I wouldn't exactly call it an action story, but I didn't know where else it would fit. The main point of the story is in the last paragraph so this is not supposed to be an action story with a cliffhanger. Suggestions and criticism are immensely welcomed.
The monotonous, neutral-pitched beeping grated against my nerves until I thought I would go mad from the red light that seemed to flash in my head at each irritating beep. Suspended between a bewildered relaxation and a frantic apprehension, the ashen walls and colorless ceiling kindled images of the asylum in my mind. I could seldom see, even if scarcely, people hovering around me, expressions of worry plastered to their formless faces. Time and voices merged amid the treacherous frenzy of confusion. My chest and head ached dully and having a rigid, plastic tube shoved down your throat isn’t exactly a feeling to relish. I could hear my own wheezing breaths, but couldn’t speak, couldn’t move.
One day two women entered while I was barely conscious, though fatigue weighted my lead-like eyelids. I daresay the two were loud enough to have wakened one from a deep sleep.
“Who is he?” asked the older woman, a note of awe in her voice as she drew nearer with her teenage daughter at her side.
The exhausted nurse, clothed in an immaculate white gown, sighed and spoke, “We still don’t know. He has no identification except for an asylum-release card and they stated no reason for him being there in the first place. We can find no birth date, no ID, credit card, social security number, nothing. He could be here forever. No relatives, no family to issue his release from this place, no one to contact.” She shrugged and turned her attention to her watch as if wondering when her shift was over. “I can’t take him off the oxygen machine unless we can find someone who knows who he is…”
I almost choked on my own air at her words. If they didn’t know my name, they couldn’t release me? Panic surmounted my former self-control as I fought to restrain myself at least until the two women left. I wanted them to stop investigating, pull this blasted tube out of my airway and let me leave, shove me back onto the streets where I belonged. But I couldn’t shout with oxygen being pumped into my body by some stupid machine and even if they did take the tube out, I doubted I would be able to whisper or speak. I knew I could breathe on my own, but obviously they did not.
“An asylum? So my sister was saved by some mental?” the apathetic teenage girl snorted in disgust. I would have like to glare at her at that moment.
“Honey!” the older woman gasped, an unmistakable berating tone in her voice.
“What? An asylum? What would Ali say?” The teenage girl sounded irritated, maybe even angry.
“Ali would be thankful she’s alive and you should be too!” the woman said scathingly. I could imagine her, hands on her hips and her face contorted into a goaded scowl.
“How is Alayhana doing?” asked the nurse, torn between curiosity about the girl and anticipation for her imminent break.
The older woman sighed and shook her head, “I am afraid she is suffering from post-traumatic stress. She awakes at night, sweating vigorously and whimpering at some unspoken fear. She whispers she saw the gunman again; she constantly begs for information on this… this faceless, nameless man who saved her. It would shock her to know he came from some… asylum. Doesn’t he have a name? A name we can tell her to ease her curiosity?” The woman’s voice was now desperate, the squeaking of her wet boots as she shifted her weight confirming her anxiety.
“Well… she could come herself…” the nurse suggested with an uninterested sympathy.
“No! She would harbor an unbearable guilt at the sight of him; it is better she never comes.” The woman shook her head quickly, as if the idea were not even worth consideration.
Curiosity prevailed over forced indifference at that moment. I didn’t remember the name of the girl I had rescued. She hadn’t spoken except for her screaming when the man shot – a shot meant for her. But what did it matter? What is a name? It is not a cluster of letters fit to compose a meaning as a word. It is but identification and is not supposed to judge one’s personality or command a destiny – supposed to. But a stroke on the canvas of memory, a letter forgotten amid the sea of words in a book is a name unremembered, unused, unwanted… a name unspoken by all who knew the man it chose to brand, a name that destined him to a lamentable life. And why cannot others see that it is not a name that shapes a person to its mold, but the person that shapes his name? It is not memory that keeps me from uttering this name, this scorned word; it is the knowledge that uttering such a name would send me back to the asylum or to some other isolated place where the world would once again forget Klaid Hindsrow.
With that, the woman left and silence once again reigned within the colorless, gloating walls.
I opened my eyes reluctantly to see the nurse muttering irritated insults about how slow the clock was and kicking one of the chairs absently. She must have seen me flinch involuntarily when a gust of wind began to dance with the curtains and sting my already freezing face. With a little yelp of surprise, she almost jumped as she turned to stare at me. “You! You’re… conscious?! Oh!” she pushed the extra chair against the wall clumsily, making room and ambled over to me, excitement and anxiety gleaming in her eyes. “Who are you? We’re tiring of your silence; this joke isn’t funny anymore!”
I opened my mouth to tell her, but only coughed violently into the oxygen mask I didn’t need. This is not a joke! I can’t speak! I can’t tell you! If you pulled out this blasted tube I could, but now I can’t! Please, just let me out, set me free. I can’t stand this place, colorless walls, and lifeless windows. I’ll tell you anything! Just set me free! My mind raced frantically, but I could not speak, could not move to tell her anything. I just had to lie there, staring into disappointed, worried eyes that didn’t understand. A sense of helplessness washed over me and I fought back desperate tears that rushed to my eyes. I tried just once to speak, but only a muffled rush of air escaped into the tube.
The nurse grimaced and shook her head, “Fine then. If you will not tell me, there is nothing I can do for you.”
Frustrated tears were no longer containable; they rushed from my eyes and across my pale, tensed face as the nurse walked away. I closed my eyes tightly and tried to pretend this was all another nightmare of my own making, that I would awake anywhere but here, but dreams had never allowed me to escape the truth; they only made the truth more bearable… until they were shattered.
Time was like a dead weight on my shoulders, dragging by, dragging me down. The nurse had left and the walls seemed to grow gray with shadows. It was hard to tell whether it was night or day in a paper white and unbearable uniform room. The only mind-numbing sound in the hushed place was the extremely irritating beeping of the machine by my side and my own wheezing breaths. A few doors down I could remotely hear the droning of a blank television and the relaxed creaking of the building against the night – or daytime – breeze.
Despite my unspeakable frustration and agony, I managed to almost drift off into a restless sleep, but was interrupted by the hesitant scraping of a door opening to the room. Bleak light from the humming ceiling lamps outside illuminated the white walls around me. Breathing heavily, a woman walked in, closing the door slowly behind her and glancing back and forth in anxiety. If she thought she was sneaking in without a sound, she was terribly wrong for I reckoned she could have been heard a few doors down.
Coughing weakly, she stepped cautiously towards the oxygen machine by my side, her nervousness almost tangible. “Um… hello?” her voice was hesitant, almost fearful.
I opened my eyes slowly to see her leaning over me, blonde hair framing her restless face. I wasn’t sure what to feel, torn amid excitement, frustration, anger, pity, annoyance and awe. This was the girl I had saved from that gunman; this was the girl that got me into this mess; this was the girl who suffered from the trauma of the moment; this was a woman that actually cared if I lived or died unlike the rest of the world. She wanted to know me, but did I want to know her?
“Oh, um, hello. Yeah, eh, I’m Alayhana, the-the girl you rescued back there. I-I just wanted to thank you for- for taking that bullet for me. Um… yeah…” the girl’s face reddened in embarrassment as she stared down at her feet, shifting her weight nervously.
I just stared at her. She was obviously unsure of herself and what to say; I didn’t blame her.
At my silence, she continued, “I know I might sound prying or annoying, but I was wondering if you could tell me who you were. I was really curious after the… incident. My mother and sister said they didn’t know who you were and that you came from an… an asylum.” From the way she spoke, I knew she found it hard to believe them.
I wished I could tell her, but I knew I could not speak. An uneasy silence reigned for a moment save the incredibly obnoxious beeping and wheezing of the air tube.
Alayhana licked her lips nervously as if awaiting my answer. Thankfully, she caught on after a moment and her face fell. “You-you can’t talk, can you?” she sighed in disappointment.
My eyes must have said enough for she nodded understandingly. I thought she was about to leave when a hint of mischief lit her eye. “Well, can you breathe on your own? My mother said they couldn’t take you off the oxygen tank without knowing who you are, but I guessed after a week…” she trailed off, hunching her shoulders anxiously and awaited any form of an answer.
I managed to nod stiffly beneath the confining oxygen tube and mask around my head.
Alayhana’s face lit with excitement and she glanced around. “Don’t tell anyone I did this, alright?” she whispered and then reached and turned off the oxygen machine. The tube deflated quickly and for a moment, my throat tightened from the sudden lack of air. The girl pulled the tube out as gently as possible, grimacing a little as it dropped to the floor.
As soon as I was released from the mask, deprived of oxygen for a few moments after she had turned off the machine, I gasped for air desperately, wheezing and coughing. Her face creased in worry, but relaxed as I began to breathe normally again. My chest and throat ached uncontrollably from the half-healed wound in my ribs and soreness from the tube, but I managed to surmount the pain and speak. “I’ve been here for a week?” I whispered hoarsely, my voice barely audible.
Alayhana nodded, “I’m afraid so. You were unconscious for the first three days and then you finally began to gain consciousness for short periods of time, but you probably don’t remember. I’m glad to see your doing better; we were beginning to worry.”
I wondered who ‘we’ was, but convinced myself it was not important. I forced a half-hearted ghost of a smile. “Thanks for getting me off that blasted oxygen machine. I was beginning to worry I’d be stuck in here forever.”
Alayhana chuckled, “It was the least I could do for the man that saved my life!”
I refrained from frowning at her words. She made me sound like some hero, some amazing person, but I knew I was far from that. The girl was obviously not looking past my surface to think such a thing… or was she looking further than I knew?
“So, I don’t believe I’ve introduced myself. I am Alayhana Lendaryi… and who might you be?” she smiled sweetly.
I knew I couldn’t remain nameless forever no matter how much I wanted to. “I’m Klaid… Klaid Hindsrow.” I had hoped she would not recognize the name, hoped it would not register in her mind, but from the way her face contorted, I knew she did.
“Hindsrow? Did you say… Hindsrow?” Alayhana asked quietly in disbelief.
I sighed, “Yes, Hindsrow.” And I was certainly not proud of it. Being related to an extremely wanted criminal with more than one death penalty on his head was not something to be proud of. It hadn’t taken more than two days for me to hear his name on the streets a few months ago. Every time I uttered this cursed name, someone somewhere grimaced and quickly walked away.
“Wow…” For a moment, she stared at the ground and then her face changed drastically and her eyes widened in awe, “Wow!” she suddenly exclaimed.
I blinked twice in confusion, “What?”
“The man! The man who shot you! Who was he? Do you know?” she seemed suddenly excited and pulled up a chair, its legs scraping against the ground noisily. I winced at the sound, but didn’t comment that she might draw attention.
“Um, I have been unconscious for the past week…” I reminded her softly, not wanting to hurt her feelings or embarrass her, but somehow wanting to get my point through.
“Oh…” Alayhana chuckled nervously as she remembered, “Yeah, well his name was-“ she stopped for a moment, her eyes sparkling as she stared at me. I raised one eyebrow, wondering what she was about to say. “You know what? You have the most amazing eyes!” she exclaimed.
I just stared at her blankly, not sure of how to respond. Was I supposed to thank her? Get all red like her when she was embarrassed? Brush away the compliment?
Alayhana flushed with embarrassment and moved on quickly, “Well, the guy’s name was Karl Hindsrow… an escaped criminal. Yeah, he’s the one that shot you. Are… you two like related or something?” she tilted her head to one side.
I swallowed hard, not wanting to answer but knowing I had to. “Yes… we are. I don’t know for sure… but-but…” my voice cracked with emotion I didn’t know still existed, but swallowed again and continued, “I never knew him, but I have reason to believe he’s my… father.”
Alayhana stared in awe, “Really? Wow, that’s really neat.”
“Neat?” I stared at her in disbelief, “No, it is not NEAT! It is terrible; a curse!” I snapped.
She bit her lip, obviously alarmed by my outburst, “I-I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to offend you.” She stared at the ground and for a moment, all was silent until she spoke again. “They’re still trying to track him down… but they can’t seem to find him. Do you think… think you’re in danger?”
I stared at the ceiling for a moment. Wasn’t I always in danger? “I don’t know…” I answered honestly and I didn’t think I wanted to know.
As if in ironic answer to my question, screams sounded from the bottom floor of the hospital as someone shouted a furious ‘hands up’. At first, I thought I was just hearing things, but when Alayhana stiffened and whimpered, I knew something was wrong. “Klaid…” Alayhana whined in fear, standing shakily, her face more ashen than ever.
“We have to get out of here…” I said softly.
“Yes!” agreed Alayhana, a hint of a sob in her voice. She almost knocked over the chair as she grabbed desperately for the window.
I tried to sit up, wincing at the violent pain in my abdomen where I’d been shot, but pushing pain to the back of my mind and standing shakily. “The window?” I rasped.
Alayhana nodded violently, “We can’t go down the stairs!” she cried. “This is the only way out!” Helicopters had begun to fly overhead, their vivid lights scanning the ground and nearly blinding me “Klaid, come on!” Alayhana shouted as she grabbed my arm and led me near the window.
We stood there for a moment staring at the ground below in fear. She gripped my arm as if I were her only hope, ignorant of the fact I was just as shaken and frightened as she. An idea came to mind. “Do you trust me?” I whispered quietly, not meeting her gaze though she glanced at me.
“I don’t know…I-“ Alayhana broke off in fright, tears beginning to stream from her eyes.
“Do you trust me?” I asked again, this time more frantically and loudly.
Alayhana drew a deep breath. “Yes…” she whispered, drawing nearer. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, half convinced it would work and half convinced this was one gigantic mistake, but as a fist pounded on the door I knew my choices were now limited to bad and worse.
Jump… an inner voice prodded, you will not fall. At first, I was wary of the voice, distrusting of whatever was speaking to me, but reasoned that I had no other choice. “We’re going to jump…” I told Alayhana in a choked voice.
“What?!” she nearly shouted.
“You said you trusted me…” I reminded her desperately.
“Yeah, but…” she broke off in a sob, “But you’re from an asylum… how do I know…” she didn’t finish her sentence, but I knew what she had been about to say.
“Come on! You have no other choice!” I reasoned anxiously.
She groped for my hand until I thought she would cut off my circulation and suddenly the air rushed by quickly as we left the support of the windowsill.
But jumping from a windowsill with a woman I scarcely knew was the farthest thing from my mind for never did the word ‘we’ sound so encouraging than at that moment. Somehow I knew that we were not alone… and that perhaps… just perhaps I never had been, that I could trust someone and that someone - someone had seen past a name that branded and given a person thought hopeless a chance to brand his own name... that someone had trusted the faceless.