Estimated reading time — 17 minutes
On the Disappearance of Aaron Barclay
There was an interesting item in the Oakland Tribune some time ago. Apparently a young man, one named Aaron Barclay, had gone missing. Mr. Barclay had been attending the Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco and vanished a week before final exams. Some say he killed himself due to the pressures of law school. Such a thing is not uncommon, after all. The proximity of the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most popular suicide destinations in the world, lends some support to this theory. Others, however, believe Barclay to have run away and point to the lack of a body as evidence. Furthermore, the apartment identified by the police as Barclay’s was left in a state of disarray. The room apparently looked as if the occupant had left in a hurry packing a few things for whatever journey he intended. Nevertheless, no sightings of Mr. Barclay have been reported and police say it is far more likely he is actually dead. Other more imaginative individuals insist that this was all a stupid prank, that Mr. Barclay is fine and probably living in some backcountry town away from the prying eyes of the city.
The subsequent investigation uncovered next to nothing regarding Aaron Barclay’s whereabouts. Only one clue, if it can be called that, was ever found. This “clue” consisted of a multi-page, handwritten letter stashed underneath the seat of a charter bus bound for Salt Lake City, weeks after Mr. Barclay first went missing. Though thoroughly questioned, the bus driver could not provide any information regarding the circumstances of the letter or the whereabouts of Mr. Barclay. This was partly due to the many stops the bus made in Sacramento, Reno and other cities. Many still wonder he ever actually boarded the bus. Forensic analysis of the handwriting later confirmed it to be Mr. Barclay’s though there are naysayers who insist otherwise. Fortunately, handwriting experts later confirmed that the handwriting truly was Mr. Barclays. Now, the letter itself is interesting. The writer, presumably Mr. Barclay, insists he is sane; however, the contents of the letter suggests otherwise. Mr. Barclay was clearly too ashamed to admit the peculiar fixation he had with a certain female professor and too paranoid to have correctly interpreted the events of which he writes. The letter is likely an attempt to rationalize his obsession with the woman. Mr. Barclay’s letter is transcribed in full below.
The Letter of Aaron Barclay
My name is Aaron Barclay and I’m not crazy. Really, I’m not. To anyone who reads this, please understand at least that. I don’t suffer from some childhood trauma that makes me see things that aren’t really there. Schizophrenia or any other major mental problems do not run in my family. I don’t do drugs and drink only occasionally. Please remember that as you read what I’ve written down… My god, I miss my life from before… before I knew. See, ignorance is a beautiful thing. It really is bliss. I didn’t realize that until it was too late. Now I’m on the run from those eyes. I see them in my dreams, in the dark, in the mirror. I know how this all must sound, but bear with me. Ask yourself if some lunatic can recall and write down their recent experiences as coherently as I will.
It started with civ pro, short for civil procedure. I just started my first year of law school and civil procedure is one of the required classes for first year students. The class is about lawsuits and how they work. It’s also famous for being one of the most boring classes a law student can take. Seriously, the class should be patented as a cure for insomniacs. Making it even worse was the fact that my specific class began at 8:30 pm. I heard it was the only class that met so late which made it that much worse. I had all my other classes in the morning and early afternoon; so when Tuesday and Thursday hit, I was stuck in school killing time until my civ pro class started. I usually spent the time studying and relaxing at a Starbucks close by. That wasn’t the only difference between civ pro and the rest of my classes; criminal law, torts and contracts were all much more interesting. We spent time learning about murder, celebrity contracts and negligence, things that would spark any student’s interest.
Civ pro, on the other hand, sucked. Learning about personal jurisdiction, proper venue and discovery limitations made it hard to stay awake in class. I hated it. I never paid attention to the Professor Dunn in Civ Pro. I spent the class browsing the latest news to make the time pass by faster. I even got away with playing computer games a few times. Dunn would post the power point slides on the internet; that’s how I got away with the lack of attention in class.
My current situation started one day when I heard some chatter about Professor Dunn. I think it was some time towards the end of September, the half-way point of the semester. I was walking past the 2nd floor student lounge where other law students came in to socialize, read for class and eat an occasional lunch. I will always remember gripping the metal handle of the door leading to an adjacent room and stopping to hear Kaitlyn gossiping with her friends. Kaitlyn was the obligatory suck up every class had. She probably still is even now. Every day, Kaitlyn would torture the entire class with the sound of her voice as she constantly sucked up to Professor Dunn. Always raising her hand with something meaningless to say. She obviously enjoyed the sound of her own voice which made it worse because she had this stupid high-pitched voice of a 3 year old girl. I don’t think there was a single person in our class who could tolerate Kaitlyn except her own posse.
Anyway, I remember overhearing Kaitlyn talking to one of friends about Professor Dunn that day. Only she wasn’t so much as talking as whispering. She had one hand up to her mouth and constantly glanced around to make sure no one could hear her. I don’t know if it was embarrassment or something else but she obviously didn’t want what she said becoming common knowledge. I let go of the door handle and leaned in a bit to catch what she was saying. I pulled out my phone and pretended to text someone as I listened. She was locked in a conversation about Professor Dunn, giddy with the excitement of a teenager on prom night. She talked about Dunn’s eyes, hair and voice with a breathy whisper. One of her idiot friends nodded in agreement and mentioned something about many other students also feeling the same way about Professor Dunn. Kaitlyn threw the girl a dirty look as if annoyed at the thought of competing for Dunn’s attention. In fact, everything about her suggested she would have had Dunn’s baby right then and there if her biology allowed her to.
Something about that scene that still rubs me the wrong way. Like cold fingers touching my spine. Maybe it was the way that murderous look distorted Kaitlyn’s face at that moment. Or the way Kaitlyn tightened her grip on her pen and held it like a knife for a split-second. Either way, the scene chilled me. I wanted to listen some more, but I suddenly noticed Kaitlyn and her posse glaring at me. I jerked around and stumbled out of sight. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the girls picking up their things and marching towards the exit. I rolled my eyes and ignored them as I continued on towards the school library. I deposited that scene into the back of my mind and didn’t think twice about it for some time. It hadn’t clicked yet.
A few weeks later I experienced a bizarre incident with two buddies of mine. The three of us decided to book a study room in the library to try and get some studying done for the upcoming midterm in our criminal law class. I was running a little late due to some stupid delay on BART. I walked down past the empty study rooms towards the only lit one at the end of the hall. As I walked closer, I began to hear the voices of Connor and Mac. At the mention of Dunn’s name, my feet suddenly froze as my back pressed up against wall next to the room Conner and Mac were talking in. Every study room in the library was fronted by glass window enabling those within to see outside. For some reason, almost by instinct, I did not want either of them to know I was there. I set my backpack down and clung against the wall making sure I couldn’t be seen. Both Connor and Mac were discussing Dunn’s looks. Kaitlyn’s conversation from a while back sprung to mind as the discussion drifted toward Dunn’s eyes, hair and voice. Weird thing was, they spoke in the same breathy whispers Kaitlyn did. I tried convincing myself that this was just simple sexual attraction despite a curious tone of obsession in both their voices.
I decided I had heard enough. I picked up my backpack and walked up to the glass door and opened it. Mac and Connor’s heads jolted up as their hands fell from their mouths. After realizing it was just me, they immediately flipped opened their textbooks and began talking about the felony murder rule. I mentioned hearing them talk about Dunn and joked that I wouldn’t judge them. Neither one of them really denied it but they didn’t really admit it either. Mac just sat there shaking his head while Connor blubbered something about liking her as a teacher and quickly changed the subject back to felony murder.
I never really thought much of Professor Dunn’s looks, I mean, she definitely didn’t have super model looks but she also wasn’t ugly either. I was letting them know what I though when they both looked up at me and just stared, unblinking. I sat across the table looking back and unsure of what to say next. The moment didn’t last long and I finally relaxed when both Mac and Connor let out slow breaths. I told them to forget about it and asked that we continue studying. I noticed both of them unclench their fists under the table as the creases on their foreheads disappeared. I thought of a leopard changing its mind about pouncing on its prey. I wonder now just how close I was to getting a few limbs broken.
After Mac and Connor, I never really heard any more similar conversations. But I don’t think it was because they stopped happening. I began to notice more conversations in hushed tones and the occasional glance in my direction. I’m sure I saw a finger or two pointed towards me a few times as well. Conversations about Professor Dunn seemed oddly absent. It was now that she began to intrigue me. I realized I never really paid any attention in civ pro much less to Professor Dunn. The class was just too dry for me and I had better things to do. I resolved pay more attention to and observe Dunn more carefully. I wanted to know what was so enthralling about her.
The next class, I came a little earlier than usualand sat down waiting for 8:30pm to hit. This time, I did not bring my laptop, choosing a pencil and a notebook instead. Professor Dunn swaggered into class at exactly 8:30. She calmly set down her notes, turned on the projector and began to lecture on amending complaints after they were filed with the court. Despite the boring subject, I managed to keep my head up and began to study Professor Dunn from my seat in the back of the room. As I thought before, she didn’t exactly have super model looks, but she was definitely not ugly, more like plain-looking. She was fairly skinny but not curvy. Her straight brown hair seemed almost too straight and when she walked up towards the back of the room, I noticed a curious lack of any skin blemishes. Not a zit, freckle, mole, or any other kind of mark whatsoever. It seemed almost inhuman, as if she were a living barbie doll. She also had no makeup on. Her skin, her face… everything was naturally flawless; they were not just hiding behind sheen of makeup.
I almost didn’t realize I was staring until she turned her head in my direction while lecturing. That’s when I really noticed her eyes. It felt like the heat of a desert sun blasting down on me. That’s the best I can describe them. Her eyes just stared too, with aimless purpose and completely devoid of life. My head twitched as I turned back toward my notes and still felt the heat blaring down on me. I wonder if that’s how a mouse feels when confronted by a cat.
Dunn finally turned away and walked towards the front of the class; it was then that I noticed my shivering hands and the beads of sweat forming on my forehead. John, the guy next to me looked at me and quietly asked if I was sick or something. I responded by standing up and staggering out the back door toward the bathroom. I opened the door, stood in front of the mirror, and steadied myself against the counter. At that time, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I’m not that kind of guy to just collapse under someone’s stare like that. I used to win those staring contests all the time as a kid. Why was Professor Dunn’s stare so different? Those eyes. My god, those eyes. The way she stared at me, I felt molested, violated in some way. I knew I had to go back into class, but my feet cemented themselves to the floor. There was just no way I could go back in with class in session.
Luckily, I ran out just a few minutes before the end of class. I checked the time on my cell phone and decided to go back in a minute or two after class ended. I marched towards the class, opened the door and without looking at anyone, picked up my notes and backpack and nearly raced out of the classroom. Good thing it was Thursday, I didn’t have to worry about going back to class for another five days. Too bad Professor Dunn began to invade my thoughts after that class. I wasn’t able to study felt like I failed the midterm when Saturday came.
Our midterm grades were posted the following weekend and gave me some hope; I got a C.. Sunday night, I decided to go to Dunn’s office hours and ask for some tips to prepare for the final. I managed to somehow rationalize this meeting by minimizing what happened the previous Thursday. I told myself to grow some balls; after all, it’s just Professor Dunn. What’s she going to do? Rape me? I pulled out the class syllabus and looked up her office hours. Her only office hours were Monday evening, same time as our class met on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I worried about my grades. About a third of the students are automatically failed the first semester; I didn’t want to be one of them. Also, my scholarship would last only so long as I maintained a B average.
Now here’s the thing. I can’t remember exactly what happened that night. That memory feels like a fog. I remember walking up to Dunn’s office, knocking on the door and being invited in. I also remember having a… pleasant conversation. I don’t remember exactly what happened. But it’s not like I lost my memory. I remember her office perfectly. I remember the books lining the shelf behind her. I even remember what Dunn wore that night, black slacks with some fancy white top and a black tie. But other than that, I just can’t remember exactly what happened; I just remember having a pleasant conversation with Dunn.
That’s the other thing. Describing that meeting as a pleasant conversation is too perfect, almost as if what happened that night is the exact definition of pleasant conversation. It fits too well. I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to me even now. The funny thing is that that’s exactly how the memories of all my subsequent visits to Dunn’s office feel. I can remember what happened after and before but not what happened during that meeting in Dunn’s office. And only the words “pleasant conversation” come up when I try to remember what happened during those visits. That’s about all I know even now.
One thing I do remember is a slight twinge of disappointment while walking out of her office after the meeting; the meeting ending too quickly for me and for some reason I wanted it to go on longer. I wanted the pleasant conversation to continue. What really bothers me now is from that point, I began to look forward to my civ pro. I never liked civ pro and the thought of that class sickened me. Yet there I was getting butterflies in my stomach at the thought of going to civ pro. I didn’t even realize how weird that was at the time. Only when looking back on it now can I see it. The days passed by and I began to enjoy going to civ pro. Not just enjoy it but long for it. It got to a point where going to the bathroom during class or being late to class felt like a death sentence. I’m thinking of one Thursday evening as I’m writing this.
I was riding BART into the city and apparently there was a delay. A dog or a cat was on the tracks and some person thought it was a good idea to chase after it. The train was moving slowly in an attempt to keep from running over anything. I checked the time every couple of minutes; the thought of being late unnerved me. When the train began to slow down at my station, I grabbed my backpack and text book, stood up and started to walk toward the train doors. My heart fell into my stomach when I saw this old handicapped woman in a wheelchair right in front of the door. The train stopped and the doors opened up. The woman decided now would be a good time to start picking up her shopping bags up off the floor. I watched her trembling hands move slowly as they picked up one bag, made sure nothing was missing, set it onto her lap and moved back down to pick up the other bag. I checked the time and saw that class would start in one minute; it was about a five minute walk to school. The thought of missing even four minutes of Dunn’s presence produced a huge lump in my throat.
It’s hard to explain what happened next. My hands began to move without my command and they both latched on to the woman’s wheelchair. I kind of grabbed, kind of shoved the wheelchair over to the side and then kicked it away. There was a gasp from bystanders as I cleared my way and .raced out the door. As soon as I escaped the train, I ran up the escalator barely noticing the old woman sprawled out on the floor and the string of four-letter words that followed. The whole situation just didn’t register to me as inappropriate. In fact, at the time I blamed the woman for her misfortune. Didn’t the old hag realize I was late? She had no right to keep me from Professor Dunn’s class. It was later that night that my assault on the old woman came back to haunt me. What the hell was I doing? Why was I so obsessed with Professor Dunn? I felt like I had no idea who she was even after all the office visits and lectures.
I later found out more than I wanted to, though it was by accident. About a week ago, I walked out of Professor Dunn’s office with a huge smile on my face. The kind a six-year old has Christmas Eve. In fact, for the first time, this office visit seemed upgraded from the “pleasant conversation” level of the earlier visits. Coupled with feeling of ecstasy was the knowledge that this was the last time Professor Dunn would be holding office hours this semester. We would have a week off to study before finals.
I walked out of the office and toward the bathroom; I didn’t want to end up pissing myself on the train ride home. Sitting there on the toilet, my mind drifted once again to Professor Dunn. Even then I couldn’t say I was attracted to her. Attraction implies something sexual and this just felt different, more like being pulled by gravity. Smaller objects gravitate towards bigger objects in space; the moon towards the earth and the earth towards the sun. I felt like the moon caught in Dunn’s orbit. The thought of not seeing her again made my chest beat harder and my teeth grind.
It was in this state of mind that I began thinking of following Professor Dunn home to see where she lived. Despite myself, I decided this would be a good idea. Dunn did mention that she was living in the city for the time being. I opened the bathroom door only to see Professor Dunn strut out of her office and turn in the other direction towards the door leading to stairs to the first floor. I pushed the bathroom door wider and walked out leaving globs of sweat on the door handle. I crept out of the bathroom toward Professor Dunn’s direction trying to stay in the shadows. I didn’t think it would be a good idea for her to see me. It was bad enough dealing with this weird obsession without having others catch on; wearing the stalker label wasn’t something I found very pleasant.
Dunn reached the exit door, walked through and began descending the staircase. I pulled my hoodie over my arms as I caught up to the door and nudged it open. I heard the clacking of high heels on the stairs below. Slipping through the door, I half walked and half crawled down the stairs in an attempt at silence. I heard the exit door slam shut a floor below me and just barely conceal a low growl. At first I thought the growl came from right below me. My feet froze in place and I halted for a few seconds waiting to throw up my fear. Now that I think about it, growl isn’t really the perfect word. It was more like the grumbling of a stomach or something growling from inside a stomach.
Some deep breaths later I pressed onward down the stairs with some speed in order to keep up with Dunn. I arrived at the exit door and waited for Dunn’s clacking outside to distance itself. When I could barely hear it I opened the door and stepped into the alley. The alley was empty as I walked toward the corner of my school building. I noticed the absence of the security guard that usually stands by that corner during the day. I guess they aren’t paid to stand guard late at night. I could still hear those heels in the distance and I leaned over and peeked around the corner.
I saw a young woman walk past Dunn in a hurry and almost missed the way Dunn slightly reached out and just barely touch the woman’s hand. The clacking of the high heels stopped as the woman jerked around to meet Dunn’s stony gaze. The two stared at each other and I saw that look again on Dunn’s face, that predatory stare of cat having cornered a mouse. Without a single word, Dunn’s hand shot out and grabbed the woman’s arm. There was no scream, no gasp of surprise, nothing as Dunn led the woman onto the darkened terrace of a closed up shop. I snuck across the alley towards the shop to get a better view and crouched down behind a stone bench. I leaned over to one side and watched the unfolding scene some distance from the shop.
The woman looked mesmerized and, except for a slight smile, her face was blank. Dunn’s arms wrapped themselves around the woman as she began to kiss her. Or at least, that’s what was supposed to looked like. From my vantage point, the woman’s head was turned at too awkward an angle for a kiss but any other person walking by would have only seen two women kissing. The odd angle of the woman’s neck made me wonder if Professor Dunn had snapped her neck or something. I swallowed the lump in my throat and fought the urge the jump up and run. They stood in that position for a few seconds when Dunn pulled her head back and I watched her mouth open. And open and open and open. Her mouth was opened wider than was humanly possible. Like a snake with its jaw unhinged. I swear I saw more teeth than I was supposed to. It was… wrong.
Dunn’s open maw inched closer toward the woman’s head and my ears picked up a slight gasp paired with a low growl. It was too much. I winced at the sight and inadvertently banged my knee against the bench. I had this metal pin in my knee from an accident I had as a kid and it shifted when I banged my knee. A shotgun blast of pain knocked me to the ground as my phone fell out of my pocket and clattered onto the cement. Dunn’s head jerked in my direction, her jaw still open. Her eyes, God, those eyes, they zeroed in on me with laser precision, like she knew all along I was there. I swear I would have been devoured at that moment. That mouth and thousand teeth would have come after me if the suited man hadn’t been walking down the street. As soon as he came into view, the thing that was Professor Dunn closed her mouth and began to actually kiss the woman to avoid suspicion. This was my chance. I scrambled to pick up my phone as I jumped to my feet and hobbled toward the BART station. Somehow I managed to escape the scene.
Now, I don’t know who or what the hell Professor Dunn is but I know that I’m not going anywhere near that school or even that city. I don’t care about finals, I don’t care about law school; I just want to get away. Whoever Dunn is, she can find me if I stay here. She can probably find out where I live; she probably already knows where I live. Who knows what I told her during those goddamn “pleasant conversations”. I can almost feel her eyes on me, staring, watching even now. Hopefully this message gets out to someone who cares. I’m not staying in this area for another second. Even now I wonder if she was playing me, making me think I had snuck up on her. I can’t help shake this feeling that she wanted me to see that, so that I will know what is coming for me. Fuck knowledge, Fuck my curiosity. Ignorance really is bliss.
-End of letter
The attention surrounding Aaron Barclay’s disappearance died down after months of no progress. However, about a month ago, another newsworthy incident appeared in the Sacramento Bee. Some of the more conspiratorial followers of this case insist this incident reported in the Sacramento Bee is linked to the disappearance of Aaron Barclay. Apparently, a hotel owner in Placerville, California had discovered a collection of bones in the dumpster behind his hotel. The bones were said to belong to a young male. According to the finder, these bones were also picked clean and littered with teeth marks. The bones were sent to the local coroner who believed the teeth marks belonged to a wild animal. The coroner then concluded that the victim had an fatal encounter with a bear. Unfortunately, the bones were somehow lost or misplaced and local rumors mentioning a metal pin lodged in one of the bones could not be substantiated.
The professor mentioned in the story, Jamie Rebecca Dunn was questioned by the police shortly after the letter was discovered. She was quickly ruled out as a suspect for undisclosed reasons. As a visiting professor to Golden Gate University, Dunn eventually moved back to her hometown in Texas at the end of the semester. Further attempts to contact Ms. Dunn have gone unanswered. And of course, there is the usual group of so-called “paranormal investigators” that draw the worst possible conclusions: Mr. Barclay was silenced for seeing too much or Mr. Barclay had an encounter with some kind of paranormal creature. These conclusions are best ignored as products of ignorant and overly imaginative minds. Unfortunately for Mr. Barclay, the lack of any evidence regarding his whereabouts will likely doom him to a footnote in the growing list of unsolved missing persons cases.
Credit To – Jacques LaQroix