As I write this, it's been two years since the events that took place at South Ashfield Heights.
It was all over the papers for awhile: the man who was found in his living room chair after having been electrocuted; the woman who lived in the same building who was attacked in her own apartment. She was either beaten within an inch of her life or mostly unharmed with numbers carved into her back, depending on which story you happened to read. I was mentioned in passing, but those two other stories distracted them from mine, apparently. Not that I'm complaining.
Naturally, no one really forgot about the "Walter Sullivan copycat" case. But, with no more murders, eventually things settled down and people seemed to stop worrying about it. Eileen has said that she thinks it's a shame that no one knows that I was the one who stopped it. I'm honestly okay with it—she may see me as a hero of sorts, but I don't feel like one.
Don't get me wrong—I'm thankful to have made it out alive, and I'm ever more thankful that she did. I don't know what I would have done with myself if Eileen hadn't survived, and I don't want to think about it.
But there are times when I can't help but feel some regret about how I handled things. It's hard not to play back some of those scenes and wonder what I could have done differently. In some cases, I let the victims wander off knowing what could happen to them. Sometimes I think I could have tried harder to stop them. Maybe subconsciously I didn't believe any of it was really happening … but is that any excuse?
I've relayed some of this to Eileen—I don't go into much detail, but she was already aware that I had seen people die, so it didn't take too much explaining to make her realize why it weighs so heavily on my conscious. She reminds me that I was as much of a victim as they were—just as scared and confused—and that it's not fair to be so hard on myself over something that wasn't my fault to begin with.
My brain is inclined to agree, but my heart … not so much.
For a very long time, I was torn between wanting to forget what happened and wanting to dwell on it. I visited the grave sites of as many of the victims as I could, the ones I had met, spending the most time at Cynthia's for some reason. That one stung more than the others—I guess it was because she depended on me so heavily yet I failed to protect her.
But time heals all wounds, and I've gradually come to terms with it for the most part. I still occasionally wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat from nightmares I barely remember except that I'm always being chased and tortured. Even now, sometimes, I expect to wake up in a strange place.
Eileen has been doing well for the most part. She was jumpy and skittish in the beginning, and still is occasionally. She would also have nightmares where she would wake up screaming, but be unable to remember them. These, too, tapered off, but she still has them on rare occasions. She still depends on me a lot, which takes a lot of the burden off of her. Honestly, I think she could stand to be a little more self-sufficient—I think it would be good for her—but I don't have the heart to try to push her in that direction. Besides, I like having someone to take care of. Selfish of me, I know.
She's the sort of person who tries to shield herself from the evils of the world, and having them suddenly thrust upon her the way they were—her attack, along with seeing what had happened to the other victims, and me, and even Walter Sullivan—came as quite a blow to her psyche. But she's dealing with it well, and I'm very proud of her, as I know better than most that it hasn't been easy for her.
An interesting thing I learned about Eileen is that she was 22 during the events at the apartment complex. With me being 28, some people would consider that quite an age gap. I have to admit, it does lend a kind of logic, considering the nature of our relationship. But, you can't help who you fall in love with, and we'd been through too much together to let something like a difference in numbers keep us apart.
About a month after the events at South Ashfield Heights—once I was beginning to feel safe again, but before I was ready to move on completely—I made good on my promise and paid a visit to Frank Sunderland.
It was a pretty surreal event. He offered me a stiff drink, which was refilled as needed. Even with the alcohol in my system, it's hard to believe that I told him all I did. The chains and writing on the door, the portals, the monsters, the victims, and everything about Walter Sullivan. I even told him about finding the small hole in the wall where I could see into Eileen's room—something I never told her and still haven't, despite the fact that it weighs on my conscious a little.
He made good on his promise as well, and believed every word of it. I think what helped was that I mentioned Joseph by name and what I told him was consistent with what little he already knew.
Also, when I showed surprise at how easily be believed all of it, he pointed out that, with the alcohol in my system, I was much too physically relaxed have been lying. Traumatized, certainly, but calm.
Frank is … kind of odd and has an air of slight confusion that older people tend to have, where you sometimes wonder if they're really aware of what's going on around them. But he's a really good guy and I'm very glad that I had that talk with him and that we're on good terms. I still talk to him occasionally.
I'm still not fond of South Ashfield Heights, but I can tolerate going there once in awhile, as long as I stay out of Room 302. I make the occasional visit with Frank to make sure he's okay and that he hasn't let anyone else move into that room. I do think that the chance of that is highly unlikely—and that even if he did, it probably wouldn't matter—considering that Walter Sullivan's hold on that place should be gone, but I don't want to take any chances and he doesn't either.
I've changed a little since the events that took place at South Ashfield Heights.
Despite the fact that it happened under Walter Sullivan's influence, I had become used to being isolated from other people. I had hoped that the feeling would die with him, but it hasn't. I've always been somewhat shy and awkward, but being locked away for two years multiplied that feeling. Even now, I still find it very hard to relate to other people, with the exception of Eileen and Frank. Most of the relationships I had with other people before I moved into Room 302 have been severed.
There was a time when I enjoyed a good horror movie, but that's changed now. It's not that I can't stomach them at all—after all, I'm still aware that it's all fiction—but what used to be fun scares now just feels distasteful to me. Particularly slasher films. I lived one, I don't need to see it reenacted.
Another thing—something that most people would think is very uncharacteristic of me—is that once I got past the grief stage, I went through a phase where I was basically angry at the world. Little things would set me off, and in a strange way, I think I felt that I was entitled to be angry after all that I'd been through.
For example, I saw a guy accidentally bump into Eileen once when I was with her, and despite the fact that he apologized, I wanted to rip his head off. I didn't do anything physical, but I shot him an angry glare, and he got away from me as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, this kind of behavior and way of thinking didn't last long. Eileen called me on it, and we had a talk that resulted in me realizing what I was doing.
You really do have to take these things one day at a time. You can't dwell on tragedies that happened in the past or worry about how they might affect the future. You can't let the anger overcome you and let it turn you into a monster.
I know because I've seen what can happen to someone who does.