The room was too quiet this time. Whatever ambience had been there before was now silent. I racked my brain to remember the noise, whatever it was. All I could put my finger on was the absence of it.
I followed the silence to the window, swept the curtains aside.
All was white.
Not a bright light sort of whitewash. A nothingness of white. A void. Outside the apartment, nothing remained.
My captor could put me to sleep and take away the few things that meant something to me. How could they remove a whole city, though? An entire world?
What sort of power was I dealing with? Something beyond my understanding.
And now they took away the outside, something that seemingly had no significance to me yet.
Or maybe it did, and they took it before I could realize it.
I didn’t need to find the answers from my surroundings. I could create the picture by using the missing pieces.
The photo had been the first to go, the image of myself in front of Rockefeller Center. The half I never saw had to be telling. Was I with another person? The man that lived here? For some reason seeing his face, his identity, was unacceptable.
Then the casserole. My specialty. The memory of it had teased at my mind.
Stepping in the bathroom, all evidence of a woman was gone. All the girlish items that I had toyed with. I came too close again.
Then the outdoors. The neighbor thumping on the ceiling and the stranger at the door. Perhaps that was why the world had to be wiped away. I was still too close.
Now what remained? What clues would send me back to unconsciousness?
I hovered my hand over everything. The lamp. The hamper. A kitchen stool. The dirty dishes.
I stuck a hand in the fridge. The case of beer was still there. One beer missing, as always. The chill of the neck had a calming effect on me before, rather than panic. One of the only sensations I had that resulted in tranquility. Perhaps that was why my captor left it, despite the tug of a potential memory.
A bottle glided from the case with ease. The solid weight of it gave me strength deep within. Was alcohol a comfort to me? Was I a drinker? After a sip of the putrid booze, I decided I was not.
I crept back to the bedroom with the Budweiser, holding my breath every second, expecting to blink and be back on the floor. But my unseen captor allowed me onward.
I stood in the same spot I awoke every cycle. This was familiar. I knew this was right. I had stood here, beer in hand. I could have fallen on the spot. This was the last moment before the time loop began.
Attempting to retrace steps that I didn’t remember ever taking, I circled the bed. Instinct suddenly stooped me down beside it, as if I were reaching for something. This was the glimmer of memory I nearly had in the bathroom. I dropped the razor, bent to retrieve it, and the movement was familiar. Not in that setting. Not reaching for the razor. But that was how I stooped when-
I had picked up the beer bottle. My breath caught in my throat. The beer had toppled from the nightstand, dripped onto the carpet. And I had bent down and picked it up.
Not this beer bottle that I had just brought from the fridge. The one missing from the case. Someone else had been drinking it and it spilled.
My motive wasn’t to clean up the mess though. I could feel it. Something about the retrieval had sparked me with hope and strength.
I skidded the beer onto the nightstand in the present to free my hands and explore more of the memory, when the nightstand vanished before my eyes. No reset. No time to remove it. One moment it was there, then gone.
The beer stayed. It clanked onto the floor once the nightstand disappeared from under it. It didn’t shatter, to my surprise. The liquid inside kept it sturdy enough to keep its form.
I was coming too close to something, and my captor took the nightstand.
I lumbered around the dead space, hoping to recreate whatever memory I wasn’t supposed to know. I crumpled over the absent form of it and my bruised ribs protested. And I remembered.
The corner of the absent nightstand matched my injury. I had fallen. The nightstand had jostled, the picture frame tumbling off. The beer following suit.
I was terrified. I remembered being terrified. This was the moment the pit opened in my stomach. All had come to a head.
From a fall? No. Not an accident.
I had been pushed.
My mind was clearing, almost there. But I still didn’t have a face to the man that did this. Or a name for him. Or a name for me. My memories were still trying to retreat.
I pressed my head to the wall in concentration, my eyes strained shut. Every muscle trembled. The fear was becoming so real and every molecule battled it. But I was so close. I was right there. I couldn’t let it go.
A cry exploded from me. A cry of power and defiance that I hardly recognized. Without knowing myself at all, I knew enough to know this strength wasn’t me. Not the usual me. I fought tooth and nail toward the truth and, with all the panic boiling in my blood, I clawed my way forward.
When my cry ceased and my eyes finally opened anew, the nightstand sat before me again. The ambience of a city whirled my head around and I stumbled to the window to find the void replaced with skipping pedestrians, honking taxis, greasy snack vendors. The strangely dreadful and comforting smell of burning casserole assaulted me again. A peek in the bathroom saw the return of all my toiletries.
All had returned by sheer force of will.
No captor could have brought them back into being. Or taken them out of being, for that matter. No one held me here.
The only person that controlled the flow of my memory was me. I had retreated into a perfect nightmare.
None of this was real.
But I knew the memories were. Whatever dark fantasy I had created encircled something very, very real.
I took measured steps to the fallen picture frame. Slipped the photo out the back. Unfolded it, seeing it whole for the first time.
I remembered everything.
To be continued in Untold 4...
© 2021 by Kelsey Garber