Posted: September 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

“JORGE!” A muffled voice garbled his name. He turned his head toward the sound and molten lava trickled through his ears. Apart from the voice, the silence deafened him.

A falling feeling came over him, but it lacked a sense of gravity. He tumbled through infinite nothingness without ground beneath his feet, without sky above him, and with nothing to stumble against. The voice came from a physical place, but nothing else did.

A pair of hands dug into his shoulders, poking their thumbs into the muscle of each of his arms. The grip—firm yet gentle—seem to say “you’re okay. I’m not gonna hurt you.”

He felt the weight of his head—swooshing, swirling, and bobbing around. The motion didn’t exactly wake him up, but it brought him closer to “the surface”. He felt a sense of impending connection—a return to a place he belonged. Home.

“Stay with me, Jorge.” the voice garbled again—but closer, louder.

He drew in a deep breath, and caught a whiff of sweat, cigarette smoke, and tortillas . He knew the familiar scent, but he could not remember from where.

The hands braced him again, then rocked him from side to side. His head bobbed right, then left, and then right again. As his head drifted back to center, he opened his eyes.

Two puffy eyes—with black marbles for pupils—stared at him from a square face. The nose crooked and broken. The muscles in his cheeks and forehead looked like they could come through his skin.

Fear and confusion collided within those dark eyes, completing the message that his voice could not. “Jorge, we have to go!”

For the first time, he heard the voice clearly—its deep and raspy texture. Its roughness suggested that the speaker knew his share of confrontations. Jorge couldn’t remember anything else but a word—a name. “Rico?”

“We. Have. To. Go.” His panicked voice made it clear that whatever had unraveled continued to unravel.

“Go?” his voice rattled within his chest as he spoke.

“Jorge, he’s going to die!”

“Who?” He drew in a slow breath, and caught a whiff of something else—beyond the sweat, the cigarettes, and the tortillas . It took a second for the bitter smell to register with him. Blood. And not just a nosebleed.

Rico launched himself forward, in an attempt to block Jorge’s view, but it was too late. A pale puddle of a young man lay quivering on the floor. A hunting knife sunk into his chest, pulsing with each beat of his heart.

Jorge gagged, slumped into Rico’s arms and nearly collapsed to the floor. “I got you, cuz,” Rico said, as he slid his arms around him. A moment later, his knees gave out and only Rico’s stout frame and thick arms could hold him up.

The white linoleum floor gleaned below him. Scattered books. Loose papers. A broken pencil. A dropped knapsack. A calculator.

“Vamos.” Rico towed him toward the Emergency Exit. Darkness crept into the edges of his vision. The hallway became a dim cave—the light at the end miles away.

“Ya gotta stay with me, cuz. We’re almost there. Almost. There.”

He shuffled forward, but—more than anything—he wanted to run. He knew, as he passed through the hallway, that he was in the center of something horrible. And he was somehow connected to all of it.


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