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"Michael, what is wrong with you?"
What, hunh? I stop my jogging in the park. There are two children looking at me, pointing at me, crying, and an older woman glaring at me as if I've done something terrible.
"Excuse me? What is the problem? I didn't run into these kids or…"
"How could you just pass your two lovely children without stopping? Is your running that important to you?"
"What are you talking about?" This park attracts some crazies being so close to Washington. It's a tourist trap and weirdo magnet.
It's true, I do have two children, a boy and a girl, but they are much older than these moppets.
"I have no idea who you are or who these children are."
Grandmother, as she defines herself, blurts: "Michael, cut it out! You're not being funny!" In a lower voice she says, "I never liked you. My daughter married a bum, and today you proved it! Ignoring your own children..."
"Excuse me, I don't wish to be rude, but my name is not Michael, and I have no idea who you are or whose children these might be."
"The children seem to know who you are."
I look back and they are sobbing. I kneel down and look at them as they approach me. I have no idea who they are.
She is, she reminds me, the children's grandmother and my mother-in-law. "I don't know why or how you can deny that these are your children, Michael. Do you think I'm blind? Do you think they are too young to know their own father?"
I always carry my wallet with my driver's license and health insurance card, in case of emergency. I reach into my pack, pull them out. I'm who I think I am, correct address and all. I show it to her.
Ashen faced, she retreats, grabbing the children and moving off.
Very strange I think, to be mistaken to that degree. That strangeness does seem to fit in with last nights dream though. I begin to jog again. I need to clear my head.
It's now been about an hour of hard running and I'm hungry and thirsty. Off to the sub shop.
"Hey Michael, how you doing? I haven't seen you in a looong time!"
I look behind me to see who she's addressing. Maybe my mysterious double is right behind me. There's nobody there. I turn back to the pretty woman behind the counter. She's new here, at least new to me, but gorgeous. I wish I did know her the way this Michael does, or did. I put my hand up to stop the conversation.
"Sorry, I'm not --"
"Quit kidding around Mike," she says looking annoyed. "I heard you're married and have two kids. Nice of you to let me know. I really miss you, you bastard."
"Look," I begin to explain, "I wish I was this 'Michael', but I'm not. Really. If I did know you, trust me, I'd remember."
"Bullshit Mike," she says. "You always were throwing out that sort of stuff when you wanted out."
I do the same thing for her as I did with the old lady. I reach into my bag, retrieve my wallet and present my driver's license to her. She looks at it, looks at me and again at the ID.
She doesn't back off. "Same gray hair, same laugh, same everything. Only the name and address are different. Okay, big boy, what about that scar on your stomach, that zipper you inherited from that butcher of a doctor when you were a baby?"
I blink several times, wondering how she could know that. I would definitely remember having my shirt off in front of a woman this attractive. But she knows me as some guy named Michael.
"Yes," I say slowly, "I do have a scar from an operation that I refer to as a zipper. But I don't know you. I'm not kidding."
The dream, those odd physical mental occurrences, keeps coming back to me from last night. Maybe my meditation practices are twisting back on themselves.
Maybe this is a dream. Sometimes you know you are dreaming - but there is nothing you can do, not even rouse yourself. It, whatever it is, just has to happen. Maybe I will wake up and things will be as they should be. I am not Michael or what ever his face is.
I think as I touch her hand she is very pretty, charming even now when she seems pissed off at me -- or Michael -- and there is something there. What the hell -- if this is a dream, there's no harm in going with the flow...
In the early morning, I awake with eyes wide. Then, sitting on the bed side, I'm almost sobbing, my head is in my hands. I can't believe what I did last night.
I killed a man, for no reason. I wasn't drunk, or on drugs, or anything. I don't understand -- I didn't even know him. I'm not like that.
I wait for the scream of the sirens call and the ride to jail with my hands chained behind my back.
I had no reason to act like that, like a madman, murdering a stranger in cold blood. Did she have something to do with it?
I’m waiting, not believing, and the wait is torture.
I should turn myself in -- no, I'm a coward. Let them get me in my house. I have no place to run. Come and get me, I did it. Shame on my face, my head still in my hands. And yet no siren, no heavy knock on the door, no Miranda speech, no habeas corpus?
I look around, the lights blink only for a microsecond, all sound exits my brain, sensation-empty, I recognize this, again!
"Michael, what's the matter with you this morning?"
I'm not Michael, I want to say, but this time, I'm afraid to look in my wallet.
Snowy - Awesome piece. Though I think it shouldn't be a flash fiction but a short story. I love the idea and it got me thrilled from the beginning but would be even more satisfied if there were more details.
micheledutcher - What is real and what is not? How can our image of ourselves be completely altered from one day to the next. Great questions expertly brought to the fore by this story.
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