He was forgetting his own name recently. No, that wasn’t accurate. It was more accurate to say that he was forgetting which name was his. He thought it was Paul, then he thought it was Will. He was certain it was Will, but someone had called him Paul. He was sure somebody called him Paul.
Will (or Paul) was in a mental institution. Not that he was crazy, he wasn’t. That much he knew was fact, but he had done some crazy things and people had started to get the wrong impression. It really wasn’t his fault, he would say, it was the book’s fault. The book had used him. It did that. Used people. He didn’t know why. Alice didn’t know why either, and she was smarter than him. Alice was smarter than anyone.
The book had used Paul (or Will) to bring something here. He had been looking for something (Someone, right? Yes. Someone. Jess), but what had come through was something different. The thing (or was it several things?) had come from Outside. Will/Paul didn’t know much about Outside, but he knew enough. He knew it was black as pitch and bright as the sun, that it was blinding how perfectly black and bright it was. That what was Outside often wanted to come inside, and that he had shown it the way. He also knew that Gyartep owed him something, and hadn’t paid and that pissed him….wait…no….no, Gyartep owed Paul, but not Will right? or was it the other way around? Who was Gyartep? Who was Paul? Was there a Paul? Was there a Will?
He hated when he wasn’t sure. It made him think he maybe should take the medicine after all. He didn’t like the pills, they made him feel sick, but the doctors got mad when he didn’t take them. Usually he didn’t take them. If he could, he’d sneak them back to his room (‘cheeking’ his fellow patients had called it), then give them to James or Alice when they came to visit him. He had been afraid to get them in trouble at first, but when Alice explained why she needed them, Will insisted they try, and Paul reluctantly agreed.
Will sometimes spoke to Paul. Not seriously, but the doctors kept telling him Paul wasn’t his name. Will agreed, so Paul must be somebody else, so he’d started absently talking to him when he was alone in his cell. Paul thought it was stupid, and didn’t talk back much. That or Paul wasn’t real. Or Will was actually Paul and he was talking to himself. He didn’t like any of those possibilities.
The doctors also told him the thing from Outside wasn’t real. Will/Paul didn’t talk about that much anymore. People just got mad. They called him crazy or a liar. It had been real though. It or they or whatever. It had killed those dogs, not Will. Paul didn’t talk back much, but this was something Will and Paul adamantly agreed on. The thing killed them. It killed them when it took them, all Will did was hack up meat. Will thought that was for the best. Dogs are nice. Dogs didn’t deserve to have someone fooling around with them like that. He liked to think the dogs understood what he’d done. He’d had a dog before coming here. Will had, not Paul (he thought). Her name was Dorothy. He loved that dog. They wouldn’t let his parents bring her when they visited. He missed his dog. The doctors were worried it would be detrimental to his therapy. Which translated as: they thought Will/Paul would try to kill her. He would never. He was sure. He wasn’t crazy.
The thing had been crazy. As far as he knew, everything from Outside was crazy. Or maybe the Outside made you crazy. He hoped not. Jess was there. He missed Jess too.
The thing he’d let in was a liar, just like the book. It had said it liked dogs. It had said it liked Will (or maybe it liked Paul and thought Will was Paul). But when it saw the neighbor’s dog…
Will/Paul didn’t like to think about it. It made his head hurt and his stomach turn. It was like it reached inside the dog. Like it messed with what the dog was under the skin. In its guts, and in its brain. Paul didn’t mind it as much as Will, but that didn’t make any sense if Paul was Will because Paul didn’t exist. Paul still didn’t like thinking about it. Paul had seen things like that before, Paul was used to it, but Will wasn’t, and when Will’s head hurt Paul’s head hurt.
One time, one of Will’s friends had come to visit, and Paul didn’t know what to do. They kept talking about things he didn’t remember and calling him Will. Paul tried to explain that his name wasn’t Will, it was Paul, and they knew that, didn’t they? They’d gotten all sad and worried, and James had tried to give the medicine back. But Paul knew that Alice needed it, and he loved her. Or was that Will who loved her? Not romantically, more like a sister, but still he loved her. Either Paul or Will loved her like a sister. So Will/Paul laughed and blamed it on being tired and made them keep the pills.
Afterwards, when he thought about it, he wasn’t sure why he did that. Of course his name was Will. Why had he said it wasn’t? Why wasn’t he sure.
He wasn’t crazy. He wasn’t. He knew he wasn’t crazy.
His name was Will! Or was it Paul? How could he tell? How do you tell if you’re crazy?
If only he could prove what he said was true. If only Will/Paul had the book, he could show it to the doctors. They’d believe him if they saw it. They’d know he wasn’t crazy, that he wasn’t a liar.
He knew that was a bad idea.
He’d thought he was doing good with the book. He had thought he could get Jess back. Jess was like a sister too. Maybe more? Had Will dated her? No, Paul wanted to though. No, James was the one who liked Jess, and he knew he wasn’t James. He was Paul…or Will. Damn it, why did his head always hurt when he tried to remember which name was his. But either way, Will/Paul had tried to get a toe over the line. He tried to find Jess. And then the thing had found the bit where he was poking. That or the book had told him to poke around right where it knew the thing was. It came through, and Paul thought it might still be a good thing. Then the thing with the dogs….then the guy at the school. The janitor. That wasn’t his fault, but it wasn’t really the janitor’s fault either. The janitor couldn’t see it. Couldn’t see the thing inside the dogs. Couldn’t see that they were already dead, on the inside. Still breathing and walking, but all that was left was that thing, pulling on muscles like strings on cheap puppets. Will didn’t blame the guy for trying to stop him. Will/Paul hadn’t explained things very well, on account of all the screaming and shouting.
He’d gotten it though. Paul was so proud of himself for that. He’d made sure James put it in the letter he sent to Jess. Made sure she knew that he’d fixed it, that he’d set things right again, once he got it out of the dogs. Thing hadn’t been so tough once he pulled it out. It tried to do that thing, the thing it had done to the dogs, on him, but Will had got him first. Hacked the thing up with his dad’s hatchet. It became a bit of a blur. Screaming, swinging, the shudder running up his arm each time he hit. Then he was breathing, trying to calm down, Paul was there he thought, and he got pretty light headed. The very next thing he remembered, he was being shouted at by the police. He was so confused, and he tried to tell them it was ok now, he’d taken care of it, but they’d tackled him, took his hatchet, and dragged him away.
He wanted so badly for them to believe him. So they would know he wasn’t crazy. But Will/Paul knew this was a bad idea. The book uses people. That’s what it does. It would just use them like it used him. Best leave it with Alice. Alice was smart. She’d figure it out. She had to.
In the meantime, Will or Paul sits in his cell, talking to Paul or Will, whichever is the fake one, and hoping it’s not him.