illustrations by ana carolina maciel
No one knows what to expect when going through a divorce. There is the financial burden, custody of the kids, and the question, “Who is going to get what?” Not to mention you are losing someone you thought you were going to spend your entire life with.
Cassie sat at her kitchen table. She had one hand pressed against her forehead, leaning into it, and the other gripped around a piping hot mug of coffee.
“I have never experienced this type of loneliness, mom. Especially anymore than how James made me feel. Thank you again for staying with me”. Cassie said to her mom, Ruth.
Cassie and James had been living together in a small town near West Texas. The type where everyone knows your business. The population is about 3,000 people. A couple of fast food chains sprinkled along the main drag of the town. The town is surrounded by cotton farms, as you can imagine it is flat and dusty, all the time. Cassie and James’ house is about two miles outside. Not too close where everyone is in your business, but just close enough that it is only a ten-minute trip to the grocery store. The house is on a bit of land with a barn that has been passed down through Cassie’s family. Therefore, it made sense that Cassie would get to keep the house in the divorce. Cassie worked as an administrative assistant at her father’s company with James. She continued to work there without him after the divorce. She dealt with all the company’s expenses, and payroll, so she was more of a treasurer at this point. The best part about working for the family’s business is that the office was located on her land, so she started her mornings by walking to work.
The cozy three-bedroom farmhouse was originally owned by her father’s current wife, her stepmother, Linda. For years the family had a sneaking suspicion that the house was haunted, especially young Cassie.
The kitchen table at which she sat every morning overlooked her dining room and its beautiful, enormous, cherry wood table. The dining room flowed towards the living room filled with her matching furniture. There were two beautiful white French doors that lead to the back yard. While they were married James put up a chain link fence to keep their dog Callie enclosed, and to keep the coyotes out.
Past the back yard, a few feet from the gravel driveway stood a tin barn. It was fairly big with two awnings hanging off the sides. One side enclosed their travel trailer, while the other was consumed with old tires and farm equipment. Cassie set up the trailer as a playhouse for her nephew Destin, who visited a lot after the divorce. The rest of the barn was filled with random things James and Cassie collected over the years. Mostly old furniture, lawnmower parts and what was thought to be Linda’s haunted heirlooms. Things they did not want in the house but were not quite ready to throw away either. Not to mention it was loaded with memories of her nieces and nephews enjoying their childhood there. Fourth of July parties always took place under one of the awnings. It all seemed so distant to Cassie now. As times are changing with the divorce and all the children are now young adults.
“Baby Girl, why don’t I just stay with you tonight?” Ruth said.
“Oh, mom that would be amazing.” Cassie replied.
“Say no more, honey. Let me just run home to grab myself a fan. You know momma can’t sleep without one” Ruth concluded.
“I’m pretty sure we have a couple of box fans out in the barn.”
Ruth and Cassie walked down the gravel towards the barn; Ruth was admiring the travel trailer remembering the weekend before when her grandson Destin was there. The sunlight shining through the windows, Cassie realized she had opened all the curtains when she set it up.
They finally made it inside the barn. After a bit of rummaging around, they found the beloved fan. As Cassie locked up the barn, Ruth notices the trailer again. This time however, every curtain to the windows were closed. Ruth’s heart sank. She became terrified because they were in the middle of nowhere, with no one around for miles.
Ruth turned to Cassie and sternly whispered, “Cassie, Run.” They both took off sprinting for their lives back towards the house. Both made it inside. They separated locking all of the doors and immediately calling the Sheriff’s department. While Cassie was on the phone, she ran into the laundry room. It had a window that looked directly towards the barn. What happened next sent a shudder through her body so bad that she went completely numb.
She saw the trailer door swing open and a man emerge from within. She knew the police were on their way, but she was unsure if they would make it in time. She feared for her life unknowing whether this man would decide to attack. Suddenly the man disappeared into the now darkness.
The Sheriffs Department arrived and did a search throughout the entire property. No one to be found.
“I understand your concern ma’am. We will have officers patrol your land. That way you feel safe. If we find anything else, we will be sure to notify you immediately.” The sheriff reassured Cassie.
Officers patrolled her land for about a week, but nothing out of the usual turned up. Everything seemed to go back to normal. Cassie was still trying to get through the divorce, but now that this was over it was one less thing for her to worry about.
It was around 6:00a.m. on a crisp October morning. Cassie was sitting at her kitchen table like she did every morning. Sipping her coffee and doing her crossword puzzle. Her dog was sitting at the open back doors enjoying the morning breeze. The sun wasn’t even up yet.
Suddenly, Cassie’s dog started barking and growling. She looked up from her crossword, “Quiet down Callie!’ She went back to her coffee and crossword then she heard the gate to the backyard squeak open. When she looked back up there was a silhouette of a man in the doorway. He was about six-foot-tall and wearing a ski mask and gloves. Standing there breathing silently, with the terror she began to feel in her soul, it was like she could hear every breath he took. His eyes peaking out of the two holes of the mask, staring right into her soul. She knew this was the man that had lingered her property. She knew this was the man that learned her morning routine. This man knew when she awoke, when she turned in for the night. He knew when she had company and when she would be alone. He had planned this from the beginning. He was patient, like a hunter waiting for the perfect moment to strike its prey. All of this ran through her head in a matter of seconds. Cassie knew, she needed to run. Not like before when she ran out of fear from the unknown, but now out of the fear of the known. She could see it in those eyes of his, through the mask he was about to take everything she had.
Cassie jumped up headed into the kitchen to grab a knife for protection, but she was not quick enough. When she turned her back the man had darted towards her. Wrapping her hair in his hands. Slamming her into the kitchen cabinets. He slammed her so hard that she became momentarily unconscious. The ringing in her ears and the blurry whirlwind of trying to fathom what was happening to her sent her into survival mode. The man was standing over her in the kitchen and she did what anyone would have done in that situation. She kicked him as hard as she could. Right in the groin. Just like her mother had always told her to as a child. The kick, although startling him, did not affect him. It was just enough to buy her some time to leave from the kitchen in pursuit of her bedroom where she knew the home phone was. Cassie ran for her life down what seemed to be a mile-long hallway. As she entered the room, she turned to lock the door, but he was there. Placing himself between the wood that kept the door closed so many sleepless nights before. With a push of his arm he slammed the door back open and all of the nightmares from before, hauntingly became her reality.
The man had her pinned down on her floor. She could feel everything while he was taking the worst part of her he could. She could smell her carpet. A fresh, but warm scent that reminded her of the deep cleaning she had just done days previously. She felt the rough outdated bristles rubbing every inch of her spine with every stroke he made. She would seldom get a hand loose to slap or scratch his face. She used every ounce of energy she had left within her, every ounce of fight she had, but it was not enough. He was stronger, bigger, and much, much too experienced in this exchange. He then continued to slam her in and out of consciousness by punching her and wielding her head into the roughness of the carpet as if they were to become one. At this point her almost lifeless eyes could make out, through the blood, was just a figure and a hope that this would all just end. She felt the tight grip on her legs loosen, and the back of her knees rested against the grain of a floor that had once been covered in carpet. Almost too weak, and definitely too afraid to open her eyes Cassie took everything she had to peel open the lid of her left eye to find that the figure had disappeared form her frame of vision.
She then felt something wrap around her neck, it was rough and from what she could feel very durable. This monster had tied a pre-made noose around her neck. She began to feel the pressure of it cutting off her circulation as he picked her up and threw her back down on her stomach. She could feel the pulse in her neck pound against the rope. He wasn’t finished. The nightmare continued as he was planning her death. He sodomized her and with each thrust he pulled the noose back leaving her alive just long enough to fulfill his fucked-up fantasy before leaving her for dead. Like she was nothing. A piece of trash used and thrown away. Her world went dark. She lost consciousness for what seemed like for good. It was finally over.
The man left Cassie for dead. He took her money and some other valuables, but that was not the worst thing he had taken that morning. He thought she was dead after he finished his break in. He was proud of the work he had done and went on about his way.
Ruth started to worry by 9:00a.m. that morning.
“Surly she would have at least called by now.” Ruth mumbled to herself. Ruth was the first to arrive at the office every morning. However, Cassie was always close behind.
She picked up her phone and called Cassie, no answer. She tried again, still no answer.
“That’s it, I’m going over there.” Ruth stated.
About 7 minutes later Ruth arrived at her daughter’s house. As she approached the house she was overcome with nervousness because Cassie’s car was still in the driveway, so she wondered if she was home why had she not answered. She should have been at work by now. Immediately, Ruth remembered the man from the trailer. That feeling is something that a mother should never have to feel. She walked up and noticed the back gate open. Callie was outside by the fence barking.
She entered the house through the still open back doors. Cassie was nowhere to be found.
“Cassie, Cassie!’ Ruth cried desperately. No answer.
Finally, she turned to see what did not even look like Cassie crawling out of her bedroom, beaten and unable to speak. Ruth ran up to her and held her in her arms. Cassie just collapsed there, unconscious.
The ambulance arrived and they were rushed to the hospital. The only familiar thing remaining in the house was the smell of freshly cleaned carpet, and a now cold mug of coffee.
Trish Dellinger, is currently attending Texas Tech University