After my last post about the stalker—AKA Gooseberry— a lot of you asked whether I’d ever called the police. The answer is yes– I’d called them three times since everything began. One week later, I called them again.
It was Tuesday evening and Sars was in class. Technically, I was also in that class but college rendered me gloriously truant. We hadn’t changed the locks since the week before, because we’d already done so twice. It felt useless. Instead, we just pushed furniture in front of our doors when we slept at night, and talked in whispers because it seemed like he was always listening.
I was sitting on my bed with my new laptop in front of me, trying to recreate the writing I’d lost when Gooseberry stole my computer. The house was quiet and the sun had been down for several hours.
Out of nowhere, the house alarm began wailing.
I responded immediately, but there was a split-second of complete calm– almost resignation. I shut my laptop, set it to the side, and could only think one thing.
“This is it.”
He had finally come to kill me.
I locked my bedroom door and grabbed a huge knife I’d bought in Juarez, Mexico when I was 14. I flipped off the lights and darted into the attached bathroom, crouching just inside the doorway.
The alarm continued to sound. It was deafening. There was no way I’d be able to hear him trying to open the door until he’d already kicked it in. I watched the sliver of light from the doorway, knowing his eyes would have to adjust to the darkness in my room. It would give me a split second of advantage, and in that split second I would lunge to a standing position and put the full force of my body behind the knife.
I was 20 years old and ready to kill whoever walked through that door. I felt strangely calm, as though it all made perfect sense that this was what it had all been leading up to. But if someone had to die that night, it wasn’t going to be me.
At least a minute had passed. He was taking his time, so I flipped open my phone and dialed 911.
“Someone’s inside my house,” I whispered.
The dispatcher pulled up my address and told me they were already on the phone with my alarm company.
“It’s your back door,” she said.
“I know,” I answered, “It’s the only one that doesn’t give a warning beep.”
She paused for a moment.
“Do you want us to send someone out?”
“Yes,” I whispered. “Please. Tell them to hurry.”
I could hear the sound of voices talking in the background, and a woman laughing.
“Okay,” the dispatcher responded, “I’ve got two officers en route to your location, do you want me to stay on the line with you?”
I was crouched in the dark, holding a bowie knife and telling myself it was okay to kill someone. Yes, I wanted her to stay on the line.
“Okay,” she said. “But these things go off all the time by themselves, I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“No,” I said. “This is just one small part of a big thing. A lot has been happening, it’s been going on for months.”
“Mmmhmmm,” she said.
“I know it sounds crazy,” I began, but stopped. I could hear another voice in the room talking about a local ice cream place, and asking whether the dispatcher wanted anything. The room erupted in laughter as they all talked about how amazing some flavor was.
Meanwhile, my alarm was still screaming. Five minutes had passed.
I kept waiting for the door to fly open, for the moment when the tension in my body would propel me forward. Meanwhile, the dispatcher continued to talk about food with her coworkers. Every few minutes she’d tell me the officers were closer, and ask if I still wanted her on the line.
Suddenly the alarm stopped. The house was dead quiet.
“It probably just does that after 20 minutes,” she offered in explanation.
It had been 20 minutes.
I listened for the sound of footsteps. I waited to hear my doorknob turn, to hear the sound of thin wood splintering with a single kick.
“Okay, the officers are at your house, they’re looking around.”
It still seemed so quiet, it was hard to imagine the police were there. I strained my ears, almost convincing myself I could hear their radios crackling.
“They checked your backyard and everything looks good. I need you to go to the front door and let them in.”
My calm vanished. She wanted me to come out from where I was hiding? The back door had been open for 30 minutes. That was half an hour in which Gooseberry could have hidden anywhere. My bedroom was at the back of the house, with a long hallway of doors I’d have to walk past.
“Can’t they come in through the door that’s open?” I asked.
“No, you have to let them in.”
I crept to my bedroom door and listened. Once I opened it, I sprinted to the front of the house. In the corner of my eye I could see the back door standing open. I threw the knife onto the kitchen counter before throwing the front door open.
Two officers stood on the porch, a man and a woman. They were both young, less than 10 years older than me.
“Everything okay?” the male officer asked.
I launched into an explanation of everything that’d just happened. They sauntered across the living room and looked at the back door.
“Well, it looks like this is the door that set the alarm off.”
“But nothing’s missing?” the female officer asked.
I began trying to explain what had been going on over the last several months. I told them they could confirm by looking up the other time’s we’d called, and the police report I’d made at the beginning. They nodded casually, making it quite clear they had no intention of doing so.
“Are you sure you didn’t just leave it unlocked, and the wind blew it open?”
I showed them how it was a deadbolt that could only be locked with a key. I told them there was no way to set the alarm without the deadbolt being shut.
“Do you have a roommate? Maybe she came home and forgot about the alarm.”
I could hardly handle what I was hearing. In the least sarcastic way possible I explained that no, my roommate didn’t come home, climb the fence into the backyard, and unlock the one door that automatically sets off the alarm, before mysteriously vanishing.
“And look,” I said. “The motion light isn’t working.”
They shined their flashlights at it, as though this would somehow make me feel better.
“Well it’s been really windy tonight,” he said again.
I told them about the week before, when the front door had been opened in the morning. They looked at me like I was insane.
“Well, feel free to give us a call anytime you need us to check things out,” the woman said. “We don’t mind dropping by if you get scared.”
They made their way back to the front door.
“Aren’t you going to file a police report?” I asked, suddenly feeling desperate.
“There’s nothing to report,” he said. “It’s been a really windy night. But you can always call us to come take a look.”
And with that, they were gone. I stood in the kitchen, leaning against the counter. The cops hadn’t gone past the living room. It was possible that Gooseberry was hiding somewhere inside the house. I picked up the knife and went from room to room, looking in closets and behind shower curtains. An hour later, Sars came home from class.
We spent that night at Peeves house, where she’d moved across town. I didn’t sleep a single minute. I kept feeling myself crouched in that bathroom, waiting. Something happened in that moment. For years, I’d felt afraid of all sorts of things, but I’d never felt a paralyzing terror for my life. A part of me was broken in a way that I’d never be able to come back from—but he hadn’t even come into the house. It was still just a game to him, but he’d changed the rules. It was time for me to play along.
Have you ever feared for your life? Do you ever feel like people don’t believe something important you’re trying to tell them? What is the most terrifying thing you’ve ever experienced?
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