White noise and dark. No sense of time passing, just complete confusion.
Cold hit me like I’d never felt before. Colder than landing in a heap in the snow. Colder than the harsh wind cutting through a worn jacket.
It overwhelmed me, surrounded me, consumed me.
It was so penetrating my chest felt like it would burst and be crushed inwards all at the same time. It was like being wound in snaking steel cables that were contracting.
I opened my mouth to take a breath but it the cold flooded in.
Flashes of memory. Pain in my side, then my foot catching metal. Falling. I was in the water.
I resisted my body’s natural urge to take a breath to prevent the icy death reaching within me and consume me from the inside.
I struggled, I’d been a good swimmer at school but having your hands cuffed together was a major handicap. Oh, and a dislocated shoulder didn’t help… But it didn’t hurt so much anymore. Whether actually didn’t hurt anymore or the overwhelming smothering cold and my panic to survive had overridden my pain, I could not tell.
I kicked furiously with my legs. Eyes open, I could see dim lights through the murk. That was up. Up was good. They were brighter, closer. But as I pushed upwards I hit a solid barrier. Ground.
Ground with lights. Ground above me.
I scratched at the rough surface to try find the hole I knew I have must have made. Trapped, my lungs strained, threatening to take that deadly breath without my permission. Things were getting darker… or was that just my vision dimming?
There! My hands hit sharp edges and I pulled. I shoved my head above the surface and took the most satisfying gulp of air in my life. This stuff was wonderful. I’d never forget how nice it is just to be able to breathe.
My shoulder was… actually better. Who would have known swimming, or at least being plunged into water from a height was effective at relocating it in the socket? Using my new found strength I pulled as much as my weight up onto the ice as possible and kicked with my legs until I flopped unceremoniously onto the black expanse of frozen water, rolling away from the edge.
I pulled at my stomach, remembering the sharp pain I’d felt. But my overactive imagining of glistening guts was unfounded. Something had hit me, but it wasn’t big. Memories of the chase were coming back to me, patches of glorious knowledge trickling back into a bruised mind.
I’d… I’d fucking tripped. There was a shot, then I was distracted… My foot had caught the edge of the uneven walkway and then everything was blank – I must have hit my head as I fell.
The dim streetlights didn’t reach down to the surface of the river. I hoped the darkness would mask me. I did not want to risk running on this but I knew now I needed to be gone, out of sight, before they would organise enough to try looking on the frozen expanse of ice.
Escape to the Island was easy, and I allowed myself to relax once I was within the winding streets and dark overhangs. I limped, my ankle wasn’t behaving – was that the fall through the ice, or had I strained it running? Maybe jumping out of the window. So hard to keep track.
I soon began shivering, not the shakes of post adrenaline come-down but violent full body jerking of someone who’d just been plunged into frozen water.
I settled for an uneven jog, gritting my teeth with every step on my ankle. But it kept me warm, and got me home that much faster.
I was freezing, my hands pale and bloodless. I fumbled at the keys for the garage, my hand could hardly form a fist. Semi-healed fingers stiff with cold, no sensation but pain. At least they weren’t numb. That was a good sign right? Maybe it was just an urban myth, for all the hardship I’d been through – frostbite was happily not something I had experience in.
After a frustrating minute I got the door open. I wanted nothing more than to strip off my soaking clothes and wrap myself in blankets.
I tried. I failed.
Can’t take off a t-shirt when you’re hands are cuffed together. I was stuck with a soaking wet lump of cloth either around my wrists or on my body… I figured it would dry out faster if I just wore it.
I could cut it off, but then I wouldn’t be able to put anything back on. That was not happening.
I took a moment to address my injuries. It was becoming a disturbingly regular occurrence. Peeling back my damp t-shirt revealed a bloody gash just under my rake-like ribs. But when I cleaned it with a damp cloth it wasn’t much more than a shallow graze along the surface of the muscle ending in a glint of metal. I picked at it until the piece fell into my palm. A distorted shard of bullet.
He missed, the round must have caught the bridge behind me. I was lucky, if it had been a deeper angle or a larger piece…
Unlucky enough to get shot, lucky enough it didn’t kill me. I cleaned it as best I could and slapped on a dressing from my dwindling supply.
I felt my shoulder, tested its movement. It was definitely back in the socket. Hurt like hell when I moved it but it was nothing like before I’d gone in the water.
Fingers. Yeah, they were still fucked up. I’d tried to avoid punching people, but sometimes it just had to be done. The bandages had been stripped off, presumably in the water? I attempted to replace them with some of the stuff Beth had left, but it turns out you can’t really tie bandages around your own fingers very easily. Certainly not in handcuffs.
I really needed to get rid of these things…
My head seemed ok. No confusion that I could sense anyway. No blurriness or double vision. I was lucky not to break my skull falling from the window. Plus I must have hit it when I’d tripped and maybe falling through the ice. I was surprised I could still remember most of the night, the only blanks were the moments before hitting the water.
Building a cocooning of blankets I waited for the shivering to subside. It was replaced with complete physical and mental fatigue. My limbs felt like they were made from jelly. I was going to ache tomorrow. All that exercise had turned out useful for once.
Sleep, that’s what I needed.
But first? I had a lot of thinking to do. Who were those people? They weren’t gang members, weren’t police… Was Mike right? Why did they want me? I spent a while going through everything I’d done since I that first night I’d started a fight, and I couldn’t think of any reason whoever they were would have any interest in me.
I pushed it to the back of my mind. There were other things, more important things. Beth. The Kolmek. The fact that I didn’t have any money and no source of food, I couldn’t go back to school. Not now.
I was going to have to keep my head down.
And fuck, I didn’t have any money… I couldn’t go back to school and I needed food damnit.