What the...

Arnold, a thirty-ish year old man of average build and height with black hair and small ears, had three errands to complete that day. He had a list in his pocket with each errand written in detail in big block letter and numbers - places, street numbers, everything. The car accident three weeks past had jumbled Arnold's brain and he had come to rely on detailed instructions to complete simple tasks. The rehabilitation had made some progress, but it would take several months before Arnold's cognitive abilities returned to normal.

He had dropped off two shirts and three pants at the dry cleaners (no starch or hangars, please). From the dry cleaners, he had walked several blocks east then turned down Melrose and then left on to what he thought would be Van Allen Street. He stood on the sidewalk looking at his errand directions, pulled from the safety of his pocket.


Arnold stood on the sidewalk, befuddled by an addled brain unable to complete a whole thought in a timely manner. Arnold grimaced and strained, trying to understand the simple words on the piece of paper. He became an annoying barrier to the pedestrians bustling by. Arnold surveyed the buildings, looking for a number or sign. A few ruder pedestrians bumped into and through Arnold as he gazed at the buildings, adding to his anxiety.

Relax. Take a deep breath, inhale and exhale. It's all part of the process. Part of the healing. Take your time.

Arnold, flustered, put his arm to his side, chewed his lip and looked down the street. The recovery would be harder than he imagined. A few moments passed and Arnold collected himself and gave his brain a mental pep talk. Take it slow and easy, Arnold thought. He looked up from the sidewalk and turned to his left. A man, running for all his worth, caught his eye. The man headed straight for Arnold and the closer he came, the odder he looked.

That man looked like he - really? No. Yes - wait, what.

For Arnold, the image of a man running engulfed in flames seemed unlikely, but with his recent brain injury anything could be probable. The doctors warned him about the memory loss and forgetfullness, but they had not said anything about hallucinations.

A mirage? A flaming man running down a city street in the middle of the day - that qualified as something extraordinary. Arnold grew suddenly depressed - the struggle to regain his memory had exacted a toll on him, but to throw this type of fantastical dreamscape on top of everything else seemed cruel.

The man came closer, running at top speed, the flames licking off his jacket. Arnold noticed people chasing the flaming man and he began to reconsider the whole scenario. Would his brain invent people chasing the flaming man? Perhaps, but it seemed far-fetched. Then again , a flaming man bore down on Arnold, so what harm or extra effort did the hallucination require to add a crowd chasing the flaming man.

The flaming man ran past Arnold, who felt the heat from the billowing orange flames. Heat - that seemed real. The following crowd seemed real. 


Arnold, caught up in the moment, turned on his heel and ran after the flaming man. If the man remained a figment of Arnold's damaged brain, it seemed impossible for Arnold to recover. If the flaming man turned out to be real - well, too bad for that guy, but better for Arnold.

Arnold ran, his legs and arms pumping as he tried to catch the flaming man and the pursuing posse.

The End

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