The Fallowing – The Fifth, Part III
by Steppen Sawicki
She held her coffee cup in shaking hands. The diner was half-full, dinner rush looming close. The chatter and clatter of knives on plates bounced off the walls of framed curios. A signed photo of A. Swartz watched over our particular table.
“You won’t believe me,” she said. Her name was Corrie. Her hair was strawberry blonde, her eyes green and wide and haunted. She was all of seventeen, but it was hard to tell from her face. She looked much older. “You’ll think I did this to myself. Everyone thinks that. Even my mother. They would lock me away somewhere if there was any place to lock me away in.”
“We have some experience with these types of cases,” I said. “Tell us what happened.”
She sipped her coffee, and as she set it down on the counter some spilled. She didn’t notice.
“It started three weeks ago. I was doing laundry and there was a sudden pain in my neck as if someone had drawn a knife across my skin. I put my hand there and it came away bloody. I was all alone and there was nothing near me that could have cut me. Then there was another pain on the other side of my neck. I ran to the bathroom mirror and couldn’t believe it. Both sides of my neck were dripping blood. Then there was a pain down the back of my head. I put my hand there and that was bleeding too. I whirled around, looking for some reason, someone sneaked into the apartment, something hanging from the ceiling. But it was just me and my reflection in the mirror.
“I went to a doctor and they bandaged me. The doctor said they were knife wounds and was there anything else I wanted to tell him. I just cried no I was alone, and he shook his head sadly and left the room. My mom showed up and spoke with the doctor and she would have a long walk with me later, but Goddammit I didn’t do this to myself. Why would I?
“Two days later I was knitting. The TV. was on – some old show, Dr. Quinn or something. Mom was taking a nap before starting dinner. There was a stab in my hand and I cried out and dropped the needles. Right in the center of my hand blood was welling. I clutched my wrist and stared at it as it began to drip onto my knitting. I cried out again as my other hand was stabbed and then they were both bleeding, in my palms, like a…what’s that called…stigmata. I went screaming to my mom and she would notice later, after I was bandaged up, the blood that spotted my knitting needles.
“It happened every two or three days – my arms, my legs, my chest and stomach. My mom would scream at me why was I doing this and by this point I could only sob and shake my head. My friends tried to talk to me about getting help until they gave up and left me alone. Even Nadia quit bothering eventually, after my eye.
“But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was at work – I work at a grocery store. Cashier. Milo came in. I had just broken up with him a few weeks before, and I knew he hadn’t taken it well. He had begged me not to let him go, practically on his knees. It was crazy. But he came into the store smiling, happy, like nothing at all had happened. He came to my counter and smiled at me and asked how I was doing.
“’Oh my God,’ he said. ‘What happened to your arm?’
“I would have thrust my arms out of his sight but I was ringing him up. So I could only try to tug my sleeves over the bandages and say ‘Nothing. I dropped a knife chopping some vegetables is all.’
“’Oh that’s too bad,’ he said, but his voice was so cheery, and I looked at him and he was smiling. He put on a concerned expression when he realized I was looking at him, but I had already seen him smile. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘if there’s anything bothering you, I want you to know I’m here for you, anytime.’
“He tried to take my hand, and I jerked away from him and told him his total. Then he frowned and…looked angry. Hateful. Spiteful.
“That night I lost my eye. And the next day I lost Nadia, which was somehow worse. But no one would believe me when I said I didn’t stab my own eye.
“I knew that Milo was behind it all, somehow. His behavior at the store had told me as much. But what could I do? How do you find proof of magic, of voodoo to show the police? To show your friends and family that you weren’t destroying yourself?
“So I started watching Milo. Following him. Stalking him I suppose. It only took one day. I guess he was angry that I didn’t come crawling to him pleading for help. He left his house and went to Wrigley Field. Went in that door and disappeared up the stairs.
“Ten minutes later there was a horrible pain at my breast. He had…never mind. He had hurt me. I stumbled into an alley and shook and cried, but not too loud, because he came out again just a few minutes later.
“I went home and bandaged myself. Took too many painkillers. When I finally woke I went back to that door on Sheffield.”