In the spring of 1953, when I was nine years old I saw my brother die.
I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. The memory has never left me and it never will. Part of it is the trauma, the slow, insidious realization that he was gone, that crept into my life afterward. But there is more to it that I don’t talk about. I’ve held onto it for years, and I don’t want to hold onto it any longer.
It was the 10th of April. School had just finished, and Charlie and I were walking home like we always did. Those were good times. Mom always had a snack waiting for us. Good old cookies and milk. Charlie was the kind of kid with a smile that could light up a room. He was a year above me, but he seemed to be full of more energy than I could have mustered. Outside, we’d play Superheroes, like the ones in the comic books. He was always Captain America, and I was Bucky Barnes. With wild ginger hair, freckles and sparkling green eyes, he didn’t look like much of a superhero, but he sure knew the part well.
After our snack, he’d grab the garbage can lid, and I’d grab my BB gun, and we’d go out to fight the Bad Guys, on the front lawn.
We’d been hoping to play like that when we got home, and Charlie was ahead of me, looking back and yelling for me to keep up.
“Come on, Felix! Mom’s waiting!”
I remember the smile on his face. I remember seeing that green 1953 Chevy Corvette around the corner behind him, as it came barreling down the road. For a moment, I didn’t think much of it. Why should I have? The Corvette should have passed us by with no issue. Sure, he was going a little fast, but, there should have been nothing to worry about.
Charlie turned to look as he heard the scream of rubber on asphalt. I can only imagine he was admiring the Corvette… We used to think they were the coolest.
When I heard the bang of the tire, I didn’t know what it was, at first. The plume of debris was a little shocking, and it distracted me just long enough to realize that the Corvette was headed our way. I caught a glimpse of the driver’s face which had frozen into a panicked look as he tried to regain control of his car.
Charlie didn’t even have time to move. The Corvette jumped the curb, hitting him head-on. He was thrown back like a toy, as the Corvette went over the sidewalk, and down into the shallow ditch beside us, burying him beneath it. I had felt nothing but the wind as it had sailed past me, and heard nothing but the scrape of metal.
Tossing my backpack to the ground, I ran towards the wreckage to tend to my brother. I could still see his face, contorted into a mask of agony. The Corvette was crushing his lower half and you could tell he was in pain from his screams. Those screams still haunt me today.
I was unable to speak. His pained howls made speaking almost useless. I stole a glance inside the sports Corvette. The windshield was cracked and I saw blood. The driver wouldn’t be helping us any time soon.
“F-Felix!” I could hear his voice, fragile and pained, “H-help… Please!” The tears streamed down his cheeks, and I didn’t want to leave him… but I knew there was no choice. I ran back up to the side of the road and looked for a passing car, somebody to help us. Anybody.
Only moments ago there had been other cars on the street. But now everybody was gone. The world seemed dimmer, the sunlight seemed to be cutting through a thick fog that had not been there before. There was no sound other than Charlie’s screams, which quickly subsided into whimpers. I looked around frantically. In the distance, I could see a figure in the fog. I waved at him and yelled.
“Hey! Mister! We need help! Please!”
The figure in the distance didn’t come any faster. I called out for him again, waving my arms to grab his attention.
“Sir! Please come fast! We need help!”
I looked down at Charlie. He was so horribly pale… his hands on the grilled of the crashed Corvette that pinned him.
From behind me, I heard a high and squeaky voice.
“Well, ain’t that a little bit of a predicament?” I jumped and looked in the direction of the voice. It was the man from the distance. How had he gotten here so fast by just walking? Had he run towards us when I wasn’t looking?
He was dressed all in black. A heavy black coat, a black fedora, and black leather gloves. He looked like a businessman on his way home from work.
“Sir,” I said, my voice shaking, “please. We need to call somebody. A hospital, something!”
The man laughed. It was such a carefree sound, and it filled me with rage. How could he laugh, at a moment like this?
“My dear boy, a hospital won’t save your friend now. Oh no, I’m afraid he’s a little too injured for that.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, panicked.
“Well, your friend is going to die I’m afraid,” The man said, “but that’s why I’m here.” He extended a gloved hand towards me. I didn’t shake it. All I could do was stare.
When I didn’t move, he patted my shoulder, and brushed past me, making his way down the ditch and towards the car, moving casually, as if Charlie’s cries for help meant nothing to him. I didn’t have the capacity to speak, trying to process all he had said. I wasn’t sure if this man was insane or sincere. He knelt down beside my brother, his smile carefree and infectious.
“Don’t worry dear boy,” He said, caressing Charlie’s forehead, and just like that, he stopped his tormented shrieks. His body went limp and he let out an almost relaxed sigh.
“There, there. Let’s get you out of this awful place.”
The Man grabbed Charlie by his arms and gave him a sharp pull. I opened my mouth to protest but before I could say anything the deed was done. Charlie had been pulled out from under the car in one piece and he was standing. Standing there like nothing happened.
I called his name and reached out to hug him but the man stood between us, blocking my way.
“I can’t allow that,” he warned me. “I’m sorry.”
“Why not?” I begged, and his expression turned solemn.
“You aren’t supposed to be here… My work isn’t exactly for prying eyes. But, here you are all the same. I don’t question the why of it. Sometimes these things just are, and there is purpose in everything. Besides, I really don’t mind the company. But I can’t allow you to touch him. He is no longer of your world.”
Charlie didn’t say anything to me, he didn’t even look at me. His eyes had a dead, ignorant look to them.
The Man brushed past me and opened the door of the fallen car. He thrust his hand in and pulled the driver from his seat. He was only a teenager but I was horrified when I saw him. His neck was bent at an impossible angle. I could see bones pressed against the skin. His neck had to have been broken. He shouldn’t have been alive!
The Man remained indifferent to the seemingly fatal wound on the driver and simply placed his hands on his cheeks and with a sudden movement, jerked his head back into place. There was a sickening crack.
“All better,” he said sweetly and looked at me.
“What… happens to me?” I asked. He’d said that Charlie was going to die, and the driver was clearly dead too… But then, if I was seeing him, was I also dead? Was he going to hurt me for seeing him? Whatever exactly, he was.
“Oh I’m not going to hurt you, and you’re very much alive, Felix!” He said and offered a warm smile. I hadn’t said anything to him. How did he know what I was thinking? I was too stunned to speak.
“Very rarely do humans see me. They don’t want to see me, and what I do.”
“Wha… what do you do?” I asked. My voice shaking. It was just one of a million questions I had.
“Well, I’m something of a chauffeur,” He said. “I pick people up and I drop them off. I’ll be picking you up one day too.”
“How do you know my name?” I stammered.
He didn’t reply. He smiled and he took the hands of both Charlie and the teenage driver.
“Don’t you worry about it. That won’t be for a while. For now, I’ve got to run. I’m a very busy man you know.”
With that he led both Charlie and the driver back up to the road. A black car was waiting there, it hadn’t been there before. An older model, that later in life I’d recognize as a 1935 Dusenberg Convertible.
He put Charlie and the driver into the back seat before climbing behind the wheel. The last I saw of him was a friendly wave he gave me before he drove off.
That was it.
I sat down on the grass, my back to the car and started to cry. I looked down at where Charlie had been, and to my surprise, he was still there. But he wasn’t screaming. He wasn’t even moving. He lay there, pinned beneath the vehicle, with his eyes staring vacantly up into the sky.
I was still in the ditch when the police came, and when they took Charlie away. I remember watching them take the driver of the car out too. His neck was broken the exact same way it had been when that Man had taken him out earlier. But nobody just cracked his head back into place. The wound had been as fatal as I’d thought.
I had no idea what I’d witnessed until much later. Even today I’m still not so sure. Every now and then I’ll be driving down the road, and I’ll see a car accident. Parked right beside the police cars is a black Dusenberg Convertible. I don’t think anybody else sees it. Once, I saw the same gaunt man, and I swore he looked at me, and winked.
I’ve taken to referring to him as Mr. Ghost. It’s the only name that seems to fit the man. On the streets, sometimes I’ll see the car driving past. Mr. Ghost’s car. I assume he’s on his way to other business. People are always dying you know. I learned a lot about the world that day, maybe more than most people know. I learned about the methods of death. But every day I wake up. I’m thankful not to see him standing over my bed, hand extended and carefree grin on his face. I know that is what’s going to happen one day, and I just hope I’m ready when it does.
Credit: Ryan Peacock (a.k.a. HeadOfSpectre)
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