When I next woke up, I was in the same place they had taken me from.
I stood up as quickly as possible, brushing my arms and elbows from the dust that had gathered around. Dizziness engulfed me due to the sudden action and I tried my best to blink the annoying sensation away.
For a second it all felt like it had been a figment of my imagination. As though I had been sucked into an action novel and played my part before running into reality.
I took a look at my phone which I had clasped in my hand and took a look at the time.
6:58 P.M, it read.
Still lingering in a state of confusion, I took a quick glance at my wrists which had been stinging for quite a while now.
And there it was.
My confirmation that it had really happened.
There was a line drawn across my wrist, almost as though I had tried to cut myself. The red grabbed all the attention and decorated my wrist into a rough, raw, and scratchy display of pain.
I quickly lifted my ankles up and found that the same mess had been done to those too.
I gulped, trying to calm my breathing down.
It’s okay, Sam.
Oh my gosh. This is evidence. I need to go to the police.
I ran in the direction of a cab when a thought struck me.
But those people did say they were watching my moves.
And what if the police discard me like the last time? What if they declare me to be suicidal? I didn’t do this like that. They can’t do that to me.
But what if they do..?
And mom, dad...
Oh my god. Mom and dad.
I rushed through my contacts and called mom up, tapping my foot on the ground impatiently as I waited for her to pick up.
“Come on, mom. Pick up the phone,” I whispered to no one in particular. The fear in my voice said enough about how much I was panicking about the whole situation.
“Hello?” a voice came in after a few moments of the ringtone sounding.
“Mom!” I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard her familiar voice. “How are you? Are you good? Is everything fine back home?”
“Sam! How are you, darling? Of course, everything’s fine here. Is there something wrong, darling. You seem worried.”
“It must be the stress of college catching up with me,” I let out a meek laugh to cover up my terrorized state.
“You take care of yourself, sweetie.”
“I will, mom. You take care of dad and yourself too.”
“That we will. Okay, now tell me what you want me to cook for you when you’re here. I was just discussing it with your dad. I’m glad you called. Now we can talk to you directly about this very, very crucial issue.”
“When I’m there? Mom, what do you mean?”
“Uh, darling? Is everything okay? I’m getting a little worried here. Remember? You called up yesterday. You told us you were coming back home and that you needed an urgent break from college for your mental health.”
“My mental health? Yesterday?”
“Yeah. For a second I was extremely concerned about you. But then I had a talk with your therapist and she told me you probably needed it,” she took a small pause as she noticed the confusion laced in my voice. “Do you not remember? Sam, are you feeling well? The other day you’d cut my call abruptly and now this. Are you sure you’re faring well?”
“Uh. . .yeah, mom,” I replied, distracted. “When did I say I was coming again?”
There was a silent pause as my mom took a deep breath, probably confused at the absurdity of my question. “You said you’d be here by tomorrow morning, darling. Look, if there’s any problem whatsoever, I can send Charles to go get you right now. He can talk with the officials at your university. He’ll take care of it.”
“No, no, mom. I’ll be there tomorrow morning,” I tried to smile for the sake of my mom, but miserably failed.
“As you say, darling. If you need anything though. Absolutely anything. We’re the first people you’re calling. You hear me?”
“Yes, mom. See you later.”
“You still didn’t tell me what you want me to cook for you--”
“I’m sure whatever you’d make would be great. Don’t stress on it too much.”
“Okay then, darling. Bye!”
As soon as the call ended, the seriousness of this situation dawned upon me.
I never called, mom! And it had apparently been a day since I had been gone. What had they injected me with? My stomach grumbled in hunger, but I had no appetite for food. Taking a deep breath, I tried to push my thoughts aside and hoped for everything to turn out well.
I tried to stop my hands from trembling as I waited for a cab to go back to the university.
But, unfortunately, my mind and my heart were two different things. As my mind told me to keep a brave front and act as a shield, my heart begged otherwise, searching for shelter in the cold, dark winter.
“Cecilia!” I tried to sound as enthusiastic as she was and forced a smile on my face.
“How was your visit to your cousin’s?”
“My cousins. . .” I slowly registered.
“Yeah. . . you called us up yesterday and told us you were spending the day at your cousin’s?” I unconsciously tugged at my sleeves to cover up the evidence of whatever yesterday was. A short unfortunate abduction? Is that what I would have to call it?
My hands flew to my face when I realized I had been punched too. There most definitely was a bruise. But if there was, Ceci would have reacted to it. . . then why. . ?
I held my curiosity back until I could get to the bottom of whatever the hell was going on. They clearly set everything up pretty cunningly. It brought goosebumps onto my arms. I wasn’t dealing with some amateurs trying to kidnap me.
This was way bigger than that.
And these people seemed to know what they were doing.
How did they even get my voice? Mom would have recognized anyone other than me.
I clenched my fists and tried to gulp down my visible fright away.
“Sam, are you good? You look a little pale.”
“I’m good, yeah. Just a little flu I caught back at my cousin’s, that’s it.”
“Oh. Do I get you some medicine? How about a Panadol?”
“No, it’s alright. I just-- I just need to use the washroom for a bit. Excuse me for a minute, will ya?”
“Sure. Take your time,” she gave out one of her warm smiles yet again.
I hastily locked myself in the bathroom and took deep breaths to calm myself down. I took a quick look and found myself somehow with makeup on. I almost let out a laugh of disbelief. They thought through every step.
This one was to hide my bruise. They kept the makeup light to make things less suspicious. Wonderful.
And I mean they obviously are sending me back home so I can figure out whatever ‘evidence’ they’d been going on and on about. For people who did some crazy planning like this, I was questioning their intelligence. If they’d been stalking me for years, they’d probably know that I have no clue about this.
I mean, I barely even knew this existed. If I did, I wouldn’t have spent a second of my life not looking for it. That evidence is the only justice to my brother’s death.
And those people would have to go to hell and come back before I gave it to them.
If anything, they only made the biggest mistakes of their lives telling me about it.
I cleared my head and walked out.
Act normal. Keep a clear head. You don’t know who’s watching.
The thought creeped me out, but I tried to calm my nerves down.
Deep breaths, Sam.
“All set to leave tomorrow?”
“Kind of,” I replied, scratching the back of my neck. “I just need to pack my things right now and leave at 4 in the morning by a bus going there.”
“Oh, alright,” she said, going back to her studies. “I’ll leave you to it.”
I flashed her a small smile and got to packing. I packed enough for a week in my backpack. I didn’t know how long I was going to be there. Packing for a week seemed the most logical way to be on the safe side.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t sleep that night. I remained rooted to my bed, not daring to leave my room alone after what had happened earlier before.
And when it was three and my eyes were burning from the lack of sleep they were getting, I pushed myself up and got going.
“Two days,” his voice rang in my head.
“Hey, mom.” A genuine smile broke out on my face as I took in her appearance.
“OH MY GOSH! SAM, I MISSED YOU SO MUCH, DARLING!” she engulfed me in a hug.
“Oof,” I exclaimed as she caught me by surprise. When she started rocking me from side to side, I let out a chuckle. “Mom, you can let go now.” I laughed.
“Kiddo!” dad rounded the corner, pushing my mom off me and hugging me instead. My mom gasped and glared at him, but there was a hint of playfulness in them.
“Dad!” I said right back in the same tone he did as he ruffled and messed my hair up.
“Okay, now that’s enough the two of you. Can’t you see how tired she looks? Oh, my poor baby. I told you to get her. She wouldn’t have had to travel at 4 A.M. in the morning then,” she scolded my dad.
He rolled his eyes at her and turned to me. “Your poor baby knows she can call her dad anytime she needs. I trust her enough to know that if she didn’t call me, everything would be fine.” He was doing it again. He was scrutinizing me and looking right through me. I squirmed as a pang of guilt hit me right in my stomach.
Was I doing the right thing?
Because I wanted to scream out how someone had abducted in the middle of the night. I wanted to scream out how I had been threatened. I wanted to scream out how much I those bruises really hurt. I wanted to scream out how I wanted those people to leave us alone for once and forever. I wanted to scream out how absolutely tired I was from everything and everything in general.
But I wouldn’t if it brought them in even more danger. Even if it was the tiniest bit.
My mom smiled at me proudly which only made the feelings that were residing in me stir and give rise to more guilt. “Now let her rest. I’m sure she must be awfully tired.”
“Yup, off she goes. Oh, and by the way, sweetie. All the boys really miss you.”
“I miss them too,” I smiled. “Have the lot of them left?”
“Yeah. The house feels empty now. All of you gone just makes everything so. . .quiet.”
I let out a laugh. “Very true.”
“Those dark circles under your eyes scream to me to tell me to let you off, so that is exactly what I’m going to do. Go take a quick shower or something and catch up on some sleep, sweetie. We’ll disturb you after you’re freshened up.”
“Okay, dad,” I replied in a meek voice and head up to my room.
Not my dorm. My room. It felt like ages already.
I went upstairs with a soft, nostalgic smile on my face. My room looked the same as ever. Although, it looked awfully clean. And of course, untouched. Just like Seb’s was.
The mention of Seb’s room was enough to make a chill run down my back.
And with the chill came a pile of unpleasant memories I’d been trying to suppress all this time. I pushed it down to the bottom of my chest for a while to allow myself to breathe. To allow myself to push away the blanket of suffocation I’d been wearing.
But, of course, to no avail.
I inched towards Seb’s room, the memories hitting me hard. How I’d run up the stairs for him. Two stairs at a time, I remembered. How I’d first gone to my room, and then. . .his. How I’d found my brother. How I’d come to the garage the happiest I’d been in a while, and how I left it crying my heart out as life came out of the shadows and took away the person I’d loved the most.
The memories were so vivid that my head was almost replaying all the scenes as they happened. It felt like a movie. A horror movie. One that I desperately wanted out of my head.
But this time I had no choice but to relive them. Sleeping was a choice. A choice I usually, or subconsciously, avoided due to exactly this. However, this time round, I had less of a choice. I needed the so-called “evidence”.
And I needed it before it was too late.
My eyes flickered to the ceiling unconsciously and scanned it for any cameras. But then I scoffed at myself. They wouldn’t be that stupid to put a camera that big in plain sight. If they were big, they were hidden. And if they weren’t big, well. . . we’d need loads and loads of luck to stumble upon them.
I grabbed Seb’s room’s keys from the vase on top of a table. We kept his room locked ever since. . .the incident. We couldn’t leave this house. And we couldn’t face his room either. It only reminded us of the injustice he received. So, the best thing to do after those dumb, useless investigations had been to lock it.
I picked his room’s keys and brought it near the keyhole. The first one I tried didn’t click open; however, when I attempted to shakily open the room with the second one that was hanging in the bunch, it worked like a charm.
Seb’s room was, like I expected, untouched.
Don’t look at the floors, I chanted in my head.
Don’t look at the floors.
Everything’s fine. Don’t look at the floors.
I was scared. Terrifed even. So terrified that I could feel my heart making its way out of my chest. The floors were the main problem. That was where the majority of my nightmares lied. And that was the one horror scene of my movie that I could never bring myself to face with my eyes open again.
Never, ever again.
Keeping my head up and avoiding the floor at all costs, I ran to his bed. I very carefully pulled the pillows up from their normal location and scanned for any notes, USB’s, CD’s, DVD’s or pictures. Evidence could be in any form. I even threw his sheets open. A familiar scent hit my nose and I almost heard myself complaining about how much deodorant he used when he was with us.
Funny how the smallest things stick to you when life throws it’s trump cards at you and changes by a complete 360.
I scuttered over to his desk in the hope of finding something. Anything.
Anger ran in my veins when I remembered how the investigation team found Seb’s suicide note here. When Seb didn’t suicide, how and why had he written a note?
Was it because of their threatenings? No, Seb would never do that.
Maybe it was because their threatenings involved our parents and me? Of course. I should’ve known better. We shared the same personalities too. Like brother, like sister.
As my fingers ran over his high school textbooks and pens, I wondered how it would be if we both had graduated. He would have wanted to go to photography and I would’ve been in my dream university. The one that offered a scholarship to me.
My life would’ve been so much more different. I’d be on a professional football team.
And I could imagine Seb turning into one of the most fantastic photographers of all time and--
Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of that before?!
The excitement I had for finding a potential clue to the evidence got stuck in my throat as I recalled where Sebastian’s camera was usually kept.
In his side table’s bottom drawer. Which meant I had to look down.
My feet slowly slid backward as I found myself unready for this. And before I knew it, I was tripping over my own feet. And although I caught myself of time, I didn’t really catch myself on time to prevent it.
My eyes trailed over to the ground and I gulped. Blood trails were everywhere.
It’s only your mind playing tricks with you. It’s a hallucination. Nothing more, Sam.
Ignore it and it’ll go.
I wish it was as easily done as it was said.
I also wish I could’ve stopped myself. I wish I could’ve stopped myself from following the imaginary trail of blood with my eyes.
Despite being able to see only the wooden floor, I had flashes of Sebastian lying there.
He was right there. . .
My chin trembled as one drop of water made its way from my eyes onto the floor where it blended in with the blood.
I extended my hand to help him out, but he disappeared as fast as he had appeared.
Without thinking of much, I quickly ran across the room trying my best to block out the crazy world of imaginations my mind had trapped me into and grabbed the camera.
Barely giving the room a glance back, I ran out the door and fumbled with the keys as I struggled to lock it. Trying to make sure mom and dad would never know what happened, I quickly dropped the keys into the same vase and ran into my room with the camera in my hand.
For a minute or two, I tried to regain my breath. I almost felt a panic attack coming, but I bravely pulled myself out of it.
Then, I finally sat on the bed.
The idea that there could be cameras watching entered my mind as I did so. I sat up straighter and more alert.
Quickly I turned the camera on, which luckily had enough battery for me to look into it and I pressed the gallery button.
My stomach sank as I stared into its empty gallery. Without any pictures. Not a single trace of it.
I was sure there was something in here.
I was so sure.
He loved his photography so much that there was no way he’d be so deep into trouble without the camera aiding him in one way or the other. And there was no way the gallery could’ve been empty. He took an embarrassing picture of me a week before the incident and he only backed those up on a monthly basis.
His camera had been tampered with too.
No, but something wasn’t right.
If those people had the evidence already, why were they pinning me and my parents? Why were they still behind them? What other evidence could there possibly be?
I looked the camera up and down but tried to be very discreet with my expressions. I was obviously missing something big here.
I’d decided that I would only showcase a confused face until the camera was out of my hands.
And when I was examining the camera, my eyes lingered on one specific area. The model number of the camera. It was a Canon 80D EOS. And Sebastian had carved an ‘S.’ right next to it. What if he was trying to get me to notice it?
What if. . . what if it was a code?
C was a 1 on the phone dial. A was a 1 again. N was a 5. It all made sense.
It felt like I had uncovered the sides of a piece of a puzzle. I kept my expressions and limited it to the confused and clueless faces of mine in the meanwhile. I still wasn’t a hundred percent sure about this one. And even if I were right, I was still missing the main part of this entire search. I was evading the bigger picture.
What was the code for?
Either way, It was just as important to deceive the camera as it was to find the evidence.
As the gears in my brain got to work, my eyes quickly lit up as a faint idea of where I could find the next clue.
The way this was going, my next clue would be somewhat related to football. But football was such a broad term.
Where would I start searching?
Or was there really something else I failed to notice?
HELLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! HOW ARE YOU ALL DOING!?!!!!! MY FELLOW PEOPLE!!!!
A LATE MERRY AND CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR! I HOPE 2019 BRINGS YOU ALL A LOT OF JOY AND HAPPINESS!
Now turning off the caps lock before I scare you guys away, I hope you guys are liking where this story is heading! I really do hope so. Because I’m having a blast writing it :)
I’d like to take a moment to apologize for the attrocious gramatic errors I make throughout the entirety of the chapter too. I know they’re crazy. Feel free to leave an inline comment whenever you feel there is something I can improve :D
I LOVE YOU GUYS TO THE MOON AND BACK AND UNTIL THE NEXT UPDATE! TOODLES, MY FELLOW MARTIANS!