Living Dead Girl

The Disappearance of Julie Peters – Part 13

(This is Part 13 of a series that I began several months ago. If you’re new here, you may want to start from Part 1)

September, 2019

Eagleville, Missouri

Sweat burns in my eyes like sulfuric acid as I draw my right arm back for the final blow.  I can feel the lactic acid burning in my shoulders and upper back, accumulating slowly  under the sweltering Missouri sun. 

Drops of  fresh blood cake the jagged edges of the stone as I hold it’s awkward weight aloft in the air. 

I summon what remains of my dwindling energy, grit my teeth, and swing the rock down one last time, hammering it home with an almost animalistic brutality. 

The force of the blow ricochets up my forearm and settles deep within my bones.   A muffled THUD rings out across the grass and over the nearby pond, before dwindling off into silence.  

I rise slowly, and stumble backward as the rock falls from my fingers.  I wince as it grazes the raw, open skin of my right palm. 

Take a minute to admire my handiwork as my labored breathing begins to slow. 

Not bad, considering I’ve never done this before.  Not bad at all. 

I make my way over to the water and dip my hands beneath it’s murky surface, watching as the dirt from my skin mingles with the silt and the soggy weeds. 

Finally, I turn back towards the source of my grisly efforts, and breathe in the stunning panoramic view. 

Trees line the perimeter, offering an eerily quiet and utterly palpable isolation.  A bright blue cloudless sky hovers above.  Springy grass carpets the Earth.  Tiny bugs weave through the undergrowth, humming cheerfully to themselves.  

And framed perfectly between the foliage and aloft the greenery  – a small tent, big enough for one. 

Bright-orange, plastic stakes secure it to the ground, hammered home by a large rock, now cast aside… having served it’s purpose.  It’s surface is stained a soft, bloody red.

A gentle breeze floats across the campsite and brushes my sweaty skin, pulling me out of my reverie with a subtle shiver. 

It’s late afternoon, and the sun is inching it’s way towards the horizon.  Soon, it will be dark. 

What to do, with these remaining hours of daylight?  What options do I really have, in this tiny RV park near the Iowa border, surrounded by rolling farmland as far as the eye can see?

 The fatigue from my earlier efforts has already begun to dissipate.  I can feel the anxious energy building slowly again, crawling up my belly towards my chest.  Nothing seems to quell it’s hunger, this ravenous beast inside me. 

What had once been a limitless well of euphoric energy has begun to transform into something… unrecognizable. 

I suppose all those nights spent gazing up at the ceiling of a shoddy hotel room, plotting and planning instead of sleeping, has begun to take it’s toll on me. 

Eating one hurried meal a day and sipping water only occasionally hasn’t helped either.  Factor in the countless hours of disheveled driving, and it’s a wonder I’m still standing upright.  

But while my body is near it’s breaking point, the tiny neurons inside my brain continue to fire ceaselessly. 

Always churning, always contemplating.  Deliberating.  Dwelling.  Ruminating. 

And the only way to quiet it is with motion. 

Physical exertion.  Constant movement. 

Constant progress.

Go. Go. Go. GO. GO.  

Another wave of energy washes over me, and I hurry over to the rental car, parked haphazardly on the grass beside my new tent.  I pop the trunk to reveal a jumbled heap of clothes, camp food, and highway maps.  Reach into the pile and retrieve a pair of freshly-purchased hiking boots. 

Lace them up. 

And feel my legs carry me away.


Several Hours Later…


Bits of gravel scatter down the dusty road, my dirt-covered boot-tips knocking them loose.  I stop to moisten my parched throat with a long drink from a crinkled plastic water bottle. 

As I raise my chin to the sky, my eyelids scrape across my bloodshot eyes like sandpaper. 

As they pull strenuously downwards, a curtain of black shrouds my vision, and little dots of light sprinkle into existence in front of me.  They coalesce into figures – silhouettes that dance and waver to silent, unearthly music. 

I open my eyes and they disappear. 

But with each and every blink, they return. 

I shake my head pointedly from side to side, attempting to remove their wispy bodies from my visual field like the erasable lines of an etch-a-sketch.

I force myself to continue walking, kicking up more dust and distracting myself from the light-people by forcing an interest in the surrounding farmland.

A brown cow rests serenely behind a nearby fence, chewing in his enviable and blissful ignorance of the woeful tragedies of my human condition. 

What I wouldn’t give to be that cow. 

To bask in that mid-afternoon sun, admiring that cornfield…

…unaware of the all the little political and societal nuances that allow for that genetically-modified corn to be planted, reaped, taxed, branded and advertised as the quintessential component of the American diet…

… elevated in price and processed by underpaid workers into cereal, after being drowned in carcinogenic additives and refined sugar…

… and plastered with the colorful cartoon label that’s been psychologically proven to ensure that children will beg their mothers to purchase it. 

 Because our society has become nothing more than a consumption machine – a chronically underfed one. 

Because the basic components of human need as defined by Maslow, have been exploited, repackaged, and sold back to us for profit. 

Because we’re spending our hard-earned dollars on the publicly tangible evidence of our accumulated material wealth…

… all as a means to appear successful to our peers – without stopping to question the origins of this perceived idea of success. 

Because our definition of success is, at it’s very roots,  bred into us as children in the form of standardized public education and pressured social conformity by which we feel we have no choice but to abide. 

Because even now, in the 21st century, in the era of globalization and widespread publicly-available knowledge, it’s even harder to tell the difference between truth and fiction than it was 20 years ago and that despite social media we feel more disconnected from each other than we ever have before…

… and because our replacement for that lack of connection is a DIGITALLY-SIMULATED VERSION OF CONNECTION comprised of airwaves and fiber-optic cables… 

…and we’ve all become slaves to these imaginary digital misrepresentations of ourselves and spend our entire lives locked inside the confines of these prisons of our own making…

…and adding to that we have the political unrest and generational divide which are all perpetuated by the media in news-stories that are spoon-fed directly from the mouths of the shady politicians that are bought and paid for by the greedy corporations that keep all of us in a form of…

… INDENTURED SERVITUDE BY ENSURING WE NEVER RISE ABOVE THE POVERTY LINE BECAUSE WE WILL SPEND OUR ENTIRE LIVES PAYING OFF THE INTEREST OF OUR VASTLY INFLATED STUDENT LOANS and can’t afford to buy houses or start families…

… and half of the American public believes that the solution to that is to introduce a form of governmental socialism and to demonize capitalism which is actually fucking ridiculous because capitalism is the most productive form of self-governance when it IS NOT CORRUPT BUT THAT’S OUR PROBLEM IS CORPORATE CORRUPTION AND WE’RE TOO BUSY bickering amongst ourselves to actually do anything about it AND THE CORPORATIONS LOVE THAT BECAUSE THEY ARE THE ONES THAT PAY FOR THE PROMOTIONS THAT START THE BICKERING AND—-


Fuck.  

That little spot in my left temple is throbbing again. 

Breathe, I need to breathe. 

I plop down on the picnic table and stare at my little tent.  How long have I been back here, at my campsite? 

My mind is whirling again.  Spiraling out of control. 

Rest… I need some rest.

But it’s difficult to rest when your mind is buzzing, whirring, vibrating. 

When you can see all of the problems of the world so clearly.

When you know the answers to those problems. 

I know that I know the answers…

…don’t I? 

See, that’s the thing.  I’ve had so many epiphanies over the past week. 

I’ve had so many ideas. 

And sometimes, when I go to plan out those ideas, more ideas pop up before I finish the plan for the first ideas…

… and so what I’ve done is I’ve taken certain parts of some ideas and other parts of other ideas and I’ve sewn those parts together…

… and then I took still other ideas and I glued them over top of the first ideas and now what I have is a giant, amorphous blob of idea-parts – a Frankenstein idea.  

The problem with all this, though, is that the idea is so big that when I look at it, I can no longer see the whole thing, and it’s a bit fuzzy on the edges and so my plans have begun to represent that. 

For instance, part of my idea required that I drive South and the other part required that I go North, and so I tried to do both and wound up driving in a bit of a circle, which is how I wound up in this strange little farm-town. 

Also, I had planned to walk for a long distance but I had also been determined to bike that same distance and so I’d bought hiking gear but also tried to buy an expensive bicycle before I’d run out of money.

And even now… my body seems to be telling me to slow down, while my mind is telling me to speed up. 

It’s all so very confusing and I’m starting to get a bit scared and also sort of lonely. 

I’ve been awake so long that none of this feels real anymore and I’m beginning to suspect that I may have already died and that I’m walking around in my already dead body. 

A living dead girl.  That’s what I am.  

The ghost of a person, who wasn’t ever really a person at all. Just a big, jumbled mess of confused ideas that never came to fruition. Just a scared little zombie out in the middle of nowhere, all alone.

I find myself walking towards the pond at the very end of my little campsite. 

I step out onto the dock. Stoop down. And begin to cry.


To Be Continued…

Ride The Lightning

Part 12 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters

Sometime Between September 9 and September 13, 2019

Baldwin, WI

My labored breaths fill the otherwise silent hallway of the drab motel as I sprint down the cheaply-carpeted floor in my socks.  The large key-ring in my hands jingles like a Christmas bell as the tiny jagged metal pieces bounce and sing against one another, ensuring that my thumb and forefinger are clamped around a very specific one. 

It’s tinier than the others, and could easily get lost amongst the myriad of multi-colored keys and plastic fobs surrounding it.  

I rip the electronic keycard out from between my teeth, muscling the door open and leaping over the mattress in a whirlwind of urgency.  The floor is littered with cardboard boxes, some large and some small.  Frantically-torn packaging tape and ripped bubble wrap tell the chaotic story of a very recent and ongoing descent into an invisible madness.  

All the boxes are addressed to me.  All the contents of which are now on the mattress.  The only mattress in the room.  A mattress, that hasn’t been slept in once since I checked in… 3 days ago.

3 days?  Has it been 3, or 4? 

I can’t remember. 

Because I haven’t slept. 

Nor have I eaten. Haven’t needed to. 

Something else is sustaining me.  Something much more powerful than nutrition. 

A strange new fuel that has been bubbling inside me for days.  Negating the need for sleep.  The need for food or water.  And with it, a stroke of genius that has elevated me beyond anything I’ve ever thought possible.  

I have discovered the meaning of… everything. 

Of life.  Specifically, MY LIFE.  And now I’m absolutely overcome with the compelling need to spread the message.   

I am GODLIKE.  I am superhuman.  I’ve been granted special powers.  I feel, amazing.  I feel ALIVE.  

And I need to make use of these powers before they disappear again.  Like they did the last time. I CANNOT waste this.  It’s my duty to mankind.

But I must be careful.  Must tread lightly.  Mustn’t let on to just anyone that I’ve been granted these powers. 

They wouldn’t believe anyways.  They’d take me away somewhere.  Put me in a padded room.  Lock me up.  And throw away the key.

And who will spread the message then?  It has to be me.  I am THE ONE.  The one the world is waiting for. 

This will be the first time I’ve left the motel room since I arrived. 

But is it the first time, really? 

I’m having trouble with the timeline. 

The events are jumbled in my mind, because they have too much to compete with.  My thoughts are riding on the coattails of a thunderbolt. They zip through my mind so quickly I can barely keep up. 

I’ve tried to write them all down, but it  happens so very fast and I have SO MUCH to think about.  So many plans. 

Okay – enough about that, though.  Keys!  We need keys!  NOW.  What’s that?  No, not the keys in my hand, silly!  These are different keys.  Car keys!  

Where are they?  Under this?  I toss a box to the corner of the room.  Nope.  Not under there!  Not to worry!  We’ll find them.  I just know it!!  Although the post office closes soon and I’m worried tha—  THERE!

RIGHT THERE DO YOU SEE THEM?

I snatch them up and allow myself a quick victory fist-pump.  Run to the door, nearly walk out with no shoes on my feet.  Whoops!  Silly me!

I chuckle to myself as I smash my feet forcefully into each pre-tied shoe,  pausing for a moment to rip a piece of stray packaging tape from my sock, and toss it into the air like a ribbon-toting  rhythmic gymnast.

Sprint out to the rental car with one heel still clamoring to fit inside it’s collapsed shoe-space. 

I should probably give that back, soon. 

The car, I mean.

They’ll be wanting that.  They’ll be searching for it.  And if they find IT then they find ME, and that’s no good at all now is it? RIGHT?! 

As I glance into the rear-view mirror and throw the car into reverse, I catch a glimpse of my eyes. 

My pupils, are enormous.  Like, the size of dinner plates enormous. 

That’s concerning.  Like I’m on drugs or something.  I mean… technically I am…

…on several as a matter of fact.  But they’re prescribed for my depression.  And they must be working because I feel AMAZING.  

DEPRESSION? WHAT DEPRESSION???

The tires squeal as I just miss the curb, parking diagonally in the tiny lot. I Run to the desk,  and greet the service agent emphatically with a charming quip.  She knows me by name now.  ISN’T THAT GREAT?  

I speed-walk between the corridors lined with tiny metal boxes, pivoting my head round my neck ferociously like a bird.   

Until my glassy, bloodshot eyes land on the triple-digit number I’m looking for.  I reach into the box, pull out a heavy stack of mail. 

Corporate mail. 

Mail that’s been addressed to the hotel I’m staying at. 

I thumb through it quickly.  And right there, in the middle of the stack… exactly what I need.  A tiny box with my name on it.  FUCK YES.

 As I drive back to the hotel, the glint of metal on the unfamiliar key-ring catches my eye for a brief moment, discarded hastily onto the passenger seat.  

And with it, a quick pang of something… unpleasant. 

What is that? 

Ah… yes… I’m feeling slightly guilty now. 

I did yell at that poor hotel manager, after all. 

The pleasant middle-Eastern man with the heavy accent and the concerned eyes. 

But I’d NEEDED to, you see.  He wasn’t getting it.  The significance.

He hadn’t understood. 

I’m leaving tomorrow.  Going… where exactly am I going? 

Fuck it, it’s not important.  What IS  important is that NOW I have everything I need to get moving. All of the gear.  ALL OF IT.  I’m going to need that gear very soon.  My plans require it. 

And that nice man, he wasn’t being very cooperative and so I’d had to raise my voice to help him understand just how important this box, and this gear, is to me.  

But then he’d gotten a bit scared, and he’d basically THROWN me the keys to EVERY DOOR in the hotel so that I could go and check the mailbox myself. 

And so I had. 

But still, I wish I hadn’t had to yell.  I’m really not that type of person.  Honest.  I’m a nice, polite, kind, brunette lady.  Usually.

When I get back to my hotel room, I rip open the very last of my packages. 

And pull out the compass.

I smile widely, and cram all the objects I can inside my brand-new extra-large hiking backpack. 

 Tomorrow I leave. 

Tomorrow… I fulfill my destiny.  ONCE AND FOR ALL.  



Lightning rips across the sky that night.  I know, because I don’t sleep. 

Again.


To Be Continued… 

Before I Forget

Part 10 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters.

A memory

Downtown Mt. Clemens, MI

2009

It’s 1 AM on a Saturday night  and I’ve just clocked out of work.  My apron, removed from my waist and folded sloppily into thirds, lies in the crook of my right elbow, it’s threaded compartments overflowing with ink-stained ballpoint pens and crumpled bits of green paper.  Scribbled messages litter the lined guest checks, written in a language only fellow servers could interpret.  

6 wings, Mango Hab, Bl chz, cel

Patron Marg. on rcks, w/s – NO LIME 

I shuffle my feet carefully on the soapy, tiled floor of the kitchen, as though it’s a frozen pond. 

The back door, propped open with a large white bucket, provides a brief reprieve from the pungent smell of chicken grease and dirty dishwater, hanging over the tiny space like a noxious gas.  

“Guys, I’m heading out!”  I yell, my voice ricocheting between the worn, steel kitchen appliances and bounding over sauce-stained counter-tops.  

The freezer door squeaks open and a large shadow looms in the dim light of the kitchen.  

“Okay, baby, be safe,” hums a voice, as silky as the ebony skin of the man it belongs to.  

I don’t look back to check if Tony, our lead cook and giant Teddy bear of a man, is watching me make my exit.  I already know he is. 

Tony’s good like that.  Forever on alert, protecting the female servers and hostesses from the dangers of the night. 

And there are dangers a-plenty in this neighborhood.

It’s not exactly downtown Detroit, but it’s close enough. 

Our back parking lot has long been a breeding ground for drug dealers, crackheads, and thieves. 

Driving one street over could land you in a drug-infested wonderland, if you so desired. 

I’d vowed to myself that I’d never head in that direction again, after my last experience, nearly a week ago.  I’d innocently offered to drive one of the hostesses home that night, and as surely as they say – no good deed goes unpunished. 

Upon approaching her house, a man with bulging eyes had approached my rickety jeep’s driver-side window.  He’d stared at us, disconcertingly and slowly nodded his head up and down, repeatedly whispering to himself, “Theeeeese… is some young-ass girlssssss.”  

The hostess had reached over me and shouted, “No thanks, Morris.  We don’t want none!!”  and then jumped out of my vehicle, slamming the door behind her.  

“DRIVE!!!” She’d yelled as she’d spun on her heels and made a bee-line for her own dilapidated house.  And drive, I did.  Like a bat out of hell.  I’m not proud of it, but what can I say?  It happened.

But now, as I make my paranoid trek across the parking lot, I keep a key between each finger of my right hand, just in case Morris should return for an encore.  My hand is balled up in a tight fist, the jagged metal poking outwards like a knock-off version of Wolverine.  A poor man’s brass knuckles.

I let out the breath I’ve been holding, as I slip into my driver’s seat, doing a quick once-over in the rearview to check for serial killers. 

Satisfied with the result, I  look up through the glass windshield at Tony, standing in the back doorway of the kitchen, with his arms crossed and muscles bulging underneath his grease-covered apron. 

A quick thumbs-up from me, confirms that Ted Bundy has not crawled into my back seat during my shift.  Content with my safety, he closes the door, and I’m left alone, drenched in the ghostly-pale glow of the parking lot.

I find the ignition with my former-wolverine-claw-turned-car-key, and start the engine with a faint roar.  My right hand absently reaches for the volume knob on the stereo, a habit I’m inclined to, lest the entire neighborhood be woken by the obnoxiously loud Metallica album currently residing in my CD player.  

Oddly though, no noise is emanating from my crackly speakers at all, and I realize this at the exact same time that my outstretched arm, lands in a giant black hole. 

I shriek, pulling my hand back quickly, as though I’ve miscalculated and accidentally put my hand inside a snake hole.  Adding to the sensation, are the free wires that brush my hand as I return it to my body.

I scramble for the overhead button, find it, and illuminate the vehicle instantly. 

And there it is… plain as day. 

My stereo, has been stolen.

What – – oh COME ON!!!’

I scream angrily out into the night.

The broke college student part of me laments the financial loss, although as I think it over, I realize that the stereo itself will probably sell for less money than the Metallica CD that was housed inside it.  That doesn’t soften the blow, however.

Aside from the bereavement, another sensation creeps through my veins – one that I can’t quite put words to. 

The best way to describe it?  I feel…. violated. 

Knowing that some asshole has had his grubby fingers inside my dashboard.  That some uninvited person had sat in my driver’s seat.  Had fiddled with my wires.  And I hadn’t been here to witness it.  

The intrusion didn’t include just my car.  This burglar had somehow managed to strip me of my own sense of safety.   He hadn’t just tinkered with my belongings, but left me with an unanswerable question. 

A compelling need to know JUST WHAT exactly he had done during his invasion.  What all did he tarnish with his slimy, undeserving fingers?

I place my palms on the steering wheel. Did he have his hands in the same spot as mine?  Was he looking out the same windshield, at some point? I shiver at the thought.

I throw the car in reverse, and hit the gas. 

But as I drive home in my abnormally quiet vehicle, I feel slightly sick.

I can’t shake the lingering feeling of his palpable occupancy, as though it’s suspended in the air all around me.  It may not be visible, but it’s detectable.  

And I have no idea how to get rid of it.


Present Day

October 8, 2019

I reach my outstretched fingers into the last unopened pocket of the large hiking backpack, and pull out 2 chapsticks, a tube of SPF, and a miniature, pocket-sized notebook. 

I lay the contents on the hard-wood floor, where they blend together with the rest of the camping gear that’s spread across the room in a half-circle all around me, like a colossal rainbow.

My forehead scrunches as I examine the items individually. 

A camp stove with little propane cylinders.  A rain-flye.  A compass.  A hand-drawn map of Des Moines, Iowa’s Adventure Bicycle network.   A hunting knife.

I’ve held off doing this for too long now.  It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve returned to Michigan, and yet I’ve procrastinated combing through this backpack in it’s entirety. 

And there’s no question as to why. 

I’m terrified. 

Not terrified of what these bits and pieces will cause me to remember.  It’s not the memories themselves that incite terror.  That’s not it at all.

I’m terrified, because these items are undeniable proof.  

Proof of all the moments that I’ve forgotten.

That there are things that I did last month, items that I purchased, people that I met, plans that I made, that I have no recollection of whatsoever.  

I know, it probably sounds like I’m exaggerating this for cinematic effect.  I swear to God, I’m not. 

I have no reason to.  As a matter of fact, this story would be much more interesting if I did remember.  I’d love to be able to recount, in great detail, what exactly transpired when I left my hotel room in Minneapolis on September 9, 2019. 

I wish I had all the information so I could continue this story in a perfectly linear, logical way.  But I can’t do that.  Because I can’t fucking remember.

Do you have any idea how horrifying that is? 

Have you ever lost time? 

Have you ever done things, when you were 100% sober and awake… that you cannot account for? 

I have.  It’s not exciting. It’s not thrilling.  It’s awful. 

And this isn’t the first time it’s happened to me.

Years ago, I stopped taking an anti-anxiety medication very suddenly, and I wound up in the hospital having seizures from the unexpected withdrawal.  When I finally was cleared to come home, my two best friends came to visit me. 

I don’t recall what story I was telling them, but I remember that it was hilariously funny. 

Except that when I got to the punch line, instead of laughing, they were both sitting there, mouths agape… looking absolutely horrified.  

Confusion had overtaken me, and I asked, “What?  What’s wrong?”

They looked at each other, swallowed nervously, and proceeded to inform me that I’d just told them that exact same story.  Word for word.  

As in, I told them the story, and when I got to the end of it, I started telling it again like I’d never told it the first time. 

And if I didn’t believe them… THEY HAD THE ENTIRE THING ON VIDEO.

They were understandably concerned, and we never quite figured out what the fuck happened in my brain that caused it.  I always assumed it was the meds they had put me on while I was in the hospital, and maybe that’s it – maybe it’s not.  

All I know is that sporadically, throughout my life, I’ve had these little episodes where I’ve seemingly lost time.  Which is extremely strange, because in my everyday life, I pride myself on having an excellent memory.  And I’m not trying to brag or anything, but my memory is pretty ACE.  It got me straight-A’s throughout school, nearly effortlessly.  I graduated with a 3.98 GPA in college.  

What does it feel like, you may ask, to have a chunk of your life excised from memory? 

It feels dirty, like someone’s been poking around in your skull uninvited. 

It feels like being robbed. 

It feels like having the most important thing in your possession, your very EXISTENCE, stolen from you. 

It feels like looking around in your own mind, and there’s this foreignness about it. 

It feels like there’s a part of you that’s tainted  – touched by another.  

It feels like you’ve been violated. 

It feels, like being paranoid, I mean absolutely paranoid all the time, that the burglar is going to come back. 

And there’s nothing you can do about it.  Because the burglar

… is you.  

From here on out, I’m going to attempt to tell you what I do remember from my disappearance, because there are plenty of lucid moments sprinkled in with the foggy ones. 

But I’m only going to share what I can prove to be reliable. 

I could try to fill in the gaps by combing through receipts or asking family.  But I’m not going to do that.  Because this is my story, and I want to tell you what I experienced.  However sparse that experience may be.  

I may have been robbed, but she didn’t take everything. 

And so we’ll start, with my next available memory. 

Which is at a cheap, dingy motel, in Baldwin, Wisconsin. Although I’m not entirely 100% sure how I wound up there.

To be continued…

Just Like Heaven

Part 8 – The disappearance of Julie Peters

September 9, 2019

Minneapolis, MN

Hotel Room

I awake in darkness.  

My eyelids pry themselves open, and I can practically hear the thwop! of the air-tight seal breaking, like a plunger being yanked from the cold porcelain of a freshly-unclogged toilet.

There’s a lone spotlight cutting through the opaque black of the hotel room, a stream of dazzling light traveling through the dark void.  It pierces through a tiny crack in the thick, heavy curtains and draws a sharp line up the comforter before finding it’s final resting place on top of my right arm.  Speckles of dust hover above, as though I’m looking up from the watery depths of a giant snow-globe, in the silent minutes after it’s been shaken. 

I open and close my fist, grabbing handfuls of the cascading light, only to feel it warmly spill through my fingers each time.  

I reach up in the darkness, fingers brushing the delicate skin of my own throat, wincing as my thumb grazes the swollen tissue encircling it.  A grim memento of the ghastly necklace I’d donned the night before, alone in my dark hotel room.  

It feels so distant now – that experience.

Like a dream. 

Like waking up the morning after a magnificent party, having forgotten to remove the opulent string of pearls from the night before. The bauble seems silly now.  Out of place.  Much too ostentatious for the modesty of these rumpled sheets. 

This tangled hair. 

These puffy eyes. 

But a necklace of this sort, cannot simply be unclasped and cast off to the side.  There’s no removing it’s immense weight from my throat. 

The setting has changed, but the ornamentation remains.  It’s influence hangs heavy on my mind.

I lay there for a time, breathing in the warmth of the puffy down comforter.

  I feel like one of the speckles of dust, suspended in that beam of light above me.  Floating, drifting.  Purposeless.  Inessential.  Frivolous. 

Numb.

But then, a tiny and unexpected spark.  An idea. 

It bursts into existence, suddenly.  Excitedly.  Like a pinprick of light in the darkness of my mind.

It’s energy is boundless.  It bounces around in my skull, ricocheting off it’s bony walls with a resounding Tink!

As I follow the frenzied thought with my eyes, another spark ignites.  And another, and another. They rocket vigorously into one another like ping-pong balls come alive, inside a very small box.

Tink Tink Tink

Tink Tink TiTiTiTiTinnnkkkk!!

I sit bolt upright, and run to the window, ripping the shades open urgently.  Dazzling sunlight BURSTS into the room. 

I look around at my freshly-illuminated environment, and feel a stunning sense of awe.  Over what, I’m not really sure, but I’m overcome with acknowledgement for the intricate beauty of the world in which I find myself in.  

I can practically hear the tiny muscles inside my eyes as their woven fibers loosen.

My iris slackens.  Pupils dilate.  Black overtakes hazel, as my body adjusts to the flood of chemicals overtaking it.  

I turn towards the source of light, cascading through the open window, and watch in reverence as it splits into a pale, shimmering, rainbow.  I now have the power to see the divergence of a sunbeam.  The reds and greens and blues.  It’s brilliant.  It’s spectacular.  It’s awe-inspiring.

I must not be distracted by this, however.  As much as I’d like to admire this strange new power of refraction, I must remember my original intent upon opening the shades in the first place.  

A pen.  I need a pen.  NOW.

I clamor across the carpet, tripping over the fragments of a frantically-torn cardboard box, which had housed an unassembled chin-up bar, not so long ago.

My trembling hands scramble their way across the smooth surface of the desk, casting aside a small piece of paper, with my handwriting on it.  The words I’m so sorry register on the periphery of my vision, blotted with what appear to water stains.  Tear stains.  

I carelessly brush the note away to reveal the red sharpie underneath. Launch myself at it, flicking the cap off onto the floor.

I’m lacking paper.

But not to worry! 

I reach for the gigantic binder: years-worth of carefully curated professional knowledge, organized and color-coded for quick reference. 

It’s label reads ‘Julie’s CT Book’.  I stick my hand inside one of the plastic sheet-covers and yank out a piece of paper, one of the many pages of the numerous peer-reviewed journal articles I’d so often referred back to in my years as a CT Tech.  

I turn the page over to reveal it’s blank, unprinted side.  And begin to scribble frantically.  

Avocado toast with garlic, new recipe!! 

Go on hike… where to?  Get camping gear, will need backpack. 

American Discovery Trail? 

Santa Fe.  Venice Beach?  Get bicycle.  Ride across country. 

Look up bike shops.  Write book?!  Get hair cut.  Need clothes.  Learn to change tires!

I marvel at my own brilliance as idea after idea swarms over me.  I’m inundated with an overwhelming sense of possibility. My future, is limitless.

How could I have EVER considered ending this beautiful existence of mine? 

My life, is going to be different now. 

SO very different. 

Everything’s changed.  Everything.  I’m going to change the world.  Right now.  With all of this.  ALL OF IT.

I write for hours, tearing my meticulous binder to shreds in the process.

I stop every so often to cry, overcome by gratitude and magnificence. 

Thankful.  I’m so very thankful to be ALIVE. 

All the while, my ears are still ringing.  The one and only constant in my beautiful, terrible existence.

Ringing.  Always ringing.

Thunderstruck

Part 3 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters

I’m sitting in a familiar, dark parking lot when I suddenly come-to.

The cold hits me in the face abruptly.

Sucker-punched in the jaw by reality.

I’m snapped out of whatever reverie I’ve been lost in for the past 30 minutes.

The contrast is stark, foreign… uncomfortable…   prickly. 

My ears are ringing.  Like a bomb has gone off.  

How did I get here?  Did I drive myself here?  What the fuck just happened…

Where have I been all this time?

I haven’t been sleeping.  I haven’t been unconscious.  I just… haven’t.

My hands are resting on the steering wheel.  The engine is dead.  Cold.  It’s nighttime.  Past midnight.  I’m shivering.  Is it time to go in?  Go to bed?  But how can you go to sleep if you’re not even truly awake?

I yank the keys out of the ignition and walk across the lot towards the lit entrance sign.  Mutter an incomprehensible reply to the cheery desk agent.  Board the elevator to my floor.

As the doors close I look up towards to the top right-hand corner of the tiny moving chamber.  9 hours ago, I’d been looking at the very same spot while the elevator moved in the opposite direction.  I’d noticed the tiny green sticker up there, with a brand name printed on it.  “Schindler” – it had read.  

It’s Schindler’s LIFT.   Ha… get it?!  I’d chuckled softly under my breath at the pure brilliance of my own little pun.  

But now, 9 hours later… I no longer see the humor in it.  I can’t see the humor in anything.  I feel… numb.  Out-of-it.  Dazed.  

The doors open with a loud Ding!  I quickly exit.  Cross the carpeted hallway.  Wave the little plastic key-card in front of the doorknob.  Ram my shoulder against the heavy, door like a bony battering ram.  

I peel my scrubs off and discard them on the carpet – a snake wriggling out of it’s exoskeleton.  I crawl into bed.

Close my eyes.  

The ringing in my ears continues.  It will not cease for the next 12 days.


September 6, 2019

Minneapolis, MN

An Undisclosed Hospital

9 PM

YOU FUCKERS ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!  I’M GOING TO SHOOT YOU ALL IN THE FUCKING FACE!!

‘If you do that, you’ll go to jail!’ my coworker screams back at the man he’s got pinned by the chest to our CT Table. 

Another coworker is attempting, rather unsuccessfully to gain control of the patient’s legs.  

Call Security!’ My coworker screams in my direction.

I rip the phone off the wall, my hand pausing over the buttons, ‘What’s the extension?!’  

As she struggles to uncover it from the recesses of her memory, the man suddenly… stops struggling.  His lanky arms fall to either side of his body like flaccid tube-socks. 

His breathing slows.  The room is eerily silent.

You guys… do you want me to call or not?’ I timidly ask, keeping my volume low so as not to reawaken the dormant beast, lying spread-eagle in his sloppily-tied hospital gown.  

My coworker, paralyzed by indecision, finally sputters out, ‘I… well… he seems alright now.  I don’t… just, give me the phone…’I hold it out for her. 

Okay, listen… I’ve got a situation going on in MY room,’ I explain, ‘ This patient… she’s in distress.”

She nods absently as she grabs the phone, and as soon as I feel it’s weight transfer to her, I do a quick 180 and sprint back into CT ROOM B.

The young girl is, for the most part, exactly as I’d left her 2 minutes ago.  Seated on the CT Table, legs outstretched in front of her, hunched at the waist.

Except that now, she’s crying.  Hard.  Body quaking dangerously with each uncontrollable sob.  Breath hitching.  Hyperventilating. 

I finally make the executive decision to reach out to her provider.  Using the universal paging system that operates under voice recognition, I forcefully speak into the phone:

‘ ED — Triage — Nurse ‘ 

 I accentuate every syllable clearly, so there’s no confusion.  Wait impatiently as the phone rings, fingers drumming a nervous beat on the counter.

Emergency Room Triage… _______ Speaking!’

I identify myself and quickly describe the situation. 

Young girl, early twenties.  Panic Attack.  Hyperventilating.  Can we medicate?  She won’t tolerate the exam, as is. Panic Attack.

The reply? 

Yeah it says something about “PTSD” here in her chart.  Look, we don’t have anywhere to put her, or the staff to monitor her if we give her meds.  Just try to get her to relax. It’s just PTSD.  Nothing serious.’

I can practically see the eye-roll from where I’m standing.  Can hear the mocking tone with the word, ‘PTSD‘. 

A sudden surge of anger swells in my belly as the phone disconnects.  It crawls up my throat and trickles into my veins as I walk calmly back into the exam room.  It boils, menacingly, in my bloodstream as I explain to my patient that she has to get through the exam unmedicated.  That no help is coming.  We just don’t have the resources.

She agrees to try. If it’s quick.

Miraculously, she somehow is able to complete the exam, with moderate coaching. 

And just as I’m struggling to keep my anger from boiling beyond the tenuous boundaries of my calm exterior, and helping her back into the wheelchair, I hear the distant screams of the combative patient from next door, reawakened.  

I speed-walk the wheelchair around the intricate twists and turns of the hospital corridors, navigating towards the waiting area.  I bundle several warm blankets around her shoulders.

Do you have any family with you tonight, honey?’  I ask.

The panic, is immediate.

Her eyes grow wide as dinner plates.  ‘NO,’ she responds quickly, head shaking wildly.

Oh. I see. I get it now.

I have no choice but to leave her there, looking frail and tiny, buried beneath a mountain of white blankets, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt… the source of her PTSD. And unable to do a single fucking thing about it.

As I sprint through the hallway and back my department, I pass by the ED Triage nurse that I’d phoned earlier.  She nods her head in the young girl’s direction…

... and rolls her eyes.


Suddenly, the sounds around me begin to dampen.  An invisible, all-consuming, outstretched hand reaches forward.  Clamps it’s ghostly fingers on my internal volume knob. Slowly twists it counter-clockwise.  Until it begins to melt away.  All of it. 

The essence of sound is still there, yet muffled, as though I’m floating underwater, aimlessly. 

People’s lips are moving in my direction.  But the meaning of their words escape me. 

I am afloat, drifting.  I close my eyes.

The world fades away.


3:00 AM

The Same night

I lie in the dark and stare at the tree branch silhouettes outside, dancing jovially in the summer air. 

Sleep, is so close, and yet I’m unable to grasp it. 

The memories of the night are returning to me, one at a time. 

Little silent movies, unexpected. 

Unwelcomed. 

Returning from the ER waiting room, to find security personnel with my coworkers.  Ahh, yes.  That’s right.  Their faces look angry.  The officers, they are chastising my coworkers for calling them about the combative guy.  I watch their lips as they mouth out the words, ‘Overreacted’. 

I blink.  The memory fades.

Another one, this time it’s our supervisor.  ‘Why did you not call a code green?’ She’s asking us,  ‘That’s what you are supposed to do when there’s a disruptive person…’  Something about breaking protocol.  I’m feeling angry.  Don’t understand.  Why does no one seem to care that we’ve been physically abused?  All of us? 

I wave the memory away angrily.

Another one, I’ve just realized I’ve done a scan, but forgotten to switch the accession numbers in the computer. 

No biggie.  Everyone does it.  It’s a quick fix. 

Blink.  Memory gone.

Another one. A traveler, who’s been here for months, makes a mistake on a scan. the ER is calling, I listen, aghast as he blames the mistake on me. ‘We’re training someone new…’ he says. BLINK.

Another one, I’m trying to complete a different exam in the computer, but I’m getting an error message.  Someone else has locked the person’s chart out. 

The radiologist calls.  Wants me to end the exam.  I can’t, I say.  I’m trying.  I ask the other traveler for help, he tells me to let ‘someone else deal with it’ and just do the other scans. I continue asking around, trying to find the answer. 

Finally I locate the person who has the chart locked out.  Ask them to unlock it.  I end the exam.  Then the supervisor walks in.  Wants to know why I waited so long to end the exam.  The radiologist is complaining.  Thinks I blew him off. 

But wait… this isn’t my fault.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  She doesn’t believe me…. 

Blink. 

The supervisor is looking at me and whispering with a coworker while I prepare for the next scan. 

Blink. 

I walk into the control room and they’re all whispering.  They stop, suddenly, at the sight of me. 

Blink.Blink. 

Another one.

Blink. Another one. 

Blink. 

Another one. 

Blink.Blink.Blink.Blink.Blink.Blinkblinkblinkblink


BLINK


I open my eyes.  It’s light out.  morning. 

What?  Wait.  Did I sleep.  What time is it?  Don’t feel like I slept.  

Peer at the clock.  Time to go to work again.  

Okay.  Get up.  Feet on carpet.  Ears still ringing.  Oh well.  

Cross room to bathroom.  Turn on shower.  Step into Spray.  


BLINK.


To be continued…

Renegade

Part 1 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters

September 16, 2019

Potosi, Missouri

The steering wheel is hot and sticky in my hands as I wrench the tiny rental car to and fro around the unfamiliar winding roads of some random town in Missouri.

My body whips violently from right to left, a slave to the centrifugal force of this spontaneously curvy highway. The seamless vibrant green splash of endless thriving farmland paints a blurry streak of bright green across this dazzling earthly canvas. The engine hums loudly near my toes, joining the loud homogenous buzz inside my brain.

The one picture I managed to snap while on the lam…

My eyes struggle to adjust to the foreign landscape as my mind reels tumultuously from one hurried thought to the next. The cadence of these rapid, urgent thoughts is perfectly synchronous with the turbulent forces exerted upon my body.

Both physically and mentally, I am helpless against the violent forces pulling me in all directions. They are indestructible, these forces. Strong enough to bend the very fabric of one’s reality. I watch in amusement as it bubbles around me like boiling water, stretching and shrinking and threatening to tear its delicate fibers apart, as it borders on the limits of its own fragile elasticity.

I’m exhausted. Hours, days, weeks of running. Go go go. Never stopping. Never slowing. Always going.

What am I running from?

I don’t remember anymore.

Where am I going?

Couldn’t tell you.

Have I ever known?

When does this end? Where does it stop? I need it to stop. Want it to stop. I’m so very tired.

That membrane that was bubbling outwards… roiling and stirring ominously? It’s so close to bursting and I’m not sure I want to know what’s underneath.

What lies beyond the boundaries of reality? What happens when the very tendrils of space-time are penetrated? Can the tear be stitched? Or does it spew out its contents irreversibly like Pandora’s box?

So many questions. Too many answers. Too much. Too fast. Too far. Too wide. Too. Much. Too. Much. Too Much.

I can’t take much more. Can’t handle this. The car is barreling down the road, the thoughts are ripping through my mind.

Faster fasterfasterfasterfaster.

And then… those flashing lights.

Blue and red in my rearview. So many lights. From so many directions. Police cars on top of more police cars.

They are coming for me. Finally. It’s over.

I slow the car to a crawl and wait for the lights to draw near. Relief washes over me. I close my eyes. Breathe. Sweet, pure oxygen fills my lungs. It’s over. Finally over.

The buzzing in my mind fizzles. A ringing calm takes it place. Help, is here. Finally. It’s over.

There’s no beginning to this story. Nor is there a middle, or an ending. I have always been this way. It was always going to turn out like this.

There are triggers. Things that make it more noticeable. But the pot is always simmering, threatening to bubble over the rim. Certain things, they heighten the flame. Stir the pot. Bring it to a boil. But the water was always simmering. Always.

I’ll tell you all about my little stove. How it was fanned and fed. And how it tipped me past the boiling point. To the point of no return.

For now, the cops have arrived and they’re slowly, cautiously approaching my vehicle. Their hands are on their guns, which makes me chuckle. For Christ’s sake it’s not like I’ve killed someone. I haven’t even broken the law.

As I roll down the window I flash them a giant grin. “The jig is up, and news is out. You finally found me…”