I count the cracks in between the blocks of cement beneath me as I walk. Two. Two. Four. Four. Always four sets of that. Always two, two, four, four. Four times each. Look up. Blink 8 times. Two sets of four. Then back down. Two, two, four, four.
Safe. Those numbers are safe. Even, not odd. Odd is bad. 'Odd' is what people call you when you're different. Bad. Wrong.
Two, two, four, four. I try to focus on something else, not on how many steps I'm taking, because there are people behind me. Person. One set of footsteps. Bad. Half of two. I think of it as two feet, and that's better. I feel better.
I round a corner, looking for my goal. Always a goal; always a pull. It's getting stronger, so I'm getting close. I have to hurry, I have to lose the person behind me. They kept walking straight. Good.
It's raining again. It's been raining every three days for the past week. Three and Seven. Not good, but not the worst numbers. They add up to ten. Even. Safe. I duck into an alley, and stop short in front of a yellow house. Behind the yellow house. It's a grimy yellow. The house looks dirty and forgotten.
Yellow. Yellow. And again. Yellow. Yellow.
I have to say it twice, in sets of two, to make it clean. Yellow. Two syllables. I feel a little better.
When I was little, everyone used to say my hair was yellow. That was back before little kids knew that hair colors had different names. Like blonde, and brunette. I was the only kid with blonde hair. Set of one. Half of a set of two, a ghost number. I didn't like it.
I walk around to the other side of the house, and the window is open. Relief fills me to the very core; there's an easy way in. Tap on the window 6 times. Three sets of two.
Always need to tap 6 times before entering. Always.
Once inside, the pull simmers to a gentle tug, leading me up up up upstairs. This house is abandoned, has been for quite some time. It makes me feel a little better, makes the sting of shame dissipate a little.
There's something in this house that I need. I need it, and I don't know why. I just do. I climb up the stairs, careful to skip over the fifth and seventh step. Just to be safe, because this house could be dangerous. Could be. I tap out the two, two, four, four, against my thigh. Just to be safe. Just to be safe.
A door. There's one closed door, and the rest are open. Of course. I think. Of course I'd be in a situation like this.
But I can't get out. I can't get out until I get my fix of whatever it is I need. So, I push the door open. Nothing's there, besides a dusty bookshelf, and a desk. I'm torn between walking to the desk first, or the bookshelf. There's a step stool, sitting alone on the floor, near the shelves.
An image floods my mind. A family of three; mom, dad, and a little girl, sitting in this room. Dad's working at the desk, paperwork. Lots of paperwork. Mom's there, carrying a mug of tea. Looking worn past her years. Daughter, on the step stool. She's reaching for a book, on the highest shelf. Can't reach. She falls.
6 taps on the doorframe, and I can enter.