Then She Found Me
Here is a short story about guilty feelings written based on a creative writing prompt.
Tomorrow is another day, but for some people today is already their last.
The small boat was rocking up and down, with the sun shining down on my back. I looked at the ocean swell, with the water gently rising and falling, gurgling like a sick man. The reflection of my image showed a haggard man with dirty blackened clothes and a long grizzly beard – as if Santa Claus had a fight with a bunch of pitch-black coal and had lost.
Then a memory floated up from the deep dark ocean – the last time I saw her.
Rivers of sweat rolled down my back as the sun bore its weight upon my shoulders. I was in my yacht in the South Pacific Ocean just like now. I was hurriedly heading towards the small sandy island…
That time I was desperate, but now I had a plan.
Of course, at first, I had tried to run – to escape and to be alone. I left everyone I knew. I left my family and my friends. I left my dog and my house.
I had to.
I had to get away and know I wasn’t going insane. To know that it was just all a dream.
But I didn’t just have dreams of her. I saw her when I closed my eyes and when I opened my eyes. I saw her in the dark and in the sunshine. She always clung to me, even when I found myself alone in the world.
She was just a stranger – even now I don’t know her name. She would never speak to me, but instead, just stare at me with her dark brown eyes.
She would always wear different clothes each time I saw her. Sometimes she wore a lovely, summer dress as if she was out on a stroll in a field of beautiful flowers. Sometimes she wore a pair of simple denim jeans with a plain T-shirt – a perfect image of the girl next door.
In winter, she wore a bright pink jacket with a light blue scarf. In autumn, knee-high black boots and a long navy coat.
Four seasons and 365 days I would see her. She wore ordinary clothes as if nothing was wrong – as if everything was in its perfect place.
But she would always have the same expressionless face – like she was pondering what to say to me.
I did try to talk to her before. You see, the first time I saw her I thought she was one of my students. I was a university lecturer at one of the local colleges, so I thought a student had stumbled upon me and had some questions or something.
I can still remember her disturbing image even now.
Her face was pale-white and expressionless. Her hair toppled down over her shoulders like dark-brown waves crashing down on white-yellow-sand. She was deathly still – like she was frozen in shock at what she saw. Her intense eyes locked onto me like a bull eyeing down a bullfighter in a crowded stadium.
I looked at her in the distance and confidently asked her,
“Hello over there! Do you know me from the college? Are you okay? Is there something wrong?”
She stood still.
She didn’t move.
Her eyes focused deeper into my soul.
“Hello! Why do you keep looking at me?” Do I know you?”
“…Steve! Who are you talking to?”
Steve was my name. I was sitting with a work colleague from the college.
Naturally, when I pointed out the girl to whoever I was sitting with at the time she would disappear. Only to re-appear the next day as if she was constantly trying to win a one-way staring contest with a reluctant participant.
Sometimes, I didn’t notice her for a few minutes. I would casually go about my daily life as if the world was running to my heartbeat. Steady, calm, precise…
But there she was.
In the supermarket next to the sale items.
Outside the restaurant prying through the window.
Behind my wife as if she was our kind friend enjoying our company.
There she was – always looking. Always peering at me like she was telling me she knew something which I didn’t. She was the all-knowing seer – the haunting ghost looking for some kind of weakness to strike.
What did she want me to know?
Obviously, after a few times of discovering her, I went straight to the cops.
“Okay, sir, write your details on this paper here and then we will help you as best as we can.”
“That’s it? Can’t you just find out who is doing this to me?”
“Sir, you need to fill this in first.”
“Look! She is following me! This is stalking and intimidation! You need to help me!”
“Okay, sir… Do you have a photo of the offender?”
“No. She appears and she disappears, just like a ghost.”
“Okay… Are there any witnesses to the stalking?”
“No. I told you she vanishes before other people see her.”
“What is her name? What is her occupation? Where does she live?”
“I don’t know… I don’t know…”
“OK, Sir. I know it might be difficult, but I really need you to fill this in then we will help you.”
Why do I have to waste time writing down words?
This is stalking! She never pauses or misses a day.
She was following me – no, she was hounding me, waiting for me to make a mistake. She was the great dark golden leopard resting on a tree branch gazing down at her prey.
Her actions broke down my chain of confidence.
I was so fearful that I even went to a Psychiatrist. I remember sitting down in their office in a large, leather rugged chair. I thought the first thing they would talk to me about was going to be about my childhood.
But, what they said surprised me.
“It is you.”
“The stranger you keep seeing. It is you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Whenever you see the same person repetitively, be it in a dream or in real life, then that person is a shadow of yourself. In other words, they… you are trying to tell yourself something. Something that your unconscious only knows. Something that you have been blocking out for many years. It may be something that you feel guilty about. Or maybe something that you regret doing.”
(So, here it comes.)
“You said that it was a woman with medium-length brown hair and a pale face. Is there anything you have done in the past with someone that matches that description?”
(I had it. What does my past have to do with this? This is not what I was paying this guy for.)
“Why are you asking me this question if you said the stranger is me?”
“Well… the stranger is you. But it is you trying to tell yourself about what you did in the past.”
“In effect, it’s like your subconscious telling you that you feel uneasy or shameful about something you did. Everyone has guilty feelings every once and a while. But if you keep pushing those guilty feelings away and try to hide from them, then those feelings get stronger and stronger until they start appearing to you in unusual ways.”
“Then how do I make them stop then??”
“You can’t. Well, you can’t force them to stop, but you can…”
“Can’t you just give me some pills or something?”
“Pills? Haha… I’m sorry, but I’m a Psychiatrist, not a medical doctor. I am here to fix your emotional soul, not to drug you so you become a walking zombie!”
Of course, I stopped going to the Psychiatrist after this talk of the past… of my past. What has my past got to do with anything? I am human, but my past has no dark stains or painful secrets! I feel guilty over nothing!!
Suddenly, the tiny boat crashed into the sandy beach of the small island.
I had arrived.
I unpacked my things and started the trek towards my destination. Today this was all going to come to an end. After today, I would live my life happily once more.
I reached a clear patch of bush after a few hours of walking. I got my shovel and started digging. The ground was moist and slightly muddy from the previous day’s rain.
With each shovelful, I got closer and closer.
My weak arms ached as I noticed a small girl standing silently behind a tree. She was staring at me as if she wanted to tell me something.
“I didn’t do it, you know?”
It was my confession, attempting to rid myself of any guilt.
I looked up at the young girl’s pale face and brown hair.
“I’ve been waiting for this day to come for a long time…”
I screamed, “It’s the day I finally get rid of you, you scornful whore!!”
Just then, a revolting smell hit my nostrils – the putrid and rancid molecules entered my throat and took control of my hasty, shaky movements.
I entered a maddened state and started shovelling faster attempting to get to the source of the foul smell.
Behind the tree, the girl looked deep into my eyes and simply stated, “You will be at peace.”
The black dirt flew out of the hole.
The corrupted remains came into view.
I looked down at the rotting, lidless, milky blue eyes and I heaved.
Night turned into day. I was covered in superbright spotlights like an actor on a Shakespearean stage.
As the high-powered spotlights clicked on, I looked up at what I had missed.
The girl was gone and twenty men and women in police uniforms had surrounded the large ditch I had dug.
“STOP!! Don’t move! Hands on your head!!!”
I dropped the shovel and rose slowly.
The only thing I could say was, “Officer, she’s gone!”
Credit: I wrote this short story according to a writing prompt from Reedsy Prompts.
The prompt is as follows:
Write a story about someone who keeps coming across the same stranger.
Have you ever had guilty feelings before? What do you usually do when you feel guilty?