When I awoke on the first morning, I found a yellow Post-It note stuck to the wall above my bedside table. On it was a crudely drawn smiley face. I looked at it for a while, wondering where it had come from. My girlfriend had left the previous day on a business trip and I took advantage of having the house to myself by drinking more Jagermeister than any person should in one sitting – or two – and playing video games until the wee hours of morning. I was pretty sure I had drawn the face as some sort of drunken joke for myself to enjoy when I woke up.
It was Sunday. I should have mowed the lawn, but I decided a better course of action was marathoning a season or two of Archer in my underwear. I ordered a pizza at noon and munched on it, alternating between watching bad zombie movies on Netflix and playing BioShock, until evening. I took a quick jog around the neighborhood just to say I went outside that day, took a shower, and got in bed. I watched episodes of Stargate until I fell asleep.
The next morning, there was another Post-It on the wall. Instead of a picture, this one had, “Hi, Jim!” written on it. The dot of the exclamation point was a heart, slightly bigger on the right side, the beginning and ending points of the heart crossing at the top to form a little X. Just like my wife used to draw. She used to leave Post-Its for me on the fridge or by my keys if I needed to remember to mail something or pick up dinner on the way home from work. When you lose someone, there’s a part of you that never feels the same. A numb area in your brain that can go unnoticed for a while, but is always waiting to incapacitate you with unwanted emotions. I was late for work that morning. The swelling in my eyelids didn’t go down until after lunch.
My wife and infant son died in a car accident on the Sunset Highway heading into Portland four years ago. I was in the car with them, but I had unbuckled my seatbelt to pull my cell phone out of my pocket. I was thrown through the windshield. My hip shattered when I hit the pavement and I was losing a lot of blood from cuts and road rash. From my position on the road, I could see Ashley moving around in the passenger seat, could hear Simon crying in the back. I could also smell smoke. I couldn’t walk. Couldn’t yell. I had to watch as the car burst into flames and took my life from me.
There was another note on the third morning. “Don’t forget applesauce for Simon!”
I had been too distraught on the second day to wonder where the note came from. The first day, I thought it was me. Today, though, I wanted to know who was fucking with me. I checked the whole house; every closet, every pantry, the garage. I called the security system company and asked if they recorded any doors opening during the night. They hadn’t. I told them I suspected someone had been in my house, to which they suggested I call the police. I asked my neighbors if they had seen anything. They hadn’t. I finally called the police. I showed them the note and told them someone had been in my house. They looked through the house again cursorily and told me there wasn’t much I could do aside from filing a report and locking my doors.
I called in sick that day and bought a security camera and some extra locks for my doors. Some time in the afternoon I got a call from my girlfriend’s boss asking if Brit was around. I reminded him that she had flown to Australia for a meeting with their regional department head. He was quiet for a while before telling me that she never showed up for the meeting. She hadn’t answered his calls or emails, so he thought I might be able to tell him if something had happened. I called the police again and told them Brit was missing. They wanted me to come to the station and fill out another report – this one much lengthier than the first. They grilled me on why I didn’t know she was missing, why I didn’t call her, why her boss was the first to think something was up. The whole thing took two hours. I came back home, shaken, but decided the security camera and locks still needed to be installed.
When I woke up, there was no Post-It note. Instead, there was a page from a day planner taped to the wall. It was Brit’s. I could tell by the items listed that it was from this week when she should have been in Australia. Over top of the schedule, written in Sharpie, were the words, “I’m in the attic.”
“Brit!” I yelled. “What the fuck? Have you been putting the Post-Its on the wall? What the fuck is wrong with you? I told you; I’m with you now!”
There was no answer, but I could hear footsteps. I pulled down the attic stairs and climbed up. Brit was standing with her back to me.
“Brit. What the fuck?”
She turned. It wasn’t Brit. I had no idea who she was. She was wearing latex gloves like you see at the dentist.
“Who the fuck are you? Where’s Brit?”
The woman smiled. “I’m Essie Garcia’s sister.”
“That doesn’t mean shit to me. Why are you in my house? Have you been putting Post-Its on my wall?” I was pissed. I took a few steps toward her, suppressing my urge to hit her.
“I did. And your girlfriend is up here,” the woman said, gesturing to a roll of blue tarp.
There was a dark, purplish stain near the bottom of the roll. I looked back at the woman, tried to say something, but failed. I didn’t know what to say. I grabbed for her instead. She backed out of my grasp, pulling a large kitchen knife – my kitchen knife – from somewhere and pointing it at my throat.
“Stay back, Jim. You don’t even know who Essie is, you disgusting piece of shit. She was in the other car you crashed into. You killed her. She was paralyzed. She drowned on her own blood that had pooled on the airbag because she couldn’t move her head. You did that. You need to be punished.”
“I watched my wife and child burn to death! I heard my kid’s screams for help turn into gurgles as his flesh melted! I WAS punished!”
“NO!” she stabbed with the knife, but she was too far away to cut me. “NOT ENOUGH! That was punishment for you not paying attention. You were never punished for killing my baby sister. I killed your new girlfriend, but that is NOT ENOUGH! NOT! ENOUGH! So I put those notes I stole from your house after the accident on your walls to make you act strange. You’ve bothered your neighbors, didn’t go to work, and called the police about a break in with no evidence and now your girlfriend is missing! They’ll find her, stabbed with your knife. You’ll go to jail for murder. It’s not enough punishment for you, but it’s all I can do. Essie will understand.”
With that, the woman sidestepped away from me, still holding me at bay with the knife. She fled down the attic stairs and heaved them upward when she got to the bottom. The springs in the door assisted her and slammed shut on me. I wasted a few seconds pushing the door back down. By the time I got down, the woman was gone and the knife was laying in the kitchen sink.
I’m writing this to try to prove my innocence. I don’t know what to do. I could try to get rid of the knife and Brit’s body, but I’m sure that would just make me look guilty if they find her. Maybe I should call the police and tell them what happened, but the story sounds like the flimsy lie of a man who got too deep in murder and lost his nerve…