Chapter 13

The streetlight was unbearable. It felt like hot pokers through his eyes right into his brain. This was a headache for the ages. He wondered if it might just be the withdrawal. “Withdrawal?” He thought to himself, “Withdrawal? Where am I? Oh god. Who am I?”

He looked at his surroundings. He had been sleeping in a gutter. He tried to shake the cobwebs loose and get an idea of how he would up here. He took a quick inventory. All he was wearing was a lab coat and ill-fitting jeans. Uncomfortable, muddy ill-fitting jeans. How did he get here?

Forcing himself to sit up, he tried to remember the last few hours. Shivering and wet, he pushed past the disorientation. A picture was starting to develop in his head. The cannon. The accident. The discomfort. It was all flooding back in bits and fragments. He couldn’t build the full picture, but he knew that sitting in a wet gutter was counterproductive.

Out of instinct, he reached for his cane. It was nowhere to be found.

“Well, this is quite the mess you’ve gotten yourself into, Neil,” he thought to himself. “Sleeping in a gutter. Top notch.”

Knowing he wouldn’t make it very far without a cane, he searched around for something in the gutter that might help him stand. He moved and twisted and got on all fours. As he pivoted around and flailed back and forth, it dawned on him that he felt absolutely no pain.

He slid his hand onto his leg. His scar was usually sore to the touch. He grimaced in anticipation of the pain. None came.

Intrigued, he stood up effortlessly and took a few steps.

Confusion set in.

“OK, this is all too surreal. So I’m going to talk to myself to get a handle on things. I need to make a plan. Find a place to sit, find some dry clothes, figure out where I am and figure out what happened after the accident.”

Neil looked around for a bus stop or a park bench or something dry he could sit on. He did notice a phone booth. At least that was a start. As he walked over to it, he realized he was barefooted.

“Really? No shoes?” he thought.

He walked up to the phone and picked up the receiver. It was dead.

“Dead. Of course it’s dead. I should have expected that. Alright, new plan. I’m going to walk around to try to find a high vantage point. Then I’m going to look for buildings and head that way. The closer I am to downtown, the better my chances of finding a phone or a ride or a good Samaritan. And, I’m going to keep talking to myself to keep my mind active and fend off this impending panic attack. Perfect.”

Uncertain about the best direction to start in, Neil just started walking. He knew that busywork would keep him sane. He knew that the same trauma and panic that were clouding his recollection would mess him up if he didn’t get a handle on things. He knew he would need to break down the next few steps into easily achievable tasks. Find a chair, phone, or high vantage point. Head downtown. Get dry. Get warm. All of these were now the most important things he could do.

As he came upon a bus stop, he realized that sitting would probably worsen the condition. He needed adrenaline more than anything right now. He climbed on the bus stop, but it didn’t offer him any better view of the city. He hopped down, painlessly and continued to walk.

“I don’t get why my leg doesn’t hurt. Is it the panic? The adrenaline?” He slapped at his scar a few more times to try to jar himself. Everything felt fine.

Up ahead, he saw a school field with outdoor bleachers. He ran towards them. Even without shoes, he felt no pain as he focused on the plan to climb up and find his way downtown.

Charging up the steps two at a time, he arrived at the top, only to discover that he was just on the edge of downtown. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Finally,” he spoke to himself, “something is going right.”

Neil ran back down the bleachers. He was shocked at how effortless it was. He stopped briefly to listen to his breathing. It wasn’t labored. His put his fingers on his neck, trying to find a pulse. His heartbeat was slow.

His fitness level shocked him. He was never athletic. He decided to test the limits of this phenomenon by running towards the downtown core. A full sprint was entirely effortless.

As he arrived downtown, he immediately realized this was probably the worst part of the city. Skid row. The school with the bleachers was probably an inner city school. This was not a safe place to be.

“Ah, what are the odds that something would really happen to me? I’m half-naked, barefoot, crazy, and talking to myself. I’m the kind of person that people are afraid of, not the other way around.”

Now that he was downtown, Neil knew he had to find somewhere warm or at least some dry clothes. He felt relieved to know that he had an idea of where he was now, even though it wasn’t a safe place to be.

He saw another phone a block up. He sprinted toward it, picking up the receiver. Yet again, a dead phone.

“God damn it. This is why everyone has cell phones now. Can’t find a reliable phone anywhere.”

Out of the shadows crept a menacing figure. He spoke. “Whatcha say ‘bout a cell phone?”

Neil stepped back. “Um, I was saying ‘Where’s a cell phone when you need one?’”

The imposing figure stepped forward. “Yeh. Where’s dat cell? Heh. Where’s yer cell?”

“Oh, come on. I’m not wearing shoes. Do you think I have a cell phone?”

“Mebbe a wallet, mister fancy doctor coat.”

“I said, I’m not even wearing shoes, you idiot.”

Reaching into his jacket, the figure pulled out a gun. “Whadda you call me?”

“Listen, I think things are getting out of hand. I don’t want trouble. My name is Neil.” Lunging forward to offer a handshake, Neil immediately realized that he’s spooked the would-be mugger. The figure recoils. Before he can fully process the loud noise and the ringing in his ears, he feels a burning pain in his chest. Neil puts his hand to his chest and looks down to see his palms soaked in blood. With that, he falls to the ground and lands uncomfortably on a sewer grate.

“What da fuck man?” yells the thug, “No quick moves!”

Unhinged, the thug starts kicking Neil in the ribs. The intense pain continues to get greater and greater. Neil tastes a metallic tinge in his mouth. Each kick hurts more and more. He can feel his ribs bending and twisting. Hot stabbing pains fill his torso as he gasps for breath. In a desperate attempt to stop the pain, Neil musters up enough energy to roll away.

Bellowing out a “Hey, stay still man!” the thug ran towards him. “Great,” he thought. “I can’t get up and I’ve given him a running start.” Closing his eyes and tightening his stomach muscles Neil exhaled in anticipation of a running kick. As the thug’s foot connected, he felt an unbearable pain practically coaxing him to pass out. Even the sheer force of the thug’s kick lifts him off the ground and the force of his head snapping back made his ears ring. As he lands, his ears detect a yelp, followed by a sickening thud. Opening his eyes, he sees the thug convulsing on the ground.

Neil’s memories all flood back in. “The cannon. I was inside the cannon. And Chuck - Chuck tried to kill me. He screwed up the settings. I was dying.”

As Neil peered over at his now-dead assailant, more details popped into his head. He remembered the discomfort. He remembered being sure he was dying. He remembered Chuck’s apology and even remembered coming to peace with everything.

And, at that very moment, he remembered the piece his mind was trying to block out. “I remember. I remember the blood curdling scream and the smell of Chuck’s flesh burning as he touched my neck to check my pulse. I remember standing over his dead body and running as fast as I could. I remember the moment I became a monster.”

Neil realized that the pain in his chest had subsided. He looked at his chest. There was no bruising. He took a few deep breaths and discovered that it didn’t heart to breathe. Although his chest was covered in blood, he patted his hands around to find the bullet wounds. Nothing hurt. There were no wounds. He got up effortlessly and surveyed his hands and chest with mysterious wonder.

Over and over, he asked himself, “What in the hell did that cannon do to me?”

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1 comment:

Richard Belzile said...

Just so you know, as it stands my comments start around Chapter 20, so brace yourself for at least 7 more useless blurbs.

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I am Sinewave: Spark

Written by Richard Belzile

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I am not a professional author, this is my novice attempt at creating a novel in an episodic fashion. Comments, critiques and compliments accepted.

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