I wouldn’t put it past her to turn the phone off on purpose to elaborately stage this scene.
Me, standing in my underwear at 3am on a work night, half asleep staring at a girl and a puppy on a webcam.
I waved goodnight, and she kissed the lens of the webcam and pulled away.
I reached up and pulled open my apartment door, and stumbled across the threshold, extending half of my body into the common hallway so I wouldn’t feel so alone.
The images coming across my monitor began to shake violently. I wished for a panic attack to take my consciousness and end this nightmare, but it didn’t come. “You have one new voicemail.” My hand trembled as I dialed my voicemail and entered my passcode.
As the shadow moved closer small streams of gray liquid rolled towards the lens. I remembered those hateful eyes and I lost control of my bladder as it slowly begin to tilt its head up. In panic I slammed my laptop shut and threw it against the hard tile floor before collapsing to the ground. Out of the corner of my eye I saw blue flashing light on my cell phone.
She explained to me that being in the house alone without her Dad was emotional and may be playing tricks on her. She told me that being able to see me on her webcam was the closest thing she had to family, and asked that I promise to never turn off the webcam. Sudden, extreme stress has given me panic attacks and black outs a few times before. As frightened and confused as I was, relief at her safety gave me a sense of comfort as I desperately tried to process what had happened. Maybe I slipped and fell on the slick tile floor, and it all had been a nightmare.
She meant the world to me, so I was happy to oblige. I had a ringing in my ears and a knot on the back of my head. I had never felt such fear when what had happened came rushing back and I nearly had a second panic attack when my thoughts turned to Linh. It took me several moments to summon the courage the look in the direction of my laptop.
Vietnamese culture and religion was something foreign to me, and at various points Linh had mentioned things like this that I normally wrote off as just being a little silly. “HE WANTS TO EAT YOUR SKIN.” The line disconnected. I noticed the bottle of wine still open on the kitchen counter and drank most of it down in a single swallow. I crawled to the panel of switches a few feet up on the wall and turned on every light that I could. The message was time stamped, and was from the missed call I had from Linh before passing out. She was in tears and frightened as though I had never heard her before. She would come to see me every three weeks under the guise of a prestigious internship program.
Being in a long distance relationship, we spoke on the phone and texted constantly.
Linh’s cousin was getting married in Portland, and as fate would have it, the wedding reception was held at an upscale hotel on the Columbia River where I frequently tended to small wine and beer bars. LINH CAN YOU HEAR ME YOU NEED TO…” A burst of loud static forced my phone reflexively away from my ear. She was speaking, but a second, deeper voice echoed hers in perfect unison.