Tim Sabados

Caught In the Net of a Shadowed Memory

The headache was relentless. A sledgehammer pounding the inside of his skull. David sat on the edge of the cot and kneaded his temples. Reached out to the nurse walking by. “When is the doctor…?”

            She scurried past. David scoffed his annoyance. Stared at the man in the white lab coat and tried to reel him in with his eyes. “Do you think that…?”

            Nothing.

            “It’s not going to work,” the man in the blue dress shirt said. “I’ve tried.”

            “Are you serious?” David rested his head in his hand. “What’s wrong with these people?”

            The man shrugged. “It’s like we don’t exist.” Pointed down the hall. “Some nurse said that’s more important.”

            David turned toward the blaring alarm. A swarm of people urgently moved in and out of a room. “What’s that?”

            “I’m guessing some kind of accident.” The man paused. “Heard they’re called the trauma bays.”

            “Trauma bays?” David slowly nodded. “Looks serious.”

            “I know,” the man agreed. “Guess I’d rather be here than there.”

            A wave of nausea rolled through David. “Maybe.” He retched. Squeezed his temples. “This is killing me.”

            “Headache?”

            “Yeah,” David replied. “Came out of nowhere.” Looked around the area. “Wish someone would give me something for the pain.”

            “Me too.” The man cradled his arm. “Think it’s busted.”

            “And no one has done anything?”

            “Nobody. Not even whispered my name,” Joe said.

            Another nurse passed by. Didn’t look at either of them.

            “That’s bullshit,” David said bitterly. “I get there’s all that,” motioned toward the trauma room, “but we need help too.”

            “Any longer and I’m going somewhere else.”

            “Me…” The pain of a molten-tipped spike skewered David’s skull. He doubled over.

            “Get those often?”

            “Not really,” David struggled to reply. “I was driving home from the bar when it hit.”

            “Drink too much?”

            “Had a few beers.” The brunette in the black leggings flooded his memory. Twinkling eyes. Playful laughter. The way she seductively licked her lips. He smiled. “Did meet this woman, though.”

            “Sounds like you were having a good night.”

            “Very.” David shifted in his seat. “We connected on so many levels.”

            “Did that headache screw things up?”

            “Don’t think so.” A thick fog drifted over David’s night. Something wasn’t adding up. He rubbed his forehead, trying to break off a piece of his memory. Seconds ticked by.

            “And?”

            “I’m not sure,” David answered uncertainly. Why couldn’t he remember?

            Joe’s shoulders slouched. Head drooped on the cheerless vine of his neck. “At least you had something good happen.” Sighed deeply. “My girlfriend said she was going out with her friends.”

            “Doesn’t sound that bad.”

            Joe scrunched his nose. “Except the friend she was supposed to be with posted something totally different on Instagram.”

            “So she wasn’t where she was supposed to be?”

            “Nope,” Joe answered angrily. “She lied.”

            “How long you’ve been with her?”

            “Little over a year.”

            David gestured at Joe’s arm. “You punch a wall?”

            “Didn’t hit a damn thing,” Joe said solemnly. Stayed quiet for several long seconds. “She hasn’t responded to any of my texts or calls.” Cheeks tinged with irritation. “She must think I’m some kind of fool. I went out looking for her and…” tapped his forehead, “I was driving and…”

            The commotion in the trauma room intensified. Concern saturated the growing chatter. Staff moved faster. Someone started CPR on the patient lying on the stretcher.

            “That’s freaking me out,” Joe said apprehensively.

            David simply nodded. What was going on in there? Was someone dying? Something tugged him toward the turmoil. Was it morbid curiosity? “I hope he’ll be okay.”

            Joe tipped his chin. “I think they’re dealing with two patients at the same time.”

            Something was taking place in the other trauma room. What was it? Were they somehow related? A strange sensation coiled its chilled fingers around David’s gut and pulled.

            David stood and began walking toward the commotion. Joe followed. “You curious like I am?”

            “I don’t know why, but I feel like something’s pulling me to it.”

            “Me too,” David said. “Do you think they’ll push us away?”

            “Don’t really know.” Joe held his injured arm tightly. “It’s giving me the chills.”

            They drew closer. Thirty feet. Twenty. Icicles of dread hung from David’s spine. Headache throbbed harder. Anxiety blossomed.

            A woman was crying. David glanced over his shoulder. Why was she here? “Kelsey?”

            She sniffled. Held a tissue to her nose. Didn’t look at David.

“Hey, it’s…”

No response. Who was that guy with his arm wrapped around her?

“Kelsey,” Joe called out. “What are you doing here?” He stepped toward her. Eyes narrowed with irritation. “What’s he doing here?”

Kelsey kept quiet. Refused to acknowledge Joe. That buff-looking guy kept his arm around her.

“Hey, I’m talking to you,” Joe said authoritatively.

Her lips remained sealed. Didn’t look. Didn’t respond. Staff moved between them.

David’s voice filled with astonishment. “Is that your girl?”

            “Yeah.” Joe huffed. “Doesn’t even have the nerve to look at me.”

            “Who’s that with her?”

            “Her damn ex,” Joe answered bitterly. “Been trying to get back with her for months.”

            David stepped back. Didn’t want to get involved, but it was too late. The pain bore through his head, causing the memory of the night to pour out.

            Driving from the bar. Kelsey had been rubbing his leg. Had nibbled his neck. Lust had flowed through his veins. She moved down his chest. His stomach. Toward his…

            David had struggled to keep focused on the road. Eyes shut momentarily. The stop sign came out of nowhere. Another car suddenly appeared in front of him.

            The memory exploded into a flash of white light. A chill crept through David. It seeped into his arms. Trickled down his legs. The frost of dread coated his skin.

            Joe looked around anxiously. “Something isn’t right.”

            David stroked his arm, but the movement wasn’t soothing. Why didn’t Kelsey recognize him? Why had his memory blanked? He cautiously stepped toward the entrance to the trauma room.

            The commotion was gone. The alarming monitor silenced. A blanket of somberness lay across the area. It smothered joy. Muffled hope. Someone’s head was bowed. Another dropped plastic tubing in a basket. The patient wasn’t moving. Blood-stained sheets. Pale skin. Eyes stared blankly at the ceiling.

            Silence filled the other room too. Joe was standing at its entrance. Shock cracked the edges of his voice. “I remember,” he said to no one in particular. “I remember what happened.” He paused. “This car ran a stop sign and plowed right…”

            A jolt shuddered through David. He glanced at Joe, at Kelsey then at the patient on the stretcher. A patient that looked a lot…a lot like him? Could it be?

            Joe gripped his head and stumbled into the other room. “Why am I lying…?”

            Kelsey held her ex’s hand firmly. Leaned into him for comfort. There was a reason she wasn’t responding to Joe and him. There was a reason she was being consoled by the staff. 

            David’s heart sank into a sea of despair. It pulled his soul into its dark depths until the cold liquid buried his existence.  

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Greg Berner
Greg Berner

That was great! Totally had me from the first sentence and kept me through to the end.