He races down the darkened alleyway that stinks of urine and puke. The sound of his feet pounding the blacktop echoes off the brick buildings that rise up on either side of him. He doesn’t look back. He has no desire to see what may be pursuing him. Instead, he focuses on the light that gently kisses the alley’s opening and heads for it.
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Fear is his only emotion as he exits onto the city’s main thoroughfare. It normally is lined with beeping cars and cursing drivers, but this morning it is quiet. Even the sidewalks are empty except for the errant scraps of paper that flutter here or there. Sure the streetlights still blink but there is no one to obey their commands. He thinks, “Maybe it’s this way every morning.”
And as his pace slows to a walk, he reaches into one of the deep pockets of his knee length coat. he touches the cold metal of a weapon, but instead of feeling secure he feels only guilt for having used it.
Tom Wilson, who had just celebrated his fifty sixth birthday three days before, had just killed his wife. At least what was left of his wife. How he had ended up here was a question that seemed to make his head hurt more than it already did. It didn’t matter though, the cops would find him soon, they always did. Tom had watched enough police shows to know that it wouldn’t take them long. They had all their computers and forensics...no, it wouldn’t take them long, of that, Tom was sure.
He walked towards a bus stop bench and sat down. Running his fingers through his sweat moistened hair, Tom leaned back and looked towards the sky.
As the panic that had enveloped him, started to wear off, fear replaced it. pulling his hands from his hair, he realized they were shaking. “How could you have let things get so out of control Tom?” he asked himself.
Tom had always been a planner, he had a plan for everything. And if there had ever been a time in his life that he needed a plan more, he couldn’t think of it. His wife had been diagnosed with Cancer just four months before. The diagnosis was bad, it had started in her lungs, but by the time they had found it, the cancer had spread through most of Ann’s body.
The diagnosis had shaken Ann to her very core, but for Tom it went deeper. This was something Tom could never have planned for. Ann was everything to Tom. She had been his sweetheart for the past thirty six years, and truth be told, she had been his whole world. They never spent more than two days apart in their marriage.
When Tom met Ann he had been a loner. Tom served in the Army and although he lived among hundreds of fellow soldiers, he had always felt alone. He had met Ann and fallen in love instantly. She had shown Tom that there was a whole world out there and made him want to be a part of it. Ann had been his key to that world. She had unlocked the door to happiness, a social life, and friends. But since the cancer set in, he had found himself locked away from the world and he came to realize, even though it wasn‘t right, he resented Ann for it.
Immediately following the diagnosis, all their friends had come to see Ann and console her and Tom. They all brought flowers and promised to keep them in their prayers. Though, in recent months, as the pain progressed the flowers became an occasional card and then, one day, it just ended. Tom’s door to the world had been closed and locked. After the screaming started, not even their closest friends would come for a visit. Tom had been left alone, with his Ann...his key, although her key no longer fit the lock to the world. In recent weeks Ann’s key seemed only to unlock the door to hell.
On his Birthday, days before he had almost done it. He had sat listening to Ann scream for most of the morning. It seemed lately that there was not enough pain killers in the world to stop the screaming. The apartment smelled of sweat and garbage. Tom always had a plan to clean things up, but never quite got around to it. And since the screaming started he couldn’t even open a window for fear the neighbors would call the cops. So their he sat, on his Birthday, in a rotting apartment, listening to his beloved slowly die. Wondering which would come first, her death, or his insanity.
He had loaded the gun that day. He even held it to Ann’s temple as her eyes rolled back in her head from the pain. He tried to justify himself, yet couldn’t, not yet. Finally, he decided to take a walk. He walked to the local liquor store and bought a nice bottle of Bourbon...after all it was his Birthday and he deserved it. Ann would still be screaming when he returned, he supposed.
He took the long way back, enjoying the fresh air as he walked up Sixth Avenue. He even found himself humming “Happy Birthday to me” under his breath. It felt good just to be out.
Returning to the apartment he ascended the staircase. pausing at the door, he heard no screaming. He checked on Ann only to find she had drifted off to sleep. “Thank God” Tom thought, “maybe it’s a little Birthday gift.”
Checking the answering machine on the kitchen counter, he was happy to see the message light blinking. “Maybe someone remembered my Birthday?“ Tom thought. Unfortunately, they were messages checking on Ann. Recently nobody wanted to talk to Tom, they always called when he was away. In recent weeks he had began to receive hang up calls. He wondered if it was their (so called) friends calling, hoping to catch the answering machine and hanging up after hearing Tom’s desperate “Hello”.
Tom spent the next hour consuming his bottle of Bourbon and two or three of Ann’s little red pills. They made him feel tingly and he thought they might help him sleep. They did, he slept for nearly six hours, but now, sitting on the bus stop bench, he hadn’t slept in over two days.
Tom closed his eyes and focused on pushing back the fear. He leaned back on the bus stop bench and yawned. Tom tried desperately to see his wife’s face whole again. He wanted so badly to see her beautiful face, without the giant hole he had blown in it. He pictured his wife on the beach the year they went to Maui. How happy she had been, how in love they were as they strolled along the sand feeling the waves lap at their toes.
He focused, but all he could see was the wretched, screaming skeleton Ann had become. The Ann he loved had left him a long time ago. She had been replaced by another Ann. One racked with pain and screams and horror. One smelling of sweat and piss. The one Tom hated.
Tom opened his eyes as he heard a car approaching. His worst fears were realized. It was a police car. The car stopped a few feet from where Tom sat on the bench. The blue lights danced on top of the police car, just as the officer stepped from the car.
Had the old Tom been sitting on this bench, he might have noticed the homeless man passed out in his own puke just a few feet behind him. He might have realized the Cop was looking to harass this man, rather than a clean shaven man sitting quietly at a bus stop. But that Tom was gone, he left with his beloved Ann months ago. The new Tom didn’t think so clearly and only saw the Cop coming for him. “They found me.” He thought. “How could they have found me already?” but it didn’t matter.
As the Cop approached Tom, the old Tom came up with one last plan. He pulled the gun from his pocket and put the barrel in his mouth. As he pulled the trigger, a last thought flashed through Tom Wilson’s mind before it exploded all over the bus stop bench. He hoped the Ann he met in heaven would be the old Ann...the good Ann...the Ann he loved.
It wasn't my fault...I fell asleep and missed my stop.