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He Woke Up

January 15, 2010
I want to thank Jim Wisneski (@Wisneski) for giving me the first line, which gave me the idea for this story (although I wasn’t able to write the rest of it until much later). Thanks so much. I didn’t know prompts could be so helpful!!

Chase woke to find his window open and the other side of the bed empty. He braced himself, but nothing happened. There was only the slow, slight billowing of the curtains in the early morning breeze. Then he remembered. Where was Annie? He walked to the window and looked down.

They’d met three months before at Pete’s Bar in Little Five Points. She’d walked in just as he looked up from his beer. Their eyes locked. She smiled. “I knew immediately I wanted to meet you,” she said.
“I want to show you something,” he said, pulling the sleeve to his long black jacket up just far enough to reveal a metal bracelet.
She studied the red symbol then touched its cool metal. “What does it mean?”
“I have epilepsy.” He said nervously.
She looked up, then straight into his eyes. “Well, I’m clinically depressed. Everyone’s got something.”
She went home with him that night. Didn’t mind when he shot up in front of her, which he’d tried so desperately not to do. Didn’t flinch when she saw the line of track marks in his arm and he’d explained what they were. Had taken his face in her hands and said, “You’re beautiful. I know these things.” He cried.
“Where did you come from? It’s like you just dropped out of the sky.”
“Maybe I did.” She winked.
He vowed then to get himself clean, but nearly lost her before he had a chance to start. The next afternoon he found himself crumpled in the floor of the shower. “That’s gonna hurt.” He heard his housemate Carl say, who’d reached in to turn off the shower. “When are you going to start taking your meds like you should so I don’t have to rescue your naked ass from time to time?”

“They make me stupid, but not so stupid I don’t know I’m stupid. So—never!” God, his head hurt.
“You’re going to need stitches.”
“No way I’m going to the hospital.”
Carl assented, knowing that’s all he could do. “Let’s at least get it cleaned up.” He helped Chase out. The cut wasn’t as bad as all the blood had suggested, but the shower was still minus one tile where Chase’s head had hit. Worst of all, though, he couldn’t find Annie’s phone number.
It was a miracle he remembered her at all. Usually memories right before a seizure disappeared. After searching for two days, he finally found her number in the back of an old sketchbook he reserved for special projects. He hoped it wasn’t too late to call.
He woke to find his window open and the other side of the bed empty. Suddenly, there were naked baby dolls everywhere. He could feel them breathing and the sound was deafening. Soon they would breathe up all the air in the room and suffocate. One by one, he began chucking them out the window to save them. When he finished, he went to the window and looked down. He saw dead babies everywhere. He screamed.
“Chase, shhhhhh….it’s okay.” Annie was holding him, stroking his head, being careful to avoid yet another cut. The dreams had started soon after his fall in the shower, but had gotten worse now that he’d started the hell of withdrawal.
His breathing slowed down. He was glad she was here, even if he hadn’t wanted her to see him like this. She’d insisted on being there during his withdrawal—and he’d been grateful. She’d bought groceries for him (which he barely touched), made runs to the liquor store when the Jack ran out, borrowed Xanax for him from her friends, and—most importantly—was simply present no matter what happened. Nothing fazed her. She simply accepted what was.
He thought her profoundly innocent, if no longer naïve, which made him want to protect her even more once he was able to do so. The world always destroyed innocence.  He turned to her, “We’re going to be in love forever. I know it.” He thought he saw the flicker of something come alive and die in her eyes. He quickly added, “Unfortunately.”
She said, “What, is it unfortunate to be in love with me?”
He knew she was crying, even though he couldn’t see the tears. She was lying on the bed, her back turned to him. He’d just bought some cocaine and done a couple of lines. He was nearly through this withdrawal thing. The cocaine helped. He’d never been addicted to anything except heroin.
She turned around. “I will give you the money, but I never want to see you again.” He was dumbfounded. How did they get here? “I had planned to give you money to get your instruments out of pawn for Christmas, but I can give it to you early. If I do, I never want to see you again.” He knew he’d shown a brief look of hope at the thought of getting his instruments out and could tell she resented it.
“We can go to the ATM right now if you want.” Her eyes were pleading with him.
“I don’t want to go now.” He needed time to think. Besides, his legs were killing him.
“Please stay the night.”
Her face softened. “Okay.”
The babies were everywhere, only every single one of them looked like him. They couldn’t breathe. They were turning blue. He gathered them all up until they were in one pile on the other side of the bed. He opened the window as wide as he could. They were surprisingly light and in one solid piece as he threw them out. Once in the air, some sprouted wings and flew toward the moon. The majority fell into the grass and lay twisted, contorted in horrible ways. At least he saved some of them, he thought with relief and went back to bed.
28 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    January 15, 2010 6:04 pm

    your friday flash
    Oh, what a good job you did with the prompt from Jim.
    Heartbreaking, lyrical, and so sad. Dreaming about the dead babies at the end indicated more withdrawal, yes? Hopeful, then.

    • January 15, 2010 6:46 pm

      Re: your friday flash
      I wanted to make the ending ambiguous (guess I succeeded) in terms of meaning. It can be read in the way you are–or it can cycle back to the beginning of the piece with the question “Where’s Annie?” and be read in relation to that (but also interpreted in different ways). I may have left things a little too ambiguous…and cut some things I shouldn’t have. But I like that there are more interpretations possible with this version. I think. 😉

      • January 15, 2010 8:51 pm

        Re: your friday flash
        I could be way off base here but it left me feeling he’d been through this all before, with other girls, and each time he came so far but was never able to beat the addiction. I guess that’s the beauty of ambiguity.
        Powerful stuff regardless.

        • January 15, 2010 9:01 pm

          Re: your friday flash
          I like that interpretation and it is definitely one of the ones I had in mind. It fits especially well with him waking up in the beginning and going back to sleep in the end as well as the repetition (cyclic nature) of the dream…

  2. Anonymous permalink
    January 15, 2010 6:38 pm

    Sad nightmare. Yes, interesting direction from the prompt. Nice emotional prose, and I like the jumps in conscious moments.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    January 15, 2010 9:47 pm

    The breaks in this haunting piece act like seizures, white space that drew me in. The prose is wonderful. I’m terrified by the ending – he didn’t, did he? Beautiful, gripping, fiction.

    • January 16, 2010 12:00 am

      Re: Arresting
      Thank you so much! As for the ending–if it’s terrifying–it’s very possible he did.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    January 15, 2010 11:14 pm

    Lovely and beautifully written piece, now I’m all sad for him…

  5. Anonymous permalink
    January 16, 2010 2:18 am

    He Woke Up
    I liked the story, though definitely tragic over all. The dolls that flew (were saved) gave me some hope for Chase in the future. Maybe he will overcome his addiction for good before it is too late.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    January 16, 2010 2:28 am

    WOW – you took that first line and ran with it for sure! What a great story. . . and thanks for mentioning me at the beginning.
    Jim Wisneski

    • January 17, 2010 7:24 pm

      Re: NICE!
      Of course I would mention you. 😉 Seriously, it gave me a story for this week.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    January 16, 2010 10:55 pm

    Complex and compelling…
    A story they way I like them – dark. Of course, I grooved on the whole self-medication and co-dependency thing. One of your best… Peace, Linda

    • January 17, 2010 7:26 pm

      Re: Complex and compelling…
      SO happy you picked up on the self-medicating and co-dependency. That’s an important piece for me personally in this story–at least in the writing. I had wondered what you would think, given what you’re writing now…

  8. Anonymous permalink
    January 17, 2010 2:37 pm

    I like not knowing – the ambiguity definitely works well here. You did a wonderful job keeping it flowing without feeling jilted between time. Wonderful!

    • January 17, 2010 7:29 pm

      Re: #fridayflash
      Thank you!! I’m glad to know the jumps in time worked. It’s always a risk. Glad you liked the ambiguity. I think I’ve finally decided that I like how ambiguous it is. 🙂

  9. Anonymous permalink
    January 18, 2010 12:29 am

    Wow, loved it. Very gripping and emotionally present. The weird part was, somehow I KNEW that Chase was into drugs before I got to the part about shooting up. I feel like there was some sort of very, very subtle foreshadowing in the very, very beginning.
    I also interpreted it as the ending leading into the beginning, and had a similar response to someone else who posted here, about maybe he’d done this lots of times before, w/other girls.
    Love the dream imagery too!

    • January 21, 2010 3:47 am

      Thank you! The only foreshadowing I think I “purposely” did (but more to make sense of things later) is to have him lift his sleeve up only far enough to reveal his epilepsy bracelet (so not to show track marks). I have a feeling, though, that you may just be very intuitive. 😉 Thank you for the comments. 🙂

  10. Anonymous permalink
    January 18, 2010 5:00 pm

    The ambiguity works fine here, IMO
    The dead baby imagery is freaky (you should know me well enough by now to know this is a good thing in my book!)
    I liked “innocent but no longer naive” – that was astute, as was “He knew he’d shown a brief look of hope at the thought of getting his instruments out and could tell she resented it.” seeing as I can’t get OpenID working on my website!

    • January 21, 2010 3:48 am

      Re: .
      Thank you so much! And I’m glad to be able to get some freaky things in…there may be more in the future… 🙂

  11. January 19, 2010 12:10 am

    I like this. Very good descriptions of time and place and emotion. Well done. I liked how much of the story you told by not telling (where their emotions actually came from.)

    • January 21, 2010 3:50 am

      Thanks!! Not telling too much is hard–but easier if you only get 1000 words. Lol. (Then you have to make sure you say enough. Glad it seems like it was enough here. 🙂

      • January 21, 2010 1:51 pm

        I’d like to see the details of this group- I couldn’t find it. I’m not the calibre of writer you are but I’d like to do it anyway 🙂

  12. January 20, 2010 6:37 pm

    Very intense and well-written. The disjointed story was perfect for both flash and the topic. Great job 🙂

    • January 21, 2010 3:51 am

      Thank you!! I’m glad the disjointed narrative worked. I really like experimenting with it in general. I’m glad it worked here. 🙂

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