Panic on the Streets

Panic+on+the+Streets

Lily Jarnac

Apparently I killed someone. 

Or many someone’s. 

Maybe I burned down my house… Or maybe I burned down a big building… with people inside it.  

All I know is that I have been locked in a cell for 3 years and 226 days. And I have no idea why. 

I’ve tried begging the occasional employee to tell me. I would hear the quiet footsteps down the hall every other week and quickly put together a speech. But no matter how desperate I was, they stayed silent. Eventually I stopped asking because judging by the way they look at me, I don’t think I want to know. 

You should see the way they look at me. It’s horrible! They act like I’m an abomination, like I have a disease.  And after a while I started to believe it too.  

But deep down I know I’m not crazy. I’ve been through the whole crazy ex-girlfriend thing. Trust me, I’ve seen crazy… and I’m not it. 

However, the fact that I’m cooped up in a freakin’ insane asylum makes me doubt that. I find myself thinking back on the times when anyone has ever called me “unique” and try remembering the tone of their voice because… what if I am crazy and I just never knew?! What if “unique” actually meant, “you are the most nefarious person I know!” 

The night I was taken was straight out of a movie. I went to bed and everything was normal. I fell asleep watching a sitcom, Frasier I think. I half-woke up in the middle of the night, zombie walked my way to the bathroom to pee, and zombie walked myself back to bed.  

Next thing I know, I’m waking up to people handcuffing me and pulling me out of my apartment and into a very tinted black car. Nobody would look at me or talk to me and I remember thinking, “Thank god I wore decent pajamas to bed.”  

I am not frightened that easily, so I hadn’t realized the magnitude of the situation until I was being shoved into a cell and left alone. Which turned out being for a few days… and then a month… and now I have been here for almost 4 years. What a waste of my precious time. I could’ve been a millionaire by now.  

Last year I noticed a crack in the corner of the room. It was a tiny little separation between the wall and the floor, so small I could barely fit my pinky in it. So I hit the metal leg of my bed frame against it for a few weeks until it opened up a little. Since then I’ve been digging and scraping and hitting with anything I can use.  

Eventually, I had dug pretty deep and I was convinced that I was on the lowest level of this place and my digging was pointless… until a few days ago. 

I had hit ceiling.  

I didn’t know it at the time because… how am I supposed to have any idea of what qualifies as ceiling? But I paused for a second before I started eagerly clawing and pounding on it until I broke through. And I was looking down into a storage closet.  

I thought, “I’m getting out of here.” I was so relieved. I don’t think I was that relieved since I broke up with my ex. Or got the bike I was wishing for when I was 10.  

I spent this week trying to make the hole big enough for me to climb through so I can kind of just drop myself into the closet. None of it is going to be graceful because I’m not some kind of sly criminal (I think?) and also because… I don’t even know where the hell I am. So my plan is to leave that closet and hope for the best.  

I look around my cell one last time. I feel like a proper goodbye is in order, but then I remember how these four walls taunted me for 4 years and I give it the finger, shimmy into the hole and fall a*s first into the closet. Hissing at the soon to be bruise.  

I get up quickly after and try to collect my nerves. Giving myself a pep talk and hopping in place like I’m a football player about to run onto the field. I mumble to myself, “Don’t die. Don’t die. Don’t die…” and slowly open the door to an empty hallway. 

I quietly creep out of the door before taking off down the hallway. 

I have no idea where I am going, but I should probably get out of this scary ass building first, so some kind of exit door or window would be fine. But as I turn down three different halls, there are no windows or doors. Just shiny floors and gross hospital lights.  

The longer I wander around, the more terrified I get. This place is so eerie and disturbing. It’s so quiet, like a surreal silence. The kind right before a jump scare happens in horror movies. You’d think there are at least crazy people mumbling to themselves or yelling at their imaginary friends.  

All I can hear are my footsteps and the buzzing of the white lights above me. I’m horrified I’m going to turn a corner and there is going to be a giant guard with a gun staring me down. 

But there is no one.  

Is this some kind of joke? Shouldn’t people be making sure the insane don’t get out? Have they ever seen Halloween?? 

After some more turns I find myself at a staircase. I hesitatingly open the door, and again nobody. I decide to go up because I’m assuming I am underground if there are no windows anywhere.  

And I was right.  

After walking 6 flights upwards, I am facing an exit door. I keep thinking, “it can’t be this easy… it can’t be this easy.” 

And I was right.  

As soon as I opened the door and smelled the first breath of fresh air that I’ve had in 3 years and 226 days, an ear-piercing alarm went off. So loud it felt like it was slicing my brain, but not loud enough to cover the voice of the man from flights below me, “HEY! Get back here!” 

I immediately start running.  

“Oh sh*t. Oh sh*t. Oh sh*t.” 

I am at the side of the building and all I can see is grass for miles ahead with a tall fence about a football field’s length away from me. I run as fast as I can to the fence and start climbing as soon as I make it there. 

The fence has got to be at least 15 feet tall. And every time I make it a few feet off the ground I fall back down. I’m climbing that thing like a crazed monkey, but after the third try I finally pull myself up to the top. 

I swing my feet over, squeeze my eyes shut and jump. I could easily break something, but it’s all worth it for what’s left of my sanity.  

I land on my side. The wind gets knocked right out of me, but I get up as fast as I can. I can see some kind of forest in the distance so I start sprinting to it. I need to get into hiding so I can actually breathe and think of how to not end up right back in that cell. 

As soon as I’m a good distance away I look over my shoulder at the building. The fat man breaks through the door and wobbles to the fence, breathing heavily and sweating, yelling something at me that I can’t hear. I smile and laugh for the first time in years.  

I make it to the trees and sit against one to catch my breath. Although I am scared out of my mind, I’m so ecstatic. I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy before. There’s so much adrenaline pumping through me that it’s hard to sit still, so I get up and start walking, hoping to find some kind of road with a sign that can tell me where I am.  

After a few hours, I make it to a highway. I stick my thumb out at any car that passes, but it’s so dead, there is maybe one car every 10 minutes. I walk for a while as the sun starts to set, and thankfully an old red truck stops and the driver asks me where I’m going. I tell him the area I live in and he says he is headed that way. 

I keep my head towards the window because I’m not sure if I am known as a “crazy person.” It’s silent besides the radio fizzing through the worn-out speakers. I try to think of a plan on the way home.  

Maybe I can just move a couple towns over, start a new life, and nobody will ever know this happened to me. But what if they do know? What if I’m so well known as “that crazy guy” that I will have to move to an exotic land that speaks a different language and I’d have to change my name and sell fruit for a living.  

The driver dropped me off about a street down from my apartment. I watch as he drives off and then begin the walk to my complex. I live on a fairly busy street so I try keeping my head down as best as I can.  

My heart is still beating like crazy, but the walk helped calm me down. The petrichor lingering through the air was so strong and pleasant after knowing no other smell than the stale scent of the cell for years. I can’t believe that I’m walking outside. There are actual human beings walking past me right now.  

I was so stuck inside my own bubble that I hadn’t noticed the reactions of the people passing me on the street. Starting off as slight glances and furrowed brows to completely frightened and panicked. Mothers grabbing their children and turning the opposite way of me, gasps and people crossing the street to stay out of my way.  

When the fog in my head clears and my heart rate seems to calm down, I look up to see people wide eyed and fleeing the streets of me. Running the opposite way like I was a monster. 

It made me afraid of me.  

I think to myself, “What an over-exaggeration. Sure! Run! I bet your pretentious husbands are much more dangerous than I am.” I never liked the ostentatiousness of the area I lived in or the people who lived here. Too many socker moms and private school babies.  

I start to walk quicker when I hear a police siren from down a couple roads.  

Heart rate picking right back up. Complete chaos and panic on the street. Eventually my pace turned into a jog until I turn into my apartment building with my head as far down as it could go.  

I go straight to the stairs and run up the couple flights until I make it to my floor. Sirens growing increasingly louder.  

I hope everything is still the same. My gut told me to come home, but I’m not sure if I was right to trust it. 

But, of course, I was right. 

In the crack of my doorframe is my spare key, where I always hid it before. I reluctantly take it out and begin to unlock the door. I pause when I notice that I’m standing on a doormat. I never had a doormat.  

My ears tingle and my heart drops when the lock clicks into place and the door swings open. 

And much to my surprise, the first thing I see is my crazy ex-girlfriend standing in front of the TV that is showcasing my face and my name. Her face is strung up in a shameful and petrified expression as she slowly turns to me. 

I thought, “This is the last person I want to see right now.” Until I took in the fear and guilt on her face… and it all clicked. My jaw slowly drops and her eyes become teary and nervous.  

Police sirens ring in my ears. As the red and blue flash through the window and across her face, I realize I spent 4 years of my life and the rest in infamy because of my horrible taste in women.