It could have been a scene from a movie. Except that it wasn’t. It was me, shocked from sleep by the knowledge that someone was in my apartment. I bolted upright, screaming. And screaming. I remembered chainlocking my door. How could anyone have possibly entered? What did he want? Why was he here? I listened. The footsteps. I held my breath. I listened. There were definitely footsteps. I peered into my hallway, frozen, terrified to leave my bed. No one. I listened again. The footsteps were coming from above, the apartment above me. Or were they?

I tried to reason. I felt the blood swirling through my head. I felt my heartbeat, racing, threatening, to run away and leave me. I tried to breathe, but could only manage random gasps.

The footsteps were from upstairs.

I laid back down. I forced my breathing, long breath in, long breath out. As I turned on my side, my hands drawn up, clasped under my cheek, I felt my heartbeat, still pounding against my chest. It’s okay, I told myself. It’s only a sound. No one’s here. It’s upstairs. It’s okay. You’re safe. I repeated this, my mantra for the evening, until hours later I finally drifted into a fitful sleep.

I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that I’m about to be attacked. This morning I awoke exhausted. On BART my eyes darted up from my book, surveying each new passenger. In the deserted hallways at work I listened. In my apartment I listen.

The fear hasn’t merely lingered, a breezy, fleeting memory, like so many of my dreams. It’s strangled me. It has attached itself, gripping me like the horrible evil trees of a forgotten fairy tale.

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