Complete darkness filled the void beneath my eyelids. I strained myself to open my eyes, but they wouldn’t budge, trapping me inside of my own mind. I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing here. I couldn’t think straight. White dots scattered across the darkness as I urged myself to remember what had happened.
I saw myself laughing in the car, with my left hand on the steering wheel and my right hand holding someone’s hand. A voice speaks up — it’s telling me to cut it out, that whatever I’m laughing it wasn’t all that funny. The conversation continues from there, the familiar voice prompting me to turn left or right along the way. It’s so dark outside of the car windows that I can only see the bit of road that is being lit up in front of me. My left headlight is dimmer than the other and I remember thinking about bringing my car up to the shop tomorrow morning to get that fixed.
My head throbs as I continue to claw out the memories that are quickly escaping from my grasp. I see a flashing light coming from the side of the road and I remember seeing the light illuminating an old red car with its hood popped open. The voice next to me taps my shoulder and tells me to see if anyone needs help. I unbuckle my seatbelt and turn my head to the right so I’m facing the other voice.
“You stay here while I take a look, Jill.” I walk around the front of my car and ask if anybody is there, if they need any help. The sound of my voice is enveloped by the vast space through the woods and I’m met with silence. I make my way over to the driver’s seat of the car and I stop in my tracks. I’m met with a man with a long beard and a vicious look in his eyes staring at me. I raise my hands in surrender as he thrusts a gun in front of me and yells something over his shoulder. I hear shrill screams coming from behind me, where I left my car. Jill. My eyes widen in shock as I recognize the voice coming from my car.
I don’t remember what I did after that, but I remember thinking that I had to get back to Jill. I had to protect her. But before I could rush over to her, my world was covered in a cloak of black. My body fell limp and I felt the roughness of raw earth underneath my skin.
The pounding in my head intensified as my memories came flooding back to me. Panic rushed through my body as the reality of the situation set in. What happened? Was Jill okay? Where am I and how did I get here? Would I ever be able to see her again?
Unanswered questions surged through my mind, but I was left with nothing but the murk that caged my thoughts. I waited for these questions to be answered, but was surrounded only by the ringing in my ears and the clatter of voices around me. I felt myself being moved but still couldn’t figure out where I was going or where I had already been. My body began to feel heavier as each second passed and before I knew it, I was swallowed by that same darkness again.
. . .
I wake up to the long beep of the heart monitor next to me. My hand twitches. I could tell that there was someone else in the room with me. I felt their presence. They were crying. Sobbing. Murmuring something about why I left them. Why I couldn’t have stayed longer. How much this crushed them. I moved my hand across the thin fabric that made up the hospital bed sheet that draped over me. My eyes squinted open, and only light filled my vision. Now it was clear — the sobbing was coming from Jill, my girlfriend. She sat, crumpled on the floor, with her head buried in her hands, and her back against the wall. I slowly moved my legs across the bed and stood, right next to the bed. My feet were bare, but I couldn’t feel the cold of the tiles beneath them. I couldn’t feel anything at all. The figure of a man lay on the bed that I just left. He looked like me, only paler, and his face displayed no emotion at all. His eyes were closed and he looked to be in a deep sleep. I made a few steps towards Jill, and stopped when she looked up. She lifted her gaze and looked right at me. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it as soon as she did. Wiping the streaming tears from her eyes, she composed herself, stood up, and took a final glance at the man on the bed. She whispered,
“You will always have a place in my heart. I will never stop loving you.” And with that, she turned and left. I wanted to scream for her to come back. I’m here! I’m right in front of you! Can’t you see me?! I’m here! But it was no use. She’d never hear me. Never see me again. I was all alone. That was the only thought that filled my mind as I slid down the wall, sitting where she had been, just a moment ago. The question that had burned inside of my head had been answered, but I realize now that it came at a price.
I trembled as I relived the moment my life withered in front of my eyes. My world crumbled around me and I could do nothing but watch. I wondered whether I really wanted the answer to my question. I wondered if I could take it back if I had known that it would end up like this. I sat there thinking, maybe I would have been better off never knowing — stuck in an endless world of darkness and nothingness. Maybe I would feel better without this unbearable aching in my chest.
But in my heart I knew that I would relive that moment all over again just to see her face. She looked beautiful even as tears rolled down her cheeks and sorrow glossed over her eyes. I would go through a thousand times that pain to know that she was alright and that she had a chance at making a new beginning. I knew that no matter what, when given the chance, I would do anything to see her face again. Because when my questions were answered, I knew that she would be alright.