Denise walked into the small bathroom, locking the door behind her. She picked up a roll of toilet paper that sat next to the white porcelain toilet. The gash on her forearm didn’t look as bad in the mirror. Maybe it was because she was half drunk and couldn’t feel the pain. Stupid Andrea. Next time I’m just going to stay home instead of coming to her stupid party. She wiped the blood that continued to flow from the cut. Just five minutes before, she was doing a keg stand, having the time of her life. That was before they let her slip and cut herself on the coupler. She watched as the blood formed small rivers that conjoined at her elbow, hypnotized. There was a hard bang on the door that snapped her back to reality. She fidgeted with the toilet paper, not noticing that her blood had been soaking into it as it dripped off of her elbow.
“Denise? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine!” She opened the drawers, looking for a bandage.
“We have a First Aid kit in my room. I can bandage your arm so you don’t bleed to death.” Laughter followed the remark.
She found a First Aid kit in the closet beside the navy and white towels. She set it on the sink and opened it, taking bandages, tape, and alcohol wipes from it before putting it back into the closet. She hadn’t noticed that the blood was still dripping, so she had to move quickly.
“Denny, open the door. It’s Andy.”
“Can you give me a second?”
“Just open the door, please?” Andrea asked desperately.
Denise opened the door and let her sister into the bathroom. Andrea stopped when she saw the bloody mess of toilet paper that Denise was holding against her arm, dropping the red Solo cup she had in her hand.
“What the hell? I didn’t know it was that bad.”
“Yeah, well that’s what happens when you don’t take care of your sister at parties.”
“Do you think there’s blood on the keg? I don’t want anyone to freak out because of your mess.”
“Are you serious right now? Andrea, you’re 19 and having a party full of booze. You don’t even have a fake ID. How are you going to be mad at me when you went from being a straight A honors student to living this new life of partying? Shut up and come help me wrap this before I lose too much blood.”
Andrea picked up the bandages and began to wrap Denise’s arm. Denise could feel her arm throbbing as Andrea wrapped her arm tighter and tighter. Without warning, the door flew open and a strange face poked in.
“Yo, you have to leave. The cops showed.” He closed the door and ran down the hall to warn others.
“Well this just tops off the entire night, huh?” Denise rolled her eyes
“Shut up and run before we get caught!” Andrea grabbed Denise’s bandaged arm and dragged her towards the door, but it wasn’t there. All the doors seemed to have gone missing. The walls began to cave in, closer and closer. Denise pounded on the walls, hoping they’d stop moving in, but they didn’t.
Denise screamed as she snapped awake on the subway. Oh God. Everyone is looking at me. It was just a nightmare. She looked around at the strange faces. This is the fourth time I’ve had the dream. Why can’t I let it go? It’s been four years, what am I doing? The train screeched, bringing her back to reality. She tried to stand up slowly to stop the headache from coming, but the pain came anyway, harder than ever before. She ran her hand over the stitches in her head. Why do I even have these? I tried to tell them I didn’t have to have it, but they didn’t listen. Whatever. She made her way to the exit, but was stopped by a woman standing beside the door.
“What are you doing here? You should be home. It’s too late for someone like you to be out and about at night.” She said hastily.
“Do I know you?”
“No, but I know you. I’ve dreamed about you.”
“What are you talking about? You know nothing about me.”
“The Lord will punish you for what you’ve done, Denise!” a bony finger shook in her face.
“What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything!”
People turned and stared as she ran off into the darkness, not because she was screaming at an innocent poor old woman, but because she wasn’t yelling at anything.
Denise kept running until she reached the other side of the station. Small streams ran down her face, forcing her to wipe it all away. At this point, she wasn’t sure if it was sweat or tears. She leaned against a pillar, clutching her side which ached from her breathing. She felt lightheaded, but refused to sit down. She had to keep going. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a television mounted in the corner of the station. Her eyes drifted to the screen as her picture popped up.
“Denise Hamilton: Have you seen me?”
She stared at the screen as the words scrolled across the screen. Her head throbbed as the memories came back to her. The guards, the long white gown, stained in blood, Andrea’s screams.
Denise turned to go into the bathroom to her left, but noticed four men were standing there, all staring at her. Oh shoot. How did they find me? Again, she looked around for an exit. Her vision focused toward the stairs leading outside the subway. Run. Run. Why can’t I move?. Four men ran down the stairs, leaving her without an escape plan. I can’t get captured now. I have to find her. I have to find Andrea. She could see them signaling to one another to surround her. Looking left and right, Denise could see no other option. There was only one other way out. She ran toward the subway tunnel and jumped down onto the tracks. The train horn wailed, causing her to whip around to look behind her. Time stopped as the two bright lights halted just feet from her face. Denise closed her eyes and thought about Andrea. It had been four months since she disappeared from the house without notice. She remembered how Andrea would always give her kisses on the cheek, telling her she was never too old for them. That was before Denise had lost it. Before she escaped. Maybe now it was all over for her. Maybe she’d never see Andrea again.
The lights passed one by one overtop of her as the they wheeled her down the hall. Andrea was sick of seeing so much white. How did I even get myself into this mess? She tried to turn her head, but couldn’t. Wow. They even have me strapped down like a dog. How welcoming. A lady in white came to the side of the hospital bed and began to ask her questions about who she was, what her birthday was, and where she was.
“Unnhnhngn.” Didn’t the lady know she had a tube jammed down her throat?
“Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. The questions are going to have to wait until later.” She was clearly new.
The bed took a sudden left turn into a vacant room. Andrea breathed in and immediately regretted it. The stench of formaldehyde grew more and more potent as they went deeper and deeper into the room, reminding her of the smell of the frogs and fetal pigs she dissected in eighth grade. The memory was vivid, but she knew what they used formaldehyde for. The bed parked in the middle of the massive room, lined with stainless steel cabinets that were filled with all types of contraptions that she only wished she recognized. Someone behind her clicked a switch, causing the giant overhead light to shine in her face. Three men wearing medical masks surrounded her, seeming to examine her head.
“They weren’t kidding about this one. Were going to have to operate immediately.” said one
“What do you think? Local anesthesia?” said another.
“Yeah. Call in the nurse anesthetist. We need to start quick.”
By now, Andrea was struggling to get free from the restraints. There was no way they were going to do what they were planning on doing. What are they going to do with me? I wish someone would come and save me. She heard the doors open and the squeaking of wheels; they were here. One of the nurses delicately placed the clear plastic mask over her nose and face, forcing her to inhale the gas. Andrea couldn’t smell it, but she felt the thick gas flow through her nostrils. They got me. They won. I wish I could talk to them. Explain to them that Denise killed mom. Explain that I was innocent. Oh jeez. It’s happening. They’re getting so blurry…
Andrea was woken up by the low hum of the machine next to the hospital bed. She looked down at her hands and feet. They finally removed the restraints, but she still couldn’t move. Andrea looked around at the small room. There was only one window, which she guessed had to be bulletproof to prevent people from leaving. Beside the window were two chairs, one wooden and one metal, both unoccupied. Maybe I had visitors when I was unconscious. Wait, am I still unconscious? Am I even alive? No, I can’t be dead. This doesn’t look like heaven to me.
“That’s because it isn’t, you idiot.”
Andrea turned her head toward the door and stared at Denise. She was wearing normal clothes, which didn’t make any sense considering she disappeared weeks ago.
“They have you trapped in here now? How cute.”
“You shut up! Everyone knows it should be you in here and not me.” They must’ve taken the tube out of her mouth following the surgery.
“Relax, Andrea. I didn’t come here to make fun. I came to get you out.”
“Because everyone knows I did it and not you. I want us to both be able to live instead of just one of us. I care about you, if you haven’t noticed.”
“I know. I missed you, Denny.” Andrea turned toward the window to keep Denise to see her from crying, but when she turned back, she was gone.
“Denny? Denny! Where are you?” A nurse rushed into the room.
“What is going on? Is anyone hurting you?”
“No, but where’s Denny? She was just here a second ago!”
“What are you talking about? Nobody was here.”
“She was just right there. What do you mean nobody is here? Are you stupid or something?” The nurse walked out into the hallway.
She’s probably going to find someone to come put me in another room. Probably one of those padded rooms from the TV shows. Andrea tried again to move, only this time, her arms moved. She quickly got up from the bed and pulled the individual electrodes off of her body, leaving a piercing beeping noise that came from the machine. Footsteps were emerging from down the hall as Andrea looked for a place to hide. The only place was the curtain that patients used to give them privacy when changing. She slipped behind it and held her breath, hoping that the person wouldn’t hear the loud thump thump that came from within her body. The footsteps grew closer and closer until she heard them directly in front of her. Her heart pounded as she pondered the thought of being captured and how they’d just torture her. She couldn’t go back to that. Slowly, Andrea pulled the curtain back, revealing a security guard only three feet in front of her, with his back to her. Andrea had no other choice. She grabbed the IV from her arm in her left hand, preparing herself. I can’t believe I’m doing this. What am I doing? You’re saving yourself, Andy. Why else would you be trying to kill the security guard. Shut up, okay? I’m just going to do it. Andrea took a shy step forward and hesitated. Do it. What are you waiting for? She wanted to think about this for a minute, maybe even a second. But she didn’t have a minute. She either needed to find Denise, or find a way out.
In one swift motion, she drove the IV into the guard’s neck three times before pushing him forward and slipping past him. Andrea ran down the white corridors searching for an exit. I can’t believe I just did that. I’m a fugitive. They’ll be out to get me any second now. She turned left and found a staircase with a sign reading “EXIT” in giant red letters. As she ran down the flights, she tripped, scraping her forearm. The blood trailed down her arm, reminding her of the party she once brought Denise to. That seemed like it was an eternity ago.
“Thank you Lord” Andrea found a door leading out of the building. Without hesitation, she burst through the door and took off. It was exceptionally dark compared to what the inside of the building was. The sirens began to go off, sending panic through Andrea. She found a small crawl space under the rear fence of the building and crawled through it. Clearly they don’t patrol this place well enough. Whatever. It saved me from imminent death. She ran off into the forest making sure to never turn back.
“Hey, over here”
“Denny? Is that you?”
“Train? What do you mean train?” No reply
Okay, so there must me something about a train. Train. Train. Maybe she left town? She always talked about going to Brooklyn. I bet she’s there waiting for me.
Andrea ran until she reached the subway. There weren’t any trains in Manhattan, which perplexed her. I hope she’s right. Andrea was still in a white gown, which made her too noticeable. She took the gown off, exposing her undergarments. I guess I don’t have another choice. She jogged across the street and encountered several men who were clearly homeless. They began to whistle as Andrea jogged past them, yelling disgusting things to her.
“Would you like my jacket?” The voice came from within the group. A man came forward. He was clean shaven and wore a black coat that went down to his knees. His pants were untouched, and he smelled like a man.
“Um. Sure.” Andrea came forward and took the jacket, running off into the subway system before he could say anything.
Andrea boarded the subway without attracting too much attention to herself. She sat in the stained seat, thinking about her life. How did I even get into this mess? She reached up to itch her head and discovered that she had three long scars running the length of her head on the right side. The right side of her head was shaved.
“What the…?” She couldn’t think of why they were there.
“The operation.” said a woman to her left.
“How do you kno…”
“Brinkley had a kidney transplant yesterday.” The woman glared at her as she got up to walk away. She had been talking on the phone.
“Okay, Andrea. We have to relax.” She said to herself. Her eyes drifted shut before she could think of anything else.
Andrea was woken up by the screeching brakes of the train. She got up and stretched. She looked out of the window and saw a sign that read “Brooklyn Subway Station”. She made her way to the door and was stopped by an elderly woman. Andrea didn’t bother to listen to what she was saying, but ran off the train toward the restroom to look at the map. As she examined the map, a television mounted in the corner of the station caught her attention. She read the words that scrolled across the street in dismay.
“Denise Hamilton: Have you seen me? “
Denise. So they are looking for her after all. Andrea turned toward the bathroom to make herself look less homeless, stunned. There were four men standing there, looking at her. Why are they staring? She turned toward the train station’s exit, but more men came down the stairs. Slowly, the men walked closer and closer toward her. She was trapped.
“Why are you doing this?” She screamed at them.
“Corner her. She can’t get away.” One said.
“What do you want?” No reply.
She turned and ran toward the train tracks, and jumped down. A horn wailed as she lied down as flat as he could. The train ran over top of her body, blowing pellets at her face and arms. After the train passed, the five men pulled her out. They began to drag her to the car, but were stopped by a man in a suit.
“Well well well. I guess some never learn. Andrea, Denise isn’t real. Everything that you thought you knew about her isn’t true.”
“What… do you mean?”
“You’re diseased. Psychosis. Andrea, nothing is real. You made up Denise after you killed your mother. We tried to fix you, tried to make you normal. We didn’t let them charge you with murder because we needed you. We needed to try to fix your psychosis, but obviously, the procedure wasn’t successful.” He nodded his head, and the men placed her inside the car. The car drove off, leaving Andrea without emotion. Leaving her with the reality that she was responsible for her mom’s death. But she still had Denise, and nobody would take that away from her.
I stared down at my feet as another woman was dragged down the hall by two men. I was the only one sitting on the old, brown bench. There were still deep scratches on the armrests from the previous person. An icy chill engulfed my body, so I hugged my knees a little bit tighter. Why do I even have to do this crap? The door swung open, followed by the monotone “Next”, which signaled the next person in. Years had gone by since I’d last seen her. She never came back after they locked me back up in here. Tears streamed down my cheeks at the thought of her. I wish you’d come back, Denise. A light tap on my shoulder forced me to collect myself and look up.
“You’re up next.”
“But what about her?” My bony finger pointed to the lady that was sitting on the other side of the bench.
“Oh... No, I believe it’s your turn.” There was confusion on her face.
I loosened the grip on my knees and let my feet plop onto the marble floor. Once more, I stared at my twig legs. They never fed us anymore. Not since the investigators stopped coming. The nurse helped me up and led me into the room. I glanced back one more time at the lady on the bench, but she was gone.
The carpet felt good under my feet, which dragged as the nurse led me through the maze of hallways. Identical doors lined both sides. Finally, we reached 17. Dr. Marvin Grenz was etched on the door. A tall man opened the door and smiled at us both.
“Come in. It’s nice to see you again, Andrea, but you don’t have to come in here every day.”
That’s one thing I hated about Dr. Grenz; he was always rude. I went straight to the leather fleetwood couch, closing my eyes as my head hit the pillow. The memories flushed into my brain. Denise at the party, the train, the picture on the tv.
“So. What is it now?” He held a pen in his left hand and a notebook in his right.
“I don’t know. I know it’s been 10 years since she’s been back, but I know she’s here. I can see her in the halls. Doc, I’m not crazy. I was so close at the train station. Before all of you came and took me.” He wrote as I spoke.
“Interesting. So, why do you think that she’s here? How do you know?”
“I don’t know… I just do.” My eyes were open now. I stared at the Godric’s Hollow poster on the wall. “She’s here.”
“Alright. Well, as I’ve said before, there is no Denise, Andrea. She’s just in your head.”
“No she isn’t! I know she’s real. I’ve seen her!”
He clicked a button on the couch, cuing the nurse to return to the room. It always ended like this. He never listened to what I had to say about Denise. The nurse walked me down the long hallway, past all the other psychos that were locked up. She turned left, leading me into the cafeteria. As we walked through, strange faces stared at me. I tried to look away, covering my face to avoid awkward interactions. The clanking of silverware hushed as we got closer and closer to the exit. I tried to concentrate on my steps. One after another. The stares grew more and more numerous; the walls of my vision began caving in.
I dropped to the ground as a sharp pain waved through my left foot. The nurse stared down at the blood that was pooling around it. I pulled my foot close to my face, only to find a small, inch-long blade sticking out of the bottom. I pulled out the blade without thinking, which only brought on more pain. My eyelids slowly opened and closed, as if I was in some sort of trance. A white figure was in front of me.
The sound of crashing metal filled the air. The figure dropped to the ground, being replaced by a dark figure. Ripping my sleeve, I reached down and tied the cloth tightly around my leg.
“Get up. You have to go. Now!”
I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I got up and limped down the hall. It became harder and harder to see in front of me. I was losing way too much blood. I leaned on a door, trying to gather myself together. Just then, a figure ran past me, seemingly unaware of my presence. Another came after it, but stopped.
“Andrea?” My head snapped up.
“Denise.” She was really there.
“Come on, follow me. I know how to get out of here.”
I couldn’t believe it. After all these years, she finally came back. I limped toward her, but she turned and began to run. I picked up my pace, trying to ignore the throbbing pain that had taken over my foot. The figure turned right, into an empty room. It picked up a lamp and began to toss it at the huge window. Small cracks began to form on the surface.
“What are you doing?” I closed the door and worked to slide the bed in front of it.
“Andrea, are you really that naive? This is your chance! I came to get you out of here.”
“But… Denise, you killed her. You killed mom. I saw you holding the pillow over her face. Why?”
“Andrea, we don’t have time for this!” the sound of footsteps suddenly became audible.
“No. I need to know why you did it. I need to know if I can trust you!”
Sweat dripped down Denise’s face as she picked up the large book, tossing it once more. The giant window shattered, sending small particles flying everywhere. I shielded my face and turned away. I was pushed back by a gust of wind that charged into the room. I uncovered my eyes, searching for Denise. She was standing on the edge of the broken window.
“What are you doing?” She looked back, smiling at me. Just then, she stepped off.
I ran to where she was previously standing and looked down. She was standing on the snow below, waving at me to come. The door busted open as three men came in.
I have to know why she did it. I have to know why she killed mom. I looked back at the men, who were inching closer and closer. Closing my eyes, I stepped forward. The cool air scraped across my face. I felt the snowflakes hit my body as I came closer and closer to the ground. Time gradually began to grow slower and slower. I shut my eyelids, realizing how close I was to knowing the truth; to seeing mom again… I miss you so much. The way you hugged me at night. How you took me to school when my car wouldn’t start. I still remember how you lain there, so peaceful. I remember how I went into your room and slept with you after crying over boys. I remember how I looked over at you in the middle of the night. How you didn’t move.. Mom, I wish that it wasn’t true. I wish I didn’t have to pretend like it was Denise who did it. I wish that Denise would have had a chance to be the daughter you always wanted. Maybe if it were me with the umbilical cord around my neck, you’d still be here, happy and healthy.