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Roland Allnach

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Books by Roland Allnach
By Roland Allnach
Posted: Friday, September 10, 2010
Last edited: Wednesday, May 11, 2011
This short story is rated "PG13" by the Author.
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Recent stories by Roland Allnach
· Beheld
· Turn the Wheel
· Conquest's End
· The City of Never
· Shift/Change
· Memento
· The Great Hunter
           >> View all 14
A paranoid recluse has been on the run from a stalker. He believes he has found refuge at last, only for the predation that has ruined his life to erupt in a spasm of madness.



Roland Allnach, 2008
Published in Allegory, Fall 2008


     Behold my life: it is not the white walls that imprison me.

     He who writes this, he lives in fear. He can feel it when he breathes, he can feel it when he eats, he can even feel it when he occasionally sleeps, although the fear hinders any full respite of consciousness. The fear, it crawls over his skin, presses into his pores; sometimes he thinks it is tingling in his ears, like some little unseen insects crawling inside his head to drive him insane. But for all its illusions and delusions, there is one thing that has always remained, and that is the fear.
It is not a shapeless fear, nor an aimless one. Certainly it must have a name, but he prefers not to know it, because to name it would be to humanize it, and it is human enough: for the fear is a man, and this man stalks him, stalks him without relent, for reasons he does not know, and perhaps can not know. But to him it is accepted, it is innate: to him it makes perfect sense, and it is accepted on those terms.

      He felt this presence in his earliest memories. It was there in his neighborhood while he grew up, perhaps around the block, or on the next street. It would be in his nature; all his life it seemed this human incarnation that embodied his fear was just out of his sight, just off to the side, just out of hearing range, but nevertheless always- somehow- there. When he was little he would lay in bed at night, dreading the next day, wondering when he would feel that cold tingle up his spine knowing that he was being watched. He considered telling his parents about his suspicions, but when he considered the questions they would ask, and the empty answers he could give, their response was obvious: what were they to do about someone whose name he did not know, whose face he could not describe, whose only existence was verified by his swearing that he was being followed, stalked, hunted? Such was his childhood, and in that time such things were not taken seriously. Bullying was just part of growing up, and it was tolerated- in some cases it was even considered to build ‘character’ in its victims. In that climate, how was he to explain his dilemma, or hope to get relief, or understanding? For it was not bullying, it was in fact predation, something in that time that did not register in the realm of social conscience. Yes, it was predation, because even then he had already deduced one thing with certainty: it was the fear that he thrived on, the fear of the hunted, just as the lion’s heart beats fastest before it springs. And he knew then it would not stop.

     Yet in this seeming futility he found what he thought was his salvation, for he realized the ironic truth: that with the goal being nothing but the pursuit, there should be no further culmination- it was potential in a vacuum. And with that the fear melted away; in fact, even his perception of that nameless him was shed in a blissful epiphany. It was one wonderful day, one that he thought would, even in his young existence, change his life. He believed he would know days without nervous trepidation, he would know nights without nightmares and restless trembling. Or so he thought on that day, but he found he was to be proven horribly and painfully wrong, that he would be taught a bitter lesson, that he would be levied with a grisly punishment.

     It was there when he woke the next morning. He went outside to feed his dog, and that was when he heard the shouts from the front yard, because there in the front yard the neighbors had already found what was left of his dog: her head had been crushed while she slept. The police came. They looked. He could not be sure, in his shock, which was more debilitating: the fact that the police did not seem too interested or that, of course, they did not find him. In the end, it did not matter, because the message was clear- he was on his own.

     So he grew up in fear, always suspecting that some night might be his last- that he would be killed, just like his dog. He could not sleep, and when he did, he often woke trembling with his nightmares. He could not pay attention in school, so his grades plummeted. His parents lost patience with him, perhaps assuming he was going through some kind of ‘phase’, because other than some meaningless reprimands, they did nothing. What few social associations he had he lost: his world imploded. All those things, those shiny happy things people get to remember from high school, he missed, hiding in his house, in his room, staring at the walls for hours wondering when it would come, when he would come after him, because he figured that sooner or later the thrill of the predation would lose its hold and he would have to act out once more. It was intolerable. His parents thought he was listless, lazy, but they had no idea how much energy he burned up in fear and worry. He was painfully thin. And one summer night after he graduated high school the inevitable breakdown came. He raided his father’s liquor cabinet, drank himself into delirium, stood in the backyard, and screamed out a challenge: if he wanted him, come and do it. Just do it already!

     The neighbors shouted for him to quiet down. His father hauled him into the house by the collar complaining that the police would come to the house on a domestic disturbance complaint. He cared little for the embarrassment. “Let them come, then they’ll see!” he protested in his drunkenness. But instead his father threw him in bed, and like that night his dog was killed, he slept like a baby…

     He woke up on the curb among flashing lights and chaos. Firemen scurried about; the neighbors stood around in shock. He had heard the challenge, and lashed out with vicious retribution once again: he had burned down the house, burned it down with everyone inside. His parents were dead. And looking at those faces around that scene on that dark night, he curled up in a ball, because he knew one thing, knew it with a dread that froze his blood in his veins and stilled his heart in his chest: he was there, in the crowd, unseen, watching, silently laughing.

*     *     *

     He moved around after that, living off the insurance money while it lasted. It would not have been fair to call him a drifter, even though he appeared to be living as one, because, in fact, he was on the run. He had to run, as somehow, some way, he always managed to return. Sometimes it took a few weeks, sometimes months, but one thing seemed certain, the more content and settled he was in his current situation, the sooner he arrived, and with more vengeance. Complacency, it seemed, was the greatest offense. He of course came unannounced, but the presence was unmistakable and undeniable. He could feel it, could feel that malevolent gaze watching him, because whenever he was near the fear- always incubating within- would boil over and begin to consume him once again. The times he tried to resist it, to deny it, only brought more destruction. He adopted a little stray dog one time, but no sooner did she come into his life than he woke up to find her strangled outside his door. He grew friendly with a waitress in a diner where he had a job washing dishes, but he killed her with equal disregard…her house burned down, too.

     He eventually found something that he thought would insulate him. He took a job as a night janitor in a low rent building for students at an art college. They were a tight knit little group, so if anyone new came around, he would- should- hear some talk about a stranger, and might be able to elude the threat before it struck once again. And since he had to work at night, he did not have to deal with too many people directly, which suited him, because by then he could not relate well to people anymore- doing so simply seemed like condemning them to death.

      Nevertheless he hated his job, despising it for its filth. It was demeaning and unfulfilling, mindless and monotonous, reminding him with ever increasing bitterness that he was not, by any measure, a stupid man. And every night he picked up his mop or fixed a toilet served as a reminder how that faceless he had taken his life away, how he had demeaned him, how he had ruined him. Mounting slowly but surely in those moments was a new realization, a new sense, that the fear was no longer alone, that something else had grown with it, festering within him, and that thing was anger.

     Yet for all the things he hated about his job, he began to think that maybe it was the very demeaning nature of the job itself that kept him away, that perhaps kept him amused enough not to inflict new miseries of torture or violence. For among the bohemian denizens he had to tolerate in that building there were some who enjoyed making his life more miserable than it already was, rubbing his face in his sub-mediocrity in their own arrogant little art-house way.

     There was one in particular that turned his stomach; that boiled his blood. His name was Michael Gibbs; ‘Gibby’ as the others called him. He was the son of a wealthy family, in appearance a fledgling impressionist painter, but in actuality he was a flagrant womanizer, a misogynist. A seemingly endless stream of women cycled through Gibby’s apartment. Gibby was not overtly rude or condescending; rather, it was Gibby’s apathy that disgusted him. Even so Gibby both amazed and demoralized him: here was a man dissolute, arrogant, conceited, and disrespectful of women, yet he had somehow managed to ingratiate himself to the point that he had been given his cozy nickname- Gibby was, in fact, popular among the residents of the building, at least in the sense of casual social acquaintances.

     It was this seeming hypocrisy that led him to eventually hate all the building’s residents. Was he not polite to them, did he not tend to their needs, did he not answer dutifully to their calls when toilets ran and sinks clogged? Then again, did they not ignore him while cleaning up after their biological waste, after tending to their own human detritus clogging their building, neglecting him with as much forgetfulness as the feces they neglected to flush away? Oh, how he grew to hate them, how the anger festered within him, mounting with counting days as he came across a new realization, a bitter irony that impaled him with his own cruel fate: he was, in fact, important to only one person. Just one. Only that person was the specter of his nightmares, the embodiment of his fears: that person was the one who had always been there, that person was…him.

     Sometimes, though, he took pause, for there was indeed one person that certain parts of his twisted self were compelled to exclude from his toxic emotions. She was the pretty girl, the pianist- Marina Yotomo- who practiced every morning. She lived right over him; he often listened to the muffled chords of her piano while he sat staring at his walls before succumbing to his restless sleep.

     Yet as much as he found an inclination within himself to regard her with a certain interest, he was haunted by the memory and death of that unfortunate waitress he had once fancied. It disgusted him, because he often amused himself with little flights of fancy involving Marina. Nevertheless, she was the only redemption in that job, in that building.

     She always said hello.

     She was always nice.

     But she was friendly as well with Gibby, and for that, he could not forgive her.

*     *     *

     Winter break came. The building was emptying for the end of the semester. There was a big party at Marina’s; he could hear it going all night. He could hear Gibby talking to her. It disgusted him. He thought of turning off the power to the building, of turning off the heat, of a dozen malicious things to ruin their party. But in the end he did nothing, instead sitting inept and alone in his little apartment in the basement, tortured by the merriment over him. He fought to ignore it, tried to think of something else, tried to watch his little television with the grainy picture, but in the end he simply sat.

     Until, that is, there was a knock on his door. Startled from his bitter lethargy he realized at once that the party had ended. The building was quiet. He rubbed his face and staggered to the door, hesitating before opening it. But when he opened the door, he found Marina waiting for him, aglow with alcohol, the blush of her cheeks matching her red dress and the elf’s cap on her head, its fuzzy white ball jingling with the two little bells she had sown into the material.
He was dumbstruck. No words came from his open mouth.

     “Ho ho!” she greeted cheerily, but had to force a smile in the discomfort of his detached silence. “I baked these for you; I hope you enjoy them,” she said, offering a paper plate covered with aluminum foil. When he took it from her, not having uttered a word, she shrugged nervously. “Okay…well, ah, goodnight then, I guess,” she said and turned away.

     He closed the door. He walked to his bed and turned off his little television before lifting the foil to peer beneath its cover. She had baked him brownies. He stared at them. He was so bewildered by the very notion of his existence having entered her thoughts that he considered not eating them, just so he could keep them. But in the end he did eat them, for the very reason that she had made them for him, and so he believed that he encapsulated that sentiment within him as he digested the brownies and assimilated the energy she had invested in their making. The crumbs he diligently gathered up, put in a small zip bag to keep them fresh, and put them inside his pillowcase.

     She knows I think of her, he decided. She knows I think of her…how did she know?

     He sat for some time considering that. Eventually he shook his head. “Clever girl,” he muttered to himself and crawled into bed. He pulled the covers up. He breathed. The building would be empty; only Marina and Gibby were staying for the winter break. He would practically have her to himself. He knew what he would do then, knew it with a welcome rush of anxiety: he would approach her with old fashioned respect and ask her out for dinner. He thought of her smile. It was going to be perfect.

     And for the first time in a very long time, he forgot himself, and drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face.

*     *     *

     His alarm went off. He woke. He dressed. He looked out his little window to a pitch black, moonless night. He sighed and opened his door, only to find a phone on the hallway floor. Curious, he picked it up, and the moment he had it in his hand, it vibrated to life, startling him. He hesitated, but after several moments put it to his ear and said hello. There was a long pause, and then he heard it, and when it came his blood ran cold, his heart froze in his chest; his skin tingled with a cold electric spasm of terror. He could not breathe, he could not think, he could not drop the phone; he could not believe what he instantly knew with insane certainty that he heard- it was him, it was his voice, rasping over the phone!

     “Time to change the game.”


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