Weekly Writing Challenge: Backward

Be kind, don’t rewind


You can start at the end, and then lead us straight back to a traditionally ordered sequence of events (it worked for Citizen Kane). Or you can give us the full Memento treatment and take us backward one step at a time to the very origin of your story. Whatever works: just hook your readers with a powerful conclusion (that comes first!), and then captivate them with the story of how it came to pass.

o – – – – – o

My name is Calvin . . .

. . . and I just stood there, unable to move, staring, overlooking the bluff against which enormous, angry waves broke into sprays of salty foam, far below where everything – my world and all in it – seemed to slip my reach. It was as if the waves knew, as if they tried to take matters into their own hands, mocking me. Mauled into a tattered wreck of steel, the car steeled itself against the ocean’s fury, until finally it sank beneath its bosom. My heart beat only once, before it stopped, and I followed . . . her.

o – – – – – o

I woke up in a hospital room, as clinically white and superficial as one might expect, though familiar. I immediately became aware of an almost intolerable sore throat, the pain obdurately persistent against the desperate consumption of cold water from the carafe beside my bed. The light that managed to filter through the otherwise blinded window was sharp, forcing me to squint against its lethal blades as it cut against the sides of my head. The only splash of color originated from a bunch of flowers standing on a dresser, a floral arrangement that did not succeed in lifting my spirits at all – supposing that was why it stood there in the first place. The reason explaining my presence in an uncomfortable hospital bed instead of my own somewhere else eluded me. My head was blank, and I had no recollection of anything that’s happened before I opened my eyes. Confused, I called for a nurse, asking her whether she knew my story, to which she promptly shook her head, hurrying away with an expression akin to horrific sorrow. To that, I insisted adding weight to the call button, adamant to drive someone somewhere to lose their mind and spill the sympathetic details; why I have a sore throat, why my chest felt about to rip apart, why it felt like I should not exist, why, why, why.

o – – – – – o

My throat felt dry. It felt like I could not breathe, and I knew that panic was not helping anything rather than constricting my lungs even more. Pressing the gas pedal against the floor, frantically fiddling with the signal switch as I weaved through wet traffic, sleet and dark clouds adding to my already troubled mood, I scanned for the white sedan. Frustration and fear began to corrode me from the inside, eating away at everything there is to consume. If I did not catch up to her, she might be lost to me, and I would lose all hope of ever succeeding in the life I’ve finally set up. With or without her. Somewhere in the distance horns blared, ensued by a crash and screaming. My heart sank to the bottom of my shoes as I pulled over, seeing as people gathered around the edge of the bluff.

o – – – – – o

I climbed out of bed when no one seemed to respond to my incessant buzzing. The horrified nurse was the last person I’ve seen in about an hour. Frustrated like I think I might have been once before, I walked to the door, peeked out, looking up and down the halls with its shiny linoleum, the reflections of everything on it as if descending into another realm; still the same, but different somehow. The silence that decked the halls hung about in thick velvet, draping over my ears, confusing my judgment as a filigree of sound might have been imagination, and deeper silence might have been the sound of reality. Without thinking why this floor was equipped with no regular hospital hustle bustle, I ran the length of the hall towards the elevators at the far end, hoping that someone would leap at me, proving that, besides the nurse, there was no apocalyptic outbreak which consequently left me as the sole survivor. The elevator doors were plastered with notices when I finally reached it. All bearing my picture.

o – – – – – o

I swallowed against a lump that decided to form in my throat, and hot tears threatened to burst from my eyes. As I held the documents in my hands, sitting behind the desk, looking but not seeing, knowing its contents, the first tear fell across my cheek. The phone rang incessantly, but I did not have the heart to pick it up and allow the person on the other side knowledge of my crying. Other files, some probably more significant than the one in my hand, lay scattered across my desk. The computer screen was blank. My heart was hammering so fast that it left a heavy feeling spreading across my chest. I felt time ticking by, like a passerby brushing against your shoulder, like a passerby purposefully brushing against your shoulder. Ticking, ticking, telling me that I was the fool.

Suddenly my emotionally blurry vision caught something on the file that did not make much sense. I frowned as I dried my face. They had told me that the prognosis was imminent, yet with the correct treatment, it stood a chance to go into remission. I did not deny that. It was something I had to accept However . . . the prescribed medicine was completely wrong.

I had to warn her!

o – – – – – o

Memory flushed back in a black torrent of guilt, anguish and self-loathing. I slowly retraced my steps, re-entering the room they provided me with, locking the door behind me, in a daze. I knew what I needed to do; what I wanted to do. I lost her. It was my fault she died. Only my fault. The prognosis was correct, but not the medicine. Not the medicine. Bastard, not the fucking medicine. You should have known, you should have checked the file twice before letting her get in the car. You were selfish, thinking only about yourself. You should have checked, you blubbering bastard.

I went to the bathroom and filled the tub with water, chewing on the sleeping pills the nurse had provided before she ran off. I did not blame her. Not at all, no. I got into the tub, submerging myself into the water as I felt myself drifting away. Water enveloped my face and drew around my nose, sealing all air intake. The pills were strong. I knew they were. They would ensure job completion.

The last thought that crossed my mind was of a pretty face. A pretty face with long black hair. Something could have happened.

o – – – – – o

It had been a fine morning. It was raining, and everything around me adorned the look of new life as the murky colors made way for a more glossy coat. New beginnings, new meaning. It was going to be a beautiful day. At work, the lady with the raven-black hair and hazel eyes finally agreed to go on a date with me. I was exalted. I had another thing to look forward to:

“I’m thankful that you took care of this prescription for me, Dr. Calvin. I will see you at seven then?” she winked.