“Babe, I asked you to get the coaster for me, not make one!” Joked Karen as she emerged from their shared bedroom with a glass of wine.
The sight before her eyes was that of horror, her husband, Jim Halpert, was slumped on their couch, his fists tightly clenched around the TV remote.
The TV’s volume seemed over the roof with how loud it was, nonetheless, the tension seemed enough to cut through glass.
Karen’s eyes darted nervously between her husband and the voice beaming from the telly, trying to process the news that he might’ve heard.
“Anonymous has once again managed to win the heart of millions of people while creating tension amongst the governmental agencies. The hacking organization has produced documents that site the names of different individuals who have had their memory altered by the FBI. Among which the names, Jim Halpert has topped the list with being altered at least 26 times. If any of this situation is true, we would be pleased to get in touch with Mr. Halpert. Additionally, the names of the remaining subjects are as followed.”
Karen turned to her husband, who seemed to have aged in years in mere
minutes. “Are you okay?” Her voice soft and filled with worry as she reached for the TV remote, turning it off hastily.
Her husband didn’t blink, his stoic demeanor got her agitated.
“Are you listening to me? What is wrong? Why aren’t you responding? Maybe I should call 911!” She blurted waving her arms around as if she were trying to hold onto an invisible hand for help.
“Don’t…” Finally, the words rolled off his tongue, every piece of his being that was frozen, slowly back to life. A loud exhale left his lips, “I’m sorry… I wasn’t sure what had gotten in me, perhaps it is nothing…” His voice faded just like the seed of doubt that was slowly being planted in his mind.
Could he be the one, the one they were talking about on the news?
This bulletin brought in feelings that he had been ignoring for years. Jim always felt like a part of his life was missing, and he blamed that on the loss of his parents.
But for tonight, enough feelings were evoked and endured. He pulled his beautiful wife in his arms and held Karen closely. His anchor in the toughest of times. “I love you forever.”
When his eyes fluttered open the next morning, yesterday seemed like a distant dream. A dream that he had long forgotten, but the hollow feeling remained, deep inside of his gut.
“Good morning” he forced a smile and gave his wife a soft kiss on her forehead, their every morning tradition.
Karen was draped around her man, like a lioness guarding her cub already sensing danger to her territory. “Good morning, what would you like for breakfast?”
“Anything is good, have you seen my phone anywhere?” He asked, slowly stirring away from her clenches, trying to find his lost phone between their sheets.
“Oh, I switched our phones off, I was thinking of a… detox from all electronic devices, what do you think? We can go out for a walk, maybe to the park, or just stay in bed and spend some quality time?” She suggested cheerfully, to which Jim replied with a frown.
“It’s Tuesday, I’ve got work… Kayaks are really in demand right now.” He smiled, looking away from his wife and staring into an abyss. A habit he had developed. He would look away from the person he was talking to and just shrug as if someone else were there. “And, I’ll need my phone, for the bike ride to work.” He added with a mischievous smile.
The moment Jim switched his phone on, he was bombarded with a myriad of information. Names. List of names. The information he could not fathom. Words that seemed meaningful but worthless to him, for he was to blind to de-crypt them yet.
Names, more names, and even more names but the mention of one stopped him dead in his tracks before he could go any further. Pam Beesly. The name didn’t hold any value but Jim felt the earth move from under his feet.
He grasped his phone tightly and almost fell down to his knees, staring at the name, asking the name to talk back to him. Wishful thinking.
He spent a few minutes to control his breathing before going further down the list.
The list got even more terrifying than earlier. He saw the names of his parents, Gerald and Betsy, and his sister, Larissa with the addition of two other Halperts, Cece and Philip, confirming his suspicions that indeed he was the man on the news.
Was Jim to blame for this? Or did someone else in his family lead them too to this? Who were all these people?
The man in the high chair sat quietly, his gaze fixated on the TV news before him. All his intricate planning and plotting were staring back at his face. The years he spent, trying to separate the two lovers, now seemed to be futile. He couldn’t let ergo. Not now. Not ever.
Could the victims finally understand his big plan?
“Look what you made me do…” he replied monotonous reaching for a picture on his desk.
A picture of his beautiful woman, now aged, her glasses framed her face, hair covering her ears, blonde now from dying.
“Pam… why do you keep testing me…?” He whispered caressing the picture through the cold glass.
“After everything I’ve done for you?” He taunted, anger slowly rising through his veins as he slammed the frame against the wall, its pieces ricocheted around his office.
“Why can you just love me as you loved him?” He exclaimed to no one in particular. His breathing was hitched as the man leaned over his desk, grasping it to hold himself up, trying to think of ways to clear this mess up. For once and for all.
Almost two days had passed from his previous brush with reality, Jim had found himself in various stages of doubt around the people in his life. Jim could no longer remember the details of his previous jobs in the past 17 years. Details of his past were vague. He remembered meeting Karen at a point when she worked at a paper company, but that was it.
His memory was filled with holes that even she couldn’t answer. They had been happily married for almost 7 years, according to the documentation. But other than governmental proof, he couldn’t say much.
Last time a blackout occurred, Jim found himself waking up next to Karen. He was confused and dazzled when he woke up, thinking she was one nightstand until Karen explained everything to him.
That he sometimes suffered from short term memory loss from an accident he had after they were married.
With that, parts of his life seemed gone. She reassured him with proper
documents that she was his wife. they were together. His parents had passed away and his sister lived in another state. Jim felt and was all alone.
All his doubts were resurfacing, was Karen somewhat involved with his blackouts?
He didn’t experience a blackout recently, but did he get too close to the sun last time and that they had to wash his memory away? Did she do this? But she didn’t work for the government. She still worked at a paper company? What did Jim have to do with the FBI? Who could he trust?
Questions poured into his mind with no viable answer. He was lost and defeated. Any time Karen walked into the room; Jim would be terrorized with fear.
He was scared of his anchor, the only person who he had complete faith in all these years and probably even more if the stories of his blackout are true. Nothing made sense anymore.
Unaware of the big blunder occurring, Pam went on with her daily life.
Her husband had made sure to screen all of the news channels and devices to avoid her getting involved. Supposedly that was the big advantage of being in his position, he could get away with almost everything and do things without gaining suspicion.
Pam hadn’t even realized her phones were tapped, every conversation she had, her husband listened on the other side.
He was paranoid to lose her, how long could he keep this charade going on? Perhaps forever, if it was in his power.
Pam knew something was missing in her life, but she kept that feeling aside, blaming it on her husband’s erratic schedule.
He was a soft-spoken man, somehow who always listened to her thoughts and emotions. He also had a daughter from a previous marriage but Pam wasn’t one to discriminate.
She treated all the three kids equally like they were her own. Although she did notice that her husband treated his daughter from the previous marriage quite favorably with that of their kids. The idea irked her but she avoided indulging into that rabbit hole, for now.
For now, she was a stay at home mom, handling the three little monkeys that turned her life around, with kids turning up there was always things to do and get done.
Classes, recitals, events, games, and planning, and boy was she tired of them.
She was tired of trying to fit in with the soccer moms and or being treated like a trophy wife. Pam wanted more, she adored art and hoped one day her husband would be supportive in her career path. For him, art was just recreational.
Jim felt like he had been in a twisted joke, that any moment his wife, Karen, and their daughter Apple, would fly in and declare this as a prank… but it wasn’t.
Jim was living in his purgatory, day in and out, breathing it, feeling it, absorbing through his pores, and burning into his soul.
The emptiness he felt for so long was finally justified.
It had been three days since his life spun before his eyes, and realized he was all alone. Nobody could be trusted. Not even his wife. Or their daughter. Everywhere he looked, his suspicion raised.
Apple didn’t resemble him in any manner. Not the demeanor nor the physical attribute. He imagined his genes being recessive since the idea of his wife being unfaithful was preposterous.
Five years ago, a confused Jim found embrace in a woman’s arms, this woman who called herself his wife. Karen provided him with a few pictures, but the one that really melted his heart and proved herself was them, in Niagara Falls, getting married.
He looked so happy in that picture to have eloped and gotten married that the happiness poured back in. He accepted her as his wife.
In retrospect, he should’ve known something was up regarding how vigilant she had been around him sometimes. He knew she kept tabs on him too. She liked to know everything about him at all times.
“What? No, I just wanted to… uh talk…?” the mysterious man whispered, looking around as he tried to remain calm. This man’s hands were shaking from anxiety, but when Jim stared down at them, he was quick to shove them in the back pocket of his denim jeans.
“Don’t trust anyone… E…Especially Karen…” he warned quickly with slight hesitation.
“What? Why?” Jim retorted.
“Check the marriage registry. Apple… “ The man answered instead then hesitated once again.
“… Help Pam…. The children…” His voice rustled as his body seemed to be stepping backward from Jim. ” Cece..” He added before running away from the aisle as if he were Zorro.
Jim sat slump in his chair, his screen flashed against his pale face. He was scared. Terrified. For the first time in 5 years, he genuinely felt lost.
His eyes stared at the screen aimlessly, trying to fix the pieces.
The marriage registry said he was never legally married to Karen Filippelli.
What about those pictures? Were they morphed?
Instead, Karen was married to someone named Dan until they divorced. Was Dan the man who nudged him in the right direction? Apple wasn’t his daughter after-all…
In another world, Jim could see himself collapsing, breaking down into pieces at his recent discovering, but that wasn’t this Jim.
This Jim was… relieved. He was happy to have faced all the lies that made up his world. He knew now, that the only thing that was missing in his life, was no other than Pam.
Pam, who he was legally married to… up until…. She married Toby.