Prisoner of the Past


Dolores Esteban


He had left his old life behind many years ago. Jeremy T. Baker felt like an entirely different man now. His memories had faded away. At least, that was what he thought. He didn’t realize that his memories were just locked up in some dark chamber of his brain. Jeremy T. Baker did not know of this closet. There was just that vague and faint feeling of unease that sometimes and quite out of a sudden disturbed his peace and mind.

The demons, however, did not rest. They dwelled in the darkness and they fed on the anger and the fear that Jeremy T. Baker had stored away with them. The demons waited patiently for some unexpected event that would open the door and set them free. The incident was close. The demons knew. But Jeremy T. Baker did not even have a clue. The lock of the door cracked silently on a cold December morning, unnoticed by Jeremy.

Jeremy’s phone rang and he picked it up. A hoarse voice apologized when he said ‘hello’. The caller interrupted the call. ‘Wrong connection probably,’ Jeremy thought. He went into the kitchen and made himself a cup of coffee. He had not yet realized that something had changed. For a second only, Jeremy thought that the caller’s voice had been familiar. But Jeremy dismissed the thought. The demons, however, pushed open the door.

The first sign that something had changed was an uneasy feeling that Jeremy experienced in the afternoon. He ascribed it to the fast food meal he had had for lunch. However, the demons silently invaded Jeremy’s unconscious mind. Three days after their release, they took over Jeremy’s autonomic nervous system. Jeremy was restless that night.

Jeremy tossed about on his bed. He sweated heavily despite the cold winter night. At three in the morning, Jeremy got up and poured himself a glass of water. On his way back to the bedroom, he spotted the phone in the corridor. Suddenly, his heart felt like stone. Jeremy touched his breast and took a deep breath. A sudden pain made him tumble. ‘A heart attack’, flashed through his mind. Jeremy called the ambulance. They arrived ten minutes later and took him to the hospital. However, he was dismissed two days later after a thorough check-up. He was in good health. The doctor calmed him down.

The doctor told him that the symptoms were just symptoms of stress. He asked him if he faced some kind of pressure. Jeremy denied and almost grew angry. His life was just perfect. He had earned a lot of money after his immigration to Canada almost thirty years ago. Jeremy was fifty-one years old. He had retired earlier that year for he had found that he wanted to enjoy the rest of his life. “You were busy all your life,” the doctor said. “You’re not accustomed to a quiet life. This could very well cause symptoms of stress.” Jeremy just shrugged and shook the thought off. They gave him the address of a psychologist. Jeremy threw the paper in the bin.

Jeremy went home. He returned to his habits and chores. He was wary at night, however, for his sleep was still restless. He woke up often. He slept not one single night in peace. After a few weeks, Jeremy feared to go to bed and turn off the lights. That was when the demons made themselves visible for the very first time.

Jeremy awoke again with a start. He awoke with an image that disturbed his mind: Jeremy saw a steel door in a dark basement. The door was locked. Jeremy stood right in front of it and held the key in his hand. Jeremy winced. He was fully awake at once. Jeremy climbed off the bed quickly and turned on the light. He was on his way to the kitchen when he suddenly felt sick. He was nauseous. So he hurried to the bathroom instead. 

An hour later, Jeremy sneaked through his own house like an intruder. He closed the windows and locked the doors, and then turned off the lights. With a flash in his hand, he sat in the bathroom and swallowed a painkiller that he hoped would calm him down. The demons had taken over full control. However, they withdrew for the time being. They waited patiently. Time was on their side. At dawn, Jeremy finally felt relieved. He lay down again and slept until late in the morning. Nothing disturbed his sleep this time.

The following night, however, Jeremy woke again with a start. He saw the steel door again and in more detail. He clearly felt the key in his hand. This happened every night from that day on and the vision grew more lively and vivid every time. On the eighth night Jeremy decided to not sleep at all. He sat awake in a chair all night. From that day on, Jeremy slept during the day and stayed awake at night.

So far, nobody had taken notice of Jeremy’s change except of the grocer who was surprised to see Jeremy come in on Friday evening instead of the morning. The man found that Jeremy looked somewhat wretched and pale in the face. Jeremy explained to him that he was suffering from influenza. He repeatedly coughed as a proof while he walked through the store.

So far, nobody had called nor had Jeremy phoned anybody. The demons waited patiently for the ring of the phone. This finally happened at about seven on the following evening. Jeremy winced at the sound. He stiffly rose from his chair in the kitchen. He entered the corridor with a flash in his hand. Jeremy eyed the phone suspiciously. The demons crept forward. Jeremy found the sound of the phone was incredibly loud. He could hardly stand the noise. Finally, however, he picked up the phone. But he didn’t answer it. He just listened anxiously.

“Can you hear me?” a hoarse voice asked. “This is John. Just wanted to let you know that I’ll come over in an hour or so.” Jeremy put down the phone quickly. A stifled cry escaped his mouth. He sweated heavily and was barely able to breathe. He glanced around and with a haunted look searched for the keys of his car. An instant later, Jeremy left the house.

Jeremy started the car and drove off. He gazed into the darkness, unable to think coherently. His heart beat wildly. He clenched his teeth. And his hands seized the wheel tightly. Jeremy was close to panic. By sheer force of will, he focused on the road. This only kept him from going insane at once.

He had driven for almost three hours when he finally stopped the car. The road was empty. Jeremy stared into the night. He saw the steel door in front of him. “No,” he whispered with an almost breaking voice. “How did you find me? How?” Then, Jeremy spotted car lights in the rearview mirror. He tightened the grip on the wheel. A car approached slowly. A dark blue Mercedes with a California license plate. The car drove by. Jeremy watched it disappear into the night.

Jeremy continued to drive. He drove for another hour until he spotted a diner. Jeremy drove into the parking area. As he climbed off his car, he saw the dark blue Mercedes with the California license plate coming up the drive. Jeremy instantly retreated into the darkness. He hid behind a container. His hands trembled and his heart beat fast.

“Can I help you?” a hoarse voice asked suddenly. A man bowed down to Jeremy. Jeremy crouched behind the container. He gazed up horrified. A man in a dark coat touched his shoulder. Jeremy freaked out.

They told him later that he had flailed about and had shouted wildly until an unnerved truck driver had knocked him down. An ambulance had taken Jeremy to a hospital. They diagnosed a psychotic illness. Jeremy spent three months in a psychiatric hospital. The doctors talked to him until he finally opened up. Jeremy finally told them all and every detail.

“We can’t escape our past,” a doctor said. “However hard we try to lock away our memories, they finally come back and the evil ones will haunt us.” The doctor showed understanding and this soothed Jeremy. The detective, however, was distant and sober. His eyes were cold. He measured Jeremy. The man was collecting facts.

The detective closed the folder with the report that he had read to Jeremy. He looked at him. Jeremy just stared back.

“The investigation showed that John Piper was found dead forty years ago. Ten years before you left the US and immigrated to Canada,” the man said.

Jeremy nodded. The detective looked at him sternly.

“You were twenty-one years old when you left,” the detective said.

Jeremy nodded.

“And you were ten years old when John Piper picked you up at the diner?”

Jeremy nodded again. He looked at the detective.

“My father had gone inside to get me a drink. I wanted to wait outside. A dark blue Mercedes with a California license plate came up the drive slowly. It stopped beside me. The driver smiled at me and asked me to climb in. He said we’d just take a ride. I refused. I remember the angry look on his face. He drove on slowly. I watched the car. I was afraid and hid behind a container. Suddenly, I heard his hoarse voice. I gazed up. He was dressed in a black coat. He touched my shoulder. I flailed about and cried for my father. He pressed his hand on my mouth and knocked me on my head. I woke up in his car with my hands tied and my mouth gagged.”

Jeremy paused. The detective waited patiently.

“He drove to a house on the countryside. He tore me out of the car and down the stairs to the basement. He removed the cord and gag. He handed me a key and he forced me to open a steel door. It was the door to the prison where he held me captive for a year until I found a way to escape.”

Jeremy and the detective exchanged a look.

“He sometimes took me up to his room on the first floor. One night the phone rang. He was in a rage, yet headed to pick it up. He hurried into the corridor. And then I heard an awful noise. I waited. But when he did not return, I sneaked into the corridor. I found him lying at the bottom of the stairs. I thought he was dead. I ran into the night. I ran and I ran until that woman found me.”

Jeremy fell silent. The detective nodded.

“Police investigated then,” the detective said. “They found the house and your prison, but they did not find a corpse. John Piper wasn’t dead. He had disappeared and he had left no evidence of his true identity. He was arrested one year later, though, for abusing a boy. He was remanded in custody. He committed suicide in jail. Unfortunately, the case was not connected with yours. It would have saved you a lot of trouble and pain.”

“Do you think so?” Jeremy asked in a toneless voice. He fixed his eyes on the detective.

The man swallowed slightly, and then lowered his eyes.

© 2010 Dolores Esteban


First published at GA Gay Authors - Gay Quality Fiction