by Tara Campbell
Wow, I can’t believe it’s been five years since my last entry. Well, I guess I have a reason now.
Nick went out again. He’s out right now; he got past my “security system” (pie plates and silverware hanging over the door, but it didn’t wake me up fast enough). The car’s gone too—I checked. He must have found the extra key.
He took Xavier with him. Yes, the plant. The spider plant. Yes, I still name my plants.
I feel like—you know how they say when you’re in some kind of trouble, you’re supposed to start documenting everything? Like when you have some kind of feeling that something isn’t right, but nothing police-bad or lawyer-bad has happened yet. Well, it feels like that kind of trouble.
I told Nick he has to see someone about this sleep-driving before he hurts someone. It’s been going on for a couple of months now—I mean, that’s about when the car started moving, so I assume that’s when he started this. It was sporadic at first, and I thought one of us had just forgotten to update the whiteboard when we got home. If we had designated parking, this wouldn’t be a problem, but we don’t, so we have to keep track of where we park.
On the other hand, if we had a designated spot, I probably wouldn’t have found out he was moving the car. It got to the point where every few days, the car wouldn’t be where I left it, but he swore he hadn’t driven it. Then last week I happened to wake up and catch him in the act—fast asleep, naked, Xavier in one arm, hand on the doorknob, car keys dangling from his fingers.
I got him back to bed without waking him (don’t ask me how) and slept with the keys under my pillow—if you define “sleep” as lying in bed with your eyes open all night.
Since then I’ve tried to stay up every night to keep him home. I’m exhausted, falling asleep at work. I can hardly think straight. I don’t want him to get arrested or anything, I just want to figure out how to stop it.
I need to tell someone. But what if they arrest him, or take away his license?
He doesn’t even believe he’s doing it. If he took his phone with him, I could track him, show him where he’s going. But he doesn’t take anything with him, no phone, no wallet, no cigarettes. All he takes is the plant, as far as I can tell.
At least he took his coat this time.
# # #
You have 1 message:
Hello, Danica, this is Janet Evans from Riggs-Wiley. I’m calling regarding Nick Wilson, and you’re listed as his emergency contact. He hasn’t shown up at the office yet, and we haven’t been able to reach him. It’s after noon now, so we just want to make sure he’s okay. Please call us back as soon as you can.
VM received 12:39 pm
Hi Janet, this is Danica calling you back. I tried reaching Nick, too. No luck. I’m heading home right now to check on him. He’s been—a little under the weather lately, so he might be sleeping.
VM received 2:13 pm
Hello again, Janet. He’s fine, he’s here at home. He’s just sick, and sleeping. I’m sorry he worried you. I’ll ask him to check in when he’s awake. Thanks for your concern. I’m sorry about this.
# # #
Honey, what’s this Uber charge? Look, if you need a ride, just ask me, okay? I know you can drive, but…
Look, if you don’t talk to me, I’m going to have to ask someone to come over and help. I know you don’t want that.
Please, Nick, talk to me. You’ve got to call in to work, they can help you figure out your sick leave and stuff, but you have to talk to them.
Please Nick. Let go of Xavier and talk to me.
# # #
Okay, Google, find… growths on feet. Growths he’s been hiding from you for a week. Find growths he said he went to the doctor about, but you don’t believe him. You don’t believe that his doctor would just tell him to use lotion and sleep with socks on.
Google, find growths that are pale and stringy, that looked like fat hairs the one time he let you see them. Find growths that you lifted with a pencil, that you could have sworn moved, but you were too spooked to be sure.
Find yourself sleeping on top of the covers, even when he sleeps with socks on.
Find yourself not sleeping at all.
# # #
I have to call them. Insurance recommended someone. In-network. I have to.
But I can’t. Nick’s too proud for therapy. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t look down on people who need it, but he’s not—he doesn’t think he’s—one of them. So, now I’m going behind his back…
He’ll never forgive me. It’ll be all my fault. Twice.
I brought Xavier home from the woods. Just a little offshoot. We were hiking, and there were tons of spider plants, and I didn’t think anything of it. But that’s where Nick went when he took that Uber ride. And I think he’s going there while I’m at work. I can tell because of the dirt on his hiking boots and jeans.
At least he’s not going naked anymore.
I’ve been staying late at work, going to the gym instead of home. But he isn’t talking to me. He sleeps most of the time I’m home.
He never takes off his socks.
He scares me, a little.
Okay, I lied. It’s not dirt. It’s ash. Because that part of the woods burned up months ago. I went back there. There’s nothing left. It’s all burned up.
# # #
Northstar Behavioral Health, how can we help?
Yes, hi, it’s Danica Evers, calling about Nick Wilson.
Oh yes, Ms. Evers. Will you be coming in today?
I—I don’t know. I talked to him again. He’s still thinking about it.
I see. Has his condition changed?
Well I… He’s not eating—at least, I don’t see him eat. He says he is, but I never see it. And he’s still not speaking.
Mm-hmm. Anything else?
He hasn’t had a cigarette in days, which is—I mean, he used to smoke way too much, like all the time. But he says he’s fine, no withdrawals. All he does is drink water and hold the plant and sit in the sun.
All right. And is he in any danger of harming himself or someone else?
No, no of course not. He wouldn’t hurt anyone. I’m just worried.
Of course. And where is he now?
He’s in the other room. Just sitting with Xavier.
Ms. Evers, would he speak with one of our counselors over the phone? We may be able to answer any questions he has, address his hesitation about coming in.
Okay. Okay, I’ll talk to him. I’ll see.
# # #
God dammit, where did he go?
# # #
He’s been gone all afternoon, officer.
I looked there until dark. I couldn’t find him.
What do you mean I have to wait to file?
# # #
Listeners, we need your help: For over a week now, authorities have been searching the Echo Ridge parkgrounds for any more clues as to the disappearance of Nicholas Wilson. Wilson’s clothing was found in the area, but in the absence of any signs of struggle, investigators are still unclear as to what might have caused his disappearance. The last person to see him was a taxi driver who dropped him off at a trailhead at the entrance of park entrance. His wife, Danica Evers, has been questioned, but police tell us they do not consider her a suspect at this time.
Echo Ridge was, of course, the site of a devastating forest fire that burned almost a thousand acres earlier this year. The area is just beginning to recover from the blaze, which investigators believe was started by humans. Arson is not suspected; an illegally discarded match or cigarette is believed to have been the cause.
If you have any information that might help, please call the hotline on your screen.
Tara Campbell (www.taracampbell.com) is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. Prior publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Monkeybicycle, Jellyfish Review, Booth, Strange Horizons, and Escape Pod/Artemis Rising. She’s the author of a novel, TreeVolution, a hybrid fiction/poetry collection, Circe’s Bicycle, and a short story collection, Midnight at the Organporium. She received her MFA from American University in 2019.