At Night, My Mind Goes Walking

Open skull showing brain - Illustration for short horror story At Night My Mind Goes Walking

Ever have that feeling that you’re forgetting something? You’re packing for a trip, and you get everything loaded in the car. You walk out of the house and get in the car and you know, you just know, that you’re leaving something important behind. I feel like that a lot. Most of the time it’s just paranoia. Except for last weekend. It was a Friday night, and I had just walked through my front door, when it hit me: my mind was missing again.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ”Oh, he means he’s lost his mind, figuratively speaking. He’s gone insane.” Or maybe, ”He’s making a joke. His mind was wandering, and it wandered too far and got lost. How amusing.” No, stupid, it’s nothing like that.

You see, I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in the soul or some sort of supernatural essence that you lose when you die. But I also don’t believe that you are just your brain. I mean, if you’re in a coma or something like that, you’re not really you. The real you is your memories and personality and your internal monologue, that voice in your head when you’re thinking. It’s less than spiritual but more than just physical. That’s what I mean by ”mind.”

I was at this New Year’s party at Rebecca’s house, and she was talking to Naomi and pretending that she couldn’t feel me standing there, staring at her. She knows how I feel about her. But, when she looks at me, her face changes. She glares at me like I’m an abstract painting of a toilet covered in boils. She’s disgusted, but she keeps looking because she can’t quite figure me out.

Anyway, I remember thinking about her when I was at the party, so I know I must have had my mind with me then. I even caught Rebecca looking at me a few times, so she must have heard my thoughts, right? But when I got home, I couldn’t hear my internal monologue anymore. My mind was gone. I must have left it at the party.

I went back to Rebecca’s building and stopped at the door. I couldn’t remember what number her apartment was, so I started hitting all the buzzers and asking if Rebecca was there. People yelled and asked me if I knew what time it was. I looked at my watch, but I couldn’t read it in the darkness. I guess it must have been pretty late.

Finally, someone buzzed me inside. I walked through the building until I saw her door. Rebecca had painted her door this soft pink, like her lips and her toenails. I knocked on her door, and it took her a long time to answer. I don’t know how long. I still couldn’t read my watch, even with the light in the hallway. I heard the bolt go back, and the door opened a crack. It was still on the brass security chain. Rebecca was there, in her pale blue nightie and her insipid bunny slippers.

”What the hell?” she wondered. ”What are you doing here?”

”I left something in your apartment,” I said. ”I need it for work tomorrow. Can I come in and look for it?”

”What did you leave?” she asked. She covered her mouth and yawned. I guess I must have been boring her. Apparently Naomi is the interesting one.

”Just shut up and let me look for it, you stupid bitch,” I explained.

But Rebecca didn’t let me look for anything. She just slammed the door. I heard the bolt lock go on, and some other locks, too. And then there was this sound like a chair being dragged across the floor and shoved up against the doorknob. I guess she was worried about being robbed. She doesn’t live in the best neighborhood.

I didn’t know what else to do. I went downstairs and walked to that place where they sell donuts and coffee all night, and I tried to come up with a new plan. But I couldn’t come up with anything. Like I said, my mind was missing. Rebecca had it in her apartment, and she wouldn’t give it back.

I was really nervous and, for some reason, the coffee wasn’t helping me relax. The old man behind the counter looked at me like he thought I was sick or something. He kept wrinkling up his face and asking me if I was alright, and saying I shouldn’t tug my hair like that. I told him to shut up and mind his own fucking business, and then I ordered another cup of coffee. He poured me more coffee, but most of it ended up on my hand. I guess he must have been nervous, too.

After a few hours and about fourteen cups of coffee, this man and his girlfriend came inside. The man was wearing a gray business suit. It was expensive-looking, like the ones at JC Penny’s. His girlfriend was dressed in this incredibly short skirt and a top that barely covered her breasts. I thought it was strange, what with it being winter outside and all, but who am I to judge? Her boyfriend kept buying coffee and they would pass this flask back and fourth and mix whatever was in it with the coffee. I guess they brought their own creamer or something.

So I figured that the man in the suit was rich, so he must be pretty smart, right? So I went over to his table and I sat down next to his girlfriend.

”What the hell are you doing?” he said. He glared at me, like the lights were too bright inside or his head hurt or something. His girlfriend smelled like the body I found in the woods last year. I wanted to poke her with a stick, too, but there weren’t any around.

”You’re smart, right?” I asked the man.

”I’m too smart for this shit,” he said. He put out his hands and pushed me, and I almost fell out of the booth. But I grabbed on to his girlfriend. She was too heavy to move, so he stopped shoving.

”I need your help, then,” I said. ”I left my mind in Rebecca’s apartment, and she won’t give it back. What should I do?”

His girlfriend laughed, but the man slapped her. Then she just rubbed her face where it got red and kept quiet. The man unbuttoned the top button on his shirt and glared at me again. ”You left your brain in some broad’s apartment?”

”No, you idiot,” I explained. ”If I lost my brain I’d be dead. I left my mind in her apartment. The part of me that thinks. And I can’t think about anything until I get it back.”

”I ain’t never seen a mind. How do you know it’s there?”

”Because that’s the last place I remember using it. I was looking at the back of Rebecca’s head, and she was pretending like she couldn’t see me. So I started thinking really hard, telling her to turn around. But then Naomi showed up and she started talking to her instead of me.”

”Oh, I see,” the man said. He ordered another cup of coffee for him and his girlfriend, and they put their creamer in the coffee. His girlfriend’s phone rang, and she looked at it to see who was calling.

”I have to go soon, to see another John,” she said to the man. ”You only have ten minutes left.”

The man just slapped her again. I guess he didn’t like her talking about her other boyfriends. He turned to me and said, ”I think I understand your story, but it don’t make any damn sense. If you can’t think without your mind, how are you thinking right now? You’re thinking about that broad, ain’t you?”

He was right! I was thinking. But the strange thing was, I was only thinking about Rebecca and her apartment. I couldn’t think about anything else, no matter how hard I tried. I even looked at the man’s girlfriend, and I couldn’t think about her. ”I know what’s happening,” I said. ”I thought I forgot my mind at her apartment, but I didn’t. Rebecca took it, and now she’s using it.”

”Well, if you want it back,” the man said, ”you’d better go have a little talk with her.”

I left the doughnut and coffee place and went back to Rebecca’s building. I knew she probably wouldn’t let me inside, and anyway I had forgotten her apartment number again. So I decided to wait for her to come outside and go to work. I found her car in the lot. It was unlocked, so I crawled in the backseat and curled into a ball. I tried to go to sleep, but I think I had too much coffee so I couldn’t. I closed my eyes anyway.

I could still see things, even though my eyes were closed. I saw a man in an ice cream truck. He drove down the street and hit this little, brown dog. Then I saw the dog lying in the street, its guts spilling out on the pavement. Then the children came outside, but instead of getting ice cream, they stared picking up the bits and pieces of dog.

I always see things like that when my eyes are closed. I think I drink too much coffee.

I was in the back seat for a long time. I couldn’t tell how long, because I couldn’t read my watch. But finally it started getting light again outside, and I knew Rebecca was coming out to her car.

Later, the car door opened and Rebecca got inside. She turned on the car and pulled out to the road. I tried to say something to her, to let her know I was there, but I couldn’t. My mind was missing. After that, Rebecca pulled onto the highway. I sat up and tried to speak again, but it didn’t work, so instead I grabbed her neck and I squeezed as hard as I could. She grabbed my hands and tried to pull them away, which I thought was stupid because she couldn’t do that and drive at the same time.

The car went off the road and into a ditch. Rebecca’s head banged against the dashboard. I climbed out of the car and opened the front door to ask Rebecca if she was OK, but she wouldn’t answer.

I pulled back her head and looked at the dashboard. The dashboard was covered in her blood. There was a piece of her skull stuck to the dashboard, with little bits of skin and hair on it. I looked at her head, and I could see the hole where the piece of skull used to be. I poked my finger in the hole, and when I pulled it back, there was some gray, sticky stuff on it.

”Ah, there it is,” I said. ”It’s always in the last place you look.”

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