When Graeme opened his eyes again, he was in a dimly lit basement.
Beneath his feet was compacted soil, and in the air he caught traces of mold and sewage. In his hands he held the throat of a man he didn’t know, his grip so tight that his fingers were cramping. There was no struggle coming from his victim and the realization that he was dead made Graeme release him in a flail of terrified motions. Nausea rolled over Graeme like a wave and he took awkward steps backward until he felt the cool stone of the wall against his spine.
Breathing was a task he found himself ill-fitted to perform. He couldn’t catch a solid breath between the thunderous beats of his heart and the fear boiling its way through his veins. What the fu*k had he just done?
Whatever was going on, he needed to get his sh*t together and figure it out. Anxiety clamped around his chest but he forced himself to move, to make his way to the staircase across the basement. By the time he reached them, he had built up momentum and simply bolted up to the door and through the first floor of the house. He paid no attention to anything except exits, and when he reached the outdoors he just kept running.
Fresh air was a good change. Less so was the prickly and uncertain footing of the woods, but Graeme didn’t pay it any mind – all he could think of was fleeing, getting as far away from whatever was happening in that basement as he possibly could before he lost himself again. The prospect of another blackout was the most real terror he had ever felt in his life. Every time he found himself had the potential to be the last few minutes of his life. His confusion had dissipated in the face of his dread and he was left with determination, even if he didn’t have the first idea where to begin.
Graeme had begun the timer on his watch. He was done letting himself vanish.
He ran for a long time, his bare feet rhythmically hitting the ground. He did not stop, even when his muscles caught fire with exhaustion. When he felt he couldn’t go any further, he saw the outline of the city only a few meters ahead. New energy rushed through him and he picked up the pace. Graeme made his way home and clicked on the webcam, just in case. He wasn’t sure how long his awareness would last, or when he’d get it back. Coffee seemed to help, at least for a while. If he kept active, if he forced his mind to constantly be whirring away, if he didn’t allow himself a moment of quiet, he could hold onto himself a little longer.
Immediately, he began searching the vast information banks of the internet. At first, he found it hard to phrase his queries but once he settled on the right keywords, the search blew up with options. It was hard to believe that losing huge chunks of time was a common problem, but there wasn’t a single explanation that didn’t give him some cause to be panicked. Now and then, as he refilled his coffee from the percolator in the kitchen, he checked the timer on his watch. The hours inched by and he grew more confident in his plan to regain control. Being home felt better, it gave him a sense of comfort to be surrounded by his familiar life. The glossy hardwood floors were cool and calming to the miserably sore soles of his feet.
When he could feel the coffee weakening in effect after every cup, he hand-cuffed himself to the radiator in clear view of the webcam. He let himself rest his head against the wall and tried to fight it off a while longer. The least he could do was feel out his limitations, even if he could control nothing else, he could do that much. He pressed the button on his watch and the timer stopped. 09:54:31. Where would he go this time?
What would he do?