Estimated reading time — 17 minutes
I remember Alice.
It was the summer of 2004 when the two of us first met. I’d just started at university. I was a dorky, somewhat awkward-looking girl, too skinny, too flat-chested and with hair that was basically uncontrollable. I was neither particularly athletic or the first one to come up with something witty to say so, for the first few months I spent there studying psychology, I went mostly unnoticed by the others around the campus, beyond the occasional friendly hello.
It never seemed odd to me, how little interaction I seemed to have with the other guys or girls there. In fact, when I thought back on my life I found that I couldn’t remember many friendships. I’d never had a girlfriend, despite no small amount of trying on my part. My life had been dull, uneventful and unremarkable.
And then along came Alice.
She was like something straight out a magazine or a movie. Perfect hair, a body that most supermodels would kill for, teeth straight out of a toothpaste commercial, eyes that you could just gaze at for hours on end… she was a goddess walking the earth.
I had no idea why she wanted to sit next to me, that first day she did. She just threw herself into the chair beside mine, looked me over quickly and gave me a friendly sounding ‘hey’ before introducing herself and asking what my name was.
“Janet. Um… are you new to this class?” I asked. I was sure that I would have remembered seeing a girl who looked like her but I couldn’t recall ever having noticed her before. Then again I did tend to keep my head down and just focus on taking notes. I wasn’t the most social of people.
“Duh… I’ve been here longer than you have. What, didn’t you notice me?” she asked.
Thinking back, I realized that I had seen her before in the class. In fact, I could remember how on my first day I’d been taken with how beautiful she was, the sight of her sending a little shiver through my body. I’d just been too shy to get up the nerve to talk to her. After years of rejections and heartbreak, it felt like a wasted effort.
“She probably isn’t even into girls,” I’d told myself, resigning myself to only gazing at her, never getting to know her.
Now here she was, sitting beside me, smiling at me in a way that could only be described as ‘flirty’.
“Hellloooooooo? Where did you go off to? Jeez, do you space out like that often?” she asked and though her tone was teasing it was in a way that was playful, rather than sounding malicious or insulting.
Her voice sounded so good… I could remember all the times I’d listened to her before, walking past her chatting with friends in the halls. She could have been a voice actress if she wanted to. She had a voice you just wanted to listen to.
“Sorry. Um, I guess I just kind of zoned out there, didn’t I?” I asked, laughing and trying to brush aside my awkwardness. She smiled at me again, playfully brushing her fingers over my hair. I tried very hard not to show just how much I loved the feel of her hand stroking through my hair like that.
“Forget about it. So, are you going to this stupid Halloween party tonight? It’s going to totally suck but I was thinking if I didn’t go alone… maybe the suckage would be lessened a little.”
I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had wanted me to go anywhere with them. I couldn’t even remember my own parents wanting me hanging around all that much. There had been no tearful goodbyes when I’d left for university, no desperate pleas for me to call every day or come back for holidays. And now this impossibly perfect woman was asking me to come with her to a party, telling me how she wanted me there, how it would make the experience better if I was there.
“Don’t you want to go with your friends?” I asked, feeling like smacking myself on the forehead. Why was I trying to talk her out of this?
Shut up, idiot, I cursed at myself internally, wishing I could just switch my mouth off sometimes.
“Those shallow bitches? Please. We share a dorm and that’s about it. Literally all they do is talk about guys. Bor-ing!” Alice said, rolling her eyes melodramatically.
“You’re not, um, interested in guys?” I asked and again wished that I could just switch my mouth off. Could that have possibly sounded more awkward?
“God, no. Why? Please don’t tell me you’re into guys… that would just seriously crush my hopes for how tonight might go,” she said, giving me a little wink.
I think I could have died happy right then and there. I was being flirted with by a woman who looked like the lovechild of Dita Von Teese and Jessica Rabbit. She was asking me out on a date. This was happening. This was a thing that was happening to me. I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t been sat down I might well have swooned.
“I’m… I’m not into guys,” I managed to reply, smiling back at her. She grinned widely, showing off those perfect teeth. She ran her tongue over them and I let out a little gasp. If we hadn’t been in class, I’m pretty certain I would have grabbed her and started making out right then and there.
“Thank the gods. So, what time do you wanna meet?”
We made plans to meet at eight, get a few pre-drinks in and then head to the party. As we spoke I noticed one odd thing out of the corner of my eye. A girl, sat a few rows ahead of us, staring at the two of us intently. She had messy red hair and looked a bit like your stereotypical ‘Goth girl’ I thought and she was looking at Alice with an incredibly odd expression. It was like fear mixed with pure loathing.
I put it out of my head pretty quickly, though.
She’s probably either a bigot, or else she’s jealous, I thought to myself, and I found that by the end of class I’d almost completely forgotten her.
If I hadn’t noticed her watching me as I left, I probably wouldn’t have thought about her at all for the rest of the day.
The party, as Alice had predicted, did suck pretty hard. Idiotic, drunken fratboys doing idiot drunken fratboy things, making me want to get down on my knees and thank god that I wasn’t attracted to these morons. No one else at the party really made an attempt to talk to me and I felt too shy to talk to them. But there was one high point: Alice.
Beautiful, perfect Alice.
We danced, we drank, we fell over laughing at each other’s stupid little jokes. Every moment I was near her, everything felt better. It was like I’d been living in the black and white world of Kansas up until now and here she was, leading me by the hand into the amazing Technicolor world of Oz. The world felt brighter because I was near her. Even when she left just to get us drinks, I found myself counting the seconds until she was back.
The girl was there too. She kept staring over at me, with the saddest look I’ve ever seen on her face. Despite how weird she’d been in glass, despite that horrible look she’d been giving Alice I actually felt a bit sorry for her. She looked utterly miserable, like a kid who found out there’s no Santa Claus on the same day their puppy got hit by a truck. But every time I thought about going over to her I found myself thinking about Alice instead… what if she thought I was trying to flirt with this other girl? What if she got jealous? Or angry? What if she left?
It was walking back to my dorm that Alice first kissed me. Her lips against mine, her body pressing against my own, her fingers tangling themselves up in my hair, running through it. It felt the way I’d always imagined a kiss should feel. When she pulled away I think I must have been blushing or had some dopey, stunned look on my face because she giggled and asked if that was my first time being kissed by a girl.
“I think it’s my first time being kissed by anyone,” I replied. I couldn’t remember a single kiss, not from a girlfriend, not from a friend… I couldn’t even remember so much as getting a hug from my own parents. I couldn’t remember a single loving or affectionate touch before now.
“Well… let’s see what other firsts we can fit into tonight,” Alice replied with a mischievous grin.
We became pretty much inseparable after that. Wherever Alice went, I would follow. I couldn’t think of a single hour of the day when we weren’t either together in person or else staying in touch by text message or some social media site or another. I couldn’t think of a single moment when we weren’t in some way connected.
My life became our life. It didn’t really seem odd to me. All couples spent time together, right? Alice and I just spent more time together than most, maybe. But other couples didn’t know how it felt. Other couples didn’t know the way that Alice made you feel when you were around her, how boring and unbearable everything felt when she was gone.
It was maybe a month later that the strange, unhappy-looking girl I’d seen around managed to corner me in the bathroom. I was just washing my hands when she all but threw herself towards me, grabbing my phone out of my bag in one quick motion and throwing it aside, pressing a hand to my mouth before I even had time to react.
“No. Janet, no, please don’t scream. I don’t want to hurt you, baby, please. Please, don’t be afraid.”
And then she did the last thing I expected.
She broke down into tears.
I hadn’t known what to think of her before now and my confusion was pretty much tripled. I’d expected that she’d been about to attack me but instead, right now it looked like the only person she was a danger to was herself. Long black lines of mascara streaked down her cheeks as her body shook with loud, heaving sobs, her hands pressed to her face.
I felt awkward and uncomfortable but slowly moved a hand to pat her on the back, feeling like an idiot. She was a person, not a dog. What the hell was I patting her for? But I didn’t know how to react right now.
“It’s okay. It’s okay,” I muttered, only for her to look up at me with such intensity in her eyes, a look I’d never seen on another person.
“It’s not okay! Nothing is okay! Tell me my name, Janet! Tell me my name right now!” she spat, sounding angry now, bordering on hysterical. I pulled away from her, both out of shock at her sudden change in mood and out of fear as to what she might do. This was a woman who’d basically attacked me only a moment ago.
“I don’t know your…” I began but she shook her head, a humorless smile on her face.
“You know my name! You know me! You know me, goddammit! Now remember!” she all but screamed at me, making me press myself up against the wall. I looked at my phone.
I had to call Alice. Alice would know what to do. Alice would be able to help. I would call Alice and I would hear her voice and everything would be alright. I began to move towards it, and in a swift motion, she slammed her hand against the wall, blocking my path with her arm as she glared at me, looking frightened now.
“No! Don’t call her, goddammit! Don’t! She’s the damn problem!” she all but spat at me. I didn’t know what she was talking about. Was she jealous of Alice? Was I dealing with some kind of stalker here? I couldn’t imagine anyone finding me interesting enough to bother stalking, but there was something familiar about this girl.
The more I looked at her, at those intense blue eyes, that messy dark auburn hair, that odd-looking little nose, the more I became certain that I had met her somewhere before. Before the day in class when I’d seen her staring at Alice and me. A hopeful look crossed her face as she stared at me, her hands going to my shoulders, gripping them tightly.
“You do remember, don’t you? It’s me, Janet. It’s Emily. You know me! Tell me you know me!” she said, her voice rising in pitch again.
It was like my brain was full of fog. I was sure I could remember this girl, her face, her eyebrows. One of them was a different shape than the other. She drew them on. She drew them on because she’d burned one of them off by accident on our first day at university together and I would always tease her about how she never got them quite right.
Emily. Eerie Emily, that’s what they’d called her in high school. I’d been dreading being her lab partner, thinking she was just so weird. I’d thought she was going to sacrifice me to Satan or something.
Eerie Emily with the most amazing taste in old books and cheesy B Movies. Eerie Emily who had asked me to prom. Eerie Emily who I’d shared my first kiss with, three years ago. In an instant, memories started coming flooding back to me.
Friends, loved ones, family. People I’d forgotten, moments that I had been utterly unable to recall. Thousands, millions of happy, beautiful, shining memories that for the past month had been completely gone from my mind, suddenly swarmed back into it. Eerie Emily, my girlfriend. The woman I loved. The woman I wanted to spend my life with.
A smile creased her lips, that adorable little lopsided smile she had. She loosened her grip on me, her hands moving to my face, cupping it tenderly, bringing her lips to mine. I could feel tears trickling down my cheeks as she gave me those gentle kisses. Snowflake kisses, we called them, her lips just brushing against mine lightly.
“I don’t understand. I just… I forgot you,” I said, as she stroked my hair softly.
“You forgot about more than me. And it’s not your fault. Sweetie, we have to talk.”
And she told me about what had happened. The real first time that we had met Alice.
It had been a few months ago, on a night out with our friends. She’d come over to us at the bar and introduced herself, seeming friendly enough at first. She’d quickly become part of our circle of friends, joining us at parties and when we went out for drinks or to the movies. She never talked much about herself, always listening to us. Seeming particularly interested in me, which Emily had found a little creepy.
Then things had started to get weird.
Our friends started drifting away from us. Seeming vague and confused at first, then acting as if they’d forgotten us altogether. We’d go up to them, try to talk to them and they’d act like they’d never even seen us before. Then I had begun to act strangely, have trouble remembering things. Anything to do with our friends or Emily, it was as if it was being deleted from my brain, moment by moment.
Until one day Emily had woken up and I’d been gone. Suddenly I was staying with a bunch of people we’d never even shared one word with up until now, she was by herself and when she came up to me to try and find out what was going on I’d reacted with nothing but a blank, confused stare. And then, one day in class, along came Alice.
“So, she what, drugged us? Drugged our friends, drugged the people I’m staying with? Gave us some kind of… of memory altering chemical or something?” I asked. It sounded ridiculous, like something right out of a sci-fi novel. But what other explanation was there?
“I don’t know what she did. But I know it’s her. It’s got to be her. All of this started when she came along,” Emily said, glaring at Alice’s name on my phone’s address book. I gazed down at it with her, both of us wondering what to do now.
We quickly ruled out going to the police. The story would get us both locked away in a mental hospital for the rest of our lives if we tried to convince anyone else of it and we have zero evidence that Alice was anything other than what she appeared… a normal, friendly student. We were the only ones who knew otherwise. It would be our word against hers and her story would sound far more believable.
Which really only left us one option.
“We confront her. We find out what this is about, what she wants. We get to the bottom of this and then we either force her to undo what she did to the rest of our friends or we get evidence to get her arrested or put in a nuthouse or whatever they do with stalker creeps like her,” I said. I couldn’t believe how I’d felt about her until moments ago. I wouldn’t have been able to imagine having a single cross thought for her, feeling anything but adoration for her. It was only now, away from her and whatever influence she had that I began to realize just how unreal it had been.
I sent her a text, asking her to meet me at ‘my’ dorm. I now knew that I wasn’t meant to be there at all and briefly wondered what had happened to the boy or girl I had replaced. Had she done something to their memory too? Were they now living a completely different life with different memories than the ones they’d had only a month or so before? How many people had she done this to, and for what purpose? To get me to date her?
I was seething with rage when she arrived. That perfection I’d been so obsessed with now seemed fake. She didn’t look like a film star… she looked like a film character. No, more than that. She looked like a woman created using CGI. There were literally no imperfections.
As I stared at her, what I’d once found so incredibly sexy and irresistible now felt frightening and strange. How had I not noticed this before? She was literally too good to be true.
Her skin was as smooth and flawless as a Barbie doll’s. Her every movement seemed designed to be as sensual and seductive as possible. She didn’t look like a human being. She didn’t move like a human being. I realized that I’d never seen her blink, never heard her sneeze or groan or hiccup. She never had a hangover or threw up no matter how much we drank together.
Had I ever seen her eat? I must have, but as I thought back on the last month I realized that I couldn’t recall a single time when she had.
She took one look at Emily as she entered the room and gave a little sneer, turning from her to me.
“So. She’s back,” she said.
I lost it at that point.
“That’s all you have to say?! What the hell did you do to me? To our friends? What did you give us some kind of date-rape drug? What the hell did you do to get me to go out with you, you sick freak?!” I screamed at her, feeling my hands ball into fists. She was smiling. It wasn’t the sweet, oh-so seductive smile she’d worn for the last month. No, now it was a sick, ugly smile. The self-satisfied smile of someone who’s done a terrible thing and takes great pride in it.
“Drugs? Oh, my poor, stupid creature, your species really does have the most limited imagination, does it not? But then, one can hardly expect cattle to possess the same level of intellect as the farmer. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be nearly so easy to lead them to slaughter,” she said.
Her voice sounded different.
It didn’t sound like one voice speaking anymore. It sounded like dozens, all speaking in unison. The lights were flickering now and I noticed the room was getting hotter. Emily could feel it too, pulling me back towards her, away from Alice. Perfect, impossible Alice, whose skin was now beginning to ripple.
“You pathetic little thing. You think I did this for your love? For your touch? You think I care a thing for you, you pitiful little nothing? I did this for the oldest and best of reasons. I did this for the same reason your kind has been clubbing one another to death since before you invented the wheel. I did this out of hunger!” she hissed, and now her skin seemed to be peeling back from her body, sections of it turning to slimy, oozing liquid. Parts of her sank into each other, elongating and contracting. Her head grew larger, her fingers stretched. Her legs, her whole body, began to expand, her eyes sinking into her skull. Her lips seem to meld together, skin trickling over them like liquid wax, her eyes taking on a horrible, bloodshot red color. Her chest sank into itself with cracking sounds.
“And I am so hungry. I am always so hungry. No matter how long I feed on one of you, I get hungry again so quickly. My kind, we are blessed with such gifts, and yet cursed with such an appetite. How fortunate that your kind always make it so easy,” she said, and the voices were like a horrible, droning buzz now. It was like a swarm of enraged bees had gained the ability to speak.
“Our kind?” Emily asked, staring in horror at this thing, this sickening, horrific thing that seemed to be shifting and changing every second, its bones snapping and then reforming as it let out a sound like laughter.
“Humans. You have such delicious minds. Such sweet, tasty memories, such rich emotions. You make it so easy for us. Find some boy or girl, rich in emotional memories. Happy memories… they taste sweet as sugar. Drain them, drip by drip, until there’s nothing good left. Nothing but hollow, soul-crushing emptiness. Then we fill it with ourselves. We make ourselves your everything, your soulmate, your reason for living.
“And we feed on that devotion. We can feed on that pathetic, lovesick, puppy-dog adoration for months, even years. Until we’re done with you. Until we feed on the rest. Crack the bones, suck out the marrow, rip your hairless pink flesh, drink your hot blood, eat your eyes, your guts, and your sweet, sticky skkkkiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnn!” the creature hissed, long ropey strands of drool now hanging from the thing in its face which I guessed must be its mouth.
Emily and I were clinging to each other now as it lurched towards us, dragging its claws across the floor with a loud scraping noise, its every movement seeming to snap its bones like dry twigs, its eyes bulging from its horrible, deformed skull. Its breath smelled like sewage and gasoline, liquid skin mixed with what was either blood or drool dripping down onto the floor from it as it came closer and closer.
And I found that I couldn’t remember my mother’s face. I couldn’t remember the first friend I’d made at school, or the first time I’d held a girl’s hand, or…
“Janet. Janet, don’t!” Emily hissed at me, taking my hands in hers, gripping them tightly. I focused on her, focused on her presence, made myself think about the things that this thing, ‘Alice’ or whatever its real name was, was trying to make me forget. I remembered dancing with her at prom. I remembered kissing her and telling her how I never wanted the night to end. I remembered our first date, my parents dropping us off, my mother telling me that she was so proud of me, that no matter what anyone said there was nothing wrong with us or our bond, that she was proud her daughter had found love.
The thing bellowed, a deafening, shrieking, rage-filled sound. It was like nails down a chalkboard, its hands going to its face, raking across it. It pulled back a little as Emily advanced towards it now, my hand clutched tight in hers, staring at the thing in anger.
“You can’t have her! You hear me?! You hear me, you ugly sack of crap!? You! Can’t! Have! Her!” she howled at the thing, the creature shrieking even louder now, slamming its head into the walls, leaving huge holes punched clean through them, roaring in agony and anger as it wildly thrashed back and forth.
“You can’t do it, can you? It’s why you took our friends first. Why you tried to isolate us. You’re not strong enough to take the memories from both of us at the same time. So you took the people who remember us first, then tried to take her from me. But as long as she’s here, I will always have someone to remind me of the good times, the happiness we’ve shared, the love we have. And I will always be there to remind her. You can’t take her from me this time, you sick monster! You can’t take her because she is not alone!” she screamed in the thing’s face, and then, rearing back her hand, forming it into a fist, she delivered a brutal punch to the creature’s face that sent the twisted, malformed behemoth crashing to the ground, making sick, whimpering noises.
She grabbed a heavy-looking athletics trophy off one of the shelves, advancing on the thing. For one brief moment, it began to mutate back into its ‘Alice’ form, looking at the two of us with a pleading, pitiful expression.
“Pleeeeeaaaassssseeeeeee. I’m so hungry. That’s all. I’m just so hungry,” she moaned. But we could both see the look in those eyes. That calculated, scheming look. We both knew in that instant that this thing’s hunger had nothing to do with its actions, that the pain and suffering it had caused us and God knows how many other men and women over the years was something it would have gladly done for no reason at all.
As horrible as its true form had been, it was when we looked into those oh-so-human eyes that we knew we were looking into the eyes of a monster.
Emily brought the trophy down on its skull and didn’t stop until long after it had stopped moving.
It was as if whatever spell the thing had cast was gone after that. In the days that followed, we found that our friends began to remember us, while having little to no memory of the last few months. We spared them the details.
Our lives from then on were pretty typical. Things weren’t perfect and I thank God for that. Alice had been ‘perfect’… Alice had been fake, in every sense of the word. Life isn’t perfect, and neither are people. There were fights and arguments and words said that we wished could be unsaid. But through it all, Emily and I stayed together. And this year she became my wife, making me quite possibly the happiest woman in the world.
Our lives were perfectly imperfect, I suppose you could say.
So why did I decide to share my story? I mean, everything’s resolved, right? Happy ending all around? Better just to forget about the whole thing, you’re probably thinking.
Except, here’s the thing:
I remember Alice.
No one else does. My wife doesn’t. Our friends certainly don’t.
Sometimes I find myself forgetting about her. And when I do, that’s when it happens. I’ll be walking through a crowded street and I’ll see that perfect smile, that perfect hair, those perfect clothes. I’ll be home alone and I’ll hear that laugh of hers from somewhere in the house.
I don’t know what she was. A demon? An alien? A science experiment of some kind?
But I know she isn’t the only one of her kind. She said so herself. And I know what I believe. I believe that my remembering her is the only thing that keeps her dead or at least as close to it as her kind can get. And if I were to ever forget – really forget – she’d be back in the world, free to do as she pleased.
Ask yourself: How many times have you spoken to someone about some person you’re sure you both knew but they literally cannot recall them, no matter how hard they try? Some friend or loved one who you remember the two of you both knowing, but only you can remember?
Then ask yourself: Why is that?
I remember Alice.
Just in case of what might happen if we ever forget them.
Credit: Alice Thompson
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