“Come on, son. Quit being stubborn. Get in.” His voice muffled somewhat by the pounding of the rain against the asphalt, but somehow I heard him.
“I can’t, Dad. I don’t trust you anymore.” I could tell by the look in his eyes that my words stung him, even if that wasn’t completely my intention. It was the truth.
“Please, just give me another chance. Let me take you home. You could get sick out here in the cold.”
I stopped walking and crossed my arms to keep warm, shivering against the onslaught of the storm. Soaked to the bone, my clothes drank up the wetness like a sponge. They clung to me for dear life and slowing me down with their weight. I stared hard at him, trying to decide if he was being sincere.
“Have you been drinking?” I leaned down and asked the important question, hoping against hope that he would be honest with me for once.
“I haven’t, I swear,” he said as I squinted at him while he held up three fingers, “Scout’s Honor.”
“I don’t know,” I bit my lip and looked down the road hidden by the forceful downpour.
“It’s a long walk, Kai. Trust me.” When he smiled at me like that, it reminded me of how he used to be. Before he was an angry, broken man, before he lost everything that he loved. I hated that I caved at the sight of that boyish grin of his.
“Okay,” I conceded, with a nod and a half smile. I ran around to the other side of the car, jumping in and closing the door behind me. I looked at him out of the corner of my eyes as I buckled up, wary of him sitting so close to me.
The rain eased up and finally stopped. As he put the car in gear, his headlights glinted off of something in the road. I squinted and leaned forward to get a better look. It was a sleek, black cat. It was sitting there, in the middle of the road, watching us. The light from my dad’s high beams made the cat’s eyes glow a strange green in the dark. It stared at us, I stared back. It seemed to smirk at me when my dad honked his horn, trying to get it to move out of our way. It blinked slowly. The crescent moon charm on it’s collar shimmered in the harsh light. The cat turned, walking towards the sidewalk with a flick of the tail. I shook my head, sure I was seeing things as it disappeared before my eyes.
“Hey, where’d it go?” I peered into the night, trying to catch a glimpse of the cat.
“Who cares? Stupid cat,” my dad muttered to himself and sniffed, rubbing his nose with one hand, “You ready?”
“Yeah,” I mumbled, sure I was losing my mind.
“Alright, here we go,” Dad said as he pulled away from the sidewalk smoothly, easing my nerves slightly, “So, what are you doing out here? Does your mom know you’re out this late?”
I grimaced and looked out the window with a sigh, “I was at a party. Mom thinks I’m sleeping or at least I hope she does.”
“That’s my boy!” he said with a laugh as he clapped me on the shoulder with one hand, “Party animal huh?”
“Not really. Just something to do,” I winced and rubbed at my shoulder.
“I see. So, it was a girl, huh? Even better,” he chuckled, shaking his head, “My boy, the ladies man.”
“No, it wasn’t-- Watch out!” I yelled and pointed at someone who cut us off.
He immediately slammed on his brakes, which caused a strange clanking sound. I jolted forward, thankful of my seat belt, even as my heart pounded in my ears from the accident we almost had.
“What a jacktard! Learn to drive, jerk,” he yelled out his window at the other driver and flipped him the bird.
I blew out a breath and looked over at him as he scrambled to toss some things into the backseat. They clanked against one another before rolling onto the floorboard. I gaped at him, accusation in my eyes as I caught him red handed, holding the evidence. He pressed his lips together sheepishly and opened his mouth to speak.
“Don’t,” I said softly, holding up one hand and unbuckling my belt with the other, “I should have known I couldn’t trust you to be an honest man.”
“I just had one. I swear. I’m fine, really. See?” he pleaded, beginning to pick up speed once more.
“Stop! What are you doing?” I yelled, fear creeping into my voice, “Let me out.”
“No. I’m taking you home.” He gritted his teeth and stared down the road.
“Are you crazy?” I grunted in frustration and grabbed at the wheel, “Stop the car!”
“Let go of the wheel, Kai. You’re gonna make us wreck!” he yelled back, pulling my arm off the wheel and pushing me against the door, “What is the matter with you?”
“Dad, Look out!” he tried to get us out of the lane of oncoming traffic by swerving back into our lane, but it was already too late.
The sound of crunching metal caused me to cry out as my world got turned upside down. There was no time for me to react or brace myself. Then, we were rolling, broken glass was flying all around me, glittering in the sun like a million tiny diamonds floating aimlessly in space. I closed my eyes against the abrasive material, trying to protect my eyes. I tasted blood. I must have bitten the inside of my cheek upon impact. The jarring motion of the car tossing me around like an unwanted rag doll thrown into the trash. They say that right before you die, your life flashes before your eyes, but that’s a bunch of crap.
I’m going to die.
The car continued to roll, jerking my body all around. It was out of my control.
I’m going to die! The thought echoed in my head, repeating like a mantra, over and over again.
When the car stopped moving, I still felt like I was spinning around, lost in the abyss. My mind fractured with the different feelings and sensations I was being bombarded with all at once. I felt frightened, sad, angry and numb. I kept thinking I was going to die for sure. Pain spread through my body from different entry points, my nerves splintering as they tried to process where I hurt. Each new pain melded into the next until I couldn’t take the excruciating torture any longer. I felt lost, separating from my body as I tried to float away. When I attempted to pull myself back, forcing the disconnected part of me trying to escape the pain to wake up, my world went black, setting me free.
“He’s awake! Oh honey, can you hear me? Oh, my sweet, baby boy.”
I felt cool hands on my cheek, and sometime wet falling on my head.
“Mom?” whispered a hoarse voice I didn’t recognize right away as my own.
Pain was exploding everywhere, intense sensations licking all over my body, making my bones feel like they were on fire. I groaned, even that guttural effort causing pain in my head. I tried to open my eyes, but they felt glued shut. My body felt heavy, as if it were full of sand, weighing down my limbs. One of which was in a cast, I noted. My tongue kept sticking to the roof of my mouth. I tried to find enough spit to make words come out of my mouth with any sort of coherency. When I finally pried my eyes open, they started to water, the light stinging them. I reached my other hand out to my mom, so I could hug her, but in doing so, it hurt my shoulder so bad, that I chose to once again succumb to the blackness.
The next thing I know, I was running through the woods, calling out for someone, anyone. A desperate cry was emitting from my mouth as I pushed away brambles and branches. Tree limbs clawed at my clothes, tearing at my hair and cutting open my skin. I continued to push on, darkness creeping up on me. Cold wind made my skin feel numb as it tried to wrap me in it’s terrifying embrace. I was trying to escape. Someone, no something was chasing me. I called for help once more. A scream got caught in my throat as I tripped, panic deadening my senses as silence filled my ears. A shadowy figure with large wings approached me, towering over me, intimidating me. I raised my arms to cover my head, trying to shield myself in anticipation of what was to come. But still it advanced, torturing me with its relentless screeching. It called out to me, it’s voice strange and inhuman as it crept steadily towards me, arms outstretched.
“He’s mine. Give him back to me or you will regret it. I will find you.”
“Noooooo,” I heard myself yell, the sound of my voice unfamiliar and shrill.
“It’s okay, sweetheart,” the familiar voice was soft and warm.
I was being pulled back into the light, away from the darkness and the shadows that had once surrounded me. Silence was giving way to a strange, steady beeping noise and the comforting warmth of my mom’s voice. She was petting my hair and kissing me as she softly sung her favorite song, You Are My Sunshine. My body relaxed against her, my racing heart slowing, my breathing becoming more even. I remember hoping she would never let go. I tried to wrap my arms around her and my right arm felt extra heavy and when I snuck a peek, I confirmed it was in a cast. I hugged her back with my good arm, hearing her sharp intake of breath that promptly broke into a sob as she squeezed me tighter.
“Mom?” I croaked out, confusion filling my voice, a sharp pain in my side causing me to cry out in protest, “My ribs.”
“I’m sorry, Kai. I forgot,” she crooned, sounding like she was on the verge of tears once more.
“Don’t cry mom,” I rasped, trying to lick my lips, but lacking saliva to do so.
I cracked open my eyes, one at a time, and squinted up at her tearful gaze. She sniffled, nodding, her tears threatening to spill over, but not yet falling. She kissed my forehead, her hands on either side of my head. I winced at the pressure this caused. My head full of tiny, angry elves stabbing me with their pointy, little knives.
“Water please,” I whispered, trying to direct her attention elsewhere for a moment. My throat felt like I had swallowed lava.
“Right! Let me just buzz the nurse,” she said reaching over to push a red button.
I coughed, the force of it causing me to flinch at the onslaught of burning this caused. My eyes watered once more, a pool of warm salty tears stinging behind my lids. I slammed them closed, a few brimming over and sliding down my cheeks.
“Hello Mr. Bishop. You’re awake now. Wonderful!” The smiling nurse said, bustling in.
“Easy for you to say,” I grunted, trying to swallow, but still feeling as dry as if I had eaten fistfuls of sand.
“Kai…” Mom said in a chiding tone that brought a smile to my face.
“No worries. It’s to be expected in situations like this,” she smiled brightly, offering me a small glass of ice water, “Go slow now.”
I rolled my eyes, but took the water. It felt so good going down and before I knew it, I was choking as I gulped it down too fast.
“I warned you to go slow,” she shook her head at me, still smiling.
I narrowed my eyes at her in annoyance, sneering at that stupid smile still plastered on her face, choosing to not respond.
“The doctor will be in to see you shortly. Hang tight, okay?” she said, focusing most of her attention on my mother.
My mom took my hand in both of her own and looked at me with such sadness, her lips trembling.
“I’m fine, Mom. It’s okay.”
“That jerk,” she muttered, smacking her thigh with the palm of her hand.
“What?” I was momentarily stunned, not having ever heard her speak in that tone of voice before.
My mom was always positive and never said anything negative about anyone.
“I mean, when I get my hands on him…” she shook her head and looked down with a frustrated sigh.
“Oh. You mean, Dad. Don’t you?”
She nodded and raised her gaze to meet my own, “How could he put you in such danger?”
“It’s Dad. It’s just what he does,” I said and looked down, shrugging, “I wish I had never gotten in the car with him, though.”
“So why did you? I mean,” she bit the inside of her cheek and looked away for a second, “I’m not blaming you, but if you knew he was drinking, why did you get in his car?”
“I didn’t know he had been drinking until after I got in. I couldn’t even smell it on him this time,” I scrunched my eyebrows together and looked out the window, “I just-- I wanted to give him another chance. I haven’t seen him in over a year.”
“I know, sweetie,” she smiled reassuringly.
“Besides, it was raining. He offered me a ride. I turned him down at first, but he said he was sober. I-- I don’t know why I believed him. Once I realized he was drinking, I tried to get him to stop the car, but he wouldn’t,” my eyes shimmered once more, but I moved my eyes to my sheet.
“Oh, my sweet Kai. He’ll get what’s coming to him, you’ll see,” she pulled me into her warm embrace, petting my hair like she used to do when I was a small child. “I still don’t know how he found us. I thought we had been so careful when we left.”
I opened my mouth to tell her I didn’t know either, but nothing came out. We had moved to get away from him, but he still wouldn’t accept that fact. He probably never would. I swiped at my runaway tears when I heard a knock on the door before it squeaked open. The doctor smiled as he came into my room and shut the heavy door behind him.
“Hello. How are you?” he smiled, his dark brown almond eyes crinkling at the corners.
“Fine, thanks,” my mom mumbled politely as she pulled away, turning around to look at him.
“Oh good. My name is Dr. Cho. You must be Mrs. Bishop and you are…” he flipped to a page on his clipboard, pressing his lips together briefly, “Kal?”
I snorted and crossed my arms over my chest. He didn’t even know our names!
“It’s Ms. Bishop, please,” my mom began, but I cut her off.
“I’m Kai,” I sounded it out for him.
‘What a chump,’ I thought, rolling my eyes again.
“Quit being rude,” my mom smacked my arm, scowling at me.
I mumbled a quiet apology, my face going pink at my mom’s reaction, but I was still trying to act cool. The doctor looked unimpressed, annoyance written plainly all over his face, but he, like the nurse, chose to focus on my mom.
“My apologies,” Dr. Cho said.
“Not a problem,” my mom offered.
“So, what’s wrong with me?” I blurted, not too interested in making small talk.
“Sorry,” my mom said to the doc while waving a hand in my direction, her face clearly screaming she felt just as impatient as I did.
I stifled a giggle, covering my mouth. I didn’t need another reason to set my mother off. She already seemed on edge with her constant, bouncing leg and her hands tearing up an unsuspecting napkin into smithereens in her lap.
“Well, let’s see here,” he said clearing his throat and reading from my file. “You have two broken ribs, one bruised rib, and you fractured your humerus, which connects your shoulder to your elbow. You’ll need some physical therapy and I’ve already prescribed you pain medication to use as needed.”
“Hence the cast?” I said with a sigh.
“Precisely,” Dr. Cho nodded.
“Jeez,” my mom muttered low under her breath, her eyes wide and eyebrows raised.
“Yes, Ms. Bishop and this part perplexes my staff and I,” the doctor paused. His face was a mask of concern as he pulled off his wire framed glasses and looked from me to my mom. “While we were trying to stabilize you, your heart stopped beating and you flatlined.”
“So... I died?”
“Oh my word,” my mom whispered, her hands covering her mouth in an attempt to hide her shock.
“Yes, technically you did. You were dead. We all worked hard to resuscitate you.”
“Well, it seems to have worked, Dr. Cho,” my mom frowned and gestured towards me, a confused look furrowing her brows. “I guess I’m not sure what you’re trying to say to us exactly.”
“Yes, well…,” he scratched his head, looking a little lost, “You were pronounced dead after ten minutes. What I’m trying to say is that brain cells begin to die after approximately four to six minutes of no blood-flow. After around ten minutes, those cells will stop functioning and die.”
My mom looked at me, eyes open wide as she grasped what he was saying, “So, he should be…”
“Dead. That’s right,” Dr. Cho answered.
“But I’m not.”
“Cool!” I cheered, “Wait. Does that make me like, a zombie or something though?”
“No,” he chuckled, “All scans came back normal.”
“So, what happened after I flat lined, then?”
He hesitated, looking reluctant to answer, “That’s the strange part…”
“Go on,” my mom urged.
“We were removing our gloves and masks, my nurse was starting the paperwork. I was getting ready to come talk to your mom and then…” he shook his head, smiling, “You gasped and sat straight up. You scared the crap out of me and staff. It was the darndest thing. Essentially, it’s a miracle you’re alive son.”