June 2022 Flash Challenge, Day 19
I am running too fast to stop, but even as I take my second step into the street, I can see I’m not going to make it across in time.
Oh, no. Not again.
The pain in my leg explodes and demands all the attention I have now and forever. I fall onto the pavement and crawl through the white light that fills my reality, off the street. And the pain isn’t even fully formed yet, I realize. It’s an expanding, swelling thing, consuming me from the inside.
I can tell it’s a bad break.
I lie there on the grassy meridian and try to breathe, but even my lungs hurt.
Then it hits me. The car didn’t stop – a hit and run.
Well, this isn’t going to be a typical Saturday. It is only 8:55 AM, and I was struck by a car for the second time in my life. The first time was when I was three days shy of turning seven. I am now three days shy of 57. There’s an abhorrent symmetry here that fills my mind with dread.
A few days before Halloween, mom and I, standing on that colorless street corner, waiting to cross, disentangling my hand from hers, and running. What a glorious feeling it was to beat a car. I didn’t beat the car that day.
At least that’s the way I remember it; for years when I tried to get my brother to help me fill in the details. He shut me down and looked at me with this cloying pity in his eyes that made me furious. After that look, I stopped asking him about the accident.
“Don’t go away mad, bro. I’m just saying that never happened.”
Focus, focus, focus.
I’ve dropped my phone, and I’m on a less-trafficked road.
I close my head, and the world threatens to go away. So I open my eyes and commit to never closing them again. Ever.
You might have a concussion; you need to stay awake.
Despite my new plan to leave them open forever, I close my eyes again, and the pain buckles everything within me.
When I come to, I’m not alone. Squatting beside me in the grassy median is an ugly, naked, hairy, winged figure.
I want to close my eyes again and surrender to whatever is next.
“Whafugshthell…,” I say.
The figure beside me shakes its head.
“It’s a bad break,” it says in a softer voice than I would have imagined possible.
I try to speak but only exhale a string of lisped consonants.
The reel speeds up; time fast-forwards through several things I don’t remember happening and from a vantage point that isn’t mine.
The demon tells me I didn’t break my leg when I was seven. That I imagined all of it: the week in traction, the six weeks in a body cast, the tutor that came to the house, getting the plaster cast cut off, how the doctor had patiently showed me (repeatedly) that no, the saw won’t hurt you, his holding the shiny, spinning blade that wasn’t a blade against his palm. None of it happened.
“That is correct. Sign here, and this never happened, but the event you imagined from your youth did happen. It’s the best I can do,” he says, “Trust me.”
I don’t trust him.
I do trust the pain. It loves me and promises me we will be together forever.
I sign the parchment where it asks. It had to be blood, of course. Because why not? It’s an infernal binding document whereby I agree to the forfeiture of my soul for immediate eradication of the pain. I’m in far too much pain to grasp anything other than his promise that it would “stop hurting.”
The demon had glanced around. It muttered something about me having to sign soon, that if another sentient being came along, it would be too late to untangle the timelines. I followed none of that. I was a devoted disciple at the altar of my humming pain.
So I signed.
The pain recedes immediately; I feel it contract and vanish. My leg is comfortably numb.
The departing wake of my adrenaline leaves me yawning, and this grassy median seems like a terrific spot for taking a nap. I melt into the earth and feel sleep swallow me like an anesthetic.
When I come to, I am disoriented.
How did I…?
I get to my feet.
My brain hiccups forward; I nearly fall to the ground under the weight of the memories.
“Well, that’s new,” I say, bending forward and seeing the slick prosthetic that completes my right leg from mid-thigh down.