My chest continued to heave even though nothing was coming out, and the viscous splattering on the floor did not help in keeping my lungs in my chest.
I closed my eyes. > What now. <
Death had made himself visible to me, his grip tight around my neck. My knees wobbled in fatigue and it took what little strength I had to remain standing, moving away from the dead girl and my liquid lunch at my feet. I moved towards the wall where I’d thrown the phone, looking to see where all the pieces had fallen. Despair escaped my lips in the form of a drawn out groan; there was no way that phone could be repaired. I finally let my weakened legs slump and I fell onto the floor, dejected – broken. “What in the world is going on!” I wanted to scream. This is one thing I could never have imagined to happen. The events just happened to so quickly, so suddenly so…coincidentally? Was this all out of coincidence? No it couldn’t be, surely there was a reason to all of this. Surely!
I felt my foot surge with pins and needles, drawing me back to the reality of the situation, to my impending doom, and the sudden sound of a car whooshing by followed by sirens filled my chest up with panic again. As quickly as I could I rose to my feet, ignoring the numbing sensation in my foot as I began to search for my clothes again. I moved back towards my chair, my eyes picking out the scattered items strewn all over the floor. Hurriedly I began to dress, my socks and jeans covering the dark plastic of my “present”. Picking up my hoodie, I saw the phrase written at the back “There is no place like 127.0.0.1?, wondering if maybe the auburn haired lady had thought…but neh it couldn’t be because of that surely. Though the notion didn’t leave my thoughts, I drape the hoodie on and began to look around the room for clues. Something caught my eye under the chair where the auburn lady was still tied , something dark. I hurriedly reached out to take it, cringing away and holding back a scream as her chair creaked but the action changed my perspective and I see something smaller, flat… plastic at the foot of the chair. I tentatively reached out to take it, finding the urge to heave rising up again at the sight of those thickened veins. I took the object and immediately hope began to rise in my chest; its a SIM card. Maybe the man’s phone number was stored on it! Yes! I rose to my feet quickly, stashing the card in my jeans pocket and with one last sweep of the place, rushed out.
I ran through the corridor with its dirty peeling paint, down the stairs and towards the EXIT door. Two things struck me as I pulled the door open and stepped outside: the night was cold and this was not anywhere near the Y Hotel. I knew vaguely where I was but I was not deterred. Sure it was a bad part of town, especially at night, but I felt invigorated by the card in my pocket and the sense that despite the toxins in my blood stream, I could get this fixed. My eyes fell upon the various signs that light up the street, on of them for the Subway but I instead continued to walk down the streets glowing in bright neon signs. I shoved my hands into my jacket pocket, walking towards what I hoped to be the direction of the hotel; that way I could get back to my way home. I began to think about the events that had occurred, the dull throb in my ankle a constant reminder that all this was real…but now what? The man’s words replayed over in my mind “…go back and live the miserable life that you’ve been living…” – was my life really miserable? Quiet maybe but miserable? “…So what will you do with the remainder of your time…” – how much time was there really before the toxin left me cold and dead. I didn’t know the answers to these questions nor did I want to. Who cares how I’d lived my life up till now and why would God care…if there was a God and if there was, why would he let some crazy maniac do this to me! “…you never know if this is all part of God’s redemptive plan…” Redemptive plan? Please.
I was brought out of my thoughts by a group of loud individuals walking down the street towards me, their demeanor playful and somewhat…drunk? I walked further away from them, keeping my head down and avoiding even eye contact with them.
“…and then he said ‘duh its because I’m drunk!’ ” the crowd broke into loud laughter, obviously finding the statement extremely funny. I walked on, aware of how quickly they quietened down as we passed one another. The words “…play with him…” drifted over their hushed tones and without a second thought, I took off running.
“Hey! Come on buddy! Don’t run” They shouted, their footfalls thudding after me, catching up; there was no way I would outrun them with this numb leg. >This is the last thing I need!< I cut through a side alley, bashing into a door that spilled me into the building on my side. I scrambled up to my feet, taking off down what looked like a lobby and towards the back – the place was dim and dilapidated, the tiles gone, rubble and dirt all over the place. I jumped over what remained of the receptionist’s desk at the same time hearing the wails and whistles of my pursuers, bashing into the door like I had.
“Don’t worry, we won’t hurt you duuuuude! Quit running!” Their laughter followed me into the narrow corridor. I rushed on past closed doors, not knowing where in the world I was going but running nonetheless. I did not want to find out what those guys would do if they got to me. I reached the end of the corridor, which turned out to be a dead end and at the same time, the group appeared at the far end. I turned to face them at the same time they all turned to face me. Even from this distance I could sense their demeanor changing from one of mere playfulness to something more…sinister.
“Nowhere to go! Punk” the one in the front shouted. Simultaneously we took off towards each other but I was heading towards the various doors on either side of the corridor trying each one with a turn of the handle and a hard shoulder budge. The first didn’t move. I rushed over the door opposite, shoved. Nothing. Panic began to seep in, slowly, gripping my chest, tightening my lungs. I rushed to the next set of doors. Nothing. The group was closing in faster and I saw a glint of metal that sent me into frenzy. I rushed at the next door, bashing into it with all my might. The door squeaked and yeilded, throwing me into the room. I looked around, saw a window, ran towards it and as the group barged into the door, I flung myself out of the window. If the window wasn’t already cracked, I think I would have hurt myself more than I had as I landed on the pavement with a thud and the sound of glass hitting pavement echoing into the dark street. Screaming suddenly filled my ears but I was already up and moving, only to see bright lights appear, the sound of screeching tires and a familiar face gripping a steering wheel, looking at me with both fear and anger as the car stopped inches away from my shaking knees.
“Hey! You! From the hotel!” >Ah no! Not more trouble!< The older man in the car sure enough was the security guard from before. Not waiting to see what he wanted, I dashed off across the road into the other building, its front doors cordoned off. I heard the raucous laughter of the gang that was following me, followed by the loud yell of the security guard, but I continued on, stopping only when the yell of the security guard became a cry of pain. I stopped dead in my tracks.
“…too late now old man…pay for what that punk….”
“…wait you don’t understa…” My conscience told me to go help, everything else told me to run. I turned back, heading towards the voices and the sudden rush of footfalls heading towards me. I turned a corner and at the same time watched the security guard look up at me and suddenly he was gone. The leader of the gang came to a skidding stop, holding his friends back as they looked down at the floor; a hole stood gaping in front of them. I looked up at them as they looked up at me
“Yo man, I’m getting outta here!” One of the group said, taking off alone. The rest of the members looked at their leader, uncertain, before each one took off leaving the leader standing alone at the edge of the hole. I saw him look down at his feet, a canvas bag of some sort lay there but instead of taking it, the man ran off too.
“Help me! Please!” I heard from within the hole. I ran to it, looking down into the darkness and could barely make out the man. I also noticed that the canvas bag was in fact a laptop bag – the same one that was in my hands not so long ago. Fear, anger and hope surged through me at the same time,
“Hey! I can see you up there! Please help me!” I looked back down at the man
“This bag! Who?…where…?…How…” I tried to form the question in my mind but couldn’t. Was this man related to the incident with the auburn lady and my condition now?
“Listen, I…I can’t help you but I’m hurt here. Please! Help me!”
“Wait…why do you have this bag!?”
“I…It’s complicated…” I bent down and picked up the bag slinging it around my shoulder, unsure what to do. I scanned the area, looking to see if there was rope or something to help get the man out of the hole. A piece of rope, frayed but steady, hung off to the side so I ran to it picking it up and moving back towards the man,
“Tell me more…who was that lady, why do you have this bag! What’s this all about!”
“Throw down thee rope and I’ll tell you…”
“No!” Anger began to boil as I found someone to point a finger at for this mess I was in “No! No! No! Tell me what this is about!”
“I can’t…he’ll tell you himself…”
“Pass me the rope and I’ll tell you!” I was torn…I wanted to find out who the man was but I was unsure if the security guard would tell me if I got him up here. Finally, with a sigh I dangled the rope over the edge
I threw half of the rope down but as I was, I heard the sound of gunfire. In my shock I let go of the rope completely, looking down into the dim hole to see that the man was holding a gun pointing up towards me. I dodged back at the last second, the moment he let off another shot, a piece of the ceiling above me fell to the floor at my feet. With my rapidly beating heart thumping against my chest I turned away from the hole and ran out the building, wondering who the security guard was and why he was trying to kill me now all of a sudden. With a loud huff I left the building, hearing the man shouting at me from behind and hoping that I’d experienced the last of the drama.