By: Conan Helsley
They tell me I live here, in this nondescript two-story blur of a house. It immediately reminded me of the house in this old show I watched growing up, Even Stevens. A house you could raise a family in, the home of a responsible working man with a wife and some kids. But I don't remember it. I don't remember ever being a person who might buy a house like this in a neighborhood like this in a town
like this. In fact I don't remember anything I've been told about myself or about anyone else. I don't remember my own face, let alone the people claiming to be my family.
Amnesia. Damn funny thing. I can walk and talk and read and write and all that mechanical shit, but my face is unfamiliar, and I can't recall my name, my address or the people telling me the things I can't remember. I had no idea what I did for a living until they told me. Literally all of the informational nonsense that makes a person who they are has seemingly been wiped from my mind, like a virus sweeping through a hard drive. I'm a fucking internet and cable man. Which makes no sense to me because my house must have cost a fortune. A quarter million at least. It's curious, how odd things seem when you have no identity, but then maybe that's just what life feels like, because what
reference do I have to compare it to? Everyone hugging and kissing me, laughing in my face like they've known me all their life, because they probably have, yet I there is no recollection of even their names. For instance my sister, who feels like a stranger to me, just some woman I haven't met a single time in thirty-two years. When she hugs me it feels like the embrace of a lover, her body hard against
mine, lips grazing my neck. And I like it. A lot. I keep telling myself that she's my sister for fuck sake, but it doesn't mean anything.
Being home for the first time since waking up in that bleak and sterile room feels as though I'm in someone else's house, an intruder invading the space of another. Which is actually how I imagine doing my job would feel. I'm going from room to room looking for anything that might remind me of
myself, but the place might have been pulled straight from a magazine article. A place which served no
greater purpose than to appear to be a home. It may never have seen foot traffic at all.
I put myself down on the edge of the bed, unsure whether I even want to remember who I was. It might be better to just leave that drab guy behind and find a new more vibrant personality. One that wouldn't possibly consider white for a home. Or even a suburb to begin with. I mean, what kind of person lives a life like this? There's an alarm clock on the bedside table. It's nice. Probably expensive. I pick it up. It's actually heavy. I lift it high over my head and slam it on the floor. It breaks, but not
spectacularly. Not satisfying at all. I take the lamp and smash that on top of the clock. The glass and porcelain break into a hundred little pieces and I exhale. In that moment I realize that I just want to break shit. So I do, everything on the dresser and everything on the end table and everything I can get my hands on in that room. When I'm done I actually feel something, a sort of power, though more like a kid throwing a tantrum and only feels like he accomplished something.
Sitting on the bed again, I just breath. I don't know where it comes from, but it seems the best way to deal with the issue at hand. Though just now I can't decide what the issue actually is. Everything gets quiet. I hear this low ring in my ears. Like there's an alarm going off in there. Maybe there is. An
alarm warning me to stop, just let all these thoughts go and get back to the boring old life I have no memory of. But that seems somehow the worst imaginable outcome from this. I mean, what could be worse? Am I going to remember some terrible thing about myself? Like for instance that I also do
accounting on the side? Or that in my spare time I like to paint another coat of white and watch the walls dry? I'd rather walk onto the highway and try dodging traffic. At least then there would be some risk, some price I might pay, something to get my mind working on a different level then just sterility and conformity.
Dripping. I hear it. Dripping. Like a faucet. Only deeper and a bit hollow. Like a basin in a small but narrow space. I get up to check the bathroom, which is nearest. Nothing at all. Not even a drop in the porcelain. The kitchen is dry as well, though the faucet did seem to be about to drip. I use my finger to swipe it off, to see if another will form, but I stand there for a few minutes and nothing happens. I can't hear anything either though, so perhaps it was the problem. Maybe the water had just gone quickly down the drain.
I'm only back in my room a few minutes when I hear it again. But this time I realize it's coming
from below. Only as far as I could tell there is no basement in my house. You would think a house like this should have one, but somehow it does not. Surveying the trashed space around me, though, I noticethat the carpet in the corner is a bit frayed. As though someone had struggled trying to pull it up. Had it been me? Had I tried to replace it? There's also the remains of a decanter there. A bit of liquid is still in the bottom of what's left. Was there something under that carpet? A space between boards that something could drip through, perhaps. I move the pieces of glass and pull at the carpet. It comes up more easily than I expect. Underneath is a trap door.
I just stand there looking. The liquid from the decanter is spread across the nearest corner, running into the crack between the floor and door. The dripping is only slightly more audible.
Something else is louder. Almost a warble in the deepest part of my mind. The siren on a cop car without the wailing. Something seemed to be coming from that door. Emanating, as if there were some entity down there calling to me. Telling me I must come down. I just must.
There's a metal handle, stainless and gleaming. I put my fingers around it and pull. Nothing. I pull harder. Nothing. I yank. I jerk. I strain every muscle in my body and just when I'm about to give up because there must be a lock on the other side I'm flying back into the bed. The door cracks against the floor and a horrific smell blooms from the dark hole in my floor, sending a hundred tiny hands down
my throat to tug at my guts.
I cover my mouth and nose to peer into that murky square. It's the odor of a dead rat trapped in the wall, only stronger. Bigger. I don't want to go down there, don't want to find out what that dead thing is, what secrets lie down in that space beneath my bedroom. But I know that I am down there, the me I can't remember, the me I've very obviously hidden from everyone else in my life. I have to know, even if the me I find lurking in that gloom is one who should remain there.
I find a Mag-lite in a kitchen drawer, and wonder the point of a flashlight kept in the center of the house, then venture into that black chamber. The stench assaults me. I can just barely fight through it, like a crowd trying to hold me back. I'm almost certain that's as much mental as the physical
revulsion, something telling me that if I back out now I can still maintain the new me, I can still leave whatever is hidden down there trapped in that darkness. I hold vomit back, but as I come to the culprit I let it go. It splashes onto the corpse there against the wall, huddled like it had been cold. Long dead but still fleshy. A massive Rottweiler on a heavy chain.
I move past him. There is more to search. Something awaits me in that deeper darkness.
Something I put there. Something I left there. Something I had intended on returning to.
I've been here.
I come here.
This is my place. The place no one else ever sees. No one that leaves.
Before I see it I know what's waiting. I've been away for eight months and she's been without food and water. And in the beam of my flashlight I see her. Almost emerging from the murk. Like Boulder, she is also chained, and decomposing.
I turn back to the stairs, smiling without meaning to.
There is work to be done.