Her dreams fly with the darkest of skies and the deepest of sorrows. Painted pictures, all in different shades of black. Her hair lies gently on the pillow as if carved by Michelangelo himself. Her eyes consumed by REM and flutter like a wing-broken butterly above the grass of summer. Tossing and turning, moist by saltiness and anguish. Suns that will never rise again. Tomorrows that will never come knocking. A whirlwind of screams and hearts speaking in tounges. A normal night for her, another gold medal for what cannot be changed. She tries hard to colour her daylight but at night, she watches her painting turn posterized…
Chrystal looked at the white envelope in her hand. There was no stamp on it, there was no return address. Obviously someone must have dropped it in her letter box. The only thing it said was “Chrystal” written with a stressed hand writing, probably by a guy. She had no time to open it right now, she really had to go. Matt and Emily were waiting for her at the gym and she had promised them not to be late – this time.
With her gym bag over her shoulder she dashed out and into her yellow Fiat Punto. It took her a few tried to get it starting. She knew she needed a new car but that
was not important right now. As long as it took her where she wanted to go, she was pleased.
The music was pumping as she entered the gym. A stink of sweat was thrown against her face. She coughed and waved at the receptionist. She could see that Matt was
already in his zone, pumping up his muscles at the bench press. Emily was found in the changing room, putting on mascara in front of the mirror.
– Ok, you know that we’re gonna work out, right? Chrystal laughed.
Emily made a face as if to tell her to shut up and continued.
Chrystal pulled up her jazz pants and her sports-bra and shoes. She was done in an instant, ready to work out hard but Emily was still bettering her face.
– Talk to me.
– Oh, you know that guy I met a few weeks ago, at the club? I saw him, he is here.
– Kim. Yeah that sucks, but you don’t want anything to do with him anyway so let’s go, let’s go get fit.
– Fitter, Emily added.
– Yes. Fitter.
Matt came up and hugged them with his moist body. He quickly returned to his station to continue again. Chrystal chose to crosstrain for half an hour.
Meanwhile Emily sneaked around, trying to avoid Kim who apparently was pretty oblivious to her being there anyway. Beside Chrystal was a girl on a treadmill.
Her red hair danced with every step she took as she jogged. Her iPod cord moved accordingly and she looked over and smiled.
Ten minutes past and then Emily came sneaking up behind Chrystal.
– I can’t work out when he is here…
– Come on.
– He is disturbing me.
– Has he said anything to you?
– No, just his whole precense. It’s annoying.
The red-haired girl smiled again. Chrystal was unsure if she had music in her ears or if it was low enough for her to hear their conversation. Emily declared that she was going home but Chrystal stayed and worked out for another twenty minutes.
Matt was waving at her from every station that he worked out on. He was such a sweetheart. If he wasn’t gay he would have been the perfect boyfriend material for Chrystal. Attentive, funny and adoring. He was so cute with his blond short hair that
peaked at every single direction and his dimples that appeared with every smile. A real mother’s dream, no question about it.
They decided to go for a coffee afterwards, to the little bistro across the street. It was empty, only an old man with a newspaper a few tables away.
Matt bought two cappuccinos and started talking about how tired he was at his job. He didn’t earn as much money, he wasn’t promoted.
– Well why don’t you look for something else?
– Like you?
Yes, Chrystal wasn’t very happy at work either. She just got a new boss, a tyrant to say the least. Every translation she made, he complained about and made her re-do
it ten times before approving it. She smiled at herself for suggesting that Matt should do something that she should have done herself.
– I know. But you are so talented, you can find any salon to work in. You’ve done my hair and it looked fab to say the least!
Matt winked at her.
– Mmm Well unless something changes soon I will have to. But I love the salon.
– I know. You’ve been there forever.
– Seven years is a long time. I should be owning the place by now. And talking about talented, you are skilled with languages and words. That’s not bad.
They smiled at each other and finished their coffee.
At home, she put her keys on the marble bench, drank a yoghurt from fridge and brought the letter with her to the sofa. She turned on the TV and flicked channels. Nothing good on. CSI would have to do. Then she put her feet up and opened the envelope.
Her heart started beating faster as she read the five words.
Enjoy your last four days. One is gone by the time you read this.
Enjoy your last four days?
What the heck did that mean? Who was it from?
On TV, CSI found a dead body on the street, Chrystal felt slightly uncomfortable and turned off the TV. She tried calling Emily but she didn’t pick up. Matt did, on the first signal.
– Matt … I just got a really weird note. I just wanted to talk to someone about it.
She walked around in the apartment, she didn’t know if it made her feel more at ease but she kept checking so that no one was there.
It was quiet. The only sound was coming from the refrigerator. Nothing else. She could hear her pulse echoing in the room.
As she told Matt about the envelope he demanded that she’d go to the police tomorrow, even if it was just a sick joke.
Chrystal had a hard time falling asleep alone in the bed. She was tossing and turning and thoughts running wild in her head.
When she finally fell asleep she dreamed about little people dancing around a fire, singing songs that she had never heard before.
As she opened her eyes to a new day, she felt tired. The letter.
She called in sick to work and made her way through the horrible traffic in town, to the police station. It was packed. A rude lady was at the desk.
– Hi, I need to talk to someone. I received this…
– You can sit there and wait, she interrupted and pointed at the wooden sofas in the waiting area.
– But I need to explain…
– Have a seat and I will get back to you soon.
The phones rang, people were running in and out.
Chrystal didn’t feel like there was any point in arguing so she sat down next to an old woman with a bruise on her face.
Half an hour passed. The old lady was called into a different room by a short police man with side burns.
Chrystal went up to the receptionist again.
– Hi, I’ve been sitting here for an hour now.
– Yes, what can I help you with, the woman said.
– I thought you said you would get back to me?
– Is there anything I can do for you?
So rude! Chrystal felt her cheeks going red with anger but she swallowed, ignored her irritation and handed her the letter.
– This. I am quite scared. I don’t know who sent it to me.
The woman read it over and over and then shook her head.
– There is not so much we can do, I’m afraid. No stamps, no nothing on it.
– Yes I know but someone is threatening me. Can’t you see? Can you not dust for finger prints or something?
The woman gave her a nasty little smile.
– You’ve watched too many series. We obviously don’t have the time or resources to dust every little thing. I’m sorry.
Chrystal had no choice but to take the letter that she handed her and head out of there. “Come back if you get any more” the woman said.
But why? It’s not like she would help any way.
Chrystal called Emily who was in work. She said she would meet up for a coffee at the local cafe and Chrystal went there early to think.
When Emily showed up she could see straight away that something was wrong.
– What happened?
Chrystal wiped off a tear from the corner of her eye and told her about the letter and the rude receptionist.
– What? You need someone to look at this! Hun, this is not good. Have you got any idea who, any idea at all?
Chrystal just shook her head and Emily took her hand. “I’m sorry sweetie, I will do everything I can to help you ok”.
In the evening, both Matt and Emily showed up. They ordered pizza and opened a bottle of wine.
– I feel so stressed about this, you have no idea. It’s probably just a prank, but…
– It’s horrible, Matt agreed. “Who would send something so cruel?”
They looked at the letter, trying to find clues but nothing was there.
– I mean, according to this letter, this has to be day number two for me.
– Oh stop. Emily put her arms around her. “Don’t speak like that”. We’ll figure this out. Together.
Another night, another bad sleep. Chrystal woke up by a sound in the hall way. She sat up in her bed and listened.
Was it something that she dreamed? No, there it was again. It was something from the hallway. She started feeling light-headed and had to support herself against
the wall as she stood up and tip toed in to the hall.
There, she saw it. The letter box was moving. Someone was putting something through.
She didn’t know where she found the courage but she ran towards the door, flung it open but no one was there.
-Who are you?! Why are you doing this to me?!
But there was no sound, no nothing. Not even footsteps.
Chrystal fell down to the floor, crying. She opened the letter with shaky hands.
Two more – then your days are up.
– Sweetie, you look terrible.
– Gee, thanks. Chrystal smirked.
Typical Emily to say something so rude and mean nothing of it.
– No, I’m sorry. I just mean that you need to get some sleep. You need it.
– I can’t. I keep waking up from weird dreams and last night, well…
She glanced over at the letter on the coffee table.
– It’s freaky, hun, you need to come and sleep at my place. I will not let you stay here.
She put her arms around Chrystal and continued.
– I also talked to Kim. You know, the…
– The guy at the gym, Chrystal finished. “But why?”
– He’s a cop.
– That’s right. So, what did he say?
– Well he promised me to look into it. Maybe even analyse the fabric and look for finger prints.
– That’s great! Chrystal got her hopes up.
– Yeah… But, he said it will probably take a week or so…
Chrystal took a sip of her wine. She could feel her eyes getting moist again.
– Well that’s disappointing.
– No, sweetie, don’t be sad. Matt said he’d be over later. Do you want more wine? Or maybe go out clubbing?
– To take your mind of things. Meet boys, have fun?
Emily smiled a very concerned smile.
– No, I don’t want to do anything. Just …be.
They curled up to each other on the sofa with a heating blanket on their legs.
There was a thriller on TV but they put a romantic film on instead. Emily joined in with her own tears.
– Oh so beautiful and tragic.
Chrystal hadn’t put much attention to the film. She had her own film playing out in her mind. Her life. Was she satisfied? Did she do everything that she wanted to do? No.
She had a lot more that she wanted to see and experience. And why did she even care about the letters. Obviously a cruel cruel joke. But how could she ignore them.?
The doorbell rang and Matt came in with what looked like a wooden chess set under his arm.
– Ladies. Oh Emily, won’t you pour me a glass, please, sweetie. I had a crap day.
He looked over at Chrystal and sighed. “Of course, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t complain.”
He put the wooden board on the table.
– An Ouija board, Matt? Are you mad, Emily almost screamed.
– I know, I know… But it’s worth a try, right?
Chrystal shook her head.
– Well, it’s a bad idea. I’m scared as it is.
– Exactly, Emily agreed.
Matt took a deep breath and sat down, holding the glass of wine that Emily gave him, in his hand.
– Hear me out. What do we have to lose? It’s not like it’s for real anyway, it’s just for fun. You don’t believe in that kind of stuff?
– But you do…
Chrystal knew that Matt was a hard-core believer of the supernatural and that he frequently played with the board to recieve messages.
He would tell them all about it and they’d chuckle at him. Now she didn’t feel like there was anything to chuckle about.
– Yes I do, but you guys don’t so you have nothing to be afraid of. Come on, let’s try.
Chrystal looked at Emily who frowned. “Sure, what have we got to lose?”
They put their fingers on the planchette and Matt asked the first question.
– Who is giving Chrystal these letters?
They waited for the heart-shaped wooden piece to move but nothing happened.
Matt closed his eyes as if to call the spirits.
– This is silly, nothing is happening, Emily said.
Matt rolled his eyes at Emily’s cynicism.
– Ok, I’ll prove it to you.
He closed his eyes again and asked another question.
– How many days left?
– That’s tacky, Chrystal said. “Rude actually”.
– Schh it’s just to see if there is anyone there. If nothing happens, we’ll put it away again.
They waited a few seconds and then suddenly, the planchette started moving. Not fast, but gracefully.
– Is it you, Matt? Emily asked.
– Nope, he said, still with his eyes closed.
Chrystal felt like her heart would explode out from her chest as she followed her own finger take a ride on the wooden, obviously possessed piece.
It went down to the left without hesitating. Chrystal let go. She put her hands over her mouth to stop herself from screaming.
The planchette had stopped at number one.
– Shit, Matt whispered.
– What a stupid idea, Emily said angrily and gave Matt the evil eye.
– Guys, this didn’t help me at all. I think I will go to bed. Thanks for letting me sleep here, ok.
– But Chrystal…
– It’s alright, I’m just tired.
Chrystal went into the spare bedroom and took off her clothes.
She felt cold and started shaking but she knew that the duvet quilt cover would warm her up soon enough.
Emily opened the door and asked her if she was alright. Matt came up behind her and apologized for the stupid idea.
– It’s alright. It’s just that it’s really messing with my mind.
– I can understand that, Matt said.
– Are you going into work tomorrow, sweetie? I have to leave around seven.
Chrystal said she would see how she felt in the morning.
– I’m so sorry for upsetting you, Matt said again. “I didn’t think, I thought it would help.”
– Don’t worry about it, Chrystal smiled. “I know you were just trying to help, like always.”
She turned to her side and let herself drift off into sleep.
She could hear the voices of her friends in the background but they slowly faded and she was back in the same dream again, with the little people and the weird songs. This time she joined in. She knew them. The songs. She knew the melody and the lyrics and she sang with them.
The melody still echoed in her head when she woke up. The apartment was silent, Emily had obviously gone to work. It must be after 7 so. She went into the kitchen to put on some coffee when she saw that it was almost noon. She had slept for more or less twelve hours!
Obviously I needed it, dancing around the fire singing stupid songs.
Chrystal put water and coffee in the maker and put it on. She glanced over at the clock and saw that half an hour had passed. That was impossible, she thought.
It doesn’t take half an hour to put on some coffee.
She washed her face in the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. The usually fresh-looking face was changed into something pale and worn. The lack of sleep had taken its toll on her.
I need to stop dancing and singing at night, she thought and smiled to herself. The first genuine smile in a while. Perhaps caused by sarcasm, but still. A smile none the less.
Singing in the night…
She suddenly sat down on the toilet and heard the song in her head. The song from her dreams. The one that the little people sang. And the same song that she apparently knew.
“As you’re singing in the night, your fears go away. As you’re singing in the night, he’s ready to take his pray.”
Chrystal felt the panic in her throat and the veins in her head started throbbing. She went back into the bedroom and found her phone.
A few missed calls from work. She would call them back later. She called both Emily and Matt but she only reached their voicemail so she asked them to call back as soon as they could. Chrystal felt scared. She was safe in Emily’s apartment but her mind was playing tricks on her.
She went back into the kitchen to pour herself a cup of coffee when she realised that another half hour had passed.
It’s not possible. What’s going on?
Chrystal put the cup on the kitchen table and went to get her shoes on. She knew she had to go home to see if there was another letter. She didn’t want to but she had to.
And there it was.
With shaky hands she took the letter off the floor, closed her own front door and sat down on the purple rug next to the clothing rack. She took a deep breath and swallowed. This was it.
Did you make the best of your time?
Chrystal’s head was spinning. She took her mobile phone from her pocket to check was time it was. Five past five!? It just wasnt possible. Something was wrong. Was she losing her mind?
She tried calling Matt and Emily again but still voicemail. She tried the office and the saloon but they only told her that her friends were out on lunch.
– It’s after five? Lunch? Chrystal screamed.
– Eh no, its ten past eleven.
– It’s ten past eleven, lunch time.
She dropped her phone and ran into the livingroom. The beautiful antique clock on the wall used to be her grandmother’s. Now it was a sweet memory of a life lost. And it said ten past five.
She threw herself on the sofa, crying out all her fears and confusion. She looked at the digital box under the TV. It said six thirty. Another hour lost. Time flew by and even though it was a sweet saying to make sure you take good care of the time you have, Chrystal felt like it was literally. Obviously she had lost several hours already, doing nothing. Blacking out?
She picked up the phone next to the sofa, clicked to get the familiar signal and called Matt again. No answer. She called Emily. No answer.
She left them both distressed messaged saying how she thought she was losing her mind and that they needed to get back to her as soon as they heard this.
Then she called the salon again.
– Matt’s still out for lunch, the receptionist said. “Did you not just call me?”
– That was like an hour and a half ago!
– No, it was five minutes ago.
Chrystal had no more tears to cry. All she wanted to do was to lie in the sofa and hope that she would fall asleep so that she would feel better and that the world would be back to normal again. . But sleep she couldn’t do after sleeping so long last night. Instead she was laying there watching the numbers on the TV box, change faster than normal.
And then midnight…
After the business lunch Emily was on, she listened to her messages on her phone. She immediately understood that Chrystal needed help. This was nothing like her. Maybe she did need help, psychological help. This situation had been more overwhelming to her than what they had understood. She called Matt.
– Hi hun! Matt sounded very up-beat.
– We need to go to Chrystal’s. Now, straight away! Something is wrong! Where are you?
– I am juuuust leaving the hotel.
– uh-uh I just had a lovely time with Brandon. Shame it went by so quickly. Its like time flies when I am with him.
– Well did Chrystal call you too?
– I don’t know… eh, yeah, I have like four missed calls from her. What’s happening?
– I don’t know. I will meet you at her place ok!
Outside Chrystals door time was just after one in the afternoon. The same time for everyone. But inside it was after midnight.
And as they opened the door they found Chrystal on the sofa, pale and unresponsive. Dead. Heart attack, the coroner said. But she was fit and healthy and young.
No finger prints were ever found on the papers. No suspect was ever found.
Death leaves no trails. No finger prints.
So what would you do if you only had four days left to live.
Would your fear handicap you or would you cherish every day and make the best of it.
Time will run out for all of us. What would you do?
– I’m holding a knife…
Daniel’s pulse started racing. It was like he was there and yet not. He could hear Dr Westin in the background.
Her voice was slightly muffled, like she was surrounded by clouds.
– Why are you holding a knife, Daniel?
It started becoming clearer and clearer by the second.
– I was having a bad dream …
– What did you dream?
– Belinda told me she has met somebody else and she wanted to leave me. She wanted to leave me.
Daniel was unaware that he was crying. Salty, painful tears rolled down his cheek.
Dr Westin started writing on her pad.
– What are you doing with your knife?
Daniel swallowed hard, one time. Two times. He looked down at his hand again. His was holding on to the knife with a firm grip.He closed his eyes again and let it all play out. He hated it. It made him sick. But he let it play out before his eyes. Like a bad horror film.
– I am standing over her. She looks so beautiful. I cant stand the thought of her with someone else. I would rather that she wasn’t with anyone if it wasn’t me. I …
He shook his head. “I lean over her.”
Dr Westin kept a close eye on Daniel as he was lying in the sofa, tears running and frowns on his forehead. Fists so hard the knuckles went white.
– I push the blade through her chest. I can feel the resistance from the skin and the ribs. I push harder.
– Does Belinda wake up?
– She does. She is looking at me with terrified eyes, trying to scream. I put my hand over her mouth to stop her from doing that. Her hands instinctivly trying to remove the knife from her chest. That’s when I know I had to silence her. I can’t have her making noise.
– What did you do?
– I slit her throat, fast. Blood is squirting all over me, and her.
– You’re an old marine?
– Yes. Her eyes turns backwards as she gasps for air with my hand still on her lips.
He lowered his head as he felt her struggle underneath him. Sickness arising inside of him.
– How do you feel, Daniel?
– I still feel angry. I see red. I’m so angry and hurt. Rejected. As soon as she stops moving, I start stabbing her again. In her head, face, chest, legs. It’s like I can’t stop.
I need to puke. I need to puke now!
– I need to puke…
Daniel started getting sick right there on Dr Westins coach and she slowly brought him out of the hypnoses and back to her office again. She turned him on his side and brought him tissues to clean himself with. As he was puking she held her hand on his head. Comforting him like the child he was. A child, yet a young man. Alone and with a memory of something so hanus and incomprehensible.
His whole body was shaking for a long time after he stopped getting sick. Tears flooded. Moaning sounds of regret and disbelief.
– What does this mean?
Daniel’s mother sat next to her son, with her husband’s arm around her. Dr Westin and attorny Jack Stempleton on the opposite side of the table.
– It means that Daniel suffered from automatism the night that Belinda died. He did the act but in his sleep. Subconciously. Dr Westin looked into the worried and distraght parent’s eyes. Trying to help them to understand what had happened. What their son did. Just like she was trying to help Daniel to come to terms with what he did in his sleep, during their sessions.
– But… what does it mean for Daniel in terms of punishment?
Jack put his papers aside and explained that they were offered a deal from the defence. One year in prison and two years on probail.
– It’s a good deal.
Daniel looked at his parents and shook his head.
– I don’t know why I did what I did. I just don’t know why. But Belinda is gone. She will never come back. If it takes a year of my life in prison, I should take it.
Belinda will never come back. I did something horrible. I should pay for it.
– Oh Daniel…
His mother’s eyes watered and her heart broke for her son.
They talked about the practical aspects of what this meant and Daniel hugged his parents goodbye, for now. They would visit him often. Show him love and caring. No one could grasp or understand what had happened. A young beautiful woman was gone.
A young man’s life was destroyed. And no one could explain why this had happened. A nightmare playing out right before their eyes. And the only thing they could try to do was to be strong for eachother.
Jack handed Daniel a pen and a paper.
– Here’s what you asked for, Daniel. What do you need it for?
Daniel sighed and grabbed the pen.
– I haven’t spoken to Belindas parents at all since… since she passed. I need to write to them. They’ve been in agony and pain for the last two weeks. I need to tell them something.
– Ok. Jack and Dr Wesin left him alone in the room for a while. Soon the guards would bring Daniel to his home for the next year. They would lock him up for something he did, but didnt know why he did it. He would be searched, dressed in orange and treated like the prisoner he was. He only had a few moments to scribble down something for Belindas family.
“Dear Mr and Mrs Johnson,
As I write this, my heart is broken into a thousand pieces for you.
There is nothing I can say to being Belinda back. There is nothing I can do to make you feel better. All I want so let you know is that I am truly and utterly sorry, from the bottom of my heart. I loved Belinda. I still do. I cannot explain what happened because I do not understand it myself. But I can take my punishment and hope that you will one day see that I would give my own life to get her back. If I could. I hope that you will one day like to speak to me again. I would like to tell you all about the memories I have of Belinda.
She loved you so dearly. Just like u loved her. And the same way I loved her. I am so sorry.