I suffer through another night of murdering devolved humans in my dreams, and wake up feeling terrible again the next morning. Let me tell you, all that stuff about videogames desensitizing kids to violence and turning them into killers? I must’ve played the wrong videogames, because this is eating away at me. I’m feeling pretty motivated to talk to Officer Peterson and maybe get some idea of what’s going on, so I look up the police department’s desk officer number and call in. The man who answers asks me which Officer Peterson I want, and I realize that if he told me his first name, I’ve completely forgotten it.
“Um. Maybe it was…Eric?” I guess. The awkward silence tells me that it is not, in fact, Eric, so I hurry on. “This is in relation to the, um, incident at the museum two nights ago – I’m sorry, three nights ago. He should, um. That is, whichever Officer Peterson is working on it should know who I am. If he’s working on it. He, um, told my boss to call if he had any information or questions or anything. So. Um. Can I leave my number?”
Smooth. I sound like a high school dweeb trying to give his crush a valentine. I revise my plan to try to hide things from Peterson while simultaneously trying to get information out of him, since clearly I can’t even manage to leave a message without sounding like I’m confessing to a crime. Honesty is probably going to be the best policy here. He’ll think I’m crazy, of course, but that’s not illegal.
Wait, is it? I spend an involved hour reading up on involuntary commitment, and eventually conclude that in this case, it probably isn’t. I’ve got to be considered an “imminent danger,” either to myself or others, and I don’t think that believing that I sometimes get superpowers qualifies for that. On the other hand, I do have a body count. They were both mutated, though, which I think supports my claim that something very weird is going on around here. Being an imminent danger to rampaging mutants is probably allowable under the law. It’s got to be a grey area, at the very least.
Abruptly, the thought occurs to me: what if I am crazy? What if I’m hallucinating this? I mean, not the whole thing. If I’ve hallucinated several days’ worth of events, then I’m clearly in a coma or something and I’m not going to be able to logic my way out of it. But thinking back, I can’t remember anyone else commenting on the bizarre hairiness of the guys who attacked me. When the cops first showed up, one of them said “Holy mother! Would you look at this guy?” in relation to Lovell, but that could have just been because of the amount of blood. They’d struggled with the stretcher, but maybe it was just a faulty piece of equipment. And Caraway, they’d just loaded up while I was giving the cops my statement back at the museum.
Okay, so maybe I’m crazy, and visualizing bestial features on the guys who’ve attacked me. So what? They both still attacked me for no reason. Even if I’m feeling a subconscious need to dehumanize them or something, and it’s caused a slight disconnect from reality, it doesn’t change the fact that these two guys, without apparent reason, decided they wanted to see me dead. So even if I’m crazy, I’m still in the right here.
I really don’t want to be crazy, though.
Officer Peterson – whose name turns out to be Sam; I was sort of close, it was a one-syllable name – calls me back in the early afternoon, and asks me if I’d like to talk over the phone, or come into the station. I figure I’d better have body language and facial expressions on my side if I’m going to tell Peterson anything resembling the truth and hope to have him believe me, or at least believe that I believe me. We make an appointment for 6 PM, and I spend the next several hours trying to pretend that I’m not stressing out over whether I’m insane and whether I’m about to get arrested. A tip: repeatedly thinking to yourself “I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy!” is less than helpful, and also difficult to stop once you’ve started. So basically, my afternoon sucks.
And so when Officer Peterson asks me, “So what did you want to tell me?”, there are probably better openers than “What was wrong with those guys? Were they poisoned, or what?” But I have to know my sanity status up front. Now that I’ve thought that this might all be in my head, I can’t get past that idea until I know for sure that it isn’t. Or that it is, I suppose, but I don’t want to consider that option right now.
Peterson, to his credit, just blinks and says mildly, “We’re waiting on the autopsies to tell us that. Why’dya suggest poison?”
I press on, “It would have to be some kind of a chemical that could do that to someone, right? To make them…all roided out and hairy?”
There. I’ve said it; I’ve committed myself. And if he doesn’t know what I’m talking about, I might be about to get committed in a different sense, too.
So it’s a great relief when Peterson says, “That’s the theory we’re working with, yeah. Could be a virus, too, but there’s no clear link between the two that’d suggest that right now. ‘Course, there’s no link for a chemical injection, either, but that one implies human motivation, and humans are a lot more capricious than viruses.”
I’m so busy congratulating myself on not being nuts that it takes me a minute to realize I have no idea what Peterson’s talking about. “Sorry, what?” I say cleverly.
“If it were a virus, we’d see a pattern of transmission. If it’s someone sticking these guys with something, it won’t be obvious who he’s going to choose until we figure out why he’s doing it.”
“Okay, gotcha. I thought for a minute you might be saying that I might be infected.”
“Well, we are curious why they both came after you. Did you know either of the deceased?”
Man, am I glad I’m not hooked up to a lie detector right now, because my pulse skyrockets when Peterson asks me that. I suddenly remember what I’ve managed to push aside – that Edgar isn’t the only one who thinks I might be responsible for whatever’s going on here, or at least know why it’s happening. Peterson’s asking me in a very casual tone, but I remember the way he managed to grill me during a friendly conversation the first night, and I know he’s gotta be watching my reactions right now. Which, obviously, look less than innocent, despite the fact that I don’t know these guys, I don’t know what’s going on, and I came here to find out.
I’m panicking for no good reason, so I stuff it down and answer. “No, I’d never met them before.” Then, in an effort to provide an explanation for any weirdness Peterson may have noticed in my manner, I add, “I looked them up online yesterday, but it didn’t give me any clue why they’d come after me or what happened to them.”
Still casually, Peterson asks, “How’d you know their names to look them up?”
Shoot, I screwed up. I’m not selling Brian out. He was doing me a favor, and I don’t know if this could get him in trouble. “I, uh, went to the hospital and asked.” Technically true. “Were they not supposed to tell me?”
“You can calm down, Mr. Everton. This isn’t an interrogation.”
This is definitely an interrogation. I smile; it feels fake. “Ha ha, of course not. Hey, I was really hoping you could tell me something, if you’ve come up with any ideas in your investigation. I mean, I’m assuming you have one. Two dead people, weird gorilla crossbreed chemical, right? I mean, I don’t know that there’s anything to look into, but I assume there has to be, so I figure you’re probably looking into it.” Shut up, Dan, shut up, shut up!
Peterson just lets me babble and waits for me to get to the point. I take a deep breath, let it halfway out and say, somewhat more plaintively than I mean to, “Why is this happening to me?” Then I finally, mercifully, shut up.