By Rob Essley
Eyelids open, brightness pierces all the way behind eyes. Contracting muscles, heartbeat audible and irregular. Traffic whisking by, honking, angry. Birds here and there whistle and talk. Wrists bound tight, pain; the room smells of piss and the metallic-funk of fresh blood from between my legs. Deep voices, muffled through walls, murmur and curse. The next twenty seconds is punctuated by a handful of gunshots then hasty feet down dark stairs. That’s Dad.
The memory of how we got to the city sits somewhere deep in my mind, but too deep to casually access. I could study on it for while, but don’t want to. Probably we moved here from the corn country; I seem to recall roads walled by green stalks, riding in a car with cigarette burns and sticky drips on the seats. Still smell it. Dad’s a good man, I know it. Couldn’t have done it.
Tied up tight, wrists hurt. Wrenching, pulling against the zip-ties and they cut deeper, push my discomfort in and out of panic. I’m breathing, thinking. There’s got to be a way to cut them, but I can’t move my legs. Dried blood all down my right thigh; leg’s probably broken. Head’s full of gauze. Syrupy thoughts come and go, vision’s blurred. Toothbrush on the floor, little black hairs everywhere. Open window above toilet. I’m the piss smell.
Dad comes in the other room, pulls a drawer out of the nightstand or the dresser, screams through his teeth as it breaks the slide and dumps out on the floor. He’s after something, really intent on finding something. He’s over to the bathroom door, jams his shoulder in and he’s on top of me. The words hit me and bounce off, and I don’t understand anything he’s saying. It’s a loud, violent blur of consonants and then he kicks me in the ribs. Must’ve kicked them before, because it’s tender and the pain goes straight through me. I lose control and I’m convulsing, and a shrill moan comes out in a pulsating wave. I’m sick all over the floor and this sends him over the edge. He’s going to stomp me. But he’s left now, back out into the room and I’m stuck there sniveling and he’s rifling through the dresser.
The blood test results are in the drawer above me. Circling ceiling, wobbling walls, none of it matters. I’m up on my knees, then backward up against the vanity, pushing against pain. My shoulders cramp. He’s in there tearing stuff off the wall, throwing it, breaking windows, mirrors, electronics. I’m almost sick again when I realize he’s looking for the test results. I can see Brian’s face at the clinic, smell his moisture. He said he loved me. Didn’t know he was sick. Dad said he would kill us both, and Brian’s upstairs dead. Behind my back, I shuffle through the drawer and find the folded pink paper. Into the toilet, but can’t reach the flusher.
And here comes Dad.