A man is awoke by a strange call. He quickly realizes that he cant out run his past.
By Luis Padilla
"I'm not quite sure about life after death, God knows i have never been a spiritual man,
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river that is running through the promised land"
“Dan, do you remember?”
A soft unfamiliar voice came from the other line.
“Who is this?” I asked. My head pounded and my eyes struggled to adjust to the dark.
I reached over to my night stand and grabbed the water bottle that sat near my alarm clock.
My alarm clock read 3:36.
“Dan, Dan do you remember?”
“Sure, I remember lots of things. But, none that I can recall at 3:30 in the morning. Now tell me, who is this and what do you want?”
My heart jumped out of my chest as the wind picked up. The television was on but muted.
I left it on every night. It was my last line of defense against the night and the terror of darkness.
Nothing interesting was on the screen, just an old man sitting on a plain oak desk. His wrinkled face was vaguely familiar with a grin from ear to ear.
“Dan, Dan do you remember me now?” The voice once again spoke, breaking the iron grip that the television held on my attention.
“Look buddy, I don’t know who you are. Or what you want. But if you don’t spit it out and soon,
I am going to have to hang up.” I listened intently expecting to hear a response. I received none. So I brought my eyes back to The TV. The Camera had panned revealing the rest of the old man. He looked so familiar. He wore a black cotton sweatshirt that read, ‘Rhode Island’ and in his left hand he held a red phone. I assumed the phone was cordless, as I saw no base in which it connected too.
“Dan, do you remember me now?”
I gasped and reached beside me struggling to find the remote. I pressed the power button.
Nothing happened. “What the hell…what is this?”
“Do you remember me now?”
“Look, stop. I don’t know you. What do you want with me?”
“I only want to show you a movie, a reality based film per say.”
My eyes were wide in terror. The old man just stared at me. His gaze maniacal, his grin sinister.
Only something was different. He was no longer holding the red phone. It was floating in the air.
His hands were now stretched out. Both of his pointer fingers were pointing at the camera. Pointing at me! Suddenly the camera panned out and went black, but only for a second. The TV came back only this time a teen in black was on the screen. Not the old man.
“What is this?” I pinched myself, this had to be a dream. Suddenly the screen flashed back.
“This is no dream Dan,” the old man’s grin grew as he spoke. “Do you remember me now?”
As the teen returned on the screen, I realized the awful truth. Tonight my TV would not be
fighting the terror of the dark. No, tonight it would be supplying it.
“How about now Dan, do you remember me now?”
“Who are you?”
“Oh you know me, and if you don’t. You will.”
“Sorry you must have the wrong number and the wrong Dan. Now I kindly ask,
please stop haunting my TV Mr. Ghost. I am telling you, I don’t know you.”
“Oh your comedy won’t get you far, as you will soon see. But I’ll do as you wish, for now.
I promise to get off your screen for a little while. Besides I’m not the star of this film, you are.”
The blue screen turned black then tiny white letters appeared. “Remember me,” a film by Dan Champlain.
There I was in all of my teenage glory. I was alone walking through Glen Bridge Park. It was obvious that I was on my way to school. My back pack slung over my shoulder. I was most likely running late, hell I was always late. I would have shaved Ten minutes from my walk if I chose to walk the main street. But if I had, I would most likely come Into contact with other kids. And that was a huge no-no. Other kids didn’t like me. And who can blame them? What was I wearing? I looked like a cross between Candy Raver and Emo Goth. My blue jeans were way to long. The bottoms were ripped from being dragged on the ground. My white rebook sneakers where littered with Immature Chicken scratch. Everything from “Sick of it all” to “25 Ta life” where scrawled on the body of my sneakers. My black hoody was so drab, musty, and my hair was a mess. My whole aura seemed forced, and contrived.
“Okay I get it, I never was suave. But what does this all mean?” I thought, ‘Where is this going?’ I waited for a response, but got none. So, I continued to watch the screen.
The scene had changed. I was now sitting in the back of a crowded classroom. My 7th grade math teacher, Mr. Flemings, stood at the head of the class. His black face was filled with a look of impatience as he cleared his throat.
“Mr. Champlain what on earth are you doing”?
The camera panned back to me in the last row. I could see that I had a pen in hand. I was writing, but not on notebook paper. No, I was scribbling into my math book. I barely noticed his question; in fact, I seemed completely impervious to my surroundings.
“Mr. Champlain may I remind you that you are now defacing school property. Now I suggest that you put down that pen, unless you want your mother to get a nice bill from the state.”
My teenage self just continued to scribble in the book. Without lifting my head I said, “So what’s it to me, just teach the class. I’m not bothering anybody.”
Mr. Flemings took his glasses off, shook his head in disgust and said, “That’s where you’re wrong Mr. Champlain; you may not be bothering us. But, you sure are being disruptive to yourself, and your future. Believe it or not, life doesn’t end in this classroom. The choices that you make here will haunt you for the rest of your life.”
I ignored him and kept my head down writing away with out a care in the whole world.
The man reappeared on the screen. “Do you remember what you wrote, Dan? I do. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was there.”
“Whoa, are you telling me that you’re the ghost of Mr. Flemings? Or perhaps a class mate who suffered from the same disease that ‘Jack’ had?”
“I am neither; let’s just say that I am an admirer who watched you from afar.”
“Look, I don’t care who you are. It’s four am. Can we hurry up and finish this? I am so dreadfully tired.”
The man paused and his smile stretched further.
“As you wish Dan, let’s continue.”
The screen blinked back on, showing me alone in a dark building. I lay asleep on a heap of old newspaper and dust. I knew where I was, ‘Looped Ally’. ‘Looped Ally’ was not an ally but an old potato factory. My friend’s and I used to go there and smoke weed and drink during the day. Sometimes, I would spend the night alone there. I was on a serious wayward binge during that part of my life. Often running away for weeks on end. I never really had a reason to, but I did anyway. I guess I was just being a rebel for rebel’s sake.
I watched as my teenage self just slept, exposed to whatever wacko decided to take refuge in the potato factory that night. Suddenly, I awoke. I stumbled in the darkness for a moment. Then without reason or forethought, I ran into a closet by the entrance of the factory. The camera panned to the entrance. The front door burst open. Oh my, I can remember this day like it was yesterday. I had been sleeping when something woke me up and told me to seek refuge in the closet. Which I did. I can remember the horror that I felt when I heard the front door open and someone walk into the factory. I always felt that maybe the hand of God had been on me that day. I often pondered who or what walked into the factory that lonely night. And now…I knew.
I watched in amazement as a cop holding a flashlight walked through the entrance. He sat on the floor in the center of the room. After a moment, he reached into his pant pocket and produced a syringe. I couldn’t believe my eyes; surely this was a cruel joke. I watched in awe as the officer rolled up his left sleeve and stuck the needle into a bulging vein in his arm. The heroin caused him to utter a low groan. His body slumped as the drug spread.
The familiar face of the old man resurfaced on the screen. His eyes wide with excitement, he said, “Wow what a rush huh? I bet you always wondered who walked through that door.”
“Yes I did, and I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Oh really, who were you expecting?”
“I don’t know. Sadistic bums, a convicted rapist, hell, maybe even a mutated monster. But never in my wildest dreams would I have expected that.”
“He would have killed you, ya know. Would have shot you dead if he had known you were there. But, I persuaded him not to; I was the one who told you to go into the closet.”
“Gee thanks, I guess I owe you one.”
“Oh yes, you do. But don’t worry about it. I needed you alive. We still had business to attend to.”
“Business? What kind of business? What on earth are you talking about buddy?” I asked.
“Oh come on Dan, your killing me here…After all this time and you still don’t remember? Well you better start thinking and figure it out soon. I don’t know how much more of this film I can take.”
With that, my teenage self-reappeared on the screen. I was covered in vomit, naked, and passed out in a shower. The steam in the bathroom had fogged the mirror by the sink. Someone used their finger to trace “Do you remember me” into the surface of the steam condensed mirror. I could only guess that it was my midnight visitor, this was one of the scariest moments of my life. I remember the shower like it was yesterday. The day started off with me bunking school. I met my friend Darren at his house and together we walked to Andrews’s apartment. We never liked Andrew that much. But, his parents had a hardly used, yet fully stocked bar.
I remember taking an empty kool aid jug and filling it the top with every liquor possible. A quarter of the ways filled with Southern comfort, a third of Jack Daniels, a pinch of Gin, and a hell of a lot of scotch. We left Andrews house just as quickly as we came. I finished half of the jug by time we returned to Darren’s house. I was only fifteen. So needless to say, I was in that shower in hardly any time at all.
I watched as my teenage self was awakened by a loud knock on the bathroom door. “One minute.” My feeble attempt of a sentence was cut short by a violent vomiting fit.
“Are you ok Dan?”
The voice was that of Mary, Darren’s cool and lenient mother. “Dan are you alright? I’m concerned. Darren says you’ve been drinking.”
She once again knocked on the door. I tried to say that I was alright. But I couldn’t even convince myself that I was.
She knocked again only this time more loudly. “Dan I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve called your Mother. She is on the way.”
With that, my stomach hurt. A feeling of despair entered into my heart. This day was all too familiar. A day that I had visited many times since. I was beginning to see where this was going. And I did not like it. No, I didn’t like it one bit.
The man returned on the screen only this time his hair was disheveled, his grin seemed more forced than usual, and his eyes were showing hints of redness.
“How bout we play a little game Dan? This film is utterly boring. The story is so naïve, it’s pathetic. Your rebellion for rebel’s sake is so cliché.”
“Game? What kind of game?”
“Oh, it’s fun one Dan. It’s also quite simple really. If you don’t remember who I am, and soon, I’m coming through this screen. And believe you me; you don’t want that to happen.”
The man stared into the screen for a second. Then he returned to the seat behind the desk. I noticed for the first time that he was barefoot. As he placed his hands behind his head and plopped his feet onto his desk; the red phone floated by his right ear.
“Hey watch this. It’s a trip.” The remote suddenly jerked its way out of my grasp. It flew out of my hand then stopped in suspended animation above my bed. The remote took aim at my television. Then with the sped of a bullet, it plunged into the screen where the man with the red phone fielded it without breaking a sweat.
“Now let’s see if this can redeem itself, shall we?”
With that he smiled and pressed play. I watched as my drunken walked into my room. I punched a hole into the mold stained bedroom wall. Bits of dry wall swan dived onto my green carpet.
“Go ahead punch another one into it why don’t ya?” My enraged mother yelled from down the hall. She was right; at least four holes adorned the walls of my cluttered room. I shudder looking at my teenage angst utopia.
“This is your fault ma!” I screamed, as my teenage frame crumbled into my bed in a sobbing fit. I listened for my mother’s response. If she had responded, I didn’t hear it over my sobbing.
“Your right, this all does seem a bit contrived. What is the point of this all?”
His blank eyes returned only this time he was close, really close. “Oh you will see, but I have a feeling that you already know where this is going.”
My stomach sank. He was right. I knew all to well where this was going. For years I have been plagued by this very scene, wondering if it was real.
“No! Surely this is not happening. It can’t be. I don’t believe it. God dammit, do you hear me? I don’t believe it.”
The old man just stared with his creepy smile. Then, out of his right hand came a crumbled piece of paper. It sailed through the screen and hit me square in the eye.
“Now shut up already. Besides, the movie is almost over.”
I noticed that the paper had a red smear inside of it. But I dare not open it. I laid on my bed listening to Metallica. I looked so tired and hurt. But most of all, I looked young and drunk. My eyes were red and my hair flung to and fro. On my cluttered desk lay a green five subject notebook.
“Don’t know!” I screamed from my bed. But my teenage self couldn’t hear me.
I stumbled over to the notebook, sitting down awkwardly onto my yellow chair by the desk.
“Come on I was just a kid, surely you can see that?”
“My God I was only fourteen, fifteen at the most.”
Still no response, no grins from the television screen. On the television screen, the image of my former self was scribbling away on a piece of notebook paper. I turned away from the screen in fright. I glimpsed the crumpled up paper beside me; it was shaking and slowly unfolding itself on my blue comforter.
“No!” I screamed into the air.
I turned back to the television just in time to watch my former self grab a knife and cut my finger open. Producing a steady stream of blood.
“Stop it! Stop it now!” I screamed at the image in vain. I could not hear myself. I watched in horror as my former self traced my name onto the paper. Signing it with blood.
“Hey, look at the paper. Read it for me will ya?”
The man reappeared, only this time he was in a white room.
“No, I won’t. I already know what it says. I refuse to read that godforsaken paper.”
“You will or I’m coming in there Dan.”
Suddenly, the paper flew onto my face and hovered there.
“Read it! Read it now Dan.”
I had no choice; I silently began to read the note.
“I, Dan Champlain sell my soul to Satan. All I want in return is to be alone.”
And on the bottom of the note was my signature, in blood. The paper then burst into flames and disintegrated.
“Well, I guess you now know who I am. But, what the hell, I’m coming through anyway.”
Word count: 2893