Part 2 of the short story inspired by “Stolen Time.”
The cursor blinked in the search bar before he typed: “Cause of blackouts.”
The search took a minute to find results. All of the results pointed to health-related conditions. He wasn’t experiencing any symptoms besides the blackouts, and he had no history of medical concerns, but he decided to make a doctor’s appointment anyway in an attempt to cover every possible avenue for answers.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Ballenger,” the doctor told him a few days later, following some scans and physicals. “We have found nothing that would explain what you are experiencing. However, your depression may be a cause. I recommend moving your case to psychological evaluation.”
“I’m not depressed!” Derek said angrily.
The look the doctor gave him told him she didn’t believe him.
I wouldn’t either, he thought. If he was honest with himself, everything, from his lifestyle to his appearance, screamed of depression. But admitting that to anyone felt like a sign of weakness. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not weak.
“Mr. Ballenger, you seem to be suffering from severe emotional trauma, whether you care to admit it or not,” the doctor said shortly. “You may be doing this to yourself.”
Derek left the hospital, grumbling angrily. How dare she accuse him of doing this to himself! Why would he choose to have memory loss? Why would he choose to have violent blackouts? He could have hurt someone, and no one was helping him. Why on earth would he choose that?
He felt out of options.
. . . . . .
The blackouts continued. Again, he woke up in a bloodstained t-shirt, and again he couldn’t figure out what had happened or who had been hurt. He stopped going to work, citing fatigue. As the symptoms wore on, he was forced to look for answers elsewhere.
He rotated the pocket watch in his hand as he contemplated the craziness. Against all logic, he conducted internet searches on cursed objects. This time, he didn’t come up empty-handed.
From what he saw, it was possible for strong emotions to be attached to objects, for the object to be a vessel.
Everything she owned seemed to have some sort of meaning to her! he thought angrily. It had annoyed him when they were together. She felt guilty getting rid of anything someone else had given them, and she always seemed so attached to things. Had she done this on purpose?
Of course not! a voice in his head told him. She may be angry with him — heck, she may even hate him now — but she wasn’t like that. He had to know.
I guess there’s nothing for it, he thought.
He picked up his phone and turned it a few times in his hand before setting it down again. He paced his small bedroom. Should he? Was he weak if he did? But he couldn’t take it anymore. He didn’t know what else to do. He needed answers. He needed it all to stop. For the first time in his life, he had to admit to himself he was lost and in pain and needed help. He picked up his phone again, stared at it as if it held all the secrets of the world, and finally unlocked it.
He scrolled through his contacts and gently touched the name on the screen.
“Derek?” her voice was soft. She sounded confused and scared to receive this call, so out of the blue. If he wasn’t mistaken, though, he also heard hope.
His heart thudded in his chest as a lump formed in his throat. Hearing her voice…it brought back so much. Is her heart beating as fast as mine?
“Vanessa,” he breathed. It was no more than a whisper, but it was all he could muster.
“Derek, what’s wrong?” Concern now.
Why doesn’t she sound angry? Does she still care? Or was she pretending? Was her fear selfish? What if she was just biding her time to chew him out?
He couldn’t think like that now. He had reached out to her. He was on the phone, breathing into the silence. He had no choice now.
“I…I want to come home.”