The question still put Kelly into fits. It’d been three days since he’d come out of his coma, two since that detective had come to see him. He was grasping at straws trying to remember something, anything, from the last six months of his life, but the only thing he’d come up with so far was that he’d given his Mom a poster-sized collage of photos that he’d taken throughout the year at Christmas. She’d loved it. She had tears in her eyes as she gingerly took down the Monet print from over the fireplace in the family room and hung his collage up over the mantel.
What prompted this sudden revelation? She brought it to the hospital one day and he’d just blurted out, “Hey, I made that for you last Christmas!”
Dr. Roberts had suggested his friends and family bring in some familiar things of his to try to jar some memories. Sometimes, he said, familiar things make connections in the brain. So, as he looked around the room, he saw framed pictures of his family and friends covering every available surface.
He looked forlornly at a picture he’d taken at Kepler State Park of himself, Hiro, Blake, and Marcus, wondering when he might be able to get back on his bike again. In the picture they were half-standing, half-leaning against the back of a limestone park bench with their bikes propped up off to the side.
That had been a day he’d never forget. It had rained cats and dogs the day before, but Blake called insisting they go out biking. It’s what they did whenever there was a slow spot in the day. After much cajoling and a not-too-subtle guilt trip, Kelly had agreed to go. The picture was taken after the hellish ride through the underbrush. Everyone was covered from head to toe in mud and leaves and Blake had a scrape under his left eye from getting a little too friendly with a tree branch. Still, it had been a fun day, and one that Kelly cherished.
He glanced past that picture at all the loose photos of his friends pinned to the bulletin board and the frames that littered the tables to the stack of books and CD’s that someone had hauled up from his bedroom. He chuckled to himself as he thought that there must now be more stuff up here than in his real room. It’d take them a U-Haul just to get it all back home.
He decided some music might break the endless cycle of boredom. He stood up, swaying slightly as a dizzy spell hit him, and walked over to the CD player. He put in Pearl Jam’s Ten album and adjusted the volume to what he thought was an acceptable level before turning and flopping back on the uncomfortable hospital bed. The damned thing was so lumpy he was sure he’d have to have back surgery before he was even recovered from his accident.
Kyle who? He thought again about this mystery person as the beat of the music put him at ease. He couldn’t remember having a friend, or an enemy for that matter, named Kyle. He searched his mind for the umpteenth time trying to bring anything to mind. No Kyle in his college courses as far as he knew, no one he worked with at Home Depot, no neighbors, no friends of friends or friends of relatives, no nothing! ‘Kyle’ just didn’t register.
But it didn’t matter that it didn’t register. He’d killed him. That’s what that boorish detective had said. They were in his car, the Camaro, apparently traveling in excess of ninety miles per hour when the crash happened according to the skid mark analysis. That much had been told to him. Wrapped around a tree, they’d said, impact on the passenger side. Mystery Kyle had been in the passenger seat without a seatbelt on, apparently reaching for something in the back seat when the crash happened.
But as much as he struggled with himself to remember who Kyle was and why he was in his car, he came up with nothing more than a mental picture of his gleaming blue baby under the sun in the driveway, which was not at all helpful.
Kelly was starting to get frustrated with himself. He wanted, no needed, to remember things that happened but his mind just wouldn’t work.
Just as his frustration with himself started to turn into anger the door opened and Dr. Roberts walked in. He paused, shook his head once, and walked over to the CD player to turn down the volume.
“Hi, Kelly,” he said, running his fingers through his hair. “I knew you were up when I could hear Pearl Jam blasting three floors down in the pediatric ward.”
Kelly’s face reddened involuntarily. “Sorry, Doc,” he replied, “I didn’t think it was that loud. I tried to adjust…”
Dr. Roberts laughed and held up his hand to stop Kelly. “That’s OK, Kelly, it really wasn’t that loud. The nurse called down to tell me you were awake. Just remember that there are other patients in the ward whose musical tastes might not jive with yours. Keep the tunes at or below conversation level, alright?
Kelly nodded as Dr. Roberts continued. “Good. Now tell me, any more memories come to the surface?”
“No,” Kelly replied despondently, looking down his feet sticking out from under the hospital blanket. “I just can’t seem to remember anything. I have a feeling like I know it’s there but I just can’t grab it. It’s like when you hear a song on the radio and you spend the entire day trying to remember the artist but nothing comes to mind. Know what I’m saying?”
“Yes, Kelly, I do.” Dr. Roberts stood and patted Kelly lightly on the thigh. “Just keep trying, and if you remember anything at all just make sure you let me know about it. You’re making good progress, son, believe it or not. Everything will come back in time.”
Kelly nodded again in agreement. “I just can’t believe I killed somebody, Doc. I mean, if I hadn’t been driving and Kyle whoever wasn’t in my car, he’d still be alive and talking with his family today. I don’t know what to think about that.”
“Kelly,” Dr. Roberts replied, sitting back down in the chair, “you didn’t kill somebody, the car crash did. Remember that. In the mean time, I’m going to send somebody up to talk to you about this. I want you to be as honest about your feelings as you can, OK? It’ll help you deal with some of this stuff, believe me. I know it’s overwhelming.”
“Thank you, Dr. Roberts. I think I need that.”
“Get your rest, Kelly,” Dr. Roberts said, “you’re going to need it.”
As the doctor left the room Kelly laid back against the pillow and tried to take a nap, Pearl Jam playing softly in the background.
Kelly looked across the table, laughing at a faceless friend on the other side. He didn’t quite know where he was, but somehow that didn’t seem important at the moment.
“What do you call a dog with no legs?” The friend had asked.
Kelly chuckled and shrugged. He knew this was going to be a bad, bad joke.
The faceless friend laughed out loud at the punch line even before he said it. “Why call him, he’s not going to come anyway!”
Kelly groaned and leaned over the table to punch the faceless guy in the arm. “Dude,” he said. “Stop. I can feel the bile rising in my throat already.”
“I’m just getting started, Kel,” the voice replied. “Where do you find a dog with no legs?”
He didn’t wait for Kelly to respond before shouting out the punch line. “Exactly where you left him!”
Kelly groaned again and rolled his eyes. “Seriously, man, I’m going to throw up!”
He pushed his chair back from the table. “I’m going to go get us another beer. Be right back.”
So that’s where he was right now. In a bar. But with whom? He mentally inspected the guy that he’d just left sitting at the table but the face wouldn’t show up. But he knew the voice from somewhere, of that he was sure.
He retrieved two Bud Light’s from the bartender, tipping him generously as this was his fourth or fifth trip up to the bar that night. He turned and shuffled his way back to the table through the throng of people in the bar and back to the table.
He plunked the bottles unceremoniously down on the table and flopped back down in the chair, taking a long swig from the bottle.
“Thanks, babe,” the faceless friend replied. “This is just what the doctor ordered.”
Babe? Why would this guy call him ‘babe’?
He looked quizzically across the table at the blank space where the guy’s face was supposed to be and asked, “Why the hell did you just call me ‘babe’?”
Before the guy could answer the bar melted away, suddenly being replaced by the interior of the Camaro.
“Thanks for getting me out of there, babe.” The faceless friend was back, this time in the passenger seat of Kelly’s car.
“You just called me ‘babe’ again,” Kelly replied, glancing over from the dash to the guy sitting on the other side of the car. “Why do you keep calling me ‘babe’?”
“I just had to get out of there,” Faceless went on, oblivious to Kelly’s questions. “That guy gives me the creeps. It seems like everywhere I go, there he is. I don’t know what’s up with that.”
What guy? Were they running away from something? Kelly wasn’t sure, and faceless guy didn’t seem to be forthcoming with any more details.
“What guy,” he asked out loud, verbalizing his thoughts.
“I mean, it seems like he’s following me everywhere. The other day in the bar I got a drink from an ‘admirer’ for God’s sake! Then, I look down at the other end and there he is! I’ve never even talked to the guy, but here he is buying me drinks and at the worksite and even at the grocery store. He’s everywhere and I can’t seem to shake him!”
Kelly looked over to ask another question, but before he could get anything out the car was hit violently from behind sending the wheel spinning out of his hands.
“What the fuck was that?” Faceless yelled, spinning in his seat to look behind the car. “Shit! It’s that guy! Floor it!”
Kelly was conscious only of shifting the gears, manipulating the pedals, and the sound of metal on metal as the car was repeatedly struck from behind even as his finely-tuned Camaro passed ninety miles an hour.
Faceless guy turned around again to look out the back window. “Go faster, Kelly, he’s coming in for another run!”
Kelly shifted the car into third and floored the accelerator, pushing the tach to eight thousand and the speedometer over the one hundred mile per hour marker.
Kelly looked up, frantically searching ahead of him for an escape route. He didn’t understand what was going on but he knew in his heart that if he didn’t find away to lose this guy, whoever he was, or they were going to die.
He floored the pedal again, trying to put some distance between himself and the car behind him when his headlights swept across something in the road. Something that shouldn’t be there.
“Shit! There’s somebody in the road! Hold on!”
He jerked the wheel to the right and felt rather than heard the car spinning out of control, and then everything went blank.
Kelly woke up with a start, the stark white hospital blankets tangled around his sweaty torso. He closed his eyes and laid back against the pillow willing his breathing to slow down and his heart rate back to normal.
“Have a bad dream?” a gravelly voice asked from next to his right ear.
Kelly shot back up from the pillows, spinning to his right and coming face to face with Detective Conners.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Kelly asked, shrinking instinctively away from the Detective.
“I wanna know what you know, kid,” Conners replied, running his hand over his balding pate. “Musta been some dream. You kept screaming ‘Kyle, Kyle’ over and over again. Don’t give me that bullshit about not remembering. You know something. Spit it out.”
“I don’t know anything,” Kelly spat, throwing his legs over the edge of the bed. “I told you I can’t remember. You’re not even supposed to be in here without Dr. Roberts’ permission. Get out.”
Kelly reached over and hit the call button on his bed and spoke into the speaker. “Roberta, get me Dr. Roberts. There’s someone here that shouldn’t be.”
Detective Conners chuckled bitterly, standing and turning towards the door. “I’ll find out what I want eventually, either here or on the witness stand, your choice.”
Just then the door swung violently open and Dr. Roberts flew into the room, his face red with rage. “I told you you’re not supposed to be here without supervision,” he yelled, pointing a thin finger at Detective Conners’ nose.
“Listen, you white-haired, good for nothing asshole,” Conners screamed, taking a menacing step closer to the doctor. “This kid murdered somebody, and I’m going to find out why, with our without your help!”
“I didn’t murder anybody,” Kelly roared, shooting out of his bed to join the argument. “I told you already I don’t remember anything. I’m sorry he died but it’s not my fucking fault!”
“He’s dead, kid,” Conners yelled back, “and it is your fault!”
Kelly opened his mouth to reply, but nothing came out. His eyes rolled back into his head and his body collapsed to the floor, his limbs shaking wildly and his body seizing beyond his control. He lost bladder control and the stench of urine started to fill the room.
“Shit,” Dr. Roberts yelled, pushing Detective Conners violently out of the way and skidding to a halt on his knees by Kelly’s side. “Roberta, get in here! Kelly’s having a seizure!”
Editors Note: If you would like to contact the author of this chapter, you may use this email address, CollisionAuthors@DeweyWriter.com . Please include the authors name. Thank you.