I’ve solved some of my problems in Last Days of Loneliness, I think. If you read my earlier posts about how things were terrible and how I couldn’t figure out why Amanda knows to kill the eggs with fire, rest assured, I’ve stumbled across an excellent workaround.
I had very similar conversations with Ben and my brother Nate about how to solve my narrator’s knowledge problem, in which they basically said that I should make someone else in the town or cult tell her to use fire to kill the eggs. I, of course, resisted their advice at first. I’d had similar thoughts many times previously, and always dismissed them because I thought it made no sense for someone to break the cult’s taboos and try to warn Amanda. But after talking with both Nate and Ben, who both made it sound so plausible, and then reading some of George Buckenham’s rules for making games on Rock Paper Shotgun, I decided what the hell; I’d go ahead and do as Buckenham suggested. So I tried the stupid/simple solution. And I liked it.
What follows is the scene that I thought wouldn’t work, but did. It comes some time after a scene in which Amanda goes to the police station and overhears an interesting conversation, and long before her ultimate recognition of the information that she is given in this scene. Enjoy.
That wasn’t the last time that I saw Fred. The same man who had been in the police station with me that day ended up making a much bigger splash only a few weeks later. The weirdest part from my perspective, of course, was that I somehow ended up being involved with his crazy.
I was walking home from school after a particularly miserable day; my history test hadn’t gone so well. You’d think that history would be the same no matter where you go to school, but that just isn’t true. Teachers want different answers, they focus on different things, they believe different things happened… it’s basically all a bunch of bullshit, really. I’m not sure how anyone can study history and actually believe that anything happened the way that their textbooks say it did. People are too willing to lie, and textbook writers are no different from anyone else.
But anyway, I was walking home on one of the last nice fall days, with the sun setting over the hills, when I noticed that man following me, about half a block back. I couldn’t place him at first, and thought that maybe he was just another person walking the same route, but I took a few unnecessary turns just to be sure, crossing the street when I don’t usually, and sure enough creeper man followed me every time. He was so obvious about it, it was like he didn’t even realize that I might have noticed that he was following me.
For the next block and a half I barely paid attention to where I was going, focusing instead on how far behind me the man was and whether he was trying to get any closer. I didn’t want to lead him back to my home, but he probably knew where I lived anyway. Being the new girl in such a small town, part of the new family, meant that basically everyone already knew where I lived. I picked up the pace, walking a bit faster and tugging on the straps of my backpack to hold it firmly in place. If I made it home with half a block to spare, I’d have Bert with me if he tried anything weird. And I could call 911 from the landline, which I couldn’t do on my stupid cellphone. Not for the first time, I cursed the fact that cellphones were basically useless here. I’d kept mine and just left it on airplane mode, but I could only ever use it for a watch. Mystery man picked up the pace behind me, keeping the same distance.
I made it home, almost sprinting down the walk to my front door, squeezing inside to keep Bert from nosing his way out. I did not want to have to deal with Bert wandering around the front yard right now, not with creeper man so close behind me. I’d barely put my backpack down and locked the front door when the doorbell rang. I practically jumped out of my skin I was so surprised. Did he really think that I’d come to the door after he’d followed me like that? I went around the first floor, locking windows shut, simultaneously wishing that Mom were home and glad that she wasn’t there, like I’d somehow be better able to take of myself if I didn’t have to worry about her too. Dad, of course, was still at work.
The doorbell kept ringing, more insistently now. There was a moment of peace, and then the man started knocking. I was quivering slightly, keyed up and ready for a fight while I went through a quick mental checklist of all the doors and windows on the bottom floor. I’d locked them all, but I went around again just to make sure. Bert whined, following me around slowly with a confused look and a slowly wagging tail, like he wasn’t sure whether this was supposed to be a game or not. The knocking finally stopped, but then I heard the man speaking through the front door.
“Amanda? Amanda Greaves? I know you’re there, please just listen to me. Please, let me in Amanda.”
My heart thudding in my chest, I walked quickly over to the phone and jerked it off the rest. I pulled too hard and the whole thing fell off the wall. I fumbled for it and it landed on the floor with a solid crack.
“Amanda, I have something I need to tell you, something you need to know. It’s really important.”
“Yeah,” I muttered under my breath, “I’ll fucking bet it is you goddamn fucking creeper.” I picked up the receiver in one hand, the base in the other, and checked for a dial tone. It still worked.
“Amanda, it isn’t safe for me to tell you this out here. Please, can you please let me in?”
I almost choked on my incredulous laughter. Not safe? That was a good one. I pinned the receiver between shoulder and ear, finger poised over the touchpad.
“Look, Amanda, it’s Fred Lesher. I saw you at the police station. It’s really important that you hear this. God, I hope you can hear this.” I couldn’t believe that this grown man was about to try to confess his undying love to me through a locked door, but that sure as hell sounded like what was about to happen. I dialed. The phone rang for a second or two.
“Hello, this is 911, what’s your emergency?” It was a woman’s voice, clear and calm.
“Amanda, I hope you’re listening, you have to understand, you’re not safe here, no one is safe here. People die here all the time.” The man, Fred I guess, kept talking on the other side of the door. He sounded desperate, and every so often I could hear his hand thud against the door, like he was doing a terrible job of keeping time.
“Hello 911,” I pitched my voice low, speaking quietly. The phone was next to the door, and I didn’t want to let Fred know where I was. “My name is Amanda Greaves, I’m at home at 241 Spruce Street, and there’s a man who will not leave me alone outside my front door. He followed me home, I think he might try to break in.”
“Amanda,” Fred continued, voice muffled through the door, “you’re in terrible danger, you and your family.” There was a moment of silence, interrupted by the dispatcher on the other end of the line. I could hear them talking to someone else but couldn’t make out the words.
“Ok Amanda,” the dispatcher continued, “have you locked all your doors and windows?”
“Yes,” I muttered back, my eyes fixed on the front door.
“Amanda!” Fred was louder now, trying to get my attention I guess. “You have to believe me! You’re going to die!”
“Ok Amanda,” the dispatcher continued, “I’ve got officers on the way, they should be there soon. I need you to stay on the line with me, ok? Can you do that and stay out of sight?” I muttered that I could.
“They’re going to capture you and kill you Amanda! Just like they always do!”
“Um,” I started, “he’s talking about how people are going to come for me and kill me.”
“Okay Amanda,” she still sounded calm, “I need you to ignore what he’s saying, but can you tell me where he is?”
I tried to block out Fred’s yelling as best as I could. He’d started talking about fire.
“Yeah,” I said, “he’s still yelling outside my front door.” There was a quiet moment as she spoke to someone on another line.
“Okay Amanda, and where in the house are you? Can you stay on the phone and stay away from the front door?”
I told her that I couldn’t. There was only the one phone, and at best I could hide behind the little island between the kitchen and the living room. She told me to do that.
I huddled behind the island, Bert pulled up close next to me like a big fuzzy Newfie wall against the world while I whispered updates to the dispatcher through the handset I cradled against my face. It was strangely soothing, having those barriers against the insanity of the world around me. I started telling her about what Fred was saying, but she just kept telling me to ignore his words and pay attention to the location of his voice. Then I heard the police roll up out front.
The cops had gotten right to the curb before they turned on their siren and lights, and Fred screamed so loud that I thought he must have shat his pants. I lied to the dispatcher, and crawled forward until I could look out a window to see what happened to Fred Lesher.
He was still screaming, yelling at me that I hadn’t understood, that I needed to understand, that fire was the only way to be free, and then he was off, running from the cops. He tore through our backyard, throwing himself over the fence as the police began their pursuit. I told the dispatcher that Fred had run from the cops through my backyard, and could hear her radioing another car. She reassured me that things would be taken care of, and told me that she was really impressed with how well I’d kept my cool. She told me that there’d be someone coming around to take my statement, and that I should stay at home with everything locked up for the time being, but that she thought I’d be okay. I thanked her, and then she told me that I could hang up. So I did. And I recovered from that so well that I barely thought about Fred Lesher for another three months.
That’s not to say that I didn’t tell the officers about what had happened, when they came around to talk with me. I was glad that it wasn’t “Officer Friendly” who came to speak with me. I probably wouldn’t have been able to handle that, after my experience with him last time. I told the officer about what Fred had said, glossing over most of the hysterical parts, talking about how I’d thought that he might try to attack me or something, or maybe burn my house down if he couldn’t get inside.
I told my Mom and Dad about it, though I tried not to. I didn’t want to alarm them. The last thing I needed was for my parents to decide that they had to hover over me like I was some delicate egg just waiting to shatter. That would be the worst. If that happened, I think I would have gone insane. Instead I told them about how I’d handled the situation, and how the dispatcher had complimented me on staying calm the whole way through. They seemed concerned, but also duly impressed. They agreed that I should take Bert with me whenever I was going walking somewhere, and that they’d give me rides to and from school, unless I could carpool with someone else, but that was just about the worst of it. Way better than I’d been worried they’d do.
In some ways I was kind of okay with it, since it gave me a good excuse to stay at school with Mr. Picket and keep making more art. In fact, though I hadn’t really thought about it this way until now, I have Fred Lesher to thank for the time that I had with Mr. Picket and Mr. Felber. Without him, I might never have thought it would be fun to go hang out with two of my teachers and play boardgames at their little house up in the woods. And, it’s weird to say this, but in a really important way having Fred Lesher stand outside my door and yell at me totally saved my life. Of course, if you want to look at things that way, having Fred Lesher yell at me from outside my front door also meant that a whole lot of other people ended up dead, Fred Lesher included.