24 Years Earlier
There was the sound of the dial tone, brief silence, and then the voicemail was reached. The phone was slammed onto the tabletop, and hands reached up to grasp a weeping face. Something was definitely amiss, and anxious grief filled the woman’s heart. Her husband held her gently, also fearing the worst. “Do you want to drive out to the farm and see if your parents are doing alright?” She nodded, and they left.
The drive out to the countryside was about ten to fifteen minutes, the cool spring air stagnant with unrest. As the two came around a corner, the farmhouse peered out from behind the trees. Turning left, across the road, into the driveway, they saw her parent’s vehicle still in place. Once at the door, though, extreme panic gripped their hearts. Adrenaline surged and pulses skyrocketed. The windows were boarded from the inside, only hidden partially by the outer shutters. The front door was locked, and after some exploration, so was the back door. “We have to call the police. Someone else is in there.” Marlinda’s husband went over to the car to retrieve his phone when a gunshot rang out, filling the air with total silence. She sprinted away from the house, diving behind her SUV. Marlinda, now cut and bruised from the gravel, poked her head around to where her husband was. The cell phone he had held for a mere second was now ten feet away from him, and his shoulder was bleeding excessively. He was heavily suppressing groans and clutching his wound with vigor. Footsteps hit the gravel and Marlinda’s head began to spin. What now? I’m going to die...Mike’s going to die...I need a weapon...anything at this point...
She noticed a large rock nearby and threw it at the sidewalk, trying to draw attention away from where they really were. The steps halted and began to wander to the other side of the car. Marlinda gazed back over to Mike, who gave her a look of helplessness, as if to say, “ We’re done for. This is the end.” But she shook her head. Gathering all of her bravery, she slowly stood, still leaning over somewhat, and charged in the man’s direction. Everything went wrong the moment she began moving; the stranger had great reaction time and reflexes. Not two seconds into her sprint of desperation, and the man had already raised his gun and was pulling the trigger. Her eyes glazed over, and she dove at the man’s chest, the bullet escaping the barrel. Skin tore from her ear as she connected with her adversary’s torso, landing atop him.
Mike stumbled over, still holding tight to his shoulder, and punted the man’s face like a football. The stranger’s fingers went limp and he ceased to move. Marlinda quickly grabbed the gun and hugged Mike. Though in severe pain, they had survived somehow. “We need to call the authorities now. We don’t know how long this guy’s gonna to be out.” Marlinda spoke the words as she trotted lightly over to the cell phone. She picked up the device and immediately let loose a string of curses. The phone was refusing to turn on, the screen as dark as night. She angrily tossed it into the woods at the left side of the farmhouse. “Mike, get into the car, the phone’s broken. We’ll have to go to the police station ourselves.” Gravel began scratching about on the other side of the car, and a loud thud soon followed. The adrenaline came back to Marlinda. Had the man even been passed out, or had it been a trick? She raised the gun, aiming at where the man would be. Keeping away from the car to be safe, she rounded the side.
The man popped up from where he’d been squatted, holding an unconscious Mike. Marlinda screamed, so loud that it hurt her throat.
“Calm down now, sweetheart. He isn’t dead. And I know your aim isn’t good enough to hit me, either. So, here’s what’s gonna happen. You’re going to lay the gun down on the ground and comply, alright?There you go. So, in case you aren’t sure why this is going down, I’ll go over the details. You came onto my property and began to investigate it. I assume you don’t have a warrant since you aren’t a cop, but nevermind that. Regardless of the circumstances, I don’t take kindly to strangers snoopin’ around my place. So why are you here?”
Marlinda, having set the gun down, now had her hands above her head as a precautionary measure. She drew in a breath, shaking horribly, and tried to utter a sentence. Only a squeak protruded from her lips. She was helpless-- what could she do? Not even her voice would obey her.
“Oh, darling. See, when I ask for an answer, I expect one NOW! Give me it or your husband will become a permanent trophy of mine! Might even mount him on my wall if I feel like it.” The stranger’s tone had shifted from a calm mock into an angry bellow, and things were definitely not working in Marlinda’s favor in the slightest. As she went to speak to the man, her throat fully constricted itself, and blood rushed to her head. Her stance wavered, and she fell to her knees. Marlinda fell forward, catching herself with her hands. She heard the sound of a whimper, clearly sarcastic in its manner. Marlinda vomited, and she could no longer hear. Her brain was shutting everything out, hoping to erase what had just occurred by doing so.
A sudden ringing made its way into her mind, and a lukewarm liquid splattered her hair and back. Eyes opened wide; pupils dilated. Could it be that the trigger had been pulled? It wouldn’t have surprised her, yet her heart nearly imploded. This was her fault; she had buckled beneath the pressure of what felt like the world. Marlinda forced herself up into a standing position, to see what had become of her better half. It had been done. The man’s eyes were glazed with insanity, and his smile seemed as jagged as the rules he was bound to. His lips attempted to portray words, but she understood them not. The man, tossing Mike over his shoulder, latched onto Marlinda’s wrist, and into the house they went. One last thought made itself known before her mind went numb with depression: Life is no more.
Avenge me. Take the life of the one who took life from me. The words flowed through my neurons, reminding me of the past, subsequently fracturing my trance slightly. At least, I thought it had happened in the past. But, had it really? Had my mother hated my father, or ever wanted him dead? I couldn’t quite recall, but it seemed true. Then something a college professor of mine had said resurfaced in my brain. ‘The mind will struggle to create memories where none exist.’ Was this phenomena taking place in my life? I tried to fathom how it made sense, how one’s own consciousness could deceive itself. Soon the understanding found its way to me, and it made sense. People always deceived themselves, pardoning their own behaviour for the sake of pleasure and peace of mind. We all had a bit of that within ourselves, but maybe with me it had grown out of proportion, even compromising my own sanity. And though I knew what illness now plagued me, I knew not how to withhold its growth any longer. The pathogen had taken control permanently. My trance seeped back over me, and before I could forge ahead to my inevitable destiny, I was lost in the past.
I was a teenager again, struggling with addiction and depression; just another basic story of tragedy, nothing special. With my parents gone and no one else to take me, I was placed into foster care, with that not even sufficing for good while. My first foster parents were Hal and Sarah. The two were kind to me at first, but over the course of several months, as I began to open up to them, they decided that my internal issues were not for them to help solve. Hal and Sarah thought that simply forgetting my past would fix everything, that I was incompetent for remembering all the hell loosed upon me. Forgetting was not easy, and for myself, not even remotely possible. Both of them decided to send me away; nothing got better, as one could easily foresee.
After having been there nearly a year, I had already been cast aside, now on to my next torturous home. This time, though (lucky me, right?), the program had placed me with two bikers. How they’d ever come to the conclusion that they needed to foster some children was beyond me, but it was the hand God had dealt me. The couple, sporting classic black leather outfits to match their also black Harley’s, had little interest in any life forms. For the next year or so I would nearly starve several times, find no resolve in any aspect of my life, and trudge about half-dead every single day due to fatigue and the drugs I’d taken the previous night. I slept on a wood floor with no sheets or pillows and had to face the constant nonsense that occurred from a couple of drunk “foster parents”. Bill and Marie were the last humans on earth I’d have ever wished for a depressed child to deal with. Neverending yelling, thrashing about, splintering glass bottles, and the fumes of cigars and amphetamines all led to at least four near-suicide attempts. Having had enough, I finally ran away, and had the two revoked from the program. This was the second darkest time in my life to that point, and soon after the clouds of agony began to clear; maybe the sun had come to stay.
My third and final foster home came around the end of my last year in high school, and things seemed to take a drastic turn to good for once. Joe and Gwen understood depression and the aftereffects of an addiction. They never pushed me away, but rather encouraged me to talk about my tribulations. My severe depression receded from the forefront, my addictions fully faded, and my spirits lifted from the endless grave they’d been trapped in. Life hadn’t felt this good since I’d been a little kid. I still never made any new friends or improved my grades much, but my drive to continue existence reinvigorated. I graduated with a general diploma and then spent many years of my life afterwards studying nonstop to become an officer of the law. The academy I attended held some of the best people and memories for me, and my past no longer felt like my present. Nothing could ever take me off the high, right?
My sight returned to where it belonged, out of the shallows and into a scene of trees flashing by, blurred. Slowly the stability came back, and I saw that I hadn’t traveled much farther than when the flashback had begun. I allowed my legs to keep thrusting, my arms to move in unison. I assumed that at some point I’d fallen down, as there was a fresh scrape on my left palm and some dirt on the curvature of my knees. As I propelled forth towards my destination an interesting thought crossed my mind: It’s strange that I have normal, non-delusional thoughts amidst my insanity. Strange that I even have at least some reasoning… The words dissipated, and I slowed to a halt. Could it be possible that I still wasn’t fully psychotic? Was it possible for someone to slip back into a calm state after having triggered the sleeping beast? Had my delusion only been temporary?