The room is awash in blood. It is on the walls, on the floor, and on my hands. There is so much blood on my hands.
you did this jack.
“I’m sorry! Please forgive me!” I screamed to whoever would listen.
you’ll burn in hell.
“No! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
I run out of Johnny’s room, out the front door and down the wobbly steps as fast as my feet will carry me. The air outside is swarming with black shapes that don’t belong in the afternoon sky. Sweat scorches my eyes and I know that I’m losing it. I can’t decide whether to run or to hide as my neighbor Gina approaches me.
“You all right, Jack?” she asks.
I’m clearly not alright. I quickly hide my hands behind my back so she can’t see the blood.
“I just got scared, Gina,” is the half-truth I tell her.
“You want me to call Tiffini, Jack?”
“No. I’ll be fine. I’m just going back upstairs.”
And as if that explained it all, I walk back up the steps as calmly as I can and back into my apartment. I go into my bedroom, close the door, and sit on my bed.
Is any of this real? Is all of it real? I don’t know what to think. I try to concentrate but shadows start to dance across the room like smoke from an invisible cigarette. I watch their wispy shapes float around in the daylight of my room.
I decide to try a deep breathing exercise that a former therapist had taught me. I go over it about three times and after a while, it helps me calm down. When I look back at my hands, they are clean. The blood is gone.
When I finally feel like I’ve calmed down completely, I decide to take another look into Johnny’s room.
I want to reassure myself that everything was okay.
I creep back to Johnny’s door, steady myself, and look in. Johnny is still dead on the bed. The scene had not changed a bit. If I see it again the same way, it is real; that is my rule. My hallucinations always change a little bit each time I see them. This one had not. This was real. This was really happening. The anxiety descended upon me again.
you killed him jack.
jack killed johnny.
I step back again and collect myself. I tell myself that I didn’t do it, that I’d never kill anyone. But either way Johnny was still dead in my apartment and that was bad.
I don’t know exactly what to do but I know I can’t stay in the apartment. I have to get away and think, get the voices out of my head. I walk, calmly this time, to the front door and lock it behind me. There is no way I want anyone to stumble upon this. Down the rickety steps and out onto the street I walk, unsure of where I’m going.
I try to walk down the street like a normal guy. But I feel like every move I make bares the unmistakable mark of guilt. As much as I want not to be noticed, I know that most of my neighbors are just like me. Down-on-their-luck losers, with nothing better to do than peer out their windows. Someone was going to see me leave. Hell, Gina had already seen me in a flat-out panic.
She’d offered to call Tiffini. I told her not to, but would she do it anyway? I check my watch and it’s already past five o’clock. Tiffini would be on her way home by now, thank God. She wouldn’t want to spend the first hour of her weekend checking up on me, would she?
tiffini is coming jack
Yes, she really might be. If Gina really did call and happened to catch Tiffini before she left for the day, she might drive over at least for a minute. Or maybe she’d just send the police instead! Tiffini might just take the call and pass it along to the cops and tell them to look into it.
That would make things even worse. If the cops come out and find Johnny before I have a chance to do something, I’m going to look guilty. I walk on, trying to plan my next move. It’s getting colder as the sun starts to drop into the horizon. I put my hands into my pockets to keep them warm and feel a small, folded piece of paper.
It’s the prescription Dr. Patel had written for me.
I think about it for three seconds and then turn left at the next corner. A few minutes later, I’ve made it to the drug store. The pharmacy is still open.
Charles D. Thomas is a writer, psychotherapist, and Main Street Media Group board member who made Three Rivers his home for over a decade. Feedback is welcome at [email protected].