I woke up with a start. Images from my dream, still fresh, wizened gradually like mist, as I came to my senses.
“Hadn’t I witnessed an accident? Wasn’t I driving? Where was I?”
Those memories began to fade as I looked up at the clock.
It read 6:33 PM.
“No! No! No! No! Not again!”
I helped myself out of the bed, tucked my shirt into my trousers and grabbed the keys to my truck.
It was dark outside. Bizarre, the atmosphere read. It had this strange ghastly look about it which could have definitely changed my plans hadn’t I been late again.
“My boss would kill me!” I mumbled.
The engine roared. Reverse tone of my truck echoed loudly breaking the deafening silence.
“Where is everyone?”
Suddenly a hand grabbed me from the driver’s window.
“Jesus! Joe! You scared the shit out of me man!” I had my heart in my mouth.
“Ha, I thought you said you were tough.” Joe made a vain attempt to mock.
“I am in a hurry.”
“Where are you going so late?”
“Boss. He is gonna kill me if I don’t show up.” I lifted some papers to show him. “Gotta give these to him! His fuel!”
Suddenly, the expression on Joe’s face became grim, as if he was struck by lightning. Probably a lightning of grief, I guess. Joe looked away as he whispered.
“I am sorry Scott. I am sorry that it happened to you, Scott…I am…”
“What? What are you talking about Joe? Are you alright?” I cut in quick.
He looked back at me as he stammered, “I am sorry…”
He appeared quite pale. It seemed as if he was about to break into tears. Nobody wanted a Joe in tears.
“I am sorry” he seemed adamant.
“And I am late!” I purred the engine.
“Will see ya later Joe”, I shouted at the top of my voice, as I dabbed the throttle.
“Jeez! What’s gotten into him?” I thought. “Ever since his wife passed, he hasn’t been himself lately. But it’s Joe, he’ll come around.”
I looked at the pile of papers I had with me, rechecked each one of them, as I drove.
It wasn’t long after that I scrutinized the streets. They wore a deserted look. Not a soul stirred. It felt as if I was in a Zombieland. All those zombie movies came haunting my head one by one.
“Where is everybody?” I thought out loud.
As I neared the City bank, I slowed down a bit to see if there was any one there. It wore a forlorn look. As I was about to head off again, a shrill voice of an alarm broke out. It seemed to be coming straight from the bank. I killed the engine at once, “What?”, I thought, “Is that a….”
Before I could even say ‘robbery’ I saw a man coming out of the bank, heading straight towards me. It was pretty dark out there, so I could barely see anything. With dilated eyes, I tried to look. I could clearly make out a silhouette moving towards my truck. He had a bag on his shoulders that hung loosely on him. I was about to say something when a glint of light fell on something that appeared like a gun.
I fumbled with my keys when I saw him running towards my truck. The engine roared again. With a screech, the truck leapt ahead with the man still in pursuit.
I felt a little safe when my meter read 100. What I failed to realize was that the man with the gun had clung to the tail of my truck. I found him in the rear view mirror almost instantly. My heart skipped a beat. I was scared, scared as I have never been before. The sight of the gun had freaked me out beyond limit.
I rechecked him in the mirror. He was still there moving like a tiger, slowly, before pouncing on its prey. I couldn’t think of a way to shake him off.
“Bang!” a deafening noise caused me to lose control. I swear I might have pissed my pants.
“Sweet mother of Jesus! He is shooting at me!”
I was so afraid that I riveted my attention to the mirror.
“Why are you trying to kill me? I wouldn’t tell anyone. I swear!” I shouted at the top of my voice.
“This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening!” I kept repeating that. Suddenly my steering flung us towards a lawn. I had lost control, but I still drove through it.
I kept checking him, every now and then, as he slowly crept towards the door. I saw his face for the first time when he appeared at the window. He had big eyes and a scarred face. I swear I had seen death in his eyes.
Amidst that ruckus, Stacy’s motel sign lit up in the backdrop. That’s when the barrel was pointed at me too. I rammed my truck into the motel without a second thought.
“Bam!”, the glasses were shattered at once. I could feel a searing pain in my guts almost instantly after the collision. I was lanced by something sharp.
I woke up with a start with my hand on my tummy. I could still feel the pain as if none of it had happened in a dream.
I groped for my stomach injuries as a reassurance. I found everything intact. My eyes fell on the clock.
“No! No! No! No! Not again!”
As I helped myself out of the bed, I began recollecting the events of the dream. It seemed a tad queer – the clock manifested the same time. I rechecked it. It seemed to be working fine.
It read 6.34 PM now.
I brushed it off considering it a mere coincidence. I tucked in my shirt grabbing the keys to the truck.
As soon as I stepped outside, the environment had the same feel, the one I had visited in my dream. It was almost dark and not a single soul stirred. I pretended not to care and got busy with my keys.
The engine roared. Reverse tone of the truck echoed loudly breaking the deafening silence around.
I was conscious this time as I looked hither and thither for Joe. I checked my rear view mirror.
“No Joe this time. This ain’t a deja vu” I thought.
Just then out of the blue, I felt a sturdy hand hit my shoulder. I almost instantly shouted, “Whoa! Whoa! Joe! Where did you come from? You scared the shit out of me man!”
“Ha, I thought you said you were tough.” Joe repeated what he had said in the dream.
“This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening.” I murmured. Sweat trickled down my forehead, as I tried to recall what my dream had in store for me.
“What?” Joe looked puzzled.
“I mean, Where is everybody?”
“Are you alright bro? You look sick to me. Where are you going so late?”
“I am fine. I am fine. It’s just.” I came back to my senses. Something told me I was being ridiculous, making issues out of nothing. It could have been just a deja vu, besides Joe seemed completely okay.
Just as the thought crossed my mind, I saw Joe going stiff, just like I had seen him in my dream, pale as death, as if life had been sucked out of him, almost instantly.
“I am sorry Scott.”
As soon as he said those words, I killed the engine, and stepped out of the truck.
“Why are you sorry Joe? Why are you acting like this? What is it?”
But he wouldn’t look at me. His whispers still fell in my ears. They seemed unusually loud for whispers.
“I am sorry that it happened to you.”
“What happened to me?” I grabbed his hand and shook him.
I wished him to go back to his normal self, the regular Joe who would always crack jokes, laugh out loud, make fun of me, and not be so vapid. He was acting so weird, it was scaring the hell out of me.
He looked at me, “I am sorry.”
He started retreating. I followed him. I wanted to help. Also, I wanted to get to the bottom of it. “Is this some kind of prank?”
He started running. I still didn’t give up on him, and continued my chase. I wanted badly to get rid of that Deja Vu chills. He went to his house and locked himself in. I rapped on the door, then banged it, “Joe! Joe! C’mon Man!”
I kept rattling the door for a while. No answer. I stood dazed, trying to add things up.
A weak bulb lit in the neighborhood. It seemed as if someone was watching me from the window. I looked at him and shouted, “Hey! Wait! Can you hear me? Hello!”
I waved both my hands at him. He stood motionless at the window staring at me. It was creepy.
I receded. When I reached my truck, I stood there for a moment stupefied. It was then when I saw a movement in another window. It was from a house next to mine. The window-curtain of yet another neighbour to my left moved and I could feel the presence of someone watching me from there too. Uneasiness gripped me. Suddenly I felt hundreds of eyes on me.
I felt uncomfortable standing there. I could feel their eyes on me. Not a single person on the street and yet it felt as if the whole world was watching me.
I shouted, “What are you looking at…huh? What is this place?”
I pretended, I wasn’t afraid. But the windows didn’t stop staring.
I got into the truck and took off. While I drove, I could hear my heart pound. As I took a left turn, I realized that I was on the same road that led me to the City bank. So I decided to change my route.
As I drove on, the city seemed tranquil, serene, as if it was uninhabited, just like what my dream had manifested.
“If it is deja vu, then it is the most surreal deja vu I have ever had.” I tried talking to myself. It seemed like a good way to tackle fear. Goes without saying, I had no choice either.
A shrill sounding voice disturbed the city’s slumber.
“That alarm might have went off!” I thought. It all seemed like a game I was replaying, just in a different pattern.
I looked in the rear-view mirror for a reassurance. Nobody chased me this time. The route that I had followed would take me directly to the highway.
I became more relaxed now. I was a little contented that I had finally overcome the mishap, that I had vanquished my fears, that it was just a bad dream, that deja vu is a common thing and happens to every one.
I was glad, I was talking some sense into myself.
“One hell of a day. I’ll give you that!”
I could see a vehicle, rather headlights, driving towards me in the same lane as mine.
“Finally someone!” I thought.
I used my horn to get the driver’s attention.
It was fast. The light became brighter and brighter.
“Honk! Honk!” I once again used the horn, however the vehicle seemed steadfast.
“Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk!”
The driver wouldn’t change the lane. Lights drew closer. I slowed down smelling trouble, but didn’t stop my truck. Lights became blinding now. I couldn’t see anything on the road. As we were about to collide, I cut left. It was a reflex. I had rammed my truck somewhere.
I was breathing heavily.
“Am I still alive?” I thought as I freed myself from the seat belts. I fell with a thud. My truck might have overturned because everything seemed topsy-turvy for a second.
I managed to grab the window and pull myself out through it. I scrambled out of the truck towards the road, and tried to catch my breath there.
I looked at my leg. It was badly injured. My shirt awfully stained. Red was written all over me.
“I survived that! Ha!” I felt elated.
I was rejoicing at my feat, when I saw the same bank robber from my dream heading towards me through the opposite lawn. A knife glimmered in his hand.
Nervous I fell back, and found a crowbar in the process. I ran towards to pick it up.
On turning around I saw him charging at me with that knife. I ducked as he lost his balance. I pounced upon him. With one blow of the crowbar, I broke open his head. So I thought.
I swear I could have seen blood spilling all over his body as he lost his balance. He covered his head with both his hands dropping the knife in the process.
When he removed his hands, he was surprised. So was I. Not a single bruise. But I had hit him. I swear I had it all open before me.
I exclaimed, “What? A ghost?”
He was busy checking his face when I went for another shot. This time his chest. I tore it open as he screamed like a mad man.
But then again, within the blink of an eye, he stood there intact. He fell on his knees crying, as if he had an epiphany.
Scared what was going on, I left him there. Baffled as hell, I turned around to see my wreck. For the first time, I noticed the same Stacy’s motel sign, unlit, probably why I had missed it earlier, gawking back at me. There lay rammed into the motel my truck, overturned.
“How did I end up here?” I tried to recall. “Maybe when I took a left, I might have rampaged it up there.”
“Voila! The dream has proved itself right.” I thought out loud.
I hastened my steps toward the truck. Then the fear of what I might find there, slowed me down. Everything started to unfold before my eyes.
In the background the poor robber wailed. When I reached the truck, I was afraid to peep in. I wasn’t prepared for what I might discover. As I slowly came around the drivers’ window to check from where I had slipped out, I fell on the ground with my jaws wide open. There on the seat still tucked in to the seat belt, I saw ‘Me’ dead.
It was as if looking into a mirror, just from a different angle. A rod had pierced my cadaver through. I was ripped open through the abdomen. Blood was everywhere.
Everything began to make sense. An epiphany happened to me after all. Pieces began fitting together to complete the whole picture. I had been ‘dead’ this whole time. I was in a loop, just living the same dream over and over again, until now.