Sometimes I think of them as neighbors. Friends. When I need it, family. They have no idea I'm here, that I watch them and feel a strange kinship.
Quite honestly, I'm lonely. For reasons I'd rather not go into, I stay isolated. Okay, to be more accurate, I'm on the run. But I'm a good guy, really. I'd never hurt you. If you believe the press, I'm a monster. But it wasn't me. It wasn't. A horrible thing happened...no, no, a horrible thing was done... and people took one look at me and screamed, pointing with trembling fingers, their mouths open in a Donald Sutherland "O" as if I were one of those awful clones in Bodysnatchers. But I'm not. I'm a good guy. Just...wrong place, wrong time.
So I ran. And that alone looks like an admission of guilt, right?
Police cars with sirens wailing. News reports with warnings and vivid descriptions of me. Cops and search dogs sniffing through the woods. Helicopters whirring overhead. I've stayed a step or two ahead of them. I keep track of the news on a little radio I stole early on. It's staticky. Reception is kind of iffy up here in the mountains. But it'll do.
I wonder, how long can I keep this up? I'm cold. I'm hungry. I want to go home.
But I dare not.
It's been a few weeks now. In a civilized society, the horror of those barbaric acts, those mutilated, hapless victims, would be all that mattered, and would replay in people's minds, in reporters' stories, resulting in police searches for months and months to come.
But in not much more than a week, another horrendous thing happened. Not related. Domestic incident, they called it. More blood, more death. And then, mere days after that, a drunk driver, a sidewalk full of people, more blood, more mayhem.
So, as fall turned into winter, and I withdrew even deeper into the woods, the searches came less often, the number of cops and dogs and choppers dwindled, and I was at last able to catch my breath and make plans.
I can't risk being seen by anyone. They'd know me on sight and the screaming would begin all over again. There's the police sketch, of course, but worse, if they got a closer look at me, they'd realize who I really am. I'm kind of a celebrity. I mean, I was, before all this began. Famous, in an era where everyone seems to want to be famous. I can't say I ever minded, until now. But I never craved fame, never sought it out. Sometimes it just happens. Something about you that you find utterly ordinary catches the public's fancy, and they become obsessed. From that moment on, you can't even take a leisurely stroll.
I miss those days, where fame was my only problem.
Now I have nothing, I have no one, and those same people who spoke of me with awe in their voices would run, terrified. Or call the police. Or shoot me dead.
So, I'm alone.
I manage to steal enough food to survive, from cars parked at roadside greasy spoons and gas stations and whatever else. Sometimes I'm desperate enough to raid trash bins at fast food places. Occasionally, I'm lucky and find a door left unlocked in an empty summer home, and there are a few food items. Always the crap they didn't much care about, but I'm not picky these days.
There are other houses, though, that become occupied for short periods. Family skiing trips, or just people getting away to their winter cabin. One was a writer who was working on, I assume, the great American novel. Peeking through a window, I watched him frozen in place hour after hour, day after day, surrounded by empty coffee cups, staring at an old-style typewriter. Bright pink Post-It notes were stuck everywhere.
Some cabins belong to hunters. I steer clear of those. Wouldn't you? Big guns, lots of beer, and a target those guys can freely kill without fear of being arrested. I am, after all, a fugitive.
But those other visitors...
Happy couples toting skis, kids romping in the snow and building snowmen, entire families watching a gorgeous sunset.
I watch. And I listen. And sometimes I pretend I belong with them.
I can't help it. It's so lonely here. Part of me longs to go up to them with open arms and beg to be included, if only for a little while. To hope they'll believe that I'm harmless, I'm normal, I'm a good guy.
I know. It's pointless. To believe that they'll discount all they've heard about me. To hope they won't scream my name in terror: