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It was one of those nights. The recent car crash that killed my parents was still haunting me, crushing all hopes of catching sleep. Sure, I met a counselor every Monday and Wednesday, told her about my feelings and moods, but that didn’t help much.
Don’t get me wrong, for I was, and am, quite independent. It’s not like I hadn’t already lived a couple of years on my own. But losing both my father and my mother so suddenly had been traumatic.
Honestly, though, that’s just what drove me to do what I did; a deep need of only having to depend on myself. On top of that, I was in a state of mind that prevented any kind of rational thought. I assure that I didn’t mean to kill myself. No, really. Simply told, I craved for a good night’s sleep so adamantly after bad periods of insomnia that my mind wasn’t clear when I took all those pills.
Eight in total. Eight sleeping pills.
My slumber was deep, but instead of waking up refreshed in both mind and body, I felt very tired as I got up from my bed. The rays of the morning sun were already lighting my bedroom up, but I immediately noticed something was wrong: my computer wasn’t in the place it was supposed to be in, under the desk that held the monitor.
Thieves! My body was immediately pumped up with adrenaline. I’d have to act fast.
But as I opened my door, snatching a baseball bat on the go, the computer was there. Just sitting in front of my bedroom door. Puzzled, I checked every corner of the main room of my small flat. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, save for some moldy bread on the sole table.
But how exactly had the bread gotten spoiled overnight? Slightly worried by the thought of that, and the apparent sleepwalking I had gone through to unplug and move the computer, I sat down, taking out my phone. I had to call a friend in order to inform that I’d be late for school today.
What I saw on the screen sent shivers down my spine. There was something odd about the date my phone displayed... The month couldn’t have been that far. When the realization of what was going on hit me, my body locked up.
The date was the 24th of January.
Yesterday was the 20th.
Even though I hadn’t gotten any new messages, I was sure that my friends must have been incredibly worried. After all, I did suffer a very traumatic experience not-too-long ago, and was still trying to cope with it. Thus, I called my closest friend, Matt, to assure that I was fine.
The phone rang for a bit, until my friend answered. I cleared my voice.
“Hello there, Matt, I-”
“As I was saying, I’m sorry about causing this much worry to you. It must’ve been hard to get by when a depressed friend didn’t contact you for days and-”
“Jake?” My friend’s voice seemed to be full of concern.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
I was dumbfounded. Did he care so little about me that my three-day absence had gone unnoticed to him? Taking a moment to gather my thoughts, I answered his question. “Well, Matt. I’ve kinda been asleep for days. How did you fail to notice that?”
A moment of silence ensued, until Matt responded, speaking with a low tone. “Jake... you’ve been to school normally, even though your behavior has seemed a tad erratic for the last few days. In fact, we talked over the phone last night.”
“Did we? How is that possible?” I exclaimed.
“Yes, yes I did, Jake. Have you taken something?”
“Uh... well... I...”
Sighing, I hung up, not eager to reveal that the last thing I remembered was, in fact, ingesting a buttload of sleeping pills. I didn’t want to cause any more concern to my friend. The situation was already bad enough as it was.
My stomach gurgled loudly. I did indeed feel quite weak; it must have been ages since my last meal. A quick peek inside the fridge told a sad story: the small amount of food I had stored there was already spoiled. Pinching my nose to deter the awful smell, I threw all of the aged foodstuffs into garbage. I’d have to pay a visit to the grocery store.
Bright sunlight, reflecting from the tall banks of snow, made my eyes hurt. The skies were clear and the weather was cold, but thankfully my winter clothes kept me warm.
On the short walk to the local store I noticed something out-of-place, even though most of the surroundings were like they always were. The entrance of the flat neighboring mine was blocked by yellow tape, bearing the words, “POLICE - DO NOT CROSS” all over it. Sadly, crimes were fairly commonplace in this part of the city. Cheap rents had a tendency to attract shady people.
The shop wasn’t exactly bustling with customers as I entered through the sliding doors. For some reason, nobody save for the saleswoman was around. I hastily grabbed some frozen pizzas from the refrigerator and a package of toast from the shelves.
“Not much of a day for the sales, eh?” I asked from the young saleswoman. She nodded.
“Yup. People are afraid to move around after what happened yesterday. In broad daylight... these days, one can’t be safe anywhere!” exclaimed the saleswoman, frustration evident in her voice.
I frowned. “What exactly happened? I’ve been out of town for a few days.”
“A murder! In the staircase of that one flat, not far away from here. The killer’s still on the loose, I’ve heard.”
Killings certainly weren’t unheard of around these neighborhoods. However, the very thought of one happening so close to my place, without me even being aware of it, sent shivers into every corner of my body. I warily glanced around for the whole short walk home, but was relieved to not see any suspicious persons. However, as I got close to my apartment house, a bald, middle-aged police officer approached me.
“Good day, mister. Do you happen to live nearby?” he asked from me with a polite tone.
“Actually, I live right here,” I said, pointing at the building in front of us. “What business are you on?”
“We’re questioning the locals to gather possible eyewitness reports of the murder yesterday. Could you answer a few questions?”
I shrugged, trying to keep my composure. Looking like a suspect was not what I wanted. “Sure, why not?”
“Alright. Where were you yesterday at six o’clock?” The officer stared straight into my eyes. I felt like he was trying to pierce me with his stare.
“Um... I-I was home.” I cursed my stuttering inside my head.
The man raised his eyebrow. “And what were you doing?”
“Playing video games,” I managed to let out, hoping that he’d just go away.
Watching the sky for a bit and tapping his chin, the officer finally nodded. His gaze still sent my heart racing, but it had no hostile intent behind it. “Sure. Thanks for your time, mister,” he said, walking away from me.
When he vanished behind the building, I noticed a low rumble in pocket. My phone was ringing: it was Matt. After hesitating for a second, I answered the call.
“I don’t take your bullshit, Jake!” my friend shouted. “What did you tell him?”
Sweat had started to build up on my forehead. “The truth, as far as I know it,” I replied with a nervous voice.
“WHAT? You can’t be serious buddy, we-”
“Matt, shut up right now and tell me what the hell is going on!”
“You know full well what’s going on, asshat. Don’t you dare to play an innocent victim. We’re in deep shit now.”
“Now listen up, buddy,” Matt hissed. “In case you broke our agreement, bad things will happen to you. But stop that goddamn game of yours this instant, or I swear I’ll hurt you myself.” With that, he hung up.
I slowly put the phone back into my pocket, eyeing Matt’s window. He lived in a flat much like mine in an apartment house on the other side of the street. Though the curtains were now closed, I was sure he’d been watching.
My legs were shaking as I at last stood at my door. Something very nefarious was going on, but I couldn’t wrap my head around on what it was. Matt was acting strangely, there had been a murder, I had lost my memory, and...
The pieces finally fell together inside my mind. I was shaken to the core by the horrid revelation; I might have been the assailant. I could have killed a random person without even knowing about it, and had somehow twisted my best friend into the mess with me. As soon as I got the door open with my twitching hand, I rushed to the toilet and threw up, not that there was much in my stomach to regurgitate.
Even though I was incredibly hungry, eating proved impossible. I just stared at the pizza sitting on my plate for fifteen minutes before giving up. The entire situation was simply mind-boggling. I knew I couldn’t ever commit an act of violence like murder, even less so if the victim was a person I didn’t even know, yet everything seemed to support the conclusion.
Ding-dong. My doorbell rang.
My pulse rose to dangerous levels. Would the cops be there, ready to arrest me? Or worse, would an angry Matt wait there with a gun? What in the name of God had I done?
Despite all of my thoughts and fears, I got to the door, trembling from head to toe. I put my hand on the handle, took a deep breath, and closed my eyes, trying to calm myself down. The shaking seemed to ease a bit. I had to find out the truth, and if I really had done it, I’d have to face the consequences.
I turned the handle, opening the door. My body locked up as I processed what I was seeing. In front of me stood Matt, his face stoic like that of Spock’s. Matt looked like a perfectly ordinary young man who happened to wear slightly old-fashioned clothes.
“Hi, Jake. I came to apologize for my earlier behaviour. May I come in?” He sounded a tad uneasy, though his apology seemed to be honest.
Yet, I eyed him carefully before giving an answer. Nothing on his person sparked any suspicions, so I could but accept his apology. “Sure. Please come in. Care to explain a bit?”
Matt walked past me, taking a quick look at the computer that was still in front of my bedroom door. I took a mental note to put it back where it belonged after this whole episode was over. He didn’t even care to take his jacket off, immediately scurrying to the table, taking a seat. I followed him.
“Jake... it’s just that you’ve been acting so strangely for the last few days,” Matt started. “When you called me this morning, I thought that you’d gone nuts for good. Then, when you talked with the cop, I guess I kinda... overreacted. I truly believe you can’t remember anything that happened. Thus, I’m sorry for lashing out on you like that.”
I nodded. “Apology accepted. But could you finally reveal me why you got so worked up by my conversation with the officer?”
Matt gave me a nervous look. “See, Jake, we were there. We witnessed the killing first-hand. If the cops found that out, we’d be taken into custody and interrogated! Who knows, perhaps they’d name us the prime suspects!”
Shocked by Matt’s aggressiveness, I took a moment to clear my mind before talking. “But if you know something, you really should tell them. It’s simply wrong to give a criminal leeway to protect yourself. As for me, I really do not remember anything.”
“Do you realize what the cops would think of you if you claimed that you had an amnesia just after yesterday?” Matt shook his head. “Listen up, buddy. It’s not like the details would really even help with the case. The killer was wearing black clothes and a commando mask, and I’m sure the few other witnesses have revealed that too.”
“Well...” I bit my lip, pondering about what I should do. “If you say so. This has been one hell of a day, y’know.”
“Glad that you made that decision, Jake.” I could hear great relief in Matt’s voice. “Now I have to get going; I have an important meeting to attend. I think I’m already late. See ya!”
I simply sat there for a while, mulling over all that had happened during the past hour. My mind was boggled by a number of questions: Was Matt telling the truth? What else might I have done over the period I didn’t remember? And what kind of shit would I have to come up with if the cops decided to question me again?
The day went on without further incidents. I was so anxious that there wasn’t much I could bring myself to do. School was of course out of the question, not to even mention going over to Matt. Hour by hour passed by as I was reduced to simply laying on my bed, contemplating what had happened.
Finally managing to get up when it came time to put the lights of the house on, I took a good look outside from my window. Nobody was on the street. Then I glanced at the direction of Matt’s apartment, only to see a curtain swiftly covering his window - he certainly didn’t quite trust me yet. His attitude and behavior was worrying me deeply.
Well, if he wanted to spy on me, it wouldn’t make it easy. I closed my curtains too, letting out a loud sigh. I had gotten twisted up in a big mess.
Because of my depressed laziness, the computer was still at my door. After a sudden surge of determination, I carried it back to where it belonged and plugged it in. Even if I couldn’t do anything else, the internet would always be there for me. A push of a button later the computer was booting up.
Like on so many other days, I started up "The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind," one of my all time favourite games. Surprisingly, after only a couple of minutes of play, the game was lagging immensely. Frowning, I checked the task manager. Apparently, the processor wasn’t running even close to top speed, but the temperatures of the processing cores were way over the usual. I had cleaned up the insides of my PC not too long ago, so the overheating was mysterious. Opening up the game again confirmed it wasn’t some random bug, either, as the lag returned. Eventually, the screen froze and my computer crashed. Frustrated, I went to bed, being careful to take only one pill this time. Even though I hesitated for a bit, it was very clear to me that no sleep would be had without medication.
“How are you doing, Jake?” asked a masculine voice from somewhere behind me. I was in complete darkness, unable to move.
“Oh, I understand. It must be hard to cope with your actions, am I right? It’s normal, I assure you. You don’t want to remember.” continued the voice with a snarky tone.
“What do you want from me?!” I exclaimed in the void.
“Nothing, for I am you, silly.”
I woke up, shivering, long before the sun had risen over the horizon. One pill was nowhere near enough to keep me sleeping after everything I’d been through, but taking another wasn’t much of an option. There was no way I was going to risk worsening the situation.
Flicking the switch to light up my room, I got up and yawned. Trying to fall asleep again would be a doomed attempt, so I turned my computer on again. This time, it didn’t even boot properly.
My life would’ve been very empty without internet. Thus, I grabbed a screwdriver from my closet, in my mind to open up the casing to clean the insides up. The screws were tighter than I remembered, but with some effort I managed to wrench the casing open. However, to my surprise, no dust flew out. No, the problem was something else entirely.
I dropped the screwdriver. Every inch of my body shook, and a shiver jolted through my body. No, no, no... it couldn’t really be...
But it was. A butter knife was laying on the processor, glued onto it by dried blood. The whole inside of the casing was a mess, with red splatters everywhere. Dizziness filled my head, and my vision faded to black.
It’s been a few weeks of the incident now. I haven’t talked much to Matt, and I know he’s still stalking me at times. My other friends knew nothing about my amnesia or my supposed part in the murder; if I ever told them the truth, they’d send me to a mental hospital. Seeing that I was normally in school during the time I can’t remember, there’s no need to inform them.
Suicide has been an option, I admit. But frankly, I don’t want to cause any more suffering to my friends. To tell the truth, only thanks to their support am I still here, writing this.
And... well... a part of me wants to go to Matt and make him talk. But to be honest, I’m not sure whether that’s for the best. After all, I don’t really want to know what happened. The truth could be too much for me to handle.