The footsteps are too close to escape.
Shock overcomes my desperation as a familiar yet eerie voice speaks from the body coming around the corner. The voice comes straight from one of my deepest nightmares.
"Allen J. Melling," says the voice, "You've been a naughty boy."
Somehow the sheer dorkiness of such a statement comes off as absolutely terrifying.
Then the man comes around the corner, and I stare. He is short and fat, and his face puffs in and out like his big belly when he breathes. His cheeks are rosy, while the rest of his face is pale and wrinkly around his two bulging, hazelnut eyes. The little hair he has is greased and matted upon an otherwise bald head. But the most striking feature is his stained white straight jacket, which gives the impression that he is a circle trying to be a square.
"Do I know you?" I ask.
He laughs. "You did until this afternoon. But don't worry: you can get to know me all over again." He grins and I see a row of yellow teeth, crooked like a decrepit picket fence.
"Is that a good thing?" I ask, shakily moving to my feet. Somehow I steady myself against a graffiti covered wall.
I feel as if I am encased in a horror t.v. mini-series. And not just that, but I have a terrible feeling that this is a rerun. I've seen this scene before.
"Now, give me the skull and you can go home," the man says.
I look down at the bulge under my shirt. "You..." I cannot believe this. Is this man the crazy psychiatrist? I had only been partly serious when I'd been reminded of that story! "You want the skull?" I ask. "You put me in the museum so that I would bring it to you?"
The man stared at me like I was a retard. No, he stared at me as if he knew I was a retard. "No. I want the skull so I can return it to its owner. And I most certainly did not put you in the museum. You escaped."
"You escaped to the museum, and then after breaking in and stealing a random artefact for the sheer idiot's joy it brings you, you escaped from the museum. It's what you do. You escape."
"Well I didn't think I was so good at it myself..."
"I had you in maximum security this morning, Allen. The city is not safe when you're out. You do stupid things for no reason. Like, what do you want with that skull anyway? It's a bloody skull! It's ancient! It's nothing."
I frown. But I like the skull. And it likes the fresh air. It doesn't want to go back in the glass case.
"I think I'll keep the skull," I say.
"You don't know what you're thinking," the man replies, taking a step closer. "Were you thinking when you got into the museum? Or do you even remember that part? Allen, you need help. I am willing to give it to you, if you would just stay in my care for at least a day without escaping..."
"I have no clue what you're talking about," I finally say. "I...I am..." I search my memory but nothing much comes to surface. Who am I even?
"You're what?" asks the man, putting his hand out for the skull. "You're Joe Average, right? You think you're a normal guy, but truly, you just can't remember a single detail about your life. No Allen, you are mentally unstable, driven by erratic impulses. Impulses that make you escape and trespass, break and enter, and most of all...steal. And then you are seized by bouts of forgetfulness when you suddenly belief yourself to be innocent."
Is this man actually for real, I wonder. And yet, what he says almost fits together in my mind. But sh*t, if that is the case, then I must have split personalities! That cannot be right...
"The skull, please." He reaches forward. I remove the skull from under my shirt and hold it in front of me.
A light comes to the man's eyes, and he steps forward to take it.
I hold it out, about to give in, and then the skull speaks--but only to me.
The man is a liar.
My eyes go wide as I suddenly look past the skull and see the man's fiery greed. He lunges, but I quickly pull away, struggling free from the man's attack and tripping him with a solid kick. He goes down hard on his knees and lets out an angry growl.
"Give me that skull!" he cries.
"You're a liar," I spit. "You say I am your patient, but that would make you my care-giver. I may not remember much, but the one thing I am certain of is that you're an enemy! The skull is mine."
I turn to go but am stopped as I hear a click behind me. The man has pulled a gun. I stare ahead and realize that I am at the dead end of an alleyway.
Fabulous. A mad scientist has cornered me in a dark alley with a gun. And I don't know who the bloody hell I am or how the bloody hell I got into this mess. And 'bloody hell' one more time for emphasis.
And for some reason, my entire body is calm with confidence. Somehow, I know I can escape even this situation. Bah, this is an easy one.