A short story… Part Two


(If you’re late to the sto­ry, you can get caught up with Part One here… and stay tuned for Part Three!)

Who. Are. You.

Part Two.

As I looked around the room in search of the prankster respon­si­ble for this, my new friend reached into a seem­ing­ly bot­tom­less pock­et on the inside of his coat and sur­faced with a fold­ed mani­la enve­lope, neat­ly bound with a black elas­tic band.  He pushed it into my hand, his pre­vi­ous­ly warm expres­sion replaced with a decid­ed­ly more seri­ous one. “This belongs to you… maybe it will help. Go on, take it.”

I stud­ied the hand­writ­ing on the enve­lope but noth­ing about it struck me as famil­iar, not that there was much writ­ten to make much sense of; just three cap­i­tal­ized let­ters in blue ink, FPM. I offered the pack­age back to him. “I don’t under­stand. I think you have me con­fused with some­one else, I’ve nev­er seen this before in my life.” I placed the enve­lope on the bed between us and turned towards my cas­es. “I’ll just grab my things and be on my way. Sor­ry to have barged in here like this.”

A smile swept across his face as he dug into his cav­ernous pock­ets again, this time com­ing up with a slight­ly wrin­kled pack of cig­a­rettes. “You’re going to keep play­ing this out, aren’t you? Alright, you can go. But pass me your lighter first? I used my last match.”

I did­n’t smoke, and nev­er real­ly saw what­ev­er joy oth­ers found in it. My father smoked pack after pack, every day of his adult life until he passed away. I remem­ber hug­ging him and think­ing that he smelled like he was on fire, and could burst into flames at any minute. “A light? Sor­ry chum, but I don’t smoke. I’m not sure you’re sup­posed to smoke in here, either.” I point­ed at the NO SMOKING sign by the door.

The man broke into a deep and throaty laugh, howl­ing as if he’d just heard the most hilar­i­ous joke ever told. It took me by sur­prise. “You don’t smoke” he bare­ly man­aged to get out, “and I can’t smoke in here? Well I’m glad to see your sense of humour is still intact.” He regained his com­po­sure, but con­tin­ued to chuck­le while tak­ing in my bewil­der­ment. “I haven’t had a laugh like that in ages… thanks for that, all of this has got­ten far too tense. Now enough with this. Left pock­et of your blaz­er, a small sil­ver lighter. Pass it here, will you?”

My eyes did­n’t leave his as I reached into my pock­et. “I’m telling you friend, I don’t smoke so I would­n’t have a lighter…”, and my voice trailed off as my hand came into con­tact with the small object in my pock­et. The tips of my fin­gers felt as if they were being stung by bees as they ran along the object, my palm burned as I scooped it up and lift­ed it out of my pock­et. The bar­rel of the lighter caught the dim light in the room and mag­ni­fied it, gleam­ing and sparkling. The ele­gant engraved script along the side spelled out FPM.

But, how did that get there?” As I stood there con­fused he reached for­ward and plucked it out of my hands. He lit his cig­a­rette and took a deep inhale, let­ting the smoke slow­ly escape his lips and form­ing an opaque cloud between us. As the smoke cleared, I could see his expres­sion had changed; seri­ous, almost men­ac­ing. He was study­ing me.

He leaned toward me and stopped with his face inch­es from mine. “I gave that to you, had it engraved it myself. You hon­est­ly don’t remem­ber?” I strug­gled to say some­thing, any­thing at all. But noth­ing emerged. I just stared at him dumb­found­ed as my head pound­ed away. I real­ly need­ed to lie down, just for a lit­tle while.

Why am I here, Frank?”

Frank? Hon­est­ly friend, you real­ly have the wrong guy. There’s no Frank here. Did some­one put you up to this or did we meet some­where, at a bar maybe? I apol­o­gize, I haven’t been feel­ing quite myself the past few days. I’ve had a ter­ri­ble headache, and been hav­ing a bit of trou­ble sleep­ing.” There was no response to what I just said, his face was like stone. His eyes searched mine for some­thing, some­thing I did­n’t think I was capa­ble of giv­ing him. I looked down at my feet to escape his glare.

You’re hav­ing trou­ble going to sleep or hav­ing trou­ble stay­ing asleep? Night­mares?”

The ques­tion caught me off-guard. “Um, yes, I sup­pose.”

He nod­ded. “Vivid and alto­geth­er too real, am I right? It’s nev­er the same one, is it?”

I want­ed to ask how he knew, but found myself still strug­gling for words. He was right: trou­bling, dis­turb­ing images flashed through my mind in the dark­ness, always dif­fer­ent, a steady tor­rent of hor­ror the moment my head hit the pil­low. The late nights at the bar, the hand­fuls of painkillers washed down by the mid­night swigs of whiskey, all attempts to drown them out. But they did­n’t help. Noth­ing did. By the time I had final­ly found some words, he had walked over to the win­dow and was star­ing out at the park­ing lot.

Why am I here, Frank? With you, in this place? Answer my ques­tion.”

Look, I’d love to help but I hon­est­ly don’t know what this is about. And my name’s not Frank.” My head felt like it might explode.

You asked for this room, did­n’t you? 14C, main floor, near the exit? It was a very spe­cif­ic request. You could have tak­en any oth­er room, but you asked for this one.”

Did I? I, I real­ly don’t remem­ber.”

Please, Frank. Try.”

I had no rea­son to offer. I did­n’t even remem­ber ask­ing for a par­tic­u­lar room, just a room. He stood with his back to me for what seemed like ages before he spoke again. “I hate this part too, Frank. I wish it were that sim­ple, that we could just walk away and for­get, leave it all behind. And I wish I could give that to you. You’ve earned it, God knows that.”

He turned to face me. “It took almost two months to find you, you know. I was sure you were gone for good. It’s kind of fun­ny, when you think about it: me, com­ing to find you, of all peo­ple. The irony.”

The words find me sent a chill down my spine and echoed in my ears. “Are you with head office? There must be a mis­take. I could­n’t have been gone that long, I would be much low­er on sup­plies…” The pound­ing in my head had tak­en on an entire­ly new dimen­sion; the pain was blind­ing and unyield­ing, as if some­thing was intent on claw­ing its way out, dis­in­ter­est­ed in my con­sent.

He shook his head. “You real­ly don’t remem­ber yet, do you? Alright. Open the enve­lope, Frank. Maybe that will do the trick.”

Please stop call­ing me that. I’m not-”

He raised his hand. “Just open the enve­lope. You real­ly need to see what’s inside.”

(You can skip ahead to Part Three here)

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  1. Anx­ious­ly Await­ing # 3.…

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