Taiga (Prologue)

This is not a confession. I am not making a plea, I am not trying to clear my name, I am not trying to express sorrow or remorse for what I’ve done. This is simply a story — a story of an event that radically changed my life, and a story that has no intended audience, because if anything I am telling this story to myself.

I don’t know what I hope to accomplish by writing this. I will probably shred it when I’ve finished. But, who knows what will happen in the end?

Three years ago, I applied to a relatively unknown four-year college in a small town halfway across the country. I was accepted within a week, and in the fall I left my broken family behind to start my new life. The town was more isolated than I’d hoped – after a day-long train ride, I was put on a horse to be led there by a student guide. When we got to the town six hours later, I was impressed only by the fact that it was completely unremarkable. I could hardly believe a college could even exist in such a place. As a general rule, the college campus itself neither failed to meet nor exceeded my expectations, which is to say orientation day was rather boring. As a freshman I was assigned to an on-campus co-educational residence hall that had a mandated three students to a dorm, and it was this that really changed things for me. My roommates, Taiga and Isabella, quickly became my closest friends, and with each other’s help we all adjusted to the college life easily.

In the spring of the following year, just as we were finishing our second semester, Taiga was murdered. Isabella simultaneously went missing and has never been seen since. As the only one left, I was an immediate suspect, and I have to admit that the evidence did logically point to me. Because our small town had never once experienced such a violent crime, it as of yet had no structured police department. As a result I was tried in a university court, where the student prosecutor pointed out that, after all, I was the last person to have seen Taiga alive, I had no solid alibi, and I’d admitted to being near the room where Taiga was when he died. The prosecutor then continued on with an elaborate narrative of how I apparently had a motive to kill both of my roommates. In the end – even though they couldn’t prove anything one-hundred percent – the student jury, Dean, and Chancellor all deemed me guilty. I was kicked out of the school, all the hard work I’d done up to then voided, and I was forbidden access to all on- and off-campus facilities and resources. If I committed another crime, or if more evidence was found that clearly pinpointed me as Taiga’s murderer, I was told a citizen’s arrest would be made and I’d be taken to the nearest big city whereupon I’d be tried in a state court and most likely put in prison.

It’s true that at that point I could have just left the town and gone home. But I didn’t have much to go back to, and honestly, something about the place just kept bothering me. For one thing, the court proceedings hadn’t given me any room to process my grief or get over my inevitable survivor’s guilt. Having no answers, no sense of closure at the loss of my friends, just made it all the worse. And in the end I was terribly haunted by the hole Taiga and Isabella had made – in the world, and in my own otherwise insignificant life. Looking back, I can recognize that I’m a better person because I knew them, but sometimes I can’t help but feel like in their absence I’ve just reverted back to the cruel and worthless animal I used to be. It’s as if the world hadn’t given them enough time to really change my life. The process was cut short, like a piano piece abruptly halted mid-exposition, for absolutely no reason at all.

I guess this is why I’m reciting this story to myself – to try to finish the song that Taiga and Isabella started.

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