… Mark Allan Gunnells! Mark’s tale caught me immediately, as I felt as though I was watching a gnarly little flick unfold in my mind as I read this one.
I want all entrants to know that I judged on the stories that moved me, plain and simple. If it shook me, I set it aside and left it for final contemplation. There were some top notch efforts submitted, and I like to think I narrowed this down to the four best. These stories are fun, and interesting, and they deserve the recognition.
Here’s the story!
By Mark Allan Gunnells
It was raining the day I remembered my identity.
My true identity, not who they had been telling me I was for the past two months.
I was apparently 39, or so they told me, but I only remembered the last two months of my life, since I woke up in the hospital bed.
“You were in a car accident,” Brenda, the woman who introduced herself as my wife, said to me. “A drunk driver ran a stop sign and slammed into you.”
I didn’t remember that at all. I didn’t remember Brenda. I didn’t remember my own name, which I was told was Paul Burgess. Everything about my life before waking up in Rosedale Memorial was a blank. Amnesia, the doctors all said. I could regain my memory at any time…or never.
So I’d gone home with Brenda, she introduced me to two strange children she said were ours, I went to work at a bank where they said I was the assistant manager, though I had to be retrained. And I tried to learn to be me again, or at least the person they told me was me.
I had been content with that…until that rainy Saturday afternoon when my memory started to return.
And I realized they were all lying to me.
“Paul, what are you doing?” Brenda asked, sticking her head into the den.
“Just watching the patterns the rain makes cascading down the window. It’s quite lovely.”
She smiled. “I need to run to the grocery to pick up a few things for dinner. The girls are upstairs in their room. You okay to watch them ‘til I get back?”
“Sure thing, I’ll head up in a bit and play with them. What do they like, tea party?”
“More like Monster.”
“Yes, you used to pretend to be a monster that was after them. They would run around the house while you gave chase. I’m off, but I won’t be gone long.”
I told her goodbye absently, but rusty gears in my mind had started to turn. Something my wife had said. …while you gave chase.
And then like a wrecking ball through a brick wall, it hit me. I was not Paul, I was Chase. Chase Derringer. I was not married, I had no children, and I was certainly not a bank manager.
I was a CIA operative, deep undercover stuff. I had fought many foes, been on the verge of death more times than I could count, but I had always come out victorious. My prowess was legendary in the agency, it was known that none could outsmart me.
But they’d come awfully close this time. They must have somehow wiped my memory, and convinced me I was Paul Burgess. But who were they? And what was their ultimate plan?
In the end, it didn’t matter. I was on to them now, and I knew what I must do.
“Daddy?” a high-pitched voice called from upstairs. “Come play with us.”
A smile stretched across my face. “Coming girls.”
“Hello? Paul, girls? Where is everyone?”
When Brenda stepped into the girls’ room, she froze. I was standing in the corner by the door and she didn’t spot me. Her eyes seemed to dart all over the room, at all the blood, and the two limp forms splayed on the top bunk.
“Hello Brenda…or whatever your real name is.”
She shrieked and spun around. “Paul…what have you done? Oh God in Heaven, what have you done?”
“What I had to do? And stop calling me by that name, I know now who I really am.”
“What are you talking about? What has gotten into you?”
“Did you truly think you could continue to fool the great Chase Derringer? That I wouldn’t get wise to your plot?”
“It all came back to me today, my true identity. Which government do you work for?”
“Oh sweet Jesus, no. You are all mixed up, those memories…they aren’t yours?”
“Really? Then whose are they?”
“Just listen to me.”
“I’m done listening,” I said, then raised the kitchen knife that still dripped with the blood of the two little operatives I’d dispatched earlier.
Moving quicker than I was expecting, Brenda darted out the door and down the hall. I was right behind her. I expected her to sprint for the stairs, but instead she turned into our bedroom and went straight for the nightstand. She opened the drawer and started rummaging inside, no doubt seeking out a hidden firearm.
“It’s your favorite,” she was babbling. “You’ve read it at least a dozen times, it’s your—”
Then I embedded the knife in the back of her throat and she said nothing more, crumpling to the floor as a puddle of blood spread across the carpet.
I reached into the drawer to find her gun, but instead pulled out a worn paperback book entitled Identity Crisis, the garish cover of a man in a tuxedo holding a gun. Curious, I flipped it over and read the plot synopsis on the back.
Chase Derringer is not like other men. He is good looking, smart…and the best agent in the CIA. No one has ever outsmarted him…but maybe he has finally met his match. Russian operative Lily Voinovich may be his most dangerous nemesis yet, sexy and lethal. But she shouldn’t underestimate Chase whose prowess is legendary.
The book fell from my numb fingers and I sat heavily on the edge of the bed, staring down at Brenda’s body. The paperback had fallen into the pool of blood, staining the well-thumbed pages red. My favorite book, I had read it at least a dozen times.
Now I remembered.
About the author: Mark Allan Gunnells has been writing since he was 10 years old. His first book, A LAYMON KIND OF NIGHT, was published by Sideshow Press in 2009. Since then he has put out three more books with Sideshow: the two-novella WHISONANT/CREATURES OF THE LIGHT combo, a short story collection entitled TALES FROM THE MIDNIGHT SHIFT VOL. I, and the Halloween themed DARK TREATS. He also has put out the novella ASYLUM with The Zombie Feed, and Bad Moon Books released a digital collection entitled GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC and the novella OCTOBER ROSES. He released his first published novel, THE QUARRY, with Evil Jester Press, and followed that up with SEQUEL from Gallow’s Press and THE SUMMER OF WINTERS also from EVIL JESTER. His most recent book is the novel THE EXCHANGE STUDENT from Etopia Press. He lives in Greer, SC, with his partner Craig A. Metcalf.