The next morning, Mandy readied herself for work, popping in her mouth one of her medications and downing a cup of black coffee along with it. She gave Sam a call to ask him for a ride and he gladly obliged, even though Mandy couldn’t get rid of the sense of being a burden.
The two of them made it to work on time, Sam talking most of the way about the power outage the night before and how scared his cat was. Mandy listened quietly as usual, never saying more than she had too.
Work at the office of iAndroid was the same. Mandy sat inside her cubicle a couple paces away from Sam’s cubicle amongst a long line of many identical cubicles, bleakly watching her computer screen flash in front of her. Nothing was more mundane than this. And it couldn’t get any worse as far as Mandy was concerned.
Within the room, Mandy could hear two women and a man burst into laughter suddenly. This made Mandy jump out of her stupor and distract her away from her computer.
“What’s going on?” Mandy heard the woman directly across from her say.
“Just another prank,” a man’s voice answered. Mandy couldn’t see who it was.
“Oh, shit,” Mandy heard another say.
In one of those unexplainable moments, Mandy had the sudden urge to duck. In that instant, a baseball came flying right over her head, smashing against her computer. The computer fell backwards and off the desk, crashing in a fit of sparks onto the floor, the ball rolling passed it.
Before Mandy could respond, the entire room was in an uproar, people running towards her cubicle, bombarding her with concerned looks and questions, none of which Mandy could make out yet. She kept repeating “I’m fine” over and over until Sam pushed his way through to her side.
“What happened?” said an incredibly stern voice. Mandy looked up and saw Ms. Williamson standing very taught in her blue suit and looking very unhappy.
Everyone skirted back into their personal cubicles, afraid to suddenly be involved. Ms. Williamson didn’t move a muscle, but her eyes shifted from Mandy to the computer and to everyone else in the room until finally someone gave themselves up as the culprit.
“Sorry,” Mandy heard a woman’s voice say as Ms. Williamson disappeared around the cubicle’s corner to deal with whoever that was.
Mandy unraveled herself from her crouched position and looked at her smashed computer. For some reason she thought of the smashed front end of her car at that moment. And still she felt nothing, not even a twinge of anger.
“Nice instincts,” Sam said to her, breaking Mandy’s rumination.
“Thanks,” she murmured, not even giving it a second thought.
The rest of the day at work passed uneventfully. By the time Mandy was given a new computer, it was time to clock out. Sam and Mandy walked out to the parking lot, Sam rambling on about Mandy’s incident and Mandy listening intently as usual. They were crossing through the parked cars when suddenly Mandy grabbed Sam’s arm and pulled him back quickly, as though something was to hit him.
But nothing happened. Sam was surprised by her sudden urgency and looked down at her contorted expression. She wasn’t looking at him, but her grip on his arm was surprisingly tense.
“Hey, what’s going on with you?” he asked, gently loosening her grip with his free hand.
For a moment, Mandy was confused. Her instinct was to pull Sam back from something she thought she saw…or felt…or saw out of the corner of her eye, an impeding collision.
But nothing had happened.
Mandy relaxed then, realizing it was nothing, and her sudden anxiety faded back into the black hole inside.
“Did you hear me?” Sam said.
Mandy looked at him then and smiled. “Yes, sorry. I guess I’m a little jumpy from yesterday’s accident.”
Sam nodded understandingly, but his hazel eyes expressed worry. He drove her home and asked if she wanted some company again, and again she declined. She entered her apartment and took out the leftover Chinese food she had in her fridge. Sticking it in the microwave, she marveled at the unfortunate occurrence earlier that day. Waiting on her food, she remembered the fortune cookie she had the night before.
Use your instincts now, it said.
Mandy frowned, glancing over at her trash can. Without giving another thought, she moved towards the can, reached inside and pulled out the thin piece of paper.
“Use your instincts now,” she read out loud again. Then suddenly she felt herself twitch out of the way as though something was about to fly at her head, but there was nothing in the kitchen but her. The microwave beeped, signaling the food being ready, scaring Mandy nearly out of her skin.
“I am ridiculous,” she murmured to herself, tossing the fortune aside and grabbing her food out of the microwave. In ten minutes she finished all of her dinner and readied for bed. She hated this part. Sleep scared her the most. She had bad dreams—or good dreams, but it depended on whether she thought the dreams were apart of reality or not. The hole inside of her grew. This always seemed to happen around this time, after dinner.
Mandy made her way from the bedroom to the kitchen again and grabbed a butch knife from on top the counter, then swiftly went into her small bathroom and sat on the toilet. Lifting up her pajama leg, she dragged the knife quickly and forcefully against the inside of her left leg. She did about ten strokes until enough blood was able to seep out of her skin. Mandy watched in a strange hypnotic state; the blood bubbled from the gashes, trickled down her calf, sometimes catching on tiny hairs that were missed by the razor, until the trails hit the back of her heel.
Then, as though out of habit, Mandy grabbed a tissue and wiped her leg clean, gently layering clear anti-bacterial cream over the cuts. She placed the knife back in the kitchen sink, after rinsing its sides off, turned off all the lights, and went into her room.
It smelled of lavender and vanilla spices, something that was supposed to calm her, but seemed only to annoy her. Mandy hated the smell of vanilla and lavender, and especially when together. After swallowing two pills, one being a sleeping agent, the other being a prescription from her psychiatrist, she climbed into her modestly sized bed. Laying there waiting for the sleeping pill to kick in, she listened to the continuous hum of the traffic outside and hoped her mind wouldn’t begin to wander before she feel asleep. Mandy couldn’t stand to be left alone with her thoughts. So she focused her energy on listening to the outside vibrations and waited…
All the while something tugging at her concentration…
The sun came blaring into her window, warming her bedroom up about 5 degrees hotter than she preferred, and Mandy was all-too aware of the body nestled right beside her—right behind her!—an arm, a leg—all entwined and wrapped around her. For a second, she thought it might have been Sam, but she quickly dismissed the idea away. Sam knew she didn’t feel that way about him and he certainly wouldn’t sneak into her apartment in the middle of the night while she was out cold!
The hand moved, warm and big—bigger than Sam’s, she noticed—and traveled up her night-shirt. Mandy froze, not knowing what to expect, her green eyes wide in fear.
“Don’t move,” the man’s voice whispered. It was deeper than Sam’s and somehow oddly familiar, but she couldn’t place it. And it didn’t matter at this point; she was too frightened to move or think, her frail body starting to shudder. Use your instincts, she thought. Use them now!