archives, fiction

The Lump. {fiction}


Shards of sunlight pierced my eyes. The world materialized around me as it does in and out of dreams.

No memories came, and for a moment, the silence of my car was all that I felt. I was in my car, but why? The crimson-stained sunlight disclosed that it was early evening. A panic, slight and deep, began its assault, growing louder. My limbs burdened my tortured frame. I was so tired. Suddenly, the thought to close my eyes and nap urged to take root and bloom.

A small laugh escaped my parched, cracked lips. Its dry and muted sound echoed flatly in the cab of the car.

Why are you laughing, Gina? What is going on here? My thoughts mocked me. Another laugh, this time more maniacal. Shit, I am losing it.

Sitting alone in my car, strangely blank as to why, I felt my sanity was only loosely tethered. It threatened at any moment to snap its thin string and escape permanently.

A chorus of sirens rang out. Car accident probably, or a police chase. Around here, in this slice of the city, the soundtrack of gunshots, sirens, and frantic voices seemed to be on permanent repeat.

An urgency to move welled up and I started to reach for the ignition. Sharp, stabbing pains shot through me. I groaned, each movement igniting the reverberating heat of injury. My arms, covered in blood, acted in opposition to the instructions of my brain. Muffled sounds from outside (Voices? People? Am I dreaming?) crowded my thinking.

And the sirens, God, the sirens. The volume was deafening. A sick fear crept in that these sirens were coming for me. I was obviously in need of help, and the increasing number of people gathering and activity around my car indicated the urgency was real.

I continued to blink, and move my head slowly around, my eyes scanning the inside of my vehicle. The windows were shattered, broken glass cast about like confetti. My purse, strewn across the back seat, looked gutted, its contents spilled open. Shiny silver sticks of gum, rogue aspirin tablets, gummy bears — the detritus of my life.

I laid my head back against the seat, and finally did close my eyes. Tears of fear and exhaustion threatened to spill over my tightly shut lids and onto my sticky, dirty face.

Tap. Tap. Tap. A loud rapping on the window startled me, yet I did not turn to answer.

More tapping.

“Ma’am, Ma’am… are you awake? Ma’am…,” a strong, male voice announced itself.

My eyes remained closed, eyelids fluttering as they do when feigning sleep. In my clouded thinking, I deduced that if I didn’t open my eyes, they would all just go away. I wished everything, everyone would go away.

I was searching my vacant brain for clues about my present situation when the uniformed man who had been tapping opened my car door. My head lolled, disturbed by his rude entry. Another trio of groans escaped me. The pain alarm in my brain was deafening, and I was unable to focus on much of anything else.

Outside of my vehicle, the augmented, anxious crowd hummed. The scene was more pronounced now, and sure to cause alarm to the greater public. Beyond the crowd, lying on the hot afternoon pavement, I spotted a sizable white lump. My breath caught in my throat. In my gut, a sick and knowing sense of what had happened stuck.

The fragments of the last few months, and specifically the last few hours, swirled around in my brain, images convalescing into a more solid whole.

The money, twenties or tens, sporadically missing from my wallet. The long sleeves, worn constantly. Orange needle caps poking out of the translucent trash bags in our upstairs bathroom. My teenage son’s pained face, drooped eyelids, sprawled out on his twin bed, his feet clad in the new Jordans we bought together on our last fun, family outing before all the hiding and withdrawal had begun.

The flashes kept coming. The heated confrontation as I woke him from his drug-induced slumber. The yelling, the pushing. The slamming of the door. The crying and calling his phone repeatedly. The single ring, then straight to voicemail. The jingle of my keys in my shaking hands. The blurry vision as I drove through streams of tears. The distraction of calling and texting him as I drove. The…

The crowd threatened to engulf the entire street, the white lump a tragic backdrop to their gathering. Fueled by this knot of anguish, the pain did not register as I lurched towards the lump. I needed to see, to touch, to feel this thing that had happened.

“Ma’am, please don’t try to stand, we need to check you for injuries,” a young, fresh-faced man spoke as he gently clasped my hand. He guided me from the direction of the lump (my…?) and lead me to the ambulance, where a stretcher awaited me.

He laid me down, and began hooking me to various straps and tubes.

“What’s that on the ground over there? What is going on?” my voice cracked and split, so that only every other word was audible.

“Shh, please let’s just get you in the ambulance, you have had quite an accident,” His words, meant to reassure, created even greater panic within me.

Groaning, trying to scream and move, I was frantic for relief, and for answers.

For the first time, I saw the entirety of the scene in stark relief. The car, a twisted, jangled lump of metal and glass. The long, stunned faces of strangers gathered in morbid curiosity. The white, anonymous lump.

My heart leapt wildly in my chest. I struggled to catch even one deep, cleansing breath. Even the air felt thick with sadness.

“I need my phone, my phone, where is my purse? Can someone, hey, where are my keys? I need…,” my words were choppy and incoherent, and the ambulance crew just ignored me, instead focusing on their job to get me from the scene immediately.

As the ambulance sped away, I again watched the crowd, heavy and dense, envelop the space of the lump. The blue-clad officer, pad in hand, scribbling notes and taking statements. Suddenly, tears welled up and guttural wracking sobs exploded from me as my heart ripped in pieces. There, poking out from beneath the lump, were a pair of brand new, high-top Jordans, gleaming white in the setting sun.


Sarah Akines is a full-time mom, daughter, and friend who spends most of her time paying bills and doing chores, but also likes to get lost on the trails of North Georgia when at all possible. She writes short stories that cut to the heart of the human experience, as varied and complex as that can be.


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