The Stranger was the first novella I published on the Amazon Kindle store. It’s currently for sale at a whopping $.99. I’ve decided to post it here, on my blog, in it’s entirety, for free. I am passionate about writing posts that demonstrate the love and grace of Jesus and what He’s doing in my life, but I also love writing fiction.
Here’s the plan. For the next ten weeks, I will post a chapter each Friday. Let’s call it Fiction Friday. Feel free to hashtag the crap out of that. I hope you enjoy the story. If you like this one, I have a couple more on Amazon. You can find them here: Author Page
“Dillon, can you hear me?”
Unable to see anything but darkness, I slowly opened my eyes. The throbbing pain inside my head had vanished. I waited several seconds before trying to move. I decided to take things nice and easy. The room materialized into focus, and I looked upon a man sitting in a chair directly across from me.
“Dillon? I know you don’t like these sessions, but we need to talk.” He was dressed nicely in a suit, but no tie. His darkened hair contained streaks of gray, revealing a hint of his age. On the table between us, laid an opened spiral-bound notebook. He held a pen in his hand.
“Do I know you?”
He smiled, but for reasons unknown to me, it didn’t lower my anxiety level. “Of course you do, Dillon. We’ve been meeting together for a long time now. You took quite the fall today, so things might be a little…fuzzy for awhile.”
I blinked several times so my eyes could adjust to the dim lighting. The room was modest, just the table and two chairs. Cold, drab, cement walls surrounded us on all sides. It reminded me of an interrogation room I had seen in many movies. The feeling swirling through the air was somewhere between cozy and frightening.
I frowned. “Where exactly am I? Are you a doctor or something?”
“You could say that. What do you remember, Dillon?”
“What do you mean? Remember about what?”
He smiled again and a chill slithered down my spinal cord. I tried not to shiver.
“Let me put it this way, what is the last thing you remember?”
I started to answer the question but realized I didn’t remember anything except for waking up in that room. He noticed my hesitation and leaned forward. I struggled to make sense of the chaos inside my mind. Clouded bits of memories flashed briefly, but disappeared before they were discernible.
“I…I’m not really sure. I keep seeing these images in my head, like short bursts of pictures, but they don’t make any sense.”
“Can you describe what they look like?”
I shook my head. “They don’t last long enough for me to get any details.” I looked at the floor and then closed my eyes, concentrating. “I see some woods. It’s raining. There’s a cabin. I think someone is with me, but I can’t tell.”
“Good, go on.”
“It’s almost like I feel scared, like I’m in a very bad situation, but I can’t see anything else.” I opened my eyes and looked up. “I’m sorry. I know that’s not much detail.”
“You’re doing great, Dillon. We’re not in any hurry. We’ve made some significant progress, which I’ve put in my report.”
I glanced at the notebook which he had yet to pick up. All I could see were blank pages. “Is that what you’re writing your notes in?”
“Some. Not all though. This is merely to keep track of the session. I put everything into the computer once we’re done. I keep remarkably thorough records.”
I sat there wondering when the light bulb would come on and I would start remembering things. I had a feeling that the good doctor wasn’t telling me everything. It was as if he had placed a puzzle in front of me, but kept several key pieces tucked away inside his pocket. Not only that, he also hid the box so I couldn’t see what the picture should look like. “What’s your name?” I asked. “You know mine, I think it’s only fair I know yours.”
“Of course, Dillon. My name is Dr. Parker.”
I had expected to hear the sound of a large gong and an announcement that I had won the grand prize of getting my memory back. I was sorely disappointed. The name meant nothing to me. “Hmm, Dr. Parker…and we’ve been meeting like this a lot?”
He nodded. “We meet once a week, sometimes more if the situation calls for it. Like today, for example. Our normal session isn’t until next Thursday, but after the incident, they called me in right away.”
“Incident?” I asked. “What incident?”
Dr. Parker leaned back in his chair and folded one leg across the other. He studied me for a minute without saying a word. “You were involved in an altercation earlier this morning. You hit your head painfully hard on the concrete floor. I’m surprised you don’t have a headache.”
“I remember having one earlier, but I’m not sure when. I woke up in here and now it’s gone. What exactly happened?”
“That’s what I’m hoping you can tell me. Your mind has blocked it out for whatever reason, and we need to figure out how to extract the memories.”
Dr. Parker stood up and pulled a syringe from one pocket.
I shifted in my seat, beginning to feel terribly uncomfortable. “What is that for?”
He walked around the table and stood beside me. “This will help you remember. It’s designed to remove any mental blocks your subconscious has established as a defense mechanism.”
He removed the cap and flicked the needle a couple times. He applied a small amount of pressure to the plunger and a tiny stream of liquid squirted from the tip.
He reached down to roll up my sleeve, and I raised a hand to stop him. The clank of metal reached my ears and I realized my arm had not raised as I intended. I looked down to find I was handcuffed to the chair. “Wait. What’s going on?”
“This won’t hurt much.”
I felt a small prick in my upper arm, much like that of a bee sting. I grimaced, but the pain relented almost instantly. Dr. Parker returned to his seat after discarding the needle in a bin underneath the table. He stared at me with the same, disconcerting smile.
“What was that stuff?”
“You wouldn’t be able to pronounce the name of it, so I won’t bother telling you. You will start feeling relaxed which means it’s working. I’m hoping it will break down the mental blocks around your suppressed memories.”
I swallowed dryness and tried to clear my throat. My tongue felt thick. “Hoping?”
Dr. Parker nodded. “Yes, Dillon. Hoping. It’s experimental, and you just happen to be subject zero. We needed someone to test it on, and you fit the bill perfectly.”
“Am I supposed to be making sense of what’s going on? Because I’ve got to be honest, I’m so confused right now.” I looked at my hands again. “And why the nice, shiny bracelets? They’re kind of tight.”
A ripple bent the room as the ceiling became the floor, turning upside down, hanging for a moment, and then righting itself. “Whoa. What was that?”
Dr. Parker smiled. “Don’t Take Life Seriously,” he said.
A sudden burst of fire shot through my head and I cried out. The searing pain was so intense I felt my eyeballs threatening to pop out of their sockets. I screamed again and tried to force my eyes shut. It was useless. I fought against the restraints, nearly snapping my arms while flailing about.
After what seemed like several hours, the pain suddenly stopped. I gasped for breath as tears streamed down my face. “What…what’s happening to me?”
“Suppressed memories can be activated by what we call triggers,” Dr. Parker explained. “That was obviously a huge one. Do you remember where you saw that phrase?”
“It was on something…a jacket, or…wait, it was on…” I remembered Jimmy walking through the door with a worried look on his face. “Jimmy had it on his shirt. He was wearing it the day…” I stopped talking and rolled my head back. I stared at the ceiling and tried to shake the confusion out of my head.
“Jimmy was your friend, right?”
I returned my focus to Dr. Parker. “Is my friend. Jimmy is my friend. He practically saved my life after, well, after she left me. He’s always been there for me. I don’t know how I would have made it without him.”
“What would you say if I told you that Jimmy’s gone and he’s never coming back?”
“I would say you’re out of your mind. He wouldn’t go anywhere without saying goodbye. He wouldn’t do that to me.”
“I’m sorry, Dillon. I wouldn’t lie to you. I told you from the beginning that I would never do that. Everything I’ve ever said to you has been the truth.”
“No, I don’t believe you. I don’t even know you. You won’t tell me where I am. You inject me with God knows what and then tell me that my best friend is gone. Bring in someone else I can talk to. I want to know what’s going on.”
Dr. Parker slowly shook his head as his expression saddened. “Dillon, I’m the only friend you have right now. Do you realize how serious this situation is? You’ve got to work with me, Son. I’m only trying to help you.”
I felt my face flush with heated anger. “Don’t you dare call me Son. Only one man has ever called me that, and it sure isn’t you.”
“You don’t get it, do you? You need to wake up and understand what is about to happen. If I don’t leave this room and convince them that you’re crazy, then you are a walking dead man. There’s nothing else I can do for you.”
I struggled to find the piece of the puzzle I had obviously missed.
Dr. Parker stood to his feet and leaned over, placing both hands on the table. “Do you remember Lance Puckett?”
My heart skipped a beat in recognition.
“Dena? Mel? Do any of those names ring a bell? How about the six girls you murdered and dumped into the lake on Halloween night? Do you remember them? I read your journal. You wrote down everything in such vivid detail. The problem with that is, you can’t plead insanity at trial with words from a notebook. We need to record video of a session which provides evidence of mental instability.”
I closed my eyes, hoping I would open them to discover I was living a horrifying nightmare.
“You need to tell me the same story you wrote down while behind bars all these years. This is your last chance, Dillon. Both of your appeals have been thrown out. It’s now or never.”
I opened my eyes and realized my wish had not come true. Dr. Parker stared at me with a determined look on his face. He picked the notebook up from the table and slid it over to me. I looked down at the pages. I recognized my own handwriting on the paper.
“I can prove you have multiple personality disorder. There’s no Jimmy, Lance, or Dena. You weren’t forced to some mysterious cabin in the woods where Lance and his father were killed.” Dr. Parker walked around the table to my side. He placed his finger in the middle of my forehead. “It’s all in there, Dillon. Those characters aren’t real. They are figments of your deranged imagination. All you have to do is tell me this story, the work of fiction you’ve written down, let me get it on tape, and you won’t have to face the electric chair.”
I remembered everything. The night I killed six high school girls, loaded them in the back of my pickup truck, and dumped their bodies. Every time I went to sleep, I could see the terror on their faces and hear the screams. I’m in no way proud of what I’ve done, but I will face the consequences of my actions.
Over the last five years of incarceration, writing had been the only thing to keep me busy. I’ve often wondered if putting the story on paper as being played out by several people would bring me some form of closure. In the end, I alone was responsible for the horrible events that shocked a nation.
I looked into the pleading eyes of Dr. Parker and shook my head. “No.”
He left, and two guards walked in. They hauled me from the interrogation room and returned me to the six by nine box that served as my home. I sat down on the cot and closed my eyes.
Thunder rolled across the darkened sky as I stood over the still body of Dena. Her eyes remained open in terror. “I’ve released your soul since you couldn’t do it yourself. It’s over.” I dropped the gun and returned to the Ford Taurus. I climbed inside and closed the door behind me. Steady rain beat against the roof, but it calmed me like nothing else could.
I glanced into the review mirror.
The stranger looked back.