Arthur Kirkland sits on the edge of his bed, a crease pulling at his brows as he stares at his cell phone. At nine forty-five this morning he received a text message from Matthew Williams, a co-worker and friend of his fiancé Alfred Jones, asking if he had seen Alfred earlier that morning.
“No, I haven’t seen him since Thursday night,” he had answered to himself with a frown, poking away at the buttons of his phone.
I haven’t seen him since he left Thursday night for Maryland. Why?
[Arthur – Sent at 9:47AM]
There is something disconcerting about a question like that and Arthur finds his hands shaking as he holds his phone at eight p.m. that night, waiting for any news, any word, anything on what has happened to his lover.
No one can find him. I picked him up from the airport and dropped him off at the hotel, but he hasn’t come to work. If you hear from him call me please.
[Matthew – Received at 10:00AM]
Arthur knows that Alfred works for the military and must take trips across the country often, and it’s difficult being the one left behind, but he knows Alfred is not the type to ever miss work (in fear of going AWOL). He is worried and scared and every time he calls Alfred and is only directed to voice mail.
Arthur has Alfred called you? This is very important. No one has seen him since he checked into his hotel.
[Matthew – Received at 3:30PM]
Every thirty minutes Arthur tries to call Alfred and leaves short, worried messages. He sits at his desk slowly typing away, word after word of his newest mystery novel, trying not to let his eyes wander to the photo of his bright, fantastic, smiling fiancé.
Have you managed to get in contact with Alfred?
[Arthur – Sent at 7:44PM]
By the time the sun sets, no one is answering Arthur’s texts or phone calls regarding Alfred’s state of being. He doesn’t know if he should take it as good news or as bad news. By nine he finds that he can’t sleep without knowing what has happened and if Alfred is alright. He spent his entire day reassuring himself that it was a mistake, that Alfred had slept in or drank too much – everything is alright.
At nine twenty-two his phone rings and it’s Alfred.
“Hello, Alfred? Love, are you alright?”
There is a tired sounding rasp across the line and Arthur bundles himself up into his blankets. “Arthur you’re okay,” is all Alfred says, inhaling deeply.
“Yes, yes, poppet, I’m perfectly fine – why would I not be?” He can feel his lips beginning to tremble, and he’s not sure if he’s about to cry in relief or if he’s going to scream. “Alfred dearest, where are you? Everyone is looking for you love. Did you sleep in?”
“No, no… nothing like that. I love you, Arthur. You know that right? I love you.”
Arthur runs a hand through his hair. “Alfred where are you? Please tell me where you are.”
Alfred makes a tired noise. “Elsewhere. I’m elsewhere. But Arthur… I want you to know I love you. And – listen to me please… Shhh, I love you and if anything ever happens to me I want you to know I didn’t do it to myself. Art, babe, don’t cry.” And Arthur sniffles loudly as he moves across his bed to grab a pen and pad of paper. “Babe just know that I love you. Now, if they… they find my body somewhere, just know I didn’t do it myself okay? I don’t want you to think that.”
“Don’t say things like that!” Arthur cries. “Goddammit Alfred, I love you too, I love you! Don’t talk like that. Please tell me you’re okay. Please.”
“I’m okay right now. I wasn’t okay before… I’m pretty sure I won’t be okay later… but I’m okay right now and I love you. I want you to call Matt, tell him I said that his pet rat died.” He groans and Arthur wants to ask if he’s in pain, but refrains. “Arthur I can’t talk anymore. I love you – promise to call Matt. I love you, I love you.”
“I love you too, poppet! Promise me you’ll be alright! Alfred…? Alfred!”
The dial tone is deafening to Arthur’s ear and he’s shaking uncontrollably. He pulls the phone away from his ear slowly to stare at the Call Ended screen. His fingers hover over the screen as he attempts to compose himself enough to call Matthew as he was asked when he gets a message:
I d o n ‘ t l i k e t o s w i m , A r t h u r .
[Alfred – Received 9:57PM]