The night sky spins around Sam, the glimmer of constellations streaking across his vision, but he knows the world has not been set to hyper-speed. Only his.
“Hey, when’s your birthday?” a voice above him says. He tries to turn towards it, but the thick foam that surrounds him restricts even the slightest movement. Instead, he searches for the sound with his eyes, which land on a woman, whose auburn hair is pulled back into a tight ponytail. It’s the only feature he can make out before everything dizzies and he squeezes his eyes shut.
The one they pulled him away from, screaming. The one he can’t find.
No matter how many straps hold him down, he can feel his body jostle at every bump in the pavement as he is pushed someplace he’s told will help him. He doesn’t know if that’s possible. He’s in agony, the pain as deep as the Mariana Trench, and as enormous of the Milky Way. He’s flailing and there’s no way he can escape it.
“Sam,” the woman says, her voice firm as the metal door smashing into his body with no warning. “I need you to answer me. What’s your birthday?”
Grasping onto any information other than what’s happened in the last 20 minutes is difficult, like solving a Rubix Cube in the dark. Nearly impossible. He’d rather let the darkness, encroaching on the edges of his vision and yanking at the hem of his jeans, pull him under.
But he doesn’t.
“12/18/2002,” he says.
“Good,” she replies, which means she must know he’s right. Probably from his ID, he connects, one fiber of his busted-up brain still functioning.
He also connects it to another image, one of his wallet falling from his pocket, as he hung upside down like a bat from his seatbelt. It landed in a field of crushed glass. Inches away from her, blood seeping from cuts. Bone jutting through skin. Hair fluttering from the air through the demolished windshield, not her own movement.
The bright fluorescent lights jolt him out of the memory. He’s on a stretcher in a box of steel so shiny and reflective he has to squint just to get his eyes to open halfway.
The woman moves along his side, doing medical things around him, to him, with him, but he can only catch glimpses as to what she’s doing. Hooking him up to a machine. Talking with someone just out of his sight. Pounding on the wall behind him before the box he’s worked out is an ambulance jerks forward.
His condition is a combination of miserable feelings that makes him think he might be dying. But since he has no idea what that feels like, he’s not sure if he’s just extremely exhausted and his body is trying to shut down to save him, or it’s because he’s not long for this world. Based on emotion alone, he thinks it’s the latter.
He can barely see through the squint, but the tears obscure it further. His lungs feel like they’ve been filled with concrete.
“Sam. You’re okay. We’re taking care of you.” When a blink sends the droplets down his face, the woman’s face becomes a smudge of color. Her forehead is wrinkled, her mouth shaped into some kind of half-smile, half-frown. Even he can tell she’s worried about him.
Unlike his birthday, the answer appears to him in a matter of seconds. “Green.”
She smiles. “Green. I like green, too.”
But it’s not just any green to him. It’s the pale color of Addie’s eyes, with brown rings around the iris.
And of her Converse, the canvas bright as a clover, their rubber dirtied from trudges through school days and the saturated ground near the creek.
And of the grass when they first kissed as they laid in her backyard, the bright sun dimmed from the thick canopy of leaves.
Shade after shade he can think of, each tied to her and them in some way or another. Ways which now may only be memories.
Or walk alongside her in the halls or as they skipped stones across the water. Or catch those eyes from across the room and know he’s not alone.
He’ll be left with the one last image: the checks of her green and black flannel, sticky with red as a man held a thick mat of gauze to her side and she stared blankly at the pavement.
A sob leaves his mouth, shaking his whole chest, and sending what feels like a thousand knives into it.
“Sam, calm down,” she says, but he can’t. The pains beget one after another.
The only air he takes in comes in ever-more strangled breaths. He shudders. The darkness around him strengthens.
“Sam, stay with me.” The woman moves frantically, grabbing at something. The anguish deepens.
The only color he sees is black.
Looking for more about Sam and Addie? Read Sarah’s first piece in this series, Lovecrash.