I think I killed somebody.
I straddled a corpse, the size of my little sister, but with blue eyes instead of green. Her throat was cut open and shards of glass were poking out of the slit, like decorations on a deep red necklace.
I think I killed somebody.
I have no memory of doing it, but I know it was me. Like when I realize I’ve hit snooze ten times, even though I can’t remember hearing my alarm go off even once. Or when I drive home while lost in thought and arrive in my driveway, but have no memory of any of the roads I took to get there.
I think I killed somebody.
I’m not a horrible person. That was the mantra I repeated as I dialed the police with the full intention of confessing (confessing what?), but my cell had no reception. I forced it into my pocket and walked through a cluster of trees until I reached a clearing with my car parked inside. With a shovel leaning against the hood.
Still no reception.
“God damn it.”
I threw down my phone and picked up the shovel. Dug a hole. Rolled the kid inside.
What else was I supposed to do?
It wasn’t until the next day, until I had scrubbed the blood off my jeans and picked the dead skin out from underneath my fingernails, that I checked Twitter. The top hashtag was something about unexplained deaths. There were links to obscure websites detailing the different murders, mostly blogs with fonts that were a little too bright and mice that spouted glitter as you moved down the page. But there weren’t any links to CNN or BBC or even FOX.
I clicked on one of the links anyway, praying it wouldn’t give me a virus.
It took me to a video clip taken on a shaky camera phone. A woman’s face filled the entire screen, her eyes red and swollen. There were subtitles placed at the bottom, like her sobbing had transformed her words into an indecipherable language. They read: “I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what they did. If they’re coming for me next. What’s worse? What’s worse? If someone else did it or if I did it? Did I do this?”
She tapped on her phone screen to switch from her front camera to the back. A dead man, in his 40s, was slumped against a brick wall with a bullet wound in his forehead. And another in his cheek. And in his throat. Blood zigzagged down his malformed face.
“I have my grandfather’s gun,” she said, off camera. “I don’t know how I got it. I don’t even know this guy. Why would I… I couldn’t have. I didn’t… I didn’t.”
She collapsed with sobs and the screen blinked off.
I scrolled down to find other stories just like that woman’s. Just like mine. About random people being dragged into police cars while screaming about how they can’t remember what the hell had happened.
None of them look like killers. They look confused.
I was ten websites deep when I realized something. The first letter of each word on the left side of the page formed a message: DON’T DOWLOAD THE GODDAMN APP. Of course, that didn’t make much sense. Maybe I was just reading too far into things. When I was a kid, I’d begged my parents to order detective kits so I could dust for fingerprints and examine leaves with my magnifying glass. And once I’d gotten old enough to read Conan Doyle and Agatha Christy, my obsession grew deeper. I’d always keep an eye out for morse codes and skip codes and letters written in invisible ink.
To satisfy my curiosity, I clicked back to the other pages I’d read on that particular site. The same message was hidden in every single one of their articles. At least, in all of the articles that talked about the mysterious murders. Couldn’t be a coincidence.
But what app were they talking about? Why didn’t they mention it by name?
I’d went on a downloading spree recently. I’d purchased an organizational app, a game where I had to collect falling cats in a basket, another game that consisted of chopping apart dead bodies, and a dating app I’d heard a bunch of people at work blabber on about.
I opened up Mortuary Madness, the game where I was meant to chop apart corpses until all the pieces fit into a tiny box, and searched for anything suspicious. I looked at the starting screen, at the menu, at the in the in-game purchases. Nothing, nothing, and more nothing.
Maybe I had the wrong app. Come to think of it, the adds on the dating one were pretty peculiar. Instead of playing clips to promote DVDs and beauty products, they played thirty-second optical illusions. Grey and black boxes would fill the screen, blinking at odd intervals. Or there would be big and small swirls, shifting clockwise and counterclockwise. Or random letters and numbers fading in and out.
Instead of opening the app to find out, to risk making the same mistake twice, I tried to type the name of it into Google, just to check the reviews, but…
Blood slipped down to my knuckles. There was a slit in my skin that circled my entire wrist, like I had carved myself a bracelet. I couldn’t remember doing it, but at the same time I could. Like hitting snooze. Like drifting in the car.
Fuck, it hurt.
I tried to type the name of the app again, reaching a single finger out to brush the key, like I was worried the laptop would electrocute me, but…
I felt it before I saw it. Or maybe I heard my shriek before anything else. But when I looked down, all five of my fingernails had been pried off. The ragged skin on the tips burned, like fire had been poured over them. But that wasn’t all. There was a knife plunged into my leg, pressed up against bone.
I pushed my chair away from the laptop, and the wheels caught on the rug, sending me crashing onto the floor. I reached back up to my desk, pawing for my phone, so I could try to call the cops, my parents, my neighbors, anyone.
Plan B: I used my good hand to pull up Twitter on my phone browser, hoping to contact someone who could come pick me up. Or to at least warn the others (of what? That one look at a dating app would trigger some type of permanent mind control?), but my goddamn phone wouldn’t connect to Wifi.
I wanted to push myself up, to stumble down the five flights of stairs in my shitty apartment building with the broken elevator. But was I meant to yank out the knife or leave it in? A medic would tell me to leave it, right? But how could I get to a medic if I couldn’t move with a knife stuck in my motherfucking leg?
“Idiot, idiot, idiot. Fuck. Why’d I need another dating app? Why’d I have to click on…”
I tried to say the app’s name, but coughs rattled my throat, soft at first and then hard and dry. I must’ve been doubled over with saliva sputtering from my mouth for a full five minutes before I could breathe again. Before I looked down at the floor and saw the blood mingled in with my phlegm.
No. No, no, no. Not good.
I fished for the notebook underneath my bed and tore out a page. All I had to do was write down the name of the damn app. If I passed out from blood loss, (Or was this only minor blood loss? It felt major to me.) then whoever found me would know what had happened. Or, at least, they’d know as much as I knew.
I wrote out the first letter and was halfway done with the second, but…
Like hitting snooze. Drifting in a car. My fingers were numb by then, but the pain in my arm was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. I didn’t want to look. Didn’t want my suffering to amplify once my brain had time to process the problem. I looked at the clock on my nightstand instead. At least thirty minutes had gone by. Maybe even an hour.
Enough time to chop off my own arm. No. No, it wasn’t chopped off completely. It was hanging by thick, meaty threads.
I tried to convince myself I was dreaming. That this couldn’t be reality. But I’d heard stories about Aron Ralston, the kid that cut his arm off with a dull pocketknife after getting stuck in a canyon. And I had a steak knife that was twice as sharp in my hands, the one that was formerly lodged in my leg.
Should I leave it, with my arm dangling limply from my shoulder, and wait for those mythical medics to fix me up? Or should I cut through the rest of the dead flesh to ease the pain? I popped my pencil into my mouth, bit down, and kept sawing.
Paper cuts. Stubbed toes. Brain freeze. Bee stings. Broken arms. Tooth canals. Grease splatters. Burns and bumps and bruises. A combination of every type of pain I’d ever felt, all confined to a singular area of my body. Tears popped out of my eyes, obscuring my vision so I didn’t have to watch what I was about to do.
After my arm plopped to the ground, like a ham smacking onto the kitchen floor, I took a minute to regroup, but only a minute. I didn’t have time, but I did have a mission. A suicide mission, but a mission nevertheless.
Five letters. That’s all the name consisted of. I’d written down one and a half letters already. If I could get two more down before fading away again, whoever found the note could figure out what I’d been trying to say. Those two letters would be worth it. Dying would be worth it.
I spit the pencil into the only hand I had left and scribbled out as much of the word as I could. Four and a half. Almost the full five. Anyone with an iPhone would know what it meant.
Hitting snooze. Drifting cars.
Blood poured out from a thin slit in my neck. My vision went fuzzy, but I could still see the crimson droplets fall from my body. Fall down, down, down onto the paper.
Down onto of the freshly formed word, like whiteout over ink. Erasing it. Making it illegible.
Making it worthless.