This story is by Michael Rivera and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I have to open my eyes. Open your damn eyes. Where am I? Open your eyes you idiot. How am I going to figure this out? My head is pounding. What the hell happened? Where am I? Shit, my stomach is killing me. What the hell is going on. Who am I? I don’t think I’m dead. Open your damn eyes. What is my name? Open your damn eyes!
The light is blinding. I need to focus on what is in front of me. A steering wheel? Yes,it’s a steering wheel. Was I driving a car? Yes, okay, I’m in a car. Shit, my head hurts. My stomach is on fire. My face feels wet. Touch it, look at it. I’m bleeding! The windshield is cracked outward. Is that my blood on the windshield? Ha, that is a big dent, did my head do that, focus, think. I’m alone here. Why am I alone? There is no one else here in the car. It has to be my head that hit the windshield. Did I crash? Oh, it hurts so much just to move even a little. I guess that explains my pounding headache.
Look! What is beyond the windshield? Concentrate that is one big tree. I think I know that tree. I crashed into a big damn tree. Now pay attention and look beyond the tree—a cabin, a cabin that stands alone in the woods, isolated.
The whole front end of the car is wrapped around the tree. The engine is smoking, the radio is playing. The radio is playing? After a crash like this and the radio is still playing. What is that song playing on the radio? “A love like ours is love that’s hard to find
How could we let it slip away?” I know that song, I like that song but what is it?
So, I crashed. Oh, my stomach feels like I’ve been stabbed with a flaming rod, it’s killing me. Why does it hurt so much? Look down. Oh my God! I’m shot! I’m shot?! Think! Remember, please think. I’m bleeding out in the front and my back hurts. I must have been shot in the back. Does that mean I was running away? Who the hell shot me? I have a gun in my lap. A gun? Oh no, please God please no, I pray I didn’t hurt anyone. Please I hope I didn’t shoot anybody. The chamber is empty, the barrel is cold, I don’t think it was fired. I’m holding an empty gun. Why?
Who the fuck am I? Search my pockets, yes, search my pockets. Shit, it hurts to move. All my pockets are empty. No wallet, I’m not carrying a wallet? Who am I? Look around in the car. Something is on the passenger seat? A big black bag, it looks like an old fashion doctors’ bag. It’s opened just a little. Look inside, oh it hurts so much to move. Deal with the pain, unzip the bag completely. Is that money? It’s filled with money. Shit, that is a lot of money! It’s all hundred-dollar bills. There must be tens of thousands of dollars in there. What the hell is going on? Who am I? What did I do?
Check the glove compartment. Why are there so many newspaper clippings? Lots of them. Take the pain, read them. Maybe they can tell me something. The dates are all July and August 1976. What does it say, concentration on the headlines, the first one reads.
“Moral detective exposes massive corruption in the Rosedale Police force.”
The second headline reads, “Corruption leads to Mayor, Mafia and Ross Goldman Millionaire land developer.”
The other headlines tell about, “Hero cop and wife must go into hiding.”
“Death threats.” The article states that he was fired from the police force for unknown reasons. It goes on to said that the police force would not protect him.
There is another group of headlines paperclip together. It reads that a string of bank robberies are happening all over the city. It’s estimated that about a quarter of a million dollars was stolen. There is a description of the bank robber. He has a thick black beard, blue eyes, and a scar over his left eyebrow.
Do I have a scar? Is this me? Look in the mirror. Deal with the pain, just look, shit I do have a… wait, it’s fake, it’s peeling off, it’s make-up. It must have come loose when I hit my head. Do I have blue eyes? What, one is blue, and one is brown? Contact lens, I’m wearing contact lens and the beard is at my feet, all make-up. Am I a bank robber or a cop?
I want to sleep. The pain is getting less, I’m so tired I want to sleep. Am I dying? Am I this person, am I a bad person? But the gun is empty and the barrel is cold. It was never fired. I can’t be a bad person. I’m shot, I’m dying. What else is in the glove compartment? Tickets, two tickets, to where? It’s tickets to Canada!? Am I leaving, was I planning a trip to Canada?
A woman is screaming. She is running out of the cabin and running toward me. She is crying and screaming. I know this woman. I know those eyes, that hair, that voice, but where do I know her from? “When tomorrow comes and we both regret
The things we said today?” What is that song playing on the radio? I know that song.
She is crying wildly. The tears are just flowing from her face. Are those tears for me? What is she saying? “Don’t you die on me John Reynolds. Don’t you dare die on me!” Is she pregnant? She looks pregnant. She is screaming in my ears. I want to answer her. I want to so badly, but I can barely move. I can’t even turn my head to look at her.
She is hitting me on my left shoulder. She keeps hitting me and crying. I can feel my movement from her hitting me but I don’t feel the pain. My head and stomach aren’t hurting as much anymore. I’m tired, I’m sleepy, I feel almost peaceful. I look straight ahead. What is that song playing on the radio? I love that song. Why is this woman continuing to hit me and why is she crying?
“Don’t you die on me John Reynolds! I don’t want to raise your baby alone! I don’t want to be alone in this world. You brought us out here to this damn isolated cabin, and you’re going to die and leave me here alone. I can’t live without you. I told you not to go we have enough!”
I can’t speak. My mind and body seem to separate. My body is moving without my mind telling it what to do. I don’t know how I am able to move. I can’t feel anything. My body puts the two tickets in her hand. She throws them to the ground. The tears are flooding out of her eyes. I touch her hand gently, through her tears, she manages to focus a little on me. I move my eyes from her to the black bag so she can acknowledge the black bag. She yells, “we already have enough! I told you no more! I told you we have enough to escape we didn’t need anymore. I told you not to go!”
She lets out a cry, a wail, a lament that touches me to the bone. My soul feels her pain. My body starts to cry. I can feel the tears in my eyes. She looks up to the sky, crying, her whole body is shaking “I don’t want to be alone, John, damn you John, don’t die.” What is that song playing on the radio? I think it’s my favorite. I know, it’s that band called Chicago. What is the name of that song? Oh yea, “And if you leave me now you’ll take away the biggest part of me, No baby please don’t go, no baby please don’t go.” I love that song.