Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Speechless At Dawn

Category: Issue 5, Short Story Winners
NOTE: Although this short story was inspired by true events, its contents, thoughts and characters are purely fictional.

It's cold, and it's dark. She can feel the ice and the concrete on her naked back. Small rocks are poking into the back of her bare thighs and legs. She stares up at the starlit sky and sees the white cloud her breath makes as it rises up in the air. She thinks of calling for help again, but she doesn't. Her throat is still sore from her previous calls, and all that yelling has made her thirsty. She imagines herself mouthing the words, hearing the emptiness of her voice in the deserted parking lot. She feels a bit silly for even thinking of it - no one will hear her. And if anyone did, how embarrassing would it be? She is naked, alone and hurt, and she feels guilty. Better to rest a bit and try to find something to cover herself. Then maybe she'll be able to find someone to help her.

How did she get herself in this situation? She feels like crying, like pounding the ground in frustration. This isn't fair. In the back of her mind, the same question turns round and round, threatening to lead her to panic. "What am I going to do? This isn't real, this isn't happening, what am I going to do?". She remembers feeling this way as a little girl when she got lost at the shopping centre. But this is far from getting lost, isn't it? She wishes it was as simple as being found by her mother and going home to the comfort of her family. Surely this is going to be ok as well, but right now, she doesn't know what to do. Dying doesn't even cross her mind. She's not sure how bad this is going to turn out to be, but things will undoubtedly be ok. No one thinks of the worst until it happens.

"..help..heeEEELP! SOMEBODY HEeeelp me..help me please help me pleeaaase.."

A wave of panic seizes her, and she begins to cry and sob. Her cry for help has been reduced to a soft pleading that only she could hear, even if anyone had been around to help. She feels herself giving in to despair, and she is suddenly painfully aware of the cold. Her toes and fingers are getting numb, and every part of her body lying in contact with the snow patches on the ground feel like they're burning. She wants to move, to get up and find something to cover herself, but she's afraid of moving. She knows she's hurt, she remembers the knife slicing through her body, but she's not sure how badly injured she is. She's also afraid to find out, or to move and bleed out. So she stays still, tears running down her cheeks, eyes locked on the moon, heart beating only for the hope of dawn - and rescue.

She thinks of the night's events, and again tells herself how stupid she's been. She should never have agreed to meet with him. Getting into the car was her first mistake, and her only choice. None of what followed had been in her control, and she again wondered how a simple decision had led to such desperate events. She wished she had locked her doors and chosen not to agree to 'meet and make up'. She should have known how dangerous it was to be alone with someone as unstable as he was, regardless of how thoughtful and caring he could choose to be. She should have listened to the little alarm bell that rang in her head as she was leaving her apartment and going down the stairs to meet him. She should have never gotten into that car.

She goes over the night's events again in her mind, remembered that she felt her first pang of fear when she realized they were heading for the deserted park. She had suggested going to the village instead, to talk things out over a cup of coffee. He assured her that they'd be more at ease to discuss things while driving through the park, without distractions. He had seemed agitated; she didn't want to aggravate him. Once again, her passivity has landed her in the worst of situations.

She gathers up her courage and decides to try to get up. Her body tells her that if she stays still for much longer, she will simply freeze where she is. Her legs and forearms are already numb, and she can't feel much cold anymore. She moves her arms along the pavement and isn't surprised to find that she can't feel anything with her hands. It feels just like when she gets a cavity fixed at the dentist - she knows the hands are there, she can feel their weight, but she could cut right through them and not feel a thing. Thinking of cuts makes her suddenly stop moving, but she quickly pushes the thought out of her head and tries to move her legs.

She can't tell at first whether they are completely numb, or moving at all. She thinks she'd have a hard time walking on legs that feel like they aren't there. After a minute or so of trying to get some feeling back into them, she slowly raises her head and looks down at her feet. She purposefully looks beyond her mid-section, not wanting to see the damage she knows is there. Her eyes at least aren't lying. She is telling her body to move her legs, but her legs are obviously not listening. Could her legs be so frozen that they won't move? A little voice deep inside tells her this probably isn't the case. A knife in the back may be a more plausible explanation.

She lays her head back down and closes her eyes. What time is it? There is no way to tell how long she's been there, or how long it will be before someone finds her. She doesn't try calling for help, doesn't want to hear the despair in her voice, doesn't want to listen to the silence that would surely answer her pleas. A horrible thought crosses her mind then - the thought that the much awaited dawn may not be the answer to her problem. The park's road is seldom used in the winter months, because of snow accumulation. The city even closes it to motor vehicles when the maintenance becomes too great. What if no one came at all? What if the next visitor was a week away? And even if someone did come by, what were the chances they would see her body in the middle of the parking lot from the main path? For the first time, the thought of dying here enters her mind. She imagines herself fighting through the cold, she can see her body lying in plain view in daylight and waiting to be rescued, sees people walking in the distance without looking her way...This thought makes her open her eyes wide, sets the panic back in motion, and she opens her mouth to yell, to call for help...

...except nothing comes out. Again, she inhales and tries to scream, but the air gets caught in her throat, letting no sound get through. Her mouth feels like sandpaper, and she can feel her lips crack open as she again tries to speak...and then to whisper...and then she falls silent. Tears are forming in her eyes once again, but no sobbing sound accompanies her silent display of fear and pain. She hates herself for not using her strength to call out when she still could. She hates herself for fearing the empty silent replies to her pleas. She hates the man who made her feel afraid, hurt, and lost. She closes her eyes and tries to forget the limbs she can not feel, the ones she can not move, and the voice she can no longer hear.

She wakes from her doze to hear the distant chirping of morning birds. The sky is still dark, but she can no longer see the moon. She thinks it must be close to dawn, in those early winter hours when the sun is lazy and the stars linger. She realizes without much surprise that her whole body is gone. Even her eyes seem frozen; only the changing scenery before her tells her that they are still moving. In the distance, she hears a dog barking. She can hear cars as well, surely early risers on their way to work, drinking coffee from their cheap travel mugs and trying not to fall asleep at the wheel. She slowly becomes aware that all of this is real, that even as morning rises no one will wander by to find her. She wonders if she will sleep under the fallen snow all winter, only to be finally found in the spring. Her thoughts are lazy and distant, and those barks are getting louder in her head. She wonders who would let a dog freeze in the backyard. She wonders why she is freezing in a parking lot.

Suddenly she is aware of something warm on her face. She turns her eyes and is blinded for a moment by something soft and wet, and panic strikes her once again as the thought that a wolf has found her comes to her mind. If she thought that nothing worse could happen, here is something else to think about - being eaten alive by a pack of wolves as morning traffic passes her by is the most horrifying thing yet to enter her mind since the previous evening. As she clenches her teeth in anticipation of the first bite, she hears a voice - a man's voice, and the licking stops. A voice - A VOICE! Someone is here, someone has seen her! She opens her eyes and meets her savior's, who is saying something she can't make out, but she doesn't care, he is here, he is going to help her, he is going to save her.

That she is beyond saving doesn't matter. That she will die in the hospital, while doctors try to bring her temperature back up and assess the severity of her stab wounds, is beside the point. She realizes she already knows her life won't be saved. She knows she will take her horrible story with her to her grave, and realizes she doesn't much care anymore. She feels at peace, she feels safe, she feels grateful to know that she was saved before taking her last journey.

She wants to speak, to say thank you and never stop saying it, to laugh out loud and cry of gratitude, but she can't. She is speechless. She is speechless and it is dawn.

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Old Comments

  • It is horrible to imagine a situation where you are not able to fight for yourself. Perhaps the only thing that you can do is to keep soothing your own self. That she tries to do in between. It is indeed a moving story!

    Posted by Dr George Karimalil  on  02/03  at  11:42 AM
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