I still hope my friend is just playing a trick on me…

Do you know that strange feeling when something happens that makes no sense? I’m sure most of you can recall moments like that.

It usually happens for just a brief moment before we remember the one piece of the puzzle that explains it all.

I’ve been searching for this one piece this entire evening.

Last night was Friday.

On Friday evening I usually hang out with my best friend, Frederick. Neither of us is the party or bar type anymore. Instead, we hang out at his place, have a few beers, and watch a movie or two.

Yesterday was the same. When I’d made it home, it was almost three in the morning and I was pleasantly buzzed.

The next morning I was woken up by the loud notification sound of my phone.

“Freaking hell,” I cursed. I’d forgotten to put the damn thing on mute again.

When I checked it I saw that I’d gotten a WhatsApp message from Sue, Frederick’s girlfriend. She’d sent me a picture of the two of them, standing in front of a well-known sightseeing attraction in her town.

I stared at it for a moment before I asked her why she’d send me a picture like that at nine-thirty on Saturday morning.

As I was preparing myself a strong cup of coffee, her reply arrived. She told me the two of them had just been there and she thought it was a cute picture.

I reread the message to make sure I hadn’t misread it.

It made no sense. The two of them were in a long-distance relationship and Sue lived at the other end of the country. How the hell could Frederick be there right now?

When I told her to cut the joke, she asked me what I meant. I sighed, this was stupid. I sent Frederick a quick text, telling him that Sue was trying to play a trick on me. His reply was another picture of the two of them in front of a different building.

I frowned at it and put the phone away. I was not in the mood for their silly shenanigans, not as hungover as I was.

In the early afternoon, another message arrived. This one was a brief video clip from Frederick. I prepared myself for another silly clip of him farting or something equally juvenile and pressed play. Instead, it was a short video of him and Sue in front of a small stage.

Suddenly I felt goosebumps all over my arm. I read the name ‘DarkBeatz’ in bright letters behind them. DarkBeatz was the name of a small Indy festival in Sue’s town. I remembered Frederick talking about going there with Sue a while ago.

I instantly looked it up online and everything checked out.

DarkBeatz – 10.03.2018’ the website said. That was today!

I called Frederick right away.

“When did you even get there?”

“Yesterday. By train, as always,” he answered a little confused about the audible distress in my voice.

“When did you even leave? At four in the morning? How’d you even be there by now?”

“What are you talking about? Why’d I leave at four in the morning? I left right after work yesterday afternoon.”

“Stop shitting me, man! We hung out last night!”

“Yeah, sure we did.”

“No, but we hung out together as always and-“

“Sorry, but I got no time for your jokes right now,” he cut me off laughing. “The first act is about to start, so I’ll talk to you later.”

With that, he hung up.

As I sat there, staring at my phone I had no clue what was going on. This had to be a stupid joke. He was fucking with me. There was no other explanation.

I had to go grocery shopping anyway, so I might as well visit him and call him out on his bullshit. Funny, I thought, really fucking funny Frederick.

When I arrived I rang the doorbell again and again but got no answer. I cursed to myself, got out my phone, and wrote him a quick message.

‘Hey man, open the door, all right? You got me this time, I admit it.’

His reply was nothing but a question mark.

‘Just open the damned door, I know you’re home!’

This time I got no reply. I cursed and rang the doorbell a few more times only to be stopped by a neighbor who screamed at me from her window.

I mumbled an apology and called Frederick again. On the third try, he finally answered. Loud electronic music was playing in the background and I could barely make out what he was saying.

“Yo, Fred, turn down the music! I can’t hear a damn thing!”

I heard him curse at the phone before he seemed to be walking somewhere else.

“The fuck’s your problem?!”

“Dude, come on, turn of the stupid music and open the door, this is not funny anymore.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I. Am. With. Sue.”

And to prove it he handed her the phone.

“Hey, Andy, Sue here, what’s up?”

It was Sue and I could hear her voice loud and clear.

“Wait, how are you-“ I started, but she’d already handed the phone back to Frederick.

“Anything else, or can I hang up now?”

“Wait! If you’re at Sue’s town,” I stammered, “then how the hell were we drinking together last night?”

“What the hell are you even saying?”

“We were at your place last night, drinking like usual and we watched this movie together, Cold Weather.”

“Okay man, not funny.”

“I’m not fucking joking with you Fred! We were both at your place and you-“

“Dude stop. Really. It was funny for a while, but not anymore. You’re starting to creep me out. I just want to have a good time at the festival with Sue, all right?”

With that, he hung up.

I felt the strength drain from my body. A strange and eerie feeling washed over me. Was he not playing a trick on me? But then how…?

While I was at the supermarket, I tried to come up with an explanation for it all, but there was no other way. He had to be playing a trick on me!

The more I thought about it on my way back home, the surer I was. Hell, maybe Sue had decided to visit Frederick, and together the two tried to fuck with me for some reason.

I could imagine them, sitting at Frederick’s place, and having a good laugh at my expense. Hell, maybe the stupid video clip was from last year’s DarkBeatz.

I’d had it. The moment I was home I put my groceries away and knew what I had to do.

Frederick and I had a spare key at each other’s apartments. It’s in case we lock ourselves out and so we don’t have to call our landlord or even a key service.

With this key in my pocket and fuming, I made my way back to his place. It had to be one of his ridiculous jokes and he’d kept it up all day.

As I went downstairs and unlocked the door to his apartment, I was prepared to hear his and Sue’s laughter. Instead, the place was dead quiet.

I barged into the living room, but there was no one there. It was the same for the kitchen, the bedroom, and even his bathroom. Finally, I yelled out his and Sue’s name.

In sheer frustration and anger, I sent the WhatsApp message ‘Dude come out!’ and attached a picture of myself in his living room to it.

I got a call right away.

“Are you fucking kidding me? Are you seriously at my place right now?”

“Dude, I know you and Sue are hiding somewhere, come out, all right? You got me real good this time. Here, I even laugh: haha.”

“You’re really there, aren’t you? Are you for fucking real?”

I could hear Sue in the background asking what was going on.

While I heard him tell her I was at his place for ‘some stupid reason,’ I noticed a handful of empty beer bottles on his couch table.

“Hey Fred, are those bottles yours?” I asked him before he could give me another handful.

“What bottles?”

I sent him a picture of the couch table.

Here’s the thing about Frederick. He’s suffering from a severe case of OCD. Doesn’t matter how drunk he is or how late it is, he always cleans up his place. Empty bottles, glasses, snacks, he puts it all away. He once told me he can’t fall asleep otherwise.

“I told you,” I explained, “we’ve been drinking together yesterday. Those bottles are-“

“Fucking stop, okay? And why the fuck are you hanging out and drink at my place when I’m not around? You know those keys were for-“

“Fred, listen to me, I told you, you were there as well,” I retorted. “I’ve got no idea how-“

I didn’t get the chance to even finish the sentence. He’d hung up and when I tried to call him again, it went straight to voicemail.

His reaction was way too real for this to be a joke. Still, I waited desperately for him to appear and to tell me he’d got me. I waited and waited and waited, but the apartment stayed dead quiet.

I went over to the empty beer bottles and checked the brand. It was the same one I’d drank last evening, with Frederick sitting right beside me.

Eventually, I went back home, shaken and utterly confused.

If Frederick really wasn’t playing a trick on me, and if he went to visit Sue, then what happened on Friday evening? Those empty bottles prove that someone was there, that I was there. If Frederick was on the train at the time though, then who have I been drinking with?

I’m sitting here, trying to find that one missing piece of the puzzle that could convince me that this is all a trick.

But, this time I can’t find it.

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