One Page Stories

Course Correction

The man stood behind the tree until he heard sirens, and then he scuttled away, disappearing into the park without a trace. Dana watched him from her upstairs bedroom window, tilted her head in curiosity as he hurried to avoid the – she craned her neck to see the source of the sirens – police. He was avoiding the police. How strange, she thought. He didn’t look like he needed to avoid police. He looked like a regular person.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, she thought. Maybe he’s just avoiding everyone, and the police happen to be here too.

She certainly understood wanting to avoid everyone.

She sighed, and folded her hands in her lap, and stared out at the deepening twilight. This neighbourhood is so pretty, she thought. The trees are so pretty. The window was open, and she could smell all kinds of flowers, and someone’s barbecue. It was all actually very nice. Maybe she didn’t want to leave.

But it was too late now.

She could already feel the changing, the tingling and the hollowness. Her head was already getting a little fuzzy.

But what if she just ran off, like the man in the park? What if she just walked away from everything and started over on the other side of the park? Metaphorically, of course; she didn’t really want to run away. Life was hard enough without having to start from scratch and do it all on her own. But maybe she could metaphorically run away – just let go of all this stuff she always found herself clinging to, all the difficulty and anxiety and sadness, all the bad memories that never seemed to go away.

But I don’t want to take drugs or whatnot, she argued with herself, ignoring the irony of the notion. I don’t want to medicate myself into oblivion.

A different part of her head responded, as very sensible part that she usually tried to ignore as well. It said, very sensibly: Then you would have to learn to do it – to go to the “other side of the park” – without stuff like that. There are all kinds of people who are specifically trained to help you do that.

But that sounds so … fatiguing, she complained to this sensible voice. Her hands felt all floaty, and she clutched them together to keep them from flying away. That sounds like it would be a lot of work, and I’m already so tired.

But that’s because you’re not doing the things that trained people would help you do, to make it not so tired and not so hard.

That’s easy for you to say, she argued, and then giggled. “Oh dear,” she murmured to the empty bedroom. “I think my head’s not working.” She squared her shoulders, and collected her scant ability to think or focus, and contemplated her own thought process. The sensible voice was no doubt correct. It almost always was; it was very sensible. And while it was very, very, painfully true that nothing was as easy to do as it sounded like it would be when you just said it, it was also true that all kinds of people would help her.

If she let them.

She looked at the bushes through which the strange man had disappeared. He was clearly evading police, she thought. And he had no doubt fled through the other side of the park, and the police might never find him. He had clearly done something that the police would not be happy about, she thought, and he’s getting away. He’s getting what he wants, and he’s a criminal of some sort.

Surely she deserved as much chance as he did.

She sighed again. “Oh dear,” she said again. “I hope it’s not too late.” She turned with difficulty to the cellphone on her nightstand, and picked it up with tangled fingers that didn’t want to do what she told them to do. Her strength was fading fast, she realized. Better hurry. She managed to push the numbers, and waited the interminable several seconds that went by before someone answered.

“Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?”

“Hello,” she said, as pleasantly as she could muster. “I’ve taken a bunch of pills, and I need someone to come and help me, because I’ve decided that I don’t want to die after all.”

“What’s your address, ma’am?”

She gave the person her address. “Please hurry,” she said, her voice growing fainter with every breath. “I don’t think there’s much time.”

“I’m dispatching an ambulance right now,” the person assured her. “We already have police in that area; I’ll send a unit to come stay with you until the ambulance gets there. What’s your name?”

“Dana,” she said. She felt so much better just to have made a decision. “Will you help me?” she asked. “I really don’t want to die anymore.”

“I’m right here,” the person promised. “I’ll stay here until the ambulance comes. You stay with me, okay?”

“Okay,” Dana said. She sat quietly and waited for more sirens, for police and paramedics, for help. She needed to get to the other side of the park, she thought. It’s a metaphor, she thought, finding that to be extremely funny. She was still chuckling about it when the police found her.

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