Antonio - Ashlee Price
A ringing in my ears.
A putrid smell choking my lungs.
The crackle of a two-way radio.
Hair in my face.
Then nothing. Stillness. Silence. Darkness.
A cool breeze blows.
I hear leaves rustling, wood creaking and...
I open my eyes. My eyelids feel heavy but I manage to lift them.
Above me, I see a wooden ceiling. To my right, pale green lace curtains which billow as the breeze comes in through the open window. To my left, I catch a glimpse of an open door beside a table. I can't see beyond it.
Where am I?
From what I can tell, I'm in a large house. There's likely another floor beyond that ceiling. The wood shows no sign of decay, its varnish still gleaming, which means the house is probably just a few years old. I don't hear any cars outside and the air seems fresh, so I must be in the countryside. Somewhere near the mountains because I don't smell salt. Maybe a small town just outside...
I pause as I draw a blank.
Where do I live again? I think this isn't my house because it doesn't look familiar, but then I can't remember what my house does look like. I can't remember who I live with, either. My parents? Siblings? Why the hell can't I remember?
I close my eyes again and draw a deep breath.
Calm down. Think. What can you remember? Your name? Your age?
I squeeze my eyes tight. My jaw clenches.
Come on. Try to remember.
But I can't. My head starts to throb. I lift my hand to rub my forehead, which creases even more as I feel a patch of uneven skin beneath my fingertips.
A scar? What from?
I open my eyes as I trace the scar. I can't remember where it's from, but it doesn't hurt, so it must be from an old injury. It's a different part of my head that's aching right now. Somewhere higher up on the left side...
I pause as my fingers brush against gauze. A bandage? Am I injured?
I try to look up but I can't see it. Instead, my gaze captures the cuts on my arm.
Fresh cuts, one of them longer than an inch.
What the hell?
I sit up, nearly screaming as I feel a pain in my ribs. I clutch it and look down. At least, I try, but for the first time, I realize that the lower half of my face is covered with a mask which gets in the way of my vision. The silicone fogs up as my breathing starts to race. I take it off. My gaze ends up falling on my legs, one of which is heavily bandaged. Why, though? I don't feel any pain coming from it.
Curious, I remove the bandage slowly. As soon as I see the blackened, charred skin, my jaw drops. My eyes grow wide.
Burns? What on earth is going on? Was I in a fire? Why don't I remember it, then? Why don't I remember anything? This has got to be some nightmare, right? After all, none of it makes sense. But then why, why does this pain seem too real?
My hand grips my chest as I struggle to breathe.
No! This can't be real. It can't be.
"Good lord!" A woman gasps as she enters the room. Then she screams. "Mitch!"
A man wearing a white coat rushes in seconds later.
"What are you doing, boy? Lie down!"
He pushes me back down and puts my mask back on.
"Breathe," he orders me as he holds it in place.
I try. The first few gulps of air hurt my lungs, but the strain goes away eventually. My breathing gradually slows down then settles into an even pace. Even the fog of confusion that poisoned my mind starts to fade. I try to dispel what remains.
Calm down. If this isn't a nightmare, panicking will do you no good.
"How is he?" the woman asks.
"He probably just got the shock of his life," the man answers. "Anyone would if they woke up in an unfamiliar place in such a messy state."
I watch him as he tends to my leg. He looks like he's in his fifties. Salt and pepper hair. Jowls. Thick glasses. Judging from his white coat and the care he's exercising in fixing my bandages, he's probably a doctor, just like I've always wanted to be.
Hold on a second. What? I want to be a doctor? Strange. Why can I remember that when I can't even remember my own name?
"Do you think he knows what happened to him?" the woman asks in a lowered voice, though