Written during the Corona Virus Pandemic with the hope of bringing a smile to someone’s face – or at least provide a short distraction during these challenging times. Stories are created based on one-word prompts that were submitted by friends. Each friend is assigned a character name and I develop a short fictitious story that integrates and upholds the word.
Woke up to welcome my 49th year on a park bench. I had no idea how I had gotten there, but I knew that it was my birthday. Or, at least I thought that it was today. Shivers ran down my spine as I realized that I was wearing soaked clothes. I hadn’t wet myself if that is what you are thinking. And I wasn’t sweating. Drenched garments clung to me, and as I tried to move, my body revolted with such searing pain that I thought I might pass out.
My heart was now racing as fast as my mind. I tried to make sense of my surroundings. But I didn’t recognize anything – nothing felt familiar. Suddenly, I started to panic. In between labored breaths, I wondered, where am I? How did I get here? What the hell happened to me?
I tried to cry out, but when I opened my mouth to do so, what escaped was a voice so strained that I could barely muster a whisper. It was then that I realized how dry my mouth was, and when I tried to swallow, the pain tore through my throat like I was taking shards of glass. And piece by piece, it tore my insides apart until I felt hollow.
Suddenly, I began to shake uncontrollably, and the pain intensified. Frozen to the bone, and my teeth were chattering like a skeleton on Halloween night. I laid there freaked out, alone, and sure of only one thing.
And then everything went black.
I opened my eyes to find that nothing had changed. I was in the same spot, still in pain, and in soaking wet clothes. However, this timer, I observed that the grass and pavement were dry, but did that mean anything? I didn’t know how long I’d been here or how I got here, so it seemed plausible that perhaps it could have rained, and that is how I ended up so wet.
But I couldn’t explain the pain that skyrocketed through my body or the voice that had little hope of recovering anytime soon. I couldn’t make any sense of why I was lying here on a park bench alone, scared, and feeling helpless on this day of all days.
I tried to move again, fighting through the pain. Maybe if I could sit up, I might be able to piece together this puzzle – and remove the haunting uncertainty that whatever happened may have changed the trajectory of my life. I closed my eyes and tried to remember.
Think, Melina. Think, I repeated over and over.
But there was nothing. I saw only darkness when I closed my eyes. I wanted to cry. I wished I could cry. But nothing. Not a single tear escaped from my eyes. I couldn’t understand how I could feel this way or why. Not a damn thing made sense to me, except.
And that’s where it stopped. There was nothing on the back and no other pages in the envelope.
Rayne paced back and forth in disbelief. Except what, Melina, Rayne said as she reread the last sentence. And then it hit her.
Rayne stuffed the letter in her pocket, grabbed her bag, and rushed out the door. It was a long shot and a risky move, but she had to know. Rayne couldn’t rest until the dots connected. So, she drove to the one place she hoped would help give her some answers.
Rayne drove for over two hours until she reached the crossroads that would lead her to Babson’s Corner and the Stone Library. She used to go there as a kid and hadn’t needed to return – until now. Rayne pulled up to the front of the building and found a parking spot right away. It was as she remembered with the patina domed roof and marble stairs – a structure so out of place in this tiny town, but never one that you quickly forget.
Rayne’s heart started to beat faster as she exited her car and made her way up the stairs to the entrance. There are answers here. I can feel it, Rayne said as she pulled on the old iron door and went inside.
Immediately Rayne was greeted by the smell of books and intellectual ability. Goosebumps ran up and down her arms and not because it was cold. Rayne was sure she felt Melina’s presence. After all, it was here that she discovered her curiosity. She would come here on free afternoons to lose herself for hours in the stacks on the second floor – the very place she first learned about Melina.
“Can I help you?” a woman’s voice called out from behind her. Startled, Rayne turned around. Lost in thought, she hadn’t even realized that someone had come upon her.
“Oh, hi there. Thank you for asking, but no. I think I’m all set.”
“Are you sure? I haven’t seen you here before, so I thought perhaps you might need some assistance. My name is Chloe, by the way.”
“No, thank you, Chloe. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Rayne. I used to come here many years ago, and I think I can find my way.”
“Uh, huh. I see,” Chloe said as she sized Rayne up. “Let me guess. You are looking for the stacks.”
Rayne stared back at Chloe, stunned.
“I am. How did you know that, Chloe?”
“Just a feeling. The stacks seem to be popular this week. Not many people venture to them anymore, but you are the second person in 24 hours. Interesting, don’t you think?”
Rayne didn’t know what to say at first, but she could feel her heart start racing, which was usually a good indication that something was up.
Finally, Rayne spoke.
“Why do you think it is interesting, Chloe? Did something happen to make you think so?” Rayne suspected that Chloe knew more than she was saying. The stacks did hold secrets, after all. Or, at least, they once did. Rayne’s heart continued to race, and all she wanted to do was get to the second floor, preferably without Chloe following her.
But before Chloe could answer Rayne, everything went dark.
Rayne called out for Chloe, but there was no answer. “Chloe, Chloe?! Chloe, are you all right? Where in the hell are you?”
Rayne’s heart raced even faster as she tried to pull up the flashlight on her phone, but her hands fumbled, and her phone fell to the ground. Rayne knelt and tried to feel around for her phone. But the darkness was blinding.
“Where the hell is it?” Rayne said in frustration as she tried desperately to find her phone – only to find a body instead.
“Oh, shit!” Rayne squinted in the darkness and could barely make out the face, but enough to realize that it was Chloe. “Fuck!” Rayne yelled as she tried to wake Chloe.
“Chloe, Chloe, wake up! Come on, Chloe. Wake the hell up!” Rayne shook Chloe and then put her head on her chest to see if she was breathing. Just then, the lights came back on, and Rayne looked around in disbelief.
She wasn’t in the library at all. She was on the park bench. Alone, drenched, and helpless.
“What the hell is going on?” Rayne muttered before everything went dark again.