Please allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Mike. I won't tell you my last name though, because... well, you might've heard about me on the news and I don't want you to suddenly stop reading. That's the last thing I want. Anyway, before I made the biggest mistake of my life, I was an elementary school teacher. That’s long old news, though. I lost the job five months after I got it, which was understandable after I have done.
Now, this is the part that I REALLY don't want to write, and to be honest, I never even would've considered writing this whole post in the first place if I didn't feel like I have to in order to come clear with myself. You know, the "accident" which made me write this isn't the kind of accident you look back on years later and just laugh about it. It's the kind of accident that makes you cringe and makes you want to punch yourself in the face for being so dumb back then.
But it can't be helped. In order for this story to make sense, it has to be in context. Otherwise, you might not understand what I'm trying to tell you, and why. (Although this story sounds crazy enough if taken out of context, but whatever. Let's just get this over with.)
This all happened many years ago. I was an admittedly kind of chubby, naive guy in my late twenties, fresh out of university and ready to fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher. Of course, excited as I was, I immediately searched for a job at the local elementary school, and I actually got it, much to my surprise. To be completely honest, I never had that much confidence in myself, and I already anticipated their rejection. But no, this one actually went pretty well! You have no idea how excited I really was to finally be able to live my dream. It was the best day of my life, and the time I spent with the students in the class I used to teach might've been the happiest time of my life, at least by my standards... Let's just say that I wasn't really that much of a lucky person. I don’t want to say that my life sucked or anything, but let’s... just say it wasn’t the best.
But unfortunately, it didn't last forever. Only for three and a half months, to be exact.
I was invited to a friend's birthday party, and being the party animal he was, he threw a big party at the strip club his uncle owned. Of course, I would have NEVER gone to a strip club, especially since I’m a teacher, but he was the only real friend I had, and I felt like I still owed him something after he helped me with all the financial problems I had after having to move out of my parents' house after a certain incident, so I still decided to go. I figured that I just had to sit at the bar, and wait for this private strip show to end, so I could finally go home. After all, I only had to be there, right?
...Or at least I thought that it would go off that way. I was wrong.
I realized that the party wasn't going to end soon. It was almost 2 AM, and I never would've thought that people could celebrate that late into the night. But then again, this was the very first time I actually got invited to a party, ANY party, so my lacking knowledge about the boozy nightlife really shouldn't surprise you.
So, instead of just sitting at the bar like I originally planned, I caught myself ordering a beer. And then another one. And another one. I lost count after the first seven, actually.
So, as you could probably tell, I was pretty drunk. I discovered that I had a high tolerance for alcohol after not lying on the floor after probably drinking the whole club dry, but still, I was pretty wasted. So wasted that I almost didn't notice that the party had ended half an hour ago, and that nobody seemed to find it necessary to actually get off their horny ass, and tell me. Naturally, I was really pissed off, also because I had nobody to drive me home and I had no money left for a cab. But I guessed that that's what I get for being such a drunkard, so I mostly blamed myself on this one.
This was the point where I made the terrible mistake that led to the accident I mentioned earlier. Heck, you probably guessed it by now. Yes, despite being drunk as hell, I still tried to drive back home with my own car. My apartment wasn't that far away from the strip club, so I thought that I could make it back safely without drawing the attention of the cops. Now, if I would've been sober, I never would've taken that risk, but all the alcohol made me feel confident (and suicidal) enough to try anyway.
I immediately began to regret this decision when I sped up slightly on a small road near an old neighborhood, and bumped into something.
It happened way too fast. I didn't even realize what happened at first. One moment, I thought I briefly saw someone running across the street, and then, there was a loud thud. The thud was followed by the sound of something... rolling over the top of my car. I was too drunk to realize what I had done until I made a sudden stop, carefully got out of the car, and saw it.
It was a little boy. He was just lying... there on the cold pavement, his now lifeless eyes staring at the cloudy night sky, with his arms and legs all dislocated and twisted, like those of a ragdoll. I couldn't believe this. I refused to believe that I had just... run over somebody, a child, no less. This was my worst nightmare. No, actually, it was even more than just a nightmare when I realized that I actually knew this boy. He was one of my students.
I felt like I could've thrown up right there. I killed one of my students, I have KILLED an innocent kid, and... I honestly didn't know what was worse: Being responsible for the death of a child or the chance of probably having to go to jail for my crime. I didn't know what to do, and then, as I thought about what could happen to me, I got scared, terribly scared of being held responsible for this. Even in my drunken state, I knew that I was in... huge trouble, to put it very nicely. The worst thing was that HE was the one running so fast that I couldn't hit the brakes in time... But it didn't matter how much I tried to calm myself, how much I tried to tell myself that it wasn't my fault, my guilt just kept growing and growing until I couldn't take it anymore.
In panic, I ran back to my car, and drove away, leaving the dead body of the boy on the road. As I looked back one last time, I saw his mother running to him from the distance, crying. And yet, despite feeling almost tortured by my guilt, I just continued to drive home, as if nothing happened. But even then I knew that I couldn't just forget about this. Nobody could.
After being sobered up the next morning, and having an incredible hangover, I decided to watch the news. As I thought, the police was searching for the hit-and-run driver that ran over the boy the previous night. I began feeling nauseous again, but this time, I was more disgusted by my own cowardly behavior than anything else. I was lucky that nobody seems to have seen my license plate, or maybe somebody did, but I had enough problems already, so I tried not to think about this possibility. I debated myself on whether to give myself up to the police or not, but in the end, my gutless side won the argument. It always won.
I was so afraid of having to give up everything I have worked for to atone for something that wasn't even completely my fault. Why was he playing on the street at night, anyway?! But one thing was clear: I couldn't possibly show up at school after this. I couldn't stand in front of my class, hearing them cry over the loss of their comrade and friend. I called at work, and faked being sick to get some days off. I hoped that I could make a decision in this period of time, but I didn’t know how exactly I could gather up enough courage to do the right thing. I knew that I HAD to do the right thing, of course, but it was harder than you could imagine.
So I just laid in bed all week, feasting solely on fast food, and avoiding contact with other people at any cost. A lot of time flew by, and in the end, I was still too much of a coward to say anything. As you can probably tell, I was a total wreck by then, and the guilt still kept growing. I honestly considered killing myself so I didn’t have to live with it anymore. I was way too afraid of death to take my own life and I didn’t had the guts to do it, though.
But to be completely honest, it wasn’t only my fear that changed my mind.
Despite cutting all contact with the outside world, I received weird packages from time to time. They were completely anonymous, and I had no idea who possibly could have sent them to me. I didn’t have any close friends, and the one friend I had turned out to be a dick who just leaves his drunk buddy sleeping at the bar, so I seriously had no clue. The packages themselves were all empty... except for a lone white rose in each one. Some packages also contained some other items, like a toy car, a coloring book or even a random nursery rhyme written on paper. The more packages I got, the more I also got nervous. What was the meaning of this? Was this some kind of prank?
But eventually, the most frightening thought had crossed my mind. What if... the person who sent me all these packages saw what I did?
All these extra items were things usually associated with young children. Why else would somebody give all this stuff to a grown adult? There was no doubt about it; ...someone knew. Somebody knew that I was responsible for the hit-and-run. I caught myself hyperventilating, and I tried to calm myself down, but... I felt that something was really wrong. Yes, the packages were weird, but they were only the beginning.
I started having more and more nightmares over the weeks, each more gruesome than the last. Most of them are just blurred memories today, so I can’t tell you that many details about them, unfortunately. I can tell you one thing I do remember, though: They had a pattern.
Each one of them brought me to a wide flower field, colorful and pretty as can be. As I got lost in thoughts by the beauty of the field, I suddenly began feeling someone’s presence behind me. I tried to turn around to find out who it was, but each time I only caught a short glimpse of something before I woke up. This “something” was different for every nightmare. First, it started rather harmless by showing me a picture of a happy looking family, consisting of a father and his young looking son. Then, in another nightmare, the picture of the family was replaced by a picture showing the blood soaked corpse of the father. After this, my nightmares began showing me more and more pictures of dead people with random causes of death. One victim was a girl who was stabbed to death by a knife, and was left to bleed out on the floor. Another one was a middle aged man who has been shot in the head, now lying in a pool of his own blood. Next up was a fire victim. I saw him (or her) being burnt alive before my very eyes. These were just a few examples of those I can still remember.
I developed insomnia (or I just drank way too much coffee, I could believe either one), I was too afraid to go to sleep ever again; who knew what I was going to see next? Not to mention that the number of arriving packages rose each week with no end in sight; my apartment was full of them. I just wanted it all to end: the nightmares, the white roses, the random objects... I didn’t set one foot outside for weeks because I was afraid that this crazy stalker I apparently had now would get me. I didn’t even care that much about work anymore, I just wanted to make it out of this alive, and not crippled by fear, if possible.
But instead of an end, I endured one final nightmare as I eventually gave in to my human instincts, and fell asleep on the couch.
This one, however, was different from the other ones.
This time, I wasn’t dropped off at the usual colorful flower field. I found myself in a very old looking and monochrome graveyard, which was completely shrouded in thick fog. There was no color, no sound and no people, neither dead nor alive. I couldn’t make out any gravestones, which made me feel even more uneasy for some strange reason. It took some time until I finally took a step forward, and decided to explore the place. But it didn’t matter which direction I took, the fog always followed. It was always right behind me, ready to engulf everything I passed by, making it impossible to go back the way I came from, even making it impossible to look back. I could not escape its cold grasp, no matter how hard I tried. It grew thicker by every minute until I couldn’t even see anything that’s ahead of me. The black and white scenery vanished, leaving nothing but a blank grey before me.
I was about to give up, realizing that I couldn’t escape this place. I was about to break down and cry in agony, but... this was the point where I realized something.
I believed that there was something else behind me.
I turned around without being afraid.
I was right.
I faced a tall, lanky looking man. He was fully engulfed by a white, gaseous substance, making it impossible to make out any physical features. I could only see his expressionless face. His lazy eyes focused on mine, his cold breath sending shivers down my spine, and he stood there, waiting. He didn’t move an inch, even when I tried to touch him. He was cold. Just unbelievably cold.
Just like cold pavement.
I smiled weakly.
I knew it.
I always knew.
Just like that, I finally awoke from my deep slumber. It was about 3 AM in the morning, if I remember correctly. I went through everything that happened in my dream, and this was where I understood. The first time in my entire life, I felt brave. Brave enough to face what I have been running from this whole time. I was ready for this. No take-backs.
You can’t run from the fog. You can never run, no matter how hard you try.
I wouldn’t be engulfed by despair. Not if I took action before that could happen, anyway.
Lastly, I was able to face the consequences for my actions. I was finally happy.
Unbelievably happy that it was all over. All the pain and guilt, all gone. Only relief. It was like hitting the reset button on a video game console. A fresh start. Freedom. Bliss.
The following years after that were truly wonderful. I saw my former students growing older, getting jobs, starting families and eventually, they all died, but with no regrets in life. I also found a lot of friends over here, more than I ever did before. I even managed to forget about the terrible things that happened in the past, mostly. And with mostly I mean that I revisited my past one last time through the very last package I received before I decided to overcome my fears. I never opened it, because I remembered what was inside, but I decided to take a look anyway. I found it in the nearby woods just where I buried it years ago. I opened it, and its content made me laugh out loud, quite literally.
Of course, you had the usual white rose, as well as another object inside, and in this particular package, the item was a letter, with only a single Mark Twain quote and a signature written on it.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
I mastered my fear of death pretty well, if I do say so myself.