Ah, free at last.
Fresh air blows in my face as I walk outside. The stars shine in the night sky. They are brighter than I remembered.
It is too dark to see. I step aimlessly. My hands guide me. My footsteps tip-toe carefully. They can’t know I left. I had just asked to go the bathroom.
The sun starts to rise. Orange, purple, and pink. I hate it.
If my calculations were correct, there are only 2, 879 more steps. I count every step I take, just to make sure.
27 left. I see the town, though the town doesn’t see me. My white jumpsuit blends in with the walls of the grocery store. I need new clothes.
I greet the store clerk with a smile. I show all my teeth. I’m pretty sure this is standard behavior, or at least this is what my counselor said. They said I needed serious help. I disagree. I like the way I am. The clerk turns away and gives me a strange look.
I walk around the store. My eyes scroll through all the aisles. There has to be some type of clothing section. I am all the way in the back of the store. Finally, I see what I was looking for: pajama pants, sweatshirts, and t-shirts of the local high school. I will blend right in.
I take the clothes into the bathroom with me. I slid them under my shirt. I change quickly, making sure to take the tags off. I will not get caught by a machine at the door. I put my previous outfit in the trash and get out of the bathroom.
I casually proceed to the front exit. It may be suspicious that I didn’t buy anything, but I have no money. I see in the corner of my eye that the cash register clerk is watching. He doesn’t stop me.
I look at the large clock in the center of town. It is 6:30. No one is in the streets. I find the local coffee shop and go inside.
“Can I have a glass of water, please?”
“Sure, no problem.”
I sip my water in the coffee shop. I notice that I have the most school spirit right now than I have ever had in my life. The bell at the front rings. I turn to the door, and a familiar face walks in. I am greeted with a jaw dropped.
“Matt? I swear I have not seen you in like ten years!”
“Time flies, but nice to see you, David.”
“Well, what have you been up to?”
“You know the usual. I have been traveling a lot. I went to Mexico, and Antarctica.”
“Wow. I didn’t even know that was possible. You learn something knew everyday.”
“You know I saw white lions in Australia.”
“Wait. I thought you said you went to Antarctica.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry, just got mixed up.”
I chuckle, and he gives me an unsure look that turns into a smile. I try to make all suspicion leave my face. Act normal. Fit in.
“So how’s this weather we are having, David? Isn’t it just grand?"
Grand? What were you thinking?
David does not seem to realize my strange word choice.
“Yeah, it has been really great hasn’t it?”
We both look outside at the morning sun.
“You know what Matt, I’m going to go out on a limb and invite you to dinner tonight. We need to catch up.”
“That sounds great. Thank you.”
“No problem. Come at six. Here’s my address. It’s a block away from here.”
David writes his home address on a napkin: 678 Red Brick Road. I have it committed to memory within seconds.
“See you later, David.”
I wake to the fading sun of the coming night. I sit up from the large bench across from the coffee shop and check the large clock. It is 5:45. I better get going to David’s house. A block should only take me around three minutes, so I’ll be perfectly on time.
Knock. Knock. Knock. David opens the door and gives a friendly smile. His wife is behind him.
“Hi, Matt. This is my wife.”
“Hi, I’m Sheryl.”
“Nice to meet you.”
We all gather in the dining room. There is steak and salad on the table. It makes my mouth water. I haven’t eaten all day.
“Have a seat and eat up. We made all this food just for you.”
“Thank you. I’m starving.”
I grabbed a full steak and covered it with a large salad. I shovel food into my mouth. A disgusted look grows on David’s and his wife’s face.
“Uh, so Matt, how have you been these past few years?”
“How do you and David know each other?”
Their efforts to start conversation fail. An awkward silence falls over us within minutes of my arrival. David hears something interesting and leaves the room.
“Guys, come here. Look at this.”
Sheryl and I walk into the kitchen.
“I have never heard something like this happen here.”
I listen on to the reporter.
“A psychotic killer has reportedly escaped the mental institution, mere miles from Tomsville. The killer, Matt Harrison, also known as the ‘Psychotic Slasher,’ has been institutionalized for over 10 years. He is very dangerous, so please call the police if he is spotted.”
David faces contorts into a mixture of fear and shock. Sheryl reaches for the phone. I grab a knife from the drawer closest to me. The reflection gleams with death. I immediately let go. This is not who I am anymore.
“Wait! That is not me. It is just a really weird coincidence.”
Sheryl and David are still tense, but I can see that my slight lie has placated them to a small extent. David finally lets go of the breath he was holding in for so long.
“Phew. I almost thought you were a murderer for a second there.”
I let out a small chuckle. I am just going to consider this event a small bump on my long road to redemption.