Number 31

One year ago I lost my best friend.

Heart attack, they said.

And that he screamed for help.

One year ago I received this email.

Robert would have wanted you to read it.

I wish you would have called.

I miss you, Rob.

My friends, I really hope you get this. I hope that this is all just some sort of bout of insanity, but if not, if something happens to me or if you don’t hear from me by tomorrow, I want you to go to the police and show them this email. Tell them that they were wrong. And please, if you can, forward this email to as many people as possible.

This is not a joke; at least I really think it isn’t. I’m not pranking you; I swear to everything I hold dear that this is not a prank. If you get this email I thought about calling you, but I hope that this is all over in the morning. I hope that this is just something special about this night. And if it is, please forget about it or make fun of me; I don’t even care.

I’m sitting in the Walker’s joint near the motorway, the one that’s open all night and busy all night, because the last thing I want to be is back on the street.

You know I don’t believe in god, but every few minutes I just close my eyes and pray that this will end.

The police said I must be hallucinating and, to be honest, right now I think that maybe I am. They checked the house, two of them, with drawn tasers. And they came back out, laughing, holding a gray wig with long, curly hair.

I swear I’m not on any drugs. I had a glass of eggnog with my colleagues, but that’s it. I didn’t take anything.

“That’s your old woman,” they said. “Someone put it over the kettle.”

They threw that wig at me. I jumped back and it fell on the floor.

An old woman. That’s what I told them I saw, that’s what I thought I saw.

I finished work at around 10:40pm. The others were going to go out together, but I was starving and just wanted to go home to defrost the pumpkin pie my mom froze before she went on her trip. There were kids everywhere on the first few streets that led away from the shopping center, shouting “Trick or Treat” at me as if a student has his laptop bag filled with sweets. So I was happy when I turned into Mayflower Road and there were no kids.

I was happy that the street was empty. I walked casually, kicked some trash and then some burnt bundle of clothes out of the way. I was really relaxed, until a moment after that, when I walked past that house. The one that burned out a year or two ago and where the roof is now completely gone. Number 31.

I didn’t even look at it and I didn’t get any close to it. But when I was about half-way past the house, I suddenly felt this shiver, like a spider jumped on my neck and was sliding down my spine. As if someone was watching me.

And I swear to god, there was a woman in that window and she was watching me.

I pretty much jumped for two steps and then I caught myself and told myself that she was just some sort of lady that lives on the ground floor and that somehow the ground floor must still be okay. When I looked back she was still there though; gray hair and white skin and even whiter eyes.

My feet were walking but that was definitely the fastest I ever walked. I only relaxed somewhat when I turned the corner into Wayward Street.

But that shiver running through my spine and that paranoia never left. And the moment I noticed that Wayward Street was empty too I instantly sped up again.

You might have some missed call from me from around 11pm.

Listen, this is the busiest night of the year. There’s no way that Wayward Street can be empty at that time.

But most of the lights were off. And every time I passed a dark window I felt another rush of cold and another shiver running through my body.

Then I passed Number 31.

And I turned and she was there.

Her teeth were broken but exposed in a wide, lipless grin.

And those eyes. God, those eyes, milky white; glassy like a blind person’s eyes, but still focused exactly on me.

And I ran.

I swear I saw her in more windows. Don’t ask me which street or which number, but god, she was there, no matter how fast I ran, she was there, staring after me and sometimes staring at me before I even reached the house.

For the love of everything, I swear there was no one else on the streets. No one. Just dark streets and occasionally a street light or traffic light, and me, and her.

For a moment, when I turned into my street, I felt safe. There was a young woman in a flower dress pushing a baby stroller. She was walking in my direction, and I instantly calmed down.

I moved to the side of the houses to let them pass. She had her head down and her dark hair was hanging over her face.

They walked by without a word; without a sound even. Seriously, thinking about it now, her steps didn’t make any sound at all; there wasn’t even that crunching sound that a stroller usually makes.

The moment they had passed me; the moment they were behind me, that cold and that shiver and that dread came back.

And when I turned they were gone.

And instead that woman was staring at me from inside a window not even an arm’s length away with a wide grin.

The houses flew by and I think I saw her in every single window.

Until I reached my parents’ house.

When I saw that she wasn’t in the kitchen window I ran to the door and slammed the key into the keyhole.

Just when I turned the key I saw her.

Her face pressed against the small window in the door, right in front of my face.

I ran around the corner and called the police. Probably I should have done that earlier, but what the hell do I tell them?

“There’s an old woman chasing me.”

They’d have laughed at me.

The only thing I can remember shouting into the phone is that there was an old woman in my house.

They were there five minutes later. And back out another ten minutes later, with the wig that they threw at me.

“That’s not her,” I said. “She’s real.”

“It’s a prank,” said one of them. “Tell your friends they did an awesome job.”

“I’m serious, “I said. “This is not just a prank.”

I told them that I was the last one in that house; that none of my friends have a key; that my mother is abroad; that I was the last goddamn person that touched that kettle and that there definitely wasn’t a wig when I made tea in the morning.

“Sure,” he said. “But we have work to do. And fix your number.”

He was pointing towards our house number.

We live in number 13.

The 1 and the 3 were switched.

They said I should go back in, get a drink and watch some TV to calm my nerves. They just walked away while I stood outside the house, begging them to please stay or take me with them.

The moment they started their car I turned around and saw her through the open doorway.

She stood right in the center of our living room. Thin limbs with pale skin wrapped in a ripped flower dress; a wide grin on a face of flaking white skin. Milky eyes. But her hair wasn’t gray and curly anymore. It was long and black instead.

I ran.

I didn’t see her anymore, and at some point there were people on the street, but I just kept running for at least thirty minutes. I kept running, even when my chest was burning and my legs shaking, until I fell through the glass door and into this horrible plastic chair.

The waitress keeps refilling my coffee and I keep drinking it, just so that she will definitely come back.

I can’t stop seeing that woman; the legs standing apart, one thin arm stretched towards me and the other holding something; something like a rolled up blanket.

It’s nearly 4am now. There are few people here, just the waitress and probably some sort of cook in the other room and then there are the truckers that keep coming and going.

I sit in the center of the room; away from the windows. But for the last half an hour, when I look up and through the window behind the next table, I keep seeing a woman pushing a stroller on the other side of the street.

She just pushes it to and fro, over and over again.

Long black hair. She wears a white dress with blue flowers. But she doesn’t smile anymore.

I asked the waitress to look, but that moment she was gone.

When the waitress walked off the woman was back.

At this moment she is still walking back and forth.

And every few minutes she stops and pulls a bundle of blankets or clothes out of her stroller and then she stares at me.

And every time she does it she seems angrier.

I’m sorry if all of this sounds insane.

I’ll try to stay here and awake and hopefully they don’t kick me out at some point. I just don’t want to go out there.

I’ll send you another email in the morning, if I’m okay.

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