The Gift Shop
by: Kathryn F. Coryell
The last thing I remember clearly is being in a car crash. I had stopped at the stop sign; I started forward when another car came whipping around a bend in the roadway too fast. With a blur of red, the sports car blew through their stop sign, slamming into my door hard. My car rolled several times, and before it stopped I had lost consciousness. I woke up several times in the hospital though none of the memories are too clear.
I know I’m in the hospital though because I can smell alcohol and other cleaning fluids, I can sense the wires of various machines hooked to my skin by sticky little circles, and I can feel the prick in my arm that signifies an IV drip. Day and night, for god knows how long, I have laid here listening to the beeps of the machines and the sobs of my wife. I am unable to move or to speak.
I don’t know how long it lasted before the beeping began to fade, the lights beginning to fade. Alarms blared loudly, but they seemed far off -as did the calls of ‘code blue’. Eventually, all was darkness and silence. It seemed like an eternity that I simply floated in the darkness, though in reality it could have only been a few minutes. Suddenly, a light flared brightly before me and I felt drawn towards it. It approached faster and faster until the light became everything, became my whole world. I felt a solid form rise under my feet and gravity seemed to lay hold of me once more, though I still couldn’t see a thing.
My rational mind said the light was the lamps of an operating table and that I was being saved from the worst of my injuries, yet when the light disappeared, it wasn’t the hospital I saw. I was standing in a long plain white hallway. Slowly I took a tentative step, and then another and another. I walked for several minutes down a featureless lifeless hallway; it seemed as though the light was coming from the walls, floor, and ceiling. Finally, I came across a door and pushed my way through. What spread out before me stopped me on the spot.
It seemed I had stumbled upon a gift shop. I thought that perhaps I had somehow found my way into the hospital’s gift shop; however, as I started walking down the aisles it became less and less likely and became even more confusing. Everywhere I looked everything that was for sale seemed to be about my life. Postcards portrayed my life from childhood to present day, mugs with my name on them, books about my life, and all of my beloved outfits from my life, they lined the walls and filled the shelves. Everywhere I looked, I found replicas of toys I had played with and framed pictures that I had made in 3rd grade, all with price tags on them.
I made my way slowly, speechlessly, to the front of the store where a bored looking teenager stood behind the counter. He wore a simple blue polo shirt and a pair of tan trousers. He was leaning against the counter reading a comic book that I could see depicted my misadventures in high school. It was too much, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to have some answers!
“What is this place? Why is everything here about me?” I cried, reaching out to grab the boy by his collar and pulling him up to look at me.
“Relax dude. Don’t you know?” The teen gave me a cocky grin as he winked at me. “Everything ends in a gift shop. Even life.”