The sun’s weak morning rays were coming in through the front windows, sending shadows behind bookshelves. The dusty air was interrupted only when the first customer of the day opened the door. The gust of wind was enough to make me shiver from behind the desk. Looking up, I made eye contact with Anne, one of the daily patrons of Everwrite Books. I smiled, but continued doing my job: open a shipment, and enter the book into our system. Again. And again. And again.
Usually I would have fun doing this. I would be talking to whoever it was that worked with me, most commonly Adam.
Adam. The thought of him brought up a feeling in my stomach that couldn’t be placed. It was a mixture of sadness, anger, and nostalgia, all at once. Nostalgia for the fun times we had, racing to see who could place the most shipments on shelves. Sadness for the fact that he wasn’t here anymore. And anger that I couldn’t do anything about it.
I slammed a book I was holding down on the desk. The noise echoed through the bookstore like a gunshot. I exhaled, releasing the breath I didn’t even realize I was holding. I grabbed a book and viciously typed it into the system. I could almost see him smiling with his freckled face and hear his voice saying, “Slow down, it’s not life or death.” Yet, in this case it was, and Adam had chosen death.
I took a break from the shipments and started placing books on shelves. The new shipment was mostly poetry, with some of the most celebrated books from e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, and William Shakespeare. The poetry shelf was tall, and I was shelving the top shelf. The top shelf was where the most famous works were placed.
I reached up, and immediately started coughing. It was dusty. The last time somebody had replaced these books was a while ago.
I placed the books one by one on the shelf, slowly making my way through the box. It was pretty boring work, especially when there were not any customers.
I was placing the last book when I saw the little flap of paper in the corner of the shelf. Curious, I grabbed it and put a book in its place. By the way the dust flew up, I could tell that the paper had been there for quite some time.
It was a little thing, folded up so many times that it was no bigger than a puzzle piece. On the top of it there was a few words in tiny, neat, cursive handwriting. From, Adam it read.
Immediately I shoved it into my pocket, grabbing the box of used poetry books and almost running to the back room, where I shoved the box down angrily. In the back room it was cold, like shorts on an autumn day.
I felt like screaming. I could feel the weight of the paper weighing me down, making me want to lay down on the hard floor. How could I have never seen this note before? How could I have never looked on the top shelf of the poetry section? How long was it there?
Billions of questions rose up and into my mouth, with nobody there to answer them. The only thing that could possibly answer my question was the note. I stared down at it, the little bump in my pocket. I took a deep breath, reaching toward the paper with shakiest hands. My hands were a blur, they were trembling so hard.
I jumped when I heard the door to the store open. Just a customer. I headed back to the front desk, with quick feet and shaking hands. Giving the person a smile, I sunk behind the desk and continued with the shipments. I tried to ignore the weight in my pocket, but it was there nonetheless.
Eventually I couldn’t take the uncertainty, the anticipation. I quietly walked to the back of the store, where there was a small couch and loveseat. I almost ripped my jean pocket taking the note out of my pocket. There it was, in plain sight, with From, Adam still on the top. I placed my hand on it, feeling the rough, dusty edges. I carefully unfolded the note, crease by crease. I felt my stomach drop as the last fold was flattened out.
I could feel the tear ducts in my eyes clogging with water that I would not let spill. It was a letter, or rather, a paper.
To Whomever is reading this right now,
If you are reading this, I am probably not around. That’s ok. Had too many Cheez-its, huh? No? I guess that wasn’t funny. Cheez-its aren’t the reason for my death. Anyway, enough about me and my tragic accident.
You may be wondering what this letter is. Well, my answer to that is simple: this can be whatever you want it to be. If there is one thing that life has taught me, it is that. That everything is possible in your head. Once you imagine, you create. I mean, everything started as an idea, right?
Including this. This is an idea that I thought of during the time I had to myself, during all of those times where I sat there, not doing anything. This is the idea that I thought about constantly, and if it doesn’t work out, this is probably in a shredder right now.
Who cares, right? It doesn’t matter. Let’s just move on.
If freckles were lovely, and day was night,
And measles were nice and a lie warn’t a lie,
Life would be delight,—
But things couldn’t go right
For in such a sad plight
I wouldn’t be I.
If earth was heaven and now was hence,
And past was present, and false was true,
There might be some sense
But I’d be in suspense
For on such a pretense
You wouldn’t be you.
If fear was plucky, and globes were square,
And dirt was cleanly and tears were glee
Things would seem fair,—
Yet they’d all despair,
For if here was there
We wouldn’t be we.
- e.e. Cummings
So with that, I depart. ‘If earth was heaven’ I would still be here. But earth is not heaven, so farewell, my friend.
That was it? I rapidly flipped the paper over and over, looking for something that wasn’t there. I reread the words, coming close to memorization. Was it some sort of code? Was he trying to tell me something?
I collapsed on the loveseat, overwhelmed with what he had just written. I couldn’t comprehend what this meant. I stared at the letter again. The poem was becoming haunting. I stared at the line ‘But things couldn’t go right’ until it became blurry.
I shakily pulled myself to my feet. My entire body was shaky, so much that it was hard to move. I couldn’t see through the tears in my eyes. I tried to exhale, only to have it become a shaky breath that resulted in water running down my face. I hobbled down to the front desk, where I sat in the chair. There was a book in front of me, and I opened it. I needed a distraction right now.
The book was a poetry book, the one that I had slammed down earlier. I opened to the first page and started reading.
If freckles were lovely, and day was night,
I almost threw the book across the room when I saw the first poem. The one in the letter. I stood to my feet, looking around the store before making my way to the back room. I sat down on a little wood chair, putting my spinning head in my hands. I was starting to get a headache. I took a deep breath. I needed some fresh air.
I wobbly moved over to the back door. Opening it, I felt the cool air fill my lungs. I closed my eyes, letting myself sway slightly with the wind. I turned around, and opened my eyes. I started shakily walking back to the chair.
Suddenly a burst of wind from outside came through the door, which sent my wobbling legs toppling to the floor.
“Oomph.” The air was knocked out of my lungs as my side landed on flat, cold tiles. It felt like bricks were being rubbed against my side, scraping my skin. I tried to push myself up, but only succeeded in putting my head up a few inches.
I closed my eyes, only to open them again when I felt the beginnings of sleep take over. I was staring at a wall, a grey cemented wall. Where the wall met the floor, little four by six white tiles were placed. On the tiles, one of the sides was painted a more blue-ish color. I followed the blue sides with my eyes, row after row. It was so easy to look at. Just blue line after blue line. But… why was one of them not blue? Inching closer, I saw that this one had been flipped so that the blue side wasn’t in the line.
I touched the tile, and inched my nails under the edge. It was, unsurprisingly, loose, and came out with a little pulling. I peeked inside the hole, which was just big enough to fit a…
Notebook. In this case, it was a little blue notebook. The edges were frayed, even bunny-eared on some pages. In the top right corner there were two tiny initials: A.C. The rest of the front was plain.
I flipped it over, looking for some evidence of whose journal it was. Then I stopped. A.C. Adam Carter. I rapidly flipped it back to the front. Curiosity was nagging at me like a biting mosquito. I opened it, dying for any sort of answers that the note had left me asking.
April 20, after work
Today was alright. That’s all I really have to say. I’m not sure what else I’m supposed to be writing in here. Andy said that all things are strictly confidential, and that nobody would ever look in this journal. I believed that almost as much as I believe that I’m going to recover from this ‘disease’.
What disease? What was he talking about? I kept racing through the words.
Working in a bookstore has been helping a lot, I’ve been told. I’ve started to become more Adam, and less… Whatever else they think I am.
Why are these people all up in my face? All I said was one word. One word, and they freaked out. I don’t even know what they are talking about. They keep saying Adam. It feels like there is a constant question mark over my head.
They look at me like I’m dangerous. The fear, I can see it. And I can’t do anything about it. I try to tell them I’m normal, that it’s just me. Yet even my own ‘mother’ is scared. At least, that’s what they call her.
They said that ‘last session everything seemed to be better’. What are they talking about? They continually talk about a disease. What disease? What do I have? At school I heard one person say, “A life not knowing, well, that’s a life not worth living.”
May 1, lunch break
Last session Mary said that I wasn’t getting much better, that there was little improvement. She calls them ‘hosts’ and that I am the host body. But who is the hostess? I am Adam.
They tell me that the hostess is identified as ‘Sam’. What is going on?
I stopped reading, and sat up on the floor. My head was spinning with all of this new information. What was he talking about? Who was this Sam person? It sounded like a whole different being. I kept scanning through the words like a mad librarian. The notebook looked like a diary of sorts. Whatever it was, it was pretty personal.
I get looks everywhere I go. But why? I am Sam. What is wrong with that? I hear chatter in the halls about me every day. I cannot live like I am an outsider, that everybody either hates me or is scared of me.
When will this be over?
I stopped reading right there, and closed my eyes. It was unforgettable, etched into my mind. I pictured Adam, his left hand writing these exact words. I couldn’t read this. It was private. At the same time, I just had to see what else was written. I knew it would bug me, nag at the back of my mind until I was insane. I opened my eyes, taking a peek at the notebook. I just had to keep reading.
June 11, after work.
Mary is worried that my condition has gotten worse. She says that is has now gotten as frequent as every day now. She is very worried that-
I quit reading again, this time skimming through all of the entries. I had to get to the end, where there might be answers. They seemed to have the same pattern, I realized. In one entry it was Adam was talking about these ‘sessions’ and how he seemed to be doing, and the other was then talking about how confused he was, and how ‘they’ kept saying things. What was going on?
As I got closer to February, the feeling in the pit of my stomach got worse. February, the month that Adam’s life ended.
They are desperate for me to remember, and show me documents, pictures, you name it. But what am I supposed to remember? I eavesdrop on conversations all the time, but nobody
says anything to my use. I just want all of it to be over. I want to be free of all of this.
December 25, Christmas
I couldn’t enjoy Christmas. It feels like everybody is watching me 24/7. They say that ‘he’ is depressed, but who’s ‘he’? It can’t be me, because I’m happy, for once, thanks to the bookstore. I’ve met new, interesting people, and whenever I need a break I can escape into a book. I’m starting to think that there is hope, that I’m getting better after all.
It is planned. Maybe if they can’t make me happy, then this is the only way.
My appointments are now every day. They think that it will help me by reading. They give me poetry, thinking that it will ‘ease the mind of troubling thoughts’.
If only they knew the half of it.
I paused there, frightened for what I knew was going to come next. This was the part that I had looked forward to, the part where I thought I might have closure. I couldn’t bare to look over to the other page. Whatever was there, it frightened me enough that I was shaking.
Slowly, so slowly, my eyes drifted to the page.
It’s planned. After months of dark thoughts, taunting, and hate, it will be over soon enough. The letter is has been left.
And guess what? I figured it out. After eavesdropping constantly, I finally overheard something of use to me. Multiple Personality Disorder. The disease that was talked about constantly, that I wanted to know about. It will all be over soon, right?
And so I bring you to the end. My creation, good or bad, which remains to be decided. No matter what, always remember that no matter what disease you have, what you have been through, a human’s a human. And every human deserves a better life.
The noise I made when I got to the end was a mixture between a cry and a choke. All of the answers were right there, and weren’t even close to what I was expecting. Multiple personality disorder? He couldn’t even stop what was going to happen to him. Now it all made sense. How all of a sudden he was just… gone. When he didn’t come to work that Thursday.
I slowly got up, and found myself walking over to the open door. I looked out, at the boring cement sidewalk. It became blurry, until all that was left of the sidewalk was a grey blob.
I thought about the times I had had with Adam, from the time we met until the last exchange. The one memory that I can recall vividly, word for word, is when he was talking about space.
“It’s so interesting, you know? That how there is billions of space out there, but we’ve only scratched the surface. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? If there’s life out there, we probably wouldn’t even know about it. There could be another one of you, and another one of me. Like replicas.”
“But we don’t know about it, and even if we lived there, we wouldn’t be the same,” I had said.
“It depends if you believe in fate or not, and I do. See, everything happens for a reason. We would be different, yes, but it’s the differences that make us human.”
And just like that, part of the letter came back into my mind.
For if here was there, we wouldn’t be we.