As you check your mail, you notice a letter that makes you stop in your tracks. The letter is addressed to you (no surprise there) but that handwriting is unmistakable. That is definitely your handiwork. You are cautious, but curious as well - Was is it just some type of sales gimmick or prank by your brother or could it be from your future self?
You chuckle at your mind playing such a prank. It's got to be just a coincidence. Right? Still, you feel your fingers start to tremble. Get a grip. Just rip it open.
Your thoughts briefly wander to an old episode of CSI and you are quick to chastise yourself for even the remote possibility that you might be destroying actual salivary DNA evidence of an FBI's most wanted international assassin. The shredded envelope falls to the ground, a single note sized card is the only survivor. In bold faced print you read
SO, HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN HEARING VOICES?
You look up startled. You have been hearing voices but you live alone. Well, there is the dog, but other than her you are alone. You realize the sound of a hose watering dirt has ceased from next door. You glance over and see the nosy neighbor staring at you with a look of bewilderment or is it glee. Have you suddenly grown a second head? So much for the privacy fence you spent so much money on last fall. Privacy what a thought.
"Bad news?" you hear your neighbor question.
"What?" He gestures over to the remnants of the envelope on the ground. Ugh. You reach down and collect the envelope pieces. How can you get out of this one without seeming like you have lost all sense and sensibility? We have never had a friendship, you think begrudgingly as you give the obligatory half wave. "Nice weather" you offer instead. Your hand rests firmly on the cool, brass door handle as you quickly plan your escape back into the safety of indoors and the quiet darkness. You push the door and feel resistance. Why don't you ever listen to your instincts, you think silently as you push harder. "See you later FRIEND" you hear your neighbor shout as you shove hard against the door and quickly close it, bolt the door, and latch the chain.
"So, how long HAVE you been hearing voices?" Startled you feel your hot skin instantly cover with cold sweat. How the hell did my sister get in here you think silently.
"Twenty minutes" she shakes her head in disappointment.
"What?" you ask perplexed.
"It took you TWENTY minutes to walk out to your mailbox and get ONE single piece of mail. You must be SO lonely." "Does time mean nothing to you? You seem to not have a concern about how others feel since the pandemic. What is your problem anyway"?
"OH MY GOD"! " Are you telling me you can't remember the pandemic? Do you even know what day it is? And now I hear you say your hearing voices? Whose voices are you hearing dear?"
Mom?! How did she get in here. Time to check the lock and see if it is broken.
"Seriously"?! We are YOUR family and we are concerned about YOU". Your mother begins to weep. The sobs pierce the silence like jagged daggers. You thought the letter was bad enough. Neighbors are one thing but family caring for you can feel so constricting sometimes.
"You were always so excited to see us before and now you act like we are a burden." Tears are streaming down her face now.
Now you remember the pandemic. It all comes rushing back. The limited toiletry supplies at the stores. Too many tears. How long has the pandemic been going on now...years? You remember now why today had started out so strange. The mailman. It was the first time you had seen a mailman in months. You had mailed the letter last December to see how long it would take to receive. The restrictions from the current pandemic had caused delays in all sectors of the business and financial world. Saliva is just too dangerous now.
"What are you insinuating Mom"? You remember why you had that chain lock installed too. Where was that guard dog?
"I'm not insinuating anything dear. Just calm down. I don't want you to get upset. You know what happens and NONE of us want that". "Take a deep breath. Have you taken your medicine today"?
"I for surely know what happens when you don't take your pills". Your ex enters the room with a large glass of red wine. "That's the reason I started drinking". Laughter all around the room (excluding yourself of course). Seriously, you must be losing it. You haven't seen your ex in twenty years. You don't know if you are dying but hopefully you would know before this loser.
"Am I going crazy? Or is.." Your words are brought to an abrupt halt when your ex trips over the coffee table and falls headfirst into your hospital bed. You reach your hands out to brace yourself but realize at some point your hands AND FEET have been shackled to the bed. "Why don't you just put me in a straight jacket if you are so concerned"? you mutter under your breath.
"What's that dear"? asks your mom as she steps away to push a button on the wall. You feel the wine that splashed on you has soaked you to the skin. It doesn't help that the thin, cotton gown covering you is the only thing shielding your privacy and that you now smell like the most expensive wine cooler from the local gas station. You wonder why your ex is even her and quite inebriated by the look. "Never mind" you hear yourself say. Obviously, no one is thinking rationally here.
Where the heck is the dog. Why didn't she clear these people out. She is supposed to be your protection. As if on cue - the dog jumps up and onto the bed smothering you with warm kisses. She came in with the nurse who has a tray of various pills in tiny sample cups.
"Yes dear" mom chirps. "The correct word is gone. You left crazy town a long time ago. Your are certifiably insane".
"Am I"? or are YOU.