A short story by Micah Bridges
Kelsie looks around at the dreamy world, a massive chasm of nothing with small rectangular frames of multicolored light, dotting the landscape. The frames hang suspended in air motionless, each one a snapshot from Kelsi’s memories staring back at her frozen in time. Kelsie walks closer to the nearest grouping, as if triggered by her proximity, it comes to life. She watches as a younger, slightly green, Kelsie sits in a car with her dad, he is explaining the rules of the road. She takes a startled step back and the image freezes. Slowly she explores the floating frames, looking about deciding on one walking closer and watching. In the corner of her vision she knows and avoids one particular frame, a frame filled with pain. Each and every frame she explorer circles back to her father, slowly chipping away at her soul.
Kelsi’s mother, Kate, slowly steps into the hospital room. Each step purposed and quiet like she is sneaking into the room. Along one wall centered in the room, Kelsie lies in the bed motionless, machines quietly humming and chirping away at her vital signs. Silently Kate kisses her forehead and caresses her face, the wounds and their bandages long since removed. Kelsie’s motionless face burrows into Kate’s soul. Kate breaks the silence “Kelsie honey, I know you are sad that your dad is gone but you still have a life here” pausing to slowly push Kelsie’s hair out of her closed eyes. She continues “you have a life with me, I want to see your smile again, please …… please ……” drifting off into the silence of the machines beeping and humming, measuring out each passing moment of life.
Kelsie stares blankly as the frames shift in focus from her father to her mother. Stuttering, one by one the frames go into motion. Kelsie struggles to made sense of the noise, even the hated frame plays unimpeded on the periphery. The screams of terror rip into her soul, gunshots echoing through the dark chasm. Kelsie sees her father’s face frozen in pain and horror, as blood pours forth. She stumbles away, reeling, struggling to find something to numb the pain. Falling against one frame in particular, a cool sensation flows through her fingertips. Kelsie looks deeply into the frame, a knowing smile creeps across her face. Within the frame, Kelsie and her mother are sitting at home talking spending the hours like seconds, slowly the panic fades. Her fingers caress her mother’s loving face but stop as she sees her Father walk in and sit down. Her body convulses, forcing the tears to pour forth. Hanging where she left it the frame unrelentingly plays the events of that particular night. The three of them, Kelsie and her parents, walk out to spend the evening together downtown. Kelsie, always eager to spend whatever time she can with her parents, chatters away. Her parents lovingly listen enjoying the short time they have together with their daughter after her college graduation. Stopping at the street corner the three of them wait with many other families, waiting for the crosswalk signal. A passing car slows down, the window slowly dropping, the gunman opens fire. Kelsie’s father throws her and Kate to the ground, leaving him to take the full brunt of the madness. Shock setting in when Kelsie opens her eyes to see her father’s lifeless face staring back at her.
Rachele, Kelsie’s childhood friend and best friend from college, walks into the familiar but changed bedroom. Along the walls, the shelves have not changed; the stuffed animals and toys sit collecting dust. By contrast the rest of the room is nothing like what she remembers. The bed replaced with a larger medical bed complete with computer and fluids. An older Kate quietly weeps on her daughter’s chest, Rachele pipes up, voice on the edge of cracking “it’s good to have her home”. Kate lifts her disheveled face, wrinkles watered with tears, “yes, if only she …..” she closes her eyes in silent pain “I just hope that it is soon”. Rachele sits on the bed with Kate and holds Kelsie’s limp hand. Treasuring each moment, Kate and Rachele share stories from the rosy past.
Kelsie peeks her head up from her knees where she has lain curled up for as long as she can remember. The frames surround her shifting to her best friend Rachele, and then to other events she doesn’t ever remember seeing. Distractedly she gets up and unsteadily wanders through the frames. Off in the shadows Kelsie sees a familiar figure, she bolts for it, frames fluttering into motion then stopping as they sway to and fro in Kelsie’s passing. Jubilantly she exclaims “Dad!” and throws herself at him, his arms awkwardly outstretched, “you’re here, really he…” stopping short as she sees his face, a jaged collage of frames. Each individual piece of the collage shifts through different memories, never aligning. Piece by piece they crack and separate, blood dribbling down, further distorting the once familiar face. Kelsie mutters “what… Dad! …. Wh… say something Dad” nothing but silence greets her cries. Holes appear making their presence known in the figure’s chest. Kelsi stumbles backwards, “what is wrong, …. what did I do…. Don’t you love me…….” The figure mechanically backs away and turns and begins walking down into a slowly widening hole, the gaping holes in its chest becoming larger dripping and eating away at the figure. She sinks to her knees, head hanging in shame “Dad …. Please …… come back …….. don’t go away….. don’t leave me… … again”. The figure disappears into the hole leaving Kelsie alone in the darkness. Alone, save for the company of the ever present frames, slowly circling her, continually changing. After what seems like ages, she hears a voice softly whispering in the darkness. Kelsie starts upright and screams “MOM, MOM, is that you” the whispering continues, Kelsie tries again “Mom…….” Only thing greeting her cries is her own voice echoing back in her ears. Kelsie stumbles to her feet lurching first one way then the other, calling out. She calls out trying to find what direction the whispers are coming from. Every direction she turns frames appear blocking her view. In frustration she bolts towards the one direction the frames are the thickest screaming for her Mother.
A much older Kate lies asleep on the bed next to a very still Kelsie, each breath more difficult than the last. Only thing escaping her lips are barely audible whispers, clutching Kelsie’s hand like her life depended on it. A mature Rachele stands in the doorway, pain lining her face as she watches the two sleep. Slowly she walks over to the bed, quietly whispering
Kate’s name, nudging her to wakefulness. Kate lifts her head in a childlike gaze at Rachele and asks “is she awake yet?” Rachele murmurs “not yet…. maybe?…….” Kate nods, kissing Kelsie gently on the forehead, she struggles to get upright relying heavily on Rachele and a walker with tennis ball feet. Rachele gets Kate settled in her chair for her afternoon nap. Once Kate is asleep Rachele sneaks off into Kelsie’s room. She has long since run out of stories and memories to tell, but instead begins to dream and imagine new things, experiences, families, and lives they could have had together. History begins to repeat itself; Rachele repeats the same stories over and over till she reaches the end of things to distract herself, breaking down into tears.
Kelsie sees frames popping in and out all around her as she runs, some bumping into her as she madly dashes about. The air clings to her body devoid of sound. Slowing down Kelsie stops to listen. A frame pops up right in front of her, drifting closer it starts playing, Kelsie stares at it curious. This frame rolls through visions of a Rachele in her 40s, excitedly nudging along another woman along from store to store as they wander through the local mall shopping for new summer clothes. It shifts to these same women traveling together through foreign countries, enjoying life together, even going to spots which Rachele and Kelsie promised each other they would go to. Kelsie now confused, wonders aloud “but Rachele that’s our sp..o..t….” drifting off when the Rachele in the frame calls out to the other woman and says “let’s go Kelsie”. In reply, Kelsie hears an older version of herself “Almost done just tidying up” as she finishes the last touches on the sand castle. Kelsie thinks to herself, “Where am I? What is this place?” perhaps for the very first time. Kelsie looks into the frame again, this time the image has been replaced with an old woman huddled shivering in a chair, as she looks closer she sees the faint features of her mother. Kelsie reaches out grabbing the floating frame with both hands, “Mom? Rachele? I think… …. I think I’m ready.” In the cloying silence, she hears quiet sobs. The frame shifting to the same mature Rachele sobbing over a bed with a motionless woman in it, Kelsie recognizes her as the woman from before that Rachele called Kelsie. Kelsie holds onto the frame like a life line in the middle of the ocean and whispers to herself.
Kelsie softly squeezes Rachele’s hand; Rachele starts, and looks up bewildered through the tears. Kelsie tries to speak but nothing comes forth, all she can manage is a thank you with her eyes.