This one took a much different approach than the other three. I didn’t manifest an outside attacker or a villain like the others. Instead of an external threat, this was an internal one. If you’ve ever suffered panic attacks, maybe you can relate.
(This is part of a 4-part writing exercise. The rule is to use the same sentence as a prompt to start the story but gives the writer free range to go anywhere else. See first post Here)
The slow crunch of grass broke Jeffery’s concentration. A step was the culprit. It came slowly, inevitable, so sure of itself. Jeffery didn’t look back.
He knew this day would come.
The steps grew louder, more violent. Jeffery’s heart began to beat violently in his chest. A wind blew at his back, his world became dark. He groped the air for something to hold on to, but only swatted empty air.
The steps had turned into gunpowder blasts, a rhythmic, steady momentum. Like the looming thunder of a bull’s hooves charging at full speed. Jeffery’s body fell to the mercy of the steps. His breath felt short, he began hyperventilating.
He reached inside his jacket pocket and took out his inhaler. He inhaled the Albuterol twice to reclaim the breath stolen from his lungs. The steps grew louder and steadier. They were no longer steps, but cannon blasts and fireworks, ripping through his head and stealing away any other attention he placed on his surroundings.
He had sunken into the ground, cowering behind a wall that was not there. He lunged himself to a flat surface and began to count and breathe, whispering the words, “Pine. Overlook. Ed. Prince, Jersey.”
He shut his eyes and repeated the words, louder this time.
The voices in his mind seemed audible now, almost palpable in the thick fog.
Pine. “You’re pathetic.”
Overlook. “You couldn’t save her.”
Ed. “They think you’re an idiot.”
Prince. “You don’t deserve love.”
Jersey. “You’ve abandoned them.“
His resolve grew stronger.
The voices stopped. Jeffery’s breath regained control. He wiped the sweat off his brows. And after one more pull, he stood up and walked back to work.
“I had another panic attack. I heard steps behind me. They got louder and louder and the voices were there, too.”
“What did the voices say?”
“The usual. You’re pathetic, you suck…”
“Who’s voice was it?”
“Sheryl’s. and Ed’s. I tried what you said.”
“Did it help you?”
“Yeah, it took me a few times to control it but they eventually went away.”
“What do you think triggered it?”
“Um, I think it was the coworker thing I told you about.”
“The employee you reported who confronted you and spoke ill of you to his colleague?”
“Why do you think that triggered the panic attack?”
“I don’t know…because I was only doing my job and trying to help him by showing him that he was wrong. I didn’t want him to get in trouble and that’s why I yelled at him. And then he gives me an attitude and then brags to Alive how ‘some’ people take their work so seriously, right in front of me?! He doesn’t even fuckin’ wait for me to leave. I just started to stress out, and then I had to write this fuckin’ 3-page letter explaining myself to my supervisor in case he decides to fill out a complaint against me, which took me all lunch time and made me late for class because I missed the train, and then the professor looked at me like he was judging me when I walked in and everyone stared at me and the class was so boring and my best friend didn’t respond to me when I texted her…”
“Jeffery, breathe with me.”
They paused and synchronized their breathing.
“Pine.” She started the sequence.
“Overlook.” He followed.
“Ed.” Breathe in.
“Prince.” Breathe out.
They breathed together and sat in silence.
“How are you feeling now?”
“Better, thank you.”
“You did well, Jeffery, applying the exercise at the first sign of a panic attack. I know it’s hard to think of it in the middle of hyperventilating. Do you need another prescription of Albuterol?”
“No, I think I still have another month.”
“Well, if you do, you can come ask Nancy to call me and I’ll write one up for you. Our time is up. See you next week?”
“Okay, thank you, Doctor.”
“Take care, Jeffery. Oh, and one more thing. What you did to your colleague, you went above and beyond what was expected of you. You looked out for him. But his ego did not allow him to see that. He have may have felt insecure about his actions and that may be how his reacts when faced with an attach on his actions. Still, it was nice of you to help him.
He smiled and he walked out, whispering ‘Jersey’ under his breath.