Synopsis: For Cassidy, the struggle to understand the difference between memories and reality is a challenge.
Can she escape a villain that’s always one step ahead?
Blood smeared across the windshield as he rolled over the hood of the car. The sound of metal denting under his weight sickened her. For a brief moment she caught sight of his blank gaze before he fell and hit the ground.
Cassidy searched the growing crowd for her husband. Unable to find him, she squeezed her eyelids shut. The display of anger and violence outside the safety of the car made her anxious.
A raspy cry pulled Cassidy from her thoughts. She looked into her rear-view mirror and into the fevered eyes of her two-year-old son.
“Mama.” His little hands stretched toward her.
Cassidy reached back between the leather seats and touched his leg. Heat radiated through his pyjamas. They should have brought him sooner.
A loud thump caused Cassidy to jump and let out a small cry. The metal roof crunched overhead, and the car rocked. She stared upward, praying for it to stop.
“Mama,” Owen cried again.
Cassidy refocused her attention to the rear-view mirror. Owen’s face turned red. He drew his arms toward him and hugged his chest as a violent cough racked his body. A string of spit hung from his fever-cracked lips. He pumped his legs as though the action helped to draw in air. He exhaled a loud and exhausting wheeze and closed his eyes.
“Owen!” Cassidy unclipped her seat belt and twisted around to face the back. She reached over and placed her hand on his hot forehead. Owen’s eyelids flickered open; his glassy eyes stared at her for a moment before he closed them again.
Cassidy pressed two fingers against her carotid; her pulse hammered underneath. Her free hand clenched into a fist. “Slow down,” she whispered. She tapped her foot on the floor in an attempt to expend the excess adrenaline flowing through her veins. Her anxiety mounted.
She took a deep breath and swivelled back in her seat. Her hands gripped the steering wheel. She had to find a safer entrance to the hospital. Cassidy reached for the key, a small photo of her and Owen encased in a keychain swung from her husband’s key ring.
A loud smack on the driver’s window caused Cassidy to forget about starting the engine. She flinched and turned toward the sound. A large hand pressed against the window. Its owner glared at her and shook his head. He grinned and slapped the glass again. Cassidy jumped, and he laughed.
She flopped back into her seat and closed her eyes against her tears. Her heart thumped in her ears as the car jostled back and forth. The motion made her queasy.
Cassidy weaved her fingers through her hair, clutched the top of her head, and rocked. “I can’t,” she whispered. “I can’t,” she screamed. But her words were only for her ears. The loud mob outside didn’t hear and anyone close enough didn’t care.
She allowed the panic attack to take hold. Fear of the outside encased her physical body and warped her mind. Terrifying thoughts raced through her head as her eyes darted from window to window. The mob swarmed the car. Faces peered in at her; fists pounded the glass; hands jiggled the door handles. Cassidy continued rocking, her anguish at full peak.
“Ma-ma.” Owen choked.
Cassidy pulled her hands from her head; strands of hair clung to her fingers. She opened her eyes and looked into the mirror.
Owen’s brown eyes bulged; his lips tinged blued. His little legs drew towards his chest as his pudgy fists batted the air.
“On my God!” Cassidy spun around and squeezed between the front seats. Her fingers shook as she depressed the harness release button on the car seat. Nothing happened. She tugged the straps and pushed the release button again. Owen’s exhale wheezed in her ears. “Come… on!” She tugged harder. Owen’s flailing hands caught in her hair.
“Ma…” Owen tried to speak.
Cassidy stopped for a second and looked at her son. His wide and terrified gaze focused on her face. She pressed the release button with both thumbs; the click echoed.
She untangled Owen’s hands from her hair and pulled the harness over his head. His body stiffened as she pulled him into her arms. His shallow gasps blew into her ear.
The mob surrounded them; Cassidy paused, paralyzed by fear. Bodies pressed and banged against the car. Muffled shouts of anger made her shrink.
Owen’s strangled breath drove her into action. “I have to,” she said. Her stomach rolled. Cassidy unlocked the back door and shoved it open. “Get the fuck out of my way!” she screamed as she scrambled from the car. She could not loose Owen.
Owen’s limp body flopped in her arms as Cassidy ran toward the emergency room entrance. She reached out for the door and yanked on the handle. She stared at the still closed door for a moment with Owen slumped over her shoulder. Her hand slammed against the bar; this time she pushed and rushed through the open door. Help!” Cassidy cried. Her plea alerted the staff. They rushed forward and lifted Owen’s tiny frame from her arms and hurried him away.
“He’ll be okay.” A nurse assured her. “You got him here in time.”
Cassidy shook her head. “I don’t know. The mob outside, my husband, they wouldn’t let us through. What’s going on?”
The nurse’s attention flicked toward the door. Cassidy followed her gaze.
No crowd had gathered anywhere outside. A few people strolled past on the street. Cars pulled in and out of the parking lot. Cassidy’s gaze fell on a black car parked by the curb, untouched – undamaged.
The doors opened and a couple with a child walked in. Cassidy stared at them. The woman gave her a half-smile and Cassidy nodded. She pressed her fingers to her neck; her pulsed had returned to near normal.
A hand rested on her shoulder. Cassidy startled for a moment but it did not bring the fear she’d expected. “Let’s go see that handsome young man of yours, Cassidy.” The nurse offered her a warm smile.
“It wasn’t real, was it?” Cassidy turned and looked at the now familiar face. The ER dissolved in front of her eyes; a more sedate waiting area took its place.
The nurse shook her head. “It never is.” Her warm smile turned to one of pity.
“And that car, it’s not mine.”
Cassidy sighed and stared down at her running shoes. “At least I put on shoes this time.”
The nurse smiled. “Come on, he’s waiting.”
“He is here? Owen is okay?” Cassidy needed reassurance.
“You know he is.” The nurse placed a hand on Cassidy’s back and guided her toward the elevator.
Cassidy nodded. “How far did I get this time?” The elevator doors opened and they stepped inside.
The nurse pressed the button marked number six and the doors closed. “Outside, all the way to that car by the curb.”
“I think I’m getting better. Don’t you?” Cassidy ran a hand through her hair as she looked at her older reflection in the mirrored wall.
The nurse smiled. She hoped Cassidy would get better but after ten years she didn’t think it was possible any more. Cassidy’s brain remained fixed on the day an angry mob killed her husband and almost cost her, her son. She would relive it again tomorrow, and the day after. The villain in her head ensured she remained stuck in an unending loop.