Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writer: Bryan Curtis

Going Out

He awoke slowly, drifting in and out of hazy stupor. Consciousness danced at the edge of his vision, swimming in harsh fluorescent light. Words were starting to form at the fingers of his mind. Where am I? Panic forced perspiration, adding to the mix of sensations assaulting his form. Sitting up caused the haze to slowly retreat, but it was soon echoed by waves of nausea, leaving only dull ache and distressed thought. The world he entered now was far removed from the one he remembered. Twisted steel and the stench of flame gave way to clean white cloth and the stale smell of chemicals. As dizziness took over he once again sank back down into the soft embrace of polyester. His mind was racing now, searching for images, sounds, anything that could give clues to this sobering arrival. The monotonous beeping in the machine behind him said he was alive, but the blood in his veins felt cold and foreign.
Focus. He shut his eyes tight against the pain and once again rose. As the dizziness passed, sharp dark eyes scanned the area. He lay on a small hospital cot in a room no bigger than a king-sized bed—something that he certainly craved—and would receive should he find the fortune to return home. The cramped walls and single, covered window lent no aid to his sickly feeling. Machines perched around the bed, sporting all sorts of tubes and wires, looking like some misshapen flock of vultures. Waiting for prey to sigh the last breath, he thought grimly. The vision brought a small smirk to his face.
The door swung open with a clatter, and a petite young woman with disheveled brown hair, and bags under her eyes skittered in through the door. She must have mistaken his smirk for a smile, because she grinned back in kind, a lopsided expression that showed a few too many teeth. The only emotion he could muster was pity. The nurse scampered about to and fro, and he watched her youthful body go about its business. She appeared tired to him, and although the bounds and hops suggested otherwise, he could tell she felt uncomfortable. He liked this. After finishing her diagnostics, the nurse retrieved a clipboard from the foot of the bed. At last she met his gaze, and smiled again, though weaker this time—she received no similar gesture. What is she afraid of, he mused. My stares? Or maybe my form. He looked down at his arms, and for the first time noticed the heavy bruising and lacerations. His left forearm sported three long parallel gashes, and numerous tender dark patches. His right shoulder was in a tightly bound wrap, and his wrist followed suit. Under the blankets he could feel his ankle in a brace as well as numerous scrapes and injuries, though he detected no serious damage.
Another wave of nausea, and he found himself lying down again spinning through time. As he shut his eyes tight against the pain, visions of his employer came to mind. They had met only briefly in a compound just north of Baltimore. Formerly military, but abandoned after the cold war. In the bright glow of the single pale bulb he could make out only the cold hate in his employer’s eye. His thick form wore a flak jacket and strapped more guns than his numerous lackeys. After donating a single black duffel, as well as a sarcastic, “Good luck.” On the way out of the door his employer had made one thing very clear. No loose ends.
As once again nausea was trumped by haste, eyes winced open, and he found the nurse standing still, at the foot of his bed, patiently waiting for his return. He nodded slightly, tucking away his memories into some forgotten corner of thought. As she rattled on about how he had been involved in a car accident, and how he had barely survived, and how the paramedics had rushed him here just in time, he let go of the conversation and drifted back into his mind. Had the nurse been more attractive he might have faked attention, but as it stood he just wanted to get the hell out of there. His eyes scanned her face, weathered beyond years, surely from tired hours at the hospital or late nights poring over books for medical exams. She finished her spiel, just as he was starting to find her interesting. She helped him into a pair of jeans and a tee shirt before showing him out. Her hands were cold, but practiced and he marveled at how precise she was, even at such a demeaning task. As he walked towards the exit, the nurse and her heels clicking away at his side, the glaring bars of light forced recollection into his mind. The clamor of voices, the gurney wheels squeaking away, the smell of sweat, fear, and oil. Again, he forced these away. There would be time to reminisce later.
He arrived at the door and thanked the woman for her time and help, but sincerity would not grace his tone. She smiled curtly, and scurried off, and he listened to her heels click off down the corridor. As he turned to the door it slid open spilling blinding sunlight in through the opening. His feet moving awkwardly into the sunlight, his hand shielding his eyes against the midday sun, a glance at his wrist informed him his watch must not have been as lucky as he. He could vaguely make out burns where it must have been torn away during the impact. Damn shame, he thought. The nurse had mentioned his car was gone, but that did not worry him. They had not found his phone either, but were able to recover his bloody wallet and a few bent keys. As his feet steadily dragged him along the pavement the quiet hubbub of the city was for once a peaceful thing. His new jeans and white tee hung loosely on his previously bulky form. Weight was not the only thing he lost in the hospital. He began to quicken his pace and let his body take the brunt of the work. Joints clicked in stiffened resistance, but his suddenly anxious demeanor would have none of it. The car accident was no longer any concern to him. He had to leave—now, before they realized who he was. Again the smirk, which would take more than the local police department to discern, crept onto his face.
A minute later he stopped just outside a closed down liquor store. The street was practically deserted. Good. The graffiti he saw on the shop window looked like an ancient bloody warning, irony that did not escape him. He removed his wallet, and emptied it down the sewer grate behind the closest car, a green Chrysler. He then dropped the wallet as well, but not before removing a key from the inner pocket. He walked around to the driver's side and unlocked the car, the nervous feeling in his body growing by the second. There is no way that they just let me walk away. He sat down and started the car. He flipped down the visor and caught the cell phone that dropped. He glanced again at his wrist, only to be greeted by dark red burns. Right on time. The Chrysler pulled away from the curb, in a puff of exhaust.

© Bryan Curtis 2011

Bryan Curtis says he is a student at Cornell University, and has no history of published work. This may be his first story posted on the web.

2 comments:

  1. The descriptions in this are superb - tell it all without being 'look at me' phrases (although "Words were starting to form at the fingers of his mind" was instant 'wow!) and very well sustained - I was hurting by the end. But what a harsh situation to find oneself in, despite seemingly not being surprising. I sincerely hope this is the first of many stories.

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  2. Great how the reasons behind his stay in the hospital are kept mysterious. One becomes involved with the characters instead. The nurse, working her way through the day, and the man, whose life may not be getting much easier. Great job.

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