By Kevin Eade
A wheel of
flew across the sky. In his mind’s eye it landed somewhere up in a tree. He
couldn’t be sure, but that’s what it felt like as the moment kept replaying in
his head. Bill reclined in the bed as the IV dripped silently into tubing that
snaked its way towards the needle that terminated in his arm, somewhere under
about six layers of tape. He knew he should be more concerned about his
predicament; however, as hard as he tried to focus, he couldn’t stop thinking
about what happened to the cheese.
quiet. Just a few sounds came from the dimly lit hallway just beyond a door
that opened into Bill’s room. It all still felt surreal. Just twenty-four hours
earlier Bill’s mind was focused on the beach. A much needed vacation was
finally approved by his director. After a rocky start out of college, Bill’s
life finally held promise: a steady job, even if the pay sucked, a new house
with a mortgage that was almost manageable and a new girlfriend, Kim. She was younger
than Bill, but much more focused on her goals. Kim found her niche in
entertainment law, graduating high in her class.
life now hung
in the balance, somewhere between full recovery and early grave. He closed his
eyes as the fentanyl flowed through his veins and pulled a warm cloak over the
world. Disjointed images played across the backs of his eyelids. Colors
splashed across a canvas painted various shades of red. Dark crimsons pooled to
black and flowed into a channel leading into an endless abyss.
monitor sent silent messages to the nursing staff just outside of the room. For
everyone on the other side of Bill’s door, life progressed as usual. Laughter
travelled to the room from the nurse’s station. Bill listened to the muffled
tones, longing to be on the other side of that door as well, knowing that it
wasn’t about to happen.
up from the fog and tried to focus. He thought about Kim. In his darkness Kim’s
bright blue eyes shone out at him.
just beyond Bill’s window, a light flashed casting a momentary shadow on the
wall next to the bed. In that brief instance the room came to life with
spectral images dancing along the walls. Ghosts from all of the lives that
spent time in the room prior to Bill’s visit back to let their presence be
known. Bill imagined that, one way or another, his ghost would join the others.
He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
* * *
arrived early. Bill had just enough time to open his eyes and focus on two
nurses before being lifted from the bed and onto a gurney.
gotta take you
down for some tests.” The face was right in front of him, yet the voice came
from far away. Bill tried to respond and gave up. He put his head back and
watched ceiling tiles pass in a procession over his head.
and felt cold on Bill’s bare skin. The noise of the machines echoed off of the
walls. The scene was chaotic as he was passed from one machine to the next.
Bill felt like he was just a slab of meat, being processed before being shipped
out to market. He was happy to finally find himself back in his room, his
fentanyl dripping warmth back into his veins.
* * *
lucky to be
alive.” The voice came from a man in a white lab coat.
since Bill entered the ICU and then later transferred into a step-down unit. Hospital
staff became faceless blurs, lost from memory. The man standing over his bed
now was someone he could not recall.
I’ve been asked to consult on your case.”
doc. I’m kind of a captive audience.” Bill hoped the joke would hide the
concern in his voice. Over the past two weeks he was kept mostly in the dark,
despite being poked and prodded several times a day.
come a long
way since you were admitted. You’re definitely resilient.” The doctor looked
down at the folder in his hands. “I would like to ask you a few questions
I’ll tell you
what I know, for all that’s worth.”
concerned about. You say that you are still unable to remember what happened.
Have you been able to remember more since our last talk?”
Doctor Lazlo. “What do you mean by ‘our last talk’? This is the first time I’ve
gaze on the folder, avoiding Bill’s confused look. “This is the second time
I’ve come in this week. You’re experiencing a lack of short term memory. It
happens, particularly with head trauma. It could also be a side effect of the
meds. Tell me what you do remember.”
cheese. I don’t know why, but I see it in my dreams. I remember driving with
Kim. She was in the passenger seat. She was working the GPS. We were heading
out of town for the weekend. Work has been the shits lately and we planned to
get away and leave everything behind. Some asshole, driving a truck I think,
cut me off. I had to swerve and I remember a crash. I think I hit him, or he
may have hit me. I’m not really sure.” Bill closed his eyes to the light in the
room. “The next thing I remember is the quiet. It was too quiet, like someone
hit the world’s Pause button. I also
remember blood, lots of it. I’m not sure whose blood or even if it was blood. I
remember waking up here. The rest is a blur.”
were brought in
by medevac unit with head trauma and internal injuries. The air bag didn’t
deploy and it looks like you hit the steering wheel, or rather, it hit you. The
surgery stopped the bleeding, but we were worried about pressure on the
brain. You had a subdural hematoma that
kept you in ICU. It could also explain the memory problems.”
“Surgery? When? I can’t remember.”
looked at Bill. “You wouldn’t remember. We had to take you right into surgery
from the helicopter. You were airlifted from the scene. You’re a very lucky
in the hell is
this lucky?” Bill tried to sit up and
fell back against the pillow. “Shit! I’m really not following you. I was messed
up enough that I needed to be taken into surgery from a medevac, I’ve been in
ICU and the only feeling I have is pain. What about Kim? Has anyone even been
here to see me?”
something very interesting in the folder again. “Your brother was here. Some of
your co-workers have also come by. Your visits have been limited. You have some
nice flowers outside. We can’t have them in the room.” Doctor Lazlo shifted his
feet. “There wasn’t anything the EMT’s could do to help Kim. She was badly
injured. I’m sorry.”
sucked from his lungs. He could remember her sitting next to him in the car. He
could see her leaning forward and tapping instructions into the GPS touchscreen
in the dash. That was it.
pain. You’ve been through a lot, but your luck is that you are even alive. The
first few days we really didn’t know.” The doctor closed the folder. “Make no
mistake. You have a lot of work ahead of you, but there is no reason why you
shouldn’t be able to go home in a week or two. You will experience some pain
and there may be some lasting effects from your injuries, but you should be
able to walk and eventually return to a normal life.”
up at the
doctor. “My definition of normal
ended the day I woke up in this hospital.” Bill hit the button on the fentanyl
pump and closed his eyes. The room faded away and he was floating on an unseen
river that he could feel under his back.
* * *
A blue Mercedes
pulled up to the front of Grace Memorial Hospital. Bill sat in a wheelchair as
the car slowed just past his feet. The driver’s door opened and Bill’s brother,
Mitch, jumped out and headed around to the back of the car.
growing up with Mitch as a brother. They were never very close and some of the
resentment Bill had towards his brother came welling up from some darkness that
sat just beyond his reach. Everything always came so easily for Mitch. It was
Mitch that brought home the perfect report cards. It was Mitch that went away
after being accepted to Stanford. Mitch was the one who landed the perfect job
and the perfect wife, married since they met in his senior year. It was also
Mitch that couldn’t make time when Bill had to bury their parents.
everyone quite a scare. Let’s get you home.” Mitch opened the passenger door as
the nurse lowered the foot rests on the wheelchair. “I’m really sorry about
Kim. I met her father at the memorial service. He seems like a nice guy, but he
was all broken up.” He looked down at his brother. “I’m sorry they had to hold
the service before you were cleared to leave. It was probably for the best.”
up and sank heavily into the leather seat. The door closed at his side as Mitch
slid onto the driver’s seat. “I need you to make a stop for me. They gave me
you want. Are you sure you’re up to it? I could take you to the house and run
was still in a coma. Mitch never offered to do anything that involved time or
money and definitely not both. “Nah, I feel like shit. I’d rather stop on the
way. You can run in for me though.”
got it.” He
pulled out into traffic and aimed the Mercedes into the sun.
As Bill leaned
in the seat he saw something fly across the hood of the car. He looked down and
his lap was filled with blood. He shook his head and the blood was gone. “Shit,
maybe you better just take me home.”
A few hours
Bill was sitting at his kitchen table. The pill bottles that Mitch picked up
for him from the local pharmacy were lined up in a row. He read the labels:
Oxycodone 30 mg, Percocet 10 mg, Alprazolam 2 mg, Zolpidem Tartrate 10 mg. Take
for pain, take for breakaway pain, take for anxiety related to pain, take for
sleep. The instructions bled into each other and lost meaning.
screaming in Bill’s head. His head ached, his body hurt. Everything hurt. He
tried to think about Kim but the pain kept getting in the way. He got up from the
table, a bit unsteady on his cane, and made it to the refrigerator. He pulled a
bottle of vodka out of the freezer. It sat undisturbed from when he put it
there about two months earlier, left over from a party along with two bottles
of tequila. Before the accident. Before the pain. Before the loss.
pouring a chilled triple shot. Frost formed over the logo etched into the glass.
He popped an oxycodone into his mouth and washed it down with a gulp of ice
cold vodka. He leaned his head back, enjoying the burn as the vodka ran down
his throat. He glanced briefly at the pill bottle before grabbing one more from
the bottle and washing that down with the rest of his drink.
for the pills to take effect, he could feel the vodka warming his stomach. He
was almost able to think. He grabbed the vodka and the empty glass, making his
way into the living room. He sank into the couch and hit the remote control for
came out from the speakers and the room filled with “Sugar Magnolias” as his
head filled with molasses. His thoughts flowed through thick currents as the
pills took effect. Somewhere underneath the currents of his thoughts a loud
crash echoed inside his head. He drank some more vodka, not worrying to pour it
into a glass. The crash was still there, playing over and over again just out
of reach. On the backs of Bill’s eyelids he watched circular disks, clouded in
mist, fly across his world.
The Grateful Dead was finished, now replaced by some obscure Phish tune. The
instrumental pulsed in the background, keeping time with a throbbing that was
welling up behind his eyes. He noticed it was dark outside the window.
couch, he weaved his way back into the kitchen. He grabbed the bottle of
oxycodone along with the generic Ambien and some ice, walking back towards the
making something to eat, even as he pulled two more pills from the bottle of
pain meds and filled his glass with ice and vodka, he still thought about
getting some food. In the end, the vodka sounded better.
eyes this time he was sitting in his car. Kim was back in the passenger seat.
The story replayed in slow motion as the white delivery truck ran through the
red light. Bill’s car struck it just at the front bumper, spinning it around.
The rear doors of the truck flew open, the contents flying out in all
directions. This scene continued to play in Bill’s head even as he drifted into
a fitful sleep.
* * *
the front windows. Bill squeezed his eyes shut, cutting off the light and
giving his head a small amount of short-lived relief. “Fuck.” Bill leaned
forward. “Ouch! Shit.” The pain was back. Bill chewed a pain pill that he
grabbed from the bottle and walked to the phone. His hands shook as he aimed
for the push buttons on the wall. After a short pause, a cheerful voice on the
other end of the line assured Bill that she was happy to serve him. Bill had
his doubts about her sincerity. Once he hung up from making an appointment with
his doctor, he thought about taking a second oxycodone and opted instead for an
Ambien. The pill was bitter as he chewed it between his teeth. He killed the
taste with the little bit of vodka still at the bottom of the bottle. He sat
back on the couch and let himself drift back into the fog of a new day. He fell
asleep and his fateful drive began again. The same car, the same intersection, the
same delivery truck. The explosive crash of the impact woke him up as if
someone had just fired a shotgun. He noticed it was storming outside. Lightning
flashed across a dark room as thunder crashed in the background.
blowing outside Bill couldn’t tell if it was early afternoon or late evening.
He dry-swallowed another oxy, thinking that he should have asked for fentanyl
patches instead. He kicked over the empty vodka bottle as he got up from the
couch and went into the kitchen.
This time he pulled out some lunch meats and a
half-pound of sliced cheddar from the fridge. He found the bread that Mitch put
into the cupboard when he came back with the pills and put together some
sandwiches. As he put the extra food away he pulled a couple Heinekens out of
the bottom drawer to wash down roast beef, cheddar, and a couple of
Percocets. Bill wondered how long he
could keep this up before it got the best of him. He found he didn’t really
care. He just downed his beer and opened the second one.
the darkened living room as he sat back down on the couch, leaving the lights
off. In the glow of the stereo, wilted flowers sat in murky water that was once
clear. Someone, probably Mitch, had set a line of Get Well cards along both end
tables. In the darkness they looked old and yellowed.
second beer and closed his eyes to the now familiar accident that lived in his
subconscious. Like an uninvited guest, the accident was back, haunting him now
much like the unwanted ghosts that lived in his hospital
room, visiting him each night when the lights went out. The accident played
through, as it did each time he closed his eyes now, only this time it didn’t
get stuck at the point where the truck spins around. Bill saw the scene repeat
again, helpless to do anything other than watch. He watched the doors fly open
on the back of the truck. He watched as large cans and boxes flew from the
opening, most hitting the pavement and exploding. Some items, possibly boxes of
pastries, flew up and over the car. Some flew along the sides. One large can broke
off the driver’s side view mirror as it bounced up from the asphalt.
a wheel of
cheese, as large as a tire in Bill’s mind, fly from the back of the truck. This
time it didn’t fly overhead and land safely in some trees, as it had in his
earlier, drug induced dreams. It didn’t glance safely off the side of the car
either. In a moment of syncopated images resembling a freeze-frame from a
quickly moving slide slow, Bill saw the cheese hit directly into the front
windshield. The windshield shattered as the cheese moved into the space that
just held Kim a few seconds earlier. As the steering column broke free and flew
up into Bill’s head, an unlikely flying disc of cheese moved into the space
beside him, filling the car’s interior with torrents of red. Through swelling
eyes he saw Kim’s hand drop from the GPS display to the center console.
Bill opened his eyes and sat up, slowly
this time. He looked at the cards and he looked at the dying flowers. He had no
real emotion or feelings about the show that he just witnessed, his memory
choosing that moment to remove the veil from his eyes. He just felt numb. He
turned on a lamp that added to the dull yellow glow in the room. In the dim
light the room felt oppressive and claustrophobic. Bill got up and grabbed one
of the two bottles of tequila from the freezer along with the bottle of pain
pills. He sat down on the couch and closed his eyes.
Kevin Eade possesses
a B.A. in English / Creative Writing from the University of South Florida. His
recognized creative work is in film, focusing on psychological horror. These film
credits are available on his IMDb page, along with a very brief bio. He is
currently living on the Gulf Coast of Florida, after growing up in Washington,
D.C. He has also worked in U.K. television. He is currently completing an MFA