2. Prelude - Anna's Story

Long day. Thirteen clients at the salon. Some good tips but Mrs. Romero doesn’t like her highlights. Mrs. Romero is never happy with anything. Denise still can’t decide on her wedding dress – Brian told her he’s sick of hearing about it. I am too, to be honest. Hot dog for lunch, lots of mustard. I need to eat more salad. Bus gets stuck in traffic on the way home. Boring. But at least my phone update from Shui-Guo comes through – version six or something. Doesn’t look all that different to version five.  Back home, I’m too tired to skate, even though it’s a nice evening out.

Next day. It starts while I’m washing Mr. Stevens’ hair: I feel dizzy, have to sit down. Then later, at lunch, I almost faint. Except it’s not exactly like fainting. I just seem to have lost a few minutes - like a blackout or something. The girls are all worried. God, I hope it’s not this avian flu everyone is talking about. Brian drives me to San Lazaro University Hospital where some nice Indian doctor checks me over. After a few tests, he tells me I’m going to have to stay for a few days. They’re not sure what’s wrong.

First day is normal. I lie there, make friends with a few of the patients in my ward, read some magazines. The doctors take blood, run more tests.

I’m skating. Roller hockey in the park just like every Saturday morning. Fast and tough. I like the competition and the contact. Best part of my week.  

I wake up in the hospital bed. The nurses tell me I’ve been thrashing around, talking in my sleep. I notice some of the other patients doing the same. Nobody knows what’s wrong with them. With us.

Skating. Everything feels so natural, so right. I dodge a blonde girl, hit a big guy. I bounce off but recover. I’m playing great.

I watch a young woman in her bed. Her eyes are closed and her face seems peaceful. But her movements are so violent that they’ve had to strap her down. The nurses and doctors are afraid. I can see it in their eyes. I wish things were normal again. I wish I was back at the salon with the girls. I’m only happy when I dream.

No one can stop me. I see everything so clearly; what to do, where to go. I smash a guy, knock him aside. I pull back my stick and shoot.

I wake up. I’m not in the park any more. I’m on the street, wearing my hospital gown. I’m holding a tire iron. The end is slick with blood. On the sidewalk below me, a middle-aged man lies on his back, glasses at an odd angle. His face is covered with blood and his neck is purple. As if someone-

It couldn’t have been me. This is a dream, a nightmare. If only I was-

Skating.  It feels so right.  

I know this place. Republic Square. I walk past Henderson Life towards the bus stop like I have a thousand times before. Except something’s different. Quiet. No traffic. A flash of movement. Somebody running away. Then I see them. Ten, no, twenty, no, more. Thirty bodies. Thirty, at least. Men and women, young and old. A grandmother still clutching her purse. Two blonde kids. All covered in blood. On the ground nearby, dozens of shotgun shells.

‘Armed police. Freeze!’ The cop appears from behind a car about fifty feet away. I see his gun. He wants to kill me. He wants to kill me like the others. I turn and run. I know this place. The nearest metro stop is just around the corner. As I jump down the steps, I can still hear the officer shouting.

Skating. Happy. It must have been a dream. I could never do something like that. I would never hurt people. I’m a good person.

The neck cracks. I let go and the woman slides to the ground. Why did I-

Something explodes in my chest. Pain like I’ve never known. I’m lying on my back. Everything’s blurry but I see two cops pointing their guns down at me. I’m cold.

Happy. Skating. I want only this. Forever.