Publish Novella 10 May 2023
EPISODE 2 – ASSAULTING
In a chase for his life, Alan endeavors to avert assault, but resistance results in selective amnesia.
Violent content advisory
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By Kevin RR Williams
With a vehicle in hot pursuit, Alan’s attempts to alter his course result in his car getting pinned near Vanderbilt Gate in Central Park. Decoy-money satchel in hand, he runs across the lawn with three men in pursuit.
Near the gated entrance, he takes cover and unholsters a firearm. When the shadows of two men approach, his two shots miss them before he runs through the Conservator Garden.
The third masked assailant ambushes and disarms him after shots fire into the air. The two other men catch up in order to forcefully take his satchel and wallet, leaving Alan for dead after a beatdown.
Hours later, Alan awakens to the fragrance of Astillbe within the serene floral oasis. Unknown to him are his own name, where he works, or lives. His ability to recall current details is otherwise intact. So he begins piecing together the crime upon a victim unknown to him.
His hyperthymesia replays events as the defects of a scratched vinyl record. Dispersed between alternating flashes of light and pain, he recalls a tussle over a satchel. The vignette of gunfire and shadowy figure puzzles him.
Alan surveys the area for evidence. A torn piece of clothing, drops of blood, or perhaps his wallet may help him piece together his disjointed clues. Along with a bullet casing, he finds a wallet lacking identification nearby. All it contains is an old photo of three boys standing together tucked into a side compartment.
The children are preteens in the photo. Alan is not even sure it belongs to him, but this possible clue has three males in common with his assault.
Alan hears a woman screaming during a purse mugging at a distance. He’s too weak to offer any assistance and no one else intervenes.
Wandering among paths of tourists and vagrants, Alan eventually finds his way out of the park. But he doesn’t know where he’s heading.
In desperation for food and toiletries to care for his wounds, he begins panhandling. His plight nurtures empathy for all the peripheral people that line the busy streets. How often has he avoided direct eye contact without offering a dollar or inquiring about their wellbeing?
Now he is the one ignored. Attempting to engender compassion, he cries out, “Hey folks, I can’t play the guitar and I’m not here to buy alcohol. I just need some help to get a warm place to sleep for the night.”
For his efforts, he collects less than one dollar in change. Then he notices how others forage for food within garbage bins near restaurants. Not yet sinking to that depth, he is quick to retrieve food remaining on outdoor restaurant tables when patrons leave.
A vehicle familiar to him is nearby. Searching his pockets, he can’t find a key. Certain the car may hold a clue, he begins unsuccessfully striking the driver side window with a small pebble.
A disheveled young man with a slight build is about a hundred feet away peering inside automobiles for valuables and checking for unlocked door handles. He approaches Alan to ask what’s going on.
“I believe I locked myself out of my car.”
Unconvinced with the story from someone staggering and bleeding, the young man asks, “Do you know if anything of value is inside?”
“Whatever we find, I’ll split with you,” Alan offers.
“The alarm may go off while I jimmy the door. I can't unlock it. Stand back! This’ll be a smash-and-grab.” Once inside, the petty thief pops the trunk. There are two satchels. With the alarm siren blaring, Alan grabs one. The thief grabs the other and disappears into the park.
Alan distances himself from the car, remembering the tussle over this bag. After looking over his shoulder, he takes a quick peek inside and is surprised by the contents. Cash in hand, he is now able to afford lodging.
The trauma leaves Alan suffering from recurring headaches that impede lucidity. He experiences bright flashbacks of the attack and other moments of his life. Tight neural pathways, called synapses, allow instant recall. However, it’s as though he must combat depression by manually rerouting familiar pathways that have uncharacteristically widened.
Alan walks past women standing in front of a flop house that rents rooms by the hour, day, or month. After paying for a week in advance, he locates his third-floor room number.
The dingy accommodation smells of alcohol and former good times. Under the dim lighting he dresses his wounds. Then he counts his bounty. Realizing the danger of walking around with his entire cash, he separates enough to buy clean clothes and food. The rest remains within the satchel, which he slides beneath the bed, guarded by formidable rodent centurions.
Weakened by the ordeal, Alan is in no position to go shopping. So he falls asleep on top of the bedspread. Nightmares of flowers pummeling and kicking him make his rest anything but peaceful.
Eventually, he awakens with the absence of sunlight through the soot encrusted window. Sauntering to the toilet, he then washes his unfamiliar face, as blood and water encircle the sink’s drain. Within the hazy reflection, he sees one eye is swollen, black and blue with a large lump on his scalp.
His feet drag across electrostatic, stained carpet as he falls back on the bed until morning. It’s not evident to him that two days elapse before he’s able to emerge from this dim cocoon of iniquity.