Author Topic: Fleming Storage Unit #1: Nights Note.  (Read 787 times)

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FrostedMiniFears

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Fleming Unit 001 [Nights Note]

The unit was filled to the brim with old heirlooms of a long-lost tragedy. Every piece belonged to my wife and daughter, who were gone. I’d blamed myself for the whole ordeal; Ashley’s disappearance; The divorce and perhaps most tragic of all - my wife’s suicide. I’d thought about the old adage of “good things come in 3’s” and realized whomever had penned that must have been a hopeless romantic.

I moved the old boxes about. They were beaten and brown with the names of my departed loved ones plastered on every face. One of Ashley’s boxes toppled over and out spilled her dolls. Some of them were even sealed. A memento to the week she disappeared; It was the week before her birthday, December 19th. I had to choke back the tears, as I realized how pathetic I’d become. Not only did I lose my family, but I bundled up all of their memories, and placed them in a fucking storage unit in Havre, despite living in Billings, which was 4 hours away. I couldn’t move on.

What formerly did belong to my wife, and what she didn’t take in the divorce was mostly cheap Ikea furniture. I sat on the couch to collect myself. Its green paisley micro velvet was soothing and repulsive. It felt like heaven, yet could also induce a grand mal seizure. Most of everything in the unit belonged to my wife and daughter, save for that Knight armor, I had purchased. It was based on an old design from the renaissance, or so the eBay seller claimed. I wanted to piece of flair for the foyer, so I purchased it as a sort of joke. In retrospect, it was probably a poor purchase since it now occupied storage space. Its isolation was symbolic of my own, one which I’d endured for a year now. I decided that if I had to move stuff I should probably just disassemble that armor first. As i approached it, I caught my reflection in its chrome visor. The image angered me enough to pull the helmet off, and as I did, a solitary piece of paper fell out from inside.

Bright green construction paper neatly folded into fourths. I gently pulled it apart revealing a child's drawing with a message to me. It read;

        “I love you, daddy. Look around the house for more secret notes!”

The drawing was of the tire swing in the backyard. A crude arrow pointed at the tire, like an “x’ on a treasure map. Just coming here had been an emotional roller coaster, and it didn’t help that the manager gave such short notice. However, it was only the 10th I still had 4 days, so I felt that packing up could wait. The drive back to Billings was a long one. 
It hadn’t become any easier. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would be greeted every time I’d turn the lock and opened the front door. Even when knowing the truth, the emptiness of the house still chilled me.

The backyard had overgrown, I’d not had the mental energy to maintain myself let alone an entire backyard. I’d let ivy ensnare the picket fence and cherry tree, and left a retaining wall unfinished. It looked as if it had been abandoned. The tire hung by its rope, creaking at every breath of wind or subtle movement. I placed my hand within it, feeling the walls of the tire’s interior. I mostly felt cobwebs, which I hopped were vacant, then finally the familiar touch of paper. It was damp and faded from being out all of last winter. I needed to be extra careful while handling it. I didn’t want it to fall apart, these were the last things my daughter left to me and I wanted to preserve them.

I examined it. The tones were muted and the paper was stained, a happy child's drawing now transformed into a desaturated, cryptic nightmare. The color of the paper was probably pink, the hues were hardly distinguishable from one another, But I was sure it was Ashley's room. It was a drawing of her playing with dolls on her bed, toy box on one side and doll house on the other, all of which were expressed in rough lines only a Crayola could have made.


Drawn on the page was another black arrow which pointed downwards.

   “What could that be?” I thought to myself.

After all was said and done, I’d cleared out most of everything that wasn’t mine during my initial breakdown. Ashley’s room was down the hall. I gripped the handle with hesitation, my fingers slipped as a fine coat of dust now covered the entire knob. As I opened the door my memories were flooded with images of pastels and an overall warmth which was quickly broken by reality of the room. I’d forgotten that I tore down all of the wall paper, which only worsened my guilt. Gray walls, with a hardwood floor, the sky mirrored the room’s interior with its overcast.

I had no problem envisioning what the room had looked like previously. Walking around, I surmised that if the bed had been under the window pane, then the arrow would be pointing to the heating grate. I pulled on the grate and it lifted. The screws were not secure in the least, it took little effort to find what she had hid. It was a small pink box. Opening it revealed its contents. Jacks, Marbles, and another note.

This time the paper didn’t have colorful illustrations, instead it looked like a well worded letter, albeit one written by a child.

       “Dear, Daddy, I know you have to work all the time, but sometimes I get sad, because mommy gets mean! Look in your office for the next clue!”

My wife did have the habit of drinking too much when I was at work for extended times, It was the bane of my existence as a man working at one of the many non-descript law firms in Billings. Long Hours; Mandatory. Though I couldn’t remember a single time she’d raised a hand against our child, which made the sentence all the more confusing.


My office was always a mess, when I did work at the firm, I made everything look nice a tidy. The firm was a place of control, so my workspace reflected that fact. But at the house was a different story, I could freely, eat, or drink while finalizing paper-work, and unfortunately, my office showed it.

Papers, stacked upon stacks of papers; piled on desks, chairs, and bookshelves. Veritable skyscrapers of printer paper 8x11 measured by the feet. Who knows how many ink cartridges were wasted in the pursuit of false suits and needless divorces. Ashley had not given me a single clue to go on, so this made for a good time as any to clean up my space, perhaps make room for that hideous green couch.

Hours passed, and before I knew it, I’d compiled at least 12 black bags of shredded legal documents, and I’d been fairly thorough about looking at every piece of paper for another clue left by my late daughter. I found nothing. I laid down in the center of the room. The shag carpet was as comfy as any bed, I closed my eyes, as the day had just been too exhausting, and took a nap.

I dreamed of the times when I was still happy. The times I still had a family. Memories that drifted in and out of my dreams, were painful reminders, that even while I slept, I couldn’t be rid of the guilt. I could feel myself grid my teeth.

Then suddenly, I found myself in the office. It was some past memory of a late night, like many I’d faced before. I watched myself agonized over some document, which at the time was probably the most important thing in the world. The door creaked open and in walked Ashley holding her bear.

   “What are you doing up so late, honey?” I asked.

        “I couldn’t sleep, mom was talking too loud on the phone.” she replied.

I remember this. It’d happened more than once, and it always ended with Ashley waking up and coming downstairs to bother me.

   “What are you writing?” She asked.

   “Oh, it’s just some of daddy’s work. I’m just about finished.”

I’d only looked away for a moment, and that’s all it took. She was pulling out the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet, simply out of boredom.


   “Sweetie...”

She began to open the folders and shuffle the documents inside. I stood up from the desk and grabbed her. She squealed with excitement as I lifted her into the air.
“Are you helping me?” I asked.

   “Yes!”
   
“Oh, well you’re a very good helper, but I’d prefer you’d not play with daddy’s papers, especially the filing cabinet.”

I awoke on the floor. I’d reached an epiphany while I slept. The cabinet; She was always trying to get in there. It was literally the only thing in the room which was organized. I slid open the bottom drawer and flipped through the many folders, then I found it. One of the folders was tagged with the name “Ashley.”

Opening it I found many crude drawings of the home. Illustrations of me driving to work, Ashley at school, and many pictures of my ex-wife. Pictures of her drinking, and talking on the phone. Rendered in dark clashing colors, clearly, my wife’s proclivities for late night drinking must have been something she detested.

I flipped through the pages until I reached the end. It read

        “Mommy has been so mean to me lately! So, I hid her phone so she can’t talk to her friends anymore!”   

The drawing revealed its location.

The garage was another place which lost its meaning after the tragedy. I no longer needed to repair things or do any sort of maintenance now. Just as the note expressed, the last hidden item was in my tools cabinet. The phone had been separated from its battery, no doubt to help keep it hidden.

Inside, I sat the phone down to charge. I wanted to see what, if any, photos of my daughter could be salvaged. After a minute or so the screen blipped to life. Immediately notifications begin to pop up on the screen.
   
   Steve Dec 20 at 11:45 “It’s fine. I understand.”

        Steve: Dec 20 at 10:23 “Yo, You around?”

        Steve: Dec 16 at 3:00 “Forget about it. I'll find something else to do.”

   Steve: Dec 16 at 9:43 “tomorrow*?”

        Steve: Dec 16 at 9:43 “Want to meet up at the usual spot tomato?”

        Steve Dec 14 at 8:00 “I know it’s been a days weeks but im still interested. ;)

        Me Dec 12 at 9:25 “ i cant i have things i need 2 do. Its my kids fuckin birthday.

        Steve Dec 12 at 9:05 “And why can’t you?”

        Me Dec 12 at 9:00 “im bust 2day.”

   Steve Dec 12 at 8:55 “Want to meet today?”

I scrolled through the phone. Messages from assortments of men from over the entire year. A tinder profile which had 100’s of followers, and an Instagram set to private. This journey had been a horrible one. This was why she was always on the phone late at night. This is why she drank all the time. This is why Ashley hid her phone. This is why…

She disappeared.

My wife had gotten rid of the thing that threatened her lifestyle. I felt my anger came to a boil. I screamed! Grabbing the chair in the kitchen; I smashed everything I could. I toppled the kitchen table and pulled the microwave from its housing. While in my manic state, Ashley’s letters fell and splayed outward onto the floor.

I gathered some composure and scooped the letters back into my pockets. There was nothing left to be done.

The next morning, I emailed Ian on what to do with the stuff in the unit.

           “Hey, Ian. This is Liam Mason of Unit 001. I really don't need my stuff back, just let the police auction it off. Thanks.

            - Liam. “

The horrific secret nature of my wife was also a little relieving. It meant I wasn’t solely responsible for the tragedy of Ashley’s death. That I needn’t carry around the guilt anymore.


I could move on.