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Kevin Eade
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ym75thefog.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2019

The Fog

 

By Kevin Eade

     A wheel of cheese 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.

     The hospital was 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.

     Bill’s 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.

     Above his head, a 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.

     Bill pulled himself up from the fog and tried to focus. He thought about Kim. In his darkness Kim’s bright blue eyes shone out at him.

     Somewhere outside, 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.

 

* * *

     The next morning 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.

     “We 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.

     The labs were dark 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.

* * *

     “You’re lucky to be alive.” The voice came from a man in a white lab coat.

     Two weeks had passed 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’m Doctor Lazlo. I’ve been asked to consult on your case.”

     “Well, consult away, 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.

     “You’ve 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 though.”

     “Shoot. I’ll tell you what I know, for all that’s worth.”

     “That’s what I’m concerned about. You say that you are still unable to remember what happened. Have you been able to remember more since our last talk?”

     Bill looked up at Doctor Lazlo. “What do you mean by ‘our last talk’? This is the first time I’ve met you.”

     Doctor Lazlo kept his 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 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.”

     “You 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.”

     Bill looked confused. “Surgery? When? I can’t remember.”

     The doctor finally 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 man.”

     “How 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?”

     The doctor found 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.”

     Bill felt his breath 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.

     “I understand your 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.”

     Bill looked 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.

     Bill thought about 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.

     “Bill, you gave 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.”

     Bill pulled himself 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 some scripts.”

     “Sure thing, anything you want. Are you sure you’re up to it? I could take you to the house and run back out.”

     Bill wondered if he 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.”

     “You got it.” He pulled out into traffic and aimed the Mercedes into the sun.

     As Bill leaned back 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 later, 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.

     The pain was 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.

     He grabbed a glass, 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.

     While he was waiting 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 the stereo.

     The Grateful Dead 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.

     Bill opened his eyes. 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.

     Forcing himself off the 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 couch.

     He thought about 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.

     When Bill closed his 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.

* * *

     Sun streamed through 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.

     With the storm 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.

     Bill glanced around 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.

     Bill downed his 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.

     Bill saw 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 in Screenwriting.

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