RECOLLECTION


 

The room I occupied was small; there was a couch and a chair, and a compact table. Every piece of furniture was painted with gore, nothing more so than the tiled flooring. The scene bothered me less than the pain in my head. I touched the source gently, briefly meeting gooey, matted hair before I had to recoil.

Panic mounting, I became aware of the fact I couldn’t remember my name. The mirror on the dingy brown wall revealed a horrific sight. The face that must have been mine was mottled with brown and green, the bruises swelled like anthills across my skin, and my nose was a shape I was sure it hadn’t been before.

The blood was undoubtedly mine; it was all over my head and my clothes; it left trails down my arms and neck. I was lucky to be alive.

 

I dropped onto the couch, muscles I didn’t even know I had ached. The light streaming in from the small windows intensified and softened as time passed. I sat until the sun retreated again, struggling to recall what had happened to me. It didn’t come back.

I remembered some things, however; this room was my living room, in the smallest, cheapest house my mother could get me, in the emptiest town as far away from her as she could make happen. I also remembered the shower in the bathroom, down the hall, next to my bedroom, across from the basement door that I dared not open. I didn't remember why.

I needed to visit that shower.

The water didn't get warm; good old mom had probably decided not to pay my electricity bill again. I let the cool stream run over my body, watching as the water swirling down the drain cycled through every shade of red before eventually going clear.

The next morning I woke with a start. I had a dream about her. It was horrific and qualified more as a nightmare but what woke me wasn’t the usual unfounded terror of a figment but a realization, a memory, perhaps. All of this had something to do with her.

I paced the kitchen for hours, breakfast all but forgotten. Her hair, gold as the sunrise, and striking seafoam eyes burned into my brain, but her name escaped me more than my own.

I was pulled suddenly from my thoughts. On my usually perfect countertop lay a postcard. It had a neon scene and gaudy font proclaiming a “good time.” The back had a handwritten note, “Can’t wait to see you, Ben!”

Ben must be my name. I should feel joyous at the discovery, but all that plagues me is a looming sense of dread.

Neon lights? The city? Very postcards themselves were nothing like me. At least not the me that I remember.


“Ben.”


“Ben.”


I repeated the word over and over until eventually, it felt right enough to be mine again. The sun was down once more; time is a nuisance.

I fell asleep as Ben.


She haunts my unconscious thought as much as she did my waking. Dreams of her reading, and smiling, and running, and turning into monsters gruesome enough to turn Krueger’s blood cold. The theme became familiar; I’d call to her in any form. I’d try to warn her, but she wouldn’t listen.

“That’s it!” I startled myself with the sudden outburst at the breakfast table. I needed to find her. I was trying to warn her about something, like in my dreams, and I’d been beaten almost to death. Something worse must have been threatening her, and I needed to find her so I could alert her. I suspected she may have even known what’d occurred in my home.

I wondered briefly if I should put on a hat before going out but chose a jacket instead. My clothes may have looked concerning, and I didn’t want anyone to worry about me when it was she who was in real danger.

The sun beat brazenly on the dusty sidewalk. My neighbors were outside, watering their dirt lawn as if that would somehow get the dead earth in this wreck of a town to grow. Neither the woman nor the man met my gaze as I passed, like usual. My mother probably spread her poison tales through the village before I moved here to make my life extra miserable.


The only good thing about a town like this is how close everything is, a thirty-minute walk, and I’m at one of our many local convenience stores.

I feel like I recognize the portly man behind the counter. I walk right up to him and introduce myself just in case.


“Alright... Ben. Whaddaya need?”


Rudely, he continues to ring up the woman here before me; I try to relax. I haven’t explained how urgent the situation is. His name was embroidered on his shirt.

“George,” I say in my most respectful voice, “This is extremely important. I’m looking for a woman.”

The woman he was assisting walks quickly out of the store. I take her place in front of the other customers to speak to the cashier unobstructed by a wall of nicotine.

“I’m not looking for a prostitute.” I stress, “This woman needs my help. She has wavy hair and green eyes. Do you know where she is?”

“Aw heck, not this again, man!” Someone behind me jeers, I turn around, but the men in this town all look the same with beer bellies and scowls and flannels a size too short. I can’t pick him out. “Sorry Ben, I don’t know nothing ‘bout that,” George says. I look back at him.

Something in his eyes tells me he’s lying. He knows what’s going on here. He knows where she is. I held his gaze, a silent battle of wills. He knows I know. The seconds pass like molasses.

“Oh, come on! Get a move on!” Someone shouts behind me. It breaks my concentration. I whipped around to glare at the wave of copycats; the culprit remained anonymous. Hope of getting more information out of George was lost, and I left the store with a headache.

Stores 2 and 3 were even less help. Chain retailers like that were always hiring new service, and the people working there didn’t even look like they were from the town.

My last stop in the evening was at another convenience store, closer to my house. That little one shared a wall with the broken down trailers of the neighborhood and proudly boasted a “locally owned and operated” sign. You could tell the validity of that statement by the number of gas pumps out of service, two of three, and the sheer insignificance of the place. It was my best bet.


“Anything I can help you find?” I approached the clown-like woman and leaned on the counter.

“Band-aids?” She quipped with one look at my face. I’m sure she found herself quite amusing.

“No, I’m looking for a woman. I don’t know who she is. She needs my help.”

“I see... Well, what’s her name?”