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So it was about two weeks before my birthday when Cecilia first told me about the murder. Before the two of us were about to head to a party, she called and said she’d had to cover one of the most gruesome crimes she’d ever seen.

“Was it worse than the father who doused his childrens’ beds with gasoline and lit them on fire while they were sleeping?” I asked.

“It was just as bad,” she replied. “They wouldn’t let me inside the house, but I could see how torn up everything was inside, and her roommates were screaming and crying. I still feel shaky.”

Cecilia worked the cops beat for the local paper. She was telling me about the murder of a law school student, a girl our age, and they had no clue who did it. It had been just a few days before her birthday, too.

It disturbed me at the time, but I was able to let it go and not really think about it for a week or so, until Cecilia began getting bizarre calls at her office. She would have the occasional hang-up, which she dismissed for a few days, until one day, while she was out, she received two frightening messages on her machine.

In one, all you could hear were a few quick, haulted breaths, and in the other, a man spoke. She called me that afternoon, extremely scared.

“He had this weird voice,” she said. “It was like something out of Deliverance. He asked me how much I knew about the case, and he started laughing, and he implied what he did to her.”

It creeped me out to the point where I had tears in my eyes. I told her to be careful- as if she didn’t know. She already had police protection at work and around her house, and they put a bug on her phone immediately. Her fiance had to work that night and she was hoping I would come over.

“You can listen to the message if you want,” she said. I did so when I got over there. Mistake.

“Hey Cecilia,” said the low voice with a thick southern accent, “so how much do ya know about the case? I bet they told you everything. Did you know she was raped before and after?”

The exact words. I will never forget them of course. For the two months following, I couldn’t sleep alone. I slept at my mother’s, stayed over at a friend’s place, or slept for an hour or two on my couch through a night. Sure I had let the fear overtake me, but I was a single female living alone in a town where they just had one of the worst homicides take place in several decades. It was unexplained and it had happened to a girl my age, and one of my closest friends might have been receiving messages from the killer. He could have been a kook, but that thought did not ease my anxiety.

Also, about two weeks after listening to the message, I had two hang-up calls one evening. Well that did not help my nerves one damn bit. I was extra concerned for a couple of days. I called a guy who had, for a while a few months before, followed me around and called me all of the time and hanging up. He sounded convincing when he said he had not done this as of late.

After several months of the terror Cecilia and I felt, we slowly began to realize that we couldn’t really live like that. We had to take caution, of course, in our day to day, but the power of fear can outweigh the power of any human, if you let it grow long enough.

Unfortunately the person responsible for the young girl’s death still has not been caught. Cecilia hasn’t received any more phone calls since then, and the police think it may have simply been a wacko, some pernicious snake looking to terrorize the girl who covered the story. Though that doesn’t make me think much more highly of society.

She no longer works the cop’s beat, and I have since had new locks added to my doors.

*This story is true. I always change the names for sake of privacy. The title is a line from a poem by Emily Dickinson, "The Snake."

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