by Michelle Fiscus
Her head smacked onto the
wet pavement with a sickening thud. The loud crack as her head deformed beyond elastic return drove all other sound from the
street. Silence enveloped our bodies like a tidal wave of water which submerged everything. I sensed I was in a vacuum, as
if the air were instantly removed. A numbing sensation filled my head and tingled down to my fingertips. Only she was in my
vision, only she became the sound I heard. As the vehicle drove over her, the wheels flipped her body a few inches off the
ground. Eyes bugging out of her head, blood began oozing under her jacket as she hit the pavement again. A light red spray
stood out on her paper white cheeks, pink froth bubbled at the corners of her mouth.
Three seconds ago, she had
been alive. Not just alive, but walking hurriedly past me on the sidewalk to more important business. Her foot slipped off
the side of the snowy curb in her rush. She fell to her knees. Her left hit the sidewalk, the right tipped into the road.
Falling face first, a speeding Jeep Cherokee caught her before she could scramble up. There was no scream. The Jeep never
stopped. We were left in the silence together, alone. I could only stare. She stared back. Her unmoving eyes appeared black
as melting snowflakes filled them. They peered through their watery cover, searching with sadness. Somehow I felt responsible.
A scream started from deep in my throat, but never quite made it out.
An hour later, I stood in
the same spot.
telling me she just fell into the road?”
I nodded. The cop didn’t
get it. They couldn’t understand the silence that had connected her to me. Now that it was gone they couldn’t
“Are you ok, ma’am?”
I nodded. I tried to stop
my shaking hands by stuffing them in my pockets.
“Thank you for staying
here. We received a call from a driver twenty minutes ago. Were you intending to get help? What were you doing here all this
I didn’t answer. I didn’t
lift my eyes from the spot.
“Ok, ma’am, I’ll
get you some help.” He escorted me next to the ambulance, a bagged body just visible. When they had lifted her from
the ground I feared they would see the sadness in her snow-filled eyes, and wonder if it were directed at me.
“Can you look at me?”
A medic walked over and shined a small flashlight in my eyes. He checked my pulse.
“Your heart rate is
slow,” he said. He looked twelve-years old with his blond hair and little ears.
“Will she be alright?”
The cop asked, looking me over wearily. Something in his gaze said he was more concerned than he should be. He took his cap
off and ran a hand through his short brown hair. He, too, seemed a little young.
“Either she needs to
stay with you at the station for awhile or she needs to stay with me at the hospital. There’s nothing we can really
do for shock. Besides, it’s a helluva bill to pay later.”
“I’ll bring her
with me. I need to ask some questions anyway.”
It was hard to tell where
we were going. Visions of her black eyes bulging out of her frail, white face flashed before my eyes as the car made its way
to the station.
“Can you tell me your
“Wiletta. Wiletta Pettico.”
My eyes watered and my throat tightened.
“I’m Officer Paul
Watkins. I’ll be asking you a few questions back at the station.”
I nodded, unable to speak
through the fog that cloaked my mind.
“It’s kind of
strange, a woman conveniently falling into traffic like that. Not even a busy street,” he peered sideways at me. “The
truth is, I don’t think it was an accident…I think someone did it, and you saw it happen.”
The visions stopped, perhaps
due to the shock of his statement. I hadn’t thought about what this would look like to other people. I hadn’t
thought at all.
“Want to know why I
think that?” He paused for effect. “She was the mayor’s daughter.”
It didn’t matter. She
would always be the pale face with black, water-soaked eyes, looking to me for help before falling to the pavement with a
final thud. Now she lay like a porcelain doll in the street of my mind, forever.
“You do want to help
her, don’t you?” He pulled into the station. “You can tell me anything. I’m here to listen. It’s
I hadn’t been able to
help her then, and I couldn’t help now. I stepped out, shutting the door. Over the car I looked around the wet parking
lot and deserted street beyond. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed movement. A biker pedaled toward his destination, passing
us. Time slowed as I watched him push forward, weaving around patches of ice, one pedal at a time. His feet seemed slower
still as he passed directly in front of me. He glanced out the corner of his eye, spying me in the elongated moment between
I knew in all actuality it
wasn’t possible for me to see him peering at me at the rate he was going. My vision tunneled into him, blacking out
everything around us. In that moment, he stopped in front of me, held in place by the void that contained us. Sound and time
was irrelevant. Utter shock froze on his face. Then, as time picked up moment by moment, his shock became anger as he looked
at me in the last few seconds of his life.
A truck pulled out of a side
street a few feet to the left of where he had been held in place. The moment between us passed, time picked up pace again,
and the biker hit the side of the truck. His bike stayed behind while his body flew over the truck, landing on the other side.
“Holy shit!” The
cop drew his gun at the sound of the crash, turning away from me to the scene beyond. He ran around the truck to the biker,
yelling to answer if he could hear him.
“I didn’t see
him coming!” A middle-aged woman in torn jeans jumped out of the Ford pick-up, clutching her face.
“The fuck you didn’t,”
he felt for a pulse, shaking with rage at the woman. “Shit.” He hung his head, anger abating. “Go on inside,
ma’am, file a report.”
The woman walked away, bursting
into tears. I walked to the body. He looked younger the closer I came. Blond and boyish charm spoke of a high school football
star or homecoming king. His eyes looked up at me, a scowl of hatred glaring, even in death.
“What the hell,”
the cop said. He looked from me to the biker’s twisted face and back again. “Why would he be pissed off when he
died? He should’ve been scared shitless!”
The accusing stare was a stark
contrast from the woman’s sad eyes.
“This isn’t something
you want to stay around,” he stood, uncomfortable. “This is the second death you’ve seen tonight.”
“I don’t understand
what’s happening,” I said, mostly to myself. The biker’s eyes bored into mine. My body shook as I stared
into them. Although they were the eyes of a corpse, like the girl’s, they were far from lifeless. I half expected him
to jump up in a rage and lunge at me.
“That makes two of us.”
He sounded relieved for a response. He put away his gun. “Let’s go inside and call the coroner.”
I stared at the lights just
outside the window above his head. He had removed his hat to reveal brown, matted hair. A few hours ago I might have considered
him cute, hat head and all. But I couldn’t comprehend sentimental thoughts, which evaporated as fast as the events that
were now shaping my life. I wanted to throw up.
He began slowly. “Alright,
let’s go back to the first incident. Considering what just happened, I’ll understand if you’d rather do
this another time. I just need to know if you saw anything suspicious before the young woman’s death. Did the car drive
up on the sidewalk, or was anyone around you?”
“No, what?” He
appeared apologetic for pushing.
“No one was around us
and the car didn’t try to hit her,” I said, shifting in my seat.
“Even though the car
“Right.” I swallowed,
feeling sorry for him momentarily; he wanted to do everything he could to find the woman’s cause of death, to bring
her murderer to justice.
“It was a Jeep Cherokee,
correct? Do you remember the license plate number?”
“I have no idea.”
My answers emotionless, he studied me. After a moment of staring into my blank eyes he leaned back into his chair. I stared
“This has been a terrible
night. I’ve never seen anything like this. And for you to see all of it,” he shook his head. “I just hope
you don’t blame yourself for these incidents. If you need any help, give me a call. I’ll get you a list of numbers
in case you need different services. I’m going to drive you home. Just call if you can think of anything.”
“What do you do for
a living?” he asked once we started driving.
I didn’t answer right
away. My job seemed like it belonged to another person in a different life.
“Nice neighborhood for
that. You must get a lot of exercise.”
“My street is the next
He pulled up beside my mailbox.
I stepped out and said thank you as I was about to shut the door.
“You sure you can’t
think of a single thing?” He hunched to look at me standing up on the curb.
a lot of things, but none helpful to you.” I stepped back.
“Will you be ok, alone?
I can call a counselor, or if you just want to hang out with me at a donut shop, that would be fine. You know how we are with
donuts.” He smiled as he flashed his badge.
I smiled for the first time
that night. I wanted to go with him, but something in my thoughts tugged at me. “I’d love to, but I have some
things to figure out right now. In a few days you should give me a call though, Paul.”
“Sure thing, I’d
like to see how you’re doing anyway. I hope you have a better night, Wiletta. Try to relax.” His smile faltered
as he found he didn’t have the right words to comfort me.
I walked up to the front door
as I heard his car pull away, then stopped suddenly as an invisible force pulled me back around to face the road. He had stopped
at the end of my street. I had a horrible feeling that I didn’t want him to leave.
“No,” I said.
“Stop!” The thoughts I’d been pushing away all night spewed out of me. The woman’s bulging, pale face
and the biker’s flying body. Meanwhile, time was slowing around me, warping his path with mine. I felt a vacuum forming
around us. I could feel it in my ears. “Stop!”
He pulled out into the intersection
from my street. Time slowed to a crawl and suddenly, halted. I could see him stop in mid-breath, feel his pulse slow. He had
heard my cry and looked back in his peripheral vision, pleading with me. He understood. Time picked up and before he reached
his designated lane, an 18-wheeler smashed into the driver’s side of the car, glass flying as the car wrapped itself
around the Mack’s grill. The only sound was of glass tinkling from his windows. The truck fishtailed as it shuddered
to a stop. Shaking, I stared at the glass surrounding the metal shape that had once been his car. Tears shimmered in my eyes,
making the glass shards seem like tear drops in the truck’s headlights.
He had understood the silence.
The woman’s sad eyes
searching me, the biker’s fury, and Paul’s eyes pleading with mine. In the split second they were connected with
me, they knew that they were going to die, and I was the cause.
I remembered what had been
tugging at my thoughts as I slumped to the ground. My grandmother had told me of a strange gift that ran in our family. She
thought it was an old wives tale and laughed, but then grew serious when she said it was more like a curse if it were true.
Generation by generation went by, and each time someone received it. She had been afraid my mother would get it when she was
a girl. Laughing at herself, she asked if I noticed anything peculiar about anyone in the family. I shook my head, tempted
to accuse my cousins who I couldn’t stand.
“What kind of gift is
it?” I asked, curious.
She shuddered. “I don’t
know exactly what it is, just that it’s bad.”
“Have you known anyone
who had it?” I played along.
“No, but my uncle disappeared
without a trace when I was a girl. That’s it though. But he was a drunk, so who knows.” She bit her lip.
“Grandma, you aren’t
taking it seriously are you? It’s not true,” I said, touching her cheek.
“Oh, I know dear. I
just hope it’s not.”
I blinked, coming back to
my front yard where I had just killed an innocent man with an 18-wheeler. I felt that gift deep within me now, undoubtedly
aware of its growth. There was no question. Now, I too, understood the silence.
“Grandma, it is true,”
I said, tears draining down my cheeks. “Death is our gift.” The vacuum released Paul and I, air rushing back into
the void that had linked me to his body. His confused eyes stared at me through warped sheet metal, filling me with the loss
of what could have been.