I’ve always remembered feeling paranoid, even as a child. As if something was always at my back, waiting for me to stop paying attention. As if a deep darkness followed me, closer than my shadow. Tonight was no exception. I went to take my dog out around the neighborhood. It’s about eleven, and the route is around a block directly in front of my house. As per usual, I put the leash on her collar and made my way, being wary about her distance from the road. It was late, and I’d grown accustomed to keeping her on the sidewalk when possible. By the time we reached the other side of the block, she felt it was time to do her business, so I just stared around. My paranoia was working on me again, making sure I knew what everything around me looks like so I could feel safe. There was only one street lamp nearby (the only other sources were lightly lit windows), which conveniently turned itself on or off once or twice a night. No explanation, no pattern, it just acted like a motion sensor that was on the fritz. Now, whenever I pass by there, I become a bit flighty and drudgingly breeze past it all.
Anyways, my dog is going about her business. At this time, she is practically immovable. Even if I were to pull hard enough, her position would stay the same. Without warning, she flits away from where she’s been affixed, running away from our path and past a tree. My heart stilled itself as I checked my surroundings over and over, wondering what scared her. I walk closer to the tree to unravel the leash. Just as I pass the leash to my other hand, an eeriely audible sound made itself present.
Chills run up my spine. I tugged on that leash with an unnatural lack of compassion for my dog. My shoulders haunched close, as if I needed to protect my frantic heart from being taken. My dog took off running, so I turned around to cover more area with vision. The street lamp shut off. I lost it.
I can’t bear this feeling of dread much longer. I’m not going to sleep. I’ve always fallen asleep with my back to the wall. Somehow, I’ve managed to wake up every morning on the other side of my bed, back bare and cold. I’m not going to let it happen again. I’m chuckling as I write this and shake nervously. Chills are jolting up my spine with what I can only describe as an attempt on my life. This fear has me paralyzed. I can only sit at my desk and write. My dog is sitting patiently on my lap, softly growly at me.
Know this. I did not drop my keys trying to get into the house. I did not release my dog from her leash. Nothing has happened to me. I’m not insane.
As I write this, I know that the paranoia is killing me, but I swear — that will be the only thing to worry about tonight, unless I turn around.