This story is by Sheilah Ward and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
“I told you three times,” I said, “I didn’t have anything to drink or any medication. I was on my way into work, for God’s sake; it was seven thirty in the morning.”
I shook my head and ran my fingers through my hair. “Have you received any other reports about…it?”
I felt frantic inside, like I was losing my mind, but I knew what I’d seen. I sighed and leaned back against the steel bars of the metal chair in the interrogation room.
The room looked like one of those that you’d see on a TV cop show. The wooden table was covered with cigarette stains and God knows what else. Industrial gray paint covered the walls. Two metal chairs sat across from one another.
I stared at my questioner. Drake Lawrence and I went to high school together and had dated briefly. He’d kept his good looks. His grey eyes were still deep and surrounded by black lashes like the thick hair on his head. For being in his late forties, he wore it well.
“Abbey, listen, I know what you said. But, I have to ask these questions…” Drake turned at the sound of the door opening.
A uniformed officer poked his head around the door. Drake nodded toward the officer. “What?” He leaned back against his steel bars and the chair creaked.
“Detective, there’s something you need to see, in here.” The officer thumbed in the direction behind him.
Drake sighed. I watched him as he pinched the bridge of his nose. He stood and scrunched his shoulders. “I’ll be back in a minute, Abbey.” He grinned, and along with sadness in his eyes, I saw fatigue.
I nodded and looked around. The smell in the room was of old paint, old wood, and old stories. It was thick and strong, and my sinuses and taste buds were drenched with it. My throat burned from breathing the stagnant air.
Now, alone, I started thinking about what I’d seen this morning, and I felt my chest tighten. Slowly, but with increasing intensity, my body began to shake all over and my heart raced. With a trembling hand I reached for my bottle of water, but my grasp failed and it fell with a splat to the floor.
I yelped, and the door opened. The officer from earlier came in.
“You okay, Ma’am?”
“Uh, no, I don’t think so. I’m, I’m feeling bad. I can’t breathe, I can’t…” I folded my arms on the table and laid my head down. My eyelids fluttered and darkness floated into my peripheral vision. I mumbled something, but my words felt far away. The sudden aroma of ammonia had me jumping up and shaking my head. The tears that had held started flowing now; mostly because of the smelling salts the officer waved in front of my nose.
“Stop that, stop it!” I shouted and pushed his hand away. “I’m okay now, okay.” As I steadied my gait, he reached to support me, but I stepped back.
“Ma’am, please, sit down. Please, Ma’am.” He pleaded and I obeyed. For some reason I felt sorry for him at that moment.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I thought I was going to faint.” I sat back down and leaned against the steel bars of the chair, kind of thankful for the almost fainting episode. It took away the visions of what I’d seen this morning. The thing. The being. It was a living being, but I knew that it wasn’t of this earth. It wasn’t human, animal, or plant. I can’t describe it because its eyes, when they’d met mine, accosted all of my senses. Feelings occurred in me that I’d never felt. Something happened inside me and I could smell, taste, feel, hear, and see differently when I was engaged with it. It had been the one to break contact; I would have stayed there for eternity. Never had I been so mesmerized in my life. I felt useless but valued. Nothing like it had ever happened to me and I hoped it never would again.
Drake came back into the room and I looked at him.
“What happened?” He sat across from me and leaned close across the table. “You look worse than you did when we first saw you.” He studied my face and the grin he wore was way out of place.
“I began to think about, to remember, what happened earlier. I reacted, I guess.” For being the VP of a major healthcare company, and a Fortune 500 company speaker, I felt more inarticulate and mouth marbled than I had since that first speech I’d stumbled over in eighth grade.
“Well,” Drake said. “There’s something we need you to look at; to go over with us.” He stood, and made for the door once again.
“What is it? What’s happened?”
“We called your husband; he’s here. He said you’ve been overstressed at work, so it could be that’s the issue here…”
Drake looked past me at the blank wall.
I followed his gaze before turning back to him. “No Drake. I saw it. It was REAL. It was THERE. I’ve been stressed before. No. Stress.” I frowned. Drake seemed different somehow. Something was off here.
“Nonetheless, we haven’t seen anything to lead us to believe that there was anything there. Which,” he raised his hand against my yet unuttered words, “doesn’t mean anything, I know. Stay here for one more moment.”
He made for the door, turned back, and then winked at me. “It’s all gonna be okay. You’ll see.” He smiled and closed the door behind him. This was not the guy who left the room just minutes earlier. Genuine concern for me and my circumstances was replaced with a preoccupation I’d yet to identify.
Seconds later, the door opened then closed, but no one came through. I saw nothing, but behind me, I felt a presence. Then I heard, in the most gravelly of voices, “Hello Abbey.”
Karen Crawford says
What an eerie and provocative story Sheilah! The way you describe the being, not visually but how it made you feel, almost like an addiction was very effective. Loved the twist at the end. Really well done!
SHEILAH WARD says
Karen, thank you so much for your feedback! I am so happy you liked my story! I really enjoyed writing it and was not sure how it was going to end until-the end! thanks again!
Greg Moberg says
Well, I had been planning on being able to sleep tonight. But thanks to this terrific story ‘What I Saw’, I don’t have to worry about that.
This is a terrific entry. The flow and gradual increase of tension, through to the end, kept me glued to what was happening. There is a building sense of unease and then dread that is never directly stated yet comes through clear. Thanks, err, for a wonderful entry.
SHEILAH WARD says
Hi Greg, well, I am “glad” my story stirred your sleep? I think????
Thank you so much for reading my story. I really am glad you liked it. I loved writing it and like I told another reviewer, didn’t know how I was going to end it until the end! I appreciate your reading it so much.
Kim Dassler says
I like what Greg said above … that “the gradual increase of tension”, the “building sense of unease and then dread” was done very well. Describing the being, not from what Abbey saw, but from the way it made her feel was a great technique.