9 September 2018, 9:21 p.m.
“Well, it wasn’t a bad life—” Lee thought as he lumbered to the floor in slow motion. His legs trembled and doubled at the knees, his back arched, and his arms flew into the air as his athletic figure hit the cold concrete with a heavy thud. The photograph he had been looking at just moments ago slipped through his fingers and landed next to his still body like a dead autumn leaf. Handwritten in beautiful calligraphy on its back were the words: YOU, 25 September 2014.
9 September 2018, 10:22 p.m.
His head pulsated with pain as if it had been hit by a sledgehammer. Blood was dripping from his curly ebony hair onto the white linen shirt that was slowly turning pink. Once his eyes had had enough time to get accustomed to the semi-dark surroundings, the first thing he saw was her legs – her long, smooth legs that he had felt wrapped around him so many times. Next were her feet – the tiny feet he had massaged many a night while watching cozy movies on the sofa – now fashionably propped up by the blue high-heeled thousand-dollar Manolo Blahnik he had bought her. Then he focused on her hands – the exquisite long fingers with nails painted in dark red, nails that had traced his back under the soundtrack of sweet moaning sounds countless times – now firmly enveloped around the long handle of a ten-pound sledgehammer that was dangling in front of her like the pendulum of a grandfather clock.
“Carrie?” Lee squinted under the pale yellow glow of the emergency light in the boiler room.
As he tried to check the wound on his head, he realized both his arms and legs were tied to the sturdy wooden chair he was sitting on. He slowly pressed his eyelids shut as a painful thought flashed through his mind, “Damn! I’ve taught her the Palomar Knot on that yacht in Monaco!”
“Ooh, poor sleepyhead,” the woman’s voice came tingling from the shadows. “Don’t you dare pass out on me again! I made sure not to hit you super hard.”
Another memory swam out before Lee’s eyes. His girlfriend of three years had been quite insistent on signing to Crossfit classes.
“I can see that. Since I’m not dead yet…” he managed to blurt out between clenched teeth. “But why?”
“Why?” He could only imagine her tilting her head in the dark – the way she always did when playing dumb. “I don’t know. Does there have to be a why?”
“Caroline, is this some kind of game? If it is, it’s not funny!”
“No game. Just life, Lee, just life,” she lowered herself to his level until her face was only a couple of breaths away. “Or maybe death… You know, I got bored.”
“You got bored?! Are you kidding me? You want to kill me because you got bored?”
“Yep,” she answered matter-of-factly.
“What the hell has happened to you? Are you crazy? Are you in some kind of a sect?” he still couldn’t wrap his head around what was happening.
“Well, I think the clues I’ve left for your birthday hunt were quite telling. Didn’t you enjoy them?” She pouted her lips and made her face distort like a Snapchat filter.
“Hooray! Happy birthday to me! How could I’ve forgotten?” he replied still incredulous. “Oh, it must’ve been because of… the fuckin’ BLOW to the head!”
“Yeah, sorry about that,” she smirked. “No, wait! Actually, everything was planned. So, I guess, I’m not sorry after all. Ha-ha!”
“Is someone paying you? Do you want money?” Lee’s brain started shooting questions while his perverted captor still let him. “Didn’t we have a good time?”
He paused. That photo… He had been living in a dream world. It was never real. She had seen him way before he noticed her. Carrie was not…
“Is your name even Carrie?” he quizzed.
“Of course it is, silly! It’s all me. I just… like bending the truth a bit.”
“But why?” he repeated hopelessly.
“You saw the photo, right? You looked so handsome that first time I saw you at the coffee place. I just knew you had to be mine.”
“I was, damn it! For three years, remember?” His blood was starting to boil. “Why now? What the hell happened to you?!”
To Lee’s surprise, his psychopath of a girlfriend (or was it ex-girlfriend now?) burst out into a tirade, “You just couldn’t shut up… How you couldn’t believe how ‘lucky’ you were to have met me. How inexplicable coincidences can stir your life. How you should follow your gut feeling because even behind the strangest occurrences there’s meaning. Jung, Pauli, synchronicity… Bla-Bla-Bla. All. The. Fucking. Time.” Carrie rolled her eyes, “Surprise, mister! Your synchronicity does not exist. It was me. It has always been me, not some dead philosophers or the Universe…”
“This is over synchronicity?! Why should it matter? Couldn’t you just say you don’t agree with me and get over it?”
“It doesn’t matter?! Maybe it doesn’t to you! What about everything I’ve done? You think it was a coincidence we were living on the same street when I started work at your company? You think it was easy to fabricate a CV and get hired for a position you know nothing about? You think it was a coincidence I’ve ‘spent’ my summers as a kid at the same camp you did and knew so many details about the counselors? That it’s a coincidence your shower broke down just when I had a hot tub installed at my place?” Her nostrils were flaring, “Oh, no, bet your ass it wasn’t. It was a lot of research and hard work!”
“Oh. My. God.” At this point, Lee knew there was no correct reply. “You couldn’t just ask me out?? Just look at you – you’re gorgeous!”
“Yeah, right!” Somehow she still kept being offended. “As if getting to look like this was easy. You’d never have looked at me twice if you’ve seen me the way I was… In fact, you didn’t. I used to serve you regularly. And you didn’t even remember me.”
“It’s true. I bet you considered me beneath you.”
“What the hell? Let me get this straight. You drastically change your appearance and then you sulk because I don’t remember you? Or it’s just a general complaint that I don’t hit on every waitress I meet?” Lee did the math in his head. “You know what? I actually think I do remember you. You used to be a really nice shy girl, weren’t you? Didn’t you lend me your phone once to call an Uber after my battery ha—,” he stopped mid-sentence, “You did this to learn my address, didn’t you?”
“Bingo!” Caroline was triumphant.
“I was wrong. You were never nice… You’re a cr—,” he had to put the brakes on this one. You should never call a crazy person crazy to their face. And Lee had already played one Joker card for the dangerous trigger word.
“I have to admit you’re also kind of correct. As of tomorrow, it won’t matter.”
“What are you going to do with me?” Lee thought he could buy himself more time but the glimmer in her eyes made him shiver.
“Don’t you worry about me, darling. Do you think the girl that planned for a year how to meet you would go on unprepared?” She gripped tightly the sledgehammer and started to slowly lift it above her head. “Bye, Lee.”
He shut his eyes waiting for the hit.
9 September, 2018, 11:11 p.m.
The blow never came. Instead, there was a loud beep followed by a long hissing sound. And a shriek. And screaming, so much screaming. Then it stopped. And all was quiet again.
10 September, 2018, 7:34 a.m.
Lee rubbed his wrists as the janitor untangled the last piece of rope. Just in time to see a medical examiner covering Carrie’s horrifically twisted face with a white sheet.
“Such a coincidence,” the detective shook his head while he continued scribbling something in his notebook, “that the boiler pressure relief valve was programmed to release steam right when she was about to make the final strike.” He looked up and spoke to Lee, “You are very lucky, you know that? But maybe pick a better girlfriend next time…”
For the first time in hours, a discrete smile crept on his face, “I like programming these maintenance devices myself, and because I was expecting a surprise birthday dinner last night, I thought setting the timer to 11:11 looked kind of cool. A coincidence, you say... I call it synchronicity.” He looked at the white sheet covering the lifeless body on the floor, a tiny foot in a blue Manolo Blahnik sticking out, “I'm sorry, dear. You got it all wrong. Synchronicity is real, Carrie, and it’s a bitch.”