Congratulations, we are down to the winners in the flash fiction contest! Here is your #3
Rooftop- Chris Padar
There is a spot up on the roof of the Circus Circus hotel in Las Vegas that is my favorite spot to relax between shows. Most people can’t even get close and that’s what makes it my favorite. Growing up in Chicago, I’d always been comfortable around crowds. That changed after my injury.
When I first woke up in the hospital after the attack, I felt like I was in a room with a hundred people all talking or screaming. I opened my eyes slowly and tried to look around. I was on a stretcher being rolled through the halls. There were so many voices around that I started to feel dizzy. It was like everyone was talking at the same time. I didn’t get far into my checklist before I started feeling nauseous. My head hurt and I was strapped down to a body board to keep immobilized. I could feel pressure around the left side as if something were trying to push out from inside my skull. The ceiling was rolling past and the crush of voices was making me sick. Someone was saying that my head wound looked bad. Someone else was screaming that they had lost their leg. I passed out again.
I was in and out over the next several days. It took a while to come to grips with what was happening. I’m told that being injured in a car bombing can really screw you up. I was one of the lucky ones. I took a piece of the car to the head and was knocked cold. There were ten people killed and another 28 wounded and then there was me.
The next few days were very stressful as I tried to recover. The swelling in my head went down and my ears stopped ringing but the people talking stayed with me. It was odd at first. I would hear someone ask me something before they would enter the room. The nurse would then come in and ask me a question. Other times I’d hear the question and answer from someplace else. If I were sitting up, I could turn my head like directing the rabbit ears on an old TV and figure out where the voices were coming from. I didn’t mention any of this to the shrinks and, as far as I could tell, they didn’t know anything about it.
I would try to listen for the people in the halls and I could hear their voices getting louder as they approached and softer as they left. I figured it was somewhat limited by distance because I could never hear any voices when I was on the phone to my family. Once I was able to start walking, I’d roll my IV stand around the halls and try little experiments. I would pick a voice in my head and try to identify whose voice it was that I was hearing. Once I figured that out, I’d walk as far as I could from the person to determine how far I could still hear them. Another thing I realized was that I could only hear what they were actively thinking. There was no way to rummage around their minds looking for thoughts.
As I healed, I was better able to come to grips with the voices in my head. Kinda strange that someone would put it like that but it was the case. When I had my first apartment, it was just off the Kennedy Expressway and near the Addison el stop. There was traffic and trains 24/7 and the sound was like a constant river. I got used to it. I could push it to the back of my mind and ignore it. Sometimes there would be an alarm or a siren that would draw my attention back but mostly it was just white noise. The voices became like that. Sometimes there would be something loud that would draw your attention. It was worst in the hospital because I was a couple floors up from the maternity ward. That kind of fear-pain-joy mixture can wake you like a train crash.
So where do you go when you are 25, have survived a car bomb and can read minds? Vegas baby! Imagine being able to read the minds of everyone in Sin City. Turns out the reality falls short of the fantasy. Slot machines don’t have minds to read. Poker winnings can get to be pretty high profile. The hookers really only want the money and most of them hate every minute of their jobs.
I’ve been here now for almost eight years. I play some poker but don’t win enough to draw attention. I do a psychic show under the name of Mel the Mind Reader twice a day at the Circus. I own a small house out in the dessert that is beyond the range of the voices on all sides. It hasn’t been a bad time and I think I’m really going to miss it.
Tonight during the show, while I was trying to read a man who was holding a three of clubs but more interested in the cocktail waitress, I heard another voice that startled me. It was one of those strong shocks that cuts through everything and gets your attention. It was a female voice from somewhere in the room. It said “Holy shit! He can do it too.” Try as I might, I couldn’t hear that voice again. I thought hard about the route to the roof and the code to open the door without the alarm. After eight years of sitting through all the fakers and frauds, I’ve found someone like me.
I’m waiting on the roof and all is quiet. I’m out of range of the voices waiting, and hoping that she heard me and comes. If not, at least I now know that I’m not alone. I’ve heard a signal through the noise and that has made all the searching worth it.
Good Job, Chris