Due to spoilers, please click Read More after reading the previous chapters.
Chapter Eight: Missing
Tracy awoke and her very first thought was of Cara. Last night, she had gone missing and her friends had immediately contacted the police. Tracy and everyone else answered the questions of the police as they began an initial search that turned up no results.
Tracy knew that there was no reason for Cara to disappear and this was what she had told the police. There was no evidence of a struggle. There were no witnesses. There was nothing for the police to find. Even the security cameras had been turned off at that point. And so the police had concluded that Tracy was correct and that, in all likelihood, Cara had not been kidnapped and had left of her own volition.
Being the person that she was, Tracy was not able to accept that Cara had run away. The moments leading up to her disappearance were suspicious and were reason enough to suspect something. After Cara had gone to the bathroom, an employee of the movie theater told them that they had to leave because it was time for her to lock up. It was true that they were the last ones in the building, but the employee was very insistent about them leaving.
The employee told Tracy and her friends that they could wait outside and that Cara would be able to leave even if the doors were locked from the outside. Everyone agreed reluctantly and Martha decided that they would drive the car to the front of the theater in order to wait for Cara.
If only all of them hadn’t gone with Martha to get the car, then maybe they would have seen something. They told the police about the employee and they promised that they would look into it. Tracy doubted that the police would discover anything by investigating that employee; the woman had left after locking the doors and they all watched her drive away.
Tracy suddenly began to feel sick. She knew she was about to have another panic attack. She had been having minor panic attacks daily up until yesterday, but now there was nothing stopping her from having a serious one.
That was because… she didn’t have friends anymore. While panic attacks cause people to exaggerate details, this was something that Tracy had discovered before Cara’s disappearance. The dynamic of their group had completely changed: Adam was always spending time with Luke and Cara was always spending time with John. Martha pretended like everything was okay, but she had confided in Tracy that she didn’t feel like she was a real member of the group and she had many other friends as well.
And it would be selfish to try to bring everyone back together. Tracy felt hot and empty as her pulse quickened. Everyone except for her was becoming happier and now no one would be happy because they had lost Cara. Even if Cara hadn’t disappeared, Martha was retreating from the group. Luke and Adam were in a serious relationship. John and Cara would inevitably end up together as well. Tracy knew she could leave the group with Martha, but that felt wrong.
Tracy got up from her bed and almost fell from dizziness. This would be her life from now on. Everything would return to the way it had been before she discovered her friends. To tell anyone about her panic attacks would just burden them during an already difficult time.
Tracy tried to take a deep breath, but she ended up sobbing and let herself fall to the floor. Yes, every day from now on would be like this. There was no avoiding the reality that she would face every morning when she awoke from her dreams. The truth would surface and she would realize that her peaceful days were gone.
Her panic attacks had ended after finding peace with her friends. She hadn’t sought help; she was just lucky that they stopped. Now her days would return to the way that they were supposed to be. Her brief repose from suffering was over and she began to feel guilty. If she had sought help then maybe she would be able to deal with her anxiety. When the attacks stopped all she had done was relax and pretend that her life had changed.
“Tracy, Martha is here!”
Tracy heard her mother calling from downstairs. She quickly stood up and wiped the tears from her face. Martha would be on her way up to her room and so she needed to regain her composure as best she could. Physically and mentally she was in a horrible condition but she still tried her best to hide it.
There was a knock on the door. After a few seconds, a little longer than she should have taken, Tracy invited Martha inside of her room.
“Hey… are you okay, Tracy?”
“I’m just feeling a little sick and with everything that has happened…”
Martha nodded and closed the door. “I heard from John that the police questioned the employee from that night. They haven’t found anything suspicious so they’re going back to the theater itself to investigate.”
“How did we not notice anything?” Tracy asked. Her anxiety was worsening and making her dizzy but she ignored it. She wanted Martha to leave as soon as possible so she spoke forcefully.
“The police… think that Cara might have left on her own.”
“That’s wrong, we all know it.”
“I know, but there’s nothing that indicates that anything happened. It’s almost like she walked out of the back entrance or something and didn’t come home. She’s probably still in the town.’
“You can’t believe that, Martha.”
Tracy took a deep breath. It was becoming difficult to breathe and she felt like she wasn’t getting enough air. She forced herself to sit down on the bed and she looked away from Martha.
“That’s the best outcome,” Martha explained. “If she left by herself then she will return by herself. Anything else that could explain her disappearance wouldn’t be anything good.”
“Of all of us, Cara was the most optimistic. She would know how much we’re worrying about her and even though I want to believe she’s safe… you can’t let the police think that! They’ll stop looking for her and then what will happen?”
Tracy was almost yelling her words.
“They won’t stop looking and they’ll find her soon,” Martha said.
Tracy knew there was nothing more that Martha could say but that didn’t add any significance to her words. No one knew what had happened with Cara and even if she came back… nothing would change. Cara’s return would not save her. It might save the false friendship of their group but it would not save her.
“I’m really not feeling well, so can we talk later?”
“Sure,” Martha said. “Do you want me to tell your mom?”
“No, it’s alright. It’s nothing serious.”
Martha left Tracy’s house and Tracy returned to being alone. She didn’t want to be alone but there was no one left that could help her. She closed her eyes and felt a deep cold. She saw that strange place from three days ago. The abandoned place under the library.
She felt as if she was trapped in a place like that. A cold place with no one else that no one would find. Yet, for some reason, there was a slight amount of hope in that place. Memories of Adam, from the time where he was her best friend. No, he wasn’t there with her. She was all alone in that cold place and no one would come to save her.
Cara made a promise below that place, deep in the rocky caverns. She promised that they were living in the best possible world. Was it the truth or was it a lie? That couldn’t be the truth so it had to be a lie. Yet, Cara was entirely sure that it was the truth. Some of her friends were living in the best possible world, but Tracy herself was not.
No, it might even be worse than that. Let’s consider this: the ‘best possible world’ is not a world of happiness. It’s simply ‘the best that exists’. In other words, maybe Tracy was happy and everyone else was miserable in one world. Therefore, a world where 5 out of 6 people are happy is a better world than one where only 1 is happy.
According to this definition, the best possible world was the one where Tracy was unhappy. To wish for happiness would be to move to a world where others were miserable. That is to say, unless Tracy wanted to be selfish she would have to sacrifice herself for the sake of others.
While this thought was insane it was what Tracy began to believe. Empty words appeared in her mind: At least everyone else can be happy.
She was not capable of feeling any joy from this, but at least she understood.