My name is Daniel Richter and I’m going to tell you a story. A story not for the faint of heart or weak of mind. This story is true, no matter how much I tell myself it isn’t. I think a reasonable introduction is appropriate…
Before I can tell you what, I must tell you when and where.
The why is unknown.
It happened 3 years prior to present day and your reading of this- most likely lying in your bed with a shallow desk light on, unaware of the revelation lurking in the words to come. I met him on a beautiful autumn evening- the orange sun guiding me home from a local coffee shop I visit frequently on my way home from work. I worked at a website design start-up company that I founded with my wife Natalie, who I meant while majoring in computer engineering at NYU. I was happy. Happier than I’d ever been and now, I know, ever will be. He was an unassuming man, just sitting there on the park bench. Mid-fifties, patchy beard and skinny, but good looking. He didn’t seem outwardly upset, but it was obvious he had had a long day. “A long day” turned out to be a catastrophic understatement. As I approached his lonely bench, I caught a glimpse at what he was looking at in his hands. An envelope. I thought divorce. Foreclosure maybe. Incorrect. Before I walked past his bench, he stood, still looking down. After initially thinking he got up to walk away, I realized that he was waiting for me. Waiting to talk to me. I couldn’t imagine what this scraggly man wanted with me but I was in an unordinarily good mood and changed course. I wish I could remember what that felt like. Happy. “Hello?” No response. “Uh I’m sorry, I thought you wanted to talk to me,” I said as I turned to walk away. However, a wavering “Daniel…” stopped me in my tracks. It was as if this man had spent his entire life trying to figure out a way to say that one word. “I’m sorry do I know you?” That’s when he finally looked up. I hadn’t seen his eyes until then, or at least I don’t think I did. I think I would have remembered those eyes. Eyes soaked with an emotion so painful and miserable it was only known to him. An emotion I now see in the mirror.
I was frozen. Not by fear but by an overwhelming sense of impending destiny. A destiny, in which, I wanted no part of. I had a pit in my stomach the size of a basketball and something deep inside of me was telling me that this was wrong. As if on cue, he handed me his envelope like it was an unstable piece of fate and a devastating “sorry” slipped out of his mouth. He let out a sigh. Or perhaps it was just a breath (they seemed synonymous coming from him). He glanced back up at me one last time, and began walking back the direction I came. I managed to squeak out some type of question. Don’t remember what it was or if it made sense. It didn’t matter though- he didn’t stop. Although, I do remember what happened next. I will always remember. I tried gathering myself; figure out what just happened. Why was I just standing there? I needed to go after him and find out who he was. But as I turned to run after him, there was nothing. Everything was still and he was gone, along with the rest of the evening sunset. I do not know what happened to him, and truthfully, I’m not sure I want to. I walked the envelope back home, my pocket feeling heavy from the weight of the words inside. Today, I wish I had trashed it- burned it. I truly would have preferred it be a mystery; however, I don’t think it would have mattered. It was mine now. It belonged to me. Along with whatever came with it.
I left it sit for a few hours. To be honest, I don’t know why I didn’t open it right away. I guess I was still confused, scared maybe. When I did finally slip my finger through the top, breaking open its contents, I found a single piece of paper folded neatly to fit the envelope. It was a letter, and it was addressed to me. I read it in my head but it was not my voice I heard. I heard someone else’s voice reading it to me- something else’s. This is what the letter said:
Daniel, I have spent many years searching for you. I did not want to succeed in my search, but I had no other choice. You are next in the order. The order set by my controller- my sovereign. I do not know who He is and neither will you. When you adopt Him, you will become The Present. You will no longer be in charge, and any attempt to gain power will be punished. Your life from now on will be His life, and the faster you accept this the less painful your journey will become. After your term, you will be instructed to find The Future, the next one in the order. Someone you most likely do not know. Following the adoption, you will be released. What happens then is unknown to any of us. You are not the first, and you will not be the last. He will live on. You have done nothing wrong but this is His wish.-The Past
I couldn’t help but laugh. Why had I been so worried about this stupid letter, which was obviously some type of sick joke? An old guy gives me some random letter in the park and go hides and I lose my shit? Come on Daniel. I crumpled up the paper and envelope and discarded them both in my bedside trash bin. My mind switched back to real life. My job, my wife, and everything else I filled it with. My routine. Happy.
To be honest, I’m not exactly sure when it all started. When I started losing control. It was probably around a month after I had had my encounter with the old man and the letter. A whole month of free-willed pleasure. I had mostly forgotten about the letter, or at least put it to the back of my mind. It was difficult to completely put it out of mind, however. Every couple of nights I would dream of the man in the park. I would see his eyes and be paralyzed. A pulsing would take over my body and I would wake up in a cold sweat. I had told Natalie about what happened and she figured it was some homeless guy who went nuts. I knew deep down that wasn’t the case, but I wanted to believe it- so I did. I didn’t mention the dreams to her. The first incident happened in the kitchen after a fairly ordinary day at work. I had made a good first impression on a potential investor who had come by the office to take a look around. I was cooking dinner to celebrate. I don’t remember exactly what I was making, probably some type of gluten-free lasagna. I was cutting tomatoes for the sauce when I felt it. My right hand and arm locked up like a machine with its gears stuck. My hand was clamped onto the knife so hard I could see all of the veins popping out of my forearm. I couldn’t move any part of my arm and the more I tried the harder my grip became. When my arm finally came loose, my hand went numb and I dropped the knife. It didn’t last long, maybe 30 seconds or so but it was definitely a little concerning. I thought I had just had a minor heart attack or seizure, or gone through some type of muscle spasms. Either way, it wasn’t something I could shake off so I went to the doctor to get checked out. He put me on Cyclobenzaprine, some type of oral muscle relaxer, and I went home satisfied.
The next episode was more discrete. A few weeks after my arm had locked up, I was starting to feel…weird. It wasn’t a negative, or malevolent weird, but everyone has those days where they just feel a bit off- distant perhaps; just not themselves. I was feeling like that almost every day. It was something that I could hide though so I carried on. That wasn’t the only strange thing happening internally though. I wasn’t sleeping. At all. I would lie down after a long day, completely exhausted, and just stare at the ceiling, for hours. It was maddening. I wanted to sleep so badly, but my mind wouldn’t let me. I had to start taking heavy doses of Ambien just to get a few hours of sleep. I was also having trouble focusing at work. My mind would drift for extended periods of time but I wasn’t zoning out. Just zoning in on something else. Something sinister, and I couldn’t stop it. Even though I know it’s not my fault, it’s hard for me to admit to what I was imagining. My daydreams began to take over my day. The more I tried to focus on work, the faster I slipped into one of these hypnotic nightmares. They weren’t nightmares, however. They were fantasies. Just not mine.
Soon after, I began to get these impulses, terrible urges to do things. Things I would never think of actually doing. I could feel something happening to me. Something was slowly absorbing into my every being. A cold detachment borrowing into my soul that I couldn’t stop. A cancer. Every day got worse and worse. The fantasies grew darker and the impulses grew stronger. The Ambien was no longer forcing me to sleep, and my limbs would lock up on a daily basis. There was never a “eureka” moment. There was never anything concrete. He doesn’t show himself or ever boldly acknowledge his power. I know He’s there though. And I know He’s in control.
I started fighting with Natalie- little tedious arguments at first, like not wanting to talk or getting upset over little things. Things we never would have fought about before. But then they started to get intense. All out screaming matches about things so senseless I can’t even remember. I loved Natalie, but He hated her. So I hated her. She knew something was wrong, and I tried to tell her what I was feeling, but it was impossible. We didn’t have any more conversations. We couldn’t without arguing. I even tried writing it down- tell her what I was going through. Every time I began to write, my hand seized up. I tried to fight it off but just ended up with hundreds of papers with dark, aggressive scribbling. Please believe me when I tell you, there was nothing I could do.
Natalie left me 4 months after that day in the park. He drove away the one thing I loved most in this world, in 4 months. I also stopped going to work and subsequently lost my job. It was a good thing they fired me. I would have just held them back. Everything I had once cherished in my life was gone and I had nothing left and nothing to look forward to. A year passed. The urges were growing stronger everyday and it was getting harder and harder to fight them off. I would drive by people walking on the sidewalk and my steering hand would start to slide to the right before I could snap out of it and pull the car back. I would imagine throwing people off the buildings in the city. And not just throwing them off, but standing there, watching them fall to their death. I once almost took a child by the neck in the grocery store and screamed in his face. It was a full time job trying to control myself.
It’s kind of relieving I don’t need to do that anymore.
On February 16th, I tried to kill myself. I had had enough. I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and attempted to slit my wrists. As you can imagine, my effort was blocked. My arm seized up, and without my consent, placed the knife back on the counter. I screamed, “Please! Let me do this! I can’t fight anymore…” My screaming turned to sobbing as I collapsed to the floor, “Why did you pick me? Who are you?” Of course, there was no response. This was the first time my body did something besides seize up. It calmly placed the knife back down. Like I was watching someone else’s arm do it. It was terrifying. A searing pain on my back followed, like someone burning me with a cattle prod. I would have sworn there was going to be a large, welting burn, but upon further inspection, there was nothing on the outside of my skin. Before this, I hadn’t really thought of what He was capable of doing. I still don’t now for sure, but that day I did come to a sudden realization- that I couldn’t even kill myself. If I die, He dies. I was trapped. And He was getting stronger.
That was the only logical rationale. Why else wouldn’t he just take over and use my body as a human puppet? It’s because He can’t- at least not at first. He’s like quicksand. Once you step in, you begin to descend…slowly. You might not even realize what you’ve walked into yet. He slowly begins to absorb into you- into all your cracks and crevasses. When you finally comprehend what is happening, you begin to fight, squirming and writhing, trying to find any way to escape. But this only makes you sink faster, only makes Him stronger. He thrives on your struggle. And then, when your head is almost submerged, when is there is no hope for escape. He engulfs you- up until your last breath of oxygen runs out.
I was almost done fighting, and I could feel Him getting closer to submerging me. Every time I resisted- controlled an urge or opposed a command- I was burned. It got more and more intense every time. To the point where it didn’t feel like something was blistering my skin anymore, but burning something deeper than that. I could feel Him taking over my mind as well. I would black out for hours in a day, coming to in a different place and time than I had last remembered. This was the worst part. Not knowing what I did in those hours. I would watch the news in the morning, and see the murders. Could I have done this? I know I couldn’t have, but He most certainly could have.
During this time, I had only one solace- that Natalie got away from me as fast as she did. But 2 years into The Present, I heard a light knock on my door. As soon as I heard it, my heart sank. I didn’t want to open the door- didn’t want to let her back into this world. But I wanted to see her. I couldn’t help but think about our life before, and want it back. I wanted my life back, so I opened the door. Her beautiful green eyes were the first thing I saw. An innocence and cheerfulness I once took for granted. However, there was something else in her eyes this time. Fear. She was scared, I assumed of me, and the thing I had become. We waited there, and looked into each other’s eyes for a long time. I could tell she could see something in my eyes- something different. But then she started to talk… “The man in the park…” she trailed off. My mouth clamped shut before I could get a sound out. “The letter…” Oh my god. She knew. I started breathing heavy and my eyes got wide. And then she paused, as if deciding whether to say the next thing she was thinking of. “…Who am I talking to?” Yes Natalie! I couldn’t believe it. After all this time, she finally understood! I was so excited I just want to grab her and hug her. I don’t think this was the emotion I conveyed though because as she looked back into my eyes, she froze. I can only imagine what she saw in me. It was probably similar to what I saw in the man in park, but I’ll never know for sure. I tried to speak, move, anything! I tried as hard as I possibly could to break out of the body prison He trapped me in. And it was at this moment, that I was consumed. My head went under and I no longer had control. I was His.
I didn’t blackout. There was no burning. Unlike the other episodes where I lost control, I was completely conscious. I felt everything; I just wasn’t the one pulling the strings. Why was this time different? Why was He keeping me afloat? I realize now that this was my punishment. My punishment for disobeying- for fighting. I grabbed Natalie and pulled her inside. There was a look of shear terror on her once jubilant face, but she didn’t try to run. She just looked at me- looked in me. I like to think she believed there was a little piece of me still hanging on. Unfortunately there wasn’t. I threw her into the kitchen, grabbed the duct tape, and strapped her into one of the kitchen chairs she used to eat dinner in just a few years ago. Now she was fighting back, but it was too late. It felt like one of my daydreams where I was watching myself do these horrible things. Mercilessly and unforgiving. I grabbed a chair and put it in front of her, about 3 feet away, and sat down. I saw my reflection on the glass oven behind her. Inside I was screaming and sobbing, but on the outside I was cold and expressionless. I think we sat there for about 4-5 minutes, but I can’t be sure. I guess enough for her to stop screaming behind the duct tape. It was obvious she was giving up, and her head began to sink. As the sun was setting, a slight flare caught the kitchen knife and bounced into my eyes. Before I knew it, I was standing up in front of her with the knife in my hand. Her head raised and her eyes got wide. Then He did something so deviant and evil, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. He removed the duct tape from her mouth. She didn’t say anything at first. Her eyes were soaked from tears. Then I felt my hand begin to move. I didn’t look away though. I stayed fixed on her face, but I knew where it was going. The knife in my hand slowly slipped into Natalie’s side, and she let out a bloodcurdling scream. It had no power, but the desperation in it was horrifying. “Why are you doing this?! Daniel! Help me!” she begged. I tried as hard as I could to gain some type of control but there was nothing I could do. I just sat back down on the chair…and watched. Watched her dying. I couldn’t close my eyes or cover my ears. I remember everything she said. Every scream, every time she pleaded for her life. I hear it constantly.
On July 2nd, two years and 27 days after I became the Present, I killed my wife.
It’s been about a year since Natalie died. After she was gone, I all but gave up. I gave Him my body. I never fought. And then one day, He gave me your name. I didn’t hear a voice, it was not written anywhere in blood. I just knew. And I finally knew what He wants- what his purpose is. If He wanted a body, he could’ve had mine for as long as he wanted but He chose to release me and adopt you. He doesn’t want to live through us. He wants to destroy us- like a blackhole. Consuming, getting stronger, and leaving us as nothing. To be honest, I’m not sure why He’s letting me write this letter. Perhaps He wants you to know. Wants you to know what He’s capable of. To know there’s no escape. This letter will act as my resignation- my release. If you are reading this, you might be the Future, and may have just become the Present. If you feel Him- if you feel that malevolent compulsion tunneling through your mind, the quicksand creeping up your shins- don’t try to fight. It will be much easier.I’m sorry,