EIGHTEEN: I FEEL FINE




HAVE YOU EVER BEEN thrown out a window? It ain’t the street fair one might imagine.

There’s pain involved; lots of it and from almost everywhere at once. There are more sensations of pain from just this one act then there are flavors of ice cream at a rich man’s sundae bar.

Let me try and describe it to you.

First, you feel a crushing blow and your body impacts in upon itself, your bones bruising and grinding together as you come into contact with the window. This lasts but nary a moment as the glass gives way and shatters around you. Then comes the biting shards that tear at your clothes and slice up your skin as you soar through the window and out into the open air.

You ever see them cartoons where the coyote is chasing the road runner and the road runner takes a quick left turn, but the coyote can’t turn as fast and winds up running right off the edge of a cliff? But here’s the the thing, being that it’s a cartoon, the coyote doesn’t notice right away that there ain’t no ground beneath him. So he hangs there in midair until he finally decides to look down. Once he realizes that there’s nothing holding him up, he falls.

You feel almost that exact sensation when you’re thrown out a window.

You hang there for a split second that feels more like an eternity. Then you fall, leaving your stomach behind. The ground rushes up to meet you, and it ain’t as forgiving as the glass, it doesn’t yield beneath you. Sure, if you ain’t too high and if you’re dropping into a field of lush grass it may not be that bad when you and the ground reunite. But I was two stories up and had nothing beneath me but concrete.

Once you’re down, the fun ain’t over. You have a shower of glass to look forward to. More razor sharp shards to rip at your skin and make you bleed.

If you’re lucky, you survive, and unless you’ve fallen into a busy street, you have nothing left to worry about. Just lie still and wait for the good folks in the ambulance to come along and scoop you up.

Me? I wasn’t so lucky.

I hit the sidewalk face first and felt bones snap and teeth crack as glass fell on me, slicing through my clothing and biting into my skin. I heard the screech of tires as cars skidded to a stop at the sight of a man falling from a second story window. I tried to rise, but my body wouldn’t cooperate. I knew that I’d heal soon enough and would eventually be able to get up and walk away, but I couldn’t count on the Walrus waiting around and allowing that to happen.

Sure enough, I felt the impact of three hundred and fifty pounds of mutated muscle land near me on the sidewalk. He must have forgone the stairs and decided instead to jump. How efficient of him.

I felt an intense itch course through me, which meant that the healing had begun. I could feel the blackout coming as the rest of my body tried to shut down. I fought against it. If I passed out, it was over for me. The Walrus grabbed me by the hair on the back of my head and pulled my face from the cement. Blood ran from my nose and mouth like a faucet and I could see pieces of my teeth lying there among the dark crimson pools.

“I know all about you, Norman,” the thing whispered into my ear. “I’ve researched you, studied you. I’ve learned all I could.”

“Stop it,” I said as best I could with a mouth full of blood and broken teeth. “You’re embarrassing me.”

“Don’t feel special. It’s something I do for all of my targets. It’s much easier to kill someone when you know their strengths and weaknesses. For example,” he said as he slammed my face into the concrete. “I know all about your healing ability.”

I wanted to say something clever, something quick and witty, but my mind was a bit busy dealing with the pain and fighting to stay conscious.

“The one thing I don’t know about you, Norman, is just how powerful this healing ability of yours is. I mean, it’s obvious that you can break, bleed, and feel pain.”

He emphasized this by slamming my face into the sidewalk once again. I didn’t scream though. I mean, I wanted to, but it ain’t an easy thing to do with your face full of concrete.

“Can you die, Norman Oklahoma? Can you be shuffled off this mortal coil? I must know.”

He stepped on my back and pulled my head toward him until I both heard and felt my spine snap.

That time I did scream.

The Walrus just laughed and flung me back against the wall of my building. I heard more bones snap, but I couldn’t feel much of anything anymore.

As I lay there, bleeding, I could see the Walrus take in the faces of the gathering crowd. The surrounding area filled with onlookers and gawkers who’d come out to see the show. He smiled and scratched at his chin. It appeared he was thinking things over.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” I tried to say. I can’t be certain what actually came out of my mouth, but I know it wasn’t intelligible.

“Look, Norman,” the Walrus said. “Everyone has come to watch.”

He smiled and bent over me to whisper into my ear.

“As much as I enjoy the eyes of all your friends and neighbors watching me break you, I think it might be best if we take this somewhere a little more private. What do you say?”

With that he lifted me into the air and threw me over a shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

“How about it, Norman? Your place or mine?”

The Walrus carried me up and around the block. A few of the bystanders justified my never-ending hope in humanity’s inherent selflessness by attempting to intercede on my behalf, but they were no match for the monster. He pushed them aside like stalks of corn and loaded me into the trunk of a large black sedan as the rest of the onlookers ran.

“How about your place?” he said and smiled once more before slamming the lid closed, leaving me in darkness.

The ride out to my home was fairly uneventful. It did however; give me time to do two things. Think, and heal.

The healing itch burrowed into me and I felt fear for the first time in a long time. I didn’t want to die, never really thought it was possible, but now... well, all bets were off.

As I said before, I ain’t up there with the great thinkers of the world, but I needed a plan or I would learn if Death had made a place for me at his dinner table. Luckily, though I may not be a great thinker, I’m a fast one and a plan formulated in my mind. It wasn’t gonna be pretty, but it was sure gonna be simple. I was good at simple. Heck, I was the Einstein of simple.

Most of the plan depended on a couple of variables.

First, I had to pretend to be passed out, and I really had to sell it. Regardless of what the Walrus might do once we arrived at my home, I couldn’t cry out, I couldn’t open my eyes, I had to remain as still as the dead.

Next, I had to gamble on a gut feeling that the Walrus would want to take his time with me. I figured that he might want to torture me a bit before he helped me, as he put it, shuffle off this mortal coil. I also had to count on the hope that he wouldn’t enjoy torturing me if I wasn’t awake to suffer through it. My hope was that as long as I was passed out, or as long as he thought I was passed out, he would wait to start in on me.

Maybe he’d want to tie me up some and get everything ready for his big number while I remained void to the world. I had a lot to pin my hopes on, but I didn’t have much of a choice either way.

So yeah, that was my plan. I needed to buy enough time to heal so that I could run and fight another day.

Again, it wasn’t up there with some of history’s all-time great plans, but it didn’t need to be perfect. It just needed to work.

The sound of the tires changed from pavement to gravel and I knew we were close, so I got my mind right. I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing... in through the nose, out through the mouth. Steady, calming breaths. I did my best to relax. It wasn’t easy.

The vehicle slowed and then stopped. The engine died and the lid to the trunk popped open slightly. I had begun to gain some feeling back in my legs. I heard the steps of the Walrus as he made his way to the back of the vehicle and soon felt the cool autumn air on my face as he lifted the lid to the trunk.

“We’re here, Norman,” he said. “Ah, are you sleeping? How nice.”

He slapped me. Hard.

By that point I’d gone to my happy place. I imagined my bed; the memory foam mattress and the thick comforter. Furthermore, I imagined myself in that bed, the comforter pulled up to my nose, snuggled deep within the folds of cotton and down, a look of bliss on my face. Then I added that final puzzle piece that made it possible for me to lie still as the Walrus slapped me around–I imagined a sky outside my bedroom window, a sky so filled with clouds that the sun could find no way through and pull me from my slumber. As matter of fact, I’d done such a good job creating my happy place that the one thing I had to struggle with was to keep from smiling.

“Wake up, Norman. We’ve arrived at the end of your life.” He slapped me again, but harder than before.

My teeth clacked together and my head rocked to the side by the force of the slap, but I had remained in my trance.

For a moment or two nothing happened. I could only imagine that the Walrus was standing there at the open trunk, looking in at me in thought. I figured he was thinking it all through. Then I felt some pressure on my right trigger finger. The Walrus held it gingerly in his hands.

It would happen quickly. I had to be ready.

With a sharp stab of pain, the Walrus snapped my finger like a chicken bone. I didn’t move, didn’t cry out, didn’t even flutter an eyelash. It took every ounce of strength I had, but I did it.

Again, nothing happened for a time. I could hear the sound of the Walrus breathing mixing with the birdsong and the wind. He was thinking long and hard on this one. He wanted me awake, wanted me lucid while he rained pain down on me. But on the other hand, he knew that I was healing. Yet, if he held on to me long enough to heal, he could break me all over again. I kinda figured he would like that thought once it reached his brain.

Soon enough he scooped me up and carried me into the house where he dropped me to the floor. I kept my eyes closed but I could hear him rummaging around in the kitchen, opening drawers and going through their contents. I assumed he was looking for something to secure me, like duct tape or rope. Well, the joke was on him, I was all out of duct tape.

But let him look. The more he looked, the less likely he was to pay me any mind. Folks tend to dismiss someone who’s passed out. See, if he knew I was awake, he may take a moment to break my legs and keep me immobile while he searched. But asleep as I was–or as I was pretending to be–his subconscious self would continue to tell him that I was harmless. In the meantime, the itch of healing continued like the legs of a thousand beetles crawling all over my face, spine, and now my finger.

I wanted to try my legs again, give them a stretch, maybe even wiggle my toes a bit, but I didn’t dare with the Walrus in the room. I couldn’t risk him seeing. So I remained as I was, face down on the carpet of my living room.

Face down was ideal at this point. Once the Walrus could see my face had all healed up, he might feel more inclined to spend a bit more time with me instead of looking for tape.

The Walrus gave up his search with a grunt of frustration. The sound of his heavy footsteps moved toward me. I tried not to tense as I waited for the pain that was surely to come. But the Walrus just stepped over me and did the one thing I honestly did not figure he would do.

He left the house.

The moment the door closed behind him, I tried my legs. They bent, but it took some effort. I figured that the Walrus must have had some rope or tape or something in his car and that was why he had left. That meant he’d be back soon. I’d never have an opportunity like this again.

So I put everything I had into it and eventually pulled myself into what would normally be for me a sleeping position. But I didn’t stop. I continued to struggle against myself. It was slow going, but it was going.

It’s like a dream I’ve had fairly often. Not the nightmare that kept me up most of last night. No, this one wasn’t as terrifying, more of a psychological dream that speaks volumes about my feelings of self-doubt… if you believe in that sort of thing.

In the dream I’m fighting something dark and shadowy with nothing but my bare hands. But every punch I give is slow, like trying to force my hand through air made of jelly. I can move about as normal in this dream, but when I try to fight, I go all slow-mo. That’s how I felt now and it made me want to cry.

I heard from outside the sound of a car door slamming shut and knew that I had just seconds to make something happen. I pulled myself to my feet by sheer force of will. The Walrus had dropped me just inside the front door, so the deadbolt was within reach. I engaged the bolt with a quick flick and staggered toward the hallway. The lock wouldn’t stop the Walrus, I knew that, but it may slow him down for a moment or two. I imagined that it would take at least twenty to thirty seconds for that brain of his to process the confusion that would slide over him when he found the door locked.

I moved haltingly down the hallway with a lot of starts and stops, like a zombie two years into the apocalypse. But with each step, I moved a little faster. My Peacemakers had still been sitting on the desk back at my office, I have to assume that they were still there, along with the Winchester, but they weren’t the only shooters I owned. I had a second Winchester, resting comfortably in the trunk at the foot of my bed. Yes, I had a second Winchester. In fact, I own three of them, and a Henry rifle, six other pistols, and a Sharps buffalo gun. Ain’t nothing wrong with being prepared.

The Winchester, however, was going to be the easiest to get to as the rest were all locked in my gun room and my keys were in my coat.

I’d neared the end of the hall when I heard my front door being ripped from its hinges.

“Oklahoma!” the Walrus roared from the front room.

But he was too late. I’d made it. I could feel, more than hear, the Walrus thundering down the hall to me, but by the time he got to my room, I’d snatched up my rifle, a belt of cartridges, and had slid out my bedroom window.






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