4:04 a.m.

 

(not a final draft, but I like it so far. picture not mine.)

I woke up with an urgency and fear. My eyes made the room look foggy as I looked around the pale room with my mind in a haze. Before lowering my head, I focused on a picture of me and Eric, feeling an unsettling comfort.

“Will, you’re awake,” Eric said in a spooked manner. He was just leaving the bathroom, but stopped in the doorway and stared. His dark eyes looked wide as he waited for my response.

My mind hadn’t cleared enough to fully register his tone. Eric ran out of the room at the sound of one their kids yelling. I stared out the window and let my eyes adjust to the light. The view of the garden was bright, but I could see dark clouds beginning to roll in like a distant wave.

The quiet beauty was disrupted by the ominous look in his husband’s eyes from earlier. That look was lingering. Those eyes were lingering.

Before I could muster up the strength to get up, Eric rushed into the room with a plate of food.

“Eric, what’s this for?” I pushed out as I painfully tried to sit up.

“I figured you could stay in bed because of last night,” Eric said looking out the window, “looks like it’s going to rain soon.”

“What happened last night?”

My mind was serrated by a thousand needles trying to think about last night. I looked at the dark purple bruises on my arms it’s like they suddenly woke up and realized they were in pain. The bed sheets became a giant fluffy spider’s web that wouldn’t let go.

Eric came up and gently pushed me into the cloudy web of pillows. “I knew you wouldn’t remember. You took a pretty hard fall last night. I’ll explain when I get home.”

I looked at the clock and saw that it was time for the kids to go to school. He kissed me goodbye and left in a rush. Eric was jittery today. I knew his mood was because of work, but something else felt off.

I got up slowly from the bed and walked towards the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and realized my fall was worse when I moved. My bones felt sore and like they would crumble any second now. My skin wasn’t faring well either. It was speckled with purple and blue spots. I felt a twinge of pain in the base of my neck. The pain was weird though, it felt almost parasitic, like it was not supposed to be there, dug into my neck.

I got in the shower and let the warm water flow over my bruises and aches. I let my mind wander as I stared at the popcorn ceiling and made constellations out of the shadows.

I couldn’t even remember drinking last night. I tried to think of the night before. I remembered putting the kids to bed early.

Then I- int i; char string[5] = “hello“;int j; switch (i) { case 1: do_something(1); break; case 2:did_something(2); ; break; default: break; error 404

 

I woke up with my eyes feeling like I had stared at the sun for too long. The popcorn ceiling was still there and the water was still running, but now it had turned ice cold and sent shivers down my spine. I got up slowly and tried to process what happened.

I remember staring at the popcorn ceiling. Then before I knew it, the shadows turned into strained colors and static filled my head. The last thing I remembered was a shrieking ring as I tried to lay down. The same alien pain from my neck now moved to my head and eyes.

I went into my room and stared out the window. The dark storm was getting closer, but was still far off. I wondered if it would get there before I left for his kids’. I hoped Eric wouldn’t get caught in the storm.

I decided to take a nap before getting his kids. I dreamt I was running through a park in the night. The park was empty but, I wasn’t sure why I was there.

 

The next day I woke up to a knock on the door. My eyes barely adjusted to the light when the knock turned into a bang. I looked over and realized I would soon be late to get the kids. I rushed up and got dressed while the banging continued. I already felt like a bother to his kids. Being late would only warrant a comment that we weren’t really a family.

I made my way through the smooth vanilla hallways of the bare house to two large cops at the door. The balding one looked like he was loved doughnuts and Fox News, while the buzzcut looked like he got all A’s in school and thought he’d amount to more.

“Yes,” I said hurriedly, starting to bounce my left leg.

“Sir may we have a moment to speak with you about the disappearance of Daniel Barnes. His car was found not too far from here and his wife said he might’ve come here.”

I didn’t really know what to do after he said his name. I knew Daniel well, he was Eric’s supervisor and friend. He came over a couple times, but he mostly would spend “dude time” with Eric.

Before he could reply, the alarm I set to go get his kids went off.

“I’m sorry maybe another time; I have to get my kids.” I said, grabbing my keys from the glass stand by the door. The family photos were glaring at me with the light from the open door.

The cops were hesitant to let me leave, but I just pretended they were not there. After I locked the door, I made eye contact with the buzz cut and his look was one of quiet concern. The balding one was indifferent and looked ready for lunch, but buzzcut’s eyes followed me.

I got into my car and put on some NPR as I waited for the cops to leave, hoping their calm voices would help me forget. However, it dawned on me that my husband might not know. Eric would be devastated.

Before pulling out of the driveway, I called out to cops who were still lingering around the hibiscus for some goddamn reason, “Does my husband know?”

“Yes, he was notified.” The balding one said, standing with his legs apart in a defensive stance.  

“When?”

“This morning I believe. His office gave us his number. We called around 7 o’clock, pretty early” Buzzcut said grazing my hibiscus.

“Thank you. Now get the hell out of my hibiscus.” I yelled as I drove off to his kids school, hoping they wouldn’t notice that I was running late.

On the way to the school, I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t tell me. He knew I was hurt, but Daniel was a close friend. I guess it’s why he was off this morning.

As I got to the school, the kids ran up to the car. They were still young, a seven year old named Sophie and a nine year old named Jared. Both had blond hair and tall, lean bodies. They had his emerald eyes that were sharper than knives. They hadn’t taken the divorce well so, I tried to be sympathetic to them.

The cops hadn’t come back around, and neither had the conversation about Daniel. Eric didn’t want to talk about it so I didn’t push it. I didn’t want to upset him more.

 

The next day was a half day at school, so I got to spend some time with the kids. We got a large cheese pizza with pineapple and I let them get these chocolate milkshakes that were horrible for them. I decided since we had time to spare, and the sugar would make them go insane, I could take them to the park where I met their dad.

The park was called “Welch Trail.” I ran into Eric here on the day he got divorced. We liked how the trees covered the sun almost entirely. The light that did shine through spotting the ground like stars.

To get to the playground part, you had to go through a concrete sidewalk and follow the painted trail. It had traffic dividers painted into it for bikers and was decorated with faint chalk drawings from some time ago. I stared at the drawings that ranged mostly from stick figures to hop scotch. The drawings looked faded from the rain a couple of nights ago.

I watched the kids run ahead while also letting my eyes explore the park. I tried to tell them to be careful, but a sharp ringing hit my head.

I tried to shake it off and keep walking, but the farther I walked the louder it got. The dark green trees blended in with the bark and began to skew into a strange variety of colors. The sunlight twisted and slowly became heavy on my eyes.

It felt as if the sky fell on my head all at once and my eyes were straining to hold the weight.

I remember I was at the park recently and I was – int i; char string[5] = “hello”;int j; switch (i) { case 1: do_something(1); break; case 2:did_something(2); ; break; default: break; error 404

 

I woke up on a park bench near the playground. I was close enough to see the kids playing.

“You’re awake from your nap!” Sophie yelled from the top of the swing set.

I took some deep breaths and stared at the graffiti on the teal park bench. The sharpie was worn in some places and bright in others. My mind was too tired to really react to the blood. I then felt the blood running down face from my nose.

I don’t think they saw the blood yet, they were in their own sugar rush world right now. Using that as an opportunity, I tried to clean up the blood on the bench too, but some of it was dried on.

I looked at the clock on my phone and saw that I was only out for about 50 minutes. Not enough time for blood to dry.

Nonetheless, I let the kids play for around 30 more minutes while I tried to get my head together. I told Eric that I thought I was coming down with the flu and went to sleep around six. When I woke up the next day, he had already taken the kids to school.

 

The next day, as I was listening to the radio on the way home from picking up the kids, the static voices spoke about Daniel Barnes.

The disappearance of Daniel Barnes had become a large news spectacle in the days after it was announced to the public. He and Eric worked for Spring Technologies, a prominent tech company working on robots on something or other.

“Trying to revolutionize the future!” That’s how their slogan went, I think. All I remember is how a white guy in a douche-y button down always sounded rude in the commercials. There were always rumors of some weird new technology that could control minds or some weird conspiracy type thing that Eric and I laughed about.

I didn’t really care. Eric’s work was too complicated for me anyways.

Apparently, there was going to be a new CEO soon, but Daniel’s disappearance set things off. Eric was high up, but he wasn’t in line to become CEO, I think.

When we got home, I tried to stay awake on the couch watching some TV with the kids. The last thing I remember was the weatherman saying it would probably rain tomorrow before I woke up in the dark. I looked around and saw that it was a little bit after four in the morning. The kitchen light was on and I could hear the radio, but when I went to see who was in there, I found the marble room empty.

Papers were strewn across the dinner table, which I figured was probably Eric, who had trouble sleeping sometimes. I remember on our wedding night he stayed up all night doing crosswords. He woke me up to watch the sunset on the beach.

I heard a phone buzz and walked over to the dinner table to see if it was mine. I dug through the mountain of papers before I picked up the phone to a bunch of congratulation texts. One folder with a giant red “CONFIDENTIAL.” caught my attention

Feeling nosy, I opened it to a blueprint of some small pill shaped object. The word IMPLANT V. 4.04 blanketed the top of the page.

“What a great name.” I muttered to myself, shuffling through the pages speed reading what wasn’t crossed out from a huge sharpie.

Nothing really caught my attention until I got towards the bottom of the messy pile. Soon a  note said: “symptoms” caught my eye.

“Severe headaches. Bloody nose. Neck pain.” My voice got quieter as I read each line, as my finger followed the check marks down the note.

My head jerked up after I heard a door open. My stomach felt like it had swallowed my heart. I wanted to pretend I didn’t see anything, but the feeling that I had to keep reading lingered.

I tried to go through the pages quickly, but the redacted black lines made complete sentences hard to see.

I figured out that the device was connected to your nerves and altered something in your mind. On the last page, I saw some warning about the implant being short-circuited if the user tries to remember something that was erased.

None of it really made sense until I got to a notebook filled with Eric’s writing. Unlike the notes, the writings in the journal were frantic. They were logs of times and dates.

Reading the logs, I realized that the notes were about us. There were ones I remembered and ones I didn’t.

I flipped to the last log where in calm and small writing it said: “He doesn’t remember anything about April 4th.”

Instantly my mind filled with a sharp ringing. It felt like a searing knife had been struck through the back of my neck.

Before I could figure out what was happening, a hand pushed my head onto the table. Their hand was digging into mine, still firmly on the back of my neck. I felt the implant. Like a parasite. Burrowed deep into my skin like a rat in a wall. There all along.

I knew they were his hands, but part of me hoped that – int i; char string[5] = “hello”;int j; switch (i) { case 1: do_something(1); break; case 2:did_something(2); ; break; default: break; error 404

 

I woke up with an urgency and fear. My eyes made the room look foggy as I looked around the pale room with my mind in a haze. Before lowering my head, I focused on a picture of me and Eric, feeling an unsettling comfort.

“Will, you’re awake,” Eric said in a spooked manner. He was just leaving the bathroom, but stopped in the doorway and stared. His dark eyes looked wide as he waited for my response.

My mind hadn’t cleared enough to fully register his tone. Eric ran out of the room at the sound of one their kids yelling. I stared out the window and let my eyes adjust to the light. The view of the garden was bright, but I could see dark clouds beginning to roll in like a distant wave.

The quiet beauty was disrupted by the ominous look in his husband’s eyes from earlier. That look was lingering. Those eyes were lingering.

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