“Now I want you to repeat after me. Three, two, one. One, two, three.”
“Three, two, one. One, two, three.”
“Three, three, one. One, three, three.”
“Three, three, one. One, three, three.”
“Two, one, three. Three, one, two.”
“Two, one, three. Three, one, two.”
“Good, good. Your head appears to be intact. You heard me, followed directions, and spoke clearly. All very good signs.”
“Where am I?”
“You are currently in my scientific experiment facility, which is just a fancy way to say, ‘my workroom.’ Do not worry, I won’t be experimenting on you today.”
“Why can’t I see?”
“Hm? You can’t? Well, that’s unusual. Your eyes are open, after all.”
“I’m kidding. You have a blindfold on, and it’s dimly lit in here. You mean you can’t feel the cloth on your eyes? Never mind, we have more important things to do here.”
“Like what? Why am I here?”
“I’m surprised you haven’t figured it out sooner. Come on, wrack your brain for memories. What do you see?”
“Very good. Your memories are still there. Now, do you see any faces around you?”
“Really? Try looking a little closer.”
“I see a man.”
“Short or long hair?”
“How tall is he?”
“Precisely? You seem very certain of this.”
“I know who he is.”
“Is he holding anything?”
“Is there blood on the knife?”
“I see. Is there anyone else around you?”
“No. Just me and him.”
“Hm. Thank you for your cooperation. Now let me get that for you.”
The blindfold was removed.
You look around at your surroundings. The room is lit dimly with scented candles that give off a distinct wine smell. A small white room with machinery you don’t understand in the corner. The lights are glowing. The screen shows the image of a brain. You can only assume it’s your own.
You turn your head to the right. There is a side table with a vase of white lilies and blood-stained tissues. Once again, you can only assume it’s your own blood.
Your eyes have finished adjusting to the light and fixate on the person standing in front of you. A woman with black hair in a high ponytail stands before you, red eyes taking you in. She stares deep into yours, but you don’t feel discomfort or unease. She is comfort. She is familiarity. The cloth that once covered your eyes is in her hands, stained with blood.
“This isn’t the hospital,” you say.
“Well, duh,” she replies. “I told you where we are already.”
“So why have I been brought here?”
She tsked. “I’d think you’d have figured that out. Tell me, do you really remember what happened?”
“Of course I do!” you insist.
“Then show me. Let me see.”
Your memories shift and you are in a car. No, it’s your car. You saved up for months working nonstop to buy it. Your very first car and it wasn’t cheap. You’ve had it for several years now, but it still works like a charm.
Your hands are on the steering wheel. Beside you is a man. He sits straight, eyes fixed on the road while his hands lay flat on his lap. This is unusual behavior.
“Are you okay ————?” You hear the words come out of your mouth. Strange. You’re sure you know this man. Why can’t you remember his name?
The man smiles at you, but it isn’t warm or comforting. You recall his usual smile being much nicer than this. “I’m okay,” he tells you. “Don’t worry about me. Just keep driving.”
“Where are we?” you ask. “This looks like the middle of nowhere. Is this really the right way?”
“We’ll make it to the city soon,” he assures you. “Relax. It’ll all be over soon.”
You cringe at the words. You didn’t know what he meant then. You thought the car ride would be over and you would make it to your destination without a hitch. You thought he said to relax because you were getting stressed and that was bad for driving.
You didn’t anticipate his hands jerking the wheel.
You didn’t anticipate the guard rail being broken where he turned the car.
You didn’t anticipate the knife puncturing your throat.
You didn’t anticipate the cliff with jagged rocks waiting over the edge for you.
Your vision goes red as you tumble. Pain shoots up from every part of your body. The puncture in your throat has it filling your mouth with blood. You gargle on it, unable to breathe properly. It tastes bitter. Metallic. You’re going to die.
You aren’t sure when the tumbling stopped. Your body still feels like it’s moving. You see him making his way towards you amongst the wreckage. He’s holding a gallon of something. He pours it over you and the car wreckage. It stings. It’s gasoline. You try to ask him why he’s doing this, but all you can do is cough out blood.
He strikes a match and throws it on you.
Fire spurs instantly, spreading from your body to the car, burning everything around you. Smoke clouds your vision.
He’s holding a rusted silver knife in a gloved hand, stained with blood. Your blood. He turns around and tosses the knife into the flames. You try to understand why this is happening to you. It doesn’t matter at this point. The smell of burning flesh and blood floods your senses. You can’t breathe. You’re choking. You’re dying.
In an instant, you’re back. You look at your skin, but there are no burns. It’s soft, smooth. There are no marks or imperfections on your body. You sit up and notice a mirror at the foot of the bed. You take it up and look at your reflection.
What do you see? Is it your face? Describe what you look like. Notice every detail, from the tiny pores on your nose to the way your eyes twitch just slightly when you’re trying to focus. What color are they? What color is your skin? I want to hear your voice. Tell me out loud.
You sound lovely.
There is no gravel to your voice. It’s perfectly clear.
Everything is as it should be aside from a faded scar on your neck.
You were burned alive and yet your body shows no signs of that being the case.
“Who are you?” you ask. You clearly died, and yet this woman somehow managed to bring you back to life.
She rolls her eyes at you. “Call me Jiejie if you must,” she says. She walks over to the end of the room and flips the light switch. The fluorescent light fills up the room, allowing you to see everything with more clarity. She walks over to the left of the room where a desk sits under a large murder board. You lean to try and get a closer look. Red strings are dotted across the board thumb-tacked on several maps and articles you can’t read. You do manage to make out photos of different people attached to every article. There aren’t any similarities between them appearance wise.
Jiejie picks up a small portrait. Curiosity gets you out of bed, but your legs crumple under your weight and you hit the floor. She hastily sets down the photos and lifts you up.
“Your body is still weak,” she tells you. “Don’t try and move.”
But you know, don’t you? The story is coming to an end soon, and you still have questions. Go on. Ask to see the murder board.
“I want to have a closer look.”
She puts her arm around your waist and helps you to the murder board. You skim through the articles. They are all about different people dying; some are labeled as accidents, some as murders. Those have “Unsolved” stamped in big bold letters.
The center of the board catches your attention. A picture of man who killed you is right there. Right in front of an article about his suicide three years ago. You still can’t make out his name.
Beside him, you see yourself connected to him with a red string. Car accident. Six months ago.
“He killed you, right?”
Her smile is dark. “Looks like I was right then. Now I just have to find him.”
You want to ask why, but she’s picked up the portrait again. There’s a photo of a boy with her face. You look back up to the board to see that same boy with a string attached to the man.
“What will you do once you find him?”
She turns to you. “Kill him myself.”
She helps you back to your bed and hands you a phone. Your phone.
“Call your parents. They miss you.”
And as your story ends, she walks out the door. But don’t worry; just because your story is closing, doesn’t mean your journey is over. You’ve been given a second chance. Live.
Hm? Who am I? Oh, don’t worry about that. Just live.
We’ve reached the end. Please forget about me.
Alyssa Dampf was born in 2002 and raised in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. While having many hobbies growing up such as ballet, drawing, and video games, her true love has always been writing stories. She has explored many different genres since she learned how to write and is excited to explore many more.
One Reply to “Red Strings by Alyssa Dampf”
Great. Beautiful story.