It's white with a red bow.
I look down at it on my doorstep, with the postage stamp that you get on the boxes you order from Target, except this box isn't from Target. I didn't order anything. Besides, nothing from Target would be wrapped up this nicely.
The package and I have a staring contest. My neck starts to hurt as I continue to stare down at the crumpled paper package, addressed to me, with no return address.
I didn't order anything.
Yet here something is.
Curiouser and curiouser.
I give in. I lean down to pick up the package, feeling it all over, trying to identify what is inside. I feel nothing out of the ordinary. Sharp edges on the object; a fairly small, light object.
I open my front door and walk inside, into the kitchen. I set the package down on the island and rest my chin on my palm, elbows up on the tabletop, thinking.
Dear, dear, how queer everything is today!
I screw my eyes up, staring. When will it stop? When will I retaliate?
If you knew time as well as I do… you wouldn’t talk about wasting it.
I straighten up. No need to waste time. Over a little gift yet!
I start to tear at the white wrapping, peeling it away from the glue.
I pull out what is inside. A frame. A picture frame. A silly little picture frame.
With a picture inside of it.
I drop the frame. It clatters to the floor, a loud CRACK! splitting my ears.
I lean down to pick up the frame. There’s a red bow in the top left corner of the white frame. The glass over the photograph is slightly cracked from the fall.
I flip the frame over to the back. There, it says “Merry Christmas” in neat handwriting.
I flip back to the front again, inspecting the photograph inside. It’s of me, and a young blonde girl on a pier. She has sunglasses on her head.
I remember that day.
If I could, I would go back to that day and change everything.
But I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.
I carefully place the frame back on the island, on top of the packaging it had come in. It’s dim in the kitchen- the lights are turned down and I can’t really see anything. My roommate likes it that way.
I flip on the lights to their maximum brightness and return to the island.
Who would send me this? Why? It was in the past.
Her name was Leelah. She was amazing. And she died.
I killed her.
I was charged with manslaughter a few days following. It had happened there, on that very pier that we’re standing on in the picture.
But why would someone send me this now? Three years after?
It was hard enough to forget her, much less when I was being reminded of her with mysterious pictures of us being sent to me by a stranger.
Who was doing this?
My hands traced over her face, just larger than my index finger in the picture. I hadn’t meant to.
How long is forever? Sometimes just one second.
I snap back to reality as I hear the turning of keys in the door lock. My roommate’s home.
I snatch the picture frame up and hastily toss out the packaging, sprinting up the stairs just as the door opens and Jeohn yells a questioning “ ‘ello?”
“I’m busy!” I call down to Jeohn, who I can hear muttering in the entryway.
I exhale loudly. Sprinting up the stairs was exhausting.
The hurrier I go the behinder I get.
I enter my room and place the frame on my bed, staring at it. My eyes ache from all the staring I’ve done today.
There she is.
And there I am.
And there’s the pier.
And the boats.
And the water.
That’s all I see. The water.
This picture was taken the day of. The day of her death.
It was a simple mistake. Simple.
So, so simple.
Yet so, so wrong.
Like dominoes. One comes cascading down and the rest fall after it. Thrice to thine, as Shakespeare put it.
We were having fun. Laughing at each other on the pier. Just me, her and her brother. He had taken the picture.
And she gave me a little push after I said something snide. And I had returned it. But harder.
I hurt her, I could tell. She grabbed her shoulder the moment after. Before she fell.
She fell into the water, off the pier. She couldn’t swim. I didn’t know. Her shoulder was hurt. Her brother went in after her, but the bay was deeper than it let off. He almost drowned, too.
He dove back in to get her body a few minutes later.
Her brother was furious with me. His name was Yelsei. Yelsie Tobathy Peterson. I can’t blame him.
I never spoke to the family again. Never mentioned them. Never saw them. Didn’t even go to the wake. Or the funeral.
I just disappeared.
But I had killed her.
Leelah was gone.
The damage was done.
Because of me.
Whoever had sent me this picture was trying to play mind games. It was working.
If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take.
No, no, I was already down a path, but was it the right…?
Would you like an adventure now, or should we have tea first?
No, NO, stop this I didn’t mean to...it was all…
I scream. It’s unusual, and I can hear Jeohn running up the stairs. No, no, make it stop…
We’re all mad here.
My scream wakes the sleeping bears.
It was loud. He’d never heard the sound before. Jeohn looked up from the newspaper he was reading and tossed it aside. “Kris?” Jeohn yelled. “Kris, are you alright, my man?” Another yell.
“Kris? Kris?!” Jeohn started running, hurrying up the stairs. “KRIS?!”
One last, loud, mind-shattering scream echoed through the house.
Jeohn cautiously approached the door to Kris’s bedroom. “Kris?”
He knocked once. Jeohn grasped the door knob and turned it. He peeked inside the room.
“Off with his head.”
Jeohn’s eyes widened. “Kris? KRIS! KRIS!!!!!”