I opened my eyes. The white walls and blue light were gone. I sat on a dirt floor. The familiar rocky contours of the cave began to take shape as my eyes adjusted to the faint light.
I sat still for a moment as my mind tried to make sense of what I experienced. I reached down with my left hand, seeking, and achieving confirmation, that the episode in my head was more than a fleeting dream. The bandage around my abdomen was evidence of that as were the sweat pants and shirt I was wearing.
My head felt fuzzy. I had an awful taste in my mouth. I got to my feet. My feet were bare. I scanned the floor of the cave and was surprised to see my black and white Nike’s resting close by. I put them on, minus socks. Sadly, there were no signs of them.
I walked around the cave, feeling around the walls with both hands. I don’t know what I was expecting to find – a secret lever – trapped door – a welcome sign. My back and abdomen ached. I didn’t know the extent of my injuries and I probably should have gone straight to a hospital. But I stayed. Something in this cave led me to Becky. It felt as if she was just on the other side of the wall. I put my ear close to the inner wall. I wasn’t surprised when no sound offered itself to my eager ears.
A bright light peeked through the narrow entrance of the cave. Daylight. How long had I been in here? I checked the pockets of the sweat pants and found my cell phone. The battery was dead and since I depend on my cell phone for just about everything, including telling time, I was at a loss.
After another pass through the cave, touching every surface I could find, I decided to call it quits. I planned to mark the cave’s entrance and pay careful attention to the landscape outside so I could return to it later. As I made my way out of the cave, I had to shield my eyes from the blinding light. The daylight seemed extraordinarily bright. Even as I held my hands over my eyes, the reflection of light from the ground was almost too much for me to handle. I closed my eyes.
I opened one eye slowly. The intensity was unreal. I knew I couldn’t stay where I was. I didn’t know what was going on with my eyes but I had to move. I held both hands over my eyes and surveyed my surroundings as best I could without blinding myself. I made a mental note of the two Cedar trees with their enormous cones. The cones reminded me of a duck with its bill open. One cone, in particular, seemed to be smiling. So, I when I came back I would be looking for the smiling duck.
I made my way down the path carefully, hands above the eyes, squinting as much as I could but careful not to trip and fall down the pathway. The last thing I needed was a broken leg to go along with my other injuries. As I made my way farther down the hill, the canopy of trees did its best of shielding the blazing sun. I was able to open my eyes wider but still not completely. I didn’t understand the sensitivity my eyes had with the sun. There were so many things that seemed out of place as I thought about the events of the last twenty-four hours.
A sudden thought stopped me in my tracks – The Sheriff. Somebody was sure to have discovered his mutilated body by now. What if someone saw me coming down the trail and asked me if I saw anything? I was not a good liar and if there was any deceit detected in my answers that would only get them suspicious of my actions. They may want to know where I had been for the last several hours. What would I say? The truth? I didn’t even know what the truth was.
I made it to the park and was surprised to see children playing on swing sets, a couple walking their dog, and a group of young guys and gals playing football. What I didn’t see was the commotion of emergency vehicles. A coroner’s van. Or any sign of chaos that would go along with finding a mutilated body.
Another fifteen minutes of shielding my eyes and avoiding the sun’s intense blasts and I finally made it back to Becky’s house. I was thankful that I still had the keys in my pocket. I entered the house and went around to shut all the blinds and curtains before finally collapsing on the couch. As I hit the couch, I expected a thunderbolt of pain to explode on my backside. But none came. My back felt tight and sore as if I had just completed a heavy workout routine, not torn half apart by a creature that lived in the night and hungered for flesh and blood.
I sat up and peeled off the white gauze bandage. One thing I noticed immediately was the absence of blood. The bandage was almost pristine in color. The second thing I noticed was my abdomen. There was no wound. No scaring. It was as if nothing happened last night. I knew if I checked out my back in a mirror, it would reveal the same lack of injury as my abdomen. What did this mean?
I had somehow visited the twilight zone and feared that I was still there. I expected to see Rod Serling come out and greet me.
I got up and plugged in my phone. The clock on the wall displayed the time. 4:05pm. Twenty hours had gone by since Trevor and I had entered the park to escape the dog. So much had happened in such a short amount of time. My body was worn. It ached all over. My head felt like it had been subjected to repeated beatings with a baseball bat. I needed to close my eyes and rest for a while. Becky’s bed was calling my name.
Before I could reach the comfort of the soft queen mattress, there was a panicked knock on the front door. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. I paused at the threshold of the living room when it occurred again. I walked over to the door as the third wave of knocking ensued. I peered out the window by the front door and was shocked to see old man Ben biting his lower lip and looking angrier than ever. I remembered Becky’s car and opened the door.
“Are you a dumbass or something?” Ben stated as he brushed past me.
Before I could get in a word, he started again.
“Becky trusted me, son. Trusted me, you hear me? What you did last night may have just screwed things for all of us.”
“Is that why Becky’s car is parked in your garage? Because she trusted you? Last night I was almost killed. What I did last night was survive. Sorry if surviving screwed up your plans.”
“You don’t get it, do you? You survived. You weren’t supposed to. Now we are all going to die.”