Open.

I apologize if this isn’t the most coherent thing you’ve ever read, but events have occurred that make it difficult to be coherent in the first place. I know that what I saw couldn’t happen, but the crime reporting says different, although I disagree with the ‘why’ to their ‘what.’

Anyway, my name is Zach Tores. If you’ve heard of me, we’ve probably had a class together, because my poetry has never been published. Not anywhere. I don’t want anyone reading or repeating the embarrassing stuff I’ve written down and it’s all embarrassing. I read it and I just want to tear it up and forget that I even know how to write, but I digress.

How this guy even knew that I was a poet in the first place is beyond me.

So, I was at the coffee shop on the corner of Algoma and Main, right? I can never remember the name of the place even though I’d been there numerous times. I was waiting for my latte to be finished when this guy approached me. If you asked me to describe him even a minute after we’d met, I wouldn’t be able to. It’s like his face greased my brain so I couldn’t get a grip on him. He never gave me his name either.

He just asked if I was a poet, and instead of asking him how he knew that I was a poet, I just told him that I was. He told me about this exclusive poetry reading at some address I didn’t recognize in the least bit and for some reason I copied it down on my phone. I didn’t plan on reading anything, but some weird, exclusive poetry reading sounds right up my alley, you know?

It was days later, and I decided that I wasn’t going to go after all. My apartment was warm, Twin Peaks was on TV and besides, I couldn’t gather up the courage to face the public at the moment. I had to do my laundry, and that was the extent of what I was willing to do at the moment.

I had a routine to it, that I now regret more than anything. This was more to make sure that I’d get up and do it than anything else. I’d load my clothes into the washer and have a smoke as it went through. Then I’d have a smoke after I’d put all of my clean clothes away.

This worked really well until that day. I swear that my pack wasn’t empty when I went into the laundry room in the basement, but by the time I’d gone outside, it was. But then again, nothing else from that day makes sense and fretting over my empty cigarette box just feels like quibbling at this point.

Resigned, and not wanting to face the slow agony of nicotine withdrawal, I put my shoes on and went out into the world to get a pack of cigarettes. This is when things go wrong, in case you’re interested.

I got to the gas station in one piece, it was right where I left it and I recognized and exchanged pleasantries with the clerk before I ventured back out into the world, only to find that it was much darker than it was mere minutes ago. It was sunny when I went in and now there was cloud cover so thick and dark that the world appeared to have turned its lights out. I turned back around and the gas station was gone.

My hands were now shaking so much that the plastic wrap on my pack tumbled to the floor. If I didn’t need a smoke before, I certainly did now and I was going to have it. I lit up, turned back around and saw that I was in an entirely different part of town. How am I supposed to react to that? I honestly don’t know.

All I could do was put one foot in front of the other and attempt to walk back to my apartment so I could write the entire event off and try to force myself to forget it. I started to walk in the direction of my apartment, smoking my cigarette, but stopped after a minute or two. I turned to my right to look at the house I was standing next to. It was a white, one story that sat on top of a small hill. There was a large oak tree to the right and a driveway leading up to a garage on the left. It turned out that checking my directions was my second mistake, because, for as far as my eye could see, there was nothing but the exact same house, stretching to eternity.

My cigarette fell out of my gaping mouth. I ran to the front door of the house and pounded on it. I needed to use a phone. I needed the police or an ambulance or the FBI. I needed something, and I couldn’t just walk on a treadmill and hope that the unchanging would eventually change.

The front door opened. I opened my mouth to babble out what was happening, but the tall, stoic looking gentleman in front of me spoke over whatever nonsense I was going to try to spout.

“Mr. Tores, we’ve been expecting you.” He said and stepped aside to allow me in.

The house was sparsely decorated and had a railing almost exactly to my right that bordered a staircase leading down into the basement. These details passed in front of my eyes as oil over a puddle when I pleaded, ignoring that he knew my name somehow, “Please, I need to use your phone. I think I may have been drugged somehow because I don’t know how this happened.”

“Oh yes, everyone is indeed waiting for you down in the basement. If you’ll follow me.” He said with a moronic smile on his face and an untroubled tone to his voice.

“No, you don’t understand. I was just getting a pack of cigarettes when I somehow got to the other side of town.” I was frantic and growing worse by the second. I felt like throwing up and fainting and screaming hysterically all at once.

“Oh yes sir. We would be delighted if you would read your poetry to use. Just please follow me.” He turned and started to walk towards the railing and the stairs.

“I didn’t say anything about poetry, what is wrong with you?! What’s wrong with everythin-” I was interrupted by thunder that shook the house down to its foundations and a flash of lightning that illuminated the interior of the house entirely.

It was then that I accepted my fate. Everything was out of my control anyway, so I might as well go along with it. Agreeing that the entire thing was probably an acid flashback or an especially vivid dream, I followed the gentleman who knew my name and somehow knew of my secret hobby down into the basement.

In there were about thirty chairs, all but two of them full. I didn’t recognize anyone in there and was nonplussed to see them all facing towards a dimly lit stage with a microphone at the edge of it. I didn’t question why there was a stage in the basement of a house any more than I did the sudden storm now hammering the upstairs world, how I got in this position in the first place or anything else. I just took my seat and waited for this dream to finish the way all of my previous dreams did.

Time seemed to crawl to a complete stop until the man who told me of the reading in the first place strode up to the microphone. I didn’t know where he came from, especially since there was enough light that I could see every corner of the room with perfect clarity. Prior to just then, there was only thirty people in the room, now there were thirty-one.

“If you would all be quiet, we can start the show.” He said exasperatedly. I looked around and not a single person had so much as moved, let alone said anything. “Please, everyone please be calm.” He put out his hands like a Kindergarten teacher pleading with their charges.

Without any signal, he seemed to be satisfied. He leaned forward and spoke into the mic in a voice that sounded like a rusty door frame. “Zach Tores.” He then stepped away, out of my line of sight. I looked around at the room and felt my pockets, almost expecting to be suddenly nude in this room of strangers.

I had nothing on me and no desire whatsoever to go over to the microphone, and stayed rooted to the spot. This didn’t seem to matter though, as I stepped up to the microphone. At this point, nothing could shock me, so I just sat back in my seat and allowed this dream to continue.

I stood there at the mic, not moving in any way shape or form. Not swaying, not even blinking. Then, with some unseen cue, I started screeching. Not me in the chair, me on the stage. I opened my mouth wide and the sound issued forth like a flood. I put my hands to my ears, doubled over and tried to put my head between my knees. It was agony, and wouldn’t stop. I started to scream in pain, as it really started to hurt when finally it ended.

I straightened up and looked around at the rest of the crowd. None of them had moved in even the slightest way. They could be nailed to their seats for all I knew. Still in pain, and with the beginning of a headache to slowly sink into my consciousness, I looked back up at the stage.

There I still stood. My eyes were unfixed and seemingly looked at absolutely nothing. I watched me, and could feel my hands, my entire body shaking. I hadn’t prayed since I was a child and here I was, pleading with whatever could conceivably watching over me that this was a dream when he pulled out an x-acto knife. Somehow I knew what was about to happen. I tried to get up off my seat, but my knees refused to work. I tried to lift my feet and they were fixed to the ground. I tried to close my eyes, but they kept flying open again.

He clicked the knife out of its shell and the blade seemed to catch the light in a way that knives only did in fiction. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks as I raised my other hand and, with the x-acto knife, started to carve into my thumb.

I screamed in the most horrific pain I’d ever felt in my life as my nerves lit up like a Christmas tree. The me that stood on the stage didn’t say anything, didn’t even flinch as he pressed the knife even further into his thumb. I wanted to vomit, I wanted to pass out, I wanted to run, I wanted to die as the pain continued.

Blood poured over his hand and down his wrist and then onto the floor as he brought the blade around to the side of his thumb. He was cutting deep and I could feel the blade in my thumb, then in the side of my hand even though from all appearance I was totally unharmed.

And so this went on. Sweat and tears dripped off of my face and blood poured off the me on the stage as continued to cut as if with the intent to tear his entire flesh off to the bone. I couldn’t help but watch, as if an invisible force were preventing me from doing anything else. This seemed to go on for hours, with stage-me alternating hands somehow until his flesh was bifurcated along a solid line on both of his sides.

I couldn’t help but hope that it was finished as he finally finished the task.

The knife clattered to the floor and in the most horrific, disgusting sound that I’d ever heard, the flesh and cuts sloughed off to the floor revealing a gore-streaked skeleton standing stock still in front of the microphone, its eyes remaining in their socket as they now stared straight at me.

I could feel sensation returning to my body as he stared at me. I got up and I ran as fast as I could out of the house and down the street, not even noticing that water was falling down onto me in a solid sheet. I had no idea how long, how hard or how fast I was running. All I could concentrate on was the eyes. The horrible eyes.

They found me days later under an overpass.

The doctors assure me that one day, I’ll be able to get out. They hope very hard for me that they’ll somehow figure out what happened to me, why the sudden and severe psychotic break. I’m not holding my breath since, after all, I can never seem to remember the name or description of the doctor treating me.