Chapter 1

There was a sudden knock on the door and my head turned towards it with a shocked expression, much like a deer in headlights. I stepped forward and kicked my foot back, slamming the door shut. I felt my lunch churning in my stomach. I could still feel the warmth of it searing through me. I would have enjoyed that aspect of it, if not for the present circumstance threatening to pull it right out of me.

I walked into the kitchen and searched for the tiny silver key that would have fit the lock of the door I had just shut. I needed it secured. I didn’t know who was at my door, but whoever it was, I didn’t need them snooping around my home. I pulled open drawers, rummaged, and slammed each shut with a frustrated thud. I couldn’t find it.

“Blast it all!” I hissed under my breath.

The knocking continued. Someone was keen to get in, but why? Why would anyone be visiting at such an hour? It was well past midnight and the sun was nowhere near ready to show itself.

“Hold your horses!” I called out to the mysterious visitor at the door.

“For what?” the familiar voice called back. “I’m freezing my butt off out here, you know.”

“Swift?” I asked, surprised. I don’t know why I was. My friend, who goes by the nickname Swift Wing down at the station, had a tendency of showing up unexpected. I guess I was just getting a little too paranoid back then. It was a trivial fear really. It’s not like anything could go too horrible. If worse came to worst, I could just leave– again.

“Lily?” Swift Wing called back, mocking my shock.

I sighed and allowed myself the relief of a brief pause. I had overreacted. Though I still wasn’t comfortable with leaving the door unlocked, I felt confident that I’d be able to avoid letting Swift Wing in. I walked briskly over to the door and pressed my palm down on the handle. The door released its hold against the frame with a gentle click.

Before he had a chance to step inside, I stepped out and shut the door, forcing my friend to take a few steps back. It was dark, and I could just barely make out the shape of his figure in the depths of the night. The lampposts were put out. They were all shut off just before midnight to avoid encouraging anyone wondering the town at night.

There were rumors of strange happenings floating around. All of Hollowville was now speaking of strange loss of memory. They all had stories of walking through the streets and blacking out, only to wake up at home with no recollection of the previous night, or even how they got back. It was sending fear through the citizens, and even some subtle enjoyment due to the new tales arising. I thought it was sick really, that people could find enjoyment in hearing these tales. They laughed away as if they thought it was a joke, but I knew better. Of course I knew better. Who would know better than I?

Even if there was no truth to what these people said, they clearly believed it. Why laugh at another’s imbalance? There were people out there losing their lives, people losing their minds, and then the rest of them, those making jokes out of it all. They disgusted me. They disgusted me almost as much as I disgusted myself.

“Are you alright, Lily?” Swift Wing asked, pulling my conscience away from the depths of my thoughts.

I looked to the frame of his face. His eyes just barely reflected the light that was concealed behind my curtained windows.

“I’m fine.” I assured him with a lie. “Why do you ask?” I ventured, hoping he wasn’t noticing anything strange.

“You’re just quiet,” he told me. “I guess that’s not all that strange, considering it’s you I’m talking to.”

“I’m sorry. I never mean to ignore you, Jaden,” I said, calling him by his real name now. “I don’t even realize when I’m drifting off,” I told him.

“Was this a bad time?” he asked.

“No, it’s alright,” I insisted. “I need some time away from my own solitude.”

“Alright,” he said.

I knew that he was concerned. I knew that he was trying to analyze me through the darkness, but I also knew that he wouldn’t achieve anything with the attempt. He would see even less of me than I did of him. His eyes were never as keen as my own — at least, not in the dead of the night.

“Sometimes I wonder what’s going on in your head,” he told me. “You seem to think so much. You must be a genius. I bet if I could get inside your mind, I’d just be scared off.”

I forced a laugh. It would have been funny had it not been for the truth of it all. If he could get in my mind, it would indeed scare him off. It wouldn’t just scare him away from my thoughts; it would scare him away from my life. I often thought it would have been best for him that way.

“How is work treating you?” I asked him, wanting a new subject as quickly as I could get one.

“It’s been busy,” he informed me. “We’ve been getting a lot of people in with stories on these memory losses.”

“Oh?” I asked.

“One woman came in just yesterday with a story of her own. She said she just blacked out. Her story was that she was getting groceries and that everything went away after that. She woke up at home and came straight to us. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but she did say she’s been dizzy ever since.”

“That’s a lie!” I said in outrage before I could stop myself.

“What?” Jaden asked with a tone of utter confusion.

“Well,” I thought quickly, “you know how all of these poeple are. They’re all over the place, making up stories. It’s almost like these tales are a trend of some sort. I bet this woman was pretty young, too.”

“She was,” Jaden admitted.

“Well, if you want my opinion, they are only coming to you for attention,” I told him.

“You know I always value your input, but I can’t really rule anything out. It’s my job to hear them out. I agree that this is all probably just a bunch of rumors that’s now just going downhill. It’s crazy how much commotion you could start with such a small prank, but it’s not my place to really decide. I could easily say that it’s all just a long drawn series of made up stories, but I won’t get paid unless I follow protocol.”

Though I let him believe we were in agreement, we weren’t. I knew that it wasn’t all ignorant to the truth, safer for the both of us. I wasn’t willing to put us into jeopardy, not when it wasn’t necessary.

As for the lying woman, she was just one of many. Of all the stories arising, there were more fake than real. Everyone wanted to be part of the whole ordeal — everyone but the true victims. I was horrified to learn of all the commotion to arise. I wasn’t sure what it would entail. On one hand, it would bring more interest to the matter. That would lead to more investigation and media attention. On the other hand, so many fake stories arising would just make finding the real ones harder. That would just drown the real evidence with wasted time and doubt of any truth to the situation.

Thinking of the whole ordeal was putting me on edge. How could anyone be so senseless? How could they be so trivial as to use trauma of those around them to create a spotlight to shine on themselves? It was all so foolish. They were bigger wrongs than those of my own sins. They really weren’t, but they were.

“Earth to Lily, you there?”

I felt a slight breeze, created by the wave of Jaden’s hand, against my cheek. I blinked a few times and looked at him. My vision was beginning to sharpen, along with my other senses. I could hear his heartbeat now.

“Yes, I’m here,” I told him, letting out a soft sigh.

“Seriously now, what’s wrong?” he asked.

I shook my head. “Nothing’s wrong. I’m just tired.”

“Maybe I should just go home. Why don’t you just come over later? You can take a nap or whatever and just come over in the afternoon.”

“You know how work is for me. I’ve got that night shift and when I get home I still have to get some work done. Maybe our shifts will cross again sometime soon.”

“I’m starting to think that getting you a job at the station was a bad idea. It’s taking over your life. I don’t even have to work as much as you do.”

“Well, that’s the difference between a detective and a cop, but you’re right. I probably was better off as a freelancer. Still, you know I was busy even before I was down at the station.”

“But at least you let me keep you company while you worked back then,” he told me.

I shrugged. I felt bad, but it was what had to be done. There was more to it than just the amount of work I had to do. With these cases rising, I needed to do as much as I could on my own. I had to detach myself from everyone else when I was working.

“Do you think that there’s a chance that any of these cases are real?” Jaden asked me.

“No,” I lied.

“So you think everyone is just lying?” he asked.

“Well everyone’s story is about as vague as it can be. No one has any evidence. None of these cases seem to have a connection to each other, other than the memory loss. They all just come in saying they blacked out. Honestly, the whole start of this situation seems a lot more medical than anything. We’ve been checking everyone for traces of any sort of chemical or drug material and there hasn’t been anything. Now we just have dozens upon dozens of people coming in saying that they’ve got the same issue.”

Frustration was clear in my tone as I went on about the cases. “I don’t think everyone’s lying, but I know some are, and I don’t think anyone has taken this as simply as it should be taken. So someone had a bit of a memory loss. Is this really all that new?”

“Alright, well we aren’t on duty right now, so what do you say we just let it rest for now?” Jaden suggested. “I’ll let you get some sleep and I’ll see you when I see you.”

“That would be best,” I agreed. “Get home safely, Swift. You still should be careful during these times. Go straight home.”

I didn’t believe that anything would attack him per se, but I didn’t want him around if anything did get attacked. If he noticed something strange or suspicious while wandering these parts, I knew he would look into it, and possibly take action. I wasn’t comfortable with that.

“I will,” he assured me. “Just as soon as I stop by the station and make sure everything is locked up.”

“What?” I asked. “You’re not serious.”

There had been a few cases in the past where Jaden had left the station in a hurry. Whenever he did, he would often forget to lock a few doors. It was fine if he left a door or two unlocked on the inside, but if the front door was left unsecured, there could be trouble.

“Don’t worry about it,” Swift Wing told me. “I barely just left the station and it isn’t far from here. I’ll be in, out, and at home in no time at all.”

I sighed. “It’s in the opposite direction of where you need to go,” I pointed out.

“It’s really no big deal,” he said.

“Just give me the keys and I’ll take care of it for you,” I said, with a slightly demanding tone.

“I just said it’s no big deal,” he repeated.

“Well I need to look around anyway,” I said. “I have to take a look around the bakery. I tried going during the day, but Mrs. Jones asked me to leave. I was disturbing her customers. A detective having a look behind a bakery isn’t the best for business. This would be the best time for me to look, so I might as well lock up the station for you.”

“Well I could just go along with you,” Jaden said.

I couldn’t let him do that. He needed to stay out of this as much as he could. The fact that he was a cop made this hard enough for me to deal with, but to have him accompany me to actual investigation was out of the question.

“You know I have to take care of work on my own. Taking you with would be against protocol. We could both lose our jobs, and I don’t know about you, but I really need mine right now. I just got this house.”

“I know, I know. I just thought maybe you’d look over it for once. I don’t know why I did. You’re not one to break away from any formalities. Sorry I even brought it up. It was a selfish idea.”

“I’m sorry,” I said sympathetically. “I promise you, next week I’ll make some time to see you.”

“Sounds good,” Jaden said, immediately cheering up.

I heard him rummaging through a pocket. The jingling of the keys was enough for me to catch them in my hand without needing to see them.

“Thanks,” I mumbled.

“See you around,” he said before walking away.

I went back inside to find my cloak. It was a little chilly outside. I wrapped myself up and pocketed the keys before heading out again. I felt a jabbing pain in my stomach as I headed for the station. My last meal wasn’t sufficient enough.

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