The Time | Chapter 2: The Friend

Written by: Kevin Gatti

I was too afraid to go anywhere. I stayed in the apartment all day just staring into space and out the window. Fear consumed me. There was nowhere safe to go. Outside the window, I saw the black van multiple times throughout the day. It freaked me out every time. I desperately wanted to know where I was and what was going on.
 
Nighttime came and I continued to feel stuck in the apartment, terrified of what awaited me outside. I heard a tapping out the window in the bedroom. I nervously went to check it out. Initially, I didn’t see anything. I looked all around the balcony right outside the window. Then suddenly I saw the source of the noise. A squirrel sat content in the corner of the balcony chewing on a nut.
 
I opened the window to the balcony. I put my hand towards the squirrel. To my surprise, the squirrel came towards my hand and started rubbing themselves up against my fingers in a soothing and gentle way. I thought maybe this squirrel was a friend in some weird way. After just a couple seconds of massaging my fingers, the squirrel ran back over to the nut it was eating. They did not want to lose that nut.
 
“Food. I need to eat” I said aloud to myself. The squirrel had reminded me that I needed to eat. Into the kitchen I went in search of food. Everything was empty. There was nothing in the fridge or in any of the cupboards. I panicked for a moment, but then I remember that I was apparently running a convenience store downstairs. I thought about going down to get some food, but then I remembered what had happened the last time I had gone down there. I curled up on the couch in the living room and there I stayed until morning.
 
At 7 in the morning, the phone in the bedroom started ringing. I was startled. It was the first time I had heard that phone ring. I cautiously approached it. My breathing started to race. I thought my nerves were already shot, but here I was feeling even more nervous than before.
 
“Hello.” I slowly said as I answered the phone.
 
“Yo Aaron! You alright. You never came down yesterday. Chip said you might be sick or something. You good?” The voice said.
 
I was so confused. I had no idea who I was talking to. They sounded different from the guy I met in the store.
 
“Are you in the store?” I asked.
 
The voice started to chuckle. “Yeah. I’m pretty much always here.” The voice paused for a moment and then continued, “Look, you seem a little off. Why don’t you come down for a little? Stretch your legs?”
 
“Ok.” I said back. I didn’t know what else to say. This guy on the phone seemed like he cared and was willing to help me.
 
I got off the phone, put on some pants and made my way to the door in the living room. I took a deep breath and exited once again. I walked down the hallway to the elevator. When the doors opened back up in the convenient store my heart felt like it had dropped into my stomach as I immediately got flashbacks from the last time I was in the store. I started to sweat as I walked out into the store.
 
“Aaron!” The voice from the phone yelled. It was a guy standing over behind the cash register. He was definitely not the same guy as before.
 
“What happened to the other guy?” I asked.
 
“Who? Chip? He’s off today.” He said back.
 
“He was taken away in a black van.” I replied.
 
He started to get nervous. “Oh, that was Jim. It was his time.”
 
I was concerned. “What does that mean?”
 
He seemed confused that I didn’t know. “You know. When it’s your time, it’s your time.”
 
“No. I don’t know.” I said as I was well beyond annoyed with everything.
 
He just stared at me with a very concerned look his face.
 
“What’s your name?” I had to ask at this point.
 
He looked even more puzzled and concerned as he stated that Scott was his name.
 
“Scott, I’m sorry. I think there is something wrong with me. I need help. I don’t remember anything.” I said as I was trying to be as nice and calm as possible.
 
“Clearly.” I could hear Scott mumble under his breath.
 
“Maybe you can take me to get help.” I said a little desperately.
 
Scott stared at me and said nothing.
 
“Scott. I’m serious. I need help.” I insisted.
 
“I need to stay at the store and so do you.” Scott said with a very direct tone and emotionless look on his face.
 
“But I need help.” I insisted.
 
“Don’t we all, Aaron. Join the club.” Scott said very firmly without moving much of his body.
 
I said nothing else to Scott and decided to take a walk around the store. As I was doing so, I noticed Scott was watching me move around the store. I was quickly realizing that Scott was an odd character, which was adding to the extremely bizarre circumstance I was now living in.
When I made my way back to the front of the store by the cash register, I had a couple items I wanted to eat in my hands.
 
“What are you doing with those?” Scott asked.
 
“Oh, I was just going to take these as snacks. Do I have to pay?” I said as I was feeling the tension coming from Scott.
 
“We don’t eat the food here.” Scott quickly snapped back.
 
“Oh really. Why is that?” I questioned curiously.
 
“We just don’t.” Scott said rather aggressively. He appeared to be getting really annoyed with me now.
 
Again, I tried to reason with him. “Look, Scott, I told you. I’m confused. I need help.”
 
Scott was now yelling at me. “I can clearly see you need help, but that’s not my problem! Now put the food down!”
 
I started to speak, “Scott…” Then suddenly a man I had never seen before entered the store with a gun. I immediately got scared thinking that the situation was going repeat itself and I was going end up in that bed again. However, before I could have much time to react, the man lifted his gun and shot Scott twice in the chest. He then turned to me and said, “Scott is not your friend. Come with me.”

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