A Short Story
They never told me it would be like this. i never imagined it could be so beautiful. I heard stories before, of the feeling of bliss, of the light at the end of the tunnel. I guess in the end we all imagine what we want to. We all imagine where we feel at peace.
Ryan pushed the door open to the small convenience store that he frequented daily for his nighttime coffee before his third shift started. The electronic door chime gave out a small melody as he walked through. The store clerk lifted his gaze from his cell phone and smiled brightly.
“Hello my friend. How are you doing today?” asked the clerk.
“Not too bad Marquez, tired as hell but nothing a double shot of coffee won’t fix,” replied Ryan.
“Oh! That reminds me, you have to check out this new espresso machine we just got in. Come here,” said Marquez as he stepped out from behind the counter.
Marquez led Ryan over to a new coffee machine and gave him a quick walkthrough.
“Think you can handle it?” asked Marquez as he laughed and walked back to the counter.
“Yeah, yeah I got it,” replied Ryan jokingly.
Ryan fiddled with the machine and laughed to himself when he realized he might need Marquez’s help after all.
The electronic chime of the door rang over the humming of the air conditioner. Ryan looked up to see a man wearing a dark blue sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head walk up to the counter. He heard Marquez greet the man and figured he would wait until he was done to bother him about the espresso machine.
“Woah, woah, woah. Chill out friend. I’ll do whatever you say,” said Marquez.
Ryan went around the back of one of the aisles until he had a good viewpoint on Marquez and the customer. He could see Marquez had both arms straight up in the air, shaking with nervousness.
“Just shut up and give me all the money in the register. Make a move and it’ll be the last thing you do. You understand?!” screamed the hooded man.
Ryan ducked down behind the aisle he was standing at and couldn’t believe he was stuck in the middle of a robbery.
Damn what do I do now? I have to help Marquez but how?
Ryan slowly got up and moved back towards the coffee machines. Once he reached that aisle he looked through the coolers that ran parallel and grabbed the biggest glass beer bottle he could find. The sound of the shifting ice made the gunman quickly turn around.
“Who’s back there?! Come out or I’ll find you once I’m done taking care of the clerk. You heard me?!” screamed the robber.
Ryan remained hidden and out of sight.
“The ice shifts all the time in those old coolers my friend. No need to worry. Here look, that’s all the money in the register. Just take it and go, please,” said Marquez.
Ryan walked over to the end of the aisle and peered around the corner to see the gunman place the gun by his side and reach for the money with his empty hand.
“Thanks,” said the robber as he placed the money in the pocket of his sweatshirt and raised the gun towards Marquez. “but you know what they say, no witnesses, no crime.”
Ryan darted out from behind the aisle screaming, the bottle gripped tightly in his hand.
Ryan slammed the beer bottle over the robber’s head sending an explosion of glass and golden liquid all over the counter, the man, and the floor around them. The robber went to point the gun towards Ryan when a gunshot cracked through the air. The robber groaned in pain and held the right side of his abdomen before falling to the floor.
Ryan looked up and saw a gun being held by a shaking Marquez. A mixture of fear and relief danced within his eyes. The robber lay in a pool of beer, blood, and broken glass.
The electronic door chime echoed through the chaos that was unfolding. Ryan looked over at the door and saw a hooded figure followed by flashes of light. Time seemed to slow down around him. Sound seemed to fade into the background. He could hear his heart beating loudly within his ears. As quickly as the other hooded figure had appeared they were gone.
Ryan looked over at Marquez who was now slumped against the cigarette cartons, his head limp, his body lifeless. Ryan went to turn and reach out for him when he felt his body not cooperating with his mind. He felt a burning sensation around his chest, the pain grew more intense by the second. Ryan looked down to see a dark red stain growing on his shirt. He clutched his chest, blood dripping through his fingertips. It was getting harder for him to breathe. Ryan looked at the door and tried to walk towards it only to stumble and fall forward. He was fighting to stay awake, fighting to stay alive. The lights slowly flickered within his eyes and darkness took over.
Ryan opened his eyes and found himself in the middle of a lavender field as far as his eyes could see. The night sky held tightly to a sun that was setting to the west. Stars littered the skies to the east, pulsing, breathing light and life into the night sky. The breeze that brushed against his skin was cool, welcoming, peaceful. He felt a wave of happiness wash over him as he walked towards a giant wisteria tree that sat atop a hill, it’s colorful leaves scattered around its base. Ryan’s fingers ran through the purple tinted lavender flowers as he took in all the beauty that lay before him.
As he got near, Ryan saw someone sitting under the shade of the wisteria tree. He smiled as he realized who it was waiting for him. The person rose to their feet as they saw Ryan approach and ran over to him. Ryan fell to his knees and embraced his son, tears streamed down both of his cheeks.
“Charlie, what are you doing here? Oh my God I thought I’d never see you again,” said Ryan as he held on tightly.
“I’ve missed you dad. I’m here to guide you home,” replied Charlie.
Ryan came to realize what had happened to him but was glad that he ended up here with his son. Ryan stood back to his feet and grabbed hold of his son’s hand.
“Lead the way champ,” said Ryan.
Charlie stopped for a moment and with a bittersweet smile looked up at his dad. “I’m sorry dad, you’re not ready to go home yet.”
Ryan felt Charlie’s hand slip through his own and watched as Charlie and the landscape around him blurred and faded back into darkness. He could hear talking in the distance around him.
“We have a pulse. We need to keep him stable until we make it to the hospital,” the voice said before it faded out again.
Ryan opened his eyelids and the intense light of the inside of an ambulance filled his view. He grabbed the paramedics arm closest to him and through pained tears whispered, “Please let me go home.”