What is it?

Ruined.

All of it, ruined.

I stood in the doorway, looking at my home and the destroyed pieces of furniture. The papers that had been scattered everywhere. The food from the fridge, wasted upon the floor and… yes. And the walls. I couldn’t think of what to do, or to say. Somebody had broken into my house. Somebody had touched my things. I felt violated and dirty, not in any kind of good way. For a moment, I was torn between immediately calling the cops, and trying to see what was taken. Ultimately, I decided that I could do both at the same time. My fingers dialed the phone as I gingerly picked my way through the debris of my life.

The conversation was brief. The operator asked my name, address, and a brief description of what occurred. As soon as I hung up, I could no longer remember if the operator had been male or female, I was so stuck on the disaster around me. Oddly, during that time I had found many broken items, but nothing missing. Continuing to look, I discovered more of the same. Right when I thought I’d pinpointed a thefted object, I’d find it nearby. Smashed. Torn. Dismantled. It hurt more to have nothing taken. It made it feel a lot more personal. Like somebody hated me enough to break in and wreck everything, like they hated me so much they couldn’t stand the thought of having my stuff with them long enough to even pawn it.

It took a while for an officer to show up. He asked the same questions the operator had, plus a couple of others. Only one of which was a stumper.

“Where were you while all of this was happening?” He asked, casually.

Where were you…

I wracked my brain, trying to come up with the answer to that. Where were you…. It should have been an easy question to reply to. Everybody knows where they were. Except maybe coma patients and people with concussions. I was neither of those. I ran through my day. Work, home, walk, home. But that didn’t make sense, did it? It was my routine, but if I’d come home after my walk, then I would have been here for this. Obviously that wasn’t the case. So I settled on the only thing that would make sense to the cop.

“I was on a walk. I go for a walk every day after work.”

“Where do you walk?” still casual. Still jotting things down in his tiny notebook.

“Just through the neighborhood.”

“Every day?”

“Yes.”

“So you have a clear routine.”

I nodded. I did. It wasn’t a difficult one to figure out, either. If I had errands to run, I always did them after the walk. Or before I even went to work, depending on what they were. It hadn’t really dawned on me that being so predictable would be an opening for something like a burglary. Not burglary, something has to be taken for it to be called that. Home mauling fit more, if anything truly fit.

The office finished, took some prints with the note that it would likely not lead anywhere, and left. I stood in the center of the living room, astounded at what I had to clean up. Thankful that there hadn’t been any human waste in there anywhere. Nagging at me was the fact that I didn’t know where I’d been. I was certain I’d finished my walk and come home, but there was a giant gap in my memory. I looked at my phone for timestamps on texts and calls. No texts since about 4pm. My phone call to the police, and before that, about an hour before that, a call from work. I recalled the conversation easily, it hadn’t been great. There was a man there that I didn’t get along with, he made my life exponentially more difficult. He’d called. I’d tried to make it quick, but in his usual way, he made it last 20 minutes longer than it had to.

But after that? What?

My night was sleepless, trying to come up with the answer. I floated through the next day at work in a daze. Everybody thought it was because of the break-in, I didn’t have the wherewithal to tell them about the missing time. How do you explain something like that without coming off like a crazy person? I didn’t feel crazy. No, that’s not true. I totally felt crazy. The internet said that it might be part of PTSD, that the shock of the event might have blanked me out for the short time before it. Considering there wasn’t really a whole lot of trauma there, I didn’t really believe it. Though it did make more sense to me than just forgetting if I’d come home or not after a walk.

I was on my way to lunch when the guy – that guy stopped me. He abruptly continued our conversation from the previous night. I’d thought that we were done with that, but he felt the need to reiterate everything he’d said then, and repeat it a couple more times. Then he started to argue some points with me. Things he’d said he wanted done in our prior talk, and was now blaming me for when I repeated them back to him. I felt the rage bubble up in the pit of my stomach, and crawl up my spine. The urge to strike out was strong. Instead, I pretended my phone rang and veered away from the entanglement.

Despite cutting it off, I couldn’t let the anger go. I went into my office and closed the door, hoping that it would cool me off. Sitting down in my chair felt good. I closed my eyes to try to focus on relaxing my shoulder muscles. My phone really did ring, then. It was him. All I heard was ‘so what I was saying…’ and then nothing.

“Kyle, we’ve been looking for you.” I turned and looked at my door. One of the managers standing there, looking slightly amused and horrified all at once. “We need you.”

“Been right here, boss. What’s going on?” I stood up to follow, and was taken out to our warehouse. To a mess. Tools everywhere. Materials scattered. The mess here brought to mind the mess at my house. It unsettled me. Nobody had said anything. “Who did this?”

“Don’t know. Just thought you’d want to see it before our guys cleaned it up.” The warehouse was my domain, so that made sense. I nodded and he left. Two of our workers started to gather it all up after I went through it and made sure that nothing was actually gone. And thankfully there hadn’t been much to break, so replacement was going to cost very little. That wasn’t really the point, however. This marked two places I’d been that had been ransacked. And, to top it off, two times where I couldn’t actually account for what I’d been doing. Sure, this time it appeared that I’d fallen asleep at my desk. But had I?

Soon enough, the incidents faded in my head, and with no other problems, it seemed like an old dream. The weeks passed, and nothing came of my break-in, or the warehouse mess. Even curiosity waned. I went about my life as normal, and so did everybody else around me. Nobody even mentioned the coincidence of the two events. It appeared that nobody else made the connection. It also didn’t occur to me that these weeks were pretty pleasant. There was just nothing significantly bad in them for me to mark.

The peace was broken by him. Of course it was. It was when the calm waters rippled that I realized he’d been away from the office the entire time that I’d been at ease with the flow. My heart sunk. He followed me to my office, talking about something I didn’t catch. His droning, loud tone was bouncing off my brain, refusing his actual words entry.

“Can we not right now? I’m in the middle of…” I tried.

“Oh, yeah. Sure. But here’s the thing…” And he continued. And continued. I stared at him, baffled, as that feeling rose up in me again.

It was a lot easier to make out what had happened once I became aware of the world around me again. At least, the aftermath made more sense. It wasn’t just a mess of stuff and me staring at it blankly. This time, the mess was wet, red, and sticky. There were chunks in it. Sharp jagged white ones; small, jello-like grey ones. It was on the floor, on the wall, and on me. Dripping off of my hands. Coating the front of my clothes. Smeared along the pipe I was holding. In the center of a rather large puddle of vital fluids was another mess. This one looked as if it had been somebody, once upon a time. It was incredibly easy to infer what had gone on.

Funny thing, though. I didn’t remember any part of it.

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