Exploding pain. Blinding stars cascading everywhere. He drunkenly swung his head from side to side like a sick dog. The blow had done more than incapacitate; it had unhinged something. He tasted the salty rush of blood in his mouth, his tongue finding several teeth knocked loose in their sockets. Flashes of exquisite pain shot in rushing tremors behind his eyes. The darkness enveloped him in warmth and he fell into its release.
Night. Cold. A cutting wind was howling around him. In a split second he assessed the surroundings. Something familiar. Something…what was it. He recognized it. But couldn’t place it. Like the reflection of a familiar scene in a distorted mirror. Not a bad memory. He sensed happiness. Security. But an unfamiliar timidity. Even his body felt foreign. Recognition was just dawning when a hand slipped into his. Like it was supposed to be there. Natural. But foreign. He sensed that this was accepted, supposed to be. Somewhere in the recessed corners of his sub consciousness he recognized… Who? It had only taken a moment for the rapid-fire string of mental connections to bring him here.
How many years? He hadn’t forgotten; he chose not to remember. He had not let himself go there. He would not. He couldn’t afford to lose his edge, and that’s what had happened once. Not again. But this was different. Too real. Something had brought him here. A faint memory of an injury, a devastating blow, flashed before him. This wasn’t by choice. The corner of his mind had been blown open. And here he stood. Holding her. How was she so real when he knew all he saw was the result of misfiring synapses. The conversation – he knew how it went – he’d replayed it a million times before finally sealing it off to avoid going mad. He heard the words. Echoing in the winter wind, muted like the sound of words blanketed under a rush of water. Through their coats, he felt the warmth of her body pressed against his side. Reaching to brush the hair from her cheek… Her face. What was wrong. The form, the familiar lines, but distorted. He squinted. Trying to focus. To see. Like trying to look through a prism. Not emptiness, but a shifting form impossible to hold. That laugh. That unbelievable laugh. He felt the corners of his mouth pulled upward completely against his will. It had always made him smile. That sound he had not allowed himself to hear. Had shut out. For his sanity. She nuzzled her head into his shoulder entwining both arms through his and pulling close. He waited. The nightmare had always ended the same. The upturned face, the soft voice, the way the lips moved…
“I’m so happy.”
Somewhere in a lifeless coma, his body convulsed in a soundless scream.