I woke up groggier than usual that day, my dark drapes casted shadows around my room. Inevitably I dragged myself to do the drudging task of grocery shopping. The task had fallen upon my shoulders once my brother, Grayson, and I’s father had left, and our mother had locked herself in her room in a severely depressed state. It wasn’t a long walk to the store, but it was one filled with known strangers irritatingly smiling and saying hello. The town was small, almost wimpy. Every face that passed knew of me, and I them, but never once have I passed a face that really knew who I was.
The store was on the corner of Redd and Bleek. It was quaint and basic, we didn’t have anything fancy in our town. The store's front immediately made me gag, the colors red and white reminded me of a hospital room. That day the store was quiet, only a few people browsing the many shelves. When there was no one in the store it made it easier to go about my business. I slowly moved through the aisles, grabbing the things we needed back at home.
And then it happened. A young man that was no older than 20 came into the store. The store was small enough for me to know that we were alone, everyone else had emptied out a few minutes before he came. He was tall and thin and had a face no one could ever forget. His honey colored eyes to be spread too far apart and his nose resembled a bird's beak. But his clothes were what caught my attention, they were dark, seemingly soaked in an unknown substance, and his hood was drawn up and over his head. I couldn't take my eyes off him as he moved swiftly towards the back of the store. I followed, keeping my distance from the mystery man. By the time I reached the back, the man was gone.
Nearly thirty minutes passed before the mystery man reappeared. His hoody was now nowhere to be seen and I could see his white T-shirt underneath. I watched as his eyes darted around the store anxiously. He paused stopping while looking at the revolving door in the front and suddenly whipped his head back to look at me. When our eyes locked I felt a weird feeling of familiarity surge inside me. Then suddenly a scream sounded somewhere in the distance, one that made my stomach drop to my feet and made all my hairs stand on end. Instinctively I looked towards the door and, when I turned back around, he was gone. I ran out of the door and into a sea of people gathering around a small alley way. They created a barrier between me and the man. A collection of screams and gasps were shared. Men, women, and children alike surged towards the alley. I was caught under the tide and I couldn't breathe.
I pushed through the crowd, muttering 'sorry' inaudibly, until I got to the front. A young man was on the ground in front of me. The crimson of fresh blood soaked his hair and clothes, and the beautifully carved handle of a knife protruded from his chest. I stood frozen in my spot for what seemed like hours. I knew who the boy was, everyone in this town did, Alexander Jake, "the boy with two first names". He went to school with me when I was young. His parents were away on vacation and left Alexander to watch over his brother, they were all alone.
I stood fixated on the body until police rudely began to push me away. But before they could move me, something glimmering near Alexander’s pocket caught my eye. Never the less I moved with the crowd placidly and was shoved back into the store. Hours had passed and the crowd began to dwindle down until it was nothing. Yellow tape crossed the area screaming “crime scene” at all who passed by. Two cops stood in front of the yellow tape, like proud meerkats standing guard in front of their burrow. The spoke lowly to each other, standing close to hear whatever lies the other was speaking. I snatched the opportunity the two had given me and snuck to the back of the alley and kept in the shadows. When I got to Alexander's body, behind the two gossiping meerkats, I snatched the pocket watch. The cool texture of the surface felt familiar in my hands, like a long lost friend’s hug.
"Hey! Get away from that body!" The twins yelled in unison as they whirled around. I quickly hid the watch in my pocket so that they wouldn’t take it away. Jack and Jill waddled toward me and pushed me against the wall. The jagged bricks threatened to break through my skin to cause small drops of crimson to fall on my shoes. Jack pinned my arms behind my back while Jill stood to the side of me screaming my rights. With every word Jill uttered she spit. Her putrid breath smelled of bacon and made my nose scrunch up unwillingly.
"We'll have to take you to the station for questioning," Jack muttered as he pushed me into his run down cop car. He was the worst cop anyone could think off. He would’ve been better off in a mall. I caught a glimpse of a man on the other side of the street through the back window. It was the man from the store whom I had lost in the sea of people and he was watching me intently, even as the car drove away.
Grayson was waiting for me at the station. His dirty blonde hair was a mess from the many times his nervous hands had passed through it and the bags under his eyes seemed to darken every other minute.
"Oswin what did you do?" His words fell on deaf ears. Neither I, nor the twins wanted to deal with him right now. He looked older, as if seeing me in this situation had aged him 20 years. "Where are you taking her?" He demanded as Jack and Jill tugged me to the back of the station. Grayson followed behind like a lost puppy.
They brought me to an office and Jack and Jill locked the door behind them as they left us alone.
"Oswin don't just sit here right now," Grayson demanded as he looked at me, searching my face.
"There was a murder," I mumbled. Grayson knew I could never stay away from something intriguing and decided that was enough information. Suddenly the door behind us opened. The smell of smoke mixed with whisky followed behind the man like a shadow. Grayson coughed.
"What are you doing here, Os?" His name was River. He was friends with my father before his passing. I shrugged my shoulders and River slammed his hands onto the desk in front of me.
“Bullshit!” He screamed. His spit even smelled like whisky.
"She's here because Jack and Jill don't know how to be real officers!" Grayson stood defensively, his hands placed on the desk in front of Rivers.
"I was there because everyone else was. I swear I didn't do any harm,” I said staring at the hands on the desk and not into anyone’s eyes. River shook his head at me not believing my words for one minute.
"I know you took something, and I know you have something to do with this. Until you admit what we know you did, you aren't going anywhere." The way River spoke made me feel small like a child being reprimanded. But given this situation, I basically was one. River left before either Grayson or I could’ve responded.
Then a miracle happened. I noticed River had left the door ajar. I nudged Grayson and motioned to the door to our right. When he saw it was open he shook his head he knew we would be getting into even more trouble if we left our seats, but I wanted out. I rolled my eyes before getting up and I peeked my head out of the door. The building was empty. I ran towards the exit, forgetting about Grayson momentarily until my body hit something hard just outside of the door, knocking me down. The man from earlier stood looking down at me. He watched me struggle to stand, my arms were tied behind my back, before he grabbed my arms and lifted me with ease. Grayson came running out a second after me his eyes the size of saucers and his mouth hung open like a fly trap.
"Why would you do that Oswin?!” He yelled at me as if he was the eldest of us two, and then when he realized we had company he turned to the mystery man, “Who are you? What are you doing? What’s your name? Are you a cop?" By the end of Grayson’s questioning he was puffing like a smoker who had just run a marathon. The man, unfazed by Grayson, turned me around to survey the handcuffs.
"The idiots didn't even cuff you, they're ties," he chuckled before ripping the ties from my wrists. The man then grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the front of the office and to safety in a brick alley way. Grayson followed slowly behind confusedly questioning everything the man was doing.
"Rhydian Lucas," the mystery man mumbled when we were hidden. Grayson vigorously shook Rhydian’s outstretched hand.
"You need to get out of this town," Rhydian said as he gripped my arm again. He pulled us to the road and stopped in front of an all-black car.
"Get in," He mumbled as he opened the door for us. He watched Grayson and I get into the car before he sat in the driver’s seat.
"This is my friend, she's going to help us," Rhydian said. The girl in the front seat turned around and smiled at us but didn’t say a word. The brief glance I got of her face sent shivers down my spine like I had known her long ago.
We drove for hours and must have fallen asleep for most of the ride because when we got to the destination, I couldn’t remember a single thing about the ride over.
"There's someone following us," Rhydian mumbled quickly before glancing behind on. Grayson and I turned around and tried to get a look at the stranger's face but we were met with tinted windows of an SUV.
"On three we run into the woods okay?" The girl said nodding like it was the best idea ever. Grayson and I looked at each other.
"What do you mean the woods?" Grayson blubbered. Before we could even unbuckle our seat belts Rhydian yelled three. The girl and Rhydian bolted from the car leaving us in their dust. The man who was following us went after them.
"We need to take this car and leave!" Grayson shook as he spoke and every one of his hairs stood on end. And then, suddenly Grayson blurted “Rhydian murdered dad.”
Three little words were all it took to shake my whole world upside down, and despite the lack of evidence I believed them. I took off running after the other three and into the woods. And the next thing I knew I was watching Rhydian rub his jaw while my right hand ached dully. Rhydian glared at me momentarily before he walked over to a ladder leading up to a treehouse. I watched confusedly as he climbed into the house. Grayson, the girl, and the stranger slowly followed suit. I wanted answers to what Grayson had just said to me, so I followed suit.
I paused right by the entry. All over the walls were pictures. Pictures of houses and warehouses, of men and women from my town. Of me with my father and mother. Of me standing in my front yard playing with something, a knife with a beautifully decorated hilt. Of me holding a silver embroidered pocket watch. Of me talking to Alexander and his little brother. Of alexander holding the watch in his hands. Of me in what seems like a mugshot. My jaw nearly hit the ground as I looked around the room. On a small table in a corner sat a pocket watch that matched the one I took today from Alexander. The new stranger stared at me as I did this. He was attractive with brown hair gelled up and out of his face, perfectly allowing his gray eyes to be the main attraction. He had high cheekbones but they weren't high enough to be feminine and his jawline was sharp and strong. But all-in-all the boy looked familiar.
"Alexander?" I whispered.
"Surprise sunshine," he said with a smirk and a wink. I slowly sank down, my back against the wall behind me, onto the floor.
"What the hell is going on?! You’re dead! I swear you were dead! Grayson? Why are you acting like you know what's going on?" He sat down in front of me and placed his hand on my leg.
"Okay, don't freak out or ask questions until we're done," Grayson said as he looked over at the rest of the group for confirmation. I felt like a child intruding on an "adult" conversation like I shouldn’t have been there, like I shouldn’t have been anywhere. Everyone sat around me to form a semi-circle.
"I'm Alexander Jake, the victim."
"My names Rhydian Lucas, AKA your guilt."
"My name is Annalise Benson, Alexander's girlfriend." There was a pause as they stared at me gauging for a reaction. But all I felt was numb.
"Alexander here is dead," Grayson said timidly, "You killed him and our father. Do you remember now? Do you remember the watch you’re holding secretly in your coat pocket? Do you remember taking it from Alexander’s cold dead hands?” Tears had begun to fall down my cheeks freely now, but despite my small whimpers Grayson continued,
“I’m the only person who could ever care about you Oswin, I guess you could call me the brain, your brain. But in reality, I'm you." Grayson suddenly lifted me off of the ground and shoved me out of the tree house. Slowly I fell, and then suddenly when my body slammed into the ground I awoke in an all white room. The smell of antiseptic burned my nostrils, and a small beep droned on in the background. My mother stared down at me. I raised my hand to touch her face, to make sure she was real, but a handcuff kept it pinned to the bed.
"Do you remember what happened?" Something felt off, her voice was slow. My mother shared a look with Annalise.
“Annalise?” I mumbled confused as to how she had gotten there when she wasn’t minutes before. My voice sounded slow and warped to my own ears.
"Do you remember killing your father and that boy, Alexander?" My mother’s voice dripped with venom that I had never tasted before and a fire I'd never experienced roared behind her eyes. I tried to yell, to get away as memories began flooding back. The feeling of the knife’s hilt in my hand as I killed Alexander for my watch back. The way my father’s eyes widened with terror. I screamed bloody murder and thrashed about in my bed.
My mother and Annalise watched me and backed away as two big men in red scrubs rushed in. One man took a needle and jammed it into my arm as the other held me down in the bed. Everything became hazy and slow and my eyelids slowly drooped down over my eyes as I fell back asleep, lulled by the sound of my screams.