Thursday, March 01, 2007

Cryptic Night Out

Category: Issue 6, Short Story Winners

Amnesia, even on a temporary basis, can be terrifying. I should know.

I opened my eyes to total and suffocating blackness. I lay still and tried to gather my thoughts. I was aware I was cold and lying on something smooth and hard. I couldn’t recall how I got there, or even who I was. I swallowed hard to stop myself from panic. Had someone buried me alive? My arms jerked involuntarily upwards and I encountered space. Thank God, there wasn’t a lid above my head! 

I sat up slowly. Almost afraid that I had some terrible injury and I wouldn’t be able to move. My head throbbed dully, but apart from feeling stiff, I could discern no other pain.

I shuffled forward into the musty smelling surroundings until my hand encountered a wall. I ran my hands across it, exploring a surface that felt slightly rough under my fingers. Working from left to right, I inched my way around. The place was relatively small and square. There were no windows that I could detect. My chest heaved and panic threatened to set in again. I was entombed. I stifled a sob

Feeling my way along the last wall, I heard myself praying aloud. ‘God, let there be an opening.’

I felt a change of texture, smooth and cold. The wall bulged out into a slight curve. I followed it round with my fingers and decided it felt like a column. My hand dropped onto the dry roughness of an iron door and leaned my head against it for an instant, grateful for cool air that came through a slight opening. I gathered my strength and put my shoulder to the heavy door. It creaked and moved stiffly, shedding particles of rust.

Outside, I paused to get my bearings. Behind me the crumbling, ivy covered crypt loomed against the disc of a full moon. A low-lying mist curled around long unattended headstones. Tributes to the dead, that lay scattered like broken teeth in the open space. A headless marble angel leaned drunkenly towards the weed-covered ground, as if about to crush the praying cherub that squatted at its side. A canopy of tall oaks and horse chestnut trees skirted the perimeters of the graveyard and gave a menacing sort of privacy to those buried in their shadow. An old stone church emerged from the ground mist, the upper windows black eyes watching over the dead. My skin bunched into gooseflesh and the panic I’d been suppressing washed over me and I ran.  A gothic gate hung drunkenly on broken hinges. Ivy crept along the decorated ironwork and rustled a protest as I wrenched at it. It moved a few inches and allowed me to squeeze through, but not before the latch grated painfully across my spine.

I staggered across an empty road and stood under a hissing neon streetlamp, I looked back and noticed a crumbling wall that I could easily have stepped over if I hadn’t panicked. I told myself that losing it under the circumstances was acceptable and it didn’t make me a wimp.

I searched my jeans pockets and found cigarettes and a lighter. I lit up and sucked calming smoke deep into my lungs and contemplated my next move. In my jacket pocket I discovered a wallet.  More in control now, even though my head was still pounding, I rifled through it. It was empty of money, but there were credit cards and a receipt.  I could make out a name and telephone number. Dean Falcon. Was that me? Yes, it sounded right.

It took a while to find a phone box that hadn’t been vandalized. Finally, after fumbling through my pockets for loose change, I rang the number on the receipt.

After what seemed like a thousand rings, a male voice answered sleepily, ‘Yallo?’

‘Hallo, this is Dean Falconer.’

There was a pause before the voice replied sarcastically. ‘And I am Robert Blakely - do you know what time it is – you asshole? Whatcha want?’

Not knowing the man on the other end of the phone, apart from his name, I said briefly. ‘I’m lost, Robert.’ 

The voice gave a hoot of laughter.’ Get stuffed, Birdie!  I’m not coming to get you this time. Call a cab.’

Birdie? That must be my nickname. ‘Wait, don’t ring off, I’ve got no more change for the phone.’ I said desperately.

‘For Christ’s sake, why didn’t you take your mobile?’ The voice didn’t appear too happy.

‘I forgot it. Look, I’m outside a supermarket called Ray’s Store. If you pick me up, I’ll owe you one - big time. Do you know the place?’

‘Yeah., Give me five and I’ll get you,’ he said in a resigned tone.

‘I think I need to go to the hospital first.’

‘What for?’

I’ve got a lump on the side of my head the size of a billiard ball and I’ve lost my memory.’ I said miserably.

I wasn’t expecting gales of laughter. Even though I couldn’t recall Robert, I was hoping for something more like concern. ‘Stupid asshole, expect you were pissed again,’ he said

All at once I remembered his nickname. ‘Shut up, Robo and come and get me.’

Ten minutes later, Robo came screaming up in his old van. He opened the door and leaned out. ‘Get in, shithead,’ he growled.

I recognised the long face and shaggy brown hair of my roommate. ‘Guess what, Robbo? My memory’s back now.’ I got into the sagging front seat. Robo glared at me, but didn’t answer and we rode home in silence. Once inside the flat we shared, he stomped off to bed, muttering something about it being the very last time.

As I lay in bed that night I recalled the details of the ‘boy’s night’ out. The bet, which of us could drink the most pints in the least time. The walk home and the scaffolding on the side of a building. Me swinging and doing monkey impressions, the bar slipping from my sweating hand and then the blank.

The boys were as drunk as I was. Once they discovered I wasn’t dead, they would have thought it a joke to lay me in the crypt and leave me.

Looking back now I don’t think it was all that funny, I could have been injured. They should have taken me to hospital instead of laying me in that tomb where anything could have happened. I might have had a heart attack and died of fright.

As it is, I have this slimy, green fungus growing all over my back and my toenails are falling out one by one.