by Deana Wilson
Dark. Too dark.
Cramped. Stiff. Stuffed in like carrots in a vacuum sealed bag. Elbow in my gut; tangle of hair in my face.
Too dark! Can’t see!
Blonde hair on my tongue. Gasping….
How? Why blonde? How do I know —
No answer. No movement. Dead? No. Labored breath. Relief. Cold relief.
Music. Opera. Madama Butterfly?
Sudden pain. My skull! Splitting. Throbbing. Warmth at my hairline. Sticky. Metallic. Blood.
Hum of tires beneath us. A trunk. The freeway. Where?
Fear like sickness in my stomach. Gasping for air. Stale air. Oil and rubber. Dust. Bleach.
Urine. Cold against my knee. Carlotta.
Carlotta! But why Carlotta too? Torn, gasping sob.
Who? Carlotta who? So confused! Head! Stabbing! Pounding!
Carlotta! Motherly instinct and adrenaline! Protect! Fight!!
Can’t move! Why? Hands! Tied?!
Fingers stabbing with returned circulation. Pain. Needles of pain. Tight ropes. Wrists chafed.
Panic bile in my throat. Burning. Raw.
Slowing. Jostled. Shifting. Bumping.
Clank. Thunk. Cold metal against my back, gouging.
Gravel. A dirt road. Dark. Cold.
Carlotta! Alive! Awake! Sweet relief! A sigh of joy! Curl closer; embrace without arms; cuddle without hands. Sweet shower of kisses in her hair.
“Mama? Dove siamo?”
Italian? Asking – “Where?”
How? How do I …?
Murmured reassurances. Lies. Trembling in my voice betrays me. She knows.
“Shh. Shh. Bambino.”
Tightness. In my throat. Warmth and wet on my cheeks. Shuddering breath. Be strong! For Carlotta! Be strong!
Deep breath. In. Out. In. False smile. Shaking voice.
“Tutto bene, bambino.”
Lies! Everything! Is! Not! Okay!
Skidding on gravel. Thrown against her small frame, then back against the trunk door. Stopped. Silence. So dark!! So cold!! Silence. Engine disengaged.
Too terrified to breathe.
Deafening, overwhelming silence.
A whisper in the night.
So loving, so trusting! Mama can’t. Can’t fix this scrape. Can’t bandage this hurt. Can’t chase away these monsters!
Flare of anger. Hatred. Giovanni! Giovanni and his business deals! His debts!
A shiver on my spine. The mob?
Who?? The husband?
Terror. Cold realization. Giovanni? Dead?
Choked sob. Muffled against a tangle of blonde hair.
Car door slamming. Voices … broken against the night, broken through cold metal.
“Giovanni… Insegnare una lezione…”
Teaching Giovanni a lesson. Choke down fear. Breathe. Breathe!
“Il peccato… Dolce puttana…”
“ …a turno…”
Take turns? Knots of dread clenching my stomach.
Vomit in my mouth. Warmth spreading down my leg.
“Mama? Sei andato pipi?”
Giggles. Childish. Hysterical. Too loud. Mine?
“Shh. Shh, Carlotta. Silencio.”
Giggles smothered against a chubby fist. Curl my body against hers to quiet her. Shaking… With laughter or fear?
Quiet. Small. Hoping against hope to be…forgotten.
A grumble of submission heard through cold metal. “Si….Bene.”
Relief. Sweet blessed shuddering relief. Washing through my agonized, cramped limbs. Weak with relief.
“ –La gasolina?”
Sucking in breath so sharply my throat rips with pain. Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe!
Liquid slopping, sploshing.
Louder! “Per favore! Il mio bambino!”
LOUDER!! “SALVA IL MIO BAMBINO!!”
Screaming. Don’t hear the lighter. Don’t hear the whoosh of flame. Screaming!
Carlotta! My bambino!
Curl around my baby. Try to hide her from the flame, protect her from the flame. Tears dry on my cheeks in the searing oven of the trunk.
Screaming in unison.
The air. Too hot! Smoke and flame! No breath! Lungs! Bursting!
Bright! So bright!
I sit up straight on the couch, still shuddering with reaction and horror. My cheeks are wet with tears; my hands clenched against my chest.
“Who were you this time, Solomon?”
My voice chokes in my throat. I cough. Wipe tears from my eyes. Dr. Landau offers me a Kleenex. His eyes are bright, curious. Sympathetic. Forceful.
“What did you see?” He leans forward. “How did you die?”
I swing my legs over the edge of the couch. I look to see if my pants’ leg is damp, then run a hand over the fabric of my uniform. Dry. I breathe a sigh. I don’t want Nurse Lee to scold me like last time.
A bottle of water sits on the end table. I retrieve it and take a long draught before I can answer.
“Who were you?” Landau persists.
“Maria Donati.” I struggle to think. To frame my answer. I grasp at buried memories that are already fading. Fragments. Sharp like glass in my damaged mind. “Wife of Giovanni Donati.” I shudder again. “The mob tied my daughter and me up.”
I swallow. Hard. My voice is a whisper. “Shoved us in the trunk of a car. Set the car on fire.”
Landau takes meticulous notes, frowning the entire time. He sighs and sets the notebook aside. “But no mention of stolen money? No fortune?”
I shrug, thoughtful. “They were teaching Giovanni a lesson.” I force the words out past the memories of flame licking my face. “Maybe he stole from them.”
Landau frowns. “The time period seems wrong.” He gets up to check the video camera that he uses to record our sessions. I see the red light flick off, then flick back on. I stiffen at his words. “We should try again.”
“It was just a dream.” My voice is a whine. “I dreamed the treasure.”
“Solomon, we aren’t looking for treasure.” He speaks to the camera, not to me. I know it is a lie. “We are trying to piece together your multiple personalities, your hallucinations. We are exploring your past lives.”
My hands clench the fabric of the couch.
I can still smell her burning hair.
He reaches over and flips on the device he uses to hypnotize me. My eyes, almost with a will of their own, follow the spinning mirrors that reflect the candle flame. I stiffen.
“Doctor, I’m tired,” I try to protest.
“Relax, Solomon. Watch the mirrors. Listen to my voice…”
My strength leaves me, like a wave pulled back into the ocean. My hands loosen. Deep down, fear grips me. Fear of Dr. Landau.
His words are a buzz. A hum, soothing. Like a lullaby.
“You are going deeper. Deeper. You are remembering a past from your previous life….”
My mind struggles to focus. I try to hold onto –
I am Solomon!
Sand between my feet. Waves lick my boots. Palm trees and sunshine.
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student