A truck driver rushing home to be with his family, managed in one manoeuvre to destroy all that Richard Forest held dear. After a week away on holiday with his own family – they were travelling home in their little car. His wife and three children all slept and Richard watched over them deeply giving him joy as he entered the last roundabout before the long straight back to Riverburn. That was the last he knew of anything of his old happy life, how he had wished he had joined them and went in his sleep.
Richard Forest woke in a hospital bed only able to open one eye. His left arm was elevated and in a cast as was his right foot. As he started coming round and realising what must have happened, he first felt the burning sensation, like his skin had been slashed a thousand times all over his body. He heard screaming, blood curdling, muffled screaming, until he realised it was he himself who was screaming. Nurses and doctors all rushed in. Removing bandaging and breathing tubes which ripped his throat as they were pulled out forcing his speech into guttural tones.
“Family! Where is my family! Where is my wife! Are they safe!”
“Mr. Forest, please you must calm down. You are in hospital and have been in a coma for 6 weeks. Now please calm down and the doctor will explain everything,” a nurse pleaded with him.
“Now Mr. Forest, I will try to explain this as best I can. Are you in any pain? Would you like some relief?” an old doctor asked.
“No drugs. Just tell me where they are!” his new deep monstrous voice did not feel like his own.
“Ok now please remain calm. I am Dr. Atkinson. You, Mr. Forest, were in a terrible accident 6 weeks ago and have been in an induced coma ever since. Your right lower leg was broken, along with your left arm which we have rebuilt as best as we could. You have extensive scarring and burns across your whole body. It is a miracle you survived.”
“What happened? And where are my family, Doctor?” He could not get used to this new voice he was hearing from his own mouth.
“A truck collided with your car. Now, Mr. Forest, I’m afraid your family did not make it. There is no easy way to put it. You are the only survivor from the accident. Except the truck driver, who thankfully, only had minor injuries and is now awaiting a court date.”
The bright white lights of the hospital seemed to dim and Richard heard that horrific guttural scream once more as he fell into unconsciousness.
“Not yet.” He heard his wife’s voice whisper to him. He sat up like a shot hoping it was just one big nightmare.
He sat up and it was a hospital bed he sat up from.
The emotions of what happened burned across the wounds of his body. His arm and leg were no longer elevated. He could feel the scars underneath bandages across his body. He could open both eyes now. However the one that was covered before felt odd as if it was not open properly.
A nurse came rushing in.
“Mr. Forest, it’s ok, you’re still in the hospital. Do you remember when we spoke before?”
“Yes I remember, is it really true are my family gone?” his voice still sounded foreign to him; not his own.
“I’m afraid so Mr. Forest, if it is of any solace to you, they died in their sleep, upon impact with the truck. The driver of the truck was devastated about he had done and held his hand up. His trial is in a few weeks,” the nurse informed him.
Tears filled Richard’s eyes and the scars burned once more.
The nurse consoled him as best she could, but as she put her hand on his shoulder, he could feel her touch burn across his skin. He embraced the pain; it felt real. He wrapped his arms around her and could not let go. It was as if the burning feeling of his wounds would somehow awaken him from this nightmare.
It did not.
He slept that night a tortured sleep. Of driving and crashing. Of his family with no emotion upon them, broken and snapping into impossible contortions as he relived the crash over and over again. As he tried (in the dream) to pull himself and his family from the wreck, his wife reached out to him her touch gave him the same burning feeling upon his skin and she reached her face closer and whispered, “Not yet.”
As he woke, Dr. Atkinson walked in.“Now, Mr. Forest, today the nurse will change your dressings and we will look at getting you discharged. I’m sure you will want to see family and get your head around things. I will prescribe you some powerful pain relief and make some appointments for your local GP and we will go from there. Again I am very sorry for your loss, Mr. Forest.”
Richard sat in silence. The nurses came within the hour. Richard had not moved or spoken as they changed his dressings into more manageable suitors and steri-strips. He embraced every painful touch, every burning sensation, all the knife like shrieks and shocks of contact that coursed through his body as they moved and manipulated his joints. The nurses kept asking if he was well. He replied with a positive grunt, trying to focus on the pain. Before they left, the nurse he had recognised from before, explained his brother was on the way to pick him up. Richard nodded and went back to his silent contemplation.
After about an hour, Richard thought, but could not be sure of time. In walked his brother Jerry. Clearly devastated he embraced his brother. Richard still felt the burn of his scars, but he didn’t care, he was becoming accustomed to the pain now.
“I’m so sorry Rich,” was all that Jerry could manage before breaking down.
The nurses helped Richard into a wheelchair, which he refused and stood up on struggled and strained legs, but the burn he felt as his limbs shocked into movement was like heaven to him. The pain made him push more. Made him feel closer to them he had lost. Each step like an old cripple using his brother for stability. Each step filled with burning flame wrecking his senses.
They got to Jerry’s car and drove home in silence. They got to the roundabout and Richard saw the amount of flowers, wreaths and cards that had been lain for him and his family. He instructed his brother to stop. They did. Richard spent some time reading every single card, note and letter. The emotion filled him and again he felt the fire in his wounds.
“Ready, Rich?” his brother asked sheepishly.
“Yes, take me home please, Jerry.”
They drove to Richards house in silence and before he drove away Jerry said, “When you’re ready just phone me Rich, I will come round later to check up on you.”
“Ok Jerry, just give me some time to get my head round things.”
Richard laid heavy eyes upon his little house, once filled with noise and laughter and love, to be greeted now with absolute silence. The little picket fence and garden that once seemed to have so much life and character at the front of his house now just stood as if in a museum. He opened the red front door and hung his keys on the latch. As he walked down the hall toward the kitchen, floods of memories attacked his brain. The door to his living room was slightly ajar and he remembered his youngest using the coffee table to stand up for the first time. He looked up the stairs and remembered his daughter coming down, all dressed up for her first school dance. He entered the kitchen which used to be the main room his family frequented. He remembered his middle child coming in with a cut on his knee and sitting him on the counter top to “kiss it better” and put on a plaster. Then he looked at the kettle and he could hear his wife, “Fancy a brew love?”
But now, there was nothing. Only memories haunting him. It became too much. He burst in to tear crippled by the hurt. He crumpled into a pile on the floor and wailed, such sorrow filling his lungs. In his despair, he heard her again, his wife’s voice, “Not yet.”
Unsure of how long he had lain upon the kitchen floor, he drove himself to stand, willed himself to move once again. He made himself a cup of coffee and forced himself to the back door to have a cigarette. He sat on the step smoking away and sipping his coffee surveying his back garden. Streams of tear filled memories hurting ten times more than any physical pain he had registered before. He put out his cigarette and headed back inside.
Once inside he headed upstairs. The smiles and faces on photographs hung on the walls seemed to taunt and beckon him at the same time. He came to his two sons room, that they had shared. In it he saw their bunk beds. He grabbed their pillows and teddy bears, held them tight, breathing in their smell, trying to feel them once more. He laid them back, patting each pillow as he moved from the room closing the bedroom door.
He walked down the hall to his daughter’s room, looking at the sign which hung upon it. All flowers and fairies. He opened the door and could almost picture her there lying on her bed. He went and sat at the foot of it as he always did when saying good night. He lifted her pillow, breathing deeply, trying to inhale the last traces of her. He patted the pillow as he left the room.
He moved into the main bedroom his wife and he had shared. This was difficult, he had to steal himself away from not entering. He forced himself through the threshold. He lay upon the bed and gripped her pillow tight against himself until his hands hurt and he held on. Flashbacks of everything they had put in, a life time of hopes and dreams, love and hate, fight and argument, kisses and cuddles, the day they were married, the meals they had shared, how beautiful he thought she was whenever he would steal glances of her… never to happen again. He gripped tighter on the pillow and felt his emotions take him once more.
Nightmarish images of the blank faces contorted his mind once more. Reliving that same event over and over. The crash. The roll. The horrific scene. The sky picturesque, one cloud, his wife’s smiling face popping in “Not yet.” She smiled at him.
He woke almost smiling, this hurt his face and he had realised he hadn’t even checked his own wounds concentrating more on the family that had been ripped from him. He moved toward the bathroom. It was dark in the bathroom. He wondered what time it was. He stared at the mirror, at the silhouette of his face, he couldn’t quite make out the features in the dark. He pulled on the light switch.
He didn’t recognize himself.
The visage did not seem real.
Stitches and steri-strips criss-crossed one side of his whole face. Cuts and scrapes adorned the other side. His eyes were bloodshot, one he could barely keep open. There was a large scar running down one side of his lip and further down his throat only flesh knitting it together. He removed his t-shirt. He looked like a patchwork tapestry large scars, deep gashes across his body, up and down both arms; wrecked and ruined. He stood a while inspecting each one, running his fingers over them, feeling each imperfection, this did not feel his own, his skin felt false to him. He thought of the truck driver that had created this monster and taken his life away from him. He felt that familiar burn that rose from every sinew, every fibre of his being, he felt all of the scars and cuts enflame with anger and he could almost feel actual steam rising from each of them.
A noise downstairs.
Jerry said he was coming round.
“Relax. Put your t-shirt back on and go see him, he’s worried,” a voice in Richards head spoke to him.
“Rich! It’s only me mate. Just seeing if your alright. Brought a pizza and a couple beers.”
“Yes mate, I’ll be down now.”
Richard headed down the stairs his brother was in the kitchen. Handing him a beer.
“Get that down you bruv. Sure you deserve after everything. I can’t imagine what you must be… here” he couldn’t finish his sentence. He handed him the beer with one hand and grabbed with the other for a tight embrace. “We’ll be alright mate, ok? We are all here for you, whatever you need to get through, ok? Anything,” Jerry choked back tears.
“I’m in turmoil Jez. Honestly I don’t know whether I’m coming or going anymore. My voice has changed, my skin doesn’t feel right, all these cuts and wounds burn, every time I sleep I relive everything and she tells me, not yet… I don’t know what she means, not yet, and she’s not here. She’s gone mate. She’s gone. They’re all gone. And I’m left, not even myself, this thing is left in my place, I don’t know what it is, what I am without them what will I do mate? Where do I go? What’s the point?”
“I don’t have the answers mate, I’m sorry. So sorry. I wish there was something I could do. All I can offer is that, that f*****g maniac of a driver will be going down for time in a couple weeks… A long time I’d say. That’ll serve the b*****d right.”
Richard could see his brothers point in trying to console him. But that didn’t seem enough, time inside, didn’t seem to Richard to be an adequate punishment for all he had done, all he had caused, the lives he had taken. “Who is he anyway?” Richard thought to put a face to the demon who had wrecked his life.
“Just some bloke Rich, he lives a couple villages over. Apparently he was rushing to get home after a week driving down south or something. F*****g maniac had a family and everything himself.”
“I want a name Jerry. I want to inflict all this pain upon him. I want him to feel how I feel. I want to take all his heart and crush it. I want to destroy him, as he has me, that would be righteous justice. That would be vengeance. That, maybe, why I am still holding on to this existence. To see this out and visit this man.” The words came from somewhere dark, deep inside of Richard, an evil ominous realisation filled him to his core, that was it, that’s why he had lived to visit the same destruction upon this man, that had taken everything and ripped it away.
“I understand your feelings, Rich. I felt exactly the same. When I first heard, I went through the roof, found his address, where he worked, where he went, where he shopped I was going to take him out. But Denise stopped me. It’s in the polices hands now. It’s with the law, she said, and I slowly came round to it. I’d still like to see him though. Should we drive round? We don’t have to confront him we can just look. I don’t want you throwing everything away on this piece of garbage Rich. You’ll see him, just some idiot. Come on I’ll drive.” His brother insisted and Rich followed.
Jerry had not lied it was only a couple miles from Riverburn. As they approached some back alley. Jerry pointed out a house.
There he was, some fat, bald headed, bearded, average looking, typical truck driver. Not some evil demon, as Richard pictured, not some devil hell bent on destruction. A normal everyday bloke with a normal family; wife, three kids; two young boys and an older girl. No difference to Richard himself.
Only it was different.
Richard had no one. They had been taken. He himself had been taken. He stared at this man who had stolen his life. Had taken everything from him. He felt the rage burn inside himself. He burst out the car.
“Rich! No! Stop!” Jerry jumped out and grabbed his brother. Who now resembled more of a feral beast snarling, closing in on a hunt, ready to visit vengeance upon this house. Jerry struggled against his brothers forcefulness, he had to literally drag Richard to a halt.
“Richard stop! Please! Get back in the car!” Jerry shouted at Richard.
Richard could not stop himself.
The truck driver had heard the commotion and was at the door.
“Oi what’s going on here! I’ve got kids in the house trying to have their teas!” the driver shouted unknowingly.
“You f*****g what!!!” Richard went from feral beast to uncontrollable monster. He launched his brother out of the way and sprinted at the door, launching himself over the fence.
He hurtled toward the truck driver. Writhed him from his door step and lay so much fury against the man it was as if Richard had become possessed by anger itself. Fist upon fist. Blow after blow. Unleashing all that had been buried, everything that was left. Hopes, dreams, happiness, sadness, anger, savage anger. All were focused and inflicted into this one moment. He gripped and he swung his fist until he could not feel anything
The driver went limp.
But then Richard heard the wails of the family that had now come to the door, the terrified shrieks of the young boys and the girl broke Richard from his prey. And he heard his wife once more, “Stop…! Not yet.”
Richard was holding the driver by his collar, almost lifeless, but with his wife’s words he dropped the man and took off.
Richard ran in whatever direction he could. He ran and it burned. He ran through fire and through brimstone, through heartache and loss, he kept running, until the roads gave way to foot paths and fields, through farm tracks and woodlands, it burned, he ran, it burned more, he ran faster, he must have covered miles away from the village, he pelted up a steep hill, which drained the last of his energy. He forced a guttural roar once he reached the top. Every ounce of every little piece he had left was pushed into that noise. He collapsed to one knee and sat back. He surveyed where he was. He was atop a hill overlooking the village. He could see Riverburn in the distance also and in the darkness he sat. The blood of his vengeance upon his own fists and his own clothing, the fires of his soul were dying down. He felt peace wash over him. Before he could rest his wife visited him once more.
“Fancy a brew love? I’ll get the cups out you stick the kettle on.” She smiled and all seemed right with the world.