It only took less than a week for us to apprehend John Upton. The man was clearly no professional criminal on the run, but he left a grisly scene in his home that would turn the gaze of any psychotic killer. We found his wife's body in the kitchen, hands bound with bruises on the neck, waist and buttocks; a knife buried in her back, surrounded by multiple other stab wounds. Next to her body was their own adolescent daughter, bound and bruised in much the same way, including the thighs and breasts, but her body hung by a ceiling fixture. It's difficult not to get emotional when witnessing something like that, especially when impartiality is expected. Looking that pathetic, twisted man in the eye, I struggled to remind myself that the investigation was not yet complete - that there was a small sliver of a chance the man was innocent. Seemed unlikely to me on account of the fact he apparently had a flight booked for Europe. Combine that with the fact that autopsy reports revealed the victims had died the day before Upton had started missing work. Sometimes you don't want to believe that such a straight-laced, upstanding citizen such as he would commit rape and murder in such a horrible fashion, but then we hardly ever expect it from our own loved ones.
Despite myself, I did get a sort of satisfaction watching Upton squirm as he was arrested. Honestly, I half expected him to be the calm, collected type of murderer, but to my delight, we found him close to tears and hyperventilating. He was almost delirious since we caught him sleeping that morning under a highway bridge. His belongings were scarce, as if gathered together in haste. Though he had the wherewithal to leave his cell phone, he still brought with him his credit card, and just one transaction at an ATM lead us straight to him. From what I heard, as he was thrown into the holding cell, he was begging for his journal, which was confiscated upon his arrest. I remembered opening the first page of that journal that same day. The first page was nothing more than an oddly worded account twenty years before. What stuck out more to me, however, was the crude inscription made on the inside of the cover: The symbol of an arrow coming full circle with an X crossing it out, followed by "KEEP RUNNING" written in capital letters. I assumed the symbol meant something to him, reminding him to keep running from the law.
The journal remained in evidence, but was hardly a point of interest, as both the circumstances and forensic evidence combined was enough to get a solid conviction. Besides, when the rest of the investigative team read the first several pages of the journal, they found, as I had, nothing more than general accounts of the day. I found myself curious however at the choice of words made on the first page:
"Sat, 8/14/99 - Well, it's more like the 18th for me. Wrote here yesterday but now it's gone. Going to keep recording in here until I get a full grasp of the system. Maybe eventually I can keep track of the pattern and it'll stick like muscle memory, and I won't have to think about it anymore. Lots of things to try and experiment with. Possibilities are endless. For now I'll play it safe and get test answers. Easy A's!"
Upton was certainly an odd kid, and there's no telling what most of his writing meant, seeing as how it may have only made sense at the time. Regardless, I was tempted to read more, thinking that somewhere in the scribbling would be the key to uncover what created this unassuming, white-collar family man with secret, homicidal intentions. Unfortunately, I was not afforded the time to delve into the journal. I had my duties to be present for the trial as part of the investigation, which was beginning very quickly. The defense wanted to put a hold on the trial so they may put a proper case together, but in light of the wide publicity the crime had, the public demanded swift justice. It seemed that Upton and his attorney were attempting to make a plea of insanity, as reports came in from the detention center that Upton claimed he was suffering from amnesia. I had my doubts, of course, but Arnold, a personal friend of mine that guards those cells, confided in me that he felt uneasy about how consistent the signs were. Every single day, Upton would wake in a total panic, not knowing where he was or what happened. It struck Arnold particularly that Upton would scream the exact same phrases every morning during his manic episodes. He also consistently begged for a scrap of paper, and to only borrow a pencil for a few seconds.
With pressure from his attorney, and an ounce of curious sympathy from Arnold, Upton was given the items he requested. Arnold managed to catch a glimpse of what he had written on the page. He described it to me as the very same symbol of the crossed out, circular arrow inside the cover of his journal. This time, however, he wrote "Corey and Kelly are dead" below the symbol. Upton's demeanor changed since then, suddenly breaking his morning routine to quiet contemplation, though still with a considerable amount of fear. Before long, he suggested to his attorney that a lie detector test would prove his innocence. Upton was warned that polygraphs were inadmissible in court, but nonetheless, he persuaded his attorney that his intention is to prove the veracity of his amnesia to play into the insanity plea.
To begin, the machine was calibrated as to remove all doubt of mechanical failure. Upton was first asked simple questions like his name and favorite color, and he was to answer twice, first with the truth, then a lie. His initial answers were "John Hall Upton" and "blue", followed by "Benjamin Franklin" and "yellow". The graph spiked wildly following the lie, and Upton expressed his satisfaction with the validity of the test. A series of questions, half of which duplicated each other with a different choice of words, seemed to confirm his sincerity that he had no memory of the crime, nor any day since his arrest. The examiner was confident in the results, that no countermeasures were employed to beat the test, and Upton passed beyond a shadow of a doubt. All but one answer was answered truthfully, and unfortunately, the results only raised more questions than it answered. When asked if Upton had killed his family, reports say that he hesitated, but eventually answered "No". This answer was revealed to be deceptive. However, Upton was asked the question a second time, this time specifying if he had killed his family in mid August of 2019 (the autopsy reports estimated the time of death to be the night of August 12th). He answered "No" a second time, but this answer was truthful.
During the eventual trial that proceeded, the defense decided not to compound the insanity plea with the polygraph results. Their decision was met with little resistance from Upton, as he claimed to not even remember taking the test. I noticed that throughout the trial, Upton continuously took notes. Given his state, I could only imagine they were things to help him remember the proceedings the next morning. I came to realize later on that my name was apparently recorded in his notes. I assumed this because, at a later period, his attorney called the station and requested me by name - that Upton wanted to speak with me the day before his conviction. He was in a terrible state, telling me that from what he read in his notes the following morning, he knew the insanity plea wouldn't work. He told me he was going to receive a guilty verdict and possibly the death penalty. For the conversation that took place afterward, Upton requested that his attorney leave us alone.
"Do you believe me?" Upton asked.
"Depends on what you mean by that," I said.
"My life has been pretty strange," Upton began. "If I were to tell you how exactly, I doubt you would believe it. Can you trust a dead man's word?"
"I'd prefer you just say what you have to say," I said, careful he wouldn't confuse my curiosity with sympathy.
"Just between you and me, do you think I killed my wife?" he asked.
"Off the record? I'm inclined to think you did. Yes," I said.
"And my amnesia? You think I'm faking it?" he asked. I wasn't sure how to answer the question.
"I suppose none of us will know for certain," I said.
"Maybe," said Upton. "But maybe you'll believe me once I'm dead. Like I said, I'm fully aware that nothing I say will convince the judge or the jury, so I'm bound for execution. You people still have my journal don't you? Read it after I die, then maybe you'll believe me when I have nothing left to possibly gain. I honestly wish I could tell you whether or not I killed Corey and Kelly, but neither I nor even the journal can say. I'll leave that much to your judgement."
"And you?" I asked. "Do you believe, assuming you really don't remember, that you killed them?" Upton lowered his head, pressing his hands into his face, and began to weep.
"I think I may have," he sobbed. "In that case, you can rest assured I got what I deserved." I began to leave when Upton called back to me one final time. "What do you think happens when we die?" he asked.
"Nothing, I guess. I figure it's like sleeping forever," I said.
"I hope you're right," said Upton. "But with a curse like this, I-" He stopped himself from saying more. "The journal. Whenever you can. Reopen the case ten years from now if you want. Whatever you have to do, just read it." That was the last I ever heard from Upton. True to his prediction, he did indeed receive the guilty verdict, and the judge sentenced him to death by lethal injection. I was no longer present at the trial by this point, but news outlets reported that upon receiving the sentencing, Upton broke down into tears and slowly ripped apart every note he ever took. I think I understood why; preferring to forget the inevitable doom awaiting him. Several months passed before his execution, and I could only begin to imagine what kind of hell it must have been for him to experience prison life anew every day. When the news broke that Upton was finally dead, the public was full in their self-righteous joy that another evil man has left the Earth. As much as I shared their disgust for his crime, I couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief that the entire ordeal was over. But, of course, there still remained his journal.
Thankfully, enough time had passed that I deemed it appropriate to request Upton's journal from evidence storage. There was little suspicion raised on account of the case being closed, compounded with the fact I merely borrowed it to photocopy the pages. It took nearly an hour to finish, but once I was done, I promptly returned the journal, and was free to take the copied pages home. Among the numerous pages, I compiled the entries that were pertinent within the context of what I now understand. Barring the first page mentioned earlier, the journal read as follows:
"Fri, 8/20/99 - Now I know it sticks the second time around. Other entry is still on the page. Took the test yesterday (in my time frame anyway). Tried to memorize the questions to find the answers later that day. Took it again today and did much better, I think. Couldn't remember every last answer, but I guess it would be odd if one day I suddenly got perfect 100's anyway. I'll get the hang of it eventually. This'll be interesting.
Sat, 8/21/99 - Silly me. Wrote a whole spiel the day before, and now it's gone. I'll separate them into free days and record days. Hopefully that'll help me remember.
Mon, 8/30/99 - Didn't even need to write anything down yesterday. Peeked in the girl's locker room on the free day, then played the good boy today. Hopefully no one finds this and reads about all my exploits to come. Would they figure it out? Would they even believe something like this is possible? In any event, I'm sure they'd put the pieces together.
Wed, 9/1/99 - It occurred to me a few days ago that something might go wrong. So far it seems to be permanent, but I'll draw a little symbol in the event that this little gift of mine backfires in some way, shape or form." (Upton drew the circular arrow with an 'X' below this entry)
"Tue, 9/14/99 - How can I put this into words? I just met Lauren, the most beautiful girl I've ever met. Her long, streaming, brown hair captivated me the first time I set eyes on it. When she walked by me, I was immediately lured by the sweet, floral perfume she wore. I couldn't stop staring into those glistening blue eyes. If only they were staring back at me.
Wed, 9/15/99 - I tried talking to Lauren on my free day. Made such a fool of myself that I still felt embarrassed today, the record day. I told mom I tried talking to a girl and failed. She told me not to let it keep me down. The sky's not going to fall just because I got shot down. We fail, then we try again. Obviously she didn't mean the same girl over and over again, but luckily for me, technically Lauren hasn't even met me yet.
Thu, 9/16/99 - Still couldn't find the words. Worse still that Lauren was surrounded by all her friends, and I could see every ounce of judgement that each one of them was laying upon me. I don't think I can do this. They may not remember anything, but I do.
Fri, 9/17/99 - I didn't even approach Lauren at all today. There was a thought that came to mind, but I don't dare write it.
Mon, 9/20/99 - The weekend gave me a little time to reflect, and I summoned up the courage to talk to Lauren again. This guy, Derek, stopped me though. Was he her boyfriend or just some dude that 'laid claim' to her? I couldn't tell, but he confronted me again today, the record day. Not about Lauren, obviously; just looked at him funny, I guess. Maybe I could... No.
Thu, 9/23/99 - Derek is still hanging on Lauren like a shadow. Worse still, she seems to be happy about it. Can't even talk to her on my free days with that big guard dog following her everywhere. On the bright side, met Corey today. She's pretty cool. Just got to remember there's a world outside of Lauren.
Fri, 10/1/99 - If I were a fighter, I'd just memorize every punch Derek would throw then kick his ass. Too bad I don't have the weight behind me. Plus, that would mean it happens on a record day. I have a reputation to think about. Why won't he just leave me alone?
Wed, 10/20/99 - Corey and I are discussing costume ideas for Halloween. As if there was a party we could even go to. We're several years past trick-or-treating age. I guess we could just stay at my place, raid the candy cabinet in the kitchen and watch some horror movies. Could be fun. I'll ask her on the free day and see how she reacts.
Thu, 10/21/99 - What's wrong with me? Corey was ecstatic when I suggested a movie marathon for Halloween, but when it came to asking her on the record day, I choked. I already knew the answer! Just that concept of permanency made me anxious. Now it's too late. She made plans with her friends just a few hours afterward.
Tue, 11/23/99 - I finally did it. The most satisfying feeling ever. Derek pushed me over the limit this time. Must have wanted to put in a last bit of torture before Thanksgiving break. I gripped my pencil so hard, it nearly broke in half. I jammed it directly into Derek's eye socket. He screamed in pain. The class screamed in horror. They had to drag me away when I began to continually stab Derek in the throat. The sharp point had broken off by this point, but I had enough power behind my arm to pierce the soft tissue above his collar bone. He choked to death on his own blood, and I was taken away by the police. Just as I expected, I awoke the next morning in my own bed. Derek was there at school, eyes and throat fully intact. No one was the wiser. He provoked me with the exact same words he did before, but I wasn't bothered in the least. Even when he shoved my head aside, I could only laugh, remembering the spectacular mess I made of him on the free day, much to his chagrin.
Fri, 12/3/99 - I must be giving off a strong aura of confidence because Derek hasn't messed with me for the past week. That or he's just moved on to new meat. Either way, I'm glad it's finally over with. Been a rough couple of months. Of course, given my 'condition', it's been twice as long as everyone else. I'm just glad to have Corey as a friend throughout the whole ordeal.
Mon, 12/27/99 - School's still closed until tomorrow for the holidays, and everyone was out spending their Christmas cash. To my surprise, during a walk along the shopping plaza, there was Lauren; Derek nowhere to be found. She was alone, and I followed some distance behind her before working up the courage to talk to her again. It was a free day after all. What did I have to lose? I caught up to her and, to my surprise, we had a wonderful conversation that lasted for hours. I could talk to her about anything, it seemed. Almost anything, anyway. We hung out for most of the day and I walked her back home. Just by the door, I kissed her on the lips. I was shocked to see her smile in return, and she said she would see me again once school started back up. I couldn't wait to do it all over again on the record day. Today, we did exactly the same thing we did on the free day, walking together and talking for hours. One thing threw me off though that I can't really explain. When I walked her to the door and kissed her, she reeled back and ran inside. Everything played out exactly as it did before! Why did it change in the end?
Tue, 12/28/99 - I told Corey what happened. She comforted me and tried explaining to me as sweetly as she could that girls don't usually appreciate a kiss on the first date. I figured I should apologize to Lauren, but Corey told me it would be best just to leave her alone, as she was probably just as embarrassed as I was. This was still the free day, so what was the harm? When I passed by Lauren in the hall, I tried to simply tell her I was sorry. She took a single glance at me and rushed by without a word. I didn't bother trying again on the record day.
Sun, 2/13/00 - I want to ask Corey to be my Valentine, but I'm determined to do it right. No cheating. No asking on the free day. Record day only. Corey, will you be my Valentine? Do it John. Just do it. The sky's not going to fall if she says 'No'.
Wed, 3/15/00 - It's been a month since Corey and I started dating, and not much has changed. In a good way, though. We can still comfortably open up to each other about our feelings, only now there's little physical boundaries between us. Still, a part of me isn't quite over Lauren yet. I really do love Corey, but I need to fully commit to her, and I can't do so with this woman constantly in the back of my mind. I'll put an end to that soon.
Sat, 3/18/00 - I followed Lauren to the mall where she does her weekend shopping. At last, the moment came when the sky turned dark, and she was alone in the parking garage. I silenced her, then conquered her, leaving her broken body in the middle of the open lot. What had I to fear? Today, I visited the same mall and passed Lauren, making my presence known. Luckily, she didn't turn away and I had the chance to apologize for kissing her so suddenly a few months ago. She accepted and we shook hands. Lauren left my mind completely, and I was full of nothing but my love for Corey.
Mon, 3/20/00 - This journal is starting to run out of pages, and its use is becoming somewhat superfluous. The pattern of days is locked in my memory now, and Corey is beginning to wonder what I write in it. It would be unfortunate if she were to even read it as a fantasy instead of fact. These remaining pages will only be used for noteworthy occasions.
Tue, 9/11/01 - Was there anything I could have done? Maybe warned somebody? As if they'd believe me. Part of me wishes I could really do some good, but I'm only one man. What good am I if I can only help myself? Looking back at the things I've done, I wonder if I'm really an evil man. Doesn't everyone sometimes have terrible urges? Should they be judged by their private thoughts, even when they don't act upon them? I have indulged, obviously, but thanks to the gift, it may as well have never even happened. Just as good as if it were in my head. But I know things that I shouldn't, and I can't help but think that by simply doing nothing, that alone makes me evil. If I am so evil, should I not embrace it? In for a penny; in for a pound.
Sun, 11/23/04 - Life was good for a long time. Corey and I married on Valentine's day. As with anyone, our marriage is far from perfect. We fight, of course, but we always settle our differences. Sometimes I even kill her, but I usually come around to her side the next day, once the anger's out of my system. It's not like she has no reason to be angry with me, disappearing at inopportune times. She would surely leave if she knew where I would be every time, and how I've made so much money. Being something of a gambler has proven to be very lucrative for me, so much so I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner. At least during the daylight hours I do it the legal way, trading stocks. I simply be sure to frequent a few private clubs and keep an ear out for any interesting sports bets. Should the payout be underwhelming, I simply don't return on the record day. In the event of an unexpected victory, however, I wager a substantial sum. It's earned me plenty of enemies, but even more friends who consider me their good luck charm. Might shave off the potential earnings, but it's worth the protection. 'In for a penny; in for a pound'. Words I've lived by for the past three years. It was also the phrase Corey chastised me with when she found my journal. I've never seen her so disgusted with me than when she recounted to me what I did to Derek and Lauren. I thought about killing her at that moment to shut her up. Instead, I simply took a seat in the living room with a satisfied smile. The moment I told her that she was living in one of my free days, the look of absolute, existential horror that washed over her face was utterly priceless. I can't remember another time I was so amused when the realization came over her that there was nothing she could possibly do to stop me. I need only wait for the next day to place the journal somewhere more secure. Once I finish this entry, I'll hand it to my friends in low places for safekeeping. I doubt they would be so immersed, should they be tempted to read the first few pages.
Wed, 11/9/05 - Corey and I are expecting. Writing this down so I'll never forget. Halloween, 2005: The day my life will have changed forever.
Tue, 6/6/06 - Corey drove me particularly crazy today, so I chopped her head off. Curious that it just so happened to be on this day. Sometimes I wonder if this gift is the devil's work. I must say, I was rather disappointed that no demons or apparitions appeared when I killed her. It's probably safe to say numerology is a load of bull. Corey's fine now. Worst thing to happen was she spit in my eggs this morning.
Sat, 8/12/06 - Welcome to the world, Kelly Upton. I'll never forget holding you in my arms for the first time. It's a sensation that I'll never get to relive. Even doing it all over again just isn't the same. I wish I could just bottle that feeling and share it with you. Who knows; maybe one day you'll understand. If you're reading this, I firstly hope it's ripped out from the rest of my journal. Should the rest of it be tossed in the fireplace with only this page surviving, know that it's all for the best. Maybe you're reading this to find answers to strange things that are happening to you. Is it déjà vu, you may be wondering. I know the feeling, and no, it's not in your head. You're not alone. In case you've read up to this point from the beginning of this journal, please don't think any less of me. I would never do anything to hurt you.
If you have read this far, happy birthday. You've grown into such a beautiful young lady. It kills me to think you could one day belong to someone else. What I've written is true; I would never do anything to hurt you. After all, you're reading this on a free day, so this page and everything that's about to happen will be erased. It's just been thirteen years since I've fed these dark urges, and I need to finally satisfy them for good so we can go on living as a happy family. You're going to become such a lovely woman when you grow up. Resist if you must; none of it will matter. You'll be alive and well the next morning, then everything will be back to normal.
All of my love - Dad."
I struggled to hold back the grand swell of emotions that built up in my throat as I read the final page of the journal. True enough, the dead man had nothing to gain, but also nothing to lose. Perhaps he really did lose all memory of what he did, and hoped some justice may be served to the real culprit after his death. Amidst the sickened rage, I felt somewhat satisfied that justice was done. Then I was reminded of Upton's last words to me, asking my opinion of the afterlife. He was desperate to believe in an everlasting peace of death. I claim no expertise on his condition, be it temporal, supernatural, psychological, or otherwise. Clearly, whatever force gifted him with such power saw fit to take it away in the most appropriate fashion, and with impeccable timing. I sincerely hope that his curse now grants him a never-ending hell, awakening to his final day in prison. That he is bid farewell by every inmate who despises him, and ends every night in paralysis with liquid fire injected into his veins for an eternity.