Hailey watches as shuffling feet on the other side of the bedroom door disrupts the thin beam of light beneath it. Slow steps pace and back and forth. She holds her breath as the feet pause, and a low bang against the wood forces her to exhale a shrill cry.
“June, please!” Hailey shrieks, her voice cracking. Her hands are in her hair, and she sinks to her knees. “I can’t take this anymore!”
June doesn’t reply. She never does. But another bang against the door tells Hailey she’s listening, and she bursts into tears.
“I tried, June! I tried so hard!”
“What do you want me to do? Tell me what you want me to do!”
When Hailey finally made it back to her car, she threw herself inside and grabbed an old towel from the backseat. Pushing her own discomfort aside, she wiped her phone down with care. But as she tried once again to call for help, the screen glitched then went dark. Hailey cursed under her breath. Water must have gotten into the charging port.
She needed a phone, and fast. She had no landline, and her apartment was a good forty-five-minute drive away anyway. Without her phone to pull up directions, she wasn’t even sure how to get to the nearest police station. She remembered driving through a small town on her way to the trail, though. If she could just get to a gas station, she could have the clerk call the police for her. And an ambulance. It was old-school, but she had no other choice.
Still dripping, Hailey turned the key and peeled out of the asphalt lot.
The banging continues for hours; long enough to convince Hailey she’s going to go insane if it doesn’t stop. She rocks, curled up in a tight ball, arms wrapped protectively around her knees, and tries to think.
For over a year, June has been stalking her. Through three rentals and a lot of money wasted on broken leases, June has found her.
“I can’t take it anymore,” Hailey whispers between the patches of silence. “I don’t know what you want from me. I don’t know what I can do. I don’t know…”
The clerk at the nearest gas station listened to Hailey’s frantic story and called the local police department. The words search and rescue were used. Hailey felt her heart pounding sickly in her throat.
An officer picked her up soon after with a trundling ambulance, second police car, and even a silent firetruck close behind, and she directed the small team to the asphalt lot from the passenger seat of the police car. The rain continued to fall in buckets, washing out the poorly maintained road and causing the car to skid a few times. Hailey gripped the door handle the entire ride and threw herself out of the car before the officer had even come to a complete stop.
She waited on bouncing feet while he got out, consulted with his partner, and opened large umbrellas that provided little shield against the gusting wind and splattering rain.
It would be a long trek back up the trail, but June was in danger and Hailey was the only one who knew where she was.
At some point, Hailey must have fallen asleep. Morning light streams through the window and temporarily blinds her as she cracks her eyes open. She realizes she’s in bed, coated in sweat with the blankets kicked every which way.
It would be nice, she thinks, if it was all just a bad dream. But she knows better.
When her vision clears, June is standing beside her bed. Her eyes are glassy, vacant, fixed on some far-off place Hailey will never see. She doesn’t move, but wavers slightly on her bad leg.
Exhausted and emotionally drained, Hailey turns her back to June and reaches for her phone. She has an idea.
Continue to Part 5
Sarah McKnight has been writing stories since she could pick up a pencil, and it often got her in trouble during math class. After a brief stint teaching English to unruly middle schoolers in Japan, she decided she wasn’t going to put off her dream of becoming a writer any longer and set to work. With several novels in the making, she hopes to tackle issues such as anxiety, depression, and letting go of the past – with a little humor sprinkled in, too. A St. Louis native, she currently lives in Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and three cats. Find Sarah at: https://linktr.ee/sarahmcknightwrites