In the six years I spent tracking David Addley, it never occurred to me that he didn’t exist.
As I stared uncomprehendingly at the paper received in the morning mail my hands fisted their way one by one through my already sweaty hair. I could almost feel the colour draining out of my face as I dropped the crumpled telegram that declared David Addley was missing and presumed dead. It had been sent during the war, but the David I was looking for was something not old enough to have been in that war. The realisation I had been chasing the wrong man all this time was flooding my system with horror.
I stumbled into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water which I gulped down with a burning need. I collapsed into the nearby chair because I did think my legs are going to hold me up anymore. My joints suddenly felt like they were jelly and I slumped forwards uncontrollably. It briefly ran through my mind I was nowhere near a phone and therefore unable to call for help.
Was finding out that my obsession was simply a figment of my imagination enough to kill me?
He seemed so real. There was no way that was all a dream, was there? Starting to doubt my own sanity was enough to bring life back into those limp joints. Suddenly I was sitting up and peering about me in the vague hope I would spot something slightly amiss that would indicate I was dreaming right now. There was nothing there.
The ticking of the kitchen clock seemed to get louder and louder until my head felt like it was going to explode. Even though the seconds were being marked by the noise I cannot tell you how long I sat and listened to it. After a while, it represented the beat of my heart to me because my heart was too busy breaking to sustain my life. I soon discovered I was concentrating on the ticking and nothing else that was going on around me. For example, the phone had been ringing for some time before it registered within my mind.
In autopilot, I pushed myself to my feet in order to cross the room and answer it. I’m not sure why I did that because I had no desire to talk to anybody.
“I guess I should explain…” A familiar voice began.
I hung up before any explanation could be given. There was no way I wanted to know why the love of my life had chosen to lie to me about his own name. Even though I yearned for his comforting touch right at that moment I knew I was unable to trust him. There was no way of knowing how much of the past six years have been real.
The question of how he knew to make the explanation was like a delayed reaction in my mind. Some part of me considered he was the one sending the information to me. Maybe he was actually watching me right now. The thought made me feel even more uncomfortable than I already did.
Going outside into the rain to clear my head seemed like my best option. I did not even bother putting on a coat before I headed out into the bitter cold of a January morning.
The only thing that I had learnt was that trying to find out everything about somebody could turn up information you never wanted to know.