“How… did I get here?”
I look around the darkness and sense familiarity with the buildings and shops within my view. I know that I go to that bookstore across the road all the time, and then spend hours reading at the café next door while listening to songs that the music shop blares into the air. I look down at my broken watch. It has stopped with its needle showing the time as 11:32. The shops are all closed now but why am I still here? I am usually home before the sun sets.
“It’s late. I need to go home.”
I turn around to take a step, and I stop. I can’t remember the way home. The road suddenly seems so foreign to me in the dark that my feet freeze in place. I begin to panic as I look around again to find my way home.
“Hello there.” A gentle voice calls out to me. I turn to see vaguely make out the silhouette of a young man about my age smiling down at me. He has a backpack on his shoulders and a thick textbook in his arm. He must be a student from my university. Maybe that is why he seems familiar. “Are you lost? Do you need directions?” he asks me.
“Yes,” I answer, “I want to go home.”
“Alright,” the young man begins to seem as troubled as I am, “where is your home?”
My mouth opens to answer almost immediately but the words are stuck in my throat. I know I remember my home address but somehow, when I try to recall the address in my mind, it became blank. I reply sadly, “I… can’t remember.”
“That’s no good,” he says, “do you have your identification card with you that states your home address, or something of the sort?”
I look down at myself and reach into one pocket, and then another and another, and come up empty. I look at him in disbelief at myself, “I’m sorry. I have nothing on me.”
“I can’t help you with that,” he sighs and looks around. “Listen, my car is parked over at the other side of the road. If you can recall any famous landmarks near your home, I can drive you around the area until we find it.”
“Oh no, I can’t,” I answer as I don’t want to impose on someone so late in the night.
“It’s no big deal. I can’t let a girl like you stay out here this late in the night anyway,” he says with a smile. There is kindness in that smile but I begin to feel wary of him.
“No,” I say, “really. Thank you but no.”
“No, I insist,” he reaches out for me and grabs me with him. “I’ll get you home safely. Don’t worry about it,” he says as he leads me down the street towards the intersection.
“I said NO!” I shout and tug my arm away from his grasp. The young man drops his textbook and something else drops out its pages. A thin metallic bookmark with a pen-shaped charm dangling from a chain shines under the street light. I recognize that bookmark. I use it all the time. It is my favourite bookmark. Why does he have it?
“…you!!” he stutters, fear is evident in his voice, “You! You’re!!!!! I… that night…!!”
I remember now. I have met him before, right here, at a book exhibition. I came here every day for the exhibition to meet authors and always stayed until the very end into the night.
“You offered me a lift…” I begin to recall the events of the final night of the exhibition. My hands reach up to hold the sides of my head as blur images swarm inside. “…you, in the car,” my voice breaks, “You raped me in your car.”
“No, no, no, no, NO!” he whimpers in denial, but I remember everything now.
“You smashed my head onto the window,” I say softly and look into his eyes, “And you threw me out of your car.”
“The news said… you died!!” the young man is not listening to me anymore. He gasps and retreats in fear of me.
“How could you do that?” I ask in disbelief as I take a step towards him, “You said you’d take me home.” The smell of my own blood and sweat mixed with those of grass still lingers in my nose. I reach out and grab him by the collar of his shirt, and repeat, “YOU SAID YOU’D TAKE ME HOME!!”
“NO! I DIDN’T DO IT!” he shakes, “NO! I DID! BUT I DIDN’T MEAN TO..!”
The truth is hard to accept and it only infuriates me, “YOU DIDN’T TAKE ME HOME!!! YOU DIDN’T!!! I BLED TO DEATH WAITING FOR HELP THAT DIDN’T COME! IT WAS YOU!!!!!!!!!!”
“I’M SORRY! I’M SORRY!! I’M SORRY!!! I’M SORRY!!!! PLEASE!!!” he begs.
“I CAN’T GO HOME!! I CAN’T GO HOME!! I AM NEVER GOING HOME!!!” I wail as my hands find a grip on his neck; tears streaming down my cheeks.
The young man who seemed so charming and reliable is reduced to a little boy shaking in agony as he struggles against my grip. Why am I doing this? How did it come to this? My grip on him loosen and he forcefully pushes me away. I lay on the floor crying as I hear his hurried footsteps growing farther away from me.
I wonder how my parents are. I wonder if I have been buried, or if I have been found.
I hear a loud crash ahead of me and I look up to witness a car make a reverse and speeds away from the scene. The same young man lay in the middle of the empty road. I can hear him struggling to breathe and his chokes on his own blood. I walk up to him and I know that he will not live for another hour but seeing him dying in a pool of his own blood makes me smile a little. I feel like I have accomplished something, in the afterlife.
“Now you can’t go home too,” I say and at that realization, I can’t help but laugh in hysteria as the fires of Hell began to consume me.