All the People

Cara Thereon's kitten sipping milk from her finger

Something scary/sexy (?) I’m working on for Camp NaNo and A to Z. As with normal NaNo, I’ll be doing week long stories all month that may be moved to my other site if they continue. Please note, if you’re at all anxious about what’s going on of late, skipping this story may be for the best.

“How did you do today, Rachel?”

Her therapists face was kind, as always, but she found it difficult to look at her. She’d been trying not to think about earlier for hours, but the anxiety still crawled like ants under her skin.

“Rachel?” Her therapists voice seemed like it came from a distance. “Rachel, do you want to talk about it?”

The text alert was Rachel’s only preparation. Delivery today popping up in a bubble was enough make her heart race. She’d known this particular packaage was due any day and had tried to mentally prepare, but the notification still set her off. She rose from her place by the window and reached for one of the disinfectant wipes she kept around the house. There was nothing to clean, the house neat as a pin, but she took out four wipes from the dispenser and began cleaning anyway.

She was wiping down the counter when the doorbell rang. The wipe dropped from her fingers as she stared down the doorway that led from the kitchen to the living room. Rachel needed to answer it, needed the package as it contained not only materials for her newest job, but important documents from her company. It required a signature.

It required her to open the door.

The sound of knuckles rapping on the wood reached her where she stood frozen. She’d thought she was getting better. That the fear of ‘out there’ was diminishing, but every knock at the door reminded her she was nowhere close to recovered.

The bell rang one more time and Rachel knew she had to act. Grabbing an extra wipe from the dispenser, she scurried to the door. She felt faint as she gripped the knob and pulled it open. The smell of grass hit her the moment she cracked the door, grass and the voices of people going about their lives. Working up some courage, she opened it more just as the brown clothed man was halfway down the walkway back to his van.

“Excuse me.” She couldn’t keep the tremble out of her voice. “Excuse me, I’m home.”

The guy turned back, a large box tucked under his arm. Even as he turned around, Rachel fought off more dizziness. Her palms were sweaty and sweat was gathering on her upper lip and neck. The voices of the people outside seemed loud or maybe that was the blood rushing in her ears. When he was just under six feet from her, she held up the hand not gripping the doorway for dear life.

“That’s… that’s close enough.”

He lifted a brow, but made no move to come any closer. “Rachel Maditz?”

She nodded, unable to speak.

In a different time of her life, she may have noticed how handsome he was. His bright brown eyes and shaggy hair used to be her type. He certainly had a beautiful smile. But nothing reached Rachel in her panic.

“Okay, I need you to sign for this.”

It was a handheld electronic signature device. Rachel gripped the doorway so hard she knew she’d leave gouges from her nails. She held up her hand again, stopping him from handing her the device. Grabbing the gloves she left by the door, she wiped her sweaty palms down her sweater and tried to pull them on. She didn’t even try to apologize for the delay, her focus on keeping herself safe. When she was ready, she reached out for it, signed, and handed it back.

He eyed her as he tucked it into his pocket. “Should I leave this here? It weighs quite a bit.”

He started to pick it up, but she shook her head. She wasn’t sure how much the box weighed, but she was on the verge of breaking and she needed him to go.

“Just… just leave it.”

There was a long pause as he stared at her. Rachel kept her eyes trained on the threshold and prayed he’d leave. After what felt like forever, she heard his footsteps as he moved away.

Rachel was frozen again. The box was in front of her, but she couldn’t move. It was out there, out of reach. The distance seemed to grow as she stared at it. People talking around her grew louder, closer to where she stood. Her heart pounded in her ears as she searched the area. The danger of stepping outside was so great, Rachel feared she’d pass out. Maybe she should’ve had him bring it closer, but it would’ve meant he was closer to her. She felt herself starting to pant as blood rushed faster in her ears, her vision fuzzy on the edges. Breathing deeply, she worked hard to calm herself.

“You can do it.” She lifted her foot, placing it over the threshold on the stoop. “You can do this, Rachel.”

Getting her other foot to move took some convincing, but she made it onto the stoop. Just… just a little more.

Rachel moved, her steps wooden, toward the box. All the smells and sounds started to creep in on her again. It was like moving through molasses to go those few feet, but she made it. Turning back, the box like a lead weight in her hands, her door felt a million miles away. She was hit by such intense vertigo, she swayed hard on her feet.

“You okay, Ms. Rachel?”

She heard her neighbor call out for her and startled so hard she nearly dropped the box

“No.” It was all she could say as the door wavered in her field of vision.

Just keep walking. The sluggish feeling came back and Rachel knew she was moments from fainting. Not outside, if she just got back in, she’d be okay. It took everything to move those few feet and stay upright. Finally she made it through the door. Slamming it behind her, Rachel took a few more steps, dropping the box before she lost consciousness.

“Rachel?” Her therapist’s voice came back to her. “Do you want to talk about what happened today?”

The spot where she’d banged her head throbbed under the bandage. “Next week. I’ll talk about it next week.”

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  1. Marie Rebelle

    Yesterday I talked to a colleague and we talked about how some health care workers will most definitely suffer from PTSD after what they are going through at the moment, but at the same time how people suffering from anxiety will experience huge setbacks. This story types right in there, and as always your writing is brilliant, Cara. I felt her anxiety, felt her fear…

    Rebel xox

    1. Post
      Cara Thereon

      This period is going to be rough on everyone’s mental health sadly. I don’t know if we’ll ever fully recover from it

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