Continued from: Earworm: Part 47 — Ballooning
Joel grasped from the vague crypt of sleep for his surroundings. Water sprinkled on his face. Rain. Had he passed out? He was aware of something else. Not quite sure what it was, something at the end of his running current of perception, but the knowledge of where he was, and why he was there, remained out of reach. The rain patted on him. He wanted to wipe it from his face.
Just lie still.
Did someone just tell him to lie still? He wasn’t sure. There was the sound of many voices, stern tones like parents discussing something horrible in front of a child too young to grasp the meaning. He heard another garbled voice. It sounded like an alien robot speaking with hissing, static whistles. Blurs of light danced on the backs of Joel’s closed eyelids, a kaleidoscope of blinking, rhythmic flashes in his head like lightning illuminating a dark room. The alien voice spoke again. Joel thought it sounded familiar, Joel trying to turn his head, thinking, Just let me get this wetness off my face.
“Just lie still.”
Someone did say it. Joel reentered his body with the slow feeling one experiences when waking from a deep sleep, becoming aware of the lights and the voices, and the heavy idles of diesel engines…
An icy stake plunged into his heart—complete awareness of an unfathomable horror. The idling engine belonged to a fire truck. The blinking across his eyelids were emergency lights. The robotic voice, calling into the night with solemn urgency, was a police radio.
Joel opened his eyes. Strobe flashes of red and blue refracted off glistening, rain soaked metal and glass—the twisted, shattered remains of what was once an automobile. Joel’s eyes becoming accustomed to the lights and the rain, a thick, protective mental fog lifting, allowing more of the carnage to slip into his cognition. Joel saw Guard’s face looming before him. Guard’s eyes staring, mouth opened, the look of a person taking the initial plunge on a roller coaster. “Guard?” Joel said.
“Just hold on,” someone said. But Joel was unable to turn and see who said it.
“Guard?” Joel asked his still and staring friend.
Guard didn’t respond. Joel looked at the twisted mess that was his best friend’s body. A bent steering wheel wrapped against his friend’s chest, the dashboard seemingly part of Guard’s body. In some places, discerning flesh from car was impossible.
“Guard,” Joel yelled.
“Hold still,” someone said. There came the sound of a chainsaw starting—more like a table saw—the speeding rotisserie of a metal blade. “We’ll have you out of there in a minute. Just stay calm and hold still,” someone hollered over the saw’s whine. Then the banshee screech of metal murdering metal burrowed into Joel’s ears. Sparks combining with strobe lights into a terrifying fireworks display.
Joel ran—where?—hitting something. Something else toppling over in the darkness. He stood, unmoving in the black silence. He felt his heartbeat, his breathing, he held his hands out to his sides, steadying himself. “Okay,” he whispered. Feeling his desk with his hand, his eyes adjusting to the night. He picked out shapes and depths scattered about the familiar universe of his bedroom. He felt the wall beside him and slid down its surface to sit on the floor. Then Joel did something he hadn’t allowed himself to do in a very long time. He sobbed in heaving, silent gasps.
Continued in: Earworm: Part 49 — Dazed and Confused
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