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August, 2017

The alarm clatters to the floor before the shuddering in your body fully wakes you. When you screw your eyes open, the cold dawn is filtering through the cheap gray blinds, casting shallow hills and deep valleys in the piles of neglected laundry lining the perimeter of the worn mattress.


You sigh, long and loud, and watch the puff of steam push past your dry lips and dissolve against the dingy sheets. There is a ringing in your skull that leaves your teeth buzzing. With mighty effort, you swallow down the rough patch in your throat and reach out for something---anything---to soothe it.


Your fingers curl around the edges of your cell phone.


The reaction is mindless, trained into your muscle memory through countless hours of instantaneous technological indulgence. Before you register your response, you have spent several minutes scrolling blindly, only recognizing and remembering posts and pictures for the briefest of moments before the thought of them is lost like snow in a storm. When the phone buzzes, you panic and it drops flat on your chest with a dull thud. You absently rub away the sting and glance at the screen.


A message.


The application pops open with a swipe of the thumb and a tuneless whistle. Waiting there, in the anonymous message, are a collection of pictures. A couple of them you remember from last night: Casey's birthday cake, the karaoke bar, the broken circle of fraternity brothers on their third round of shots.


Others you do not remember at all.


The moonlit abandoned truck stop.


The rust-eaten, empty shed.


The burlap sack a with red-stained seam.


The face that wasn't buried yet.


Your breath is racing in your chest with your heart beat, fluttering erratically beneath your breastbone like a bird with a broken wing. The phone lands in your lap after another message sends a shiver up your arm and down your spine. In spite of yourself, you are leaning closer to examine the attached image:


A familiar scene.


Messy hair, hunched shoulders, dirty bedroom, waiting for answers from the screen in their hand.

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