Mean Streets

James woke up from a year-long coma to a dark hospital room filled with long-stemmed roses and goodbye cards. He wondered for a second if life support had been cut off, but he knew it became illegal without consent in the state of Illinois long before he crashed his green Ford Focus a year ago.

He sprang to his feet from the bed, and his worries lagged behind his will. "Yo, I'm awake," he shouted down the hall.

Morning daylight from a cloudy sky flooded in the blue, darkened halls of the inpatient facilities. He looked at the outside of the door to his own room--there was an elegant wooden cross nailed on with his last name.

He searched for anyone who could offer a viable explanation, along with those for the other crosses on other rooms. He wasn't dead, but nobody was there to know, not even at the front desk.

He would have read the goodbye cards—in fact, he was telling himself to go back and do that, but he kept walking to the elevator. The buttons were torn out, so he took the stairs.

It was a long way up, and it made James dizzy to gaze down between the railings. The drafts of quiet air blew into his underwear, easily visible from his patterned gown. The air grew louder and stronger as he slowly descended the stairs in his socks.  Then it was warm, and it dampened his gown. It went down the shaft, then up the shaft, down, up, down, up.

As he reached the final two flights of stairs, he stepped his toes a smidgen too far into a crack on one of the stairs. He heard a scratching of metal on metal somewhere high in the stairwel.

Then the section of stairs he was on flipped. James had no idea why it flipped, but it was hard to wonder why as his head bounced off the metal surfaces like a dodgeball. The other steps were just as aggressive on the way down as the air became a gust.

When he landed face-first on the floor, the railing broke off and bended like a creaking metal snake. As he tried to get up it delivered a powerful blow to his lower back, and all James could do was crawl out the door, which also broke off and fell on his head.

He was in the lobby, and the streetlights of downtown Chicago outside turned to look at him through the glass of the front doors like curious, bending metal children. The bricks shifted in the walls and dragged along the floor. The windows broke themselves, and the shards of glass flew farther than physics would normally dictate. In all of this, James was the only person he could see, indoors or out.

He stood up and hid behind the information desk. A Chicago Tribune on the shelf had a large, screaming headline: "EVACUATE NOW."

He didn't have time to read the rest, as all the newspapers in the lobby flew up to his face and tried to force themselves into his mouth and windpipe.

The End

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