I drifted off into a deep, dreamless sleep. When I came to, the bedroom was softly lit by the grey autumn light falling in through my venetian blinds. Dawn was gone.
I left the bed and got dressed. Squinting in the morning grey, I tried to gather my thoughts, but couldn’t seem to concentrate. A ravenous hunger pounded against my mind like a sledgehammer. Feeling confused and empty, I left the bedroom and headed for the kitchen.
The apartment was silent, bathed in the same noncommittal, drowsy grey light. I could hear traffic outside. There was no trace of my sister. Her bedroom was empty, but the lights were still on. Taking another look at the poster on her wall but still not recognizing the man on it, I shut off the lights and continued to the kitchen. Once there, I opened the fridge and looked at the items inside, but couldn’t seem to find any of them appealing, despite my aching hunger. I groaned and closed the fridge. Over by the espresso machine, our fruit bowl was almost empty, but a small, perfectly green apple lay at its bottom. I grabbed it and took a bite. It was sour and more harsh than refreshing, but I ate it with satisfaction, even its core.
As I stood there in the empty kitchen, eating the green, shrunken apple, something I had previously only barely registered started to attract my attention. I turned back towards the fridge, stepping closer to its large, silver door. On it, someone had attached a piece of paper with three colorful magnets the shape of letters: a yellow A, a bright green E and a purple Y. I examined the piece of paper, the only thing up on the fridge. It was covered in scribbles, row after row of almost unreadable ciphers: the unmistakable handwriting of my sister. I tore the paper off the fridge, sat down by the kitchen table and began to read.
I had to write this quickly because I was feeling the strongest of urges to get out of the apartment. I don’t know where I will go so I will not tell you for fear of unwittingly feeding you lies. I don’t like lies, do you? Remember when we were little? You told me that we should never lie to each other.
Do you rememb Because it scares me when I cannot trust. But nothing good can ever happen when I trust people. This is not even about Alex, he is nothing to me now, he means nothing and as far as we are concerned he doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t know what this is about. The obvious answer would be that it is about what happened yesterday. But it is only when I self-consciously observe the events of last night that they strike me as something bad. I don’t feel as if we have committed a crime. Do you?
Remember the party last February? Do you remember that time? You tried to get me to taste rum for the first time and I protested, but meekly; in retrospect it seems that you could have gotten me to try anything, maybe it is in your voice, brother, maybe that is why you have such a strange command over me in every situation,
maybe your voice But I’m probably wrong, but whether I am wrong or not, whether my mind is just spaceing out again or not is irrelevant; I did try the rum. But do you remember when we were sitting at that table? Do you remember that Uncle approached us, wearing that brownish-red cape, laughing that horrible laugh he has? He was already very drunk, although it was still early in the night. Do you remember that he asked me if I wanted to dance? You were talking to Samuel by then and I do not know if this would’ve been something you’d notice. But although I didn’t really want to, I went and danced with Uncle and it was around this time that the rum started to take hold. Uncle was quite the gentleman, leading me gracefully across the dancefloor, although he was very drunk he did not make any mistakes in his dance, as far as I could tell. I was even starting to enjoy it at first, although I could tell that many were watching which made me want to die. You know how the stars go out sometimes? They can’t burn for ever. Anyway, I don’t want to bore you so I will try not to lose track of what I’m trying to say. My mind is just a thunderstorm today, or maybe not a thunderstorm but the inside of a hurricane, it is hard to really hold on to any thoughts, it is like a blasting wind, tearing the trees out of the ground. I remember trying to find you as I danced, but when I looked back at the table you were no longer there. Maybe you had gone with Samuel to get some air. It made me feel cold on the inside to see that you had gone. I wanted to stop dancing, but by now Uncle was pressing me closer, telling me what a good dancer I was. I said ‘thank you’ but he wouldn’t let go of my hands, just kept pressing me to his chest and telling me what a good dancer I was. He smelled terrible. I looked around the room for you, but you must have left for the time being. Finally I managed to slip my fingers out of Uncle’s grasp; he just laughed and said that I was a rare breed of woman. I turned around to leave but then he ran his hands over my butt and legs, it was as if a tarantula had trapped me, I didn’t say anything, just laughed at first because it was so bizarre, I did not think Uncle would do such a thing. Then I looked at him to see if he would apologize, but he just kept laughing before he turned away and headed for the bar. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed or would say anything, but no one did. And because I was a bit drunk from the rum you’d given me and because no one else said anything, I didn’t say anything either.
It makes me feel dirty to think that he rubbed his clammy hands on my butt and legs like that. But when I think about how no one at the party said anything, it transforms me into a statue, and I need to stand still for a while just to be able to catch my breath again. I haven’t seen Uncle or talked to him since. It makes me cold and stiff like a corpse when I recall him.
Do you remember the speech that Dad held? Do you remember when he spoke of all the times he and Uncle went hunting together? That’s when I somehow felt that the rifles they were carrying were not pointed at the animals in the forest but at our heads, your head and mine, yes, you can call me crazy, but that is what I gathered from his speech. Their rifles were pointed at the back of our heads, and this was obviously the subtext of the speech, and neither Dad nor Uncle missed this subtext, and they laughed heartily at the stories. I sat there frozen solid, dying, my heart pounding like crazy, just wishing to be anywhere, anywhere but there. It makes me nauseous to even write about it. Come to think about it, most of everything makes me nauseous. I’m going to go drink some water.
Ahh, that’s better. Wow, this became an entire novella. I didn’t mean for it to go on for so long. Hope you enjoy it. Heading out now. Thank you for yesterday. It was nice. It was just – what word am I searching for? Maybe it was bad. Maybe it was evil. Maybe we are evil. I don’t know. All I know is, yesterday I wasn’t nauseous. Not ever since you found me in my room with that tie around my neck. It was as if you had exorcised the sickness. Haha. Listen to that. ‘Exorcised the sickness.’ I really am crazy. OK, going now. Not sure where. Don’t try to find me.
PS. OK, just one more thing. I have a feeling about that letter you received tonight. Don’t know if the feeling is good or bad, but it’s something out of the ordinary. Just sayin’. Stay out of trouble. OK, really going this time. Bye.
PPS. Do you think we’re evil? I’ve been up all night just thinking about that word: ‘evil’. I can’t get it out of my head. Maybe we are evil and that’s just what we are. Think of all the travels we’ve made, all the things we’ve seen, all the good things we’ve experienced at the expense of the rest of the world. That’s evil, isn’t it? But it got me thinking. Maybe that’s just who we are. Maybe we’re not supposed to be anything else. I know most people would think what we did tonight was evil, and wrong, and disgusting. And maybe they’re right. But I don’t think we shouldn’t have done what we did. Do you?
So, anyway. Evil. Maybe that’s what we are. I don’t know. I’ll think about it. God, I haven’t slept one bit. I don’t know how you could sleep so well. You were snoring. I watched you for a while, I like watching you sleep. Your stomach moves in a very peaceful manner.
Need some air now. Bye.
I read through the letter twice. When I was done with it, I left the kitchen table and headed for the living room. I slumped onto the sofa, stretched out and watched the dull light fall in through the panorama windows.
So, she had decided to run away from home, like some child. She would sometimes do silly things such as that. The letter had said that it had nothing to do with Alex – that was one of the boys from her school. Had she had a crush on him? It sounded familiar. Samuel was our cousin.
Had I been talking to him at the party? I couldn’t remember. She was probably right. Somehow it seemed that my sister was the more perceptive one, at least these days. Everything was a fog.
I blinked against the light. My eyes felt weary, as if they wanted to protest by shutting down for good. I squinted. Faintly, a searing discontent started in my stomach. I should probably eat something more. Something realer. The couch didn’t feel welcoming at all. I was restless; my left leg kept twitching. Almost automatically, my head turned to my left, allowing the mysterious letter from yesterday to slide into view. It was resting patiently on the sofa table, right next to the ice cream and the two empty cups. I stared at it, and it struck me that I wanted it to disappear as I lay there, just disappear without a trace as I was watching it. I would have forgiven the impossibility of such an event, only for the letter with the dark blue insignia to be out of my sight.
The letter remained in place.
The unpleasant feeling in my stomach grew as I got up again, returning to the kitchen. I searched the drawers for the letter opener. It was in the second one, underneath a cluster of kitchenware. I pulled it out and went back to the living room.
I sat on the edge of the sofa and grabbed the strange envelope. For a while I just held the letter opener in my left hand, weighing it in my palm, not particularly eager to continue. It was a lovely letter opener, black and gold, with stylish markings around the handle. Where had we gotten it from? I didn’t know, but I had always liked it.
Finally I cut open the envelope, put the letter opener down and produced the letter. It was a lot more concise than my sister’s endless digressions. The small text seemed to have been written on an old-school typewriter. I held the firm piece of paper a bit closer, squinting to see what it said.
Please continue your inquiries which are perfectly valid, and consider these words a prime encouragement. I hope, for both our sakes, that this will awaken a desire to know more.
You can find me at The Logical Room, Berenstraat 17, by 19:17 tonight. I know that you have many questions, and hope my answers will suffice.