Award-Winning Short Story: Caught In Terror *Updated Version*
Updated: Jul 5, 2021
It's been a few years since this story was published and I thought it was fitting to make some updates and republish it here.
Caught in Terror
By Alyssa Casto
It used to be my favorite time of day, but he had taken that from me. That foul man had stolen so much from me in such a short amount of time. Two months ago, I was just a normal person with normal problems. Now, the morning sun brought on the war that I was forced to wage every single day.
As I took another sip of my freshly brewed coffee, I listened to the deafening silence that filled the inside of my tiny one bedroom apartment. Even though it was completely quiet in the complex just outside the city was already bustling as everyone got a start on their day.
I tried to dispel my worries and—for once—just enjoy the dawning of a new day. But a car door slammed on the street below my window, causing me to jump and let out a small strangled scream.
I was tired of living in a constant state of fear. I battled hard to calm my raw nerves.
I knew it would come any moment now, and I would have to face my demons yet again. It was the same routine every morning. I paced back and forth in the small space, slowly sipping on my coffee and refusing to eat anything until it was over—until I knew it was safe. Only to start it all over again the next morning.
The dreaded sound finally came. It was not heavy, but the sound was deafening to my sensitive ears.
My heart started raced, and my stomach bottomed out, before churning and clenching into a disgusting knot. If I had put anything but coffee in, I would have thrown it up.
Every morning, I told myself I would not rush to the front door. And yet, the need for self-preservation was always suppressed by the impulse to see if today was the day that he would finally track me down. My feet were firmly planted in my house slippers—hand on the knob. Before I even realized it, I had crossed the floor to the other side of the apartment and stood suspended in the doorway hanging half-way in, half-way out.
I stared down at the repulsive material. The paperboy had folded it and shoved it deep inside of the clear plastic sleeve before delivering. I steeled myself for what came next. Gathering my courage, I tightened the sash on my robe, stepped out onto the small porch and grabbed the outer edge of the plastic covered newspaper. I rushed back inside, holding the sealed end and gave it a quick shake to release it from its casing. It unwrapped on the table upon impact.
My heart was racing in my chest. I took another swig of coffee as I stared at the contrast of black letters against the bright paper. Knowing that I had to start getting ready for work soon, I took a deep breath and reached toward it with trembling fingers. When the tips of my fingers finally met the crisp surface of the paper, a new sense of urgency flooded my body, and I quickly flipped to the dreaded section and opened it wide, before leaning over it to scan the tiny print.
I mentally listed off the names down the column. I started to grow hopeful until I ran across one entry. My vision grew fuzzy as the letters bled together. I struggled to keep conscious as a void of blackness threatened to close in around me. I couldn’t breathe or even process what I was seeing.
There it was, on page A4, my name in bold print.
It must be someone else. I tried to reassuring myself. I held my breath, pouring over the rest of the Obituary. My hand flew to my mouth and tears began cascading down my cheeks. Even in hiding, he found me. I wondered at the lengths he had gone to find me again. The article listed my name, where I was born, my current employer, even my hobbies. But the biggest shocker was my surviving relatives. My parents and sister were listed alongside the towns where they lived.
I ran to the sink and threw up all of the coffee I had consumed. Dry heaves shook my body even after my stomach was empty.
He had found me. Worse still, he knew how to get to my family too.
My body collapsed, consumed by grief. I stayed like that for a long time—sobbing and letting my tears pour out over the cold linoleum floor. At some point, I must have fallen asleep, because when I opened my eyes and looked at the clock on the wall, the small hand had jumped by two hours.
A shrill ringing sound filled the kitchen, causing me to panic. I looked at the phone in terror—knowing if he had uncovered where my family lived, he could have easily found my new phone number.
After the third ring, I stumbled toward the cordless phone resting on the counter, checked the Caller ID, and quickly accepted the call.
“Paige?” The relief I felt hearing my mother’s gentle voice was like a beacon of hope, but not enough to dispel my trepidation that he was still out there looking for me. When I did not respond right away, she became anxious. “Paige, are you there? Paige—” With each passing moment I remained silent, I could hear her grow more anxious.
I struggled hard to force words out of my mouth. When my voice finally broke free, I sobbed out to her. “Mom—”
“What’s the matter, sweetheart?” I could hear my terror reflected back in her voice.
“Mommy, he found me—” My throat locked up midsentence. He was surely going to come for me again. Except for this time, he would finish the job. My body went limp and slid to the floor. The phone fell from my lifeless fingers and careened across the ground.
“Paige. Paige! Stay right there. I’m calling the cops now. I’ll be right there—”
The line went dead.
The need to hear my mother’s comforting voice again drew me out of my stupor enough to reach for the receiver. As I began to dial with quivering fingers, the phone rang, and I immediately answered. “Mom?”
"Hello, Paige.” The drawl of his evil voice caused sent shivers down my spine. Here is the voice that keeps me up late at night. When I did manage to get to sleep, it haunted my dreams. This voice was the voice of the man that held me prisoner, tortured me, and eventually intended to kill me. I had only barely escaped. And now—
“It’s been too long…”