The Chase

November 23, 2010
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30 days ago.

Red Solo cup in hand, I stumbled through the crowd of college students who had crammed themselves into the small frat house. The heat was like a cloud hanging over the party, threatening to suffocate me with every breath I took. Smoke from cigarettes smoldering between the fingers of a couple people in the corner of the room swirled lazily in the air, meandering through conversations and heated make outs in the middle of the dance floor. God, what was I even doing here? I didn’t belong here. I wasn’t rich, I wasn’t popular, I wasn’t even in a sorority. All I had done was finally given in to my roommate’s pleas that I needed to attend at least one party during my first year of college. She claimed that I needed to “discover the fun of freshman year”. I was pretty sure that she was passed out in a room somewhere, after drinking straight from the keg several times and playing a couple rounds of beer pong. Fun.

I made my way to the front door and set my cup of Yuengling on one of the tables in the foyer. I slung my purse over my right shoulder and reached for the doorknob. Suddenly I felt warmth as someone placed their hand on my shoulder.

“Leaving so soon?” a low voice asked.

I turned around to face him, stammering that I had studying to do back at the dorms.

“Maybe you should stay for a few more minutes,” he said softly, inching his face closer to mine.

“No, I think I’m done for tonight,” I mumbled, fumbling for the doorknob and yanking the door open.

“Just stay for a moment,” he whispered, placing his clammy hands on my waist and backing me into the doorframe.

“Arik, you’re drunk. Stop it,” I told him, trying to pry his fingers off my body.

“Jules, do you know how much I’ve missed you? Have you forgotten all of our good times?”

“We broke up two years ago, Arik,” I argued, still struggling with his hands.

“Come on, babe,” he whispered in my ear, his breath smelling of liqueur. I turned my head toward the opening of the door and sucked in a breath of fresh air before trying to break free again. Before I knew what was happening, his lips were on mine. I tried to push him off, but he rammed me against the frame. I squirmed, but there was no arguing with a collegiate level athlete, let alone a wrestler. I beat against his chest, against his arms, anything I could. I finally got a shot to his neck, right in the Adam’s apple. He stumbled back, struggling to catch a breath, and I took the opportunity to run off into the night.

My feet pounded on the concrete sidewalks as I ran the paths back to my dorm. I faltered only once, almost falling to the pavement as I tripped over my own feet. Breathless by the time I reached the familiar stone building, my heart was ready to break out of my chest. I forced myself to calm down and took some deep breaths, and then I saw them.
Eyes. Reflective from the light the lampposts gave. Watching me from the shrubbery about twenty feet away from the dorm.
I blinked, and they were gone.

Present day.

I’m blown back from the blast as shards of glass and debris fly over my head. My mind can’t comprehend what’s going on as I land fifteen feet back from the place I was just standing, my breath knocked out of me as I crash back-first on the hard ground. I can’t see anything but the residual flash of light from the explosion, and it scares me that I can’t hear from my right ear. Gasping to try and breathe through the smoke, I struggle to crawl away from the mass of burning metal that was once a family van. I can’t believe what I just saw. The van, the beloved 2001 Mazda MPV that has put up with so much abuse from my family, has just been blown to pieces.
It almost doesn’t register that my family is inside until I smell burning flesh.
“Oh God no, oh God, oh God,” I keep repeating. I can’t see anything now; the smoke makes my eyes burn and my tears won’t stop. I reach the edge of the yard, a good hundred feet away from the inferno, and just sob. I know it’s useless to try and get close to the blaze to see if my parents or my little brother survived. No one could survive that blast. All I feel is the intense feeling of loss.
I can’t believe this. My family and I were going to leave for my brother’s baseball game when he realized that he left his glove in the house. I volunteered to run in and get it while my family sat in the van waiting. I ran inside the house and found the weathered glove sitting on the kitchen table, exactly where I knew it’d be. I smiled and grabbed it, and it happened when I ran back outside. Boom.
I hear muffled screams and yells from neighbors from my good ear, but don’t turn to look. I can’t look away from it, can’t stand up to run, can’t get help, can’t function. I shiver and the hiccups from crying so hard won’t stop. I feel a hand on my shoulder, shaking me, trying to make me stand to get away. I find the strength to look up to see who it is, and it’s no one I recognize. No, there’s a hint of recognition but I don’t remember where I’ve seen this boy before. He looks about eighteen with shaggy dark hair, long overdue for a haircut, and startling blue eyes. He says something to me, but I can’t hear him. He repeats it, a flash of frustration passing over his face. I’m forced to stand by this mysterious boy, and with a shock I recognize him.
Those eyes. The ones that were watching me outside my dorm. Those eyes, that I’ve seen glimpses of outside my window at night sometimes when I’m home from college.
I open my mouth to say something to him, but he drags me away from my house before I can talk. The blaze in the driveway has spread to the garage, and in turn to the squat white house that I called my home. Through my daze, I see fire trucks squealing to a halt next to the curb, and see the men hustle to get the fire under control. For some reason, I feel safe as this boy shelters me against his chest while swiftly walking away from everything I knew. I think he says something to me, but he whispers it to my left ear, the ear I can’t currently hear in.
“What?” I ask him through my hiccupping, probably a bit too loud because he winces. He signs something to me in sign language, and my brain struggles to remember what all the letters mean from two years ago when I took ASL in high school. He catches my look of confusion, and signs it again, this time much more slowly.
I-M. S-O-R-R-Y.
His blue eyes look sad as he sees a look of comprehension cross my face, and before I can open my mouth to question, something dark is pulled over my head. I try and struggle as I feel several strong arms force me into a vehicle. I kick and scream, but they strap me down to some kind of board with restraints. The hood is yanked off, and I see that I’m lying down in the back of an industrial van, with about four people dressed in all black surrounding me. Through my struggling, I see that the boy with the blue eyes is sitting away from these people, one hand running a hand through his hair as he stares out the back of the van. Panicking, I call for him, call for my parents, call for anyone to help me. My voice is shrill as I scream, and then I see a thick needle jab into my arm. I try and struggle with the fuzziness as much as I can, but I know it’s a tranquilizer that’s now in my blood. I plead for these people to leave me alone, to give me answers, to talk at all. But they just stare at me, and I think I see a look of satisfaction in the eyes of one of the figures clothed in black. The dark is closing in, and I call for the boy one more time, almost a whisper as I’m close to losing consciousness. I see his face turn and his sad blue eyes are the last things I see as I’m swallowed by black.

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