…“No it was his soul in the briefcase”, Michelle tells me.
“No way come on, his soul?”, I respond back with a stern voice.
“Yes! He had a band aid on the back of his neck because that’s where they extracted his soul; everyone knows this, the movie is a metaphor for finding and accepting God”, she condescendingly explains to me.
“Michelle you’re the writer here; how do you not know about plot devices. Have you heard of a ‘Macguffin’?, I tell her.
“A wha..” she tries to respond but quickly I interject.
“A Macguffin, something like a briefcase that has no real meaning but is given meaning to keep the story moving forward”, I explain to her as if I was making my closing arguments in some high profile murder case.
“Whatever!”, she tells me as she continues typing away on her laptop.
This is an average night for us, constantly debating the true meanings behind classic cinema or anything artistic for that matter, she is more romantic in her analysis while I am more nihilistic. Honestly it was one of my most favorite things to do with her, just seeing her expression change from a happy smile to a reactive one whenever I would challenge her is one of the most adorable things in the world. Her nose were crinkle and her eyes would widen; but even more so her voice would heighten; I was enthralled by it all. Tonight is like many other nights, her lecturing me on how much “Pulp Fiction” is a modern day master piece and perhaps the greatest film of our lifetime and me dissecting scene by scene of why the film is one of the biggest cliches of all time; I mean come on, they narrate the story backwards to forcibly move the plot forward, you’re not fooling anyone Tarantino. As one probably would guess we could never see eye to eye, and sometimes our debates would escalate to the point where we would sleep in separate rooms, actually more like me sleeping on the couch. Though by morning we would always share a moment where our eyes seem to gravitate towards each other; as if the rising sun was in lock step with the moon; creating an inescapable eclipse, powerful emotions would fill the air and with a great cosmic force we would embrace and all wrongs in the world would become a mere whisper, exquisite, so now you can see why I like our debates to intensify; its beautiful, also I’m an arrogant asshole. We have been in love for eight months, professionally she is a writer; mostly romance stories with the occasional creepy pasta and I am an English teacher, I know; what a pair we make.
Our story is one made of television, a classic scenario where the ‘damsel in distress’ is saved by the fearless and the more so charming prince; see at the time of us encountering one another we were living in unsure times; a night stalker was on the loose in our small town and everyone each day was on edge. Usually; neighbors were friendly to each other, doors were left unlocked and windows stayed open at night; at least this was the reality when I first moved to Angel Beach. You see I have only been a resident of this quaint community for about a year, but everything I saw from the beginning led me to falling in love with this delightful paradise. People constantly would introduce themselves to me since I was the new guy, soon I was invited to Sunday cookout’s and mingling with most of the town in someones backyard, charming people. Then it happened, a new dawn breached the shores of this hidden secret, a gruesome murder was presented; a young woman possibly early twenties was discovered on the beach brutally assaulted, her neck was bruised; her clothes were torn and parts of her hair seemed to be missing; as if this devil was chopping off segments of her hair and keeping it as some twisted memorabilia. What was more hideous was her gaze, the last expression she would share with the world before leaving this plane of reality that we all graze upon; her eyes were left frozen with utter horror. The whole scene was horrid and deranged, an unsettling impression was left on this quiet hidden town. Quickly a towns meeting was gathered and rumors quickly emerged of who the poor victim was but more insidiously, who the killer might be. It was found that the victim was not a resident of our community; possibly someone passing through. The anxiety of my fellow patrons started to dissipate, fears subsided and every one started to chalk up this incident to a ‘once and life time occurrence’. Our town casually went back to normal and neighbors were back to living their quiet lives with reassurance that evil lay in the beyond and not at home; that was until the second murder.
When the second grizzly murder was discovered it hit the people of our community like lighting. The ‘once in a lifetime occurrence’ now has become an encore for all to witness. The new discovery was similar to the first, young woman found on the beach; shattered clothes; strangled neck; missing hair but once again what left the lasting impression was those eyes; the look of someone immersed with terror. Once again no one recognized the poor young soul, authorities informing us that she was not of our town. At this point we all knew that something sinister was unfolding, while the city council try to convince us to carry on with our day to day lives, we knew that this was something pernicious and times would not be the same.
As more bodies arose; the towns folk sort of became numb to the evil that was being unleashed and people just carried on with their daily lives, albeit no more open windows, no more neighborly waves from across each others lawns, in the minds of everyone; anyone could be a suspect. Complacency is a funny thing, tragedies arise and we just carry on, moving forward towards greener pastures. When I was a kid I would stealth-fully watch the almost military like ants emulate with precision their daily marches; one right behind the other moving forward with a goal insight, that was until I intervened and squished several of them with my finger. The chaos that would ensue after my devastating act towards their simple lives always amazed me; they would scurry around with uncertainty and then eventually settle back in to their routinely march. The only thing that can redirect the entire tribe was by killing the queen and that’s just what happened in Angel Beach, with murder six.
Murder six left us petrified with anxiety, up until now all the murders followed the same pattern but importantly all the young victims have been strangers to our community, that was until; Marybeth was killed. She had been one of the most popular girls in our local high school; head cheerleader and class president, but more stupefying she was the mayors daughter. Everyone was left with the revelation that this ‘once in a lifetime occurrence’ was no longer restricted to the people of the unknown but to one of us, this was now happening to us. The people of Angel Beach quickly sprung into action, organizing a campaign to catch this ‘boogeyman’, a neighborhood watch was formed and proactive searches for the killer commenced. Through one perspective one can say we were being illegally interrogated by these vigilantes, but to the paranoid people of this once quiet and perfect paradise it was seeking out the evil and eradicating it from existence forever.
These horrors weren’t anything new to me, prior to moving to Angel Beach I lived in a big city just on the other side of the mountains; where honking your horn during rush hour could lead to dire consequences. The peaceful solace that my new community offered when moving here was blissful in comparison to what I grew accustom to, but tranquility was not the reason I moved here, it was because of Sarah. She had been my high school girlfriend and arguably the love of my life, someone that I cherished with each passing day. I loved her and she had loved me, from what I thought; after years of growing together she had done the unthinkable, his name was Tom I believe and he was Sarah’s new co-worker. All the signs were there, she grew distant and irritable; our conversations turned into a diatribe of lingual warfare. Then one day coming home from work there it was, staring me in the face; the destroyer of worlds; a ‘deer john letter’. It was placed strategically on our couch; a place that could not be overlooked when walking into our apartment, my name displayed on the envelope. Quickly I stormed towards the bedroom hoping to find her there; perhaps sleeping or anything; just some hope that she was still there; but no, she was gone, along with all of her clothes. I returned to the couch utterly defeated and expressionless, picking up the letter something told me not to open it; that this letter was not meant to be opened rather it was meant for me to accept my fate; and move on. With that I left and decided to never look back, I left everything behind I figured a new life new stuff, so leaving the city that I had grown to cherish I got into my car and drove onto the interstate without any real destination in mind.
I headed towards the coast, I knew the sounds of ocean waves and the sensation of sand between my toes would bring me the solace that I was looking for. Driving by a few small shops is when I first saw her, she was beautiful I thought; something about her just immediately attracted me to her. I felt as if I was helpless and without control my soul decided to take charge of the journey that I have created for myself. I parked and walked towards her, I wanted to know her name; I needed to know her name; but at last I lost her in the crowd. Looking all around I did not see her and I felt as if I had spotted a unicorn; something so beautiful but evasive; I needed to find her so then and there I decided this place would be my new residence. I looked up at the welcoming bill board and it read “Welcome to Angel Beach, were the past is forgotten”, I smirked and whispered to myself; “done!”.
Finding her proved to be more difficult than I anticipated, for a small town with a population of five thousand she was a silhouette, a wandering spirit that could not be captured or even seen. I was filled with apprehension; feeling as if I had perhaps made her up in my own imagination, anything was possible to me at this point. I mingled with the local towns people quickly befriending almost everyone I could, hoping to run into her. I even met the mayor, turns out we had gone to the same college; he liked me and told me of a teaching position they needed filled at their local high school; I figured I would accept, it would give me more time to find her. As the murders started to take place I found it more and more difficult to meet new people, the chances of meeting her diminished, I couldn’t stop thinking of her. Then one night; I was looking at the unopened letter Sarah had left me, something compelled me to go to the beach, a quest I never finished when first leaving my old city, I would have to evade the authorities for it was past the local curfew. I only lived about six blocks away from the beach so I stayed in the shadows; walking towards my destiny; I had to go. Arriving, I felt the midnight breeze brush against my cheek, the sounds of crashing waves put me at ease, I took off my shoes and placed my feet into the sand it was calming and euphoric. I knew it was time; I felt it, I pulled out the letter from my back pocket and this was the moment that I was finally going to read the last words that Sarah would ever say to me. I took a deep breath and started to tear open the envelope, but that’s when I heard it, weeping.
I turned my head to acquire where the sound was coming from and then I saw her; there she was; sitting on the beach crying softly to herself. I was filled with wonderment, why was she crying I thought. I found myself frozen; as if my mind had disconnected from my body and I was experiencing some nightmarish sleep paralysis, she was there so close but I could not move. As tears continued falling down her cheek she glanced over the landscape of this beautiful ocean scenery, she did not notice me staring. She stood up to leave and still I couldn’t move; I couldn’t speak, my anxiety had me dormant and all I could do is move my eyes with every step she took as she walked away. That’s when he came out of the shadows, screaming incoherently; a disheveled man with a long gray beard and tatter clothes who seemed to be homeless, grabbed her by the shoulders yelling. She started crying for help and struggled with the man, all of this occurring within mere seconds right in front of me; as if I was watching some nineteen eighties slasher film and that’s when I felt my limbs return to me, no longer was I frozen and with that I reacted. With my heart jumping out of my chest I ran towards the man and with all my might I punched him in the face; ‘crack’; he fell to the floor, I then decided to hit him a few more times not wanting him to get up; as I beat the man a loss of control over came me, that is until she grabbed me; coming back to my senses I turned towards her and we locked eyes, a feeling of calm embodied me. I asked her if she was okay, then she smiled and I smiled back, that’s when she told me her name was Michelle, immediately I was enchanted. We called the cops and the homeless man was deemed the ‘night stalker’, everyone that night regarded me as a hero; I was inundated with applause by everyone there and as me and Michelle walked away from the whole ordeal, she pointed out a white envelope that laid buried in the sand; it was my letter. I must of dropped it when I went rushing to Michelle’s rescue. I bent over to pick it up then…
“Of course I know what plot devices are!”, Michelle scolds me with an intense voice as she hands me a cup of tea.
“I am the writer here, that’s why you are missing the underlining mechanics to such a complex story like “Pulp Fiction”, she declares, as she returns to her chair.
I chuckle with delight, as I playfully sip my tea.
“I thought you wanted to drop it? Michelle you know how this conversation is going to end; me right and you upset like always”, I tell her with a devious smile on my face.
“Look, just because you’ve read “Catcher in the rye” doesn’t make you Holden Caulfield. I know you have the talent to critique art but you do not possess the talent to create it”, Michelle challenges me with a ‘check mate’ expression on her face.
“Interesting”, I scoff.
“Okay”, I pause.
“Okay, how about this, I bet you I can create a story better than you could right now; out of thin air”, I tell her.
“Fine!”, she replies back laughing. as she resumes typing on her laptop.
“Well then, I have a story for you”, I begin to narrate.
“When I was a kid I had a friend named Henry, a precocious kid he was. Henry always seemed more mature than the rest of us. While all of us would play on the monkey bars Henry would just observe and take walks by himself; constantly leering at the ant hills that plagued our playground. Though he was not without friends, something about Henry people loved, he sort of had the charisma that attracts most to him even though that was not his intentions. As we all grew older Henry only grew more in popularity, tall and well built; an attractive young man who at first glance seemed to have the world at his fingertips. As we all celebrated the tribulations that most adolescents do Henry seemed to always disappear; only to re-emerge forcibly by one of us. Life seemed to fall into place for Henry, he went to college, married the love of his life and became a writer; a passion that he appreciated since he was a kid. Moving to the big city he shared a life with his love and knew that this is how life was suppose to unfold, although Henry had a secret. It was always in the back of his mind; like a thorn pierced into his soul that he could not remove, he knew something was missing in his life and couldn’t quite figure out what it was. No matter how much he would write about this emptiness in his stories or how much alcohol he would consume; the missing piece was always there. The feeling of dread that had haunted him since he was a kid became more prevalent. So he started to go for walks at night, but more therapeutic; he started to observe once again as he did when he was a kid. Something about watching people move along with their daily lives like ants brought Henry the solidarity that he longed for. Unfortunately this outlet that he had created for himself became overwhelming and it started to consume him. He no longer worked on his books, no longer did he consume the alcohol that poisoned his mind or much food for that matter, but more disastrous no longer did he acknowledge the woman that he claimed held the key to his heart. Shakespeare wrote “Love will not be spurred to what it loathes” and no longer could Henry’s wife pretend that they were still amorous for each other and with little empathy for her curious husband, she left. Henry was now abandoned and unsure of what to do, up until this point everything always seem to fall into place for him, but now he was left more empty than ever before. So Henry did what he knew how to do; that is he wrote; a letter. In this letter he let out all of his frustrations and insecurities, his hands moving with the aggression as if he was chiseling his thoughts onto stone. Henry didn’t know what he was going to do with the letter he just knew he had to write it, so he stuffed it in an envelope with the name Sarah visible on the outside. From there he knew he had to leave, he knew he had to start over, so he left seeking out a new life, a new start. That’s when Henry found Angel Beach, or perhaps it found him; you see that is when he first saw her. The resemblance was alarming, was it Sarah Henry thought to himself, she possessed the same eyes; same smile but more evident same beautiful hair. So Henry stopped and searched for this woman who resembled the love of his life, but at last lost her in the sea of people. Was she haunting him; was this fate Henry thought, so he decided to stay in this warm community and search for her. So Henry let what happened next manifest itself as it always has, that is letting the world gravitate to him, easily he made friends and was even offered a simple teaching position at the local high school, one that he only took to disguise his true intentions and that was to find her. So every night Henry would observe and watch from afar seeking her out; needing to know if who he saw was the love of his life. Several times he thought he found her but was always disappointed, you see; it was the hair; that’s how he knew it was not her. Then one day he spotted her, he could not believe his eyes, the moment was surreal, so he followed her all day; Henry was good at staying hidden after all it was his nature to observe. He followed her to the coffee shop, then to the book store and eventually to the beach and that is where he saw his opportunity. He pulled out the letter that he had written for her, he needed to tell her how he felt she needed to know what she had done to him. Henry approached closer, his eyes glimmering in the shadows from the moonlight; waiting for the perfect opening, a moment that he had tortured himself for so long, his heart pounding and his limbs frozen stiff. Even though Henry was perfect at being an observer one thing that he was not aware of was he himself was being observed. A disheveled man who seemed to be homeless had been watching Henry stalk the poor young girl sitting on the beach and the man felt as if he needed to warn her. So this man ran towards the young woman yelling for her to watch out, he wanted her to know that Henry was watching. The man tried to save her but Henry did not want this moment to slip away, so he attacked; the old man needed to be silenced, and that’s what happened; Henry hurt the poor man. With every punch Henry felt his anger consume him, all the wrongs in the world piled into every single blow. Henry could hear the woman screaming from behind him to stop and it wasn’t until she grabbed his shoulder did Henry finally come to a halt. He looked over at the young woman, her eyes wide open as if she have seen a ghost; she was terrified. Henry smiled and she winced back, seeming as if she wanted to escape but that’s when Henry spoke and asked for her name. She said her name was Michelle and Henry laughed underneath his breath, he knew it was Sarah; why was she playing this game he thought. So he played along, asked if she was okay and told her that this disarranged old man was stalking her and he was here to save her. Michelle was apprehensive but then smiled back at Henry, and with gratitude thanked him. That’s when there eyes met and something overcame the two of them, perhaps it was the universal force surrounding them or maybe it was the adrenaline rushing through their bodies, but they embraced each other and shared a kiss. From that moment Henry was convinced this was Sarah but went along with the charade of her being Michelle. So Henry and Michelle started a life together and it seemed to be a happy one, but as each day passed Henry wanted Michelle to drop the act; just admit who she was. Each day Henry kept the letter he had written for her in his back pocket; ready to read it to her, as days passed he felt more compelled to confront Michelle, after all she needed to know what she had done to him, the monstrous acts he had performed to find her. So Henry waited patiently for the perfect night to tell Michelle.”
I reach into my back pocket and start to pull out a white envelope. Michelle’s eyes begin to widen with fear, I could see her reposition herself in her chair; no longer was she typing on her laptop but was instead completely hanging onto every word I said.
“Well”, Michelle says while clearing her voice.
“Well, I didn’t realize you needed to use props to spice up your story”, she says referring to the letter I gripped tightly in my hand.
My face expressionless, my eyes focused on her, I say nothing, not one word. Silence begins to grow between us, as if we were the only two people in the world and everything around us starts to fade away into obscurity. A mischievous smile cautiously forms on my face and as I begin to speak she cuts me off before I could say what I wanted to say.
“Okay, not bad; but now its my turn and boy do I have a story for you”, Michelle says with a serious look on her face.
As Michelle begins to narrate her story, I feel a bit weak for some reason; I could feel the hairs on the back of neck stand. I couldn’t comprehend what I was feeling and the devious smile that garnished my face mere seconds ago sank.
“Well,” Michelle begins narrating.
“I never had any boyfriends growing up, I never had friends for that matter; I was always the shy kid that would isolate herself off from the rest of the world. My body would be present on the playground with the other kids but my mind would be exploring the galaxy in some far off land where fairy tales would write themselves with little effort in my thoughts; the classic fantasy where good always triumphed over evil. Often the teacher would have to yell out my name, “Michelle Clara Thompson stop day dreaming”. For the longest other kids seemed to just ignore me, talk over me as if I was invisible. Though as I got a little older my gift of invisibility subtly wore off and instead of being talked over I was being talked to, in the utmost horrific way. I was not what you would call a classically cute kid, I was awkward; I had bad posture with crooked teeth and I wore a pair glasses that were two sizes too big for my face. It’s interesting when it comes to the nature of young kids; blunt and honest with little regard to hurting someones feelings. The nuance to explain to my fellow peers that I had bad eye sight and that my family was just too poor to afford braces for my teeth, was completely flown over their little heads and I was ridiculed for my appearance on a daily basis. I remember reading Stephen Kings “Carrie”, and just wishing that I would develop the same powers she did in the story; but fate wouldn’t be so kind, instead I developed the super power of how to repress my anger. When I was six I went on a vacation with my family visiting the coast; and I would be introduced for the very first time to the beach; I remember sitting there overlooking the scenery, taking in the ambiance while I wiggled my toes in the sand; it was truly a happy moment. That memory is what kept me going all these years, while I was utterly humiliated each day for my simple existence, I would just close my eyes and remember the image of that perfect beach, the sounds of crashing waves; the breeze brushing against my cheek; it truly was my safe place and the only way I would allow myself to cry. As I grew older so did my imagination, I would create story after story in my head to the point I knew I had to write them down. My creativity overflowing I stayed glued to my computer typing away as if I had gone insane. The hero saving the damsel in distress; the killer on the prowl; the false realities my various protagonist would encounter. I was inundated with ideas and with each stroke of my keyboard I felt more empowered, as if I manifested my own destiny. I almost felt a bit like God, creating the perfect worlds where my characters would cross paths with one another and live their simple lives, like ants. Also like a god I would torture my poor characters with Greek tragic like events, destroying the happiness they sought out, after all that’s how you create a good story; with conflict. As I got older I was introduced to more writing styles and story arcs, I realized the hero doesn’t always need to be the protagonist and endings don’t have to be so happy, I mean after all in the real world I wasn’t happy; why should my characters ride off into he sunset with love in their hearts. Call me depraved or even call me evil, but I started making characters with the sole purpose to punish and kill them; delete them into the void of nothing. The parallel worlds I lived in; were polar opposites to each other, in one world I lived in utter sadness, in the other I found bliss; with my stories I was all powerful, I was beautiful. The thing that always amazed me the most is how real my characters would come to life, conversations could be held between me and them, it always brought a smile to my face, it made me feel less alone. Though what would bring a bigger smile to my face is when I told them the truth of who they were, how they would slowly start to disappear; it looked painful, you see sometimes they don’t realize they’re not real.”
Michelle paused in her story. My stomach begins to turn and sweat floods my body; why was I feeling so uneasy. As we keep our gaze on each other I begin to feel weak in my knees, I feel my body losing its control. I fall to the floor, my eye sight becoming blurry and a ringing begins to permeate in my head. What was happening to me.
“Are you okay?” Michelle asks me with a hideous smile on her face.
“I don’t understand” I squeal out.
“Well, who’s story was better then?” Michelle asks with confidence.
“This can’t be real, what are you doing to me?” I demand to know.
“You really haven’t figured it out have you? Even after me telling you exactly what I do”, she says as I lay on the floor confused.
“Think about it for a moment, night stalkers, paradise of a town how could any of that be real; heck tell me; whats your name?”, Michelle asks me.
“My name is…,” I stammer, my mind drawing a blank; I couldn’t remember my own name.
“No, this isn’t real, you did something to me, you knew I was finally going to confront you Sarah,” I tell her, as I turn my eyes to the cup of tea she handed me earlier sitting on the coffee table.
“Okay, lets do this, I’ll prove it to you, on the count of three I will hit the delete key erasing you from existence, how does that sound? Okay here we go”, Michelle tells me with a playful tone in her voice.
“One!”, she yells out as I’m shaking my head nervously.
“Two!”, I know the truth; I know she figured it out; I think to myself as she approaches closer to the last number.
“THREE!”, Michelle screams out with conviction. As I lay dying on the floor I see her finger drive down towards the delete key in slow motion; my life flashing before my eyes; I think, with the last bit of strength I have left I yell out,
“Sarah I know its…”, ‘Click’.
THANKS FOR READING.
(copyright Adan Mendez. All rights reserved)