I Found a List I've Never Seen Before in My Kitchen

It all started with an unfamiliar line of dried blood on my cheek. Where did this blood come from? Not from me – I examined my entire body in the bathroom and I couldn't even find a scrape. My head felt… empty. It's not just that I couldn't remember where the blood came from – I couldn't remember anything.

It all began this morning. I awoke to a ray of sunlight sitting on my eyelids. Groaning, I rotated my neck towards my alarm clock. 11:00 AM. I pulled myself out of bed reflexively and walked a few feet to the bathroom. I saw the blood in the mirror and realized that I couldn't remember anything.

What's the word again? Amnesia. I found the answer somewhere inside my head. Standing in the empty bedroom, staring at the unmade bed, I realized that the word "amnesia" wasn't quite correct.

Recurring… Recurring Dissociative Amnesia.

Somehow, I knew that was the correct expression. The thought stuck out in my brain like the dried blood on my light complexion. Nothing else would come. My mind was a lockbox and I hadn't yet found the right key. My bedroom was empty. The blinds were drawn. A few feet from the bed stood a new-looking faux-wood desk. On top of it was a laptop. The screen was dark but light emanated from the computer's on switch.


I walked out of the bedroom. The hallway outside looked so familiar – its white walls and gray carpet felt very natural to me.

My house.

I meandered past a closed door. As I reached my hand out to turn the knob, an uninvited word came to mind.


I left the door closed. Somehow, I felt like what I was looking for was somewhere else.

The hallway ended in a carpeted staircase. At the bottom of the stairs was a large wooden door with a glass pane, clearly the front door. An unknown reflex guided me away from the door, toward an open kitchen and dining area. I caught a glimpse of a loveseat and an armchair in a room adjacent to the kitchen, and a glass door beyond that.

Living room. Backyard.

This kitchen was familiar as well, but it was in a particular state of disarray. Dirty dishes filled not just the sink but the surrounding counter area. Cupboards were torn open and a bag of sugar and cans of vegetables lay broken on the floor. The fridge was standing open and the smell of spoiled milk poured out of it. With a hand up to my nose, I closed it. My gaze turned toward the dining room table. In a room of chaos, it was the only thing that was pristine. On it laid a sheet of notebook paper filled with writing.

My list.

Instinctively, somehow, I knew that the contents of this sheet were important to me. As I grasped it, I discerned that all the words filling the page were not just familiar – they were mine. From the first Y on the page to the last N, I could tell it was my handwriting. I wrote everything on this sheet. I had no recollection of doing so.

The list is composed of ten items numerically placed from top to bottom. All of the letters near the top - the first five entries - are written in my neatest handwriting (handwriting I somehow knew was reserved in a past life for filling in tax forms). These entries are all written in black ink with a ballpoint pen. The sixth entry is also written neatly, although it's written in blue ink, presumably at a different point in time.

The seventh entry is written in red ink, a long-handed, messy script – clearly mine, but also clearly demonstrating a lack of concern with its appearance.

The last three entries are written in a fat, green marker. They're messy and rambling and take up more than half the page. My eyes scanned the page. None of it made any sense to me at first, like I was reading a foreign language. Obviously, I knew what each word meant but it was as though they didn't fit together.

Then, one at a time, the items on the list began to trigger memories in the back of my head. Only then did I remember writing them.

Number One: Your name is Travis Haughy. You live at 756 Camelot Lane in Giliman County with your wife Rebecca.


Some of the fog was beginning to clear. Rebecca – my wife. She had dark hair and an impossibly light complexion. No… that wasn't right. Her hair was blonde… but she had started dying it recently. She liked to do things like that.

How long had we been married? Not too long. A few years maybe, but I'm still having a hard time remembering how many. I knew who she was and I could picture her in my mind, but I had no memories of us together. I could only picture her alone in a never-ending expanse of black. She's wearing a white dress with red roses dancing across it. She's smiling and her hair messily covers part of her face.

Then I read the next entry.

Number Two: You have a steel plate in your head. You sustained acute brain damage during an attempted mugging.

I stumbled over backward like I've been pushed. My legs barely held me up. Unpleasant images and violent memories were suddenly falling back into place. My hand trembling, I reached up toward the left side of my skull. I tapped with a shaking finger. A metallic noise echoed inside.

The mugging. It was in January. It had been snowing. Rebecca was with me. We were coming back from a movie. No… a play. "You Can't Take It With You", I believe. Sorry, some of the memories are still coming back. I hadn't enjoyed the play – it wasn't nearly as funny as I had envisioned. Rebecca had loved it – particularly the old man who made fireworks in the basement. We hadn't been able to park close to the theater. We were several blocks away. I recommended we cut through an alleyway. "It's Denver," I told her. "– it's perfectly safe."

She was reluctant – she reminded me that there was a serial killer loose in the area, who had yet to be identified. I ignored her protests and drug her through the alleyway.

A man was waiting there. Not a serial killer – just a common thief. He had a gun. His hand was trembling; he must have been nervous. Why should he have been nervous? He was the one mugging us.

"Give me your wallet!"

There was no argument from me, I knew better than that.

"The purse too."

Becca's face looked pale, even framed by her then blonde hair.

"Okay, but just let me get my keys first!"

"No! Now!"


She reached into the purse. The man raised the gun. She really was just reaching for her keys, she would later confide in me, but he must have thought she was searching for a gun of her own. I threw my body in front of her own. Then I heard a deafening bang and everything went dark.

The next thing I remember is the hospital. The bullet shattered part of my skull, but didn't kill me. Part of my skull was lodged in my cerebral cortex.

I set the paper down. The memory had stopped there. There was a part of me that thought I shouldn't read anymore, that I shouldn't let any more memories in. Instinctively I knew the rest of the items on the list would upset me – but I couldn't stop.

Number Three: You suffer from Recurring Dissociative Amnesia due to the damage. Dr. Philips instructed you to make a list of important facts to assist in restoring your memory when it's been forgotten. It's critical that you focus on things that you've documented, as false memory creation is a potential concern.

Dr. Philips was my therapist. He was an old, patient man. Rebecca had found him actually – said he had a doctorate from a nearby college that was supposed to be all-that.

"You're going to have these episodes of forgetfulness for a while. Maybe even forever. But visual reminders should cue your hippocampus to retrieve memories that you've buried."

That's what he said. That was the inspiration for this list. How long ago had that been? Days? Weeks? Months? At this point, small memories were coming back in flashes. It's hard to explain, but it was like I had short films playing in my head, but that certain scenes and clips were missing.

Number Four: Your amnesia is usually triggered by periods of extreme stress. It is important that you relax and keep your head clear.

I looked up from the note to the shambles of a kitchen that surrounded me. A puddle of juice and smashed carrots covered part of the floor. The carrots had gone brown. I still don't know how long I had been asleep. I figured that whatever created this mess must have triggered my amnesia.

Were we robbed?

The funny thing is, I don't remember how the mess was made. I don't remember much of anything before I was in the bathroom. I barely remember waking up – the first thing I can clearly remember is the dried blood on my face. Reading this entry triggered a few brief memories of being told by Dr. Philips and Rebecca that I had blacked out before. But I still had no memory of the most recent blackout that placed me where I was now.

Number Five: You work at the local supermarket. Dr. Philips said it would be helpful for your mind to receive new stimulation on a daily basis. Rebecca works from home.

I groaned. I had forgotten about work. I briefly considered calling in – but I figured, based on the state of disarray in my home, I probably had bigger fish to fry. I didn't like my job – it was far beneath my level of intelligence – but it was easy for the supermarket to retrain me if the memories of how to do my job disappeared.

This item on the list triggered a whole host of memories – Rebecca is a medical transcriptionist – she types up the audio recordings of doctor's notes so they have a written copy. That's why she worked from home. Before my accident – before I was shot – I used to be an accountant at a big firm. It brought in lots of money. It bought Rebecca and I this house.

I think before the accident that we were planning on having kids. She always wanted two of them – a little boy and a little girl. They were going to be named after her grandparents – Lincoln and Claire. My mind was filled with images of Rebecca's face stained with tears while she told me not to blame myself. We couldn't have kids now – my memory loss was too big of a liability. I turned back to the paper – the next entry was the first that looked like it had been written at a different point in time than the rest.

Number Six: In August 2016, your cousin Scott moved in with you and Rebecca. He works out of your home as well. Scott.

Scott is my only living family member – the rest died in a car accident when he and I were just kids. We actually hadn't seen each other in years, but he sought me out after the mugging. He's always kind of been a burnout – but the kind of burnout who had insane computer programming skills. That's what he did from home.

Scott was nice enough to offer to help take care of things after my injury – although I always felt like he was just using the opportunity to move into a nicer house. Still, he helped with the chores and he took care of stressful things that the doctor had recommended I stay away from, like paying bills. Rebecca thought it was nice to have someone else bringing money into the house, although she was wary at first because she had never heard about him before. Scott and I were never very close, and like I said, we didn't see each other often.

At this point, it occurred to me exactly how alone I was. There was no movement or creaking throughout the house. Just suffocating silence.

If Rebecca and Scott both work from home, shouldn't they be here?

I stood up from my kitchen table and tiptoed into our living room. It was in shambles as well. The two chairs I had seen previously were in fairly good condition – but the rest of the room was a wreck. A flat-screen lay overturned on the floor – dark glass blended in deceivingly with the carpet. In the corner of the room, propped neatly against the stucco wall, was a long piece of wood with a large metal head.


The head of the hammer was a rusty burgundy. The carpet beneath the hammer was distinctively different than the cream color of the surrounding carpet. It was a dried brown-crimson color.


Something bad had happened in this house. I looked at the glass door that led to our backyard. Blinds were drawn, blocking the outside. There was dried mud on the floor surrounding the door. The corners of my vision were starting to go gray. My head felt heavy and I had an overwhelming urge to lie down. My own voice started screaming in my head, trying to reason with me.

No. Don't go to sleep!

But I'm so tired.

It's the stress – it's triggering another blackout. You need to take a breath and relax.

My chest was heaving and my breaths were sharp and irregular.


I took a deep breath. The gray in my vision began to fade. Air filled my lungs and my heart began to beat in a more regular rhythm. After a few minutes, I felt normal again. I stood up slowly and returned to the kitchen table. Some part of me knew that I had to finish reading – understanding – the list.

Number Seven: Does Rebecca even still love me?

Tears welled in my eyes. We had been having problems. Visions of Rebecca and I yelling filled my head.

"I'm sorry! I just can't keep it all straight. I'm doing my best!"

"This is your best, Travis? I'm tired of reminding you who I am. I'm tired of getting calls from the police because you've fallen asleep on the side of the road."

"I didn't ask for this! I'm doing my best to provide for us."

"Provide for us? The only one who does anything to provide for us is Scott."

"Fuck Scott!"

Rebecca and I are standing in the kitchen and yelling at one another. There are multiple memories like this. She and I fighting about my amnesia. Some of them I can tell what we're fighting about, some of them I can't. Scott is usually a topic of conflict, but it isn't always clear why.

I kept staring at the list. The next item was the first written in the chaotic green marker. Green bled in the tiny veins on the paper, creating a frantic, unearthly look in my writing.

Number Eight: Rebecca and Scott are getting really close. They're probably fucking while I'm at work I hate myself I hate myself I'll kill us all.

Oh God.

Paranoia. Depression. Both of those things had become notable staples in my recent existence. Rebecca was usually cold to me. Numerous impressions of her ignoring me or treating me like an idiot danced in front of my eyes. I remembered the nervousness in my stomach while I stood bagging groceries, thinking of them alone together.

The pain of how that felt still hurt. I realized that I was crying. All these painful memories were coming to the surface at once.

I'll kill us all.

I had written that. Had I killed my wife and cousin? I couldn't remember. I remember being so upset at the two of them. But I also remember still feeling all the love for Rebecca. I couldn't have killed them, could I?

Then an unfamiliar word fought its way to the surface of the conflicting ideas in my head.


I practically ran up the stairs. The memories were starting to come back, but I wanted to see it for myself before they did. The guestroom door remained perfectly closed. With the blank walls beside it and the immaculately clean floor beneath it – it was a visage of white.

When I threw the door open my vision filled with red. The bed was smeared in red; the walls were smeared in red, even the fucking ceiling. There was blood blanketing most of the room. It was old, dried blood. All I could smell was the sickening scent of iron. I felt a pressure rise in my chest. I could remember the sound of a hammer hitting something soft and wet. I could remember a scream. A woman's scream.


I held my hand over my mouth and pulled myself out of the room. I struggled to keep my composure. Gray clouds were already beginning to fill my vision but I was struggling to keep myself calm. If I had killed Rebecca, I wanted to be sure. There was no body in the guestroom. I had no recollection of where I might have hidden it.

It took me almost fifteen minutes to get back to the kitchen. Every few steps I had to stop and calm myself down. The minute details of Rebecca's death kept replaying in my head.

Eventually, I made it. I picked up the note, intent on finishing it.

Number Nine – Rebecca is in the garden.

The dirt around the backdoor. She was buried in our garden. Rebecca loved the garden so much – before my accident, we used to spend hours every weekend planting and watering. It was so peaceful out there. She loved planning what we were going to grow every year – tomatoes, strawberries, rhubarb. It made perfect sense to bury her somewhere that she truly loved.

I can see her, in my mind. She's wearing a white dress with red roses dancing across it. The muscles around her mouth have relaxed and fallen into a macabre smile. Her hair is caked with dirt. Shovels full of dirt cover her body one by one. I could go outside and look for the body, but it would be pointless. I'm certain that she's there.

By this point, it had taken me almost two hours to understand this whole list. It was barely a page, yet reading it felt like I had read a whole book. There was only one item left. I was confident that I had murdered Rebecca – maybe Scott too. I knew that I needed to call the police and confess. But first, I finish the list.

Number Ten – It's not what it looks like. Check the computer.

This item made no sense to me. I remembered the computer in my room, but nothing else. Still, I had to know what it meant. Going back upstairs was difficult. Walking past the open door to the guestroom nearly sent me overboard – but I survived it. I stood in my bedroom – where I had first come to the realization that something was off. Where I had first found the blood on my face that sent me spiraling. The computer was still on. Sleep-mode, like I had initially thought.

There was no passcode. When I clicked on the power button, it sprang to life. The desktop was clear except for a single icon – Google Chrome. I clicked on it. It brought me to the generic Google search screen. There were two bookmarks – two different news articles. I dragged the cursor to one and opened it.

A headline blared on the screen.

"Giliman County Crusher Still at Large!"

The story detailed a serial killer in our area. He was famous for breaking into women's homes. He would tie them up, torture them, and then murder them. Police were baffled by him – he had gone months without capture despite the horrific scenes he left in people's homes. His signature was crushing the skulls of his victims with a sledgehammer.


There was a sledgehammer in the living room. I shivered. I couldn't be the Crusher, could I? I had no recollection of doing anything like that. So far, whenever I read something that had meaning to me, it triggered a flood of memories. But I didn't remember killing anyone. I clicked on the other bookmark.

It was a news article from 15 years ago, an obituary detailing an accident.

"Family Dies in Freak Auto Accident"

This article brought back memories by the dozen. Images of my family's van sliding on the ice – crashing through a highway divider, hitting a car going the other direction. Another boy is sitting adjacent to me on the seat. He's my age. The car hit us on his side – his body was crushed. I remember watching him crumple and fold into a knot of gore and metal. I remembered the funeral. Standing with a police officer at my side – tears running lines down my face. I remember burying them all. My mother, my father, my aunts, my uncles – all dead. And the boy on the seat next to me – my cousin, Scott. I was the only survivor.

The article confirms what I've said – it lists the names of the deceased – including Scott Haughy.

How could he have been living with us then? Who was the person that had moved in with us? I picked up the note again. Again and again, I read it – searching for any clue that might explain what happened. My eye caught item three of the list.

It's critical that you focus on things that you've documented, as false memory creation is a potential concern.

False Memory Creation.

It clicked. The person living with us, the person that I had told my wife was a long lost cousin of mine, the person who spent all day alone with Rebecca while I was at work worrying: he wasn't really my cousin.

But he was convincing. I remember watching him tie Rebecca down to the bed – the stress already causing my vision to go dark. I remember the hammer. I remember her pleading – begging me to stand up and help. I remember tears covering my cheeks and feeling absolutely powerless…

I remember Scott cackling madly as he swung the hammer against her again and again. I remember the sick noise of bones cracking and Rebecca screaming in pain. I remember her shrill, ear-piercing scream… and then it goes black.

I think I've figured out what happened. This serial killer person – he convinced me that he was my long lost cousin. There are suddenly memories of when I first met him. He came to the hospital right after the accident. No one else was there at the time. He brought flowers – red tulips. We talked about the injury and my family. He came back every week until… until I just assumed it was the same Scott I had known when we were kids.

I had convinced Rebecca of the same. I had no recent memories of him, but I wrote it off as a symptom of my injury. She was under too much stress to really question it. He murdered Rebecca.

I wonder how many times I've woken up and come to this realization and then blacked out from stress. Judging by the state of disarray in my home and the dried blood in the guestroom – this isn't the first time.

I know I should call the police – but my head feels so heavy. Everything is cloudy. My bed looks very, very soft. I'm so tired… I think I'll go back to sleep and call them when I wake up.

Don't worry… I'll remember…