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Recurrent

The Final Name

By kpPublished about a month ago 9 min read
Top Story - June 2024
Recurrent
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

How did it start? I was sleepwalking again, a typical night for me. I somehow managed not to awaken my wife this time and left the house. I didn't even get myself dressed; I just wore my boxers. At some point on my impromptu hike, I became somewhat lucid, at the very least, aware of my surroundings. It was dark, but I could tell I was in the forest. The path was thin, barely trodden. There were parts where I had to blaze a fresh new trail, yet somehow, I knew exactly where I was going. I didn't feel the cool air on my bare chest or the hard, unyielding earth on my shoeless feet. Something pulled me along, past the bowing limbs and through the brambles. The trees were so thick in some parts I was nearly crawling on all fours to get by, yet I persevered.

A dim light in the distance guided the final leg of my journey. I knew that was where I was supposed to be. I wouldn't call it a voice, but it was similar. You could say a force, although I'm not usually into that sort of thing. I felt this energy so strongly that I would almost swear I could see it in my semi-conscious state. It brought me to a small home–an entirely common abode that barely seemed habitable from the outside, but once I stepped inside, there was a wave of heat and light. A large fireplace sat against the far wall, filled with flames. Around it sat nine other people, similarly disrobed and half-aware, each holding a piece of paper up to the light. There was writing I couldn't make out.

A woman approached me and handed me a sheet containing names. I recognized some, others I didn't, but none I knew well enough to picture a face. I thought I had heard two around the office, but I couldn't say with any certainty.

As I examined the page's structure more closely, I realized we all had a similar list of five names bulleted down the page in a seemingly random order. The only difference was the names contained on each list.

The woman who handed me the page didn't speak, yet I felt dread. What was to come? I didn't understand.

When I woke, I had no memory of my night in the woods. My wife asked how I got so filthy, but I couldn't recall. We both knew I must have left the house, but with no evidence or recollection of the evening's events, we started our day with more questions than answers.

Work was generally what I would have expected... until it wasn't.

I work in a small office building on Fourth St. The floorplan is pretty miserable. There is only one three-stall co-ed bathroom and one "family" bathroom for an entire sixty-person staff. Suffice it to say that when the morning coffee kicks in, everyone is hurting to find an available toilet.

I know a secret, though. There's a basement for the after-hours custodians to store their supplies, and in that basement? A bathroom. No one has the key except the office manager and the custodians. Thankfully, everyone also lacks the skillset of picking locks—a particular talent I picked up as a more delinquent youth. The bathroom isn't my first choice; it is undoubtedly a last option, worst-case-scenario type of "bathroom." The kind that inspires quotations around the word because it is more of a single toilet in the corner of a room with a small curtain around it and less of a bathroom. There is no room, at least not how you might prefer it, and certainly nothing to bathe. A sink was apparently out of the question. A single bottle of hand sanitizer sits on the floor next to the bowl. It has yellow stains on the label, and the ring on the concrete around it indicates that it hasn't been touched in years. The entire space is a workplace hazard, but when you've got to go, and there is a line to the break room... well, you've got to bite the bullet, pick a lock, and go. Just don't forget to bring your hand sanitizer.

This morning was like other mornings, with a line out to the break room, where people paced and danced while they waited their turn. Fools. I headed casually to the back of the office, near the copier, grabbing papers off my desk to look the part. The door to the supply basement is close by. I removed the paper clip and began a large copy. I have found that thirty or more copies usually buys me enough time to pick the lock and get downstairs unnoticed. Once I finish my business, I head upstairs, grab my copies, and return to my desk. No one suspects a thing.

However, this time, I wasn't the only one downstairs. I heard them before I saw them–moaning and grunting like animals in heat. They saw me, though, as soon as my feet hit the concrete, they were fighting with zippers and buttons, attempting to cover themselves. I recognized them immediately as Mark from HR and Debbie from Accounting. I hadn't known their last names, but I was struck by an odd memory that revealed them to me. Mark Gibbons and Debbie Sharpe were the first two names on the list. I hadn't remembered it until seeing their faces. Mark and Debbie. It couldn't be a coincidence.

I abruptly left without a word. They stammered explanations to me, but I had other things on my mind. What could that list possibly mean? How could a dream during a rather vivid sleepwalking session predict in any way that I would run into those two people at that particular moment? I reached the top of the stairs and shut the door behind me. I forgot to grab the copies before returning to my desk. Mark and Debbie came out a few minutes after me, sheepishly passing by my cubicle. Finishing work today wouldn't be possible. I stared at a blank screen for an hour before excusing myself.

I played hooky again the following day. I still couldn't face my coworker's indiscretion, but the vibe was off when I finally returned to work. The usual bustle of people settling in, the gossiping, the beeping of microwaves and coffee makers, and the white noise of procrastination didn't fill the space like most mornings. I sat down, leaned over the cubicle wall, and asked my neighbor, "Who died?"

'You didn't hear? Mark and Debbie were killed by Debbie's husband, Brian, and then he killed himself. It was all over the news last night and this morning.'

I sat back in my seat, wordless.

'I know. It's terrible.' He finished.

I wasn't thinking about the situation, though. I was thinking about the name—Brian Sharpe, the third one on my list.

I had to fit quite a few pieces together before understanding this puzzle. I had no physical list, only the distant and fickle memory of seeing one. I had no explanation for the events that transpired with my coworkers. My best guess was that Brian found out that Mark and Debbie were having an affair, but I had no way to confirm this. I also didn't have a rational explanation for why I distinctly remembered receiving a piece of paper with their names or what this could mean.

I stopped for a drink on the way home from work that day. I brought a notebook and pen to keep track of my thoughts. Attempting to document everything I could remember or knew so far seemed important. The hollow attempts at socializing by the bar's regulars were soon abandoned. I was a new face, so they were tempted, but I buried it in my notebook, so they were deterred.

It dawned on me that perhaps I had inadvertently stumbled upon something magical, supernatural, or related to some sort of death cult. I quickly shook the idea from my head. The three people on my list had a lot in common, but one factor that tied them all together with me was the fact that they were dead within twenty-four hours of me having that dream. I started to play with the possibility that I had been drugged. Maybe I killed all three of them and just don't remember it. Had I been set up? The possibilities seemed endless. I couldn't even tell if it had been a dream or real. Without even the most basic information to go on, I felt stuck. I finished my beer and headed home.

That night, I slept terribly and woke up covered in mud. I must have sleepwalked, but I had no memory of an accompanying dream. I showered and left for work early before my wife could wake up and question anything. While heading to the office, I had enough time to stop at my favorite coffee shop. The barista was new. I was used to seeing Greg; he knew my order and didn't ask questions. I guess I was distracted by this and left without my wallet. I made it across the street before I heard the new guy outside yelling that I had forgotten it. He made it about two steps off the curb before a food truck rounded the corner too fast and hit him in the intersection. It all happened in the time it took me to turn around. Pedestrians swarmed. Both patrons and workers of the coffee shop piled into the street.

'Mike!' One of the other baristas raced to his side. 'Fuck, Mike!'

Suddenly, an image filled my mind—a single name: Michael Frohm. I made my way back across the street and introduced myself. I explained that it was my wallet Mike was trying to return, and as casually as I could, I asked what his full name was. 'To reach out to the family,' I said.

Just as I suspected, the fourth name on my list, and as far as I could tell... he was dead, too.

I became obsessed. Clearly, these were the names of people whose deaths I would cause. I still couldn't explain how or why, but I knew it was true. Just like I knew where to go in the forest, I knew in my gut this was what was happening.

I avoided leaving my home for weeks. I thought I couldn't risk it. I couldn't remember the names on the list until it was too late, so how could I, in good conscience, go out into the world knowing I somehow caused the deaths of these people? My relationships suffered, and my world dwindled. My life became a shell of what it once was. My wife nearly left me, and I lost my job. I wouldn't leave the basement. I had everything I needed, and my wife had been safe thus far, so I had no reason to suspect she was in any danger. As far as I was concerned, I could hide out down there for the rest of my days.

However, one night, an image of the list came to me. I had focused on the four names I knew. I wrote them on a blank sheet of paper, and, staring, I emptied my mind as much as I could. Suddenly, it appeared—right there in front of me. I didn't remember writing it, but it was in my penmanship—the final name. I knew the identity of the one person I needed to avoid now, but I didn't feel relief. For once, I began to believe in something greater than myself, something I couldn't explain. Something was compelling me, beyond my control. This name had appeared for a reason–my role in their fate was unmistakable. Who was I to stop whatever divine plan this so obviously was?

So I left my house.

"How did the last person die?"

You're getting ahead of me. The final person hasn't died yet.

"So you're just going around waiting until you run into them?"

Something like that. Can you get my bill, please?

"Sure thing. So, uh... what is the final name?"

I'm sorry, I'm afraid I forgot what you said your name was.

"Ari."

That's what I thought. Thank you, Ari Kline. I appreciate the drinks. Keep the change.

supernaturalpsychologicalfiction

About the Creator

kp

I am a non-binary, trans-masc writer. I work to dismantle internalized structures of oppression, such as the gender binary, class, and race. My writing is personal but anecdotally points to a larger political picture of systemic injustice.

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Comments (13)

  • Sasi Kalaabout a month ago

    Congrats top story 🎉

  • Awesome! Happy to subscribe to your work. Congratulations 🎉

  • Esala Gunathilakeabout a month ago

    Congrats on your top story.

  • Raphael Fontenelleabout a month ago

    That's amazingly terrifying. I love it. :D Also congrats on top story!

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a month ago

    Wow! Great imagination! I was hooked from the beginning.

  • Anu Mehjabinabout a month ago

    This chilling tale of fate and destiny powerfully underscores the mystery and complexity of life’s journey.... amazing 👏👏👏 And congrats on your top story🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • shanmuga priyaabout a month ago

    Congratulations 🎉

  • Dr. Jason Benskinabout a month ago

    Awesome writing, keep it up!

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    Yikes! What a finish! This was fab. Great top story.

  • Margaret Brennanabout a month ago

    first of all: congratulations on TS. Now .... THIS WAS INCREDILE. FANTASTIC! AWESOME! AND ...... SPOOKY, but I loved every word. Please write another like this.

  • Ameer Bibiabout a month ago

    Great description

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    Oh yikes!! Sleepwalking, dead people, names on a list = fate? 😳😳😳 great job, I’m spooked!😱

kpWritten by kp

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