She crouched down by Lucas and tapped him on the shoulder. “Can I talk to Alex?” she asked him. With no hesitation, he smiled at her and handed over the phone. Anna and Alex talked for a while, and I sat on the floor next to Lucas. I whispered to him so Anna couldn’t hear. I told him I didn’t know what was going on, and that I was pretty sure he didn’t either, but that if he had anything to do with Anna being alive today, I just wanted to say thank you. He made the whale noises from Finding Nemo again.
Lucas slept a lot after the attack, but I didn’t hear him talk in his sleep again until three nights later. I was downstairs, in our main room, talking to Anna on my phone. It was about 1:00 in the morning when I crept into our bedroom, whispering goodbye. “Goodnight sweetie! Love you,” came her reply. I stopped dead in my tracks.
Lucas had said it too.
“Wait, what the fuck? Did you—“ I began, but she had already hung up. Trembling, I called her back. She picked up on the first ring. She and Lucas greeted me together.
“Are—are you ok?” I asked her, my voice shaking. “Yeah,” she (and Lucas) replied. “Why? Are you ok?”
My mind was reeling, and I couldn’t gather my thoughts. “I, um—“
She interrupted. “Am I on speakerphone?”
“No, no,” I said hastily. “That’s, um, that’s Lucas’s voice. He’s saying what you’re saying. That’s why I called you, uh, because last time that happened, you were in trouble, and—“
She made an aww noise, as if to indicate how sweet my concern was, then said, “No, I’m fine. Completely safe. In fact, I feel amazing—I think Lucas is looking out for me. Right now. Because I feel protected again, you know, how I told you that I feel like I’m being watched over? I felt it when Lucas came and saved me that night, I felt it when I looked at him at the police station, and I’m feeling it right now. I’ve even felt it when I’ve had bad dreams lately. It’s—it’s nice.”
A wave of relief crashed over me. “Good. Good,” I said, and looked over at Lucas gratefully. Just then, his facial expression began to sour. He gasped.
“Oh my God,” he and Anna said in unison. “There’s someone outside my house.”
My heart dropped. “It’s him, from that night,” they said, voices trembling. “But he’s—he can’t get to me, he’s trying but he can’t.” I asked them what they meant. “It’s like he’s walking against a wall,” they replied. “He’s on the sidewalk outside, I’m looking at him from my window, and he’s taking steps in my direction, but he isn’t getting any closer. I think something’s stopping him.”
A loud outburst from Lucas made me jump. “MOM! DAD!” I realized it was Anna, calling her parents. Through the phone, I heard them enter the room. “What? What is it?” A pause, then, “Oh my God.”
“Do they see him?” I asked frantically through the phone. Anna said they did, and I silently thanked God that my girlfriend wasn’t having a psychotic episode. I heard her dad calling the police and talking to the operator in a measured, authoritative tone.
“Yes, my name is Bruce Madsen. My daughter, Annabeth, was recently attacked by a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and gym shorts. A man fitting that description—I assume it’s the same man—is currently standing outside our house and, um, behaving erratically.” A pause. “An upstairs bedroom, watching him from the window.”
I listened to him direct his family away from the window. “We’re in the middle of the room now,” he told the operator. He recited his address, thanked the operator, then said, “Please hurry.”
Lucas, still asleep, looked worried, and there were dark bags under his eyes. He’d looked more tired every day since this all started. “It’s worse from over here,” he said along with Anna. “I wish we could see him.”
I stayed on the phone, but things were relatively quiet for a few minutes. Then I heard Anna’s mom say, “Someone’s at the door.” Bruce’s phone rang—the operator, telling him the knock was a police officer and that it was safe to open the door.
That was the last eventful thing to happen that night. When the officer arrived, nobody was standing outside the house. A patrol searched the area, but found no trace of him. The police have started driving by the house periodically, and they’ve gotten the word out about suspicious activity in the neighborhood.
Much of their effort over the last couple of weeks, though, has been focused on Lucas. Several psychologists and other various specialists have come by the house to speak with him, each visit more unproductive than the last. And he’s getting worse. Lots worse. He won’t eat, won’t speak, and the doctors say his body doesn’t look like it’s had a good night’s sleep in weeks. They’ve been cramming him full of vitamins, and they’ll probably have to start feeding him intravenously soon. All this, and nobody is any closer to figuring out what the hell is happening to him.
The nighttime episodes haven’t stopped, either, but they’re a lot more monotonous lately. Lying in the bunk above Lucas, I’ll frequently hear him whisper one word, over and over: “Arian.” I’m guessing on the spelling; that’s just what it sounds like. But it’s the strangest thing—on the one occasion I was actually looking at him while he said it, his lips didn’t move. Like at all. His mouth hung slightly open, and sound came out of it, but there was no motion in his tongue or jaw.
I suppose none of the sounds in “Arian” require much diction. But still, when I saw this happen, I had a mental image of a tiny man hiding in Lucas’s lung, angling his head upwards, and whispering—the sound coming from inside Lucas, but not actually from him. The idea freaked me out enough to keep me from watching it again.
Meanwhile, Anna is nearly inconsolable. Her bruises have almost healed, and she can walk comfortably again—but she’s out of her mind with fear. She has regular nightmares about being attacked. The man hasn’t appeared in over two weeks now, which you’d think would ease her mind, but it actually seems to have the opposite effect. She gets more paranoid by the minute. She finds that the sicker Lucas gets, the less she finds herself “feeling protected.”
She’s also found herself in strange places lately. “It’s like I’m being hijacked,” she said to me one day. Her kitchen, her backyard, her parents’ bedroom—she’ll go to sleep and wake up in one of these places, usually in the middle of the night, always with no recollection of how she got there.
That’s why, last night, while you were all reading Part 1 of Lucas’s story, she called me. “I’m scared,” she said. Below me, Lucas was (thank God) silent as she spoke. She told me she didn’t feel safe. She told me she wanted company. She asked me to come over and watch her. To make sure she didn’t go anywhere, I guess.
I snuck out of the house, something I’m rather practiced at, and drove the 3.6 miles to Anna’s. I didn’t want my car door to wake her parents up, so I parked down the street. Bad idea. The moon seemed to cackle at me, barely illuminating my surroundings enough for every shadow to look like a man in a hoodie and gym shorts, staring at me from behind the trees and bushes I passed. After what seemed like an age, I reached her front door and she quietly let me in.
We usually only sneak around at night to, you know, have sex, but there was none of that this time. Mostly just me hugging her while she tried to calm down. But eventually, she fell asleep, and I lay awake next to her, watching the steady rise and fall of her chest. When she started talking, I was almost exasperated. Not you too.
Anna was mumbling something into her pillow, over and over. Over and over. I couldn’t make it out until she turned onto her back. Then it came again, and it turned my blood to ice. “Hi, have we met?”
Her body tensed. Her face contorted. It was just a bad dream—wasn’t it? The moonlight from the window gleamed off the beads of sweat forming on her brow. I tried to wake her, but to no avail. Her voice became small and frightened. “No,” she whispered. “Please.” I hoped to God that in a bedroom 3.6 miles away, Lucas had once again said the same thing.
I was just about to call for her parents when her face relaxed. I wiped the sweat from her forehead. She slept soundly, soundlessly, for the rest of the night. She barely moved a muscle.
Lucas protected Anna last night, of that I feel sure. From what? I can’t imagine. But as I look at him right now, his bloodshot, exhausted eyes trained on the Teletubbies, I’m worried he won’t be able to protect her for much longer.