“Shelby where’s today’s paper?” Zeke asked as I sat down at the table in front of a white ceramic soup bowl.
“In the god damn living room where you left it, by the phone,” Shelby said, her voice stretched and irritated.
“Now don’t be mouthin’ off with me,” Zeke said angrily as he raised the spoon to his mouth and sipped the broth.
“Shut it old man,” Shelby took a seat. “If I leave whose gonna make your soup for you?”
“Um…excuse me,” I interjected. They both stopped eating and stared at me as if I were a monk breaking a vow of silence. I removed the phone from my pocket and set it on the table. “I really need a charger for this, do either of you have a micro USB cable?”
“A micro WHAT?!” Zeke shook is head. “Little girl, you’ll have all kinds of time to play games once you get back to civilization. You don’t need none to get you through the night.”
I looked at the phone, confused. Yeah, I guess it could probably play games but he knew it was a phone, right?
“I…just need to make a call,” I said, pointing to the phone. “If I can get it charged-“
“We know what a Gameboy looks like,” Shelby smirked. “And we know it don’t make no calls.”
I stared incredulously at both of them. They really had no idea what a phone looked like. What was even going on here? I slid the phone back into my pocket and watched both of them return to their soup. I sipped mine slowly; it was okay, nothing great. I suddenly wished I were back home. My mom would have been making meatloaf tonight. I loved her meatloaf. Did I have a mom anymore? Was any of my other life real? Maybe now wasn’t the best time to be asking myself those questions.
“Yeah, you’re right,” I shrugged. “So what happens tomorrow?”
“Sheriff’ll come and gather you and your things,” Zeke informed me. “Then you’re no worry of mine no more.”
“I didn’t mean to be a worry,” I said. “The last thing I remember is-“
“You can zip it right there,” Shelby said with a tone of complete and utter disinterest. “Everyone round here, they got a story, and it’s always the same, ‘poor me’ and ‘why me’, and all that other crap. Best you keep your story to yourself cause we already heard it, I know for sure.”
I chewed over that for a moment and realized that they were probably right. I didn’t even know my story, why would they want to hear it? What did I even know so far? I’d woken up in the woods, I knew my name was Makayla, I knew these people were friendly, but they’d never seen a cell phone in their lives. I was in Kentucky but how far away from civilization was I?
“When you’re done with that soup you can go sit and watch TV,” Zeke suggested. “Might help you pass the time, but if the sheriff can’t come get ya’ by tomorrow you start earning your keep around here, you hear what I’m saying’ to you?”
“Why wouldn’t the sheriff be able to come?” I asked, frowning. I didn’t want to stay here any longer than I had to, it’s not that Zeke and Shelby were bad people, but more that I wanted to get back to my own life. I wanted to see Mega.
“Because the sheriff’s busy,” Zeke said. “And you’re just one person. There’s a TV guide in the livin’ room, you can flip through it, see if there’s anything you like.”
A TV guide? What was that? I was more than a little confused; in my entire life I had never really watched TV – there were a few shows I watched on my tablet but who really had time to sit down and watch TV these days? Old people?
“What’s uh…what’s a TV guide?” I asked, a little embarrassed that I had to inquire about something that was obviously common knowledge in this house. Zeke stared at me hard.
“Were you raised by wolves or something?” He asked me. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not.
“We’ve got more bobcats than wolves round’ here,” Shelby interjected helpfully. “She was prolly carried off as an infant and taught to hunt. Maybe we can use her to get better stew ingredients next time.”
“I…I wasn’t raised by wolves,” I said, though I felt like I was being particularly unhelpful. “You know…I’m actually not that hungry…”
“Suit yourself,” Shelby shrugged. “More for me I say.”
“For me,” Zeke said as he snatched the bowl from in front of me. I excused myself to watch television in the living room. I spent some time flipping through channels, coming across a few odd movies that I didn’t know the name of, and some that were obvious thanks to the TV guide. ‘All American Ninja’ and ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ were on but they didn’t catch my interest. I landed on a news channel that claimed scientists had cloned a sheep named Dolly but I couldn’t figure out if the sheep was Dolly or if the clone was Dolly. I was rapidly losing interest in the shows; I needed to get out of here. I needed to get that phone working. Maybe I should start walking. I could get to the road, maybe hitch hike my way into town, maybe even get back home to Ohio. Except…I still looked…like this. How could I even begin to explain to my parents or even Megan that I was actually Michael? This was a disaster of epic proportions.
At some point during the evening I dozed off, only to be awakened by the sound of rain. I opened my eyes to a flash of lightning outside and immediately sat up, straight as a rod. The lightning outside the bay window had been brief, but in that instant of light I swore I could see a shape; a human being stand there just beyond the glass, staring at me. I stared at the window wide eyed, trying to recall the shape I’d just seen. Had it had a face? What was it doing? No, I couldn’t remember. All I could recall was that shape stood against the night like a silhouette cutout. A half-realized apparition. I could feel my skin growing cold, clammy, my stomach knotted. I had to get out of here. I couldn’t stay here. I immediately stood from the couch and looked around in vain, no sign of either Zeke or Shelby; it must have been late at night, they were long tucked way in their beds. Nice of them to just leave me half sprawled out on the couch, remote in hand. The TV was still on, but it had lost signal long ago, the screen was shimmering with black and white static, no sign of the previous transmission. If I had been in any kind of coherent state, I might have stopped to wonder why they were using an analogue CRT television but such thoughts were far from my mind as I bounded aimlessly through the living room and down the kitchen stairs. The door at the bottom was locked, but that was easily remedied and I quickly tore through the threshold, plummeting headfirst into the dark of night amidst a torrent of lightning strikes that ripped across the landscape, illuminating the trees at the edge of the property like monsters, looming against the backdrop of night and waiting to reach out and take me. I had no choice, my fight or flight instinct was telling me to fly and I had no idea what I was so afraid of until another lightning strike illuminated the patch of land in front of me and I saw it again; a shape, like a human. Tall, skinny, but not moving. It was facing me, that much I could tell, and it was no more than ten feet from me. I screamed and backpedaled, falling off balance and slamming my posterior into the soaked ground with a splash. Kicking my legs, I slid backwards, through the mud and regained my footing.
Once again on my feet I used all my willpower to propel myself toward the treeline as another lightning strike revealed yet another humanoid shape just feet from me, still standing, still staring through unseen eyes that shredded through my thin exterior and directly into my bared soul. I think I screamed as I reached the treeline and penetrated the forest but there was no one around to hear me. Above the wind, rain, and thunder, I couldn’t even hear myself. I simply ran, and ran, and ran. I dodged roots, trees, tripped over rocks and gasped as the wind seared my face, even through the thick forest.
I couldn’t run forever, eventually I stopped, pressing my back against a tree as I caught my breath. I held a hand to my chest, feeling my pounding heart through my soaked shirt. Cold, numb fingers worked their way down to my pocket, checking to see if the phone was still there. I could feel the rectangular outline beneath the material; still there. If I could get into town maybe I could find a charger. Maybe I could find out who I was, why I was here, and most importantly how the hell I could get back to being Michael. Who was Michael anyway? Was that ever really me?
“I see you, Michael!” A voice pierced the darkness. My eyes darted around as my fingers grasped the bark behind me. “I know what you’re after, and it’s not going to work!”
I opened my mouth to speak but I couldn’t force myself to make a sound. Instead I pressed my back harder and harder against the trunk of the tree, maybe hoping to disappear into it.
“You can’t save her!” The voice shouted again. “It’s finished, and so are you!”
I breathed heavily, listening to the sound of raindrops slamming against the pools of water forming on the forest floor. Could I bring myself to push off of the tree and continue my venture into the forest? No, I couldn’t. I can’t describe the fear I felt, it was overtaking my entire body, a crushing feeling that cemented me to that spot. My legs were lead, my body was shaking from the cold. Please, god, let it stop. I shouldn’t have left the house. I shouldn’t have…oh God. I was Michael. My name was Michael, my name was—”
In an instant the forest was gone, I woke up on the couch, shooting straight up into a sitting position and gasping for breath. The first rays of the bright morning sun assaulted my senses through the bay window and sweat permeated my body.
“Sheriff’s on his way,” Zeke said as he strode into the living room, once again dressed in flannel, but this time without the shotgun. “You might wanna get some breakfast in ya, eggs on the stove.”
What the fuck was going on?
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