Allison had been hooked on heroin for over four years when I first met her. Her reality was one of constant drive for the next hit, and threat of an ever-present dope sickness which gnawed voraciously at her body and mind.
Of course, I didn’t know that when I met her. My naïve young twenty-year-old self was not familiar with the telltale signs of substance abuse. The track marks which dotted her left arm likes stars in the night sky, and almost perpetual state of lethargy replete with distinctive nods of the head and droopy eyes went for the most part, unnoticed by me.
I didn’t see a junkie reeling from the clutches of addiction, I saw a girl. A beautiful, sarcastic girl with short jet-black hair and fierce greyish-blue eyes that glistened like tumbled sapphires. A squeaky laugh which could melt away the most troubled of thoughts, and a comforting presence which made her instantly alluring.
I fell for her right away. Before long, her and I were inseparable, attending parties, going camping and rampaging through life one adventure after another.
Allison kept a small toiletry bag on her at all times and would never go anywhere without it. I never really thought much of it, figuring it was just a small purse of some kind for her personal items.
She would sometimes disappear in the middle of the night without a word. I would awake to find her gone and proceed to initially freak out. She’d always come back though, claiming her insomnia had driven her out once again for a moonlight stroll.
That first summer we spent together was among the best times of my life. We had countless adventures, always poised for a new journey or experience. She was the first girl I ever loved, and as such, I was blind to her flaws. I didn’t see the darkness within her.
She confided in me one night, when we were alone back at my apartment. It had been a long day of floating the river and day-drinking with good friends. She told me the truth then. How she began taking pills years ago. How she had dropped out of high school in order to feed her ravenous appetite for the drug, and how she had eventually switched to shooting heroin.
She cried as she told me, the first time I had seen her cry for anything. I did my best to console her, holding her close and giving her kisses on the cheek and words of encouragement.
“I want to help you.” I told her. She wiped the tears from her dreary eyes and shook her head.
“You can’t” Sorrow fell upon her like a blanket as she spoke.
“The devil’s got me.” Her words were like a dagger to my heart. The way she spoke was one of such deep terror and simultaneous forlorn apathy. It was a tone that had abandoned all hope, and it altogether crushed me.
To see such a beautiful and incredible girl so scorned and decimated by the cold, gruesome world around her was pure agony for my soul. Little did I know at the time, her metaphor meant more than I thought.
We bonded in that moment, and grew closer together as a couple. I wanted to help her, I wanted to break the chains which held her below the surface. I would’ve done anything to release her of her torment. So, I did.
I researched various treatment methods, and tactics for curving the stranglehold that is heroin addiction. I spoke to multiple experts, and interviewed several rehab clinics and halfway houses.
I even considered more uncouth solutions like ibogaine treatment and electroshock therapy. For a time, I was even dead-set on flying us both to Brazil for Ayahuasca therapy and rehabilitation. I finally gave up on that venture though, when I realized there was simply no way Allison would survive a twelve-hour flight without a fix.
As most addicts will tell you, the most difficult aspect of addiction is the mental one. Yes, the physical ailments of withdrawal are absolutely dreadful, but the real problem is the mind. The temptation is always there.
Allison overdosed one night as the two of us were watching movies on my couch. She had fallen asleep on my lap, and initially I didn’t think much of it. That was until she began to gurgle and vomit began to erupt from her mouth.
I heard her gasp for air, and quickly I moved her from the couch and onto the floor. Puke began to pour from her mouth, and she began to convulse violently on the ground.
I panicked, and called 911 while trying desperately to stabilize her in whatever way I could. I cried as I held her, and attempted to keep her throat clear for when the EMT’s arrived. In that chaotic moment, I got a glimpse of something on my balcony. It was only for a split second, and may have just been my imagination, but I could’ve sworn I saw someone standing in the tree outside our window.
The paramedics arrived minutes later, and thankfully they were able to stabilize her and get her strapped on the gurney and whisked away to the hospital.
I stared at her in the hospital bed, glad she was alive, but devastated by what had happened. Her eyes slowly opened, and she stared up to me for the first time with sober eyes. I clutched her hand and tears slowly drifted down her cheeks.
“Why?” She asked, voice quivering. I stared back, aghast with words refusing to form in my throat.
“You should’ve just let me go…” Her voice cracked, and she whined pitifully as she spoke. The words lashed at me, tearing at my heart strings. What was I even supposed to say? A part of me was lost that day. A part that for the first time saw her completely destitute and willing to accept her abysmal fate.
I pleaded with her, begged on hands and knees for her to get the help she needed. I told her I would do anything, give her anything she needed if she would just agree to fight. I told her I loved her for the first time that day.
Allison wiped the tears back from her eyes, and gave a loud whimpering sigh. She stayed quiet for a moment, and the tears returned.
“I’m so scared…” She finally admitted; her tone replete with utter anguish. I clutched her hand gently.
“I’m with you, we can get through this together.” Her eyes locked on mine, and for a split-second I could almost see a faint glimmer of hope. It faded almost immediately, as if all the despair had drug her back down to the abyss.
“I can’t…” She stated, averting her gaze.
“Alli please I’ll do…”
“I didn’t start using just for fun.” She suddenly spoke cutting me off. She whimpered and wiped the tears from her eyes.
“What do you mean?” She took a deep breath, and I knew she was reluctant to continue, but after a few moments of silence she did.
“When I was younger, I used to have these dreams. Well… they started as dreams, very realistic where I would see these like… crazy places and people. It was fun… at first, but then the nightmares came… then he came.
Every night I’d be frozen in my bed, unable to move at all while he would torment me. He’d show me people I loved dying in the most horrible ways, innocent people burning and…” She trailed off, quivered and sniffled as she shook her head. I put a hand on her shoulder, trying to digest what she was saying.
“I couldn’t handle it, I didn’t know what to do. I started smoking weed then, and realized that I didn’t dream when I went to bed high. It worked for a while, but the nightmares eventually came back, worse than before. So, I took stronger drugs, cocaine and Adderall to stay awake at first, but then I switched to pills because I had to sleep at some point. I haven’t had the dreams since, so I haven’t stopped taking the drugs…” She lowered her head, and sniffled as she wiped her face.
I tried my best to make sense of what she told me. Of course, I wanted to believe her story, but part of me couldn’t help but try to rationalize it. I thought maybe she had just suffered an extreme case of sleep paralysis. I just held her close the rest of that night, doing my best to comfort her rather than stress her out after the incident.
We went on much as we always had, with her continuing to use while I tried to figure out a way to get her clean. The thought of her overdosing again absolutely terrified me. I’ve never really gotten over that night, and the haunting look on her face as the life began to flee her body. I couldn’t handle the thought of seeing it again.
One day, as her and I were sitting watching a movie she suddenly sat up and looked at me. She gave a small smile, a pensive attempt to cloak her fear.
“I want to do it.” I cocked my head to her, and she sighed softly.
“I want to get clean.” I didn’t say a word at first, just smiled and pulled her in close for a hug. I pulled back after a few moments, and put a hand on her cheek.
“You can do this, I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Allison went cold turkey the next day, refusing to enter rehab or explore any other treatment options. I had prepared as much as I could researching techniques and options for relief extensively. I could’ve studied for a hundred years, and it wouldn’t have prevented the hell she experienced.
That period was among the most difficult of my life. Allison cried, vomited and became sicker than anyone I’d ever seen. I tried giving her kratom and other sedatives to dull the effects of withdrawal, but it made little difference.
For three entire days, she underwent absolute hell as the toxins slowly drained from her body. She would scream horrendously, writhe about in agony and curse me for doing it. More than a few times she begged me to kill her. She lay in the shower for the entire time, as it proved the best means of cleaning and only small relief.
At our lowest point, I remember being fully clothed, covered in vomit and other fluids and holding her tight as the cold water fell down upon us from the shower head. She screamed at me, horrible things that I would never dare repeat. I know it wasn’t her, it was the darkness lashing out from within.
She finally fell asleep, and I dried her off, covering her with towels to keep her warm as she slumbered. I must’ve passed out from exhaustion soon after, because next thing I know, I was waking up on the bathroom floor, with Allison standing completely naked over me.
“Allison…” I muttered confused, before quickly springing to my feet. I knocked my head on the overhang of the bathroom sink, and cursed as I held the bump.
“Oh babe, are you okay?” Allison knelt to hold my head tenderly, but I didn’t care about the pain. Her and I met eyes, and her expression contorted into a small smile.
“It’s over…” She smiled a little more as she said it.
“I think it’s finally passed…” Her voice broke as she spoke the words. I felt tears sting my eyes, from the relief that the hell she and I had underwent proved to be worth it. I hugged her tighter than ever before, and both of us cried.
That was probably the best day of my life. Allison and I made some breakfast, and she ate for the first time in nearly half a week. Her cheeks seemed to glow and her face radiated an aura like never before. It’s like the shell she had built over the years had crumbled, and the true, amazing Allison had finally emerged.
She continued on a regiment of kratom, and each day she seemed to grow more confident and emboldened. After maybe two weeks, she went completely straight-edge, and the two of us were on cloud nine. High off of our love, and with a new rejuvenation for life, but of course, the reason I posted this to begin with, is because it didn’t stay that way.
I woke up one night to Allison gasping for breath, and crying as she shook in our bed.
“Alli… Alli what’s wrong?” I asked as I pulled her close. She shook her head and wiped the tears away.
“I saw him…” I asked what she meant, and who she was talking about, but she didn’t elaborate. I assured her it was only a nightmare. After a few minutes she finally laid back down, clutching tightly onto me as we fell back asleep. I should’ve known it wasn’t that simple.
A few days later, I suddenly awoke in the middle of the night to an empty bed. For a moment my drowsy mind nearly forced me back to sleep, until my thoughts coalesced and I lurched out of the bed.
“Alli? Alli!?” I called while moving from the bedroom. I quickly moved down the hallway and into the kitchen area. I then heard the sounds of soft crying, and paused.
“Alli…” I rounded the median, and saw someone sitting underneath the kitchen table. It was Alli, sitting in the fetal position with her arms wrapped tight around her legs. She stared dead ahead, unblinking and not even looking at me as I knelt down to her.
“Alli what’s wrong?” I asked. She didn’t respond for a few seconds, and I prepared to call the police.
“Who?” She didn’t speak, just lifted her arm and pointed. I turned to see she was pointing out the window, and into the tree outside our window. I really began to grow nervous then, and strained my eyes to see what she was pointing at. The tree was a giant oak, with several splitting branches and mostly wrapped in shadow. I thought maybe I saw something for a brief second, but it was too dark to be sure.
“Alli… there’s nobody there…” She didn’t respond, and just tucked her arms back around her legs and gently rocked back and forth. It probably took me an hour to finally convince her to come back to bed with me, but I don’t think she slept again that night.
I really started to worry about her mental state after that. Thought maybe she was suffering from schizophrenia or some other debilitating mental illness. For a while I was even ready to call a halfway house or something and hopefully get a diagnosis on her condition. I really wish I had done more.
Things were pretty quiet for a few days, with Alli growing slightly more comfortable and less concerned about the dreams. We had just turned in for the night and were about to go to sleep. Alli was already in the bedroom, and I had just finished up brushing my teeth.
I stepped out into the hallway and turned the lights down. Before entering my room, something caught my eye. I turned down the hall, and saw what looked like a shadowy person standing by the front door. In the dark room I couldn’t tell whether it was actually a person or just a trick of the light.
I flicked the light-switch back up, only to see that there was no one there. I shut the light off again, and the shadow was gone. I felt a cold chill on the back of my neck as I cautiously searched the apartment. I found nothing out of the ordinary, and warily returned to the bedroom.
Allison was already fast asleep, peacefully curled around her body pillow and snoring softly. That odd sighting left me a bit unnerved, but before long I had snuggled up behind her. I should never have let myself fall asleep.
I awoke suddenly, and immediately felt something was very wrong. The room was dark and almost freezing cold. Allison was gone. I called her name and scrambled down the hall, desperately trying to acclimate my eyes to the dark.
The front door to our apartment was wide open. My heart rose to dangerous rhythms as I ran headlong out into the night. There was no sign of anyone on the stairwell or surrounding parking lot. Once I reached the bottom, something caught my eye.
The very same tree which Alli had pointed at nights before stood flowing gently in the midnight breeze. And below it, I saw a girl standing there, arms at her side as she walked towards the edge of the woods.
“Allison.” I called out to her as I pursued her in nothing more than a t-shirt and a pair of boxers. She reached the edge of the woods and paused. I slowed my pace as I got within a few feet. She then turned, her pale cheeks reflecting the moonlight above, and tears glistening in her eyes.
“I love you…” The words altogether broke me, as I knew it was not a moment of love between us, it was goodbye. Shadows then twirled within the woods behind her, accompanied by voices and inhuman snarls.
“Allison please… let’s go inside….” I stepped forward, and as I did, two spindly arms reached out from within the shadows of the forest. I saw a face emerge as well, a terrible face whose true hideousness could never possibly be conveyed in mere words. It wasn’t a human. It wrapped it’s arms around Allison, and dragged her backwards into the forest.
She let out a small scream before vanishing into the woods. My memory after that is a bit foggy. I remember crashing into the woods after them, running, stumbling and jumping all around the grove as I searched desperately for Allison. I never saw them, not even a glimpse.
At some point the cops arrived, and after finding me half-naked, covered in leaves and bog water they placed me in cuffs. I didn’t care though, my only concern was Allison, and I told them as much.
A few cops went off into the woods, as I was driven away from the property and to the station. They questioned me about everything, and I told them everything I have written here now. Even the more fantastic things like Allison’s talk of the devil and her nightmares.
The investigation into her disappearance went on for months, during which I was held as the prime suspect. I was finally exonerated by the testimony given from a neighbor lady in the complex. She saw Allison get taken that night by someone else, same as I had. The cops cut me a bit of slack after that, but it didn’t matter, I was already lost.
That was almost three years ago now, and that was the very last time I ever saw Allison Herrick. It was the last time anyone saw her. The case remains open to this day, but there’s very little optimism that it will ever be resolved. They’ve never found anything, no footprints, no clothing, nothing.
I don’t know what the hell it was I witnessed that night, and some nights I swear it was just an incredibly vivid hallucination on my part. Maybe Allison just decided to run away, and didn’t want to say goodbye. That would break my heart, but it would be better than what I think I saw.
I’ve never really forgiven myself for all of this, and spent years beating myself bloody for all my mistakes. All the different things I could’ve done better, and how badly I failed her.
That’s the reason I decided to post this. It’s my last attempt at closure. Maybe it’ll mean something to someone, maybe someone has seen something like this happen before. I don’t suppose things will ever be okay again, and for that, I deserve my shame.
Allison, if you ever see this, I just want you to know how much I love you. I’m sorry I couldn’t have done more for you, and I hope somehow, somewhere you are okay. I’ve seen him too.