Triskaidekaphobia, Fear of the Number 13

Bridget stumbled into the coffee shop, holding her Study of Foreign Languages textbook and a laptop bag over her shoulder.  She was glad to have just enough time to grab a coffee before running to her first class of the day.  After not having slept well the last few weeks, she really needed the boost of sugar and caffeine.  Studying foreign languages sounded exactly as thrilling as it actually was.  Not thrilling at all.  Happy to see there was no line, she approached the counter and placed her order, a caffé mocha and a blueberry muffin.  After paying, the ticket the clerk tried to hand her the receipt and said her order number was 13.  Bridget’s heart skipped a beat, and she stammered to the clerk.

“Wait, what?” she said, sounding more shocked than she intended to.

“Here’s your receipt.  You’re order number 13,” the guy repeated, trying to hand her the receipt. 

“Oh no, I just remembered I can’t take food to class!  Can I just cancel that?”  Bridget was impressed with how quickly she thought up the lie.

“I guess so.  I’ll need your card back to refund the money.”  The cashier looked a bit irritated, but Bridget didn’t care.  She could not have that number 13 ticket in her hand.  She handed him her debit card again, glad to have avoided the cursed ticket.  For as long as she could remember, she’d feared the number 13.  It could’ve been a movie she saw or a scary story she heard as a child.  Either way, the number haunted her in a way other people couldn’t understand.  She couldn’t avoid it in books, but she avoided it whenever humanly possible.  She purposefully lived in an apartment building on the other side of town because it was the only one that didn’t have a 13th floor.  It had exactly 12 floors with no plans to add another.  She knew that for sure because she asked every month when she paid her rent.

As Bridget walked out without her coffee and muffin, she regretted not having anything to eat, knowing she’d have a growling belly throughout class, but that didn’t matter to her.  A crisis had been averted.  Who knows what would’ve come of her getting a number 13 receipt in her hands?  She knew that number sought her out.  Too much had happened around her to explain it any other way.  Her parents had tried to convince her otherwise, but they always fell short when Bridget asked them to explain the connections she’d found.  Could they explain Uncle Jim’s murder?  No.  What about that car accident she’d been in on a Friday the 13th?  Nope.  Anytime something bad happened to her, she could always trace it back to 13.  Every time!  She was not about to take that risk with finals coming up!

Walking into class a little late, as usual, she sat as her professor said, “Everyone turn to page 213, please.”  Are you freaking kidding me? she thought as she turned to page 214.  She would wait until he got to 214, while being sure to pay attention to what he said about the previous page.  Twice in one day was not a good sign.

The rest of class went uneventfully. She had two hours until her afternoon class.  Feeling famished, Bridget walked to the McDonald’s across the street to grab a meal she knew wasn’t good for her, but she was starving!  Nothing a double cheeseburger and fries wouldn’t fix.  This time, she hung back until she heard an order number and knew she wouldn’t get one with 13 in it! 

She took her burger, fries, and water bottle back to the college to sit in the park area and eat.  It was a beautiful day, and the park area happened to be her favorite one on the Olympia University campus.  A pretty little pond with several trees scattered around provided pleasant shade from the summer sun.  A few ducks were in the pond that day, adding to the serene view.  Bridget sat in the grass under a tree and enjoyed her meal while watching two guys play Frisbee.  They definitely added to the pleasant scenery.  The cuter of the two had his back to her.  She hoped he would miss the Frisbee and have to run near her to retrieve it.  She was easy on the eyes, too, with her black, waist-length hair and big green eyes.  The guys must’ve noticed her because not long after she had the thought about them missing the Frisbee, they indeed missed the Frisbee!  Suddenly, the cute one jogged toward her.  She picked up the Frisbee at her feet and stood to greet him and give it back.

“I’m sorry!  It didn’t hit you, did it?” the cute guy said.

“No, it hit the tree.  Your friend has good aim.” she said, giving him a knowing look.

“Yeah, well, he’s a pretty good wingman, for sure,” he said as he laughed awkwardly.  “Since you figured me out, would you like to go grab a coffee?  I’d love to find out what interesting college classes someone so mysterious looking takes.” He flashed her the smile of a guy who thought he might be out of his league.  “I’m Luke, by the way.”

“I’m Bridget, and I’d love to get a coffee.  I actually missed my coffee today.  Really messed up my whole morning, honestly.”  She told the truth.  She would’ve fallen asleep soon if he hadn’t come along to gather his Frisbee and her phone number.

Luke waved to his friend and walked with Bridget to the same shop she had bailed on earlier that day.  She learned he was an architecture major, and he learned she really wasn’t that mysterious at all.  Her major was fine arts, which she hoped wouldn’t equate to being a starving artist someday.

As they sat with their drinks, Luke with his large coffee with cream and sugar and Bridget with her caffé mocha, Bridget asked Luke what led him to study architecture. 

“I love the intricacies in a well thought out building design.  There is such beauty in it,” he said as he looked out the shop window to their university across the street.  “Sometimes, the reasoning behind certain designs is intriguing.  Did you know that some buildings don’t have a 13th floor for fear that people wouldn’t use that floor out of superstition?” Luke said as he took another sip of his coffee.  Bridget couldn’t believe what came out of his mouth.  There was no way it was a coincidence!  Three incidents with the number 13 so far that day, and the day wasn’t over yet.  She became aware of his stare and realized she must not have hidden the shock from her features.

“Wow, really?  It must be terrible to live in that kind of fear every day.” she said as she tried to smooth the moment over.  God, why was she so awkward? 

“Yeah, I guess it would be.  So, what about you?  Got any artwork in that laptop bag of yours?  I’d love to see it!” Luke seemed genuinely interested in seeing her work, so she pulled out her sketch book and flipped through a couple of pages.  The funny thing about showing someone else her art was that it made her feel so vulnerable.  Each sketch represented hours of her life and attention.  The inner workings of her soul, laid bare on a sheet of paper.  It felt very intimate, and her face blushed a little as he took it all in.  After showing a few pages and enduring his oohs and awws, she closed the pages off to the world again and tucked them safely into her laptop bag. 

“You are an amazing artist!” Luke gushed as she put the pad away.  “Maybe if I design some great work of architecture, you can paint the cathedral ceilings in it!” he said with a goofy grin on his face.  Bridget snapped back to reality and noticed how nice his smile was.  She was quite enjoying his company when he started to fidget and clean up his coffee mess, a nervous behavior she was very familiar with.

“So, I have to get to my next class soon,” he started as he fumbled with the empty creamer and sugar packets.  “I’d like to get to know you more, if you’re into that.  Are you free for dinner this Friday night?”  He was even cuter when he was nervous.  She already knew what her answer would be, but she paused for dramatic effect.

“Yeah, okay.  What did you have in mind?” Bridget answered.

“Have you ever been to The Angry Avocado?” Luke asked.

“No, but I’ve heard it’s pretty good.  It’s a vegan friendly restaurant, right?  Are you vegan?”  Bridget asked while she looked at the empty creamer cups he still fiddled with.  They were almond based.

“Yeah, but we can eat anywhere.  I just know that place is superb!  I can find something to eat pretty much anywhere.  What’s your favorite type of food?” he asked.

“I’m actually not a picky eater.  I love trying new foods, and I’ve never been there.  Let’s do it!”  Bridget was pretty excited about trying a new place, but she was more excited about going on a date with Luke.  She was getting great vibes from him!  “Friday night at seven?” she asked him as she scribbled her name and number on a slip of paper and slid it across the table to him.  “We can meet here, if that’s okay?”

“Sure, that sounds great!  See ya Friday at 7!”  With that, Luke stood and hurried out of the cafe with what was left of his coffee.  Bridget stayed and finished hers, thinking back on their conversation.  She’d almost forgotten about the strange day she was having until she glanced at her phone to see the time, and it was exactly 1:13pm.  Ugh!  Stop it!  What a weird Wednesday this was turning out to be.  She stayed seated until it was 1:14, just in case.

Always the highlight of her week, Bridget headed to her favorite class, drawing.  Although she was good at many mediums of art, drawing was definitely where she felt her strength laid.  She loved using a simple No. 2 pencil to create shading that tricked the eye and brought a drawing to life!  As she walked into class and got settled at her easel, the teacher spoke.

“In light of Friday the 13th this week, I’d like you to draw a fear of yours.  Make me really feel it when I look at your interpretation of it.  Leave your terror on the page.  Pull it out of your mind’s eye and assemble it with your pencil.  Don’t hold back!  This is a two hour class, as always, so that’s how long you have.  There will be no touch ups at home.  I’m looking for raw fear.  Turn the drawing in at the end of class.  Begin.”  Bridget’s professor sat at her desk as the other students picked up their pencils and gathered their thoughts. 

Bridget’s thoughts swirled through her head like a tornado.  “Oh my god.  Did I just make a date with a guy that spoke about the number 13 for Friday the 13TH?” she thought to herself, total panic filling her mind!  How could she have forgotten what day was coming up?  She was usually so careful about that!  She was so busy thinking about the date she had made with Luke that she didn’t notice her professor approach from behind her.

“You have the look of sheer terror on your face.  I hope I see it expressed on your paper in two hours,” she said as she winked at Bridget and continued walking through the classroom. 

Bridget had another oh-god moment!  She had to draw her fear on paper!  She could lie and draw something fearful without it actually being her greatest fear.  Her teacher was perceptive, though.  Would she know what Bridget drew was not truly her biggest fear?  Bridget noticed other students drawing outlines on their large sketch pads while she sat there, frozen in place.  She had to get this under control!  Her fear was flaring up again, as her old psychiatrist would say.  Or was this really the number showing itself to her again?  It seemed like every time she successfully denied it, the number would creep back into her life again and cause havoc.

In an unusual moment of clarity, Bridget decided to draw her actual fear.  She figured that’s what her psychiatrist would’ve told her to do.  The whole face-your-fears mantra.  Bridget picked up her pencil and eraser and went to work.  As she drew, the image of a tattered calendar emerged, hanging on the wall of a dirty, dingy kitchen.  The wall below the crooked calendar had a slightly blood spattered look, as if there were a murder scene just out of view.  Days one through twelve were crossed off with black Sharpie, but Friday the 13th was there, almost in bold, staring through the scene at her.  Mocking her.  Warning her.  Threatening her.

Bridget was drawing and shading furiously and, once again, didn’t feel her professor’s presence behind her.  The teacher didn’t say a word.  She looked at Bridget working and moved on, glancing back for one more look at her top student drawing the most interesting piece she’d ever seen.

The 13th day on Bridget’s freshly drawn calendar was so bold in the scene that it seemed to pull her into it.  With each detail of the room that she sketched, she felt as if she could almost reach into the page and touch it.  Her mind’s eye became fixated on every detail.  When her professor called time and motioned for sketches to be placed on her desk, Bridget shuddered and realized she had lost all track of time.  She took a step back and examined her drawing.  It scared her to death!  Her eyes darted away from it each time she tried to look.  Her heart raced as if she stood face to face with a murderer, still covered with blood from his latest victim.  She couldn’t be there any longer!  Without removing the drawing from the easel, she grabbed her belongings and hurried out, bumping into several people in her rush for the door.  Her professor gave her a look of concern as she fled the room.

Once back into the bright afternoon sun, Bridget felt a little better.  However, she worried strongly about what the ramifications of drawing the number 13 would be for her.  She walked at a steady pace to her bus stop.  While waiting for public transport to arrive for her 4:30pm bus ride across town, Bridget sat on the bench and looked at her surroundings, hoping something, anything, would get her mind off that awful image that had come out of her in class.  She watched a group of ducks cross the grass field, headed for the pond.  In the beautiful blue sky, she tried to see shapes in the clouds during her bus ride, one of her favorite pastimes when she was stressed.  That helped a little and made her trip home bearable. 

Bridget entered the elevator inside her building.  She pushed button number 6 out of 12 and suddenly remembered what Luke had said about buildings not having a 13th floor.  She knew that was total BS, though.  They still have a 13th floor, whether they named it that or not!  Calling the 13th floor the 14th floor didn’t change a thing!  That’s why she lived in this apartment building.  She tolerated the bus ride to and from school just for the peace of mind of being in a building with only 12 floors.  It was worth it to her. 

As she settled in, she grabbed her phone and texted Luke back.  He had sent her a “Hi, this is Luke” text during class.  She asked him if they could switch their date to another night.  Unfortunately, he said he was busy the rest of the weekend but that they could postpone it until the following weekend.  Bridget really didn’t want to do that.  She was looking forward to going out with him.  He seemed like such a nice, interesting, funny guy.  Against her better judgement, she told him not to worry about it and Friday night at seven would be fine.  In her bones, she felt like she really should stay home that day.

Thursday came and went in a blur of classes and studying that helped Bridget push through as blindly as she could, avoiding 13 as much as possible.  Friday morning, she awoke with excitement for her first date with the tall, dark, and bearded Luke from the park.  While getting out of bed, she noticed her cat, Mr. Bigglesworth, wasn’t in bed with her.  She looked around the apartment for him but came up empty-handed.  Calling him didn’t work, either.  She prepared his breakfast and put the metal bowl in his dish holder loudly, hoping he would hear it and come running.  Still nothing.  Bridget couldn’t stay and search for him too long because she had a class that day, her History of Art class.  Sometimes, he hid under furniture, so maybe that’s where he is, she reasoned.

She stepped out the door and down the hall to the elevator.  Mrs. Johnstone, from down the hall, stood at the elevator doors, waiting for the elevator to arrive and open.

“Hello, Mrs. Johnstone!  How are you feeling today?” Bridget asked the sweet, elderly woman.  Mrs. Johnstone didn’t have any living family left, so Bridget often invited her to accompany Bridget to her family holiday gatherings.  Her family very much enjoyed Mrs. Johnstone’s visits.  She had the most fascinating stories from living a full life.

“Hello, dear!  I’m feeling well today!  I have a strong constitution, you know.  For a 92-year-old!” Mrs. Johnstone said as she hunched over her walking cane and waited for the elevator.  “How is school?  Are you a famous artist yet?”

Mrs. Johnstone was a big fan of Bridget’s work and always loved seeing her latest pieces.  She was one of the few people in Bridget’s life that she showed her work to freely.  Mrs. Johnstone was almost like a third grandmother to Bridget after three years of living down the hall from her.  “Not yet, Mrs. Johnstone.  Maybe someday, though!  I’ll be by your apartment tomorrow to pick up your grocery list,” Bridget said.  Just then, the elevator doors opened, and both women stepped inside the empty space.

“Oh, that’d be just fine, sweetheart!  Thank you so much for doing my shopping.  I don’t trust those delivery people to pick out my ripe fruit for me.  These young people nowadays wouldn’t know a ripe cantaloupe if it smacked them in the face!”  Both women laughed as the elevator landed on the 1st floor and the doors opened.  Sweet Mrs. Johnstone was met by the driver she always requested to take her to her doctor appointments while Bridget headed out to the bus stop down the road. 

“Have a nice day, Mrs. Johnstone!” Bridget called out as her neighbor entered the car and closed the door.  She gave a gentle wave back to Bridget through the window.  Such a kind lady, she was.

For as much as Bridget tried not to think of what day it was, the thought lingered in her head.  A young boy sat a few seats from Bridget on the bus, wearing a jersey with the number 13 in bold on the front.  She felt her heart flutter at the sight of it.  That damn number.  She’d had enough experience with it to know there was no escape, no matter how much of a shut-in she allowed herself to be.  It would find her, somehow.

As she exited the bus, she avoided the little boy and his mom.  Bridget preferred not to make physical contact with anything that had that number on it.  She even crossed the road early to avoid them.  As she neared the school, she swung into the coffee shop and hung back a minute until someone else made an order.  Number 26.  Okay, Bridget was safe to order.  As she was given her café mocha and blueberry muffin, she sat at a table toward the far side of the café.  She just needed to sit and chill.  Her mind drifted to the ticket she had tossed on the table with her food.  She had been order 27.  2 plus 7 was 9.  9 was divisible by 3.  Three 3s equal 9.  Ugh.  At least, it wasn’t 13.

As she ate, a man in dark clothes and a black hoodie entered and approached the counter.  He fidgeted and shifted from side to side as he waited for the cashier to come back to the register.  He placed an order for a small coffee, but as the girl opened the register to make his change, he pulled out a gun and stuck it straight at the girl’s head! 

“Give me the fucking money, or you’re dead!” he yelled at her.  The employee looked completely stunned and took a moment to gather the money.  “Hurry up, bitch!” he screamed.  For whatever reason, his head suddenly jerked to the right, and he made direct eye contact with Bridget.  Her mind raced with fear.  She could hardly believe this was happening!  He turned his head quickly back to the young woman at the register and grabbed the brown paper bag she handed him with the cash inside.  He turned and ran out the door just as a cop car screeched to a halt outside the building.  The robber ran surprisingly fast down the street, and the cops gave chase, leaving everyone in the coffee shop to stare at each other in terror and disbelief. 

Bridget knew exactly what was going on. Though, she dared not explain it to anyone there.  Her Friday the 13th had just begun and was ramping up.  The cops caught the guy a short way down the street.  After Bridget finished giving her statement, she took the bus straight back to her apartment.  Skipping her classes for the day felt like the best thing she could do at that point.  Whether she skipped her date that night was yet to be decided.  Luke might just have to wait…

As she entered her apartment, she called her kitty as she always did upon entering.  Mr. Bigglesworth usually peaked out from somewhere when he heard the door, but he didn’t this time.  Bridget quickly remembered that she hadn’t seen him that morning when she woke and also when she tried to feed him.  She, again, looked for him.  After looking in all the usual places, Bridget moved furniture.  Maybe he was trapped under the couch or something?  The more she looked, the more frantic she felt. Especially considering what day it was! 

As she moved the loveseat in her living room, she saw Mr. Bigglesworth’s tail under the chair.  She knew there was enough room for him under there, so why hadn’t he come out?  She pulled him out gently. His still form caused her to check him more closely. He wasn’t breathing. There had been liquid in front of him, as if he had been gagging or throwing up.  She scooped him up and stuck her finger down his throat to clear his airway!  She pulled out a massive hairball that had been lodged in his throat.  Her heart broke as she desperately started blowing air into his little mouth and pushing on his chest, hoping to revive him but knowing in her heart of hearts that he was already gone.

After a few minutes, Bridget stopped and sobbed hysterically.  She felt crushed.  Why would 13 take an innocent cat?  Because she loved him, that’s why!  This was what it did.  Everyone thought she was crazy.  How could they not see what happened every damn time that number showed up?  It was not in her head!

After crying uncontrollably for twenty minutes, Bridget calmed enough to get an old shoebox and lay Mr. Bigglesworth inside.  She closed the lid and lost herself again, letting the pain flow out of her, along with the tears.  He’d been her favorite companion for ten years.  She loved that cat more than most humans in her life, and now he was gone.  She suddenly felt so alone.  This day was definitely not a day that she wanted to be alone.  She gathered her beloved pet in his makeshift casket and called her vet.  She could barely get the words out on the phone.  Unsure if they’d even really understood what she needed, she headed there to start preparations for Mr. Bigglesworth’s cremation.  As she left, Bridget knocked lightly on Mrs. Johnstone’s door, hoping to have some company on her difficult errand.  No luck.  Mrs. Johnstone wasn’t back from her appointment yet.

Feeling completely broken and lonely, Bridget decided to walk the short distance to her local vet’s office.  As she entered, she felt the weight of everyone’s pity.  They knew why she was there with swollen eyes, a red nose, and a shoebox held tightly against her chest.  As she entered the small consultation room, she heard someone whisper, “Oh no,” as they must have looked up and seen her.  She exploded into a fit of crying again as she shut the door behind her.

The vet was very patient, and Bridget was walking back to her apartment before too long, empty handed this time.  It was worse than carrying the box.  Now, people didn’t know what to think of her.  The stares were more painful for her to endure.  Entering her apartment again, she turned on the TV for background sound.  The news story that happened to be on was that of Bridget’s favorite coffee shop being robbed.  An anchor woman came onto the screen and announced the name and information of the suspect who had been caught fleeing the scene.  Of course, his birthday was January 3rd.  Why wouldn’t it have been?  1-3.  Thirteen.  There it was again, staring Bridget in the face.  She crawled into bed and decided not to come out.  Maybe forever.

At six that evening, a reminder alarm chimed and woke Bridget from a deep but unsettled sleep.  She’d set the reminder for her to finish getting ready for her date.  She’d need to leave for the bus by 6:20pm in order to be at the coffee shop by 7pm.  She sat and stared at her phone, trying to decide if she was up for it.  As she gazed around the empty feeling apartment, she decided to go ahead with the date.  She hated feeling alone and needed a distraction badly.  Luke might be able to provide that for her.  At the worst, she’d end up sobbing to him and make a fool of herself.  Either way, she didn’t really care much anymore.

Feeling numb, she took a quick shower and attempted to cover her obviously swollen eyes with makeup as best she could.  Instead of fussing over what she might wear on a first date, she grabbed the first sun dress and cardigan she saw and threw it on.  She just wanted out of that apartment.  She hadn’t yet put the furniture back in place, and the space where she’d found her cherished cat grabbed at her attention every time she passed it.  She needed an escape.

As Bridget waited for the elevator, she could hear Mrs. Johnstone’s TV playing loudly from down the hall.  Bless her heart, her hearing was half gone.  All of Mrs. Johnstone’s neighbors had a soft spot for her, so they left her alone about the noise.  Bridget cracked an ever so slight smile thinking about it as she stepped into the elevator and pressed the 1st floor button. 

The bus ride to the café was quiet.  Most people were heading home, not back to the college, which was in the business district.  She was glad to have a few rows of seats to herself.  Dazed, Bridget sat and listened to the way the bus rolled down the road toward the man who would be her unknowing distraction for the evening.  As she arrived and disembarked, she started her short walk to the coffee shop that had filled her with terror earlier that morning. 

The streets in the downtown college area bustled with college aged people, walking here and there.  Most were paired up into couples or groups of couples.  It was Friday night, after all.  Time to let off some steam and forget about college papers and finals and all that other crap.  Bridget just wanted to forget about the last three days.

Upon entering the café, Bridget quickly spotted Luke sitting in a booth near the entry.  He looked happy to see her at first and then had a look of concern.  She immediately assumed she hadn’t done a good enough job hiding her trauma with the makeup. 

“Hey, there!  How are you?” Luke asked cautiously.  She figured he didn’t want to offend her by coming right out and asking if anything was wrong. 

“Hi.  Sorry I’m a couple minutes late.  It’s been a long day,” she said, acknowledging her tardiness.

“That’s perfectly fine.  It’s only a few minutes.  Why has it been a long day?  Everything okay?” he asked.

There it was.  He found a way to get the is-everything-okay question in there.  Now, she either had to lie to him or cry on her very first date with him, which may end up being her last if she did the latter.  She chose to lie. 

“It fine.  Just a lot going on.  What place are we going to again?” she asked, trying to change the subject.  He must have caught on because he allowed her to do it by answering with the restaurant name and asking if she was ready to go.  She answered with a resounding yes, and they exited through the same doors the man in black had burst out of after robbing the place just hours before. 

Luke was a perfect gentleman as he opened the passenger door of his Mazda 3 for Bridget.  It was a cute little blue car with black pinstriping on the hood.

“Pretty crazy that the coffee shop got robbed on Friday the 13th, huh?” Luke said as he drove them to the restaurant.  The last thing on Earth Bridget wanted to talk about was Friday the 13th!  She gave him a quiet yeah in response and hoped he got the hint.  He didn’t.

“I actually love Friday the 13th because I was born on a Friday the 13th!  I think it’s lucky!” he said as he continued to look at the road ahead, not seeing Bridget’s now terrified expression.  She had to get out of his car! 

Before she’d really thought anything through, she blurted out, “I don’t think I’m feeling well, actually!  Would you be terribly upset to take me home?”  Luke’s face dropped. 

“Did I say something wrong?” he asked with the same concerned look he’d had when he saw her in the coffee shop earlier.

“No, I’ve just had a long day.  I thought getting out would help, but I think it would be best if I went home.  You can drop me off at the bus stop, if that’s better for you,” she suggested, trying to smooth things over.

“No way!  I can take you home.  Just tell me where to turn,” Luke offered, obviously struggling to hide his disappointment in ending his date with Bridget so early.  She felt bad about the situation, but that number was following her.  If she stayed with him, who knows what would happen that night.  It might have already been too late!  They might crash on the way to her building, or get pulled over, or who knew what!  Yes, Bridget felt it was best that she get home quickly and stay there for the weekend.  Just until things settled down.

The car ride to her apartment was considerably quieter than their short-lived drive toward the restaurant.  Bridget could tell Luke was disappointed and not sure how to read her.  She felt bad, but he wouldn’t understand if she tried to explain it.  No one ever did.  She’d lost several relationships trying to explain how that number sought her out.  People didn’t know how to handle it, so they distanced themselves.  Maybe it was just another way 13 got to her, isolating her from her loved ones to have a better hold on her. 

As Luke pulled up to the building and before Bridget reached for the door, she leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek.  “I’m sorry for this.  Maybe we can try again in a week or two,” she said as she opened the door and got out, not waiting for him to set up a day or time.  Bridget wanted to date him, but his birthday was a real deal breaker for her.  The relationship had been done before it even started when he told her about his birthdate.  She hated to admit that to herself, but that’s the way it had to be.

“Yeah, that’d be nice.  Hope you feel better,” Luke said as she shut the door.  Even after making him take her home before even reaching their date destination, he still waited at the curb for her to get safely into the building before pulling away.  Why did he have to be born on Friday the 13th?  It seemed to Bridget to be just another cruel thing that damned number did to her, showing her an amazing guy who she couldn’t have.

Walking into the building, she felt defeated and couldn’t wait to be safe in her apartment.  She longed for a respite from all of it.  Bridget entered the elevator and blindly pushed her number 6 button on the keypad, thinking only of her warm, safe bed.  As she glanced more closely at the buttons, however, she noticed a detail she had missed before pressing her floor’s button.  There was now a 13th floor button that had never been there before.

“OH GOD!  NO!  OPEN THE DOORS!” she screamed as the doors finished closing tightly.  She fell back into the wall of the elevator, staring wide-eyed at the new button in disbelief.  How could this have happened?  The number had finally found her!  Relieved the six was lit, she assumed that’s where the elevator would stop.  Of course, it would, right?  That’s how these things work.  It accepted her chosen floor by lighting up.  She was still okay, she told herself as the numbers on the digital display moved up from 1 to 2 to 3 and so on.  She would get off on her floor and then use the stairs to exit the building.  Everything was going to be okay.

Floor 5 passed and her heart raced faster than she ever remembered it going in her life.  The 6th floor came and went, but the elevator did not stop.  Bridget’s mind raced as she pushed every emergency button on the keypad.  She even pushed the fire button, but there was no response at all.  The numbers kept slowly creeping up toward her lifelong foe— number 13!  The digital display read number 9, and her entire body shook violently.  She couldn’t get enough air in her lungs and breathed wildly.  She couldn’t get out through the trap door in the ceiling because that would just put her closer to the 13th floor. Bridget continued to panic.

The number display read 11, and she felt faint.  Her chest heaved with the effort of breathing.  Her chest felt like a hundred elephants sat on her at once.  This was what she imagined drowning felt like.  The desperate need for oxygen without ever receiving it.  The display read 12, and she got tunnel vision.  Everything was going black and closing in on her!  Her heartbeat exploded in her ears, and she couldn’t focus on anything else.  As the elevator dinged, indicating that she had reached her intended destination, Bridget clasped at her chest in sheer terror.  Before her vision went black, she saw the number display brightly showing the number 13 as the elevator doors slowly opened…

A terrifying sight greeted Mrs. Johnstone as the elevator doors opened on her floor.  There, in the middle of the elevator, lay Bridget.  She clutched her chest and shook violently.  Then she let out a large breath and laid still.  Mrs. Johnstone let out a nightmarish cry and stumbled back a few steps before falling hard onto the floor, hitting her head.  A nearby neighbor ran out of their apartment after hearing a cry and found the elderly woman on the floor, bleeding from her head. 

It wasn’t until after they ran to help Mrs. Johnstone that they noticed Bridget in the elevator, eyes wide open in the most terrified death stare ever witnessed.  The ambulance was called, but Bridget was pronounced dead at the scene.  Twenty-two-year-old Bridget had passed away of a massive heart attack in the elevator, and poor Mrs. Johnstone, who had forgotten to check her mailbox earlier that day, had been the one to find her.  It had frightened her so badly that she had fallen backward, broken her tailbone, and fractured her skull.  She passed away three days later in the hospital, surrounded by Bridget’s grieving family.

The decision was made to hold a double funeral for the both of them, since Mrs. Johnstone had no family and had grown so close to Bridget’s family.  At the viewing, a steady stream of friends, classmates, and professors drifted in and out, sharing their condolences and memories of Bridget and her amazing artistic talent.  Her drawing teacher approached her mother and gave the heartbroken woman a heartfelt hug. 

“I’m so terribly sorry for your loss.  A mother should never have to bury her child,” the professor said.  “I don’t know if you want it, but I thought I’d bring you the last thing Bridget drew for my class.  It truly is a masterpiece!”

Holding up the drawing, the professor continued, “Although, it is a bit odd that she drew this.  The assignment was to draw a beloved childhood memory.  Was she fond of Friday the 13th?”


Thank you so much for reading the first of 8 stories in my book, Parade of Nightmares! I hope it creeped you out in all the right ways! If you are intrigued and want to read the other seven phobia stories, you can find my book on Amazon as an ebook or a paperback here.

Beware, this book is not intended for children. Some adults may not be able to handle it, either! The story you just read is the mildest story in the book…

The other phobias covered in this book are spiders, clowns, needles, tight spaces, drowning, heights, and dolls. Can you finish every story?


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