Building UpMature

On a hot summer morning, a day after a senior class graduates, two of them go missing without a trace, prompting the search, investigation, and eventual closure of a probable double murder. Almost two years later, Mercer Hatler, now a sophomore in college, recieves a mysterious message from one of them, prompting an extended correspondance which iluminates the fate of the two girls, as well as the paths through a journey of self-discovery and realization.

                Mercer sighed and dropped his gym bag on the floor. “Hey Jake,” he called as he flopped onto the couch. His roommate’s muffled greeting floated weakly from the other room. Mercer glanced guiltily at a pile of books on the floor in front of his before picking up the remote control. He ran his fingers through his dark hair and hefted the remote, as though weighing it. “I’ll hate myself for this later,” he thought, turning the television on.

                “Atta boy,” a voice said behind him, as a tall, grinning figure emerged, roughing his damp hair vigorously with a towel. “You need to relax once in a while and stop worrying about all that work you have to do.” Mercer grunted and turned his exhausted eyes to the ceiling in a pleading gesture.

                “Stop reminding me. Now I can’t focus on procrastinating.” He turned the television off and tossed the remote behind him. Jake dodged it easily and laughed.

                “Dude. Whatever.” Mercer didn’t answer. He reached across the arm of the couch and grabbed the first book off the top of the stack.

                “Looks like I’ll be studying for that Physics test now.” He let the book fall open on the cushion beside him and grabbed his laptop.

                “Huh. Checking Facebook first, I see.” Jake clicked his tongue in mock-solemnity. “And all that homework and those tests you have this week and – Dude, are you okay?” Mercer had frozen, eyes glued to the computer screen, mouth hanging open in disbelief. “Merce? Mercer?” He turned speechlessly to look up at Jake, who was standing behind him, leaning on the back of the sofa. “What? What? Seriously man, you gotta say something.”

                “Do you… Do you remember Leila?” The color had completely left Mercer’s face, leaving him waxen and pale. Jake’s face suddenly flooded with understanding and sympathy.

                “Oh, dude, I’m sorry. Did they finally find her? Like, do they know what happened?” Mercer pressed his eyes shut impatiently and shook his head. “I’m sorry, man. Where was the body?”

                “No, no. You don’t understand. Look.” He held the computer up with badly shaking hands. Jake stared at the screen, uncomprehendingly for a few moments, trying to process what he was seeing. He shook his head violently.

                “What the Hell…” He bent over as Mercer lowered the mesmerizing screen. The two of them stared for almost five silent, breathless minutes before Mercer cleared his throat and began to read aloud, as though unable to believe what he was reading was real.

                “Mercer. I’m not dead, obviously. Just thought I should let you know, since you deserve that from me, at least, if I can give you nothing else.”

The End

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