why anyone would want to break into your house and hurt you?”
Glen shook his head again. “No clue, sorry.”
Annie stood up. “Do you mind if I go take a look at the window I saw?”
Glen rose too. “Sure. Where was it that you saw the window?”
“Your spare bedroom. The gray one with the yellow blanket on the bed,” Annie said.
Glen’s eyes widened slightly at her description but then gestured for her to follow him. He led her down a narrow hall to the back of the house and straight into a small bedroom with dove gray walls brightened by a yellow fleece blanket on the bed just as she had seen. The window was right above the bed. Annie went straight through the window and looked at it. It was a sliding one that had a latch that you slid down to lock it. Standard. There were no issues with it.
“Hm,” she said to herself.
“What?” Glen asked, hovering in the doorway. He seemed nervous, Annie thought.
“Nothing,” Annie said. “It’s a hm of I don’t know. Can I see your bedroom?”
This time Glen’s eyebrows rose, almost hiding under the rim of his hat and his bangs. “Uh, sure. Follow me,” he said, leading her back down the hallway towards the staircase to the left of the front door. She climbed the stairs, taking in everything she could. The creak of the wood, the smoothness of the banister, the purple heather color of the wallpaper. Anything that might give her some clues to what she had seen and why. Glen reached the landing and went to the first room at the top of the stairs and opened the door. He swung his arm, gesturing for her to enter the room.
“Don’t mind the mess,” he said, as she took in the rumpled pile of covers on his bed and just as rumpled a pile of clothes in the vicinity of a clothes hamper in the corner of the room.
“Hm,” she said again, with a tinge of disappointment. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Nothing seemed to activate her spidey senses. She took a step further into the room and doubled over.
“Oof,” she groaned, clutching her stomach. She felt Glen’s hand grasp her shoulder.
She straightened slowly and turned to leave the room, but was met with a horrible sight. A man, large, and hairy, with a thick beard and heavy eyebrows and a scowl, came screaming through the doorway, reaching to his waistband and pulling out a large knife.
Annie screamed and jumped backwards out of instinct, hitting the bed and falling backward onto it. She scrambled back onto the bed towards the headboard and covered her face with her eyes, curling into as small a ball as she could manage.
“Annie!” Glen said, rushing toward her. “It’s okay! It’s just me. Glen. Whatever you’ve seen, it isn’t real. There’s just me.”
Annie spread her fingers and peered through her hands as if they could protect her. She spotted Glen kneeling on the bed, a look of concern etched on his face. She let out a shaky breath and after another moment lowered her hands. She was shaking. Actually shaking. She never did that.
“Are you okay? What happened?” Glen asked, taking a proper seat on the edge of the bed.
Annie hugged her knees up into her chest, still feeling the need to be in a protective cocoon.
“I saw who it was. The man who broke into your house. And I think I know him.”
Glen’s mouth fell open and something flickered across his face. “You know him?”
“I mean, not personally. He’s not a friend. But we all know him. You should know him.” She paused, trying to choose her words carefully and then thought screw it and just said it. “Have you heard of the Nightstalker?”
Glen’s brows knit together again as he thought and then his jaw dropped once more. “You mean-?”
“That guy that was put in prison, yeah. For murder. After breaking into houses and eventually murdering the inhabitants after he accidentally murdered one of the people who were still at home when he broke into their house,” she elaborated.
“You saw the Nightstalker? But…you just said he was in prison!”
Annie pulled her phone from her pocket and started typing. She showed Glen her phone. “Looks like not anymore.”
She watched as Glen’s eyes moved down the words on the article on her phone. The Nightstalker had been released a few weeks ago on parole after ten years.
“Are you sure that’s who you saw?” Glen asked, unsure, hesitant.
Annie shrugged. “I remember seeing his mug shot all over the news back then. And that’s who I saw running at me with a knife. And he was angry.”
“But why was he here? Why me?” Glen asked, fear plain as day in his sea-blue eyes.
Annie shook her head. “I have no idea, but…you can’t stay here. He’s going to show up sometime.”
“When?” Glen asked again.
“I don’t know. All I know is what I saw. Him breaking in here and then charging into your bedroom right now like a madman.”
“Well, he is a madman!” Glen said.
“Do you have anywhere else you could stay?” Annie asked. “A family member or girlfriend’s or friends?”
This time Glen shook his head. “No. I just moved here a few months ago. Don’t really know too many people. Not well enough to ask to stay with them.”
Annie sighed. She had a soft spot for helping others. If she could, she'd adopt all the dogs needing rescuing in the local shelter. Not that Glen was like a rescue dog, but. "Fine," she said, with a long exhale. "You can stay with me, temporarily, until we figure out what to do."
It was times like this that Annie didn’t like living in her small apartment. She didn’t like people sleeping on her couch like vagrants. “Sorry,” she said, apologizing, after piling another thin blanket onto her couch along with a similarly thin pillow. “I don’t have any spare room or anything.”
“It’s okay,” said Glen, waving it off. “I’ve slept on worse.”
Annie straightened, as satisfied as she was going to be with her meagre bed set up.
“Okay, well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said with a smile and wave before retreating to her room. Glen was sliding under the blankets before she was even out of the room.
Annie lay in bed staring at her ceiling in the dark, just like she had that morning. At least I have an answer now, she thought. Of sorts. But I still don’t know when he’s going to show up.
She felt like she was just starting to drift off again after seemingly being wide awake trying to solve this mystery all night when she heard a noise. She froze. At first, she wasn’t sure if she had just imagined things or not. She held her breath to enhance her hearing. She could feel her heart beating strongly in her chest. She lay there wondering if perhaps Glen was just up getting a drink, or maybe going to the washroom. That could explain it. But it didn’t sound like someone simply getting a glass from the cupboard and some juice from the fridge or water from a tap. And she waited for the telltale flush of the toilet and there was nothing.
Slowly she slid out of her bed, her feet touching the carpet like a whisper. She grabbed one of the heavy books on her bedside table and held it in front of her like a shield and tip-toed to her door and cracked it open, peering one eye out. Where were her psychic powers now? she wondered. She could really do with knowing what was going on.
She waited and wondered and then she couldn’t wait anymore. Her adrenaline and fear forced her to open the door and into her small living room. And she stood face to face with The Nightstalker. Except, it wasn’t the man she had seen in her vision earlier. It was Glen himself.
Of course! Her brain screamed at her, as her mouth screamed in reality. There was something she couldn’t place about him when she’d first seen him. He’d seemed strangely familiar. And when she saw The Nightstalker, he was familiar too, but also different.
It was only right at that moment that Annie realized that Glen and the Nightstalker were one and the same and that ten years in prison could really wreak havoc with someone’s appearance and render them almost, almost unrecognizable.
Once again, she saw a man lunging toward her, and saw the moonlight that streamed through her kitchen window glint off his knife.
She screamed again as a shadow of a man that was a shadow of who he had been ten years before rushed toward her, and a single thought raced through her mind: You know what, Annie? You really are a shit psychic, you know that?
I hope you enjoyed my story! And my tattoo is a memorial tattoo for my mom :).