The Ending, The Beginning
He heard the scream of tortured
metal as it was brutally twisted out of shape.
The smell of gasoline as it dripped from torn fuel lines filled his
nose. The wail of sirens and a woman
crying rang in his ears. He felt damp
from the gentle rain that drizzled through the cracked glass.
Why was he thinking of these
things? Surely these were not his
memories? He concentrated, pushing his
mind back further, past all the jumbled images.
He had been at a party given by a
college friend. He remembered having had
a couple of beers, and not really being much of a drinker, he had already felt
an alcoholic buzz; his brain engulfed in a numbing, fuzzy haze.
He had gotten into his car and
was driving home. He remembered a turn
he took a little too wide. He remembered
over-compensating and losing control of the car. Suddenly he saw, with perfect clarity, the
glare of headlights coming towards him.
Close, too close. He saw a woman,
her eyes wide; he saw a child, its mouth open in a scream. No!
His body ached from head to toe;
his head was pounding with the unwelcome memories. Slowly he opened his eyes, not really
wanting to, but he needed to know.
Through slitted lids he saw his mother
asleep in a chair nearby. Opening his
eyes further, he saw he was in a hospital room.
There was an IV in his hand attached to a bottle over his head filled
with some kind of liquid. There was a
machine beeping out the beats of his heart.
He groaned, bringing his mother awake instantly. She stood over him gently cupping his
“Son, how are you feeling?” He tried to answer her, but his mouth was dry
and his tongue felt twice its size. She
understood and quickly poured him a glass of water, popping a flexible straw
into it. She held it for him while he
drank greedily; he hadn’t realized he was so thirsty. When he signaled that he had had enough, she
put the glass down on the little bedside table.
“Mom,” he croaked out, “what
She took one of his hands in hers,
smoothing back his hair with the other.
“Don’t you remember?”
He shook his head, wincing at the
pain it caused. “There are images, all
jumbled up. I remember the party and
that I was on my way home.” He gripped
her hand hard, “A car, coming at me, I remember a car.” He looked at her, his eyes pleading with her
to tell him it wasn’t so.
“You were in an accident,” she
“Mom, I remember there was a
woman,” he said urgently, “and a kid.
How…?” She bowed her head as
tears started to fall. “Mom?”
She looked up at him, “The woman
is going to be all right, but her…” She
couldn’t continue and bowed her head again, her shoulders shaking.
“Mom! Tell me, you have to tell me.” His voice took on a hysterical tone.
She looked up at him again; lines
of sorrow creasing her face. “Her son
didn’t make it,” she said quietly. He
lay there stunned as she went on. “The
police say you lost control of the car when you made the turn. They took a blood sample, it showed you were drunk,
and they’re arresting you for DWI manslaughter.”
He was shocked. This can’t be happening, not to him, he was
the good son; compared to his two brothers and sister, he was a saint. Why did this happen? He was going to college, he was in his third
year, and he was going to be a famous architect some day.
A nurse came bustling in, “Ah,
we’re awake, are we? Very good, and how
are we feeling today?” He wanted to
punch her right in the nose, where did she come off with this ‘we’ crap. She was probably feeling just fine. He was
feeling like shit; his whole life had just crumbled down around him. He had killed someone: a child, a little
boy. How was he going to live with that?
He groaned and closed his eyes while the nurse changed the IV
His mother had stepped out into
the hall and was talking to someone.
When the nurse left, his mother came back in, followed by a police
officer. The name on his badge declared
him to be G. Isabel. His mother stayed
with him, standing at the head of the bed gripping his shoulder, while the
officer read him his rights. The officer explained that when he was released
from the hospital, he would be arraigned in court and bail would be set. If the bail were paid, he would be free until
his court date, when he would stand trial.
His mother assured him that they
would pay the bail, whatever it was. The
officer left to resume his watch out in the hallway while his mother phoned
home to let everyone know he was awake.
The nightmare continued. When he was released from the hospital, he
stood before the judge who set the bail.
His parents paid it by taking a second mortgage on the house. He was able to go home, but wherever he went,
the whispers would follow. It was a
living hell; he was an outcast, treated like a leper, and like a murderer,
which he was. But no matter what the
treatment he got from others, his treatment of himself was the worst. At night when he finally slept, he would
relive the accident over and over.
During the day, he would wonder about the ten-year-old boy he had
killed. What would he have become if his
life hadn’t been cut short?
As the trial date loomed closer,
Kanin became more morose. He didn’t want
to go to jail; he couldn’t picture himself cooped up in a cell. He had made a mistake, everybody makes mistakes. Why did his merit taking one or two years of
his life to stick him in a little room.
Was that going to bring that boy back?
His thoughts and feelings swung wildly, from self-recrimination to
anger. Finally, a few days before his
trial, he ran away.
He didn’t know where he was going
to go, but he couldn’t face the court, or the mother of that boy. He took public transportation and ended up in
the city. He figured he could lose
himself in the thousands of people that lived and worked there. He lived on the streets, getting food out of
garbage cans, sleeping in cardboard boxes in the alleys, or on benches in the
park. He would often think about how his
life could have turned out except for that one moment in time. His life had turned on the edge of a knife,
cutting him off from friends and family, cutting him off from the career he
might have had, the life he might have led.
One night he found himself in a
storm drain in Central Park, and as he lay
down to sleep, he cursed God for his fate.
Hadn’t he suffered enough? A year
of living on the streets of New York, barely getting enough to eat, sleeping in
alleys and gutters, freezing in the winter and roasting in the summer; wasn’t
that enough? He had been afraid to get
any kind of employment, fearing he could be traced or would be recognized. He smiled ruefully. His own mother wouldn’t
recognize him right now, he had changed so much. He was tired, more tired than he had ever
been in his entire life. He was done; he
didn’t want to go on. What kind of life
was this? Living just for the sake of
living? He made up his mind that this
was where he was going to die. He would
fall asleep here and never wake up, and then it would be over; that was his
last thought as he fell asleep.
When he awoke it was in a bed,
soft and warm and comfortable. He
thought that this must be heaven; he had died,
and heaven was a soft bed. He snuggled
into the pillow, enjoying the sweet, clean scent of it.
“Ah, you’re awake,” came a soft,
cultured voice. Was this God? Was he
going to have to account for himself already?
He just got here. Even death
wasn’t fair. His eyes flew open Standing by the bed was an elderly man with
brown hair that was streaked with gray.
Blues eyes twinkled merrily as they held his gaze. “Ah…we took the liberty of throwing your
clothes away, they were rather in a state.
I hope you don’t mind?” He shook his head minutely, not understanding
any of this. There was an incessant
banging, which he had originally thought was in his head, but now realized it
was outside of himself, outside of the room.
The man laid his hand on his forehead, and then took his wrist feeling
for his pulse. “Good. Much better, you
seem to be improving. Tell me how do you
“I…I don’t really know.” Kanin
stammered. “I thought I was dead.”
The man patted him on the
cheek. “You’re far from that now, but
you were close, you were close. How does
some food sound?”
His stomach growled loudly,
replying for him. He looked up
“I guess that’s a yes.” The old man chuckled and turned away,
returning shortly with a tray. Kanin’s
mouth watered with the sight and smell of it, and he dug into it with relish,
finishing every crumb.
When he was finished, Father took
the tray away and sat down beside him.
Kanin looked at him, still not believing he was alive and being cared
for. “You know,” Kanin began, “I went to sleep in that storm drain intending
never to wake up again.” Tears welled in
his eyes and his voice caught.
“There, there you’re here now. You
have no need to worry about anything,” Father reassured him. “Now why don’t you tell me how you came to be
in this situation?”
Kanin’s mind raced, he couldn’t
tell this man the truth, that he was a fugitive; but at the same time, he
didn’t want to lie either. Eventually
self-preservation won out, and he told Father that he had come to the city
expecting to find work. He had gotten
jobs here and there, but not for very long. When he had gotten sick and his
money had run out, he had ended up on the streets. He’d been living this way for a year; he had
no family, no friends, no one to turn to.
Father listened attentively, and
at the end stood up, patting the boy on the shoulder. “Well, you can stay here with us as long as
you like, if you follow a few rules.” He
told Kanin about the tunnels and the people they hid and protected from the
world Above. He said Kanin could stay
and become a member of this community or, when he was up to it, he could go
back Above. No one would keep him
here. All they asked is that this place
be kept a secret.
So Kanin stayed and became a
valuable member of the world Below.
Eventually he had met Vincent, who was just recovering from a severe
illness. Father said it had been some
kind of virus, but rumor had it that a girl had broken his heart and that she
had been sent Above. The two became
great friends,along with Pascal, Winslow, Jason, Rebecca and Olivia. The group would always convene Kanin had his eye on Olivia, but she only had
eyes for Jason, and when they were of an age, they married. Unfortunately, shortly after their marriage
Jason was killed in a tunnel cave in.
For a time Olivia withdrew into herself, shunning the company of the
others. But eventually she worked
through her grief and became part of the group again. Kanin courted her shamelessly, and eventually
The memories of that horrible
night are still with him, haunting him.
He decided to dedicate his life to this community of tunnel dwellers,
helping and giving of himself whenever he could. He worked hard, learning all kinds of useful
trades that the community needed. He
knew dedicating his life to others would never bring back the life he had
taken, but perhaps in some small way it helped.