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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