I clutched my chest through the thick velvet fabric of my dress, as the memory pierced my heart, shard by shard. I tried harder, hoping to get them to relent on the merciless assault of the past but in vain. I was forced to relive the first time I had felt so entirely helpless; the world had tilted on its axis and I had clumsily fallen away from what was my life to the life of some stranger, in an alternate universe.
I had run for my life only this morning and didn’t feel too deserving of the pain that crashed on my sunny shores. It seemed I had taken the calm seas for granted. I had let slip the knowledge of the tempest that would flood through my sunny shores, and all that I had built beyond them. Why was it that our minds repeatedly made us live through past events after moments of tragedy, which too would play out like a movie sometime in the future, until all the catastrophic moments of your life formed a line, waiting to be picked so they could cause us more suffering?
As an undercover investigative journalist, I knew the risks brought on by my job. The anxiety of being found out, of extortion, never went away, as well as the paranoia that was closer to me than anyone in the world. It was my constant companion, always pacing back and forth in concern over my actions. I couldn’t form romantic attachments, because of my paranoia, and that was mostly fine, except for moments like this.
It was a wrong place, wrong time, wrong person moment. I should’ve never stepped foot in the storage unit but found myself listening in to something that was none of my business, all the result of an incorrect address. I spent too much chastising myself for always poking my abnormally large nose into everyone’s business, and was just about to leave when conversation stopped.
The snout of a canine poked through the shelf at me. Only, the canine wasn’t friendly or happy to see me, growling, all of its teeth showing. I followed the collar and the lead to a hand, and to the possible owner, who looked almost as happy as the mutt at my intrusion.
I had been discovered.
Years of literally running from situations had me prepared; I spun on my feet not toward the back entrance but the window, which was easier to get to than the door I had gotten in through, and said a plethora of prayers for my trainer as I maneuvered through, and madly dashed away from the dockyard. I knew they were still following me, wouldn’t give up. The only silver lining in this situation was that once I was done with my current report, I would have another waiting for me. Grateful this time to the belly dancer in my building for teaching me the hijab, both my face and head were covered, with barely any features to distinguish me from another woman of the same build.
I dared not look behind, and only focused on getting away. Tired of being chased – or perhaps not, I was only functioning on instinct – I decided to hide out. It was getting darker overhead, the clouds rolling in, and I’d be harder to find. Rain would be a useful asset; they’d soon tire of following me and go back somewhere warm to dry off. I turned a sharp left, and deciding to seek cover next to the dumpster, crouched behind the heaps of black bagged garbage. I was grateful people in this district chose to bag their trash rather than leaving it out in the open. It’d be easier to wash off the smell of decompose.
In a dramatic flash of thunder and lightning, the heavens burst open and drenched everyone underneath those clouds. It was then that reality flickered in front of my very easy, and for the tenth of a second, I was transported back in time.
The memory retracted into itself and I was left shaking my head. I recognized it, but couldn’t put a finger on the exact occurrence. It was familiar, important, and I knew my focus should’ve been on trying to go back home safely, but I was almost entirely taken over by the brief flicker of memory.
It was only until I battled with wanting to know, but not wanting to feel the happenstance until I finally reached home, that the memory began to return to me.