Read Chapter 2: Guilt


The man beside me bolts upright, holding his head in his hands. “What happened?” he moans.

I sit up. “You’re alive! Oh, thank God.”

He pulls his hands away and cocks his head. “Yeah… still here.”

“You okay?”

He hesitates. “Bit of a headache. My chest feels like I just left a boxing ring.”

“That was me saving your life,” I deadpan.

I run my hands up and down my legs and over my chest. Nothing’s broken. I find only physical bruises. “I’ll be fine, too, by the way.” I glare at him, but it’s lost in the dark.

Grunting, he stands to his feet and grabs my hand. “Let’s get out of the rain.” He pulls me to my feet, crushing my fingers with his grip, and leads me toward the highway.

“Where are we going?”

He glances left and right then points. “There.”

He pulls me across the road. In the darkness beyond is the remains of a house, survived only by a crumbling brick hearth and a half-rotten, wooden bus shelter out front.

We duck under its mostly-intact roof, careful not to touch the walls. By the way it leans, it’ll collapse with the slightest provocation, but it gets us out of the rain. Mostly.

Through the glow of the headlight on the other side of the road, I inspect my companion. He’s five inches taller than me, making him just under six feet. His hair is thick and dark—or is that mud?—and his beard trimmed short.

“Listen.” I’m not sure how to break this to him. “I, uh… I can’t remember anything. I don’t know what happened, how we got into this situation, or where we were going. I don’t even know who you are.”

He quirks his eyebrow. The headlight reflects off his pupils forging a provocative sparkle in his eyes. A buzz of chemistry sizzles between us. At least I think it does. Is this the type of guy I’d go for?

“To be honest, I don’t either,” he says. “I was hoping you’d be able to tell me. You don’t remember anything at all?”

I narrow my eyes. “That’s what I just said.”

He raises his hand in surrender. “Sorry.”

“All I remember is waking up in the car.”

He faces the wrecked vehicle “Looks like we slid off the highway and slammed into a power pole. Who was driving?”

“I was in the driver’s seat.”

He cranks his head. “Are you drunk?”

Screw you, jerkwad.

“No, I’m not,” I say, through gritted teeth.

“Hey, it’s a legitimate question.”

He stares at me for a second then reaches toward my face.

I slap his hand away.

“You got mud on you.”

“It’s called skin. I’m black.”

He rolls his eyes. “Which is a better color on you than mud, but hey, keep it if you want.”

I wipe my cheek and a clod of mud transfers to my hand. Why did he have to be right?

Stepping out of the shelter, I turn my face up to the rain and scrub the remaining grime off. Glancing up and down the highway, I see only darkness.

He pulls me back. “You should stay out of the rain.”

I shove him. “Don’t touch me. Look, for all I know you kidnapped me and we were on our way to your murder den. Neither of us knows who the other is, but we’re in this situation together. Let’s just find a way out.”

“Fine.” He glances back and forth between the car and me as if contemplating his next move. “I’m gonna see what I can find in the car.” Pointing at me, he says, “You stay put.”

He jogs through the rain, glancing back several times.

“Watch out for the electrical wire,” I shout.

He flings his hand over his head, waving me away.

Left alone, my heartbeat shifts into a panic-fueled overdrive. Fear crowds out rational thought. I pat my body and search the ground for something—anything—I can use as a weapon. I’m not sure what I expected to find but there’s nothing on or around me besides a few partly-rotten boards.

Trust is still in short supply, so I’m determined to keep my eyes on him. In the ambient glow of the headlight, I can’t make out much more than a dark outline of his body. I watch his silhouette secure the electrical wire to the utility pole, then move around the vehicle. He sticks his head through the driver’s window, then pops out again. Next, he steps around to the back. The trunk opens and he’s out of sight for a few seconds before coming back around where I can see him. There’s something in his hand.

He hurries back across the road. “I found this. Must be yours.” He holds out a sweater.

I snatch it from him and yank it over my head. It fits and brings welcome warmth. “Find anything else?”

 “Just this.” He holds up a wallet.

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BONUS: 5-Author collection of short stories titled “Dead Memories”.