He’s after me.
The errant thought makes no sense. He can’t be after me. He doesn’t know me.
Still, I run.
My sneakers skid on the ancient tile, the squeal a harsh grate against the whining ping of ricocheting bullets. Slicked with cold sweat, my hand slips off the door knob. I fumble, manage to finally twist it. The door swings open. I reel through, turn, slam the door. Grope for the lock.
Shit! The lock. Where’s the fucking lock?
I spin around, my gaze darting frantically, searching for somewhere–anywhere–to hide. I have to hide! With no better option, I duck under the professor’s desk. My breath saws through my chest, its jagged teeth ripping at my ribs.
Not so loud. He’ll hear. He’ll find you.
He’s going to find me anyway.
I bowled over Shelley. On my mad dash toward this illusion of safety. I heard her fall, but didn’t stop to look back. I should have looked back. Why didn’t I look back? For fuck’s sake, why didn’t I drag her with me?
Because he’s after me!
No! God, why do I think that?!?
Is she dead? Shelley? What about Kristy? John? Rick? There’ve been so many shots. They’re still coming. That deadly staccato burst … It will stop soon, right? He’s running out of rounds. It will stop soon. It has to …
It gets louder. Closer.
Because he is after me.
I can see them. All of them. Not just my friends and my classmates, but the faceless strangers I speed past every day. Sprawled in the halls, limbs twisted, spines contorted. Bullet wounds seeping, blood draining. Drowning the dead.
My gut contracts. Bile rises, burning my throat. The stench of urine stings my nostrils; I’ve wet myself. The realization barely registers.
He is killing them. Killing Shelley. Because I bowled her over. Because I left her behind.
The word reverberates in my mind, its echo a mocking mimicry of gunfire. Why is this happening? Why is he doing this? Why is he after me?
For Pete’s sake, he’s not after you! He’s just a psycho with a gun. Now shut up and stay put. You’ll make it.
But I won’t …
The abrupt silence is deafening. I catch my breath, grip it desperately. I draw my knees up to my chest, hunch my shoulders, adhere myself to the darkest corner of the desk’s underbelly. Maybe if I’m small, maybe if I’m silent, maybe if I don’t move, don’t breathe …
Please God, don’t let him find me. I know I deserve it, I killed Shelley, I left her. And the others … But please, I’ll do anything. I swear. Just don’t …
There’s a click, then a creak. Then the even, determined footsteps announcing the arrival of a reaper.
“Season’s don’t fear the reaper. Nor do the wind, the sun, or the rain … C’mon baby, don’t fear the reaper.”
But I do.
And he’s here.
Shit, shit, dammit, fuck, shit! Don’t look under the desk, please. For fuck’s sake, don’t look under the desk!
A pair of boots enter my line of sight. Then the weapon’s muzzle. I swear I can hear it sizzle.
Don’t bend over. Don’t look down here. Please, I never did anything to you. I don’t want to die! Please, don’t kill me. Just go away, you’re not after me. You’re not!
Oh God, don’t find me!
The boots turn, disappear. The heavy footsteps abate.
Thank …God …
Can I breathe now? Wait. One more second … Alright. I think I can breathe now. My breath whooshes out.
The desk explodes. Barbed shards of wood slice my skin, adding insult to injury as hot lead leaves me in shreds.
The door clicks as my breath rattles, then fades.
He isn’t after me anymore.
Briana Robertson excels at taking the natural darkness of reality and bringing it to life on the page. Heavily influenced by her personal experience with depression, anxiety, and the chronic pain of fibromyalgia, Robertson’s dark fiction delves into the emotional and psychological experiences of characters in whom readers will recognize themselves. Her stories horrify while also tugging at heartstrings, muddying the lines of black and white, and staining the genre in multiple shades of grey.
In 2016, Robertson joined the ranks of Stitched Smile Publications. Her solo anthology, “Reaper,” which explores the concept of death being both inevitable and non-discriminatory, debuted in 2017. She also has stories included in “Unleashing the Voices Within,” by Stitched Smile Publications, “Man Behind the Mask,” by David Owain Hughes, Jonathan Ondrashek, and Veronica Smith, and “Collected Easter Horror Shorts” and “Collected Halloween Horror Shorts” by Kevin Kennedy.
She is currently serving as Head of Dark Persuasions, the dark erotic branch of Stitched Smile Publications.
Robertson is the wife of one, mother of four, and unashamed lover of all things feline. She currently resides on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, with a backyard view of the Saint Louis skyline, and is a member of the Saint Louis Writers Guild.
To find out more about Briana Robertson, please visit her website at http://www.brianarobertsonwri.wix.com/brianarobertson.