Survival

I'm a member of a local writing guild. We were given an exercise, to write a very short story about events surrounding the receipt of a life altering letter. I enjoyed the exercise and thought I'd share the story. Perhaps it will be a novel one day. Enjoy!

Survival
Kenyon T. Henry

My hands tremble as I set the paper down on the coffee table in front of me. What do I do? What can I do? If I tell anyone the truth, they’ll lock me up in an institution and I may never get out. If I tell no one, it could be worse.

For more than a year now, I’ve struggled with the knowledge that something isn’t right with me. I’ve had bits of time missing. Objects in my house get moved around without me knowing. Am I going crazy? Is my house haunted? Why is all this happening to me?
My throat feels scratchy. As I walk to the kitchen I catch an image of a stranger out of the corner of my eye. I snap around to see only a mirror at the end of the hall. “Stupid mirror.” My heart continues to race.

Entering the kitchen, the scent of flowers and ocean air breeze through the cracked window. The sun is out. It does little to sooth my nerves. Still, it’s nice, the one bright spot in my life lately. I pour myself a glass of Irish whisky. My hands are just steady enough that I can take a gulp without spilling it everywhere.

Why me? This single thought continues to bounce around in my head.

I jump at the sound of my cell phone ringing. I pull it from my pocket to send the caller to voicemail. I didn’t recognize the number. In a moment, my phone buzzes, indicating the caller left me a message. I don’t know why-perhaps habit, but I listen to the message.

“Hey, Dirk.” It’s a female voice that I’m don’t recognize. She must have the wrong number. “It’s me, Candice. I had a lot a fun this past weekend. Maybe we can go out on your bike again soon. Call me!”

I look out the living room window and see my bike sitting out. I don’t remember getting my bike out. I haven’t ridden it since Jules passed. We use to ride it together all the time. I reach into my pocket and pull out my wedding band. I don’t remember taking it off. I’ve never taken it off since the accident. What’s going on?

“Dirk?” Then it hits me. I run back to the coffee table and grab the letter.

Frank,
Today, one of us dies and the other gets to live.
Dirk

Who the heck is Dirk?

I begin to sweat and shake. I run through the house looking around every corner and under every piece of furniture large enough to conceal a person. There’s no one. I close all the windows and lock the doors. There’s no one in my driveway. I can see down the street a good way in both directions. There’s no one there. I run back to the kitchen and look out toward the beach. It’s empty. The ocean looks serene.

I smell something foul. It’s me. Perhaps a shower will help to calm me down and clear my head.

The shower doesn’t help my mind much. It continues to race with thoughts. Who’s this Dirk? What does he want with me? Is he responsible for all the strange stuff that’s been happening?

As I’m entering my bedroom, it looks out of place. I don’t remember leaving clothes on the floor. My compulsive disorder kicks in, and I pick up a shirt and pants to throw in the hamper. I check the pockets- out of habit- and find a picture. It’s a beautiful woman with long hair, streaked in colors of red, blonde, and purple. Her clothes are a tasteful, but snug, casual outfit- jeans, boots, and a t-shirt.
I flip the picture over and find writing on the back.

Dirk,
Thanks for the ride.
Candice

Below the name, there’s a lipstick imprint and a phone number. I’m getting to the bottom of this, now!
I throw some jeans and a t-shirt on before grabbing my phone from the living room. As the phone rings, I begin to get nervous. I feel something inside me telling me to hang up the phone.

“Hello?” It must be Candice.

“Candice?”

I hear a giggle from the other end. She sounds nice enough. “Hey, Dirk. I’m glad you called.”

“Dirk? I’m sorry, miss. But I think you have the wrong person.”

“Oh! I’m sorry. I was expecting his call. It’s strange though, right?”

“What is?” I asked.

“That his roommate sounds just like him?”

“Roommate?”

“Yes. We’ll, you’re calling me from his number.” She remains quiet for moment. “Wait, you two aren’t together, like a couple, are you?”

This is strange! I need to end the call.
“No. He’s just not here. If I see him, I’ll give him the message.”

“Okay, thanks!”

“Sure. Goodbye.”

My head starts to spin begging me to sit down on the couch. I don’t understand any of this. Then, I have an idea. If she was out with Dirk this weekend, maybe she took a picture with him. I find her Facebook account easily enough. As I scroll through her feed, I quickly come to a picture that I can’t understand. She took a selfie with me and captioned it, “Me and my date, Dirk.” I look again. Maybe he just looks like me. But, there’s no mistaking the brown shaggy hair, blue eyes, dimples, and scruffy chin. Plus, my bike is in the background.

My mind begins to tie it all together. The room seems to turn to grey. No! I’m not going out like this! “YOU CAN’T HAVE ME!” I yell as loud as I can, as though this will drive out the demon. But, there’s only one thing left to do. I run to the bedroom and pull my 9mm from the closet and walk calmly to the couch. I can’t believe this is how it will end for me.

I set the gun on the coffee table and look at the paper laying there. My whisky is on the left, my pistol on the right. I take a sip as I raise the pistol to my temple.

“Bang.”

There’s a hole in the television! Poor Frank must have thought he could get rid of me by killing himself. All he did, was give me a reason to take over. Self-preservation is a strong instinct! “Goodbye, Frank,” I laugh. I wad up the note I left last night and throw it across the room. “At least your misery is over.”

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