I found "The Box" while rummaging through Mom's old stuff. She was a pack rat, always hanging on to everything. Clinging to all the pictures and memories that she knew were fading from her grasp. It's late, 11:00 pm, and I'm exhausted. I've been here all day sorting through Mom's things. 2014 has been a horrible year, and Mom's death makes life seem almost unbearable. I have to go home and get some much needed sleep. But curiosity has got the best of me, so I promise myself to take a quick look in the box before heading home.
I knew Mom was going to pass away sometime in the near future. At the age of seventy-eight, she had been battling Alzheimer's and a heart condition for quite some time now. I thought I was prepared for her passing, but obviously nothing can prepare you for that dreadful phone call. And I found myself over come with unbearable heartache, hurt and sorrow. It was always just Mom and Me. I didn't know much about my Father, except that he had passed away in a motorcycle accident when I was young. So I was in the dark dreary apartment drowning in my grief and sorrow alone.
Mom insisted on living on her own until the end. She wanted to pass in the comforts of her own home. I couldn't blame her, so I accommodated her the best that I could. She was fully capable of feeding and bathing herself. It was just her memory that would wander off into the dark recesses of her mind. She'd sometimes forget to take her medicine. But between my daily visits, combined with the nurse's visits, we were able to monitor it, along with Mom's condition.
It was agonizing and painful to see Mom struggle with recognizing me. You could see it on her face, like it was on the tip of her tongue, but her mind was a stubborn one, refusing to let her access the vault of our wonderful memories our lives contained.
It was during these times that Mom would start to ramble on about her adventures from the future. How she met the love of her life, my father, in December 2009, and they had married shortly there after. Four years later, she explained, she met the second love of her life, myself, when I was born. She spoke of these events in a precise manner. As if it had just happened, the memories burning fresh in her mind. No fogginess. Clear and concise.
I would gently remind Mom that the year was 2014, and Dad had passed away a long time ago. She would look at me shocked, insisting my Father was still alive. That he would sometimes come and visit her. I tried to make her understand that what she was saying couldn't possibly be true. That would mean I wasn't even born yet. She'd just reply, "I know dear, and I am so sorry," as tears streamed down her face. I would blame these stories on her condition, and would try to comfort her.
But now, with Mom gone, as I sit in the middle of her living room floor, with the contents of "The Box" spilled all around me, I find myself stunned with disbelief. I feel the panic, anxiety, and confusion making its way through me, like a warm wave traveling up my body. I wish so dearly now that I had listened and paid closer attention to what my Mother was telling me. I wish I would have asked her more questions...
For within the contents of the box I find a local court marriage certificate with both my parent's names on it, dated for Saturday, June 19th, 2010. It has the legal seal that can only be obtained through the court. There are several pictures of my young parents, smiling in their wedding attire, standing on the steps of the newly built City Hall. Some with Mom sitting on Dad's lap on the bench, or standing in the flowers. That's preposterous! Mom was seventy-four years old in 2010! There must be some kind of mistake!
There is no question that this was a legitimate licensed Marriage Certificate. My mind is racing. I can't wrap my head around it. This is impossible, but yet, there it was. Colorful pictures of my young parents right there in front of City Hall. The very same City Hall that I walk by every single day on my way to work! The same landscaping, the same sidewalk, the same bench with the silly advertisement for the cheesy attorney promising to win millions if you've been wrongly injured by someone's negligence.
I quickly rummage through the remaining pictures and documents until my eyes settle on my original birth certificate. Looking over the official "Certificate of Live Birth" my eyes stop dead on the section that states "Date of Birth". It has tomorrow's date, at 7:20 am with the year 2014, for the actual year and time that I was born! Not possible! That would mean I'm not even born yet! I'm not alive?? What is happening? My mind can find no rational explanation. This must be some kind of sick joke! Who would do such a thing? Why?
It's now 11:45 pm, and exhaustion and anguish are taking over my body. Still shocked, confused, and angry, I gather up the documents to take home with me. I am now on a mission to get to the bottom of this. I will be at the court house first thing tomorrow morning. They need to fix these mistakes, and issue me new corrected documents.
Driving home, I see the local corner store, with "Alcohol" flashing in big red lights. Instantly I know a couple glasses of red wine will relax my mind and body, inviting the sleep I so desperately need. I take a parking spot next to the owners vehicle and head inside.
"Good Evening Dave," I holler to the owner who is standing behind the register, counting receipts, as I head over to the wine aisle. I'm a regular and Dave and I have developed a friendly relationship.
"You just made it Stacie," he explained, "Midnight is closing time." he announced excitedly.
Suddenly, for some unknown reason, a feeling of dread floods over my body, and my mind starts to go numb. My ears start to intensely ring, and my skin begins to tingle as the room begins to spin. As I look down at my right hand, it starts to fade, as if I can see right through it.
I can hear Dave shouting in the distance, as if he's miles away, but I can see him quickly approaching me with a horrified look on his face. He is screaming, "What is happening?! What is happening?!! Oh my God, Stacie, what the fuck is going on?!"
I can no longer feel my right hand... because it is no longer there. A fierce burning sensation is taking over my entire body, a pain that is like no other. I wonder, "is this Hell?" I wonder, "What has my Mother done?" and, "Does this have anything to do with the suspicious documents I just found?"
I open my mouth to scream, but I don't think any sound is coming out. I can see hot steam radiating from my body as I collapse to the floor. A dreadful stench is filling the air.
Dave has nearly reached me now, but I can see the terror in his eyes, and he refuses to come any closer. Scared this phenomenon will select him for it's next victim, but Dave has nothing to worry about. He has already been born. In 1966, in fact. He is alive.
I can see his lips moving up and down, and his mouth opening wide. I know he is yelling... Screaming, but I can no longer hear him. I know my ears have painfully evaporated, because the intense ringing inside of them has stopped.
Everything is happening in slow motion for me now. Why is IT adding to my pain? Toying with my agony? Taking enjoyment and amusement with my suffering? I can hear the voice in my head screaming, "Why?!"
All my senses are heightened now, what's left of them anyway. I can feel the inexplicable pain as pieces of my flesh drip off of my body. I can see them hit and splatter onto the floor as they sizzle, like in a scolding hot frying pan. My body itself is burning, melting away, as it slowly dissipates into mid air. How can I be burning, evaporating into the realm of nonexistence?! I know soon there will be nothing left of me.
I can taste decay and rot as my teeth fall out of my mouth, some rolling over and landing next to my sizzling pieces of flesh.
It feels like my limbs are being ripped from my body, but as I look down at my legs, and then at my arms, they are slowly disappearing from existence just like my right hand had done. Soon all that remains of them are the few pieces of flesh that have managed to drip free before disappearing.
I see Dave running back towards the front of the store. I assume to call for help. He is tripping and falling into displays. I can see twinkles flying through the air and skidding across the floor.
I know I am going insane. The pain is unbearable, and I am pleading for death. Begging for death. I start to feel my insides boil, and I know the end is growing near. All that remains is the trunk of my body and my head. As far as I can tell anyway.
I can feel the burning, tingling sensation moving up my torso. Familiar with the pain now, I know my torso is fading away. My head will be the last to go.
As I feel my eye's popping out of my head, my final thoughts are trying to make sense of this abomination. My brain recognizes that it's the early morning hours of my Birthday, but yet how can I have a birthday if I won't even be born for another seven hours and twenty minutes? I can't exist. I was never born.
My tongue is on fire. I know it won't be long now. The pain is starting to slowly subside. I hear the voice in my head questioning what the hell have my parents done? What was Mom so sorry about? Why didn't she warn me? Is this HELL? Is that SATAN? Is... Is... Is that my "Father"?
Paramedics come screeching to a halt next to Dave's vehicle in front of his convenience store. That's weird, he thinks to himself, he slightly recalls a vehicle having already been parked there.
Dave is running, directing the paramedics to the spot where his loyal customer had been twisted in agony in that hot and smelly mist. She had been burning, yet some how slowly fading away right before his very eyes. Like a disappearing magic trick gone terribly wrong.
As Dave reaches the location, he is confused. He can't seem to recall why he had called the paramedics in the first place. He can still feel the horror and panic clinging to his body. He remembers being scared as hell! But the image has escaped him. The memory seems to be right there, but he can't quite seem to grasp it.
Dave and the paramedics stop over a charred area covering the floor. A misty fog is slowly evaporating into the air. The stench of rotten burning flesh hangs heavily in the air, burning their nostrils. Yet no one is there.
The paramedics look quizzically at Dave. He has no explanation. He can't explain. He simply can't remember.
And he never remembers having a loyal friendly customer named Stacie either...