I remember when everyone frantically stood up, panicking to the sound of a loud thud in the back of the store. Clank, clank, clank, clank, and clank of metal pipes hitting each other and then all you could hear was a pipe gently rolling across the floor. I remember feeling Lucy standing next to me, clenching my hands, not wanting to let go, but not saying a single word. I could see Lucy’s eyes; they were red and puffy from crying since arriving at the store. I remember how her clinginess and how she constantly held my waist annoyed me. I was annoyed with her and fed by her not wanting to let go of my hands and waist; I hated Lucy. I remember closing my eyes before I felt the warm hands smacking against my right cheek.
“What the hell, Michelle!” I whispered. I could still feel her slap vibrating across my body; my cheek was red and felt sore.
“Don’t you dare close your eyes! I know if you do, you’re going to remember! I guarantee it!” said Michelle.
“Michelle… I don’t think Robert will try to remember,” said Miranda who grabbed Lucy in an attempt to protect her.
“You don’t know that Miranda! If he remembers, he’s going to get us all killed! Those things are going to come out from under us and kill us!” said Michelle.
“Michelle, stop your worrying. Remembering my past is the last thing on my mind … it’s too painful to bear.”
“Well, then keep your eyes opened!”
“I told you, I wasn’t going to try to remember! Why don’t you believe me?”
“Why should I believe you? Maybe you’re trying to get us killed so you could grab all of our food and water and leave!” Michelle reached for a glass bottle on the floor, intending to use it.
“STOP! Please… you two stop your bickering. We need to stay together. You’re both being idiots,” muttered a frustrated Miranda.
I remember the long silence which ensued. I didn’t exchange any words with Michelle that night, but I knew something needed to be done. I remember reaching out to Miranda, pulling her to the side to tell her about Michelle’s actions and my worries.
“Miranda… I think we need to leave Michelle. I think she’s gone delusional, and she may endanger us all. She may try to remember and she may get us killed,” as I whispered to Miranda.
“I… I can’t leave her here Robert. If we do, we’ll regret it. And if we regret something, we’re going to remember. And if we remember, we’re—” said Miranda before she was interrupted.
“I know, those Shadows are going to come and kill us. I know Miranda, but we can’t risk it! We need to leave, and try to forget about Michelle or else she’s going to remember and kill us all, or she’s going to kill us instead! Please… just think about it…”
Miranda turned her head and walked back to the aisles, leaning on the short broken wall which once held the cash register together. I remember hearing her mutter words, talking to herself.
“I know I’m the oldest. I know I need to make the correct decision. I can’t just leave Michelle here. But what if Robert’s right? What if she’s going to start to remember? But what if Michelle’s right? What if Robert’s trying to get rid of her, so that he can remember and get rid of us? We can’t leave, Michelle’s going to die if we do, but aren’t we already dead? Maybe we should leave. I mean, Robert and I have known each other for eight years, since Lucy was born, and I made a promise to him that we would look out for another. Hmph, Lucy. What an adorable little girl… I could even call you my little sister … I love you like my little sister, I want to protect to, I want to keep you safe. Stop Miranda, you can’t remember… but I don’t know what to do… I need to remember, I need to know what to do…” I saw Miranda tuck her head in between her legs; I could tell she was confused. She was pounding her head, and I knew she was trying to stop herself from remembering. I looked down at Lucy seizing my waist, hugging it and not wanting to let go. “Miranda… make your decision. We won’t remember, I promise,” I whispered.
Later that night, I remember pulling Miranda to the side again, questioning her faith and judgment regarding the situation.
“Are we seriously going to stay?” I asked.
“Michelle’s going to be fine, we don’t need to worry,” replied Miranda.
“Miranda, Michelle’s been telling Lucy stories, true stories, stories from her past. She’s trying to remember her past, and if she does… we’re all dead. We need to go!”
“If we go we’re going to leave Michelle to die, do you want that on your conscience? Do you want your guilt to make you remember? Do you want to die out there, Robert?”
“At least out there… we have a fighting chance… Miranda, please…”
“I’m done with this conversation Robert. We’ll talk about this after we get a good night’s rest.”
Miranda proceeded to leave before Robert grabbed onto her arm.
“Wait Miranda… I need to tell you something,” said a hesitant Robert.
“Wha…what?” asked Miranda.
“You know… You already know. You know that I… that I love you…right?”
“I love you too, Robert.”
“No Miranda. I’m in love with you. I love you more than life itself. I love you from the Earth to the end of the galaxy. I love you Miranda. I loved you ever since I met you. I loved you ever since you and I began volunteering at the homeless shelter. I know, I shouldn’t try to remember, but I know the way you smiled at everyone, making them feel welcomed into this world. You gave them hope, you gave me hope. I love you for how kind and passionate you are. I love you Miranda… I just… I just…love you…”
“Robert…I have to confess. I love you too… But…” said a timid Miranda turning her head to the side.
“But what Miranda…but what?” repeated Robert who grabbed onto Miranda’s shoulder.
“I don’t love you anymore. I’m in love with someone else.”
“O…oh… Who…who is he?”
“He’s someone from my past. From our past. Someone that’s dead.”
“I don’t understand Miranda… I don’t understand…” said Robert who was tugging onto his hair.
“Robert…you… You’ve changed. You’re not the guy I thought I knew. You’ve changed. Since we arrived here. You’ve changed. The past Robert…he was the one that I loved… The one who understood his mistakes… But now… this Robert… this Robert doesn’t care about anyone but himself… he doesn’t care. The man I used to love… was a man named Robert… but not this Robert… My heart, Robert… it’s not with you anymore…”
“I’m sorry Robert, I need to go… I just need to go…”
Miranda left and once she reached the aisles, she tilted her head down and tucked it in between her legs and began to weep. I looked from afar. I could feel my eyebrows beginning to twitch, confused as to what happened. I laughed; I laughed hysterically in silence while sobbing as I collapsed onto the ground. I sat up and tried to understand what happened. Miranda, the one who cared so much about others, didn’t want to make this small sacrifice to save us, Lucy and, from this maniac? And at that time, I began to understand that it wasn’t me who changed, it was Miranda. She called me selfish, but it was she who was selfish. And I remember thinking about my lost opportunity with Miranda, how I lost the love of my life because she couldn’t accept change; she became selfish and greedy. I began to understand: It wasn’t just Michelle who would endanger everyone, it was Miranda. Her cries, her tears, she was going to try to remember a happier time, but I knew I couldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t let Miranda kill everyone.
After some time, everyone had fallen asleep and I journeyed into the store alone. I came across the hunting section of the store, the section which was never explored before. Most of the items had fallen; lamps were broken leaking with oil on the ground, canisters were empty, brown long ropes were stacked on top of each other, and several red hatchets laying on the ground. I was fascinated by the selection and so I looked around and grabbed the hatchet and several ropes. I made my way back to the aisles, to the sleeping group. I took the rope and tied Michelle’s arms together and then Miranda’s. All members of the group, except Lucy, began to wake up bounded by the ropes. I remember seeing their eyes widen when they woke to feel their legs and arms tied up, looking up at me. “What… what are you doing Robert?” asked a shaking Miranda. But I smiled at her, but I remember that smile turning into a frown as I took my hatchet tucked in between the back of my pants out and swung it up into the air. “HOLD ON ROBERT! HOLD ON! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” shouted Miranda. I stood looking down at a terrified Miranda, feeling my cheeks stretched out, grinning. I saw Miranda clench her eyes shut as I swung my hatchet down. There, on the warm tiled floor laid Miranda, lifeless on the ground. Miranda’s eyes were still opened, but blood was gushing from her skull as Michelle looked at the scene in horror. “My God…No, no, no, no…My God… God…God…My God!” screamed Michelle who was rocking back and forth shaking her head. I remember wiping the slobber from my mouth, sniffing, and then spitting at the ground where Miranda’s lifeless corpse laid. “Good riddance,” I said. I grabbed Lucy who was awakened by Michelle’s screams, and I carried her into the darkness, leaving Michelle crawling to Miranda trying to see if she was alive. Lucy attempted to look at the scene, but I kept turning her head around and continued to walk.
My eyes awakened again. The more I remembered the more pain I felt; the pain of guilt, the pain of regret, and the pain of lost opportunities. I killed Miranda, swung my hatchet towards her skull, denting the plastic cranium protecting her brains. “Miranda, I’m so sorry…” as I thought to myself. And as I began to remember more and more as I lay lifeless on this warm ground, the pain of the baseball bat connecting with my skull began to develop. I closed my eyes again, trying to forget about the pain and remembering the time after Lucy and I left the aisles.