Redact Your Life
rating: +8+x

Something was following Foster. He was certain of it.

It was no foul beast, it did not prey on him in bloodlust nor hunger. It simply hung from him like a heavy chain on his form, a miasma. It plagued him from the background, and although he wasn't sure what it was exactly, he knew there was something inherently wrong about it.

He didn't know why it chose him, nor how long it had been following him before he caught on. It faded in on a slow gradient, leaking into his life and corrupting the very fabric that held him together as a human. As he drove back to his dingy hotel room from his nightly run for hard liquor and empty carbs, the rolling hills of the Carrizo Plain in the distance, Foster felt the cool hand of paranoia on the back of his spine. Crawling and itching with restlessness and ants. Imaginary ants, just under the skin. He knew the feeling well.

Ignoring the usual cloud that followed his head on any given day, he grew hyperaware of his surroundings, though nothing was there. The silence became deafening and oppressive, almost as bad as the sense of presence and subsequent doom, so Foster switched on the radio and tuned it to a random station, a talk show. He was still alone, yet oddly comforted by the company of a disembodied voice, listening to him mumble about some conflict or other in whatever impoverished, war-torn nation it is nowadays.

That thing had taken everything from him. It tore him from his family, his friends. His children. His home. Now, slowly, it fed on his sanity and sense of self, just outside of view, of knowing, and of form. Somehow, it was still everywhere; he saw the tracks it left behind as it consumed the world. The gaps and the blank pages, things between things, gone but for the space they left behind and nobody blinks an eye. He was not better for it. Ignorance is bliss.

Yet this ghost of an idea would not be ignored. Listening to the host still, Foster was caught off guard by a sudden change in the quality of the broadcast, like artifacts in an image, distorting and decreasing in pitch, warping into discordant ugliness, then to nothing. He changed the station, but static grew on that one as well, and the next, the music detuning and fading as chaos overcame the sound.

It would not be ignored.

Foster switched wildly through the stations until there was nothing left. Just emptiness and a harsh white noise. He turned it off with a sigh. This is how it is. Everything and everyone he ever had ties with, it would cut them loose and he would never see them again. Nobody would remember except for him, and life seemed to find a way to adjust history to fit that definition. Yeah, they didn't believe him either, presumably until they too vanished from the world.

He checked the clock. ██:██. He should be tired, but he isn't. He's wired. And confused.

So confused.

In fact, it took him a minute to realize that he didn't actually know where he was going. He knew he was driving to a hotel, but he forgot the name, and how to get there. Pulling off to the side of the road, Foster checked his wallet for the room key. After a minute, he succeeds, although it looks foreign to him as he studies it closer. ██████████ Hotel. Okay.

Foster pulls out his phone and searches the name, hands trembling. Luckily the place still exists. Relief is a strong word for how he felt, but it was a nice change. Glancing around for identifying street signs, he is started to find that they are unreadable. Someone stuck tape or something over the words, leaving a white rectangle and a very useless landmark. Who does that?

It would not be ignored.

Right.

Punching the address into his GPS, he found that he was close by, and breathed another sigh of half-relief. He pulled out onto the now unmarked road and sped down the freeway, ignoring speed limit signs he was pretty sure he couldn't read anyway.

The ride, although uneventful, was thick with unease. He couldn't help but feel the weight of it on his back. Looming. He didn't believe how unrecognizable the area was. It was near the home he lost, or where it had been in another life, surely he had gone through this area before?

How did he find the hotel in the first place? He tried not to think too hard about it. Even if he did, he would never find the answer. Approaching the address, Foster goes to shut off his GPS, only to find his phone with a black screen. It wouldn't turn on. How long had it been off? How long had he been driving?

Glancing outside, he realized that he was obviously not in the right place. An abandoned strip mall, some empty lots and a restaurant or two. No hotel. He couldn't remember the name, or the address. He looked for the room key but it too was gone.

Panic gripping him, sense of direction waning, Foster decided to calm himself by heading into a nearby diner for something to eat. He wasn't hungry, but it was a distraction and something real.

The diner was about as run-of-the-mill as you can get, arguably how most diners are. It was themed in a half-hearted 50's fashion, and Foster was nonplussed by the furnishings but sat at a booth regardless. A waitress came over to him shortly afterwards, bushy hair and an apron, handing him a menu and offering coffee. He declined the caffeine. Probably wouldn't help his paranoia.

It wasn't so much paranoia as it is warranted caution now, though, isn't it? He knew it was in the diner, eating the words off the menu. Good thing it has pictures. Glancing at the images of platters and sandwiches, he is reminded of the many times he ate at an establishment like this with his family. His wife, and his kids? He had kids, right? He tried to picture them, to envision just one feature he remembered, but nothing was there. He wasn't even sure if he had had a wife anymore.

It was all too much. There was bile in his throat, his stomach in knots. He couldn't eat. The smells that wafted from the kitchen were wretched to him, as perfectly mediocre as they may be in reality. Getting up swiftly, head spinning, Foster made his way to the bathroom and locked the door behind him, buckling in front of the toilet and vomiting acid. It burned his throat and nose, making his eyes water as he continued to gag. It continued for some time, and when it relented, he laid on the filthy, tiled floor and tried to wish himself out of existence. It didn't work.

He didn't have the energy to right himself. Why would he try? Where would he go? He had nothing. He could barely remember himself, who he was before his mind was broken over the knee of uncertainty and terror. Foster reached for his wallet and dug inside for his ID. An unfamiliar face looks back at him, laminated and real. There was a light in his eyes, a light he was sure had vanished eons ago. Even though he couldn't recognize the picture, a Foster █████ was indeed there. No address anymore, just a few lines of scratches that wore it down to illegibility. Did he do that? No, of course not.

Touching his face, Foster felt for the features on the photo, still laying in defeat. He tried to reassure himself that he is who he is, even though he doesn't really know what that means anymore. Sitting up, he looked over at the sinks, and the mirror. He could look at himself. Would that help him remember who he was, this man on the card? He peered back down to find the picture black, no trace of his visage was seen.

Now, he needed to know.

He stood and moved towards the reflective surface, looking into it to reveal ████████████████ ████████████████████ ██████████ █████████████████████████ ███████████████ ███████████████ ██████████████████████████████████████████ ██████████ █████████████████████████ ████████████████████████████████████████ ████████████████████████████████████████████ ████████████████████
██████████ █████████████████████████ ██████████████ ████████████ ████████

And then he was no more.

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