The day Ed was stabbed through the heart and tossed into the Kuwasawa River was the day he realized he was different. Everyone else had known it for years. He was always the last to notice these things.
Ed floated along the river – more of a stream, truth be told – bouncing off of rocks and ice-coated branches as he went. It occurred to him that he felt no pain. He didn’t usually feel any pain. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had felt any pain. But he always figured it was just because he never put himself into painful situations. Right now he was whipped about by a freezing river. And he had an 8 inch long hunting knife thrust into his chest. He was pretty sure that his lack of pain at the moment was unusual.
Ed had no idea how long the river tossed him around before he washed up on a rocky bank. It was still light out. So it couldn’t have been many hours, unless the sky went rosy and then dark and then light again without him noticing. It was possible.
He pulled his phone out and tried to turn it on. Dead. He sat up and looked around. Nothing but skeletal trees and hard packed dirt. And a few shrubs, but they weren’t any of the ones he recognized. He could hear the sound of cars rushing along the highway nearby. But that didn’t help. The highway ran all along the length of the Kuwasawa River, and further on besides.
So he didn’t know where he was. He couldn’t call anyone or play any games on his phone because that was dead. Since there was nothing else to do, he stood up, walked over to a nearby tree, and leaned against it. This was as good a place to wait for something to happen as any.
Ed looked down and the knife jutting out of him. It was really in there, right in his chest. There was no blood. Ed couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen his own blood. The only part of the knife visible was the handle. That means the blade was thrust through his Gore-tex jacket, his thermal shirt, his t-shirt, his skin, his muscles, and probably his heart. It was in the right place for his heart. Every layer of his clothing was soaked with cold water. But Ed wasn’t cold. He only wore layers in the winter because his mom told him to. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt cold.
No, that wasn’t right. He was always cold. In the spring when the classrooms at school were so hot that everyone complained and Mr. Marsten let people take off their shirts and some of the girls sat around in just their bras. After he ran the half marathon last spring during which he forgot to drink any water.
Even at Kristen’s party when people kept daring him to do crazy things and he put his hand right over the bonfire for two whole minutes. All that time he was cold. When his hand came out of the fire Kristen rubbed it between her hands and told him it felt like ice. He told Marisol about it, and she grinned and asked if his heart skipped a beat. He said that it had. But he didn’t know what that meant. His skin and his breath and every part of him was always cold. It just didn’t bother him.
Ed wondered if he should take the knife out. That seemed like the sensible thing to do. But being dead would also be the sensible thing to do. So maybe sensible wasn’t on the table. Pulling it out could make the situation worse. So he left it in.
The sun started to sneak down behind the trees. Ed stared up at it. Through the naked branches it looked like it was mottled with thin black veins. He wondered what it would look like if someone cut the sun, and made it bleed.
“Ed?” said a voice in the distance. “Ed is that you?”
“I’m here,” he said. “Marisol, I’m over here.”
“Oh thank God!”
Ed straightened up on his feet and turned to see Marisol speed up to run towards him.
“Ed, we’ve been looking everywhere for you,” she said as she approached. “Where the hell have you been?”
“In the river,” said Ed. “But I’m fine.”
“In the…” her eyes widened as they saw the knife. “Jesus, Ed, is that a knife?”
“In your heart?”
“I think so,” said Ed. “It’s in the right place for my heart.”
Marisol grimaced. “It was that sociopath Kristen, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah,” said Ed. “Her and her friends.”
“I’m going to kill her,” Marisol said. “I am going to find her and I am literally going to skin her alive.” She stepped towards him and put her hand gently on the protruding handle. “You look okay, at least. Does it hurt?”
Ed shook his head.
“Well,” she said, “at least that’s something.”
Ed narrowed his eyes and looked down at her. “Marisol,” he said slowly. “Why aren’t you freaking out?”
Marisol blinked. “Do you want me to freak out.”
“No. But I saw you freak out last week when Suela stubbed her toe.”
“Ed, you are not by baby sister.”
“No,” he said. “I suppose I’m not.”
“And you said it doesn’t even hurt.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “But I have a knife in my heart. I should be dead.”
“Do you want to be dead?”
Ed shrugged. “I guess not.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“It’s not normal.”
“You’re not normal,” said Marisol.
“Yeah,” said Ed, as it slowly dawned on him that she might be right. “I guess I’m not.”
“But I see your point,” said Marisol. “I guess it is pretty weird.”
“Right. So why aren’t you freaking out?”
“I…” she turned to look up at the vein-covered sun. It was almost below the horizon, now. She shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s like…like I’m not going to get to keep it”
“Keep it? The knife?”
Marisol shook her head. “No. The memory.”
Ed stared at her.”
“I can’t explain it. I just…I mean, it’s a feeling, you know? I just know it.”
Ed thought about that for a long moment. “Will I get to keep this memory?” he asked.
She tilted her head and looked at him. Her hair was wet and it clung to the side of her face. It must have rained earlier. Ed hadn’t noticed. “I don’t know,” she said. “Do you feel normal?”
Ed looked down at the knife in his chest. “Yeah. I guess I do.”
“Then yeah. I think you’re stuck.” She wrapped her arms around her shoulders and shivered, as if suddenly remembering she was cold. “Look, can we get somewhere warm?”
“I’m fine,” said Ed.
“Of course you are,” Marisol said, laughing. “But I’m fucking freezing. Let’s head over to El Taqueria. It’s just up that way.”
So that’s where they were, thought Ed. He hadn’t floated very far.
“You can buy me a burrito,” said Marisol. “Then you are going to tell me what happened. You are going to tell me everything.”
“Okay,” said Ed. And he followed her up the hill and into the growing darkness.
The knife was still in his chest. There was still no blood. When he reached down and touched the handle with his exposed fingertips, he couldn’t tell whether or not it was cold.