by Jehu Dagohoy
I’m not a dark person. In fact, I’m pretty preppy. I mean, what could be more preppy than being cheer captain and prom queen? I have a perfect life in my perfect house, with my perfect parents. I’m not dark at all. I’m happy, always have, always will be. I don’t like feeling sad. I have a perfect life! I didn’t have a bad childhood, in fact, I had one of the best—ones with summers spent in our summerhouse at The Hamptons. My childhood was very picturesque. I’ve had all I could ever need, and all that I have ever wanted.
My name is Britney, 17 years old, a senior, and I’m a blonde. That means I have more fun. I stand at a height of 5’4”. Perfect size for a cheerleader. I’m pretty, popular, and rich. I can make anyone fall in love with me. I’m one of the most popular girls in school; well, I should really say the popular girl in school. I go to an exclusive prep school, the same one my mom, and her mom, and her mom’s mom went to when they were my age. I’m, what you would call, a legacy. People worship the ground I walk on…and they should.
The woman sitting across me, that’s Dr. Roberts, she’s my therapist. Yes, I know, poor little rich girl, what does she have to go to therapy for? Well, it’s not depression if you were wondering. I told you, I have nothing to be sad about. I have a perfect life.
“Tell me about the nightmares, Britney.” I hear my therapist say with her clinically calm voice. I wonder, do they teach therapists to talk like that in therapy school?
“They’re nothing.” That’s what I keep telling her, but she won’t let it go.
“Nightmares are usually a sign of an inner, deeper turmoil, Britney,” she explains, “Why don’t you tell me what happens in your nightmare?”
I look at her and decide to just tell her because it seems like she wouldn’t let this go, “Well, I wake up in the middle of the night and everything is quiet. I’m in a dark room and I start running. But the room gets bigger and bigger. I can’t seem to get out. And then, something…the darkness starts grabbing me. I try to fend it off but I can’t. I fight as hard as I can, but I just can’t seem to win. Then, I wake up.”
“How does that make you feel?”
“Happy,” I say sarcastically, “how do you think it makes me feel?! Scared. Terrified. I try to run. I try to escape. But I can’t!!”
“Let’s try to calm down,” Dr. Roberts says in an almost condescending tone. “Remember, just breath and go to your happy place.”
I hate going to therapy, they treat me like I’m some unstable psycho. I should’ve never told mom about my nightmares.
“Britney, are you in your happy place?”
If she says happy place one more time, I swear, I’ll scream.
“Yes, Dr. Roberts, I’m there.” ”And where is that?”
“I’m in a spa getting a deep scrub massage.”
“Good. And how does that make you feel?”
“Are you still taking your meds?”
“Yes, Dr. Roberts, I am.”
“Ok, good. Now, tell me more about your dreams.”
“I don’t know what else to tell you? I try to escape. I really try, but I could feel the hands of darkness grabbing me, scratching me.” The thought makes me shudder.
“What do you feel like when you’re inside the dream?”
“I feel,” I hesitate for a moment, “helpless…”
Beep. Beep. Beep.
“I’m sorry, Britney, our session’s up. I’ll see you next week.”
She ushers me out of the room and bids me goodbye.
“I’ll see you next week,” she repeats, “Ok, Britney?”
“Ok.” I definitely need to find a new therapist…or maybe a psychic.
I woke up in the dark covered in cold sweat. What’s happening? What’s going on? I can feel my hand covered in something wet…not just my hands. I thought it was sweat I was covered with, but it’s something else. I stand up to turn on my light.
I am covered in blood. My hands, my shirt, my face, my whole body is drenched. Am I bleeding? I check every inch of my body to see if I’m hurt, but it isn’t me. I’m not hurt. If this isn’t my blood, who’s blood am I covered with?
I can feel panic rising inside of me, a mixture of bile and anxiety. I have to check if the rest of my family is okay. I run into my parents’ room, and a sense of dread threatens to overwhelm me. Something’s not right. I reach for the light switch and I can feel that it is covered in something wet. I turn on the lights and all I can see are the lifeless bodies of my parents.
A blood-curdling scream escapes my mouth. They are drenched in blood, covered with stab wounds. Who would do this? I’m an orphan now. I have no mom, and no dad. Who would want to hurt them? They were the most loving parents. Tears start flowing down my cheeks, I’m alone now. My hands are shaking, my whole body is shaking. What do I do?
“Hello, 9-1-1. What’s the emergency?” A very calm lady is talking.
“I..I…” I can’t even finish my sentence.
“Honey, what’s happening? Are you hurt?”
“My..my parents.” Tears start welling up in my eyes again. I can’t move. I can’t speak. All I can do is see their bodies in my mind over and over.
“Are they hurt?” The nice lady hears me crying. “Sweetie, are you ok?”
“My parents…I think they’re…they’re…dead.”
“I think someone came into our house.” I am crying now. I can’t keep it all bottled inside.
“Ok, I want you to go find a room that can be locked. Make sure you’re alone, and lock the door. Do not let anyone in until the police comes. Ok, sweetie?”
“O…okay.” I try to stand up, but I fumbled more than once. I’m still shaking. I go inside my room and I lock the door.
“Are you inside the room?”
“Did you lock the door?”
“Now, are you hurt?”
“I…I don’t think so.”
“Now sweetie, the police and paramedics are already on their way. But I don’t want you to hang up until they get there, ok?”
“What’s your name, honey?”
“That’s a pretty name. Now, how old are you Britney?
“Wow, 17, you’re as old as my niece. She’s a senior in high school. Are you a senior, Britney?”
“Yes.” I hear the distant sirens of a police car.
“Sweetie, the police should be there any minute now.”
“Ye-yes, I think I hear them.”
“Don’t go out of the room, I’ve told them to come and get you when they’ve checked if the place is already safe. Ok, honey?”
“O…okay.” My voice is still shaking. What if I had been awake? I could have stopped the person who hurt my parents.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Someone knocks on my room to come and get me. They usher me out of my house, and I can see two bodies covered in body bags being rolled out. A policeman holds me tight in his arms. He is trying to console me, but at that moment, I can’t feel anything anymore. He helps me inside an ambulance. And then, nothing.
That sounds like someone I know. Who can that be?
“Britney? Are you awake?”
I open my eyes and I see Dr. Roberts. “Dr. Roberts, where am I?”
“Britney, you’re safe. Don’t worry.” I hear her calm voice and it somehow calms me down.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
The question made me remember everything. My parents! They’re dead!
“It’s okay, Britney. You can tell me. This is a safe place.”
“My parents, they’re dead.” I feel tears flowing down my face. I can’t control it. They’re gone. My parents are gone.
“Yes, but can you tell me what happened before that?”
“What do you mean, before that? I was asleep, I woke up, then I saw my mom and dad lying in their bed. They were gone.” I choke as tears flow down my eyes. I’m alone.
“So, you don’t remember anything before that?”
“I was asleep.” I’m getting frustrated now. Why does she keep asking me if I remember anything before that? What does she mean?
“Britney?” Dr. Roberts voice sounds calmer than usual. “What are you thinking?”
“I don’t understand.” I feel genuinely confused. “Why am I here? What’s happening?” I start looking around and I realize that I’m inside a hospital-like room.
“Am I in the hospital?”
“Yes, Britney, you are.”
“Why? I wasn’t hurt?”
“Britney, your hands were covered in cuts.”
“You’re body was covered with wounds.”
“I was fine when the police came.”
“They had to sedate you when the ambulance came because you were violently shaking and your body was bruised.”
“How could I be bruised? I was asleep, I would have felt someone hurting me.”
“Britney, there were no signs of forced entry, or that anyone has even been inside your house tonight. The police say that they’re pulling up your home security’s video footage.”
“Someone must’ve broken in. Who else would’ve killed my parents.” Tears are starting to fall down my cheeks again and I can feel my whole body shaking.
“Britney, breath. Let’s go to our happy place.”
I inhale and exhale so that I can calm my self down.
“Tell me what’s happening?” I can’t keep calm anymore. I need to know.
“Britney, I’m just here to comfort you. Can you tell me the last thing you remember before going to bed?”
“I…I was on my laptop watching a movie on Netflix. Mean Girls. And then, I dozed off, I guess.”
“Was there anything different about tonight?”
“I don’t think so. No, there wasn’t. It was like all the other nights.”
“Ok, why don’t you get some sleep and we’ll talk tomorrow when you’re feeling a bit better.”
I nod my head, I just want to be alone. I can’t stand another minute being treated like I’m insane. Dr. Roberts walks out and closes the door. I hear a click. Am I locked in?
I close my eyes, sleep falls on me like a blanket keeping me warm.
I hear footsteps approaching my room again. This time it sounds like there is definitely more than one person. I hear the door open, but I avoid to look, I bury myself deeper in my bed.
“Hello, Britney.” The voice isn’t familiar to me but I could tell it was a woman. I attempt to look at her without needing to unravel the sheets burying me but I can’t see her.
“Britney?” I hear the woman in again. She seems very motherly. And I need a mother right now. I sit up, and I look at her.
“Britney? How are you feeling?” She must be another psychiatrist.
“Who are you? Where’s Dr. Roberts?” Is that my voice? It sounds frail.
“I’m Dr. Whittle. I’m a neurologist.”
“I don’t care if you’re a neurologist, psychiatrist, or optometrist. I just wanna go home.” I feel tears of frustration about to fall from my eyes.
“Why do you think you’re here?” Dr. Whittle is so calm it almost relaxes me.
“I…I don’t know. Like I’ve told Dr. Roberts. I don’t know anything.”
“Okay, I see. Are you hungry?” Only after she mentions it do I feel my stomach grumbling.
“Yes.” I’m starving. It must be around dinner time and I haven’t eaten since last night.
“I’ll have the nurse bring you food.” I nod to agree. I will eat anything. She reaches for her phone and I see her type something.
A few more minutes pass and I hear a knock on the door. Food. A big man, probably the nurse Dr. Whittle was talking about, brought in food. Mashed potatoes. Corn. Soup. And Jello. I could feel the hunger overtake my senses, but I resist. The nurse places the tray in front of me, on a rolling table, and hands me a spoon.
“May I have a napkin?”
“Sure, Britney.” Dr. Whittle says as she signals for the nurse to hand me one.
There doesn’t seem to be a knife or fork, only a spoon. Now that I think about it, all the food the nurse brought me required no knife and fork. Why? Are they afraid that I might hurt them so that I could get out?
“Dr. Whittle, what hospital am I in?” It looks like a normal hospital room, only different. I take a look around, for the first time since I got here. There are no windows, no television, and no electricity sockets. Why the hell am I here?!
“Why do you ask, Britney?”
“I just find this room weird. Where am I?” I can see Dr. Whittle think hard.
“Well, Britney, we’re at Mount Sinai.”
“Mount Sinai? Isn’t that a…a psychiatric hospital?!” I am shocked. Why am I here? I’m not crazy!
“Yes, Britney.” She’s using an extra calm tone. This must be bad. “We actually ran a few tests on you while you were sleeping. Nothing invasive. Just a sleep study. We saw from your records with Dr. Roberts that you’ve been taking Prosom?”
“Yes. Dr. Roberts prescribed that to me for my sleepwalking.”
“Have you been taking it regularly?”
“Is that all the medication you’re taking?”
“Yes.” That’s a lie, but I don’t wanna go to jail for forging a prescription for Prozac.
“Britney, is that the truth?”
“Yes.” That sounds convincing, right?
“Britney, we did a blood test panel on you when you first arrived, you were unconscious and we wanted to know if you’re taking any medication that might interact with anything we were about to give you.” Oh no! They know! “We found Prosom in your blood. Yes. But we also found Prozac. Britney, are you taking Prozac?”
“Yes.” There’s no point in lying now.
“Did you know that Prosom and Prozac can’t be combined?”
“Britney, you have to be honest with us. We’re your doctors and you’re protected under Doctor-Patient Confidentiality. But, we have to know everything. Is there anything else you’re taking?”
“No. I promise, that’s it.”
“Okay. I’ll let you finish your food and rest. Good night, Britney.”
“Good night Dr. Whittle.”
I find comfort in sleep. It is my only refuge. The nights were dreamless. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
I was awoken by a knock on the door.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
“May I come in?” Who can that be?
“Yes. Please come in.” I see a man wearing a nice suit walk in. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s Armani.
“Kenneth Williams. I’m your lawyer.”
“Well, technically, I’m your family’s lawyer. Your parents have set up a fund to retain me, if anyone in your family ever needs a lawyer. So, right now, I am your lawyer. Whatever we discuss is protected under Attorney-Client Privilege. ”
“Why would I need a lawyer?”
“I assure you that people have won cases like this before.”
“Cases like what?”
“Your parents’ murder. They have surveillance footage and the state has decided to press charges.”
“Surveillance footage? They know who did it? Tell me.”
“Ms. Summers,” he hesitates, “there was no one else caught on tape but you and your parents.”
“There must be someone else there. The killer, he must be there.”
“You’re the primary suspect, Ms. Summers. And the prosecutors plan on putting you on trial. They suspect that you killed your parents.”
A heaviness overwhelms my body and it almost causes me to fall to the ground. I can’t stand up, I can’t move. The darkness weighs down on me so heavily. I feel the it grab ahold of me, I cannot escape it. I cannot be free. This is my life. I am an orphan.
A few minutes pass and I can’t speak.
“Ms. Summers? We have to discuss your defense.”
“Yes, you’re on trial. We have to discuss what your defense would be.”
I feel tears falling down my cheeks and I can feel myself starting to shake again.
“Ms. Summers,” the lawyer’s voice is calmer than before, “do you want me to come back tomorrow? We could discuss your defense then.”
“Ok, I’ll come back tomorrow.”
They think I did it. they think I killed my parents. I did not kill my parents.
You did it. You killed them.
No, I would never hurt my parents.
You would. You did. People hurt the people they love all the time, given the right circumstances. Don’t you remember stabbing them over and over and over again? Don’t you remember how you felt? How accomplished you were that you finally did it? Don’t you remember the wave of relief that washed over you when you plunged the knife through their hearts? You must remember. You did it.
No! I didn’t kill my parents. I loved them very much. They were my everything.
You killed them. You did. I was there. I saw you.
No! That’s a lie.
That’s the one I cannot do. I cannot lie. You did, Britney. You killed your parents.
Who are you?!
I. Am. You.
What’s happening to me? I did it? No. But what if I did? What if I killed them? I have to tell my lawyer. Maybe he’d know what to do. Maybe he’ll help me. Maybe he’ll find a way.
Knock. Knock. Knock
“Come in.” I feel tired.
“Ms. Summers? How are you feeling?” It’s my lawyer. I have to tell him. I need to tell him. That’s the only way out. I have to tell him.
“I’m tired. I didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“I can’t imagine what you must be going through right now. And I know what I said yesterday rattled you.”
“Yes, very much. I’m being charged with my parents’ murder. There something I have to tell you…”
“Ms. Summers, Britney, I may have good news. It turns out that there was a break in at your house that night.”
“I’m sorry? What?”
“Further investigation of the crime scene and the surveillance footage revealed that there was another set of fingerprints in your house and that the lock and the alarm system was tampered with. It was also discovered that someone tampered with the surveillance footage.”
What’s happening? “What do you mean?”
“They have another suspect. There was string of break-ins in upperclass neighborhoods and the police think that robbers broke in your home and that they sedated you and your parents. They found traces of nitrous oxide in your ventilation system and their theory is that the robbers dispersed the gas through your ventilation system, while you were sleeping, giving them the chance to break in and rob you. The police were also able to determine that a few expensive jewelry were missing from your parents’ room. That was the same M.O. that a few other robberies had in your neighborhood.”
“So, they think that these robbers killed my parents?”
“There is a big probability that your parents woke up during the robbery and the robbers were forced to kill them.”
“Am I still being charged?”
“No, but they are looking for the suspects and they have a person of interest.”
“What does that mean…for me?”
“It means that you can go home… I know that you don’t have any family except your parents. Do you need me to call anyone for you? A friend, perhaps?”
“No, but thank you. Mr. Williams, I appreciate your help. When can I leave?”
“Well, the doctors say that you’re cleared to go home any time you want to.”
“Thank you, Mr. Williams. I wouldn’t have been able to survive this whole ordeal without you.”
“It’s ok, Ms. Summers. We’ll talk about your parents’ will another day. Would you like me to call you a car to take you home?”
“Yes, please. Thank you, again.”
Britney, you’re despicable. You got away with it, you got away with your parents’ murder. Your plan worked, they don’t suspect a thing.
No, Mr. Williams said that I didn’t kill my parents. YOU WERE LYING.
Britney, I told you. I don’t lie…ever.
It couldn’t have been me.
It was you, Britney. You planned this. You staged the crime scene to look like a robbery. You put the nitrous oxide in your house’s ventilation system. You took some jewelry from your mother’s vanity. You buried it so that no one could find it. And finally, when your parents were asleep, you walked to the kitchen, grabbed a knife from there so that it would look like it wasn’t premeditated, you walked back to your parents’ room and you stabbed them. 27 times each. You killed them, Britney. And you got away with it. We got away with it.