New Pulp Press

"Bullets, Booze and Bastards"

Sample chapter from Almost Gone by Stan Richards

The rain was falling and the world was blurry. Hank Williams was singing, a ghostly voice through the static. I leaned forward and squinted, trying to stay focused on the broken yellow line. My thumb tapped the steering wheel in rhythm. I was thinking about everything and nothing at all.

A semi-truck rose above the hill. The lights blinded my eyes. Somehow I lost control. I heard the impact, felt my head jerk to the side and crack against the side window. Then everything was spinning and all I could see was blood and glass and darkness. I couldn’t move.

Time no longer existed. I had a vague understanding that I was alive and felt a strange disappointment in that notion. I was content with my eyes closed, with jagged images and unconnected thoughts circling behind my forehead. Sirens circled overhead like ghosts . . .

I heard faraway voices. For awhile they mixed with my own nightmares. Then I awoke but the voices remained. I opened my eyes slowly and tried to focus them. A man wearing a white coat was standing in front of me with his arms folded. A woman was leaning over me with her hand pressed against my forehead. It smelled like sickness. I tried to turn my head. I couldn’t. I had a neck brace on. My head hurt. I opened my mouth to say something but nothing came out. The voices returned. They still sounded dreamlike. You’ve been in an accident I heard him say. Lucky to be alive. Could have been much worse. I tried to touch my head but it was covered with bandages. I closed my eyes again and slept.

I woke up several more times and it was always dark and nobody else was there. I could hear sounds coming from the hallway. A television. A laugh track. The haze began to lift. I was feeling restless. My eyes stayed open for the rest of the night until the lights were turned on in my room. A doctor that was different from the first one came into my room. He was studying the contents of a folder. He was short and bald and had a full beard on his face. He smiled at me awkwardly.

“Feeling rested?” he said.

I nodded. “How long have I been here?”

“About a week,” he said. “You’re lucky to be alive.”

“That’s what they keep saying.”

I tried sitting up in my bed, but the doctor shook his head and told me to remain still. He sat down on a stool next to me and patted me on the leg. His eyes darted back and forth.

“How badly was I hurt?” I asked.

He sighed and his cheek twitched. “You suffered a traumatic head injury,” he said. “You sustained massive bilateral subdural hematomas, which were surgically evacuated and drained. You also suffered a severe contusion of both frontal lobes. You were in a coma. You only started showing signs of recovery during the last 24 hours.”

“What does that all that mean?” I asked. “All that stuff you just said.”

“It means that you may have suffered some brain damage. It is difficult to tell how you’ll be affected. We will know more over the next few days. We still don’t know much about the brain and it is nearly impossible to make predictions in cases like this. It’s possible that you could develop certain neurological problems. Numbness and seizures for example. But I am more concerned about possible cognitive deficits. Right now I’m not seeing any difficulties in your speech or thought process but, like I said, it is too early to tell. Sometimes it takes a while before we discover the deficits.”

I nodded and swallowed. “Does anybody know I’m here?” I asked.

“We contacted your brother. He was the only family member of yours we could find. He’s been here a couple of times to check up on you while you were in a coma. We called your place of employment. Told them the situation. You’re a police officer?”

“That’s right,” I said. “Listen, I don’t want any visitors. If my brother comes again tell him I can’t see anybody. I just want to be left alone.”

The doctor nodded. Dr. Simon was his name. It said so on his jacket.