Monday, July 7, 2014

Excerpt from "Countdown" by Jeremy Milburn


            The ball is about to drop. I can hear the revelers start the countdown. I wish I could join them. Maybe I should join them.
            I can’t.
            I light up a cigarette and inhale the acrid smoke. I can feel it sear my lungs, but the chemicals spread through my body, exciting the pleasure center of my brain. It makes me dismiss what I feel for what it wants me to feel.
            I never should have started the filthy habit, but it’s my one vice. At least that’s how I rationalize it. Better than drinking everything away from my point of view. I tried that, and all I got was lost time, cotton-mouth, and massive headaches.
            It never took the memories away though.
            The cherry burns bright red, and the smoke triggers the memories. Memories that keep me locked in the prison I have built.
            Bethany seemed so happy when she brought our little Michael home. People talk about pregnant women “glowing.” It’s true. I’ve seen it. Only she didn’t just glow, she outshone the sun and the stars. The gleam of her blonde hair falling across Michael’s bald head, the shine of her crystal blue eyes moistened with joy. I never thought I could be more happy or in love. I leaned over and gave them both a kiss.
            We took him home. My mom came to stay with us for a week. Then her mom took a turn. They weren’t about to miss helping with their grandchild. Our aunts and uncles stopped by, bringing food and presents. They would coo and fuss over Michael, telling us all the while how lucky we were.
             Those first two weeks were exhausting, with the 3 a.m. feedings, dirty diaper changings and constant crying. I wish I were the smartest man in the world so I could invent a time machine and stay there forever.
            I can feel my fist tighten. I have to work to unclench it. It takes a deep drag for my fingers to loosen. It knows what memory comes next.
            The scream.
            It wasn’t a normal scream, like you hurt yourself or anything mundane. I wouldn’t be here now if it were something so simple. No, this scream told any who heard it that someone’s heart and soul had been ripped right out of her body. Painful, bloodcurdling shrieks that no one who has not experienced that sort of horror can imitate.
            I jumped out of bed and ran down the hallway. Bethany had fallen to her knees, hair and eyes wild, tears streaming, as she kept screaming. I looked at the crib and my mind shut down.
            Michael was still.

Read the rest of the story in our anthology, "No Regrets." You won't be disappointed.

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