I hate fighting with my girlfriend. It wasn’t much of a fight. It never is, really. We just stop talking until it is forgotten. We never resolve anything even though we communicate better than most of the other couples I know. Man, I hate red lights. They are never timed correctly. Doesn’t matter, I’m almost to Ben and Kyle’s place. I know there is a cold beer waiting for me in a stress-free environment loaded with good friends. Also, the game tonight should be very entertaining. It’s bound to be a pleasant night, despite the passive-aggressive text message I’m bound to get from Anna at some point. Hopefully it will be after the second half when I’m equipped with a nice buzz.
What do you know, no visitor parking at Ben’s. That’s so frustrating. Guess I’ll head to the apartment complex down the street to find a spot. Good thing my fantasy team is doing well. I could really use a win this week.
Funny how there is an amazing amount of extra parking spaces in this part of the development. I guess apartment renters have more visitors than people in townhomes. Whatever. Line it up. Neutral. Handbrake. Park. Turn the car off. Grab the keys. Wallet, check. Cell Phone, check. Coat, check. Lip balm, can’t forget the lip balm; it’s been too dry lately. Deep breath. Brave the cold. Lock the car. Head to Ben’s.
Man, is she really upset? She’s not that upset, is she? I mean, she doesn’t even like football. We hung out last night and the night before. I met her parents last week. I’m really in to her, I think. I am. Why is she so upset? I asked her if she wanted to come. She, of course, didn’t. She never does. I hope it’s not my friends. I hope they aren’t the problem. Ben is my best friend, she has to like him. I know Kyle can be a bit of a tool at times, but, in small doses, he is an alright guy. I do wish they would fix this parking problem. Send an email or something. Why are there so few visitor spots? It doesn’t make sense. It’s too cold to walk this far. Walk faster.
Screeching tires. I hope that dude wrecks. I hate it when people just peel out for no reason. Show offs. That was loud. Holy shit, he actually wrecked? That sounded bad. That sounded like it was right in front of the gas station, only a block or so away. Oh, god, I hope he’s alright. I hope he’s not dead or killed someone else. I would feel bad. Sirens? That was fast. Good, they are on top of it. They sound like they're moving fast. They went right by. Weird. They are moving fast.
That is a horrible scream. It came from the other direction. It ripped through the air like cold with the wind. She needs help. I don’t know who she is but I'm coming. I can help. I can feel the frigid sidewalk trembling through my sneakers. With my legs pumping toward her, I call out. 'I’m on my way. I'm coming!'
She's screaming again. The screams trailed with hints of utter pain and dissolved into a weeping conclusion. I hope I can help her. It sounds like she may be in more trouble than an energetic twenty-something with little background in first aid can help with. I rounded the corner of her block. Not too fast. She is calling for help. It sounds like she's only halfway down the street. I feel I may outrun my own feet.
'Run away!' Wait. I stop. My heart is racing. Run away? I'm waiting. Taking deep breaths, I’m listening. 'Run away! It's too late.'
Run? I'm standing three driveways away. You are serious. I feel like I should say something, but I can't find the words. Something about this situation, the air. Something seems off. I look back. I think of the accident, briefly. She screams. 'No!' It echoes through the air. I pause.
'I-I'm...' Where is my voice. Man up. 'I'm here.'
I begin to walk toward her voice. I am moving very slow. One foot over the other. Quietly. Toe. I'm leading with my right ear. Heal. In position. Toe. Ready for anything. Heal.
'It's too late.' I can hear her sobbing. Sniffling. Cringing in pain. I'm close enough to hear it, too far to know why.
'Do you need help?' I pause. 'I can call 911?'
'No!' The command came from between clenched teeth, without a pause. It bolted throughout the houses and echoed down the street. It was centered with supreme affirmation. Then, there was silence.
I do not know what to do. I feel conflicted. What if she were getting raped? What if it was twenty-five feet from me? What if the rapist had a gun to her head? What if he is directing everything for her to say? What if she ends up dead? It would be because of me. I'd see it on the news. What would Anna think? No one else would know. I would know. I can't. I won't. I have to see. I have to see if she is alright.
'Run! Away!' It almost sounded as if she were pleading. As if she was looking out for me. I can't. Please, let me just make sure. I begin to move toward her. Staying focused on where I heard her. I don't want to give my location away, but I do not want to surprise anyone either. I can hear her in pain, uttering quiet moans and silent grunts. She is not far.
'I told you to run.' Her speech was juggling between dialog and panting. It came from the carport. I can almost see her. Her Silhouette. It is just her. I missed him.
'Are you alright?' I approach her. She is sitting up against her car just out of the glow of the streetlight. The ground is wet beneath her. I can hear her breathing in small intervals of short, shallow breaths. She says nothing. I'll ask again. 'Hey, are you okay? Is everything okay?’
'You're...' She swallows. 'too...late. I told you.'
I scramble for my cell. 'Are you hurt? Where are you hurt?'
'They...they already got me. You.' She begins to cough. I got my phone but in need of a flashlight. Turn the screen on. '...too late.'
'Who? Who got you? I'm not too late. You're still alive, you are okay.' I have the screen lit up. 'I'll call an ambulance, they're not far. I heard...' I pause as I feel my bones shudder. My gut turns as I point the light toward her. So much blood. I could feel the horror grip my worst thoughts and squeeze the pulp out of my darkest imagination. This can not be real. I feel a stinging sickness take hold of my skin. I now know why the slick concrete lay wet.
'They'll get you too.' Holding her insides in her hands with a sudden calm she whispers, 'run.'
I go to make an argument but I hear a dreadful moan from the other side of the house; or, was it a growl? It doesn’t matter. I activate my internal chicken shit and choose flight. I go to release a soft apology but she interrupts. ‘Just go. Run. Save...yourself.’
Her words trail off with the distance as I start heading back to where I came from. I begin to run, even faster than before. I don’t know what is going on, or why. I do not care. Poor lady. Getting somewhere safe becomes the predominant thought in my head. Ben’s house or my car? I’m standing at the crossroads. I’m halfway between. With a light jog, I start to head toward Ben’s and I hear another scream slice through the air.
‘Noooooo!’ It radiated from just past Ben’s place. It was more of a horrified realization than a plea. My gut tells me to drive. Get to my car. Get away. I turn around. Heading to my car, I decide to call Ben. Panicking. It goes to voicemail.
‘Ben. Ben! Lock your doors, some crazy shit is going down. Listen. Call me as soon as you get this. Don’t wait. I saw a lady, with...with her intestines...they, she, in, uh...’ I struggle with the words. I have to actually analyze what I had seen. ‘Ben...they were in her hands. She was holding them.’ The image flooded my brain. I could see it. They were darker than I had ever thought, purple and veiny. I can’t believe they once all fit inside of her. Poor lady. ‘Ben, I heard another scream close to your place. Make sure...just call me!’ I hang up.
I am almost to my car. I decide to call the police. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before. Why did I call Ben first? I should call Anna, too. I’m pretty sure all I have is ninety-one dialed as I hear a strong voice boom towards me. ‘Stop.’ I stop. Easy now. I scan my eyes from my phone to the pavement in front of me. From the pavement, I find a shadow and, from that, I find boots attached to a small, older gentleman. I gaze up his figure to see outstretched hands, pointing a handgun. ‘You just stay right there.’ I can hear his southern drawl quiver in his voice. He is not from here.
‘Look, man, I’m just trying to get to my car.’
‘Shut up!’ I stand like a statue. What does he want? I await another command. His hands are shaking. He is scared. ‘How do I know you isn’t one of them?’
‘What do you mean? One of who?’
‘Shut up!’ Why does he keep telling me to shut up?
‘You asked a question, I was jus--’
‘Shut! Up!’ I put my hands up. I don’t know why. I try to look him in the eyes, but all I can focus on is that cannon being tightly held in his grasp. ‘I don’t want any trouble.’
‘Neither do I.’
‘I don’t care what you want. You are not eatin’ me. You hear? I will shoot you dead. Dead!’
‘I won’t ask you again.’ I can feel my breathing accelerate. I close my eyes as my jaw staggers. He won’t even let me make a case. ‘Now.’ I await instruction. He doesn’t know what to do. Can I make this easier for him. I open my eyes to a blank stare at his feet. Maybe I should kneel on the ground. Please don’t shoot me, please don’t. Please, please. All I can focus on is getting shot. I should have gone to Ben’s. I should have called Anna. ‘I’m gonna count to...three.’ What? ‘And when I get to three, you...’ He pauses. Oh, god, he doesn’t know what he is doing. Oh, no. Don’t. Just don’t shoot me. For god’s sake.
A loud sound cuts the air sounding like a heavy construction site. It comes from behind the gunman. He twists around, turns back and frantically fires his gun, quickly squeezing out a few rounds. The shots blended together;; it was thunderous. I can still hear the echo cracking through the air around me. It reverberates on every surface around.
‘I’m sorry.’ He backpedals away in remorse. ‘Please, forgive me...’ He turns away and mumbles to himself before trotting away. I watch his portrait fade in the distance as I unwillingly drop to one knee. I’m sorry too.