I found it last week.
And its shaken me to my core.
My parents had just gone to the mall for a couple hours. So I was home alone. And what do kids do when they're home alone? They snoop. I guess I’m not really a kid anymore though. Sixteen is probably too old to be doing such childish things. I wasn't supposed to find it.
I went through my Dad’s drawers and played with his lighters. There was a Zippo with the logo of a golf course he used to take me to. I liked that one. I tried to find his gun- his BB gun. I knew where the ammo was, but I could never find the gun. He hid that well. My Mom didn't really have cool stuff. Just a bunch of purses and jewelry. I found her makeup drawer. Nothing interesting there. Eventually I found my way into their walk-in closet, which I’d been in before. We have a large house. Lots of hiding places. I was always the best at hide-and-seek. I remember hiding on the top shelf of one of our linen closets and covering myself with a blanket one time. I stayed in there for an hour before my Mom gave up.
There wasn't a lot of stuff in their closet. A bunch of my Dad’s jacket and dress shirts were hung on the right side and my Mom’s dresses and sweaters were hung up on the left. Their shoes were lined up neatly on the floor under their respective sides’ clothes. They didn't like when anything in the house got messy. And then there were the boxes. About ten of them piled on top of each other in the back. I had only looked in a few of them before this. The top ones used to be too tall for me so I had to grab a stool to look in them. Just some books and movies. I had never bothered looking in the other ones until now.
I started to unpile the boxes one by one, careful not to drop one in case something broke. They’d be very unhappy if they knew I was going through their stuff. I looked in each box as I took it off the pile. Some had more books, some had little trinkets and nick-knacks. One with “PAST” written on it contained a bunch of CDs. All labeled with different dates. Another had a bunch of wires and electronic gizmos. I smiled to myself thinking about my Dad being a nerd when he was a kid. The last box was in the bottom right corner. I had almost boxed myself in, by re-stacking them behind me. I pulled the lid off to reveal a piece of wood- 4x4, propped upward. Almost like it was there just to hold the other boxes stacked on top of it. I was going to start putting all the boxes back, disappointed that I hadn't found anything cool, until something caught my eye. I saw a small slit behind the last box after I had shifted it a little to the right. The box was hiding a small door. Tiny. Not large enough to crawl through. Inside, there was a VCR tape. We didn't even own a VCR anymore. It had my name written on it. “DREW.”
I had to wait until we went to my grandma’s house to watch the tape. They had a VCR for the basement TV. I didn't expect much. Probably just an old home movie of me driving my mini Jeep on Christmas. Or winning the kindergarten Olympics in Mrs. Keller’s class. Why would they hide it though? Why didn't they want me to see a dumb home movie.
The adults were talking in the living room like always. And I went to the basement to watch TV- like always. I had stuffed the VCR in my pants and wore a big hoodie so my parents couldn't see it. I popped it in the old VCR and hit play. This is what I saw:
It was me. Sitting in a room. A room I don't remember. It couldn't have been too long ago though as I looked only a few years younger than I do now. Thirteen maybe. I was sitting in a metal chair, behind a metal desk, not unlike the ones you see in interrogation rooms on TV. I couldn't figure out why I didn't remember this.
I heard people talking behind the camera.
“What’s your name, son?” I didn’t recognize the older gentleman’s voice.
My eyes were locked on the camera.
“Drew Williamson.” I said.
“Where do you live?” The voice asked.
“165 East Dover Rd, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.” I sounded so robotic. It sent a chill up my spine.
“Who are your parents?”
I paused and looked away from the camera to whoever was behind it.
“Who are your parents, Drew?” The voice asked again. I looked back into the camera.
“Tyler and Janice Williamson.”
There was a pause and I could hear a breath let out from behind the camera.
“Okay Drew, that will be all. I’m going to have a word with your parents and then you’ll be able to go home. Agent Taylor can you take Drew to the waiting room?”
A man in a suit came from behind the camera and led me out of the room. I shot a quick glance back at the camera, a look I’ve never seen in the mirror before, and the door closed behind me.
The older gentleman continued.
“Congratulations Mr. Williamson, Mrs. Williamson.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” I recognized that voice. It was my Dad’s.
“The hardest part is over. The Acceptance Stage is more difficult for older candidates. We’ll take him to the Memory Room now and complete the Clearing Stage. All we have to do then is Implementation and you’ll have your son.”
“Wonderful. I can’t wait.” I recognized a new voice. My Mom.
“Great. Let’s get to it then.” The older man said. Then the screen went black.
I just sat there. Trying to keep myself from going insane. I didn't know what to do. I didn’t know what to think. I didn't remember any of what I had just seen. Did I get into an accident or something? Was that a scripted play we were acting out? I grasped for anything that could explain the tape. I didn't have to wait much longer to get an answer.
The VCR had kept rolling. The black screen was solid. But then the video came back on. It was me again. This time crouching in front of the camera. My face was taking up most of the screen.
“Hello…Drew, I guess. They think I’m in the bathroom, but I just needed to say this, in case…” I trailed off. “In case, you ever find this. You're not who you think you are. Your name is not Drew Williamson. You don’t live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. And Tyler and Janice are not your parents.”
I was inches from the TV at this point, hanging on my every word.
“I’m not exactly sure where I’m at but the people here- they’ve done things to me. I’ve seen other kids fight, and they don’t come back. So I’m not going to fight in hopes that you’ll find this eventually. I hope that you believe me. They’re doing something big here. I can't remember how I got here, but I know my family is looking for me. I just know it. I don’t have much time so here are the basics: your name is Parker Hudson, you live in Ashland, Oregon, and your parents are Bryan and Paige Hudson. You used to climb the tree in your backyard, and you fell when you were six and broke your collarbone. You love baseball, and your favorite player is Felix Hernandez. If you ever find this, if you have a car, get in it and drive. Come find me. Come find yourself.”
The screen went black, and the tape stopped.
I don’t know what to do right now. I’ve been at home with my mom and dad- At least I think they’re my mom and dad, for two days since I’ve seen the tape. I can’t sleep. I just keep replaying the tape in my head. Memory Room. Clearing Stage. Parker Hudson. The name pulled at my brain. It sounded familiar. Like that actor you can’t place in a movie. Had I ever hid in the linen closet during hide-and-seek? Did I get a mini Jeep for Christmas? What did we do with that thing? Did I even win the kindergarten Olympics in Mrs. Keller’s class? I’m not sure anymore. The memories seem distant now. Like a story told to me by someone else. I’m not sure who Parker Hudson is. Or what’s in Ashland, Oregon.