The next time I saw her, I called out, “Dara.”
It was my second journey around the circle, and I started to lose hope when she appeared in front of me like a spider floating down woven silk.
“What do you want?” she whispered, her eyes glowing a bloodshot red. It was the first time I saw her motionless. She looked smaller than I expected.
“I…I just want to make sure you’re okay,” I said, feeling short of breath.
“I’m fine,” she said, resuming her pace.
“No, wait. I hit you,” I said.
“That’s what this is about?”
“What else would it be about?” I grabbed her fragile frame and peered into glaring eyes, her skin powdered with purplish flecks. At that moment, she seemed ageless like a manic pixie dream girl. I questioned not whether she had a husband, but if she had graduated from high school, astonished how I could have misjudged her.
She turned on her heel then.
“You don’t have to be such a bitch,” I whispered under my breath.
She flipped me off, the rhythm of her step unaffected.
I watched her until she diminished to a dark smudge, still not convinced she could vanish at will. I dismissed any obligation to her at that point. I hit her, she was fine, she walked like she always had. Like before, I slowly began to not see her.
Weeks later, my concern for her creeped back as I waited behind her at the grocery store. There she stood in her hooded cape, her face entombed in folds of fabric. The couple between us discussed their ice cream choice.
She set her red basket of grocery items on the belt for checkout, not bothering to take them out. I could see crackers, tampons, toothpaste, among other things. I felt guilty for snooping; her contents were between her and the shop clerk, who barely registered she was there at all.
“That comes to $22.18,” he stated to the black vision before him.
“Oh, I, uh…” she trailed off and wandered out of the store.
“Dara,” I called to her.
She glided out the automatic doors without looking back. I bought her groceries after the ice cream couple. Taking a closer look at her purchases, my prying eyes noted a possible taboo item: a pregnancy test. I ran out into the darkness of the parking lot, shouting her name, not knowing if she walked or drove. I had never seen her in a car.
“Dara. Dara,” again to the emptiness.
I searched cars for movement hunching in the shadows. I reasserted my stalker identity, peering down each row of cars. I finally gave up and drove, her small frame undetected along my route.
Ivan rifled through the brown bags of groceries when I plunked them down on the counter, moving too quickly before I could stop him from sampling the bags.
“What do we have here?” he asked, waving the pregnancy test in my face. “Something you’re not telling me?”
“Oh, no, no. It’s not mine. It’s Dara’s,” I said, hoping to quell him.
“Who?” His eyes widened at the mention of her name.
“Dara. The one who walks, you know, I…”
“Can’t you just let things go? Are you still trying to talk to her?” he laid into me.
“No. It’s not that. I was trying to help. She couldn’t pay for groceries,” I said.
“Do you have to get involved in everyone’s problems?” he slammed the pregnancy test on the counter, and then one by one threw Dara’s groceries across the floor, a cacophony of cracks and thuds, the shattering of the cranberry juice signalling the final blow.
“Mind your own business,” he said, slamming the door.
I stood amidst a sea of glass and red liquid spattered at every angle. My cell phone rang and I jumped. As I crossed the floor to retrieve it, glass crackled beneath my shoes.
“Don’t let him find me,” said a muffled voice.
“Who is this? Dara? Where…” I had never given Dara my number, but I knew it was her.
For hours I drove in circles until a thick fog descended, rendering my search worthless. As I opened the front door to my house, the darkness engulfed me and I stumbled to the couch. I fell into a restless sleep, a stabbing pain clenching my stomach. A tightness engulfed my neck, fleshy tendrils pressing, pulsing, choking on fragments of air, shorter and deeper until there was nothing but a dark stillness.
A burst of coldness and wetness on my face, I returned from the abyss, panting. Dara sat across from me, shrouded in her black hood, a translucence glowing from within.
“What happened Dara?”
She clasped my hand and guided me outside, rain pelting my face, until we approached a muddy ravine, outfitted with mangled tree roots. Ivan trampled waist deep in water, his foot caught between two branches, splitting his skin each time he moved. Behind sheets of rain, I heard his cries with disdainful reverence.
He reached toward me, “Take my hand.”
I watched him writhe in pain, and then moved toward him. Dara swooped between us, hurling herself at Ivan. Their bodies twisted into into a shapeless mass, convulsing and sinking into the watery depths.
The marks on my neck, revealed to me by a first responder, vindicated me from any wrong doing. The purplish imprints upon my flesh remained far too long, a reminder of my husband’s weakness and that I, perhaps, had defeated a monster. Dara hovered in the shadows throughout my pregnancy to reassure me that I had. The life inside of me kicked eagerly, willing herself out before her time.
It was no surprise that she did everything early, including walking.
Photo Credit: The Nick Page, Flickr Creative Commons