Remember by Melissa Manuel

The issue with my hair is that it has no life. No ability to look in any way stylish or sexy. No matter how hard I try or what I do it refuses to cooperate. This is the reason my hair always looks frizzy and messy. At this point the best I can do is embrace it and try to make it a part of my identity. It looks like this on purpose.

Who am I kidding? Nobody looks at me long enough to even notice that I have ugly hair. Bitter, but true.

Abandoning my daily self-criticism at the mirror I exit the bathroom and gather my belongings as quietly as I can before going down the stairs. Avoiding all the creaky spots and crevices of the stairs is a skill I’ve perfected through practice, and in all honestly I probably look like a confused monkey as I do so. That’s insulting to the monkey I suppose. Correction: I look like a confused me, so just normal me.

Downstairs it’s too dark and the kitchen clock reads 6:12. Not in the evening, in the morning, and even though it’s that early, I’m late. I scowl and grab my phone from the kitchen counter and hurry out the front door, which for all my attempts to be quiet, this door betrays me by squeaking impossibly loud.

Sighing heavily into the humid morning I gather my bearings to start the long walk to school. I dig my earbuds in and press play starting one of my favorite podcasts. I’ve discovered that podcasts are the greatest form of entertainment for long walks. It’s like television minus the visual medium, which I’ve grown to prefer. Who actually needs to see things? Not me.

It was as I reached the midway point of my journey to school that I see this yellow and white striped cat.

The cat is sitting demurely in the middle of the dimly lit sidewalk. I look around trying to see where she (or he) may have come from. But I choose to shrug it off since the cat will surely run off as soon as I approach it.

Except it doesn’t move. I stand above the cat slowly removing one ear bud and the cat seems to be observing me as well. Crouching down I reach a hand out to the cat surprised, but pleased that this cat didn’t run away from me. Most random cats and dogs run away from me in terror, squashing any hopes I had of being a Disney Princess.

This cat rubbed their head against my palm and I smiled widely in victory. “Aw yay you seem to like me. What a pleasant change.”

As soon as I finished speaking the cat stood up and jumped off the sidewalk into the grassy field that led to an old abandoned church. There goes my dream of the cat liking me. Or so I thought.

The cat noticed I didn’t seem to be following and ran back towards me circling my legs. I laughed nervously and glanced at the early morning traffic. “So this cat seems to want me to follow them towards the cryptic forgotten church. I think I’ll pass Cat. I’ve got school…”

This seemed to upset the creature as it stood on their hind legs placing their little paw on my legs staring up at me with what cannot be mistaken for anything other than urgency.

Chewing on my lower lip I considered my options. This seemed like one of those scenarios that would most likely get someone murdered.  But then again, it was one of those scenarios I’ve read about and dreamed of doing.

So I followed the cat. It bounded ahead of me excitedly as I walked through the morning dew soaked grass. The chill slipped past my shoes and sank into my socks sending a chill through  my bones.

The cat stopped at the door of the church and pawed at it desperately. I shove my phone in my back pocket and try the door handle. It resisted for a second before the rusted lock fell of with a disappointing clang on the crumbling concrete. I exchange a look with the cat and then open the door.

A wave of musty, moldy air hits me instantly. I sneeze three times in a row blinking furiously, the cat ignores me and walks into the black, its tail swishing in the air pleasantly.

“Well I’ve come this far.” I pull my phone back out shining the little light it can provide on what’s ahead of me. Slowly everything comes into view like a polaroid picture, first the edges, the pew and the chairs both in states of disarray. Then the center, which was some shadowed shape that I couldn’t make out. The cat had disappeared and now any confidence I felt faded instantly.

Stepping back slowly I call out to the cat, “Okay since it looks like you’re home safe and sound, I’ll just be on my way.” My voice wavers slightly the fear dripping with each syllable. This was a bad idea, great job me, now I’m going to die a grueling murder by ominous hands and no one will ever find my body with ugly hair and all.

“Don’t go.” Naturally, I froze.

I always thought that the clever thing to do when someone says “Don’t go” the reaction should be go. And go very, very fast.

But alas, I am not clever and my entire body failed to move. The soft gentle voice, like the sweet spring breezes spoke again, “Please. I need your help.”

I swallowed with some difficulty and tried to back away, but a hand shot out and grabbed my tiny child-like wrist. “Please.

That was when my body seemed to wake up and connect with my brain. I jerked my hand back stepping backwards in horror, using every ounce of strength I had to break free. It was all for naught because his hold didn’t budge.

“Let me go! What the- let me go!” My yells were patchy and not very effective, the anxiety I learned to live with took over closing up my throat just enough to let me breath but even then just barely. Tears welled in my eyes as it hit me all at once how very much I do not want to die. Not like this.

“Calm down. I’m not going to hurt you. It’s okay. Just- just look at me.” He took my phone from my hand and I didn’t try to stop him although somewhere in the back of my mind I was incredibly upset about losing my phone.

My future murderer held my phone up to his face and clicked the home button, it lit up his face revealing a young man with an old man air. His features were about as soft as his voice but it didn’t make any of this less terrifying.

“Amelia.”

I flinched jerking my head further away I tried to speak but my voice sounded like I was a choking nearly dead animal, well that’s precisely what I am. “How do you know my name?”

His eyes, barely lit by the glow of the phone screen were somehow filled with this intense grief that, in any other circumstance would make me feel bad for him. Right now it kind of flew over my head.

“I know your name, and you know mine. From another time. We’re friends. Good friends. And I need you to help me.”

I was feeling light-headed and his words barely registered in my brain, “Friends? Then why are you attacking me?”

He slowly let go of my wrist watching me warily, “I’m not attacking you Amelia, you need to calm down.”

As soon as he let go my legs went weak and I wobbled away from him, holding onto one of the chairs. “What do you want? I’m going to be late to school.” The last part slipped out, in the anxious haze of it all that’s what my mind chose to hone in on. The normal.

“I need you to help me make the world remember what they did.”

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