A short story… Part Three

 (Here are links to Part One and Part Two… and thanks for read­ing!)

Who. Are. You.

Part Three

Go ahead, open it.”

I pulled the thick rub­ber band off the enve­lope and shook its con­tents onto the bed. A rain­bow of pass­ports and sev­er­al thin stacks of cur­ren­cy spilled out, the crisp bills neat­ly bound with the same black bands that sealed the enve­lope.

The man smoked his cig­a­rette by the win­dow, his eyes burn­ing into my flesh like the ember on his cig­a­rette. He stud­ied me with the same type of curios­i­ty that I was study­ing the items on the bed with. “Do you rec­og­nize any of this, Frank?”

The stacks were small, but loaded with bills in very high denom­i­na­tions. I wasn’t even sure what coun­try some of them belonged to.

Is this real mon­ey?”

Some of it, any­way. It’s all real enough for our pur­pos­es.”

A sharp bolt of pan­ic struck me in the gut; it made me want to get up and run, to leave this man and his enve­lope and his cig­a­rettes far behind me. But I was exhaust­ed, and the puls­ing in my head demand­ed I remain seat­ed for a few moments longer.

No, I have no idea what any of this is, but I real­ly do think I need to be on my way.” He came across the room and brought his face to with­in inch­es from mine. I could smell the smoke com­ing off of him, threat­en­ing to engulf him. “I need you to think, Frank-”

Please, stop call­ing me that.”

He stood up. “Okay, then. You don’t want me to call you Frank. What do you want me to call you, then? You’re so adamant that isn’t who you are… per­haps it’s time for you to intro­duce your­self, then. Go on. Who are you?”

The pain in my head had made such a sim­ple solu­tion escape me entire­ly. Just tell him who I real­ly am and put all of this to rest. “Michael. My name is Michael Kirk­land.”

From the look of con­fu­sion on his face, this obvi­ous­ly wasn’t what he was expect­ing to hear. “Kirk­land? Michael Kirk­land. That’s your name?”

I nod­ded. “Yes sir.”

He walked back to the win­dow, his hand on his neck, wring­ing it as if his thoughts were stuck under his skin. ‘That can’t be. That doesn’t make any sense, none at all.”

A sense of relief washed over me. “That’s what I’ve been try­ing to tell you, friend. I think you’ve got me mixed up with some­one else.”

He stood by the win­dow for a bit before walk­ing back to the bed. He opened his mouth to speak, but noth­ing came out. I slow­ly began to rise to my feet as he leaned over the bed and began col­lect­ing up the pass­ports from the bed. I reached out to him to shake his hand and bid him farewell; he quick­ly select­ed a blue pass­port from the stack in his hand and thrust it into my open palm. “Take a look at this one. Please.”

I stared at him for a moment before open­ing the cov­er. The man look­ing up from the page was unmis­tak­ably me.  Sur­name, KIRKLAND; Giv­en names, MICHAEL PHILIP; Place of Birth, New York, NY, USA.  My hair was cut extreme­ly short, vir­tu­al­ly bald in com­par­i­son to the head full of hair I was sport­ing at the moment… but it was me, with­out ques­tion. I was more con­fused than ever. I don’t actu­al­ly recall sit­ting back down on the bed, but there I was.

Where did you get this? I — I don’t under­stand. Where did this pic­ture come from? I’ve nev­er had my hair this short…”

The man sat down beside me and rest­ed his hand on my shoul­der, an unset­tling look of kind­ness on his face. “Those are good ques­tions, and I promise you’ll have answers soon. But we need to get back to my ques­tion: Why am I here?”  He reached behind us and col­lect­ed the oth­er six or sev­en pass­ports on the bed before hand­ing them to me.  “I need you to look through those and tell me what you think.”

I flipped through them as he instruct­ed. The men in the pho­tos were all me; my hair, names, birth­dates, and cit­i­zen­ships were dif­fer­ent in each. SCHNEIDER, DOUGLAS – Coun­try of Birth, Switzer­land; AMSEL, ERIK — Place of Birth, Berlin, Ger­many; GILLIAM, JONATHAN – Place of Birth, Lon­don, Eng­land; ROBINSON, ADAM – Nation­al­i­ty, Aus­tralian… on and on it went. Aside from the fact that I had no idea where these came from or why they exist­ed at all, I could see there was some­thing miss­ing.

I don’t under­stand,” I said, “none of these belong to a Frank.” I tried to stand again, but it felt like a weight sat heav­i­ly on my shoul­ders, try­ing to push me through the floor. “Why would I need to have these?”

You have the answer to that Frank. You have the answer to all of your ques­tions, you just need to remem­ber. And from the looks of you, we are run­ning out of time.”

Time…?”

He nod­ded. The pain in my head was inten­si­fy­ing, some­thing was very wrong in there. “My name real­ly isn’t Michael — or Jonathan, or any of these is it?”

He looked at me with real con­cern before reach­ing into his pock­et for his cig­a­rettes again. He select­ed one and quick­ly lit it with the sil­ver lighter. He point­ed the pack at me and I pulled one out and put it in my mouth, absent-mind­ed­ly lean­ing in for a light. “That wouldn’t be entire­ly true. You have been all of those peo­ple, at some point. They are as real as you and I are right now, and you’ll revis­it them all again when you need to. But right now, I need to get the real you back. You’re stuck, and I need to get you unstuck before it’s too late.”

The pain was near blind­ing. “Stuck?”

He began to walk across the room. “Yes, and time is of the essence. It always is with us, isn’t it?” The awk­ward laugh he emit­ted wasn’t one of amuse­ment, but more that shaky kind of laugh that one does when they’re scared, unsure of what hap­pens next. “I thought my pres­ence here would be enough to break this, but it’s clear to me that we’re going to have to try some­thing a bit more rad­i­cal. I was hop­ing it wouldn’t come to this, hon­est­ly… I have no idea how you’re going to react.”

I was bare­ly tak­ing in the words he was say­ing. My head was spin­ning with the faces and names in the pass­ports, the stacks of mon­ey on the bed, the night­mar­ish images from my dreams, only to real­ize that I was half-way through the cig­a­rette he hand­ed me, that I was enjoy­ing the com­fort­ing feel­ing it gave me instead of the repul­sion I thought I har­boured for it.

After what could have been hours, min­utes, or sec­onds, he spoke again. His words snap­ping me out of the trance-like state I was in. “You have two iden­ti­cal suit­cas­es sit­ting in the cor­ner. Why is that?”

Hm? Oh, the cas­es. One has my clothes, toi­letries, and such. The oth­er has my prod­ucts in it.”

Yes, but why two iden­ti­cal ones? Why didn’t you leave the one in your trunk?”

I replied with­out think­ing; I don’t even know where the words came from. “I take them every­where, always. They stay with me.”

His face had that stern look on it again as he spoke his next words. “I know that. But why? Think Frank, this is impor­tant.”

The words because they aren’t safe any­where else echoed through my head, said in an over-ampli­fied, bare­ly con­trolled voice, the words as clear as if they were being spo­ken by some­one stand­ing right next to me.

And nei­ther are you, it con­tin­ued. Do some­thing. Now.

I looked up at him and he was nod­ding, as if he heard the words, too. “That’s right Frank. You know what you need. Get it, now.”

Hur­ry, it said. There’s no more time.

The pain in my head was so intense it was hard to focus on any­thing. I stood and stag­gered toward my cas­es; I reached down and gripped the heavy han­dles and real­ized my hands were trem­bling as I pulled the big cas­es to the bed. Through my haze, I heard him shout­ing and yelling at me from across the room:

Why am I here, Frank?? WHO AM I?? Answer me!!”

Before I could respond, he pulled a small sil­ver hand­gun from his waist­band and point­ed it straight at my chest. I looked down at my hands and watched as my thumbs slid over two latch­es I hadn’t noticed on the tops of my cas­es, mov­ing as if they were some­one else’s hands entire­ly. They twist­ed the thick steel han­dles up and toward my body, heav­ing on the cas­es as if I was going to hurl them across the room at him. But instead of watch­ing them leave the ground and fly through the air, two ugly revolvers emerged from the top of the cas­es; my alien hands trained them at his head, my fin­gers twitched and stead­ied them­selves against the trig­gers, and I was pow­er­less to stop it.

Do it, said the voice said. Fin­ish this.

Please, Frank–”

My hands shook furi­ous­ly. The man’s face was filled with fear but he held his ground, his gun raised and aimed at me, a slight­est hint of a shake to be seen. We stood like this for a moment before I low­ered my arms and my hands sud­den­ly opened, let­ting the guns fall to my feet. My mind was on fire and I found it hard to form any real thoughts, but words emerged.

Charles — your name is Charles May­er.”

He smiled weak­ly. “Yes, it’s me Frank.” He wiped away the sweat that began to run down his tem­ple with his free hand.

I was con­fused, and felt a sud­den burst of anger. “Jesus Christ… I could have killed you. What the fuck were you think­ing?”

He still held his gun trained at my chest, but he was obvi­ous­ly shak­en. “I didn’t know what else to do, you didn’t leave me with a lot of choic­es. I wasn’t sure how you were going to come out of that, or if you even would before you – well, I’m not sure you’re capa­ble of miss­ing with those things, even in that state. They’re almost a part of you now, it seems.”

I sat down on the bed.

How is your head now?”, he asked.

The pain was still bru­tal, but sub­sid­ing rapid­ly; it was as if some­one opened a valve and the pres­sure was rush­ing out. “Like hell, if I’m being hon­est.”

Charles smiled at me, as a father would at his child. “That will pass, you know it will.” He took a few steps clos­er, his gun still trained on me. “Now, tell me why I’m here.”

A flood of new thoughts and mem­o­ries were rush­ing in to fill the voids in my mem­o­ry, the ran­dom images and seem­ing­ly dis­joint­ed thoughts of the past weeks start­ed piec­ing togeth­er into con­text. My mind was still a mess, the pound­ing in my tem­ples had fad­ed but was still very present, but I final­ly found what he was seek­ing.

Debrief­ing. I’m here for debrief­ing, sir.” I stared blankly at the guns by my feet. “Two months? How is that even pos­si­ble? Where have I been?”

Charles shook his head. “We’re not real­ly sure. Your last assign­ment didn’t go well, to say the least. You were injured and we lost com­mu­ni­ca­tion with you short­ly after – but we will get to all of that, I promise you. I’m just glad we found you before it was too late. You on the loose and in the state you were in was trou­bling, to say the least.”

I couldn’t take my eyes off my guns on the floor. Ugly, util­i­tar­i­an pieces of cold steel, the han­dles on each well worn. All too famil­iar tools, like exten­sions of my own hands, the stars of my dreams. “I could have killed you. What would I have done if…” My voice trailed off.

He let out a large sigh.“That was a risk I need­ed to take, for your sake. And you didn’t kill me, for which I can’t thank you enough.”

I nod­ded. “Think of it as an ear­ly Christ­mas present.”

He smiled. “I will. Now, who are you? Tell me your name.”

I paused before I spoke; it had been so long since the words had passed my lips, I wasn’t even sure they were real any­more. “Cap­tain Franklin Patrick May­er, Black Squad Three, sir.”

Charles nod­ded. “Good. Code­name?”

The Hunter, sir.”

He final­ly low­ered his gun, and raised his oth­er hand to form a salute before com­ing over to sit with me on the bed. “Wel­come back, son… let’s get you home.”

Whatcha thinking, Faceless? Share those feelings.

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