After the Scream

The room was finally quiet. The screaming had been painful to listen to, but now it was over. She sat where she had collapsed, hugging her knees to her chest. The thin nightgown hung on her body and provided no comfort from the chill. Would somebody come? Had they heard the screaming?

Maybe they wanted the screaming. For all she knew this was part of some elaborate plan. She had no idea where we she was. The room looked familiar, but she couldn’t remember seeing it before. Presumably, it was supposed to disorient her. If so, it had worked.

In spite of the disorientation, there was some comfort, too. That couldn’t be intentional, could it? Probably not. The screaming hadn’t been intended to make her comfortable, surely. So where was the feeling of comfort coming from? She could not say.

Nothing happened for a long time. The room didn’t change. She did notice it had a bed and a nightstand. The sheets on the bed were twisted and chaotic. The lamp had been knocked off of the nightstand, but she didn’t replace it. In fact, she did not move at all. Fear about who might be watching, what they might do to her, kept her paralyzed. From where she sat, she couldn’t see much else. The door was on the other side of the bed, but anything else was hidden from view.

The door was open, she realized after more time had passed. Beyond was darkness, which held nothing but terror. She dared not leave, even though she was clearly being tempted into it. But she had enough of her wits about her now to recognize the trap. Still, it taunted her, threatened her with blackness.

Finally they came. Men in blue uniforms. She did not recognize them, and they ignored her. Another taunt, she thought at first. Then she saw the body. How had she missed it before, when it lay just feet from her? They hovered over it, appeared to talk to one another.

Why couldn’t she hear them speak? The scream had been clear enough. Had it deafened her? Their lips moved, she was certain. But no sound reached her. More people came. Different clothes, but they also stood around talking, discussing something beyond her hearing. No one paid her any attention.

They seemed upset. Had they killed this person accidentally? Had something gone wrong? Had they been sent to torture this other, only to find them dead? It slowly came to her that the body had been the source of the scream.

Yet more people came in; these brought a stretcher. Carefully, they lifted the body onto it. It was a woman. She too had been wearing a nightgown.

Suddenly, their voices reached her ears.

“She was alone in the house when we found her.”

“It looks like she was stabbed.”

“No obvious indication of who might have done this.”

For just a moment, she knew where she was as her bedroom came into sharp focus. Her face stared back at her from the stretcher. Then the world went black.

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