You turn over in bed, and then you turn again, and there’s a pit forming in the core of your stomach. It throbs a little, and you swear that your ears are burning. The palms of your hands are balmy, and you slip your fingers across them. There’s something gnawing at the back of your subconscious, but you can’t be too sure what it is. It doesn’t help to ignore it; how could you? It’s there, chiseling away at the back of your mind, prohibiting you from returning to sleep.
The light of daybreak slices through the halved curtain shutter and stains the floor. You stare at it for a while until it nearly scars your retinas. You’ve either slept through your alarm or awoken before it can alert you. Neither is preferable. Reluctantly, you reach for your phone, nearly knocking a container of melatonin gummies onto the floor, and check the time. 4:07 am. Before the alarm. Gummies didn’t work.
You slide your finger across the screen of your phone and scroll mindlessly through social media, hoping to distract the growing void in your abdomen. It is now dangerously impeding on your ribs. Then you see it. It’s trending. The words glow blue on the screen of your device: April Fool’s Day.
Oh, God. Oh no. Oh, God, oh no, Oh, God.
No. Stop. You’ve prepared yourself for this. You have a plan. You just need to get to your notebook.
Your body mechanically, as if by some device, sits up on its own accord. There’s so little light in your bedroom, save for that small sliver of the sun. It would take much too long for the sun to rise and fully illuminate your room. That’s time you just don’t have.
The notebook you need is in the bottom left drawer of your desk. It’s always there. It’s not a problem finding it. Of course not. You were prepared for a situation such as this. The problem is reaching it in time.
How could you forget? How did you let it escape your mind? You’d made plans months ago in preparation for this day.
You allow your toes to grace the surface of the floor before immediately jolting them back onto the mattress. He’s under there. That’s why you woke up. He opened the door without a sound and shut it just the same. He slithered across the floor, careful not to step on the three creaky floorboards just in front of your bed, and then he crawled beneath it.
He’s waiting for you to get up. He has a plan for you, and you’re all too late. He always has a plan for you.
So you sit there.
You hug your knees against your chest and stare at your feet. You pass the time by stretching your toes out as far as they can go—you even conduct tests to determine if you can move your middle-most toe without moving the others. You can’t.
You just sit there.
Maybe you can outlast him. Maybe he’ll get fed up with waiting and reveal himself soon. Maybe you’ll stall so long that he’ll fall asleep, just under your bed. It’d give you enough time to grab your notebook and devise a revenge strategy. These thoughts plague your mind.
And you do nothing.
Finally, you lean your head against your mattress and hold your breath. Maybe if you’re quiet enough, you’ll be able to hear his breathing. You know that you can hold your breath longer than him. You’re older and more experienced. So, you strain your neck and listen for the sound of an exhale.
Maybe he isn’t there. Maybe you’ve given him too much credit. Maybe he’s given up on his annual spectacle of deception. He’s finally grown up.
You muster up the courage to peek under your bed. At first, you rest the side of your face against the mattress, telling yourself that he won’t be there, that this is the year he’s finally given in. You’re going to look, and he’s not going to be there. He won’t be.
And he isn’t.
There’s nothing under your bed but a few boxes and discarded plastic water bottles. You were right. He’s changed. Or, you’ve caught him before he can make a move. He’s always been one step ahead of you, always just out of reach. You’ve never been able to best him, but this year will be different.
You place one foot on the chilled floor, then the next, still not dropping your guard. You survey the room, still quite dark, but your eyes have begun to adjust. The desk is only ten paces away. There is still time. This is the moment that changes everything; every bit of preparation you’ve made up to this point has prepared you for this. You’re new.
With light feet, careful to avoid the creaky floorboards, you advance to your desk. You make it. This is it. You’ve done it. You open the bottom left drawer of your desk and pull out the lime green notebook from its resting place. Its corners are bent and torn, and scraps of paper hang haphazardly out of one side. You’ve used it too much. But, finally, it will be of use.
You open up to the page that reads “Fool’s Day Planning” that you drafted last year. Below the title is a twenty-seven-point bulleted list of every task you need to complete to protect yourself. If you can do every job, you’ll be safe. No one and nothing can reach you.
So, you get to work. You follow each step, one-by-one, and don’t miss a beat. You turn on a lamp, lock your door and position the desk in front of it, block all light from entering through the window, move your bed to the back corner of the room, and empty out your closet. There, behind all of your clothes, is your stash of beans, peanut butter, and honey, all sealed in cans, stacked up, one on top of the other. You find your old radio, adjust the wire until you can somewhat find a station, and listen to the music beyond the static. Your body, now swaddled in a blanket in the corner of your room, surrounded by cans of beans and a desk radio, with only the light of a miniature desk lamp, is finally safe from harm.
You’ve already called out from work for the day. No one will be expecting you. All that needs to be done now is wait. You will not interact with any form of media aside from the halfway station between 103.5 and 103.7—it’s a pleasant blend of country and early-2000’s pop.
So you sit there. You just sit there. And you do nothing. Nothing. For hours. Nothing moves but the cans of beans as you stab into them and shovel them into your mouth. You’ve done it. You’ve won. You will sit like this until midnight, and there’s nothing he can do.
And then your phone rings, and that very same pit forms in your stomach. Don’t look at it. You can’t. You’ve spent too long preparing for this. Don’t screw up now. The phone stops ringing, and the room returns to silence. You let out a breath of relief. And then it rings again. And this cycle persists for nearly half of an hour. Just long enough for your frustration to consume you, and you check the caller ID.
Of course, it is. He’s going to try to lure you out of your shelter. But it’s not going to work. You’ve bested him this time. And then, you laugh. It starts out as a weak chuckle, but then it quickly booms from your chest in a cacophonous explosion.
You let the phone continue to ring as a sign of your victory as you consume every can of beans in your closet. The hours continue to pass by without delay until you peek around your make-shift curtain to see the sun has long set, and any source of light that would enter your room has been substituted by the moon. You steal another glance at your phone. It’s 3:13 am. You did it. That pit that had left a void in your stomach had finally been crushed. You survived the day without a single prank befalling you. And all it took was complete social isolation and twelve cans of beans.
You begin to re-tidy your room. You place all of the empty cans beside your door and return the desk to its typical place. Then your phone starts to ring again. It’s him. Again?
He must be here to admit defeat. He’s going to acknowledge that you’ve outsmarted him. He’s finally lost, and you, at long last, can claim the victory you’ve long coveted. For a moment, you consider not answering the phone, but that thought quickly escapes your mind. You’re going to gloat. You’re going to take this shining opportunity to declare your success.
You press the green button on your phone and hold it up to your ear.
April Fool’s, he says.
You laugh, maniacally again. He doesn’t even realize that he missed the day.
He lets you laugh and explain your isolation strategy. He stays completely silent, probably stunned by his errors.
And then, after a long while, he finally begins to talk. He starts rambling about the International Date Line, and at first, you think it’s some kind of excuse, but then he continues. He tells you that last night, he opened the door without a sound and shut it just the same. He slithered across the floor, careful not to step on the three creaky floorboards just in front of your bed, and snatched your phone from its place beside your sleeping head. In the dead of night, he reprogrammed your phone to operate as if it was located in Chatham Islands, New Zealand—22:45 hours ahead of you, across the international dateline.
You look at the time on your phone. It’s 3:20. No. It’s not. You go to the settings on your device and check the region it is set to. Chatham Islands, New Zealand. It’s not 3:20 am. It’s 12:15 am, April 1st. The world around you becomes television static. You’ve spent the whole day in isolation, believing it to be nearly an entire day later than it truly was.
You ate those beans for nothing. You lost. Again.
And the only sound that now echoes around the room is that of his laughter, pulsing from the speaker of your phone. And you don’t hang up. You just turn over and begin devising a better strategy for next year.
Oh, My Word! Share your favorite April Fool’s Day stories/experiences in the comments below! Be safe out there, everyone, it’s a dangerous day!
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