AUTHOR ONE SCENE ONE:
A lifelong plague of paranoia is no easy plight. Especially as it pertains to Julie Wilkinson, or JuJu Bean, as her older and more carefree sister called her. The sisters were born to a young couple at an U.S. Air Force base in North Charleston, South Carolina. One right after another, their mother, Tina hardly had time to breathe, let alone heal from the birth of Anna before she found herself pregnant with Julie. Their father, Bradley was an airplane engineer, always working hand-in-hand with Air Force mechanics, pilots, and Base leadership. They moved often, and took the girls along for the ride.
As young kids, the Wilkinson sisters were used to a life on the road, home-hopping from one base to another, making pint sized friendships that they could indulge in, and then leave behind for a new flavor at their next location. Their homes were usually plain, unkempt, with old appliances and used furniture. There was never any point in putting too much work into their home set up, only to pack up and leave it behind. Anna was the very description of a typical ‘army brat’, as many people called these traveling kids, really feeding into the very cliche that Julie hated so dearly.
Anna always made up stories about her life, she was keen on that unreadable poker face. Her new friends always fall for her far fetched stories. When their father was called to a new location, she was able to wipe her slate clean, and start fresh. It was a fun game for Anna, to be able to live her life as if she was a descendant of a royal family, or to have spent time living in a tent in some far away country. She was the queen of accent mastery, and the kids in their neighborhoods always believed her bullshit.
For Julie, was different. There were no magical tales that fed the variety of children they came in contact with. For Julie there was only fear. She walked around with her head down, and a book in her hand. She was mostly silent, and full of anxiety because every time she turned around, she foresaw mishap. Car crashes, plane crashes, illnesses, slips down flights of stairs. Julie even went as far as to develop a fear of cellophane, or ‘saran wrap’ as her mother called it. She was convinced at the age of age six that, if a murderer ever broke into their home — wherever it may be at the time — cellophane would surely be the weapon of choice. She saw it in a movie once, and never got past it.
That night, young Julie was supposed to be in bed asleep, while her parents watched a horror movie down the hall. Julie couldn’t rest her eyes, so she snuck out of her room to investigate the terrible sounds that were coming from the television in the living room. She peeked her head around the dirty beige painted corner, just in time to witness the masked killer on T.V. During the young victim’s struggle to get away from this villain, as they wrestled around in the kitchen. The killer reached into a drawer and pulled out a roll of the deadly plastic wrap. With lightning speed his gloved hands wrapped it around his victim’s head several times, and he held her there until the very life drained from her body.
This horror movie scene really struck a chord with Julie. She tiptoed back to her bedroom and lay awake all night, only to get up the next morning and rid their kitchen of such a deadly weapon. She’d be damned if a random killer were able to grab some on a whim in her home. At the mere age of six, Julie had her first feeling of accomplishment, she was suddenly on a lifelong quest to rid her surroundings from inevitable disaster.
From there it only spiraled. Julie spent less and less time outdoors, and more time isolating herself from disaster. She didn’t like socializing, because people carried diseases. Therefore, by avoiding human contact, she also avoided the possibility of death by influenza or any other airborne pathogens that surround the human race, just waiting to sink their claws into an unexpected host.
By the time Julie was ten, Tina Wilkinson caved into Julie’s consistent and extremely emotional requests to be strictly home-schooled. She gave up fighting the good fight, to force Julie into having any sort of a social life. As Tina watched Julie’s inner turmoil with this growing paranoia of pretty much anything, and everything, would have been a hard burden to bear for any mother. It was especially hard for Tina. Bradley was rarely home, so she clung to motherhood as if her life depended on it. The girls were all she had, so she always did what she felt best for them. Homeschooling was no exception.
Tina was torn between feelings of enablement and protection. Julie was such an odd child, and quite honestly Tina didn’t know what was best. She consulted her family back home in Indiana on a regular basis. Ultimately, Tina followed her heart, she allowed her to be home-school, but at the same time, Julie continued to spiral down a path of isolation and fear.
Anna didn’t help matters. She was mean to Julie, calling her names like ‘JuJu Bean the Joke’, and ‘JuJu Bean the Scaredy Machine.’ Anna even got her friends to tease her little sister every chance they got. When Tina was around, everything was usually calm and kind, as that was her motto in life. Naturally the girls followed suit when she was present. But, whenever Tina turned her back, the nasty comments inevitably flew in Julie’s direction. This behavior was ugly, and Julie’s anxiety continued to grow because of it.
On Julie’s fourteenth birthday Anna told her something that she’d never forget.
She said, “You know JuJu Bean, shitty things are more likely to happen once you’ve dreamed them up first.”
“How so?” Julie asked, as her heart pumped at the speed of a freight train.
“People are more likely to get crushed by a car, if they believe they will.” Anna said. “Their families are more likely to die in accidents, if they’re already convinced it’ll happen.”
“You’re lying,” Julie whispered as she slowly melted into her chair.
“No,” Anna insisted with a face as flat and serious as a blank sheet of paper. “Murders are attracted to people who are already scared of being victims. And life claiming illnesses almost always infect the people who already believe they’ll get them.”
Of course Anna soaked up every word, feeling the truth of it in every ounce of her being. Nightmares were a common thing for Julie, so it was no surprise that she dreamed of their father dying in a plane crash that night. Be it a coincidence or not, when the girls woke up the next morning to find their mom with her knees curled up to her chest in the fetal position, on the worn-down living room carpet, as the dial tone blared from the phone in her hands, Julie instinctively knew that her dream had come true.
Sure enough it had. Bradley Wilkinson had jumped into a fighter jet that morning, sometime around five a.m. The plane never returned to its landing strip as expected, because it’s engine failed. Instead, it spiraled downward, speed unknown, and it crashed into a mountain peak somewhere in Guam. The force was great, it caused an explosion large enough for the mountain itself to look like its top was sliced off by a planet sized machete. Bradley, along with the jet’s pilot, were completely disintegrated in the blast. No parts were to be found, not even bone or teeth.
Tina Wilkinson accepted a medal on behalf of Bradley during his funeral, and packed up the girls for one last move. She took them to her hometown, and after staying with the grandparents that they’d only met a handful of times for nearly a year, Tina was able to get the girls into a decent apartment.
Here, Julie spent the last few years of her childhood basically pent up in her room, only coming out on special occasions. Anna was forced to put the lies and fantasy lives of her younger years behind. She graduated from a local public highschool, and was accepted into a community college. Their relationship as sisters was patched up a little. They learned to lean on one another. Anna came to Julie for help in her studies, and kept her new friends away from the apartment. Julie finished her homeschooling, and acquired her highschool diploma, and eventually it was mailed to her by the state of Indiana. Tina did the best she could with the girls despite her ongoing depression.
It wasn’t until the summer of 1995 that Tina received a call from the Tyndall Airforce Base in Florida, asking her and the girls to attend a ball in Bradley’s honor. It was here that yet another foreseen and very deadly mishap came into play for Julie. Her nightmares had been at an all time high. Something different every night, but always a murder by accident in one way or another, and it always involved strangers.
Anna had moved out, and was living in the dorms at her new school, but Julie chose to stay with their mother. Tina needed the company to keep her sane, and Julie needed her mother to take care of all the shopping and cooking, as she couldn’t seem to find the courage to do it all herself on a day- to-day basis. Being an adult by age made no difference to Julie, she needed to be cared for just the same as she did in her childhood.
Anna and Tina convinced Julie that the trip to Florida was just what they all needed. They told her to pack plenty of anxiety medication, and to carry loads of antibacterial necessities everywhere they went. They’d be with her every step of the way. They even convinced her that perhaps she’d meet someone at the ball that was equally as paranoid as herself, to grow a friendship with. Julie chuckled at the notion, and reluctantly agreed.
On the flight to Tyndall, and once settled into their hotel, Julie had many more dreams. Maybe it was the medication, and maybe one or another of the dreams was an actual a premonition of sorts, but Julie was plagued during the entire trip with murderous visions. She dreamed of a waitress slipping with a steak knife in her hand, it’s blade plunged into an unknowing guest. She vividly saw a couple on the dance floor. The heel of the woman’s right stiletto busted causing her to fumble and trip her mate. He fell hard, snapping his neck in the process. These two scenarios were only the tip of her lengthy and very in depth dreams.
She convinced herself that it was only nerves from the trip, and continued to move along the journey with her mother and sister in tow. The night of the ball is when it happened. One of her dreams came to play out in the very same foreshadowing detail as her own father’s death. It was a beautiful night. The moon was full, and her dress was perfect. As was Tina and Anna’s. The three of them were really a sight to behold, all silk and lace.
The valet man tipped his hat at them and watched their hips sway as they entered the massive archway, into the main entrance of the Grande Hotel. The event was held in the Grande Ballroom on the first floor. The lighting was dim, and they were seated perfectly between the dance floor and the oversized french doors that exited into a tropical garden.
Julie sucked in a breath as she looked into the faces of all the guests around her, as well as the staff catering the event. So many of the strangers looked familiar, as if she’d seen each and every one of them in her nightmares.
SCENE TWO, AUTHOR TWO:
From their table, as she sat between her mother and Anna, Julie glanced around her. Her nervous state worked itself into overdrive, she felt an energy shift within the room. Her senses peaked, as her vision moved over the guests. A lady a few tables away caught her eye, she was covered in hives. As Julie narrowed her eyes to take a closer look, she saw that they were not simple lumps or insect bites, they were bright red patches of blood-clots. Underneath the surface of the woman’s pale skin, a virus was attacking her system.
“Oh, shit.” Julie whispered as she closed her eyes, behind her sockets a vision played out vividly, she cringed at the amount of men the woman had slept with over the last few months. One man in particular, sadly, was HIV positive. The lady had no idea that the blood-borne virus lurked in her immune system. This was sadly one of the other ‘quirks’ Julie discovered with her visions of death or murder. She had the ability to see and smell death on people. She kept this to herself over the years. In fear that her mother and Anna would think she was even crazier than they already did, and her anxious behavior had gone too far.
Slowly, Julie shifted her eyes away from the brunette, dead-woman-walking, swallowed the lump in her throat, and forced back the tears that threatened to spring from her eyes.
“It’s okay… you can do this.” Anna breathed deep and slow, as she reassured herself.
“I’ll be right back.” Julie announced as she stood up abruptly, her eyes darted around the room, which felt like it was closing in on her. “I’m just going to the ladies.”
“Are you okay, Julie?” Her mother questioned with a confused look on her face.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Do you want me to–”
“No it’s okay.”
Julie dashed away from the table as fast as her feet would carry her, as she crossed the open plan room, a few guests turned her way in shock at her abrupt exit. She kept her eyes low, avoiding the words she saw written across the faces and bodies of the other guests. “Suicide”, “gunshot wound”, “cancer”, “car accident” were just a handful of warnings that she saw scrawled across them. Confirming exactly how they’d eventually end up passing away. She struggled to breathe, her lungs gasped for air as she approached the bathroom door, and practically fell into the ladies room. Once there, she headed to the last cubicle of the empty room then locked the door behind her. As she lowered herself down onto the cold lid of the toilet seat, shaking, her temples pulsed, and her blood ran cold. The feeling of death came over her, it was near, but how near, and who would be the victim. Julie clenched her eyes closed and focused her mind, as she gripped onto the lid of the toilet seat. She felt icy cold, in her mind’s eye she saw a man in a cooler room. He worked quickly as he placed items in to store. The surrounding felt familiar to her, as she focused she realized it was the very hotel she was at.
“The kitchen, oh my God.”
Julie shot her eyes open as she tried to remove the image. It never worked, the image played out of the man as he unloaded cut meats and items to chill. Unknown to him, a trolley wheeled its way towards the open door, behind it a dark-haired women with a chef’s uniform on. The trolley loaded with items banged to door closed, and the dark-haired woman thought nothing of it she kept going.
“Oh no… he’s going to die!” Julie whispered.
Julie got to her feet and gripped onto the wall, as she steadied herself she had a flashback of the man inside the cooler as he yelled for help. No one came, in fact he was frozen to death. As clear as day she saw the man buried deep within the freezer, slumped behind a large rack of unloaded meat on the floor, rigamortis had set into his body.
Sobs left Julie, she wept her heart out, as her visions fast-forwarded. The dark-haired woman went into the freezer herself a day later and found his body.
“Noooooo!” Julie let out a blood curdling cry and covered her eyes. Of course, it was no good the visions played out as she saw the lady frantically cover up his body, as she struggled to move him farther into the freezer, then pile boxes up in front of him. Once done, she locked the door and never replaced the key to the freezer in its rightful place. She placed it in her pocket. Julie covered her mouth in shock. The dark-haired woman she had seen scurrying around seeing to guests as she, her mother and Anna entered the The Grande Hotel.
“You killed him…you, you left him! Covered him up… murderer!!”
Julie unlocked the door and raced out of the cubicle, the small enclosed space started to increase her anxiety. The walls felt as if they were closing in on her. She moved slowly over to the sink, ran some cool water, then splashed her face.
As she slowly moved her gaze from the running water to the mirror in front of her, the vision of the dark-haired woman tucking the key into her coat pocket, as she changed out of her work uniform into her clothes ready to leave work ran through her mind’s eye.
As Julie looked herself in the eye in the mirror, the scene fast-forwarded to a month after the incident. She recalled the search that took place for the key by her co-workers. The lady even helped them look for it, when she was in possession of it all the time, and they all turned up with nothing. The missing man, the news reports, his family pleading for help to locate him. Armed with the information on the man’s fate, Julie started to pace the small space of the ladies room. Should I confront her, no… I can’t. The Police! I need to tell them. Julie sighed as she weighed up the chances of them believing her, and her visions of the man’s death.
“Julie, Julie are you okay?” Her mother’s voice echoed as she made her way into the bathroom, she stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of Julie’s tear stained face and red-eyes.
“What happened, Julie?”
“Mom, you’re not going to believe this.” Julie took a deep breath and started to pace around the small space again, “There’s a man…upstairs… buried in the freezer.”
“Julie, don’t talk silly how can there–”
“Mom, I’m not kidding. I saw it, all of it. One of the hotel’s staff she locked him in… but I don’t know what she was thinking, if she even was thinking at the time! He’s been dead for months. The police search, pleas for help all of it I saw it, and that woman’s known where he’s been for months! Mom we’ve gotta–”
“Okay, okay calm down, Julie. Let me think for a minute.” Tina chewed on the corner of her lip as her yes roamed over her frantic daughter.
“Julie, if you’re sure about this–”
“Yes! I am.” Julie screamed out as she flung open the bathroom door and ran back into the hotel’s main seated area. Once there, she scanned the room, the guests were busy enjoying their meal and the dark-haired woman was serving them. “ I can’t believe you.” Julie whispered under her breath. On a mission, she made her way over to the dark-haired woman, she never took her eyes off her as she followed her every move, as she wheeled her trolley and a handful of plates towards the kitchen. She hung back slightly as she timed her approach, when the woman was out of earshot of the guests.
As she approached her from behind, she placed a hand on her shoulder and spun her around, “You… you need to give back that key and allow the family to mourn his death properly.”
The dark-haired woman’s eyes widened, Julie watched her swallow hard and shift her eyes around the room.
“Excuse me, what key?” The dark-haired woman bite back through gritted teeth.
“Don’t play dumb, the one for the freezer, with your co-worker hidden inside behind all the boxes you placed in.”
The dark-haired woman dropped her plates on the floor, a handful of guests spun around and glanced in their direction. As the woman dropped down to the ground to pick up the serving plates, Julie played along as she dipped down to her knees to help her. As she did, she closed the gap between them. Julie looked her dead in the eye, as she purposely picked up the same plate as the woman to get her attention.
“I know what you did, you locked him in the freezer. He’s been dead for months. How could you?”Julie demanded then watched the color drain from the woman’s face, and her eyes become cold.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Really? I don’t think so.”
“Who the hell are you?!”
Julie and the dark-haired woman stood up, then placed the plates on the trolley, the same trolley used to close the freezer door.
“That doesn’t matter. I know you, you need to put the key back, and allow his body to be found and own up to what you did.” Julie placed a hand on the woman’s trolley preventing her from moving forward.
“Look bitch, get off! “ The dark-haired woman spat at Julie as she removed her hand from the trolley with force, then turned to look Julie dead in the eye. “I didn’t do shit! It was a mistake! There’s no way I’m risking–”
“A mistake? You’re unbelievable… yeah… right. Murder, by mistake?” Julie questioned with sarcasm.
“Yeah, now get outta the way!” The dark-haired woman pushed passed Julie, then moved through the swinging doors leading to the kitchen area. Julie watched the doors swing back and forth, refusing to buy her story. As she stood she felt overwhelmed, and her intuition knew there was more to this than what meets the eye. “ Hmm, murder by mistake?… who the fuck she kiddin’.”
To Be Continued.