(please be advised that the following short-short story contains graphic depictions of violence, so if this bothers you, please do not read)
He woke to the delicate sound of something dripping onto the scratched vinyl flooring of the tiny bedroom. Taking a deep breath, he tasted metal and sat up sharply.
Blinking, he fell backwards off the bed and crashed against the dingy wall, shouting in reaction to the terror that lay around him, amid the clanging of the long, serrated knife that fell from his hand. The freshly murdered body on the bed was barely recognizable as human, with the face slashed, breasts carved with tiny hearts and crosses, still-steaming entrails slowly slithering out of the woman’s abdomen as she lay on her side facing him. Blood was everywhere – staining the ivory comforter scarlet, pooling on the floor as it dripped from the woman’s body, covering his hands and clothes, and spattered on both walls near the bed.
“What the hell?” he muttered hoarsely. “Where am I?” An excruciating pain crashed into the back of his skull, and he moaned. “Dear God, what happened?” He tried not to look at the desecrated body, but he couldn’t escape the smell of blood and feces; a second later he clamped his hands over his mouth and raced to the bathroom, reaching the filthy toilet just in time to retch repeatedly until he felt his own stomach would be the next thing in the bowl. Finally his gut started to settle down.
Suddenly he heard footsteps pounding up the stairs and fear jerked at his heart; they were coming for him, he was certain. How could he escape? He looked around wildly. It would be foolish to go out the door. What about a window? He quickly decided he had no other choice, so he opened the larger window and climbed onto the sill.
The flat roof of the building was only a few feet higher than the top of the window — if he could just find something to climb on, he could reach it. Three feet from the end of the windowsill was a metal drainpipe, cracked and almost completely red with rust. But it was his only hope.
Swearing under his breath, he grabbed the pipe with one hand and jammed one foot against it for leverage. He felt it almost disintegrate under his weight, but it held. In one quick motion, he pushed against the pipe and at the same time jumped, trying for a handhold on the edge of the roof. For a second he was sure he would fall and kill himself – a fate that was beginning to sound fairly good — but he wasn’t ready to give up yet, and with one more mighty push he had his upper body on the roof, then flipped his legs up and over to land flat on his back.
He could hear the guards moving about the room and emitting a steady stream of cursing; it would be obvious how he escaped, and in a few seconds they would join him. He jumped to his feet, ignoring the throbbing in his head, and ran swiftly across the roof to the opposite corner. He couldn’t think; there was no time. Fear shut off the more advanced portions of his brain and he reverted to the brain mechanisms that served his jungle ancestors so well. He jumped a short distance to another roof, then down a fire escape and into the lobby of a building on the next block. Unfortunately his bloody hands and clothes drew attention everywhere he went, and he knew he was leaving fingerprints by the dozen, but at the moment he didn’t care. He just wanted to get away from that horrible sight, the mutilated woman that still made his stomach want to climb up his esophagus when he thought about it.
Behind him he heard a shriek of “Stop that man!” but he ignored it. He raced between two small orange-red brick buildings then saw a potential hiding place – a catering truck with chrome sides that was standing open waiting for the day’s complement of enchiladas and tamales. Once inside, he hid himself behind boxes of tortilla chips and tried to slow his breathing enough that it wouldn’t betray him.
How long would he have to wait? They might leave someone there to keep watch and he wouldn’t know. He might have to stay in the truck until dark – but more likely, the caterers would discover his presence and turn him in.
Moments later he heard pounding footsteps again and angry voices conversing in Spanish. To his astonishment, the footsteps retreated, and a heavily accented voice said, “You can get out now.”
He hesitated, fearing a trap, then burst out of the truck so quickly he barely saw the faces of the men who had kept his secret. He waved to them and one of them spoke again but by then he was already a hundred yards away, running with his head down into the wind and through a muddy alley.
He kept running, zigzagging and sometimes climbing over buildings, running until his thighs and calves burned, his chest was heaving, and he could hear nothing but the roaring bass drum beat of his heart. Finally he felt he could take no more and began looking for a place to hide.
He turned into a residential street full of tract homes from the 1950s, keeping out of sight as much as possible, since the quiet middle class housewives were unlikely to remain quiet if they saw him covered in blood. His eyes darted from left to right as he searched for the best location. The subdivision backed into a park with a pond and fountains; the pond was fed by a small creek almost hidden by huge bois d’arc trees and privet hedge. The creek became his target. There he would be able to wash himself and perhaps his clothes, and best of all, think about what he should do next.
He ran around a privet bush, letting out a sigh of relief, then he heard the man’s barking voice.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my back yard?”
At that moment he realized his mind was blank. He had no idea who he was.