strange like that

Short Story – What Was Forgotten

[Today, I thought I’d share a short story I wrote with a friend. It was recently published in Black Petals Magazine. Enjoy.]

Authors: C. M. Hargrave & C. R. Haiber

It’s useless. Abso-fucking-lutely useless.

I throw the sheets off of me and swing my feet over the side of the bed. Why won’t this insomnia go away? What’s wrong with me?

I glance woefully at the multicolored tubes of pills standing in disarray on my bathroom counter. Maybe if I took some of each I could sleep, but unfortunately, I probably wouldn’t wake up.

The little dots on my bedside clock blink at me mockingly. I compulsively check the time and feel my stomach churn. Five minutes pass, three minutes pass, six minutes pass. Cruel, tiny numbers that stack themselves into hours.

I look again at my monument to sleeping pills. I feel my fingers twitch, longing to open the bottles and swallow the bright capsules with desperate need. Hoping that maybe this time they’ll work. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t help the last twenty times; if I take one more it might just be the magic number.

I consciously steady my fingers. Non-addictive my ass. Anything can be addictive if you convince yourself that you need it enough. My sleep-deprived brain wanders on a tangent, wondering if someone could get themselves addicted to Skittles. I shake my head, clearing the thought away.

I slip out of bed and dash to get my robe to ward off the chill of only wearing underwear. Tugging the robe close around me, I head into what counts for my living room. In an apartment you have to pretend that the rooms have some sort of dividing line.

I trip over a couple of computer cables lying carelessly on the floor. I’m momentarily startled, my body locking in terror. When I realize that it’s just some stupid cords I curse and kick at them, watching them whip away into the corner.

The whole damn apartment is a mess. I haven’t slept in days, and I find myself caring less and less about anything.

I catch a ghost passing in my mirrored closet, but it’s only me. I look as messy as the apartment. My short hair is sticking up all over, surely the envy of a punk rocker. My pale complexion is deep with purple shadows and a landscape of pimples is attempting to map out my face.

Maybe I’d do something about my appearance if I wasn’t so jumpy. The lack of sleep has given way to paranoia and that weird tracking sensation your eyes get when they’re tired. I’m constantly seeing things that aren’t there. I can’t stand in the bathroom long enough to wash my face because I keep thinking there’s something horrible reflected in my mirror. Then again, I suppose there is.

My boss is pissed that I keep calling in sick, but he can fuck off. I hate my job anyway. I briefly entertain the thought of burning the whole fucking place down and it makes cringe with guilty delight. Too bad I’m such a pussy or I’d go out and do it.

Maybe I’ll watch a movie. I shuffle to the pithy collection of movies crammed into my DVD stand. I frown. No, none of these will do.

How about something on cable? I jam the button on the remote and the TV set crackles and whirs as it warms up. I jump at a flash of light on the wall, but calm myself when I see it’s just someone’s headlights cutting through my blinds. Stupid fuckers should be in bed, but whatever.

I start flipping channels, too groggy to remember to sit down on my couch. First channel, crap, second channel, crap, third channel crap, crap, crap, CRAP! I snarl and throw the remote at the wall. The back bursts open and launches twin batteries behind my TV.

I feel a scream welling up, but in the back of my head reason tells me not to. Apartment walls are thin, they’ll call security, shhhh…

Something jumps on the TV and I let out a small wail, banging my leg into the coffee table. GODDAMN INFOMERCIALS! I limp to the TV set and punch the off button ruthlessly.

Frustration wells up inside me, making my body thrum with tension. I want to throw a temper tantrum. I want to rage and scream and break things. Could I sleep if I did? Could I tire myself out until my body had to shut down?

I can’t do it here, not in the apartment. Those bastard neighbors would call the cops. Where then? Should I drive somewhere? Where?

In a frenzy I dig through the papers and empty food wrappers scattered on my table, looking for my car keys. My hand grabs them triumphantly.

I throw open the door to my apartment. I’m partway down the stairs when I realize I’ve left it open. I hesitate, then decide I don’t give a fuck.

My robe flaps open to my navel in the icy wind, and my bare feet have started to go numb by the time I reach my car. I open the door and slam it closed so hard the whole car shakes. The engine grinds in protest as I try to start it up. Finally it turns over with a teeth chattering rumble.

I back out and weave onto the street. The lights all around me flare like stars to my tired eyes. My car drifts and I hear the sound of the tires bumping over the reflectors on the road.

“Driving by Braille,” I giggle to myself.

Ba-Dunk.  Ba-Dunk.  Ba-Dunk.  The thump of the the tires along the median reflectors beats a steady rhythm.  It could almost lull me to sleep. God, the irony of that. Almost to sleep, but not quite.

Ba-Dunk.  Ba-Dunk.

I feel my skin itching. Why is it itching? And my neck’s tight. And my mind can’t sit still. I can’t focus, so I get frustrated. Then I flit from thought to thought and get frustrated by that.

Scratch. Scratch. Ba-Dunk. Ba-Dunk.

Turn left. Then right. Where am I going? You can drive for miles and never leave this city. Wait, that’s from a song, I think. Or is it just a song in my head that never was? Where am I going? Nowhere, just driving. Or am I? I don’t know, but I do know. Damn head, can’t think straight.

Ba-Dunk. Ba-Dunk. Like a two note song.

I turn again. Was I planning on turning? Fuck, who cares. Drive. Turn. Ba-Dunk.

Wait, I know where I am.

I apply the brakes harder than I’d intended and my chest slams forward into the steering wheel.

“Fuck!”

I turn and glare at the unused seat belt as if it was at fault instead of me. I crank up the parking brake until it groans and make a move as if to strangle the seat belt, but open my car door instead. I stumble from the car and slam the door closed. I’m parked in the middle of a street, but there was little chance anyone would be down here at this hour.

The throbbing pain in my chest starts to ease as the icy night grabs hold of me, making me shiver. What in the fuck am I doing here? I still have no idea as I cross in front of my car, the headlights flickering as I pass. I trip, and my body collides with the ground, my nose planting itself in the clammy dirt. Straightening back up, I wipe at the warm liquid dripping from my nostrils. I snort deeply and cough a bit at the blood running down the back of my throat.

Moving forward again, I reach for the wrought-metal gates before me. I shouldn’t be here, I tell myself as I press my face into the space between the bars. My gaze falls over the sprawling cemetery before me. Piper Cemetery.

Why here?

Why now?

Why here?!

You know why.

My feet move as if of their own free will. The smell of earth fills the air. The ground breaths out, and I breath in. Or is it the other way around? The twitch again. The itch. More localized. Like craving something, but not knowing what. Craving. Needing. NEEDING. But what? It doesn’t matter, but I’ve been awake too long. When was it I last slept? It must have been a few days ago, but I can’t… I can’t remember. I can’t remember sleep. I can’t remember this place. But how do I know my way around? Why did I turn here? Why am I moving towards that mausoleum? When was I here? Think! I called in sick today, and the day before that, and the day before that. And… when was I last at work? Did anyone pick up when I called? I know I called. I think. Can’t remember. Dammit! Can’t concentrate. Lack of sleep, that’s all. Fucking sleep. Fucking insomnia. Can’t tell what’s real anymore.

There’s the mausoleum in front of me. God it’s ugly. Ugly as sin. And beautiful. So beautiful.

Open the door. Bang! Bang! Just need to put some weight into it. There. Open now. Why am I here?

Oh wait.

Dammit!

I suck at my finger which has begun to bleed, pricked against something on the mausoleum. The pain momentarily clears my head and I look to the inscription carved into the heavy stone. My name is on it, no, wait, not mine. My last name, yes, but the first belong to someone else. To…who was it? Yes. How could I forget?

She died, my twin, my sister. I trace her engraved name with my bleeding finger, spelling her name in my blood. So lost when she died. The connection I felt died, or did it? So restless, so unable to sleep. Was I feeling her? Maybe she was trapped!

Panic washes over me, irrational and driving. I need to get to her! I’m coming!

I turn to the blackness swelling outward from the gaping mausoleum door.

So much alike she and I. Wait: which twin am I? Which is alive and which is dead? I read a book once – I think it was a book – where a man thought every cell in his body had been secretly replaced by an identical one. The doctors laughed, but did they check?

I’m still moving towards the darkness, towards the coffin, towards the Annalise-shaped hole in my life, towards the part of me that’s no longer here. But she is here. What’s left of her. The shell of her.

God it’s heavy. Really not meant for one person to lift. Not meant for me. But it is, so I push at the top, decorating it with my dripping blood. It looks odd in this light. Something’s off, but I can’t put my finger on it. Hah! It’s my finger that’s bleeding. Can’t put it on itself. That just seems so funny right now. Hilarious!

Did it just move? I could swear it moved. Skin-and-bones me, I still can move it! Just an inch, just a hair, but moved all the same. Hell, it stinks! Why am I doing this? Just leave her be! Just leave me be!

Shift. It moved some more. And moonlight now from behind the clouds. Now I can see. Now I can see…

What the fuck?

I look in on myself lying on the creamy pink satin lining. Not me. Yes me. No.

No. No! NO!

I let loose a scream and fall forward towards the corpse, my personal mirror. She’s cold under me. I begin to sob. I shudder. Wait? Did I shudder?

I pull back slightly, my dripping tears darkening patches of the lining, turning it deep rose.

“Sis?” I question weakly.

But she’s still. She looks so thin, but there’s color on her cheeks. Had they done that for the service? Was it a trick of the pink satin?

“Why did you leave me?” I whisper.

“But I’d never leave you. We swore. Pinky promise. And a stronger one. A promise stronger than anything. Even death.”

“But where are you now? Aren’t you there, in the coffin?”

“Yes. And no. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is we’ll be together. Forever. And ever. Two peas in a pod.”

Was the voice in my head? Was it in my mind? Was she in my mind? Am I out of my mind?

I can’t remember what’s real. But I know this is real. We’re real. Me. And her. The two of us. Two peas in a pod.

BAM!

So quick! Her lips at my throat, her teeth in my neck. The sound. Something tearing, biting.

Blackness.

The life flowing out of me.

The life flowing into me.

Our blood going from one to the other.

Her teeth on my neck. My teeth are on her neck. And I remember. Remember what was forgotten.

“I’ll never leave you. Pinky promise.”

I’d gone too long. That always makes me forget. Forget what we are now.

I rise out of the coffin and place her in. It’s this body’s turn. You have to make sacrifices to cheat death after all. We’d waited too long to switch. That always makes us confused. So easy to get out sorts when there’s two of us in here.

I felt bad about all the frustration she’d felt. No. We’d felt. How long had we waited this time? Months? Too long.

I felt her now in the back of my mind. She was watching, experiencing, as I walked from the mausoleum and worked to pull the heavy door closed behind me. This was our life now. We had to share; it was the only way for us to both live. It was the only offer, the only choice, and so we took it.

Her body would rest now, and mine would take its turn.

I wandered back for the car and got in, and I wondered how long we’d go on like this. She whispered the answer I knew before it was said.

“Forever. Pinky promise.”

-

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