As soon as I answered the question, I reopened my eyes. Tina’s ghostly body, so callously used by the Man Who Wakes Everyone Up, was gone from my bedroom. My window was closed, its screen securely in its place. Had I answered correctly? I had already forgotten my response – had I answered “no?” How could I have forgotten my answer so quickly?
I jumped out of bed. I wasn’t sick. No dizziness or headache. No upset stomach, in fact I was starving. I felt healthier than I had in a very long time. Tears of joy started welling up in my eyes – I must have answered correctly! I won! It was over. It was all over.
I hopped out of my bedroom. Had my other wish been granted? Was Tina alive?
I searched for my phone to contact her. After wasting seconds looking around my dining table, I remembered I had thrown it against my front door out of frustration. I spotted it lying next to my doormat, its touch screen shattered. I picked it up; it wouldn’t turn on. It was trashed.
If Tina were alive would she be at work? At home? I had to find out. I hastily got dressed, grabbed some granola bars out of my cupboard to silence my growling stomach, and dashed outside to my car.
I checked her medical office first. I ran into the lobby and up to the office receptionist, demanding to see her. When the startled woman shirked away from me without giving me an answer, I decided to go into the back room and check for myself. I was stopped almost immediately by another physician, one of her colleagues who ordered me to leave. But I didn’t move. I refused to do anything until he told me something, anything about Tina. Finally, after we all calmed down for a minute, he said that she was at the hospital doing her rounds. I knew it! Tina was alive! I awkwardly hugged her colleague, thanking him for the miraculous news. I didn’t care that everyone was staring at me as if I were a lunatic. I had beaten the Man Who Wakes Everyone Up!
At the hospital, I’ll admit I started making more of a scene as I searched for Tina. I couldn’t help myself, I was ecstatic. After avoiding a pesky, overweight security guard who wanted to escort me out of the building, I finally located her on the fifth floor, Geriatrics. She was walking down the hallway, tapping away on a tablet, apparently still visiting her patients. When she spotted me running towards her, she looked upset. Embarrassed.
I tried to hug her, but she pushed me away. With a stern hand, she led me back down the hallway towards the elevator. She growled at me. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Tina, I’m sorry – maybe you don’t know what happened? I’m not sure how it worked. What do you remember?”
“I remember telling you to leave me alone.”
“No, Tina. Listen to me. I did it! Everything is back to normal!”
“Things can never go back to normal.”
I stopped myself from telling her that I had answered the Man Who Wakes Everyone Up correctly. Maybe Tina didn’t remember hearing the question? Or had forgotten about the voice and all the things I had told her? I wouldn’t be doing her any favors if I managed to implant that message back into her brain. But then why did I remember everything? And what about the texts we shared? The story on Reddit that Tina had posted? What about Middy’s ghost?
“Be honest with me, Tina. Are you still seeing Middy’s ghost?”
Tina stopped walking. Her eyes turned red and glassy. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about! I never want to hear about that girl or that tragedy ever again! I don’t want to know what happened to me that night I ran into your neighbor’s garage. Why can’t you understand that? Why can’t you leave me alone?”
The pain evident in Tina’s face erased my exuberance. “I thought you lived for explanations.”
“No. Not about this. Ever since I kicked you out of my house, when you were knocking on my door, playing with my lights, sending text messages to yourself–”
“I didn’t do any of that.”
“Let me finish! Ever since that night, I’ve tried to do only one thing. To forget everything that happened to me during my time with you. Including our trip up to San Francisco.”
“You don’t mean that.” I grabbed Tina’s arm. She yanked it away from me.
“It’s over. Leave me alone. I don’t want to be your friend anymore.”
I started to panic. After all that had happened, all the suffering, all the madness – this was how it was going to end? I had achieved a monumental victory against the Man Who Wakes Everyone Up, but I was still going to lose Tina?
I scrambled for a toehold in my argument. “I left your place a week and a half ago. Do you not remember anything that happened since then? Don’t you remember texting me? About Middy? If I hadn’t broken my phone, I could show you…wait!” Tina was motioning to the overweight security guard who was walking down the hallway, approaching us. “Is there a computer nearby? I can get online and show you the story you posted. About your trip to Burbank.” The guard grabbed me by the shoulder, digging his fingers into my muscle and pulling me away from Tina. I had one more question to throw at her.
“Did you drive through any canyon roads? Maybe on your trip to–”
“Have you been following me? Did you see me on Malibu Canyon when I had car trouble?” Tina started to walk away from me.
“No, Tina! It doesn’t have to be like this! It’s over! I did something to make it all stop!”
I wiggled my shoulder away from the guard. I tried to chase after Tina, but the guard grabbed my arm and pulled it up against my back. He grumbled at me. “Stop resisting. The police are on their way.”
I shouted out to Tina. “Please, Tina! I’m sorry! I love you!”
Tina stopped and turned around. She was crying. She wiped her eyes and started walking back to me. Had I finally reached her? She had to know how much I loved her. That I’d never do anything to hurt her. Tina glanced at my confused, distraught face before speaking to the guard. “Tell the police I’ve designated him as a fifty-one-fifty. He doesn’t need to be arrested. He needs psych treatment. I’ll get the form written up.”
I became numb. I allowed the guard to drag me away from Tina and towards the elevator. In the past weeks, all I wanted to do was to try and act sane, worried that I was going crazy. Now I was acting crazy, confident that I was completely sane. I knew what a fifty-one-fifty was. It meant that I was going to be confined to the mental health facility. For up to three days.
Irony could go fuck itself.
Los Angeles Times
Editorial – Crimes & Courts
December 14, 2014
Police misconduct and incompetence are rampant plagues affecting this country. When the misdeeds and mistakes of our police officers affect the integrity of investigations and undermine our basic understanding of justice, there have to be repercussions. As a prime example, there are dozens of unanswered questions in the “Murder, Middy and Mystery” case. Protests and suspicions abound that accuse the local police of engaging in a cover-up in order to give the appearance that the case has been neatly solved. Why isn’t the Justice Department looking into the serious discrepancies that are clear for anyone to see?
- Middy XXXXX’s Time of Death. According to records from the XXXXX County Medical Examiner’s office, Middy’s death was caused by blunt force trauma to her head. I can accept that, but the report also states that the estimated time period of Middy’s death was between November 2 and November 8. This conflicts with several eyewitness reports that they saw Middy with her mother on November 11 at the Santa Barbara Zoo and at the XXXXX County Museum on November 13. Granted, there may be some variance with estimated times of death greater than 72 hours, and eyewitness accounts can be unreliable (sightings of Middy continue to this day), but the ME’s report was finalized the day after Middy’s body was discovered! Forensic reports don’t even happen that quickly on TV shows! This makes me question the entire validity of the ME’s report.
- The strange death of Gerry XXXXX. Police say that Gerry died in custody from self-inflicted wounds to his face and neck. As bizarre as that sounds, it gets worse. Medical staff at the prison and at the hospital where Gerry was later transferred, have repeatedly said that his body was severely malnourished, showing signs of rapid aging, and deteriorating to the point where kidney dialysis was inevitable. Gerry was in his mid-forties, how did he get into such a state? Was he physically abused in prison? I won’t even get into the fact that Gerry was misidentified as his brother, fooling the police for two weeks – that’s a point that has already been belabored by hundreds of people.
- The stranger death of Terry XXXXX. Speaking of Gerry’s brother, Terry XXXXX was the first body found at the XXXXX home on November 14. Why hasn’t his autopsy report been released? What were the forensic findings? At first, police were certain that JoAnn XXXXX had killed Terry, but now they are certain that it was Gerry. How do they know? I’ll readily admit it makes sense that Gerry killed his brother to steal his identity to try escape punishment for killing his own daughter, but where is the physical evidence to confirm this? Rumors that Terry died in the same bizarre manner as his brother would be put to rest if the ME would simply release Terry’s autopsy report.
- Detective XXXXXXX McPherson’s suicide. The XXXXX Police Department has made Det. McPherson the scapegoat for all the blunders in the case. Some people even blame her for Gerry’s death and the possible prison abuse he endured that I mentioned previously. I’m not one of those people. I think the XXXXX Police Department as a whole is responsible for her death, with the buck stopping at Commander XXXX Pinkerton and Police Chief XXXXXXX Reynolds. In an effort to wrap up the investigation and minimize bad publicity, these two men railroaded Det. McPherson into taking her own life and they continue to impugn her after her death. According to the few notes released to the public, Det. McPherson had uncovered something deeply troubling with the investigation while working with a “person of interest.” Who was this person? What had Det. McPherson discovered? I think it also bears noting that Det. McPherson was the only woman on the XXXXX Homicide Unit. In addition, Sergeant XXXXXX Alexander, the only African-American in a supervisory role, was forced to resign. Just yesterday, Detective XXXX Lopez, a Hispanic, was terminated. I don’t think I have to connect the dots on this all-too-familiar pattern.
- The glorification of Detective XXX Holguin. Last Friday, Det. Holguin, a white male, was posthumously given the highest honor that can be bestowed on a fallen officer. Yet by all accounts, Det. Holguin was responsible for leaking confidential information to a disreputable website. The XXXXX Police Department had considered the leak to be so harmful and egregious, they had called the FBI for assistance. Was his gross misconduct swept under the rug and forgiven? Why hasn’t the FBI made any comment on their involvement with this investigation?
I am doubtful that an Internal Affairs investigation will find any significant misconduct or take any measure to rectify the travesty of justice that has occurred at the XXXXX Police Department. Do the right thing, Mr. Attorney General, and launch a Federal investigation into this scandal! If anyone wants to sign their name to a petition urging….
I ended up spending five days at the mental health facility. On my second night, I tried to resist my confinement, hitting one of the nurses who wanted to take a blood sample from me. I saw no reason for the procedure. I didn’t mean to actually hit her. I was agitated, overwhelmed by everything that was happening to me. The facility’s atmosphere was misleading. I was placed in a room that was airy and bright, with walls painted in soothing green and blue tones, but not a single electronic device was allowed inside and the air smelled like cat piss. It was enforced monasticism, prescribed boredom, and I could only read worn-out, yellowed copies of classical literature or engage in mindless group therapy sessions. I didn’t belong there. I was nothing like the unhygienic, obviously troubled patients in the rooms surrounding me. Striking out at the nurse had only caused the doctor in charge, Dr. Grudendale, to increase my medications and utilize straps to restrain me in bed. So from that point on, I forced myself to suck it up and remain calm so I could be released.
Only one other incident occurred during my stay. It happened when I saw Ms. Rodriguez. It was during one of the worthless group therapy sessions, the only time I saw her, since men and women were segregated the rest of the time. I didn’t know it was her until she mentioned she was doing much better and hoped to one day get back into teaching at an elementary school. She stressed that she wasn’t having any more nightmares about “you know who.” Several people in the group applauded her. Ms. Rodriguez smiled after saying “you know who” as if calling Middy by her name was akin to an ethnic slur. I remembered the story posted on the leaks website about her meltdown with Detective Holguin. She wasn’t at all like I had pictured her. She was pretty even without makeup, doe-eyed and small lipped. The only thing that looked crazy about her was her hair – it was a tangled brown mess with uneven wavy strands.
When it came to my turn to speak, I tried to keep things as general and vague as possible. I didn’t see any benefit in telling anyone the truth, and I definitely didn’t want to rehash the details in my mind. I wanted to forget everything. Like Tina. But for some reason, a word slipped out of my mouth. When talking about my house, I said I felt like I didn’t belong there anymore. I said I felt like my house belonged to Middy.
Ms. Rodriguez became enraged. She flew out of her chair and attacked me, knocking me down onto the floor and kneeing me in the stomach. She began to slap my face, claw my hair, and scream at me, “I was doing better! Everyone was telling me I was doing better!”
As nurses pulled her off of me, she continued to shout as tears streamed down her face. “Why did you have to say her name? I was doing better! I was better! I’m going to see her again, aren’t I? She’s going to ask me the question again and again and again!”
I didn’t know what to say. Had I ruined another life? No, it was Middy’s fault. Or rather, it was the fault of the Man Who Wakes Everyone Up. I felt really awful for Ms. Rodriguez, but there wasn’t anything I could do.
I returned home Monday night. My parents drove me to my house. There was no way I could keep my stay at the mental health facility a secret and my parents weren’t my only relatives or friends who paid me an unwanted visit. It was beyond humiliating. I kept telling everyone I was fine, joking that I simply needed some time off, a few extra “mental health days.” Truthfully, the only thing that made me feel better was a simple mantra that I kept repeating to myself:
I did it all for Tina.
After pleading with my parents for the umpteenth time that I was OK to be left alone, they departed my house and headed back to the hotel where they were staying. I wanted them to go all the way back to the Bay Area. Seeing them every day was making me feel weak and I was determined to regain all my strength so I could live my life as courageously as I could.
I stayed up late, reading through dozens of news articles, even the pablum written by tabloids, trying to find any shred of the truth. The truth as I knew it and had experienced. I knew my heart wanted to find something, just one piece of information that would corroborate my story and validate my sanity, so I could show it to Tina. But my head knew that my hopes of getting her back into my life were futile.
As I got ready for bed, brushing my teeth and ingesting three different types of prescribed medicine, I heard a giggle coming from my bedroom. The familiar giggle of a seven-year-old girl. It wasn’t over. Maybe there was only one way for it to truly be over. Maybe the courageous thing to do would be to let Middy end my memories and what little hopes I had left.
I made the solemn trek to my bedroom. Middy was standing on top of my bed. She bounced a couple of times before giggling again.
I asked her what I thought would be final question. My final words. “Did he send you here to kill me?”
Middy’s smile vanished. “Is that what you want?”
I couldn’t respond. Did I really want to die? No, I was still afraid of death. I wanted to live! But how could I live if it meant that I would see Middy for the rest of my life?
Middy’s smile returned. “Don’t be silly. I’m not here to hurt you. I know you don’t like seeing me, but I like you. You’re easy to fool!”
I relaxed a bit. But only a bit. “Are you going to keep visiting me?”
“I dunno. I got lots to do. I gotta visit Ms. Rodriguez next. I really don’t like her. I’m so mad she answered the question right. But not as mad as he is.”
I shuddered knowing what Middy had in store for Ms. Rodriguez.
Middy continued. “That’s why I’m here. She had a stupid wish. He needs your help with it.”
“She wanted as many people as possible to know about his question.”
“I don’t think there’s anything I can do–”
“Aren’t you a writer?” I nodded. “So keep writing!”
I didn’t want this responsibility. It would make me culpable in who knows how many other tragedies. I tried to find a counterargument. “I don’t think I can help. I can’t reach that many people.”
“Not if you wish for something else.”
The thought of wishing for success made me feel dizzy and nauseated again. Middy returned to her giddy laughter. “Don’t worry! There are other people helping him with my teacher’s stupid wish. You don’t have to do it all yourself!”
Middy bounced off my bed. “But don’t do nothing. He won’t like that. And I won’t be happy. You don’t want to see me when I’m mad.”
Middy skipped out of my room with one final exclamation. “Good Day!”
The worst nightmares, the worst horrors, never truly end.
December 17, 2014
The Katy Perry and Taylor Swift War Continues Over a Song?
Max Martin, the Swedish pop genius behind countless pop hits over the past three decades, has started a new battle in the war between pop superstars Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. A new song he has written and offered to produce, entitled “Is This Heaven?” has put him in the middle of a no-holds-barred, tug-of-a-war. Each diva’s camp is vying to record the “inspiring and uplifting ballad” that Martin said he wrote in just a few hours after waking up from a dream.
According to Martin, the song is about “making the right decisions in life and always believing that wishes can come true.” A demo of the song isn’t even out yet, but social media is already buzzing about the song. Thousands of tweets are saying that people have been waking up hearing the words “is this heaven” in their heads. Others are saying that all the hoopla is part of a viral campaign set up by Taylor Swift’s record label, Big Machine Records, as they continue to branch out into the pop music scene. But considering the track records of all those involved, we think the song is going to be a guaranteed hit no matter which songstress ultimately wins the battle! We can’t wait to hear it!