I sprinted across the field, huffing and puffing, but trying to hold out. I could feel my pursuers on my heels and I had grown so tired that my vision was blurred. Nothing in my surroundings was taking it’s proper shape. It was as if I were on powerful hallucinogens or psychedelic drugs. My footsteps were slowing beyond my control as the baby blue sky hanging above me swirled into a boring white paint which splashed violently upon the walls that were appearing on my sides. I closed my eyes and shook my head as I continued to take increasingly heavy steps, even when slowing to an infantile like walk.
I opened my tired eyes once more to find myself in a hospital setting. At this point all of my muscles had instantly became weak and I felt like an invisible force was summoning my entire body to the floor. I forced my weakened bones to continue the struggle and turned around, knowing that facing my pursuers would be the only possibility at an escape from the mental prison I was navigating. A man and a woman reached out to grab me, sensing that my defeat was in their grasp. I warily reached two wrinkly old hands out to press them against the chest of the man, but my fingers ached as I attempted to extend them from their comfortably curled position. These couldn’t be my hands. Could this be a dream, or another effect of the drugs I had been administered?
“Mr Porter,” the woman said as her male counterpart gently took hold of me. “I need you to come back to your room now.” She put on a smile which was probably meant to call me, but the only effect it had on me was that of nausea. I could have been sick if I hadn’t felt so empty inside. Realizing that I couldn’t physically overcome my enemies, I swallowed my spit and fought the frightened feeling within me and found what words I could muster.
A voice I had never heard before croaked from my throat. “I have to find Alyssa…” I heard myself say. The energy it took me to speak summoned gravity to bring me down harshly, slamming my weak knees against the cold, hard floor. This was the first time I realized I was in a hospital gown, but that image quickly faded as my surroundings were now twisting away to a dark and empty void, ready to swallow my entirety.
“Woah there,” the man said to me, trying to stabilize me as if I were some sort of animal within his control, “that’s enough excitement for today.”
His words meant nothing to me. All that mattered was that I escaped this prison that was holding my mind captive. “Alyssa…” I muttered in the same unrecognizable voice I had before as I crumpled to the floor, and everything slipped away into the inevitable darkness.
At this point I was actually relieved on some level. Although I was completely without control, this old body that was holding me hostage had me tired beyond belief and I was ready for some rest. I knew though, that once my eyes opened again, I would get to the bottom of this mess and I would escape the custody of whoever it was that held me. However, the sleep didn’t come. I felt cold hands on me, lifting me and setting me down on what I could only assume was a stretcher, but I didn’t drift any further. I could hear and feel everything that was happening to me. I attempted to open my eyes with no success. So I did all that I could do, I listened.
“Trust me,” I heard the woman’s voice say, “I know where you’re coming from, but it’s not our right to tell him. We aren’t loved ones, we’re just his caretakers.”
Before I could find out what it was they weren’t telling me, my eyes suddenly decided to cooperate. However, when they opened, my surroundings weren’t what I expected. I was in a cemetery, with rain beating down on me from above. I held my hands up, and I realized that they were my own again. I quickly moved my legs and found that my entire body was back to normal. I breathed a happy sigh of relief and looked up at the dark sky, allowing my grief to be washed away by the heavy raindrops that fell upon my forehead.
I squinted my eyes and I could make out two figures in the distance, standing near a tombstone. It seemed like they were arguing about something. Suddenly, I couldn’t remember how I had gotten to the cemetery in the first place. Was I with this couple? Surely I wouldn’t just hang out in a graveyard alone, especially in the rain. I hurried towards them, trying to gain a clue as to what was going on, and hoping that they could help me piece together my day.
When I got close enough to make out that they were a man and a woman, they seemed familiar, as if I had known them from somewhere, but I couldn’t place the memory. I jogged over to them, but they didn’t seem at all startled by my presence. Instead, they just continued to exchange words like they weren’t in the middle of a cemetery during a storm.
“You call this taking care of him?” the man said loudly over booming thunder. Whatever it was he was talking about, it did seem as if he actually cared. “All I see is us repeatedly hurting him, and I think it could be avoided. For all we know, this Alyssa person does exist.”
It quickly occurred to me that I did, in fact, know these people, and that they also knew Alyssa. If they knew us both, I wondered if they knew Max as well. And if so, why couldn’t I place them? And on top of that, why were they pretending like they didn’t notice me approaching them in the graveyard, or at the very least acknowledge that I was there?
The woman was becoming frustrated with the conversation. “For all we know, Alyssa is dead,” she said, “now is that really a conversation you want to have to have with Mr. Porter? Try explaining that to him on top of everything else you think it’s necessary to shove on his plate… oh shit. I think he heard me…”
For the first time, I realized what was on the tombstone in front of me. It read Here Lie Max and Alyssa Walters – Together Forever, Even in Death
Tears began to stream down my face as my surroundings blurred around me and took the shape of a car. I looked down to see that I was in the driver’s seat, although I had no recollection of getting in the car.
“Hurry up,” Max said, from the back seat, “we’re ready to get this honeymoon started!” Alyssa’s laugh rang in my ears and I smiled as I remembered where I was. I was driving my best friends, Max and Alyssa from their wedding to the airport that would fly them away to get lost in each other on some island for their honeymoon.
“Alright, alright,” I chuckled, stepping on the gas. “Keep your pants on. No really, keep your pants on, you guys can at least wait until you’re on the plane!”
They laughed and Alyssa leaned forward between the seats to kiss me on the cheek. “Thanks again for driving us,” she said, and she turned back to making out with her newly wedded husband.
I looked in the rear view mirror at her rosy complexion. She was blushing as Max kissed her as if this was her first time with him, even though they had been together for years. The happiness that radiated from her was childlike, and I felt warm inside just watching her. All I could think about as I was transfixed on her beauty was how that could have been me in the back seat with her. Max was my best friend too, and I was happy for them, but there was no doubt in my mind that my heart beat solely for her. I smiled, thinking of how it could be me that made her that happy, and imagining myself back there with her. She was all that existed to me, and the rest of the world drowned away in the background, including the large truck that smashed into us at that moment.
I screamed, and tears rolled down my cheeks, but suddenly I wasn’t in a car anymore, and Alyssa and Max were nowhere to be seen. Instead, a man and a woman were standing in front of me as I sat up in a hospital bed. I felt frail, but I didn’t know why.
“Now look what you’ve done,” the man said. He sighed deeply. “I’m just saying, every day Mr. Porter attempts to escape this place to find somebody who doesn’t even exist, and we have to wrangle him up and drag him back here against his will so that he can be miserable. We’re lucky that he doesn’t get hurt most days! You say we have to be loved ones to tell him the truth but he doesn’t have any loved ones to take care of him and tell him he has Alzheimer’s.”
They were suddenly silent, as if that was a piece of information they shouldn’t have let slip. My mind couldn’t even process what was happening to me. I had a faint memory of killing the only people I ever loved growing even fainter by the moment, but that couldn’t be a bad thing, because the pain of realizing what I had done was even weighing on me physically. I felt old, tired, and worn. I tried to push myself out of bed, but I was far too weak, and instead I fell back down onto the hard bed. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth in pain, but when I opened them, there was no ceiling above me. Instead, it was a brightly lit sky.
“Look at that cloud!” I heard my friend Max exclaim. “It looks like a fish!”
“Yeah but that one looks like a cat, and cats are way cooler,” Alyssa said with a giggle. “And besides, cats eat fish!”
I couldn’t remember laying in the grass, but the moment was perfect. “Do you guys think we’ll still hang out when we’re adults?” I asked. Something inside me told me not to let them go. I felt if I lost them then I would be doomed to loneliness, which is a hard reality for a child to face.
“Like when we’re thirty?” Max asked, sitting up.
“I guess,” I said, pushing myself up to be on eye level with the others. When I laid my eyes on Alyssa, I felt like my heart beat faster. As she placed sat up the wind blew her bright blonde hair out of her blue eyes, and that’s when I knew I was in love.
“Don’t be silly,” she said, putting her soft hands in ours, one in Max’s, and one in mine. “ We’re only ten now, but we’re best friends. Obviously we’ll be together forever.”
“What about when we die?” Max asked.
I could see a glimpse of a man and a woman standing above me, while doctors tried all they could to sustain me. I didn’t know what it meant, but it frightened me, so I held on tighter to Alyssa’s hand, and grabbed Max’s other hand with my free one.
“We’ll be buried together,” Alyssa said. “We’ll make sure we put it in our wills that we want to be buried together.”
“But why?” Max asked, but I understood. We would never have to spend eternity alone if we knew we would end up together in the end anyways.
Alyssa smiled. “So that we can be together forever, even in death,” she said, and she kissed us each on the cheek.
My surroundings drifted to black, but this time there was no hospital. I could see a faint vision of a tombstone, which read three names. I couldn’t control my body to smile, wherever I was, and I a distant beep was the last thing I heard as my consciousness faded away, leaving only one memory to remain in my mind, and it was the happiest I could have ever asked for.