Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Coda 9


Sam and Rhys from A GHOST OF A CHANCE

 

 

 

“All you have to do is say yes,” Roger said.

We were the only two people sitting in the waiting room. There were chairs draped in dust covers and some back issues of Haunted Times and TAPS. I looked at the front desk. The receptionist smiled at me and went back to her filing.

“You’re curious, right?” Roger pressed. “This is the truth you’ve spent your life pursuing. You wouldn’t pass up this opportunity.”


“No,” I said slowly. He was right. Sort of. I was a history teacher by trade. The paranormal studies were mostly a hobby. A hobby I was passionate about, but not exactly my life’s work.

“So say yes.”

“That’s it? I don’t have to sign any paperwork? No…waivers?”

Roger laughed. “No. You just have to want it.”

“I see.” I didn’t though. Not completely. In fact…this was so weird. I couldn’t quite remember why I was there. It must have been Roger’s idea. But then that was sort of strange too because—

“You’ve been thinking about it a lot since Sam died.”


My heart seemed to stop. “Wait.” I could hardly form the word. I felt frozen, stiff. “Sam’s dead?”

Roger stared at me as though I were insane. “Rhys, Sam has been dead a year.”

“No. That can’t be.” My heart began to bang in slow, heavy beats. Cold sweat broke out over my body. “No. I would know.”

“You do know.”

 I shook my head.

Rhys. What’s the matter with you? Sam died Christmas Eve. He was driving down from San Francisco. You were going to spend the holiday together. There was an accident. He never regained consciousness.”

“No.” I jumped up. “No. That’s wrong. I know that’s wrong.”

“Not this again,” Roger groaned. “You’re in denial because you never told him how you felt. You were too afraid to take a chance after C.K.  You feel guilty about it and so you’ve blocked it out.”

I began to pace around the laboratory as though I could walk away from what he was telling me. “I was going to tell him. I was going to tell him that weekend.”

Roger rose too. He held up a test tube. Green liquid bubbled up. “Exactly! But don’t you see? You can tell him. You can tell him now.”


“But he must know. He has to know. It was just the words. I tried to let him kn—” I had to stop. I was going to be crying in front of Roger and his lab assistant in a minute. I pressed the heels of my hands to my eyes.

“No. He doesn’t know. You have to say the words,” Roger said. “Like now. You have to say the words.”

I lowered my hands and stared at Roger’s kindly face. His watery, near-sighted blue eyes gazed earnestly back at me. He smiled. I had never noticed how yellow his teeth were – or that he had such sharp incisors. In fact…

I asked slowly, “Wait. Do I know you?”
 

 ~ooo~

 

“Wake up. Wake up, Rhys. You have to wake up now.” Sam’s voice was raspy with weariness. “Rhys, I’m talking to you. You need to listen. Wake up.” That insistent tone was starting to hurt my head. He could be such an asshole sometimes.

“Please, Rhys. Come on. This isn’t fair.”


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Yeah, but life wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair when he used that soft coaxing voice either. That voice that made me want to give him whatever he was asking for even when I knew it was probably a bad idea.

“Rhys, I’m telling you to WAKE THE FUCK UP.”

My eyes snapped open.

Instantly there was a confusion of bright light and noise. Chaos. What was happening? Something was really wrong. I couldn’t swallow. No. Worse. I couldn’t seem to breathe. There was a tube in my mouth, a tube filling up my throat and pushing air into my lungs while I was trying to exhale. When I tried to free my head, it hurt like hell.

“No, Rhys.” Sam kept me from clawing out the obstruction choking me. “Don’t fight it. Lie still. You’re okay. They’re going to take it out.”

More noise, lights, commotion…
 

 ~ooo~

 

Someone was holding my hand. A warm, hard grip. I squeezed back reassuringly. Took an experimental breath.

That was better. That was the way it was supposed to work.

“Rhys?”

I opened my eyes.

Better here too.

Quiet.

A soothing lack of light. Like twilight only…

Sam was leaning over me. I could make out that big, familiar blur. I was lying flat on my back in a room that was not my own. Not Sam’s either. A hospital room. What the hell?

“Rhys?”

A rusty voice answered for me. “My…glasses.”

An electric silence followed this request, and then Sam said in a shaky voice unlike his own, “Your--? Yeah. Of course. They’re here somewhere. How the hell you didn’t break ‘em…”

My head hurt. My ribs hurt. My back hurt. I was taking slow, painful inventory as my glasses settled on my nose and Sam’s face and the room behind him drew into sharp focus.

Yes. A hospital. I was in a hospital bed. Hooked up to a bunch of machines. There was fake garland around the window and a miniature Christmas tree in a pot on top of a cabinet in the corner. And there was Sam, grim and craggy and so important to me that I couldn’t seem to hold all that feeling in my heart.

“I thought you…were dead,” I got out in that creaky voice.

“Me?” Sam’s face was so gaunt. His eyes glittered. He looked ill. No wonder I’d thought…but no. That didn’t make sense. Sam was okay.

“What…happened?”

“You’re going to be fine now.”

Now.

“What happened?” It was tiring to talk. “An accident?”

He nodded. “You were driving up Friday night so we could spend the weekend together.”

I remembered. “I was staying. Through Christmas.” Our first Christmas together. Important. A turning point. When you started spending holidays together, that meant something.

“Right.” Sam’s voice was funny. So husky. So gentle. But Sam was gentle. People didn’t see that. He wasn’t in a gentle line of work. Being a cop didn’t call for gentleness, and Sam was so big and so rough looking…but he was very gentle. When he trusted you.

Had we reached the point of trusting each other?

Sam was still talking slowly, still watching my face  “A trucker fell asleep on the Grapevine. You were caught in a five car pileup.”

I swallowed. My throat felt scraped and raw. My mouth tasted horrible. My ribs hurt. My right leg…  Maybe I’d better save the inventory for later. I was starting to scare myself.

“Everyone…okay?”

I could see by Sam’s face and the way he made the decision not to tell me whatever it was that made him look like that, that everyone was not okay.

“You’re okay,” Sam said. “That’s all I care about.”

“Did I…miss it?”

He stroked my hair. “Did you miss what?”

“Christmas?”

His smile was so broad, so bright, it made my tired eyes blink. “No. No, this is Christmas Eve. You got back in plenty of time.”

I couldn’t match that smile, but I did my best. “Good.” My eyes were closing whether I wanted it or not. “I have to…tell you about my dream.”

“Okay,” Sam said softly. His mouth brushed mine. “And then I’ll tell you about mine.”

 

   

    

  

 

 

52 comments:

  1. Sam and Rhys made me cry. In a good way, but still. On my way to work right now sniffing. No fair, Josh... but thank you.

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  2. That was scary. Good scary. A very suitable coda for A Ghost of a Chance! You left my heart pounding franticly though... so many different emotions wrapped inside today's package. :) Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. That was a weird one. Not even sure where it came from!

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  3. Scared ME for a moment!

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  4. Oh, wow.

    Well done. :)

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    1. Thank you! I like to keep mixing it up.

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  5. Holy cow, Lanyon! You sure can pack a lot of whoa and damn into a few words! Very nicely done! I think Rhys and Sam might be...well, ok, maybe my third favorites. :-)Thank you.

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    1. That was a weird one, right? Still! You're third favorite isn't so bad. ;-D

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    2. Not bad at all! Do you realize how many couples you have? Oh, I suppose you do. You've been revisiting a lot of them. :-) I'm glad

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    3. Boy, I DO have a lot of couples! I'm learning that the hard way. :-D

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  6. You scared me a little, Josh. But the coda is perfect, I love it the most by far.

    Adriana

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  7. Breathtaking, Josh...you sure know how to wake your readers up!

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    Replies
    1. A little shock to go with the caffeine!

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    2. No kidding! Almost swallowed the wrong way. )

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  8. That was very succesful. I hadn't read the book - missed it, maybe because it came out in an anthology - and this sent me straight off to buy it!

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  9. Wow, Josh. This one was dark! Definitely a morning eye-opener. I haven't visited Rhys and Sam in years. Will have to reread the story. Thank you, as always, for being such a talented writer.

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    1. It was interesting going back and reading their story.

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  10. A couple of really scary moments there (◎_◎;) So much going on in such a small coda! Glad Sam and Rhys were both okay (or near enough) in the end!

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    1. Yes, indeed! A very close call for those two!

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  11. Thanks again for all these wonderful codas! This one did scare me. Love how it turned out.

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    1. Always fighting that little streak of darkness in myself...

      ;-)

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  12. A rollercoaster ride in a concise package. Had me saying, "No, no, no!" then "Oh, thank God." And I loved it--had faith you wouldn't deliver death and destruction for Christmas.
    You've got to assemble these into a short anthology for us aficionados.
    --Please?
    Kelly

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    1. I would like to second this suggestion. Anthology. Please.

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    2. I hadn't thought about it until a bunch of you suggested it, so...well, maybe!

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    3. Puh-LEEEASSE!! With sugar and a cherry on top.

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    4. Third on that suggestion. It would make such a beautiful little printed book.

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  13. I hate to ask, but have wondered all day. Just like Rhys, do we know Roger? (should I post as anonymous for this question? ;p)

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    1. No we don't. In fact, I kept trying to change his name to something more ominous, but for some reason Roger stuck. ;-)

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    2. You may have me looking at every Roger I meet from now on with a wary eye. :p :-D

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  14. I did exactly the same thing as Kelly - "Oh, NO" and "Whew! It wasn't real". Great little snippet - but Rhys still hasn't said it!

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  15. Whaaaa!!! NO!!! Oh...!! Sigh....
    I'll bet Sam's dream is better than Rhys' was ;-)

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  16. Keeping the suspenseful spirit of the original story? I remember Sam fondly, the vulnerable giant who thought people who look like Rhys wouldn't go for someone like him.

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    1. Yes, Sam's such an interesting character, I think. Even more interesting than Rhy, really. Although Rhys has his intriguing obsessions. Dangerous obsessions, perhaps?

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  17. YAY! ...does a Happy Dance...

    But you naughty boy, I almost had a heart attack and didn't finish reading it, but then I thought...would Josh be that cruel this close to Christmas?????!!

    Thank goodness I knew you wouldn't and kept reading :)
    This definitely requires another chapter (or 50)
    Thanks so much!
    Rdafan7

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    1. I couldn't be that cruel. Not on Christmas. Thank heavens the story wasn't set at New Year's! :-D

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  18. I got a bit of a shock reading this one, but I persevered and what a great ending. The last couple of lines packed as much of an emotional wallop as the rest of the story. :)

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  19. Heart-stopping! But thank goodness for dreams! (I think?) :-)

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    1. Or at least for waking up! :-D

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    2. Much better said...you must be good with words. *wink*

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  20. You scared me too. Sam and Rhys are my equal favorites.

    Gives relieved sigh.

    Thanks

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  21. Hu, that was eerie, for a moment, when I started to read it for the first time, I thought I've got the wrong story.
    For some reason I want to hug Rhys when he asks if he missed Christmas. :) He's going to tell Sam, right?

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