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Oh, hey. You must be my eleven o’clock. I’m kidding, of course. My schedule is wide open these days. So, have a seat and we’ll get going, okay?
I guess you want me to start from the beginning, or at least the earliest event that is relevant to these proceedings. I suppose it all started when I enlisted. I was young, patriotic, and wanted to make a difference in the world. Besides, it’s not like I had anything else to do.
On my first leave, I met my wife Rachel. She had flowing blonde hair, bright green eyes, and legs that went on for days. Within 6 months of knowing her, I asked her to marry me. It was hard on her when I got deployed. It got even more complicated when I got the news that she was pregnant. I mean, I was overjoyed at the thought of being a father. But thinking about all the moments I would miss out on was devastating.
We had a boy and decided to name him Joshua, after a buddy of mine who died in combat. Every day in that dried-up hell hole was somehow worse than the previous. The only thing that kept me going was our wedding photo which I kept tucked in the chest pocket of my fatigues, next to my dog tags and my heart. That picture gave me the hope of Rachel’s next letter, and the motivation to survive until I could go home to see her again.
You need me to slow down? I know some people get all teary-eyed when I bring up sentimental stuff like that. Alright now, where was I? Oh, yeah.
I was riding with a convoy going through a particularly hostile area when we were hit with a roadside bomb. I remember hearing a thunderous boom before being thrown from the Humvee. After that, my ears were ringing like hell and everything went dark.
Have you ever had a concussion? Well, you don’t look much like a boxer but I guess anyone could end up in a car wreck. What happens is your brain slams against the inside of your skull, and then kinda shuts off to prevent permanent damage. At least, that’s how I understand it. I’m not a doctor.
I woke up in the Veterans hospital on bed rest and they said I’d be going home to recover from the trauma both physically and mentally. I figured I probably wouldn’t be awarded any medals for surviving the explosion since I wasn’t able to save any of my squad. But I was happy to spend some time with my family.
It had been eight years since I left for my tour overseas, and I had seen the worst side of humanity there. But that was all worth it because I was going to meet Joshua for the first time. I was so excited when I stepped off the bus and saw him waiting there to greet me. My little man was already so big. Rachel had sent me pictures, but it was amazing to finally be able to give him a hug. That’s when I noticed something… off.
You see, this is the part where I lose everybody. It’s when the inspiring story of the respected soldier turns into the insane ramblings of a guy who spent too many days in the scorching hot desert and can’t get back into civilian life. This is when most people either stop listening to my story, or start to look at me funny.
Joshua was accompanied to the bus station by a woman who looked exactly like my wife, but I swear to God that wasn’t Rachel. I’m not saying that because her appearance changed in the time I was gone. I even had up to date pictures of her with Joshua in them, which she had sent me. This really wasn’t her. Not wanting to alarm Joshua, I smiled and hugged her as well, pretending that everything was fine.
You still with me? You haven’t been writing down a whole lot.
Well anyway, I went through the motions of doing everything I thought I would normally do. Sometimes the woman would ask if there was something wrong and I would just chalk it up to what happened overseas. The whole time, I was trying to figure out what happened to my wife and why. Eventually, I put it all together.
So, during my service I was known by the other guys as being sentimental. I was far from the only one, but they knew that family came first for me and I was always thinking about Rachel and Joshua. The only time I ever had a problem following orders involved a suspected terrorist being held captive and the means by which we were told to extract information from him.
I figured command might have a problem with me if they thought I’d blow the whistle on their “advanced interrogation tactics”. It followed that they would find out what was most important to me and take that away. Of course, Rachel couldn’t just disappear off the face of the Earth. No, they’d get a doppleganger to take her place while the real Rachel was being held captive somewhere.
I knew Rachel was still alive because I would get phone calls from her when I was out of the house and she would sound perfectly normal. She never said anything was wrong and I was afraid of what they’d do to her if I asked. I was just glad to hear her voice every once in a while, you know? But I needed to find her, so I decided to spend my time doing whatever it took to do just that.
It wasn’t easy because I knew the government was probably watching everything I did. I went to a buddy of mine who worked on communications devices in the Army. His place would be safe from prying eyes. After all, the guy was even more paranoid than I was. He set it up so that the next time she called, he’d be able to trace where the call was coming from and relay the information back to me.
The next time the phone rang, I was even happier than before, knowing that I’d find her soon. When we finished talking, I heard a beep and it said the trace was complete. My buddy called back and said it was coming from our house. I thought it was strange, but then I figured maybe they’d released her after I didn’t say anything about the torture.
When I got back home, I was excited and hopeful. But, when I walked through the door it wasn’t Rachel who greeted me with a kiss. It was her double. I lost it and started screaming “Who are you? Where is my wife?” She looked frightened, but she claimed that she was my Rachel. I asked her some questions about our relationship to test her, and somehow she got them all right.
They must have dug deep to get the information for her cover story. I wasn’t sure how and I didn’t care. I was determined to get Rachel back at any cost. I pulled my service weapon on her and demanded she take me to my wife. She cried and pleaded quite convincingly, but still she gave me no answers. The bitch that was pretending to be my beloved Rachel begged for her life.
I didn’t know her and I certainly wasn’t happy with her little masquerade. Still, I no longer wished to see her suffer. So, I fired twice and ended it.
Are you okay? I mean, that part tends to give people chills. Not to mention how cold it is in here. The story’s almost over and our time is almost up so I’ll wrap up this last part.
I knew that the neighbors would have heard the gunshots, so I grabbed Joshua and ran. He was crying, but I told him that it wasn’t his mother and that we’d all be okay. I didn’t get far before the cops pulled me over and arrested me for murder. They put Joshua in the foster system and I haven’t seen him since. My trial didn’t last long because I showed no remorse for killing that imposter. The judge labelled me a sociopath and threw me in here.
So that’s how the story of Captain Joseph Grayson ends. I’ll live out the rest of my days in this maximum security prison and probably die in here. Maybe someday I’ll see Rachel again. I can only hope they let her go after I ended up here. In fact this is probably right where they want me, in this cold place where no one believes a word you say.
Come to think of it, kid, you better watch out. If you publish this story, they might put you in here with me. I mean, I may have killed a federal agent or whoever they had posing as my wife. But remember, the only reason she was taken in the first place was that I merely thought about exposing their methods of interrogation.
Looks like it’s time to go. Here, take this photo of Rachel and just… if you ever see her, tell her I love her and I’m sorry. Hey, come back any time you like. I’m always here!