She felt her before she saw her. Heard her. A chilling voice echoing in the darkness. Words indecipherable. A form unseen for moments.
Spacey. Hungry. Relaxed. PP ambled down the steps of the YMCA toward Broadway. Not really paying attention to her surroundings. It was early. Only 7:30 or 8:00 pm, yet it was dark. Cold. Windy out.
And there She was. Appearing out of nowhere. Or so it seemed. Completely startling PP out of her spacey reverie, she stared up at PP, her gnarled, wrinkly dark face targeting PP as she stepped down the stairs.
Stopping PP in her tracks. Chills running up and down her spine. Heart racing. Mind suddenly alert and on guard. Cliché, but true-- all of a sudden PP was on High Alert.
Calling up to PP, the slight woman stood staring her down as PP stood still, poised at the top of the stairs. What was she saying? Where had she come from? PP glanced around. No one else was on the street at the moment. Of course. The Y was bustling inside with the pool filled to overflowing, swim team, swim lessons, mighty splashers, ample walkers.
Where were they all now?
Not on their way out, that much was clear as the stare down continued.
“You don’t need to be scared,” Ghost Woman crooned.
But PP was. Why, she wasn’t quite sure. It wasn’t like GW could hurt her. Not really. She was so small. So slight. And alone.
Unless she had a weapon. A gun. Or a knife or some backup accomplice. Sadly,this is immediately where PP’s mind went. How vulnerable she was.Herself a lone woman. On a dark street. Loaded down with wet swimming gear and a pair of fins.
Hell, she could brain GW with the fins and run if worse came to worse, right?
Yet, GW, standing still as could be in the windy dark, didn’t seem to pose a threat to her physically. So why was PP so scared?
Because scared she was. And GW knew it. “You don’t hafta be scared,” she repeated, eyeing her coolly. Her eyes riveted on PP as she stood frozen on the steps of the Y.
“What do you want?” PP asked, finding her voice, thinking how she could just go back into the warm lobby of the Y with the chatting laughing clerks and brightly lit orange pumpkin displays.
“Anything you can spare,” GW answered, standing her ground.
“I don’t think I have anything…….” PP answered, thinking how if she started to shuffle through her wallet, she’d be even more vulnerable. GW could send her accomplice up to mug her in an instant. But yet…..there was something very powerful about GW. Something utterly commanding. PP felt like she had to obey. She was under her spell.
Quickly, PP dug into her bag, retrieving her Hello Kitty wallet, trying to find a dollar. 10’s. 20’s. 5’s. Shit. PP usually had nothing but 1’s. But not tonight as she continued to nervously search through the crumpled bills. Aha! A dollar! Pulling it out, PP headed down the stairs, handing the bill to GW who took it with quiet dignity. For a moment neither spoke, as PP turned and quickly headed down Broadway. A dad and his little girl ahead of her now, the child laughing and skipping as she recounted her swim lesson.
“God bless you,” GW murmured, taking the dollar.
“You take care….” PP answered, sighing deeply, hurrying to follow the dad and his skipping daughter, crossing Broadway quickly to get into the Geo.
Unlocking the car, tossing her gym bag behind the front seat, PP climbed into the safety of the car. Shaking her head, she thought about how very lucky she was.That she had a warm, working car. A cozy apartment. Food and cats and friends and family.
What was that saying, “But for the Grace of God, go I?”
Turning on the ignition, backing out of the parking place, PP wondered why she’d been so scared. Was it just that she’d been startled? Or that it was so dark and she was so alone, so vulnerable?
And yet, when she thought about it, she’d never been in any real danger. The YMCA lobby was just in back of her. She hadn’t even walked down the steps yet. There were people around. The street was well lit.
GW was simply a poor sad beggar trying to survive.
Yet her eerie appearance. Her ghostly voice echoing up the steps. Her still stare at PP as she’d searched for the money.
It was as if she’d been some sort of witch. Some one from another world come to prey upon unsuspecting spaced-out swimmers. A spell had been cast upon PP and she’d succumbed.
If only for a moment.