I feel her everywhere.
She is the shadow at the end of every hallway. The eyes staring at me from the darkness. The black figure I catch in corner of my vision. The chill that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand. She is never in front of me, always behind. Always watching.
She came like death–suddenly and absolutely. I will always remember that day.
The months leading up to it had been difficult. Many hands had reached inside of me and rearranged my bones, my organs, my chemicals. I couldn’t even recognize myself anymore. This loss of control and the shattering of my identity had me clawing through the dark. That’s where she found me.
I first saw her in the bathroom mirror. She stood behind me as a corpse–pale, sullen, dressed in black. Her eyes, cold and empty. She didn’t move, didn’t blink, didn’t speak. She just stared.
Terror crushed my throat, killing the scream before it had the chance to tear out of my mouth. I turned around, hoping she was a hallucination and that she existed only in the mirror’s reflection. Instead, she stood there as real as me–maybe more so. We locked eyes. I felt like prey.
Thinking that I had to be dreaming, I lifted my shaking hand to touch her. In a snap, she grabbed my wrist. My bones ached under her crushing grip. I ripped my hand away, but the chill of her touch clung to me the whole day.
That night when I retreated into bed with her eyes on me, I had to face the truth. She was no hallucination. No, she was the ghost of someone I thought they’d killed long ago.
From then on she became my ball and chain. Saying nothing. Doing nothing. Only watched. Always watching. Always making sure I never forgot her memory.
It was a nightmare in the beginning, but then we sunk into familiarity. There were even days–weeks sometimes, months sometimes–where I wouldn’t see her at all. But she always came back. Sometimes with violence. The marks on my neck where her hands had been, the black ink spilling from my chest, the blood smeared across my hands, dripping down my arms… nobody questioned any of it. Maybe they couldn’t see. Maybe it wasn’t real.
For a while, I thought the only person who existed in her universe was me. I was wrong.
One day I grabbed his wrist, looked over my shoulder, and asked, “Do you see her?”
The color drain from his face. “Oh, no ma’am. You can’t just stare down the hallway then say some ominous shit like that.”
“There’s no one there?”
“Okay, really, you’re scaring me–”
I let go of him and smiled.
If he couldn’t see her, he didn’t need to know. I turned away–but the very moment I did, I felt a rush of wind and a freezing chill on my back. It was her, and she was close enough to breathe down my neck.
Something happened–a sharp departure from the decades-long pattern. She was looking at him. I think all the air left my lungs in a single gasp.
I’d never seen her turn her head before. I’d never even seen her eyes leave me. Before, those eyes had always been empty. Right then, they burned with ravenous hatred. All for him. I cut the light because in the dark I was safe. In the dark, I couldn’t see her eyes.
Over time I have remembered that of everyone she despises, she hates him the most. She wishes I would too. I won’t. Of all the things I let her take from me, I won’t give her that. After that night in the hall, I make sure she understands this. Whenever I’m with him I meet her caustic glare with hardened eyes. It taunts her, goads her into anger and violence. I welcome it, because I fight back.
But no matter how hard I fight, I have never been able to bury her.
She was a very bad person who got what she deserved. But it wasn’t enough. They wanted to take more from her, so she was sentenced to be forever haunted by the sins of her past and by the ugliness of who she once was. There is only one way out, and that is to offer one final act of repentance; to break the curse, she must admit to deserving it.
But that is why she will never be free. No matter what she does, she will never be sorry enough.
I know this because I am her.
My demon will outlast me, living forever through the pages of history books, through monuments, through nightmares.
My one fear is that when I die they will look upon my epitaph in search of something good but she will be all they can see.