A hand grabbed her upper arm. She stumbled back at the force of the pull. They used it to throw her to the ground. She felt the rough asphalt scrape her elbows, the back of her head slamming into the firm ground. A ringing sounded in her ears as she stared up at the person. They stared down at her. Their head tilted to the side, the LED X’s watching her. Just as her senses came back and she was about to push herself up, they lunged down at her. The blade in their hand sank into her shoulder and she cried out. This time, they covered her mouth faster, anticipating the shrill shriek.
She pushed against their chest. Tears blurred her vision as the pain shot up the side of her neck and registered somewhere deep within her brain. “You think you can do what you did and then become a public figure like it never happened?”
She screamed against their palm, trying to muster enough volume and pitch to penetrate. It still remained muffled, unheard. They pulled the knife from her shoulder. She grabbed their forearm to keep it from coming back down and tried to buck her hips while pushing to the side. They dropped their weight to keep from getting thrown off. She grabbed their forearm with her second hand as the knife lowered closer to her face.
“Easier if you just let this happen.”
She turned her head to the side. The tip of the knife grazed her cheek. She cringed, waiting for it to fully cut into her skin. In one last attempt, she bucked her hips again. The knife cut into her cheek but the assailant lost their balance and tumbled to the asphalt. She scrambled to get to her feet and away from the person. They let out a frustrated groan and attempted to get to their feet.
Dawn took a moment to kick at their legs, sending them back to the ground, before started running toward her apartment. She put one hand to her shoulder, feeling the fresh, wet blood coating her hand and the pain radiating from the area. Her other hand reached into her pocket for her keys, attempting to pull them out of the tight fabric. Frantic, her mind told her to hide. Whoever the person was had followed her this long, had seemingly every intention of finishing what they had already started, and she could feel her pace slowing the more she attempted to get the keys uncaught from whatever they were caught on.
She darted behind a car, squatting down low to keep out of the view of the windows. The sudden turn and lowering of her body made her head spin. She put a hand to the door of the car to steady herself. A blaring honking sounded as the alarm went off. The lights flashed and the honking turned into a chorus of high and low pitch sounds. “Fuck.”
She moved toward the front of the car and around another one nearby. Moving along the front of several cars, she came across the one at the end of the row. She looked to the next nearest car, a good fifteen or more feet away. She made her way to the rear of the car and took a few deep breaths. Blood from her shoulder soaked through the fabric of her torn shirt. The cool night air made her bleeding back uncomfortably cold, but she could feel the blood drying.
At least those cuts weren’t too deep. She looked to her shoulder, listening to the sound of slow and approaching footsteps. The car alarm started again, blocking out any other noises. She knew she would at least need stitches in her shoulder, but she also knew the top priority right now was getting to safety.
Looking back to the next closest car, she tried to estimate how quickly she could close that gap and hide again. She peered out from around the rear of the car. The person walked passed the car flashing its lights and alerting its owner that someone touched it. Her assailant stopped and tilted their head again. Dawn darted back behind the car, trying to stifle the sob she felt at the top of her throat.
By the time she heard the person’s footsteps grow closer, it was too late. She pushed off from the car in an attempt to dash away. They grabbed her brown hair and pulled her back. She slammed into the tire of the car, the air pushing from her lungs. The person standing over her took no time to hesitate. They plunged the knife into her shoulder again, closer to her neck, and pinned her back against the car with one of their knees.
“Why?” Dawn sobbed out. The pain and loss of blood, muddled the thoughts that tried to push through. She couldn’t place who they were or why this was their goal, even with the things they said. She didn’t understand what they thought she did and couldn’t figure out what they could even think she did. Every TikTok, every picture, every post, she tried to be respectful. The last thing she wanted was for her online persona to become rude, or hateful. That was never a goal of hers. “If… if I hurt you. If I did something… I-I’m sorry.”
A crackled chuckle came through the voice distorter. “I’m sure you’ll remember if you think harder,” they responded.
She let out a few sobs, feeling the pain and the wetness from her shoulders. The person squatted down in front of her, staring at her from the other side of their mask. The flashing LED lights on the eyes and mouth tinted her skin different colors as they changed; green, yellow, red, blue, purple, and back to green.
“Please… I’m sorry,” she responded.
The person lifted the blade of the knife to her cheek, dragging the tip down across her jaw and her neck, just enough to graze the skin. She tried to lift her injured arm to grab their arm. The muscles tightened, feeling overworked and cramped instead of normal. Her hand shook as she attempted to grab them. They jammed the knife into her chest, grazing passed the collarbone as they did so. She let out another scream and they ripped the knife from her. They clasped a hand over her mouth and leaned down.
“You already had your chance to apologize, should have taken it when you could have it,” they responded. She stared up at the person, tears leaking from her eyes and trailing down her cheeks. The cut in her cheek burned as the salt from the tears mixed. The edges of her vision were blurring, darkening.
The person straightened at the sound of sirens approaching. Someone must have called the cops. “Help me!” she shouted, trying to muster the strength to let out a full scream through the tears.
The person scoffed. “It’s too late for you.” They dug the knife into the center of her neck. Her eyes widened as the blood began to fill her throat. She coughed as her body tried to remove the object and avoid the blood freely flowing downward. The person took a step back as the sirens grew louder. Flashes of red and blue painted the buildings and pierced the night air.
They reached up, pulling the hood of their jacket down and tugging the mask up. Their light brown hair let out crackles of static as the mask came off. His green eyes met Dawn’s brown ones as the life faded from them. Her mouth opened and moved, mouthing “Aaren”, but no sound came out.
He chuckled and studied her, pulling his phone from his pocket to take a quick picture before turning to run away.