1

817 28 13
                                    

Frozen. From top to bottom, I was frozen. I stayed like that, with my eyes pinched shut, for however long I thought I needed to be safe. My body felt as if it had been drowned in water and shoved in a freezer, turned into an ice sculpture and left to die.

But I wasn't cold. No, I was sweating. Heat bled out of my skin and stuck to my clothes.

I was too afraid to open my eyes.

When I finally did, I was astonished. I blinked a few times just to be sure I wasn't hallucinating. Underneath me, a bed with navy blue sheets. Ahead of me, a Star Trek Generations poster. Across from the bed, a wooden desk with papers, notebooks, and an opened can of Coca Cola. My eyes gazed around the room, running with confusion. What in the world. . .?

"Jace!"

Startled, I covered my entire head with the blanket. Whoever called my name, they were coming for me, and they wanted to hurt me.

Do not move, I told myself. And I probably would have stuck to my promise if I hadn't heard the door burst open and hit the wall behind it. I popped my head out from under the protection of the blanket. My eyes widened.

My mother stood in the door frame with her arms akimbo and a look of annoyance spread across her face. Only, it wasn't the mother I knew: the woman I saw a couple of times a year on holidays, who would gift me some sort of kitchen gadget every Christmas because god forbid anyone ever find me in a kitchen appliance store. There was something different about her. She had a glow, a slight pink flushed on her cheeks, and the wrinkles that creased upon her forehead and eyelids somehow disappeared. She gave a sigh.

"I called you ten minutes ago," she said and began to pick up some dirty clothes from the floor. "You need to start setting an alarm or something—you're late almost every morning. And clean up after yourself." Before I could say anything, she threw the clothes in a hamper and walked out, shutting the door behind her.

For a moment, I was slightly agitated. She'd been very stern, and I hadn't been told what to do by my mother for a long time, not since my teenage years.

That's when it clicked.

I gave the room another good look, and I began to recognize it. I hopped out of the bed and peeked out the window blinds, recognizing the patchy, brown grass and single lawn chair outside, too. Awakened, I raced out of the room to explore what the rest of this place had for me.

I first entered the living room, instantly gaining memories of the brown leather chair in the corner and the barely used fireplace. I then travelled passed the white and yellow themed kitchen, dazed and wondering what kind of dream I was in.

Am I in a shock? Is this the afterlife?

Quickly grabbing a chair, I had to try to keep my balance for a moment. Everything was profoundly overwhelming. I moved on and stepped into the bathroom. The gray tiles were cold under my feet and when I looked down, I noticed I wasn't wearing the same clothes I had a while ago. Instead of a white shirt tucked into dress pants, my legs were wearing loose pyjama pants and I had no shirt on at all. Even in this likely dream, I started to feel small, vulnerable.

For some reason, I hesitated to look in the mirror. I've heard that looking at your reflection indreams reveals not only what is going on in your life, but also what is goingon within yourself. If what I've heard is true, I certainly wasn't prepared tosee what was going on within myself. Curiosity getting the best of me, I agreed to let myself take one teeny glance at my appearance.

It was unexpected, to say the least. I was still myself, hooded blue eyes topped with furrowed eyebrows—although my hair was significantly lighter—kind of ill-looking, but just skinny—I looked like a bully. I looked mean and I didn't like it. I wanted to punch the boy staring back at me, wipe that nasty smirk off his face, yet then it dawned on me that he really was a boy. Just a sad, lanky, mean-looking kid. Probably seventeen years old. I hadn't gazed back at him in ages.

The shock kicked in and I began to panic, so much so that I tripped over the toilet behind me, collapsing onto the ground with a smack.

Nothing made sense. This delusion, which didn't seem like a delusion anymore; this house, too detailed to be fake; my reflection, inexplicable. I knew that this wasn't a dream, I remembered that I hadn't fallen asleep at all. I recalled what happened before waking up in my old bedroom. . .

I worked at Eclectic Printing & Design in Santa Ana, California. I moved to a different city, away from the Ventura County and all its pain, and became a graphic designer—kind of a good one, too. I don't mean to boast, but I'd say I did a good job of leaving my jock-athlete high school career behind and crossing onto the territory of the arts.

I figured, hey, I'm finally out of school, why not do something I'd actually enjoy? Basketball was fun and all, but I ensured my drawings were a secret.

It had been a tiresome day, one that seemed to drag on for ever, and I was eager to drive back home where a microwavable meal and pull-out couch were awaiting my return. I was always the last one to leave the office; my best work came out during the latest hours. Around half-past ten, I packed up my things and headed out.

When my body invaded the darkness outside, a cool breeze passed through my clothes and travelled up my spine. That same frozen feeling.

For a second, I thought I caught the sound of something. Some sort of movement, like feet shuffling. I deemed it as nothing and turned around to lock the front door of the building.

More sounds of movement.

I promptly spun around, but all I saw was the nearly empty parking lot. Initially, the only car there that was in my sight was mine. But then I looked closely, and I noticed a truck parked in the very back of the parking lot. It was a black, eerie-looking Chevrolet truck, and I hadn't ever seen it standing there before. It appeared ordinary, except for a symbol on its side. The logo had three white, spiralled hooks that kind of represented a cycle. I recognized it quickly enough: it was the symbol of the past, present, and future.

I squinted more, but before I could detect anything else, something smashed into me, knocking me down to the concrete sidewalk. My head hit hard. My instincts kicked in and I rolled over to see what had pushed me down. I saw no face, only a large body on top of me. With a weapon in hand.

The last thing I remembered was smelling exhaust and hearing a sharp, incessant ringing in my ears.

I couldn't put together my thoughts, couldn't piece them in place. So, if all this wasn't a dream, what was it? When I woke up in that bed, I wasn't feeling any pain anymore. It was as though it disappeared . . . as if my previous life vanished.

I had to think through every option. A, this was all a dream. I had proven that one wrong, though. B, after work, I had tripped and fallen, all by myself, and I was currently in a coma, and all my friends and family were gathered around my hospital bed, praying for me to wake up. That was the most desired option, but this didn't feel like one big, false idea created in my head. I was able to physically feel my body, and I knew I wasn't unconscious in some hospital room. I knew that, deep down.

Option C, everything, the entirety of what I was seeing and doing, was all real. I wasn't hallucinating.

Time travel? Feasibly.

Sent here for a purpose?

I forced myself up from the floor and took another long view of myself. I turned away from the mirror, instead eyeing what was outside the bathroom window. Right then, I hoped that Option B was still a potential choice.

On the other side of the street, at the end of the block, was a black, eerie-looking Chevrolet truck.

On the side, a white symbol of the past, present, and future.

The Prime Suspect | ShawRocketPrize WinnerWhere stories live. Discover now