I open my eyes. My chest feels weird. I sit up. My chest is wet. I look down.
Somehow, I’m not surprised by the blood.
I look to my right. More blood, not mine, on the floor and the booths. There’s a teenager–boy or girl, I can’t tell–sprawled across the counter, arms dangling, blood dripping from his or her fingertips and hitting the floor. There’s a booth where an elderly man is slumped over, the top of his head gone. An elderly woman is on her back on the floor. Her right leg twitches. There are two men in black pants and dark green shirts kneeling over her. There’s a bulky gurney near them. Paramedics. The whole place smells like gun smoke.
I get to my feet. I need to get out of here. I don’t know why. Seems like the worst is over. The man who shot me is down. But I need to get out of here.
Door I came in is right there. I head to it, fast, and open it faster. Run to my car, stumble a bit stepping off the sidewalk. Regain my balance in time to reach my Dodge. I fumble the keys out of the pocket of my jacket and get in. I start the car. The McDonald’s parking lot connects to the larger parking lot of the Academy, so I back out and point the car to it, even though the road is right there. But there are cop cars everywhere, and a black van with SWAT in white letters on its side just pulled in. I drive through the Academy lot. People are standing in front of the store and beside their vehicles, their eyes fixated on the restaurant. A few look at me, but not many.
I reach my apartment fifteen minutes later. The shooting was on every radio station. No count of how many victims, though. And no names, not even the shooter’s. The cops want to contact the relatives first, I guess.
I wonder about my parents in Sugar Land. I wonder if there’s a cop pulling up to their front door right now.
But why would there be? I’m alive.
I pull into a parking space and cut the engine. I look down at my chest. The interior of the car smells like wet copper. The blood’s almost dried. It’s tacky. I want it off me.
My chest isn’t moving. I’m not breathing. This should worry me.
I will my chest to move. It does. But I don’t feel any breath come out of my nostrils.
I put my hand to my heart. To the ruined mess where it used to be, anyway.
No beating. Hell, I might not have a heart left. Maybe that’s why the wound isn’t bleeding.
I get out of the car. No breathing, no beating. I guess this means I’m dead. I say it aloud: “I’m dead,” and my voice sounds fine, but there’s no conviction in it, so the supposed statement comes out as a question.
I walk up to my apartment. It’s harder to do than it was an hour ago, when I trotted down them. My legs are moving, but they’re getting a bit stiff.
I reach my home and lock the door behind me. I’ve lived here three years, and I still haven’t put anything up on the walls, except for a Lord of the Rings calendar by the fridge. I hate the white walls.
I undress in the bathroom while the hot water runs. I pad into the kitchen and get a trash bag from under the sink. Except for my socks and shoes, all my clothes are bloodied, even my boxers, where the blood on the lap of my jeans soaked through. I stuff the clothes into the bag and tie it shut. I don’t want this in the place, so I’ll throw it into one of the Dumpsters after I shower.
I wash off the blood. My chest is horrible. I thought there would be three separate holes, but there’s one big deep one. The skin around it is ragged and bruised. I rinse it off without touching it. I scrub everything else with a yellow washcloth, and by the time I finish, the cloth is red. I dump it into the wastebasket and then towel dry. The gaping hole in my chest isn’t bleeding, but it smells odd, and I don’t want to look at it. I get out the first aid kit that was in the bathroom vanity when I moved in. There’s a couple of large gauze pads and a roll of surgical tape. I tape the pads over the hole.
I dress in fresh clothes and pace around the bedroom. I don’t want to stay here. I don’t know where to go, though.
Finally, I decide to visit my girlfriend Stacie. She’ll be at work, but she works at the Best Buy near the mall. We can hang out in the large appliances section, because it’s almost always deserted.
My stomach rumbles, but when I think of the food in the fridge, I feel nauseated.