Tuesday's Gone, short story by James Dean Collins at Spillwords.com

Tuesday’s Gone

Tuesday’s Gone

written by: James Dean Collins

@TheGigconomist

 

Four weeks ago, on a Monday night, I shut the TV off in my living room and went to bed around 11, just like any other Monday night.

And when I woke up the next day, it was Wednesday.

I didn’t even realize it was Wednesday until I’d been on the clock for over an hour at work. I made my way to the conference room at 10:30, just like I always did on Tuesdays.

When I walked in and sat down, no one else was there. Normally, I was the last one in for the meetings, as I drag my feet a lot and don’t really see the point of “go-getting” at my job. As it were, I thought they were getting ready to fire me anyway. In six weeks up to that point I hadn’t hit my sales quota.

After several minutes I finally left the conference room and walked to my manager’s office. He was sitting in his chair, eyes fixed on his computer monitor.

“Hey, Steve!” I said to my boss as he looked up. “Are we having the Tuesday meeting or what?”

Steve stared at me from over his monitor for a few moments. “What the hell are you talking about, Mike?” He finally asked back.

I looked at him confused. “It’s 10:30, on a Tuesday…”

“It’s Wednesday. Get back to your desk,” and Steve went back to what he was doing on his computer.

I stood there in his office for a moment as I struggled to remember the day before. I went back to my desk and tried to piece together my Tuesday.

I didn’t remember a single thing about it. Nothing regarding work or what I did when I got home.

The lost Tuesday didn’t really affect me all that much the rest of the day. I absent minded went through the Hardee’s drive thru for Taco Tuesday, and had to pay full price because I forgot it was Wednesday.

The rest of the week was uneventful. I hung out with friends, my buddy Brian had a birthday. I almost didn’t go but I at least managed to make an appearance at his house.

He told me he was getting married. Jesus, I never pegged him for a guy to settle down. It’s funny where the time goes when it’s least expected.

We sang some karaoke and my friend Naomi showed up, too. I’d asked her to come, she just made everything…better. We’re just friends, but I keep a picture of the two of us together on my desk. It gets me through my rough days at work.

That Wednesday was the best night of my week, though I still couldn’t remember Tuesday.

Otherwise I went through the rest of my work week, which resulted in more goose eggs under my sales quota. I didn’t get a single lead, let alone a sale, and Steve started giving me the evil eye when I saw him around the office. I started taking longer lunches to avoid him and my coworkers. Otherwise I played video games when I got home and looked for a used car online, my Kia Soul was giving me problems.

The following Monday I had the shift from hell. I ended up late to work and Steve dressed me down in front of everyone. He spent part of the morning pulling my performance numbers from the past two months. He printed them out and read them off in front of all of them. That shook me so hard I couldn’t even make a call until lunch.

I forced enough enthusiasm the rest of the day to make my dial quota, at the very least. When I got home I told Naomi about it and she suggested looking for another job. She wasn’t wrong, but here I am in my 30s and I can’t even hold a phone sales job at this point.

The rest of that Monday night was uneventful. I made myself a TV dinner, played some video games, watched TV, and went to sleep at 11p.m.

And the next day, it was Wednesday.

It happened again. I waited for the sales meeting that never came, and then I went to Steve’s office, and he had the same reaction. As I left his office, I heard him mutter under his breath, at least he was on time today.

Go to hell, Steve.

I went through the rest of my sales day, about another six-and-a-half-hours, trying my best to work through it but also with a general uneasiness. By the end I hadn’t generated a single lead so I drew another zero on the board, my second in three days, and put the dry erase marker down.

I turned to sit back down but did a double take.

My second in three days…

I stared at the board for a few moments.

Under Tuesday, someone had marked off three sales leads under my name.

Even now I have to write that it was someone else who wrote those sales leads in under my name for Tuesday. But, looking back, it was my handwriting that wrote the number on the board under my name. It had to be, I have terrible handwriting and it’s obvious in my particular office when I write a number and when someone else does.

It occurred to me in that moment to check both my index card box and the sales program on my computer. I decided to double-check the detailed information on the three leads in question.

In both the computer and my index card box, there was detailed information on three new sales leads. On the index cards, the leads were written out again in my hand writing.

I was already freaked out that this was now a weekly occurrence.

I put the cards back in the box and looked at the clock. I had about a half-hour of my shift left at this point. I put my headset on and pretended to make sales calls, but in reality I was trying to retrace my steps in my head. I was trying to recall anything from the day before, but all I could remember was that Monday, right up until I went to sleep.

I looked at the photo I had on my desk, of Naomi and me. I decided to call her when I got home. And then it was 5 o’clock, time to go.

When I made it home, I talked to Naomi on the phone for a while. I told her about what happened with missing the last two Tuesdays, she’s very good at empathizing.

“Well, what about the three sales leads?” she asked me. “Maybe one of them spoke to you and can kind of fill you in about this past Tuesday in a workaround way.”

I laughed a little. “And what am I supposed to tell them? ‘Hi sir, remember when I called you two days ago and somehow convinced you to buy one of our fake car warranties? How did I trick you into that, exactly?'”

She scoffed. “I don’t know, that’s why you’re the salesman, isn’t it?”

She had me there.

We talked for a while about other stuff, namely her job and if each of us was doing okay. I was honest with her and told her I didn’t think I was doing all that well, that maybe forgetting a day was a byproduct of some underlining mental health condition. Naomi reassured me, as she always did, and told me to write down all of my feelings the rest of the week. She was good at that sort of thing, which is why I came to her for advice so often.

We said our goodnight to one another and I went to bed. I had a problem getting to sleep that night, still rocked by everything. But Naomi had a point about both the journal and calling those two leads. I resolved to do both the next day.

When I awoke it was Thursday morning. I went through my normal routine but I grabbed one of my old composition books, I tried my hand at writing literature during my college days, and I made some space in the notebook to chronicle how I was feeling at any given moment. I made sure to add it to my backpack along with a couple of pens, which I could never seem to find when I needed them, and made my way to the office.

Once clocked in I just sat at my desk. I figured I would save the three leads for the late morning hours, it was often easier to follow up with leads between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. for reasons I never felt like researching. Then again, maybe my lack of follow-through on my job was why they were getting ready to fire me anyway.

After posting yet another zero while halfheartedly prospecting, I took a 45 minute lunch and read over those index cards. I had my composition book right next to me, and I was trying to find any difference between my own handwriting and the handwriting on these cards.

I wrote out all three leads, again and again, until I absolutely had to start making calls.

But there was no difference between what I wrote in my notebook and what had been written on the cards.

At the one o’clock hour, I called the leads on all three cards.

The first lead picked up, and to my surprise, I actually closed a sale! It had been two months since I had a close. I kind of waffled my way through it, as I told Naomi I might. Nevertheless, I pulled it off. I put my sale, the first I’d had in months, on the sales board.

The lead on the second card didn’t pick up, which isn’t a surprise. Any salesperson worth half of their salt knows that sometimes, a lead needs up to six or seven contacts before they’ll decide to close. So then I put the card back in my index card box and took a look at the third card.

The third lead, was a guy named Hank.

I dialed Hank’s number and listened to the phone ring on the other end.

There was a click, and I heard room tone and heavy breathing on the other end.

I gave it a moment before I started in, it’s the salesman in me. I didn’t wan’t to seem rattled on the callback, even though I was freaked out terribly from the fact that I missed an entire day in my memories and somehow I was great during the loss of time.

“Hello, Hank!” I said in my best, full-of-shit voice. “It’s Mike from Premium Warranty! We spoke on the phone yesterday and set up a call back for today.

There was a long pause on the other end of the line, with more heavy breathing.

“Hank?” I asked back into the headset. “It’s Mike, from Premium Warranty.”

“I know who you are,” he said back to me. “Well, I think I do, anyway. Do you know what happened to me yesterday, Mike?”

“N…no,” I managed to stammer out.

“Neither do I, Mike,” he replied, scornfully. “Don’t call me again.”

And the line clicked dead.

I sat there bewildered and tried calling him back, but the phone just rang and rang for a while without anyone ever picking up again. I tried this a few times before giving up and sitting in my chair. I started having a panic attack now. I needed to get out of there.

I breathed heavily, nearly passing out, as I got out of my chair and made my way to Steve’s office.

I stood in his doorway, panting, “Hey, Steve?”

He looked up from his computer, like he always did. “Yeah, Mike. You okay buddy?”

Wait, why wasn’t he pissed at me like always? I asked myself and studied his expression.

“Mike?”

I snapped out of my thoughts and realized my breathing had slowed a little. I sped it back up so I could fake it, I just couldn’t be there.

“Steve, I have to go home. I really don’t feel well,” I told him.

And Steve was so nice. He wasn’t even this nice when he hired me.

“Whoa, okay Mike,” he said as he got up from behind his workstation and gave me a hug. The guy yelled at me when I interviewed for the job, for Christ’s sake. “Take the day, okay? Come back and start fresh tomorrow morning.”

“Th…Thanks, Steve,” I told him as I slid carefully out of the embrace. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

And I backed out of the office, while Steve just stood in place and smiled this…smile I’d never seen out of him before.

I made my way to my desk and grabbed my backpack and all the stuff I needed, including Hank’s index card and my composition book, and made a B-line for the exit.

I got in my Kia and raced back home to Aston, and my apartment.

The first thing I did was call Naomi. I was freaking out about everything. I can’t remember two whole days, a guy who had been interested in buying from me mysteriously threatened me, and the biggest and most dreadful thing, I had no idea what was going to happen next Monday night.

“Whoa, whoa, slow down, Mike,” she told me, in that voice of hers. “There has to be a reason for this, okay? What can I do to help?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I…what could I even do for this?”

“Have you talked to a counselor?” she asked me. I hadn’t been to a shrink in a long time. I’d been too busy and didn’t bother to pay for health insurance.

“No,” I replied. “But I swear this isn’t in my head. And what is a shrink going to say to many anyway that’s going to fix this? Am I suddenly going to feel good enough to live through Tuesdays again?”

She sighed on the other end of the phone.

“Look,” I started with her, trying to walk it back. “I’m sorry. I just, if I’m crazy, then I’m crazy. But, other then experiencing these things, the losses in time and the sudden changes in attitude from my boss and clients, I don’t feel any different.”

“So what does that mean?” Naomi asked me.

“What if someone else experienced this with me?” I asked her, point blank. “Can you help me? Can you sit with me on Monday night, and we’ll both stay awake, and see if this happens again?”

She didn’t respond to that at all.

“God, Naomi,” I began. “Just, I hate to ask, but can you please come over? Can you please make sure I’m okay? I won’t even sleep, I don’t think I can. But I’ll stay on the couch, and you can have the bed. Whatever you want, anything, I’ll even pay you. Just.. I need to know if this is in my head or not.”

She let out a breath. “Okay,” she responded, and I breathed a sigh of relief. “But we’re ordering takeout. I’m not eating your cooking.”

And I laughed and hung up.

That night, Thursday, I think it was. I mean, it wasn’t supposed to be Thursday but it was Thursday, I didn’t sleep. The following Friday when I went into work it was a mess. I was tired and sluggish and I couldn’t focus on anything. Somehow I made over 100 dials, but I sped through them and didn’t connect with any leads in a meaningful way. I’d given up on journaling my thoughts, too. I just wrote Tuesday over and over on about three pages, and shoved the composition book into my backpack.

I took a chance at lunch and tried a nap in my Kia. I ended up oversleeping and was in my car for over an hour and a half, when I ran back in and sat down.

Oddly, no one seemed to notice I was late…or that I even sat back down at all.

None of my coworkers, or Steve, acknowledged my existence.

I decided to test my paranoia.

I just sat there. From one-thirty to five o’clock, I just sat in my chair and I did nothing.

I made no calls, I did nothing on my computer, and I didn’t even look at my phone. I just sat in my chair, glancing at my monitor, until it was time to punch out.

My six coworkers never looked over at me, they just kept on dialing and talking on the phone. When the day ended I drove home and there was the anxiety again. I occupied my time as best I could, playing video games, looking for new jobs, and texting my friends. I texted Brian, I wanted to know if he and Julia set a date yet. But he never got back to me.

Hopefully I’d be sane enough to attend.

I didn’t sleep that Friday night, either. Nor did I sleep Saturday or Sunday. I was terrified, and now my mind was playing tricks on me.

Monday came, and…I’m not sure I recognize my job anymore.

This might be a byproduct of all of the stress and insomnia, but just like Friday afternoon, no one interacted with me. I didn’t even make a single call, not one. I sat at my desk and wrote down some things I could get that could help me. I checked Amazon from my work station and ordered a little dash camera that could double as a surveillance camera.

This way I could eliminate someone playing a joke on me.

At lunch I went down to my Camry.

Camry.

Did I always own a Camry?

I had to have. I had the keys in my hand, complete with the Toyota logo right there on the key. Plus, the car had all my stuff in it, including my car registration and insurance card.

I digress. I went down to my Camry and took another nap. This time I slept until two o’clock. I showed up back at my desk at 2:15, and again, no one cared.

It was so different from the previous Monday.

Before my shift ended, I thought about what Naomi had said when I spoke to her last. I have to admit I was excited that she was coming over in spite of the horrific circumstances. I looked for some takeout places near the office to see what I could bring home. I started to plan the night out too. Maybe we could enjoy ourselves a little bit instead of her watching me stare a clock in terror, waiting for another day of my life to disappear.

I settled on a Vietnamese Pho place and put in an order right from my cell phone. When my shift ended, I walked down to my Kia…

Yeah, my red Kia Soul was back and I started it up. I sat there for a moment, checking the glove box and all of my compartments. It was still my Kia Soul. This time, I took some pictures. I took photos of the Kia itself, and all my documents.

I wondered if it mattered that all of the photos were digital for a moment. I thought about ordering an old Polaroid One-Step and some film like I had as a kid.

I drove to the Vietnamese place and picked my order up, and then I drove back to Aston. I cleaned up my apartment a little bit and texted Naomi that I was ready. She came by about an hour after I texted, I want to say eight o’clock or so.

I answered the door and took her in for a moment. She looked at me with concern on her face.

“Jesus Christ, Mike,” she told me as she walked through the door. “When was the last time you slept? You look like hell.”

I shut the door behind her and locked it. “I want to tell you it was last Monday night but I literally don’t know if that was real or not,” I told her as I walked past her to the kitchen. “Make yourself at home.”

She took off her coat and sat down on the couch as I grabbed the bag of Pho from the kitchen.

“Can I ask you something?” I asked as I walked back to the living room.

“Of course,” she said.

I thought about the question.

“What kind of car do I drive?” I asked her.

She gave me the look to end all other looks.

“You drive a Kia Soul,” she responded, flatly. “It’s a piece of shit. You bought it off a car lot for a courier job that you took near King of Prussia a few years back, but the job ended up not panning out. Ever since then, that thing has broken down in every way possible, including the transmission, the alternator, and the fuel pump. I keep telling you to get rid of it and you keep telling me that you put too much money into it. Why, what kind of car do you think you own?”

Though her tone was condescending, I breathed a sigh of relief. “Yeah, that’s right. Thank God,” was all I could say as I opened the bag up and sat down near her.

“What kind of car did you think you owned?” she asked me again.

I tried to explain this in a way that didn’t make me seem too far gone.

“I swear, I went down to my car at lunch, and it was a Toyota Camry.”

The expression on Naomi’s face maintained concern, but now she seemed a little weirded out.

“Okay,” she began. “Why do you think you owned a Camry?”

I got up off the couch and let out a sigh. What she said made me really angry, and maybe I reacted poorly.

“I don’t think I owned a Camry, I did own it,” I responded curtly as I paced around the living room. “Let me be clear, something is happening to me that’s literally changing my life. Parts of it are being replaced, or something, and it has a lot to do with this Tuesday thing!”

Naomi looked up at me. “You haven’t been sleeping lately, Mike…”

“I know that!” I shot back, interrupting her. “You think I’m crazy. That’s fine, that’s why I asked you to come over. But I have to tell someone what the hell’s going on!”

Naomi looked away from me, down at the floor, and nodded. “So what do you want to do then?”

“I just want you to be here,” I told her. “I’ll sleep on the couch, you can have the bed, like I promised. I didn’t do the laundry yet but I have another sheet in a drawer. I just need to know if it’s just me or not, okay? And I trust you. If I do something that I can’t remember or whatever, whatever you tell me, that’s what happened. That’s the truth.”

“So,” she started, looking back up at me. “You’re either kind of…sleep walking through Tuesday, and really don’t remember what happens. Or, you literally don’t have them anymore, and part of your existence is being erased.”

I started to cry, and she hugged me.

“That’s the long and short of it,” I said into her shoulder as I choked on my own tears. “I’ll stay up tonight, one more night. If it’s Tuesday tomorrow, and you confirm it with me, I’ll go to Chester/Crozier hospital and ask for a 72-hour hold, I promise. If the clock hits midnight, and for whatever reason it’s Wednesday, I really need your help. I won’t know what else to do. Please, Naomi?”

I took my head off of her shoulder and looked her in the eyes, waiting for an answer.

She simply nodded.

“I’m going to need the clean sheet,” she told me, tongue in cheek as always.

I laughed, and then I opened the bag of Pho.

“Oh, I forgot to ask,” she said. “Did you close those leads?”

And then it hit me.

Hank.

I still had Hank’s index card in my backpack!

I ran down to my car, leaving Naomi in the apartment, and found my Kia right where I always parked it within the complex. I grabbed my backpack out of the trunk and threw it over my shoulder, then ran back up the building stairs.

I hadn’t even shut my apartment door behind me. She sat on the couch bewildered.

“What, what was that about?” she asked me.

“My sales leads,” I told her as I frantically dumped out my backpack. “You just jogged my memory.”

I pulled Hank’s index card out of the pile. It still had his information on it, including the phone number. I was overjoyed.

“Perfect!” I yelled and grabbed my cellphone from my pocket.

Naomi shook her head.

“I’m still not getting it,” she told me.

I dialed the number on my phone. “My sales leads, the ones I didn’t remember generating. I called all three of them,” I told her. “When I got to this guy, Hank, he was strange and hung up on me. I kept the index card that I found his info written on because I had a hunch.”

“A hunch?” Naomi gave me another funny look.

I nodded and pressed the button to connect the call. “Yeah, like maybe this guy was going through the same thing I was going through or talked to a different version of me or something.”

I pressed the button on the screen to connect the call to speakerphone and put the phone on the coffee table, and we both waited for it to ring.

It never rang.

“We’re sorry,” the automated voice said. “The number you have dialed is not in service…”.

I hung up, and tried again.

I got the same result. In a week, Hank’s number had somehow been disconnected.

I fell back into the couch, defeated.

“Why was the number disconnected?” Naomi asked me, and suddenly I found my strength again.

“Exactly,” I told her. “Even if you think I’m losing my mind, why would I make up a phone number and go out of my way to bring it home and call it in front of you? Why would I do any of what I just did if this was all in my head?”

She thought for a moment, and when she looked back at me it looked like she realized what I was going through.

“Okay, so if I wake up here tomorrow, and it’s Tuesday, you’ll get some help,” she reiterated. “But, if I wake up here tomorrow and it’s Wednesday, then you were right.”

I nodded excitedly. “Yes, exactly!”

Naomi let out a breath. “Then what?”

I felt all the energy drain from my body again.

“I don’t know,” I told her. “But two of us can tackle this better than one of us can.”

She faintly smiled, but now I could see the doubt in her face. The worst thing that could have happened at that moment, did.

She was starting to believe me.

The rest of the night we ate dinner, played video games, and watched TV. At 11 o’clock I didn’t end up sleeping. We changed the sheet on my bed and I found a fresh blanket, too, and Naomi set an alarm on her phone and went to sleep.

I grabbed my old blanket and went out to the sofa. I threw it on the throw pillow and made myself some coffee in the kitchen. I wasn’t going to sleep, not until I saw Tuesday. I only had about 40 minutes left to know for sure.

I laid down on the couch and put the TV on, I turned the volume down and activated captioning so that I wouldn’t wake Naomi up. The channel was tuned to a late night talk show that I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t pay attention right now anyway if I’d wanted to.

The coffee made me jittery but at least I was awake. I thought about what Naomi had said to me earlier, before we ate.

Then what?

I tried to plan in my head, but the answer really is I don’t know. Where’s the precedent for this? What could I do? What if Naomi now lost her Tuesday’s as well? What would we do?

Where could we run? How could we fix this?

I checked my phone for the time.

11:55 p.m.

Perfect, at least I’d have any answer. Someone else would be here with me. I wouldn’t have to go through this again, alone.

I put my phone down and hate-watched a little more of the show. My eyes hurt, I didn’t want to blink. I checked my phone again.

11:57 p.m.

This was it. I took a deep breath and braced myself. I stared at Hank’s index card, which was still on the table.

What happened to you, Hank?

11:58 P.M.

I grabbed a pen and wrote on the back of the index card, big enough for her to find.

If I’m gone when you get up, know that I love you, Naomi. -Mike

I put the index card down on the table and braced for the end. I was sitting up now, no way would I sleep through my personal apocalypse.

11:59 p.m.

I started hyperventilating, I kept my eyes on the show and tried not to think about it.

11:59 p.m.

I studied the show, and now it was frozen. The host had his hand in the air with his mouth wide open. The captioning stopped halfway on the word “acting” and simply read “act…”

I got up and looked around, I checked my balcony door that looked out over the parking lot of the complex.

My Kia was gone, again.

“Naomi! Wake up, it’s happening!” I yelled as I ran to my jacket and pulled my car keys out.

The car key had the Chevy emblem on it, sure enough. I clicked the remote and down in the parking lot, a Chevy Cruze’s lights flashed.

I checked my phone to take a video. But, none of the apps worked.

11:59 p.m.

That wasn’t right. It had to have been several minutes from the time it was 11:58 p.m.

“Naomi!” I screamed from the living room, but she didn’t answer.

“Naomi!” I tried again as I got off the couch and ran to my bedroom.

She wasn’t in my bed.

In fact, my bed was made with my old sheet on it, and there was no blanket.

No, this isn’t right.

I started towards the living room again but stopped in front of my bathroom doorway.

I turned and looked in at the bathroom.

No,

I walked in and turned the light on, and made my way to the sink.

But my reflection wasn’t in the mirror.

I stared at it for a few moments. I waved my hand, I jumped up and down. I was able to see my hallway behind me in the mirror, but not me.

I touched the mirror, it felt cool, like glass. I didn’t fall into it like Alice did. I just stood, dumbfounded, at my lack of reflection.

11:59 p.m.

I ran back out to the living room, and the picture on the TV was still frozen in place.

I looked at Hank’s note card.

The message I wrote to Naomi wasn’t there.

I flipped it over, and it was completely blank. Hank’s information was gone too.

I looked out of my living room window, it was still dark outside, and there was no sign of Naomi in the parking lot.

11:59 p.m.

I grabbed my phone and went to my front door, ran into the hallway and down the stairs of my apartment building. I started to shout for Naomi but I didn’t get a response. I decided to take…my new Chevy Cruze, but of course it didn’t start. It didn’t even click or struggle like with a dead battery or bad alternator, it didn’t do anything. It was a shell of a car.

I yelled Naomi’s name a few times and looked around, but there was no answer.

In fact, there wasn’t any sound at all.

There were no insects, no cars from nearby Pennell Road, Pennsylvania Route 452, there was nothing.

All of the lights in the complex were off, too, except for the parking lot lights. Not a single unit had its lights on.

I had to squint to walk back to my own building, to make sure I was in the right apartment building.

I walked back into my unit, which did have the lights on, still.

But they weren’t…the right color. Something was off about them. Instead of my white, mini-florescent lamp bulbs, they were this sort of, sickly yellowish-green.

Why didn’t I see them in the parking lot? And why did they change color?

The TV was now just off, and there was no picture. I tried the remote, but the TV wouldn’t turn on at all.

“Naomi!” I yelled, to no answer.

11:59 p.m.

I went back to the bedroom. I tried all the lights in the apartment, but only the living room lights worked.

My phone flashlight wouldn’t work either, and I didn’t have any spares around the place.

I made my way around the bed, whispering Naomi’s name. But from what I can tell it was still empty, and the bed was made. I left the bedroom and tried the switches again, and this time the bathroom light came on, the sickly shade of yellow-green.

I wish it hadn’t turned that light on.

11:59 p.m.

I looked into the mirror, and there was a reflection this time, but I didn’t recognize the person on the other side.

It was an older man, late 40s or early 50s. He was balding, with a crown of brown hair on his skull. He wore an ill-fitting brown suit, glasses, and a mustache.

He looked just as frightened as I was.

We actually mimicked each other’s movements for a few minutes..

11:59 p.m.

But, he turned and ran out of his bathroom into his apartment. I just stood there, shaken.

I waited for him for a few more moments. I didn’t know what I would do if he came back, but sadly the man in the mirror was my only ally at this point.

When he didn’t return I simply walked to the couch. I yelled Naomi’s name one more time, and she didn’t answer back.

I sat down.

And then my television came back on, and the host was sitting in his chair at his desk, like always.

But it was a different studio guest now.

12:00 a.m., Wednesday

All of my lights came on and returned to the daylight-white color I’d purchased at Home Depot years ago. They just, shifted to the original color. My phone now worked again as well.

Damnit, Wednesday!

I looked out of the window and down in the parking lot, and there was my Kia.

“Naomi!” I yelled to the bedroom, but still there was no response. The index card was on the living room table still, but both sides of it were blank.

I ran back to the bedroom, but she wasn’t there.

I walked, defeated, to my bathroom.

I turned on the light and sure enough, it was me in the mirror. I jumped up and down and moved my hands around, and all of my movements matched.

With that I went back to the living room and laid down on the couch. I held out some hope that Naomi would return.

The cellphone!

I checked through my recent calls. I’d called Hank and Naomi! Their numbers had to be in my phone!

I found what I thought was Hank’s in my dialed numbers.

Naomi was still in my contacts!

I wrote them both down on the index card I had, took a screenshot with my phone, and wrote the numbers down in several more places, just in case. Then, I wrote them down a few more times and tried my best to commit them to memory.

The lack of sleep caught up with me, however. I laid back down on my couch and went to sleep.

When I woke up, it was still Wednesday.

I started by calling Naomi’s number, which gave me the not in service recording that made my heart sink a bit.

Then I tried Hank’s number again.

This time, it rang, much to my surprise.

A woman answered on the other end.

“Hello?” she asked into the phone.

“Hi,” I said, trying my best salesman voice. “I wanted to talk to Hank. Is he available?”

There was a pause on the other end for a few moments.

“I don’t know any Hank,” the woman told me. “And I frankly, don’t want to. This is the sixth or seventh call I’ve picked up this morning that’s asked for Hank. Stop calling me.”

“Wait, ma’am, don’t hang up…”

And she did just that.

Dammit

I had to find Naomi. There had to be some trace of her, somewhere.

I got dressed and left my apartment, the destination being Glen Mills.

I hadn’t planned on going to work, but I figured I’d pay the office a visit.

When I got to the building, I parked and ran up the stairs. I didn’t even bother with the elevator. Winded, I opened the door to the fourth floor and walked to the company office.

Everyone was in their respective cubicles, and the door to Steve’s office was closed. I went to my desk without anyone acknowledging me.

The picture frame wasn’t there. In fact, my desk looked completely different from how I’d decorated it.

I looked on the dry erase board.

Where my name used to be, it now read, Matthew.

“Excuse me,” someone said behind me. “This is a place of business.”

I turned around to see Steve, looking right at me.

“Hey, Steve,” I started.

Steve squinted at me, and looked taken aback.

“Who?” he asked. “My name is Matt. Are you sure you’re in the right place?

Matt?

“What?” I asked back. “Yeah, I’m Mike. This is my desk,” I said and pointed to my desk.

Steve scoffed.

“That’s my desk,” he said, condescendingly. “I stepped out to use the bathroom. And again, I’m Matthew. Is there something I can help you with? Are you lost?”

The others in the office turned and looked at me. A few of them were…different from the coworkers I knew.

I looked back at the dry erase board, and there were actually a few different names on it than the ones I knew.

I came unglued.

I turned back to Steve, and I lunged at him.

“Where’s her picture?!” I yelled at him.

“What? What the hell are you talking about?!” he yelled back at me. “Somebody call 911!”

I had him by the collar and shoved him up against the far wall. I just felt hot and red at this point. What did it matter, anyway?

“The picture I keep on my desk, Steve!” I yelled back at him. “Where the hell is it?!”

“I’m not Steve!” he yelled back. “Somebody get him off of me!”

I felt someone grab my shoulder and threw an elbow that must have hit whoever it was in the face. They let go, and I dropped Steve’s collar.

While they were checking on whoever I hit, I backed out of the office and ran down the stairs. I found my car in the parking lot and drove the hell out of there.

I thought long and hard about all of it. I was running out of options. I pulled over and tried calling Naomi again, but her number came back with the out of service recording.

I hung up and looked back through my calls. I tried Hank’s number, which went right to a voicemail, now. The voice on the other end was that woman I’d spoken to this morning. I kept going through my calls and came across…

Brian!

That’s right, Naomi was there with me!

I texted Brian and asked him to meet me when he got off of work at the Aston Diner. He texted back k and I started my car up and drove back onto route 322. I pulled into the diner parking lot and just waited.

Hours passed, but eventually I saw Brian’s old Ford Escort that was painted three or four different colors, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I threw my door open and didn’t even shut it and ran to the guy as parked.

“Boy am I glad to see you, buddy!” I yelled to him.

“Uh, thanks Mike,” he said back, no doubt a little scared by my sudden reaction. “You ready to go in?”

“Wait,” I said, throwing my hands up. “I can’t find Naomi. Can you help me look for her?”

And he gave me that look that I was seeing way too often and couldn’t deal with anymore.

“Who?”

And that one word dashed the last of my hope.

“Hold on, she’s in my contacts,”

And I looked through my phone, and her name and number were gone, of course.

“Come on, man,” I said, grabbing him by the collar like I did with Steve. “You have to remember her. She was at your birthday party!”

He shook his head.

“I don’t know her,” Brian replied. “And I’ve never known any Naomi. Now, I don’t know what’s going on with you, Jake, but I’m going to need you to take your hands off of me.”

Jake?

I did take my hands off of his collar.

“What did you call me?” I asked him.

“I called you Mike, your name,” he responded. “Really, are you feeling okay, man? Ever since I got that call from you a few weeks ago…”

“What call?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said again. “You called me and just started screaming a bunch of nonsense at me when I picked up. Stuff about the other side, and you cried a lot, I tried to calm you down but I had to hang up. You didn’t even call yourself Mike but it came from your number. You called yourself Troy, I think. I almost didn’t text you back today.”

I just looked at him.

“Do you remember when, Brian?” I asked him. “What specific day I called, and do you remember how long ago?”

“Two weeks ago,” he replied. “It was Tuesday. You texted me a little after that, to ask about the wedding. But I was too freaked out to get back to you.”

I nodded.

“Thanks, Brian,” I said back. “I’ll see you around. Sorry I bothered you.”

And I turned, and simply walked to my car.

“Really man, if you need some help or something…” I heard him yell from across the parking lot. I didn’t bother to turn around. I just got in my Kia and started it. I looked at him as I drove through the parking lot, he just stared at me as I drove back down 452.

When I got back to my apartment the camera I ordered had come, funny enough. I spent the rest of the day setting it up. That was the rest of my Wednesday.

I did try Naomi’s apartment on Thursday, but of course she didn’t live there. Her door code didn’t work, a different renter answered when I used the intercom, and the leasing office had no idea who I was talking about when I asked them about her.

I barricaded myself in my apartment since then. There wasn’t any real point to doing anything. I was…phased out of my job, I guess would be the spin I would put on it. I didn’t feel much like eating, and I barely felt like I existed. I just, laid on the couch and let the TV play while it was in service.

Every day I called Naomi’s number three times, hoping that just once she would answer. The calls never went through, though. I kept getting the same disconnect message every time.

I’m out of hope, I don’t have anymore ideas. I figured I’d ride it out until tonight, and then do what I had planned to do several days ago.

I’m going to film what happens at 11:59 p.m.

If I’m here…Wednesday, I’m going to upload the video to YouTube or Reddit or something, and maybe I can help someone else who might be going through what I’m going through.

After that, I’m going to drive to the Commodore Barry bridge in Chester, take one last look at the Delaware River that I grew up near, and throw myself into the water. I’ll let the river decide what’s next for me.

Wherever I end up, I hope Naomi is there.

 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

The themes in this story revolve around personal control, codependence, and how monotonous life can be, but how important routine also is to someone with mental health conditions.

Also, if you are feeling depressed or suicidal and live in the US, please contact 1-800-273-8255

James Dean Collins

James Dean Collins

AUGUST 2018 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
I'm 35 years old and from the mid-Atlantic region of the US, Newark Delaware. I used to write screenplays and then I edited audio books for a living.
James Dean Collins

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