Nina didn’t have much time. She needed to get to the bakery soon if she had any chance of making it to the office before 8:00 am. Speed walking down Courtier Road, she scoured her thoughts for a way to make up for the minutes that had somehow slipped between her fingers. She considered skipping breakfast and waiting until lunch to eat; that would buy her a few minutes. The only thing stopping her was her stubborn craving for warm, chocolatey croissants. No one could ever pass up one of those things.
It was a crisp, fall Monday morning. The cold nipped at Nina’s ears and nose, making her tuck her face deeper into her jacket. Even so, she could feel the slight warmth of the sun. This was the first blue-skied day the town had seen in a long time, and it was delightful. The leaves were coloured beautiful shades of orange, red and yellow, and the sound of dead ones crunching beneath her feet increased with her pace.
Nina’s thoughts about the lovely weather came to an abrupt stop with a puzzling question. What had caused her to be late in the first place? Had she overslept? The thought resonated through her mind. She pried at her memories from earlier that morning but couldn’t recall anything. It was the strangest thing: almost like she had been sleeping all morning and woken up in that moment.
Several minutes later, she decided to forget about it, convincing herself that being stressed had taken a toll on her, and that she would probably remember later on.
“Good morning!” Nina said to the baker as she walked into Stephano’s bakery.
“Why, good morning to you too, Ms. Acres! How are you today?” Stephano said with a smile. His black moustache was thicker than usual, and he seemed tired.
“I’m doing well, thanks. And you?”
“A little bit shaken by the news, but alright.”
“News?” Nina was lost, not having heard anything.
“You haven’t heard?!” his surprised expression made her jump a little. “Two people were murdered yesterday, near Vernier drive.”
“Really? That close?”
“Yes. It baffles me. As you and I both know, things like this don’t usually happen around here.” Nina was also shocked. She couldn’t remember the last time something bad happened in the widely-known-as perfect little town of Danton. There were never any car accidents, robberies, let alone murders.
“Well, we can’t do anything about it. Let’s just hope they catch the culprit.” Stephano said. “So, what can I get for you today?”
Nina continued on her way to work, chocolate croissants and cheese buns in hand. I’m sure it’s nothing, she told herself. They’ll find whoever did it. Although murders didn’t usually occur in the small town, she had to find a way to accept them without living in fear. She checked her watch. 7:45 am. Satisfied with her ability to make up time, she decided to stop by Mrs. Penelope’s house to drop off some Tupperware she was giving away. She would’ve done it after work, but there was time. Nina climbed up the stone steps leading to Mrs. Penelope’s front door and rang the doorbell. She waited and waited, but there was no answer. No sign of movement; nothing. She wasn’t home. She started toward the street, but a bad gut feeling stopped her in her tracks. If people hadn’t been dying, she might have just left. Any other day, she would have. But the feeling of curiosity and concern for her neighbour prevented her from walking away. She had to check on her. Slowly turning the doorknob, she opened the door. It creaked loudly.
“Hello?” she called, “Mrs. Penelope?” She walked through the narrow hallway to the living room. The TV was on.
“I have your Tupperware. Are you here?” She turned the corner into the kitchen and to her horror, found the old woman lying on the ground with a knife jabbed into her side. Blood was pooling beside her, and her big, blue eyes lay wide open, staring at her. Nina felt as if she’d just gotten air knocked out of her. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t scream. Could— not— move. Shaking but still finding the strength to do it, she ran out the door and called for help. She yelled, expecting someone, anyone to come help, but no one came. Not even 9-1-1 answered the phone.
“Why can’t anyone help me?” she screamed at the town in frustration. “I need help…” she whispered under her breath between gasps and sobs. Where was everyone? She hadn’t noticed earlier because she was in such a scramble, but there weren’t any people out for a walk that morning. The only person she’d seen was Stephano. From the corner of her eye, she could see a small white dog emerging from one of the houses. It was splattered in blood, but the animal had no visible injuries. Looking back at the house, she saw a man’s limp hand peeking through the doorway. Nina started to run as fast as she could through the ghost town. She had to get away. How had she not seen? Victims’ bloody handprints smeared windows, limbs were thrown across homes and thick blood dripped down their stairs.
Tears flooded her eyes before erupting down her cheeks and flying off to the side, carried away by the wind. How many people were dead? What about her family? Had they been killed, too? She had to have hope that they had hidden and escaped. She turned onto Pine street, ran down to the house and threw open the front door.
“Mom? Dad? Samuel?” She checked the main level: nothing. Slowly climbing the carpeted stairs that led to her parents’ and brother’s rooms, she tried to plan for the worst. Still, no amount of preparation would protect her for what she was about to see.
No no no…
“No!” she erupted into hectic screams as she saw the horrific image. They hadn’t gotten away. She couldn’t save them. This was all she could bear. Nina ran out of the house and back onto the street. Why did they kill everyone and leave her to find them like that? She ran as hard as she could until suddenly, she wasn’t scared anymore. She stopped and stood in the middle of an intersection, her tear-stained cheeks and jaw shaking. This person had taken everything from her, and left her with nothing but anger and an unbelievable thirst for revenge.
“Is this some kind of cruel joke?!” she yelled. “Come out and get me, you coward! I’m not afraid. Not anymore. I have nothing left to lose!” Her lips trembled from her fury. “Stop hiding from me!” A few seconds later, there was a dark figure in the distance walking toward her.
“It’s about time.” She had never been so sad and angry all at once. She clenched her teeth and made tight fists with her hands. That was when everything went black.
“She’s awake.” Said a radio voice above her. Nina opened her eyes. She was in a strange-looking prison cell: it was dark, and apart from the springy bed she lay on, quite empty. There was no door; the way in was a hatch on the ceiling.
“Alright. Let’s send in Sergeant Cowell” said a woman.
“What’s going on?” Nina managed to mumble. An apprehensive yet serious-looking police officer slid down the rope to her cell.
“M’am, my name is sergeant Cowell and the date is Wednesday, November 8th. You’ve been arrested for the mass murder of the inhabitants of Danton and are being kept at Grange Underground Correctional Facility to await your trial.” His cruel, disgusted glances made her want to scream her innocence.
“You think I did it? Are you insane?” Nina’s patience was running out. “What kind of cop are you?” She could feel herself starting to sob again. “I didn’t kill my family.”
“Ms. Acres, we have a great deal of evidence. The murders started Sunday night and went on through Monday morning. There is traffic camera footage of you entering a home on Vernier drive and carrying out the murder of Jim and Chloe Harrison. We also found—”
“Stop! Just— stop.” This couldn’t be true. She couldn’t have done this. Then she remembered her missing chunks of memory.
“However,” he went on, “we ran some neurological tests and found that you may have MPD.”
Multi personality disorder…
Oh my God. I killed them.
I killed them.
Some might have argued that it wasn’t really her; that it was her other self. But that didn’t matter. She knew with absolute certainty that she would not be able to live with herself after what she had done, no matter the circumstance. She wanted no part in the reality given to her. Nina grabbed Cowell’s gun from his belt and ended the nightmare that would have forever haunted her.