Chapter 1: Silas
It starts slowly.
A splatter here, a splash there. First on the windshield in front of me and then against the windows surrounding me. The drops begin to sound like thousands of fingertips tapping the top of my car out of unison. Tap-ta-tap-tap-ta-ta-tap-tap-tap. The sound is all around me now. It feels like it’s coming from inside me, trying to get out. The rain begins to trickle down the windshield, thick enough to mix together in long lines that resemble tears. They slide to the bottom and disappear beyond the glass. I attempt to turn my wipers on, but my car is off.
Why isn’t my car on?
I wipe the fog off my window with the palm of my hand to see outside, but the rain is falling so hard now I can’t see anything.
Where am I?
I turn around and look in the backseat, but there’s no one there. Nothing there. I face forward again.
Think, think, think.
Where was I headed? I must have fallen asleep.
I don’t know where I am.
I don’t know where “I” am.
Who am I?
It seems so natural to think thoughts that contain the word I. But each of my thoughts are hollow and weightless, because the word “I” is attached to no one. No name, no face. I am…nothing.
The hum of an engine steals my attention as a car slows next to mine on the road. Water splashes across the windshield as it passes. I make out taillights as the car slows and then pulls over in front of me.
My heart begins to beat in my throat, my fingertips, my temples. The lights atop the car breathe to life. Red, blue, red, blue. I watch as someone exits the vehicle. All I can make out is their silhouette as they begin to approach my car. I barely move my neck as they walk toward my passenger door, keeping my eyes trained on them as they reach the window.
Tap, tap, tap.
I press the ignition button to give power to the windows—how did I know how to do that? I roll the window down.
Help, I want to say.
I forgot where I was going, I want to say.
His voice startles me. It’s loud. He’s trying to compete with the sound of the rain by yelling the word Silas.
What does that word mean? Silas. Maybe he’s French. Maybe I’m in France and Silas is a greeting. Maybe I should say Silas in return.
The man clears his throat and then says, “Your car broke down?”
I look at the controls on my dash. I force my lips apart so that I can form a word. Instead, I gasp for air, unaware I’ve been holding my breath. When I release the air in my lungs, it comes out shaky…embarrassing. I look back at the officer standing at the window. “No,” I say. My voice scares me. I don’t recognize it.
The officer leans down and motions to my lap. “What you got there?” he asks. “Directions somewhere? You lost?”
I look down at an unfamiliar stack of papers resting on my lap. I push them to the passenger seat, wanting them off me, and I shake my head again. “I, um. I was just…”
My words are interrupted by a ring. A loud ring, coming from inside the car. I follow the sound, moving the papers from the seat to find a cell phone beneath them. I look at the caller ID. Janette.
I don’t know a Janette.
“You need to get off the side of the road, son,” the officer says, taking a step back. I push a button on the side of the phone to get it to silence. “Go on ahead and get back to the school. Big game tonight.”
Big game. School.
Why does neither seem familiar?
“Rain should let up soon,” he adds. He taps the roof of my car as if he’s sending me off. I nod again and put my finger on the button that controls the windows. “Tell your father to save me a seat tonight.”
I nod again. My father.
The officer stares at me for a few seconds longer, a quizzical look on his face. He finally shakes his head and then begins to retreat back to his car.
I look down at the phone. Just as I’m about to hit a button, it begins ringing again.
Whoever Janette is, she really wants someone to answer this phone. I swipe the screen and bring it to my ear.
“Did you find her?” I don’t recognize the voice on the phone. I wait a few seconds before responding, hoping it clicks. “Silas? Hello?”
She just said the same word the officer said. Silas. Except she said it like a name.
“What?” I say into the phone, confused by everything.
“Did you find her?” There’s panic in her voice.
Did I find her? Who am I supposed to be looking for? I turn around and check the back seat once more, even though I know there isn’t anyone in the car with me. I face forward again, not sure how to respond to the question just posed to me. “Did I find her?” I ask, repeating the question. “I…did you find her?”
A groan comes from Janette. “Why would I be calling you if I found her?”
I pull the phone away from my ear and look at it. I’m so confused. I press it against my ear again.
“No,” I say. “I didn’t find her.”
Maybe this girl is my little sister. She sounds young. Younger than me. Maybe she lost her dog and I was out looking for her? Maybe I hydroplaned in the rain and hit my head.
“Silas, this isn’t like her,” Janette says. “She would tell me if she wasn’t going to come home or show up for school today.”
Okay, I guess we’re not talking about a dog here. And the fact that I’m pretty sure we’re discussing a person who is apparently missing makes me really uncomfortable, considering I’m not even sure who I am right now. I need to hang up before I say something wrong. Something incriminating.