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The Girl in the Middle of the Road

the girl in the middle of the road


Estimated reading time — 42 minutes

She was just sitting there, in the middle of the slender, two lane back road when I was making my way back home that night. The route I favored to get back to my small, secluded house, was often annoying to traverse in the mornings or afternoons, as the thin road did not lend itself well to twin lanes of traffic. It was technically a two lane road, but it was closer to a single lane with a line down the center. For the most part, I would only go this way at night; yielding to the more bustling path should I venture out in the daytime. Still, I enjoyed the seclusion of both my home and this slim stretch of road, for one reason or another. Unfortunately, when I made the return trip to my house that night, there would be no easy way to get around the stranger perched on the centerline.

Perhaps it was the mist that almost seemed to breathe out from the woods to the left of the road that made her appear so much more eerie. It could have been no more than my headlights, illuminating the road ahead that made her presence feel so unsettling. Of course, it may well have been that it was two in the bloody morning, and there was some crazy chick sitting cross legged in the middle of the damn road that made me feel especially uneasy at the time. There aren’t many buildings of any kind across the length of that particular road, but I know the world was inhabited by some, well, unusual individuals, who may not be of the most sound mind.

I wasn’t about to call out to get the attention of this weird redhead, but I wasn’t exactly fond of the idea of having to back down the road to make my way home from the other direction either. I parked in place for a few minutes; hopeful that she would take note of my shiny, silver Tahoe, and move to one side, but she didn’t so much as twitch. I couldn’t even tell if she was breathing, truth be told. She just sat there with her head hanging low; her bright ginger hair streaming from her head to her waistline. Her bare arms were propped on her crossed legs, which had white stockings up to the ruffled, blue skirt. Given the fact that it was the middle of January, and the temperature was around the mid-twenties, I was surprised she wasn’t even shivering from the brisk wind that carried the eerie fog across the pavement before me.

It wasn’t until she cocked her head to the side; causing a light ripple in her scarlet hair, that I convinced myself she was indeed still amongst the living. It was also at that point that I decided it was time to think more seriously about retreating back down the thin road. I had never been the most secure in my skill as a driver to speed in reverse, but when the girl rolled her shoulders before shifting the tilt of her head to the other side, I pressed the pedal down harder than I normally would. I still wasn’t entirely sure why this young lady had me so on edge, but it almost hurt to turn my head to glance through my back window to avoid backing into the nearest tree, as my neck was as tensed up as the very bark I sped towards.

Fortunately, there was a left turn about a half mile back the way I came, so I didn’t have to hold this uncomfortable posture for too long, before I was free to turn the truck to a forwards facing position again. Though I had not exactly looked the girl in the eye, it felt as though I could still feel her glare piercing into me as I sped faster than I normally would feel comfortable with on this particular road. It was a strange experience for sure, but I couldn’t quite rationalize my behavior at the time. I was acting more like a kindergartener who had just come face to face with the boogeyman, than a grown man who had seen nothing more than some girl in the middle of the road. I even felt a bit ashamed that I had been too freaked out to even check to see if she was in need of help, but I would just try to convince myself that she was likely wasted, or perhaps mentally unstable, and it was better not to test fate. It was something at least.

As I neared my home; after having to drive for another twenty minutes I shouldn’t have had to, I found myself chuckling at my own stupidity. To be honest, I can’t say it was exactly genuine laughter. It was more of a nervous giggling in an effort to distract my mind from the strange girl in the road. I threw on some late night tv, while playing around with my phone for a few hours, before I finally turned in for the night, though the lingering thoughts still weighed on my mind. I slept just fine, all things considered, but I still couldn’t shake the image of the long red hair, tussled by the misty wind, from the forefront of my brain as I went on with my daily work-life.

I lived a good half hour from my job, but I could generally cut a good third of that out when I took the back roads home. I generally wouldn’t take that route to work, since there was often a bit more traffic during the day, but I chose to stick with the longer path there and back for the next week or so. Given that I witnessed other vehicles entering the highway from that same road on my daily commute, I had no reason to believe the girl still blocked the flow. Still, I wasn’t ready to take the chance just yet, even if I did miss the slightly shorter trip.

It wasn’t until a few more weeks passed, when a rough night at work, combined with a pulsing headache, led to me ducking out a couple of hours early. Being a more premature hour than I would normally make that return trip, I thought it couldn’t hurt to hit the back roads again. It still felt silly to me, that I was acting like a freaked out kid over something so trivial. Not to mention, I had no reason to believe the girl would have returned, just in time to meet me once more. I suppose; given the fact I have chosen to share this experience, that it can be taken for granted what happened next, but I’m just trying to relate how my mindset was at the time.

As soon as I made the semi-conscious decision to take that left onto the thinner path, my heart began to thump. I could feel the pulse in my wrist beating against the watch strap around it, but I knew it was time to try this again. I told myself that it was surely no more than my pounding head that caused my heartbeat to quicken, but the two sides of my brain were debating this all the way up until I screeched my tires to a halt once more. It was considerably colder outside than it had been the first time she blocked my path home, but she was still wearing that same sleeveless, white shirt, blue ruffled skirt and sheer white stockings.

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I hadn’t noticed any sign of the fog drifting from the trees until I smashed my brake pedal to the floorboard, but it drifted around her static pose regardless. I briefly considered risking my wheels dipping into the ditch, to work my way around her, but the mental image of her leaping through my driver’s side window as I passed, pushed forward from my subconscious before I even thought about lifting my foot from the brake pedal. There we were; this young girl and I, facing off against one another once more. Of course, I still couldn’t actually see her face, but I swear I could feel her eyes glaring into mine.

As I had the last time, I kicked my truck into reverse, and began to turn my head to guide the way. That was, until the girl with the hanging scarlet hair, lifted her left arm up into the frigid night air. I was borderline paralyzed as I still held my arm around the passenger seat headrest in preparation to back up. As I gazed out my mist speckled windshield, while the plume of fog weaved under her raised limb, gently wafting her hair to one side, she outstretched the fingers of her extended hand. I stared on, puzzled at this sight. Could she have been attempting to wave at me? Was she finally making contact; perhaps to request some sort of assistance?

My scattered thoughts were interrupted when each finger, along with the pale white and lightly freckled thumb, flipped backwards; each practically slapping themselves against the back of her hand. With a louder than should have been possible sound from such a distance, an echoing series of cracks, pops, and tearing noises practically bellowed into my ears. The flesh where each of the fingers connected to the palm, ripped apart, with a glossy red spray of warm blood gushing from within, spattering my windshield, even from ten feet from her, where I was parked.

I had to fight against retching across my dashboard, which would surely have sandwiched my windshield between halfway digested food, and thick, sticky blood from the outside. Though I trembled from head to toe, while I waged a fierce battle against the queasiness, I whipped my head back, hitting the gas as hard as I could. I could barely keep my wheels straight, as the shivering was causing my muscles to twitch violently, but I managed to control my truck, to a point. As I approached the left turn I would use to switch the direction of my speeding vehicle, I prematurely cut the wheels, clipping my bumper against the stump of an ancient and wide tree trunk. With the speed my panic had taken me to, it spun my Tahoe around, inadvertently leaving me facing the path I hoped to follow to escape the girl on the centerline.

I was breathing heavily; panting like a thirsty dog, locked away in the backseat of a station wagon with sun beaming down from above. My whole body was trembling and spasming as though I were in the middle of some sort of seizure. As I sat in place, feeling every single pulse of my blood flowing through my extremities, I was shaken from my borderline mentally comatose state, when some sort of shrieking howl erupted into the night, from somewhere behind me. With that, I stomped my accelerator pedal to the floor once more, causing a short battle to regulate the direction of my wheels, before speeding back to highway; away from the road I swore I would never drive on again.

I was still shaking when I arrived back at my home. I was only vaguely aware of the journey I had made from where the young girl perched in the center of the road. I could barely force my hands to guide my key into my front door knob, let alone locate the light switch when I finally did gain entry. I didn’t turn on the tv, nor did I absentmindedly pull my phone from my pocket while my body wound down from the work day. I just staggered to my bedroom, dropped into my bed, and pulled the blanket over my still tremorring body, in a feeble effort to convince the shivering to ease off. I tried to close my eyes; to escape the bizarre and gruesome sights the road had shown me, but she still sat there, cross legged and silent behind my eyelids.

When I awoke the following early afternoon, I still couldn’t shake the stain the girl had left on me. I still shivered slightly as I stood under the near boiling water the shower doused me with. I had almost forgotten about the blood which had sprayed across my windshield and hood by the time I walked to my truck to travel the busy roads to work. It was around then that I decided to call in for a sick day. Not only did I have to do something about my crushed rear bumper, but I highly doubted I could motivate myself to deal with the responsibilities of my job after scraping the dried up crimson globs from the front of my truck and windshield.

It almost appeared an unreasonable amount of blood which had rained upon the entire front end of my Tahoe but, given how bizarre the entire experience had been, I didn’t see fit to look too deeply into it. It probably took me a good two hours to clean all of the spatter from my ten year old pick up truck, though ‘clean’ is probably not the most accurate term. Though I had scraped and scrubbed as much as I could without gouging into the somewhat faded, silver paint job, there were still the slightest, almost translucent blemishes of ruby where the blood had sat. No matter what I tried, I could not get it to fade completely. Perhaps I had allowed the marks to set in for too long before making an attempt to remove them, but they were most certainly not coming off. If nothing else, it would leave me a reminder of why I should never risk taking the shortcut again.

As the week progressed, I managed to break my mind away from the redhead splitting the flesh of her palm as her fingers flipped backwards, though the light stains on my windshield would catch my eye should my brain attempt to neglect the memory of the gruesome sight for too long. Still, I managed to get back into my regular routine, only occasionally haunted by the image of the girl on the centerline of the backroad. Of course, it’s always at those times I feel the most comfortable with things, that they begin to go sideways again.

Though following the highway to the next one, before making a few rights and lefts to reach my home could be almost bumper to bumper on the ride in the opposite direction, the world was mostly at rest when I would make the return trip each night. There would still be a steady flow, but not remotely as much as during the daytime. My work hours were four to midnight, anywhere from five days a week to seven, depending on the workload. There were those times I would have to work over a few hours, should the next shift have too many people out, but that wasn’t often. I always dreaded those days, though. The eight hour shifts were grueling enough, without slapping an extra two, and sometimes four hours on top of them.

When I had to work until four that Wednesday night; a good four weeks after that commute which still left light stains on my truck, I came face to, well, hair with the redhead for a third time. I hadn’t even given a passing thought to attempting to traverse those back roads again, but there wasn’t a single vehicle on the highway while I cruised at sixty-seven miles per hour to get back to my home. I was mostly on autopilot while the late night radio droned on from somewhere outside my absent mind. When a light fog began to subtly breeze across the road, my shallow breathing grew more erratic. The back of my mind practically collided with the front when my eyes met the girl perched in the middle of the four lane highway. My whole body tensed up, while my elbows stiffened to keep guiding me straight.

Since it would be absolutely no challenge to pass by her this time; as the road was far wider than the slender back road she had sat upon twice before, I simply drifted to the farthest lane, to ready my truck to drift by where she sat. This time, her posture was different than it had been on the previous occasions. She no longer sat cross legged, but with her legs splayed out in front of her. Her head and torso were still hunched over, and her hands were flipped out to her sides, with the left still oozing blood from her torn flesh and back turned fingers. As I slowed my speed to ease by her; to make sure she would not lunge in front of my previously speeding tahoe, she began to reach out towards her legs with both her undamaged hand and the one which could surely not grab on to anything.

I watched her stay in that pose; looking as though she meant to touch her toes with one set of outstretched fingers, and one glorified stump of grizzled meat and bone, as I cruised beside where she sat. I did not look back to see what happened next, though that would prove to have been unnecessary, even if I had wanted to see what she reached for. Maybe three more miles up the road; right before where my first turn would be coming up on the right, I felt my body begin to twitch once more, as my eyes met the girl for a second time that night.

She had her right hand around her right ankle, and her left propped behind her other ankle. As I drifted to the right in anticipation of making my turn, I inadvertently jerked the steering wheel much harder than intended. It wasn’t my newly developed body tremors which caused the overcorrection, but the sight and sound of the girl swiftly pulling at her legs, snapping both upwards at the knee. Again, blood squirted from the torn flesh as the bone ripped through the underside of the joints. As I battled my truck to straighten back up; after bouncing my wheels off the curb of the breakdown lane, I watched her legs flop, lifelessly to each side of the road beside her, only loosely connected by gnarled strips of bloodied meat and tissue.

Once more, I gunned my truck as fast as I could; careening into the right turn, while skidding from one side to the other. Again, that unnatural howling squeal screamed out from behind me. My chest was still thundering when I finally managed to straighten my truck, though I almost missed the left I needed to make soon after. Again, I was shivering as though the temperature had plummeted to somewhere below the frostbitten fields of the seventh level of hell. I lost my battle with nausea as soon as I pulled into my driveway; throwing the door open to practically fall out, while the seatbelt left my body dangling, as I retched onto the concrete. I allowed a scream to bellow from my lungs after the vomit cleared my throat; echoing my wails across the darkened street and trees which surrounded it.

I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. How the hell was she always able to find me? What had I ever done to warrant her self mutilating visitations? Would I ever be free of her? Though the snapping of her fingers and the subsequent shredding of her flesh had left a great deal of doubt in the back of my mind, I had still maintained the idea that she was no more than a deeply troubled, yet fully human girl, but this most recent interruption in my otherwise peaceful ride home left anything rational out on the side of the road, next to the breakdown lane I damn near flew off.

There was no getting my eyes to remain shut that night, regardless of the forty-five minutes I had sat upon the shower floor, allowing the steaming water to rain over my freezing body. The hours slowly dragged by while I tossed and turned under the blankets which seemed to provide me with little to no warmth. I don’t even know if I had slept at all when my phone rang from the pocket of the jeans I had left scattered next to the rest of the clothes I wore to work the previous night. I just pulled my extra pillow over my head in an effort to block the sound, but when it beckoned for me to answer a second time, closely followed by a third, I could tell it would not let up.

I just grunted into the phone after groggily swiping the ‘answer’ icon upwards.

“Hey, Gopher…” my brother spoke through the receiver.

Even though I was physically and mentally exhausted, I knew it was him. He was the only one who called me Gopher; had since I was little. My birth name was Topher, but when my mother met a premature end, some years after my dad walked out on us, when I was only nine years old, it was up to my older brother to take care of me. Though he was only twice my age at the time, he left college to take on the responsibility. We had always been tight; since the day I was brought into this world, though we had grown distant over the last seven years or so.

“Scottie?” I replied, though I knew it to be him.

We would text or email from time to time, but I could barely remember the last time we actually talked, let alone when we last met in person. I couldn’t help but wonder; in that matter of seconds since hearing his voice, if he somehow knew I was going through something.

“How’s it goin’, little brother?” There was something of a tremor to his voice. It had been a while since I actually heard my older brother speak, but he had always carried himself with confidence.

“Um, I’m ok, I guess. How about you?”

I wasn’t exactly prepared to verbalize anything concerning the events which still left my hands trembling as I clutched the phone to my ear, but if there was anyone who would hear me, it would be Scott.

“Yeah, I’m…I think I’m…no. I’m not so good, kiddo…”

“What’s wrong, Scottie?”

My half drowsy mind snapped back to the waking world upon hearing that something had him shook. For that brief moment, the things that still weighed heavily on my mind, drifted into the background. Not only was Scott the only family I had left, but he had always been so deliberate in his words. If anything, he seemed almost unnaturally uncertain at that moment.

“You remember Janet Klein?”

“Who?”

“From back east…”

Though I had some good memories of our hometown back east, I could maybe recall a handful of names at best. I had a small circle of friends, but I was always shy around girls, back then. Sure, I could clearly remember Penelope Slate; the girl I’d had a crush on since third grade, but I had absolutely no idea who my brother was talking about.

“Not off hand…who is she?”

“She…um…she was a senior when you were still in sixth grade, I think. I just thought…I don’t know…”

“Scott…what’s going on, man?”

Our hometown wasn’t a particularly large city, by any means. The kindergarten, middle and high school were all in the same complex, so it’s not as though students from far removed grades felt all that foreign to us. Still, I rarely paid much attention to what other kids were doing, nor who they were. I may recognize a face here and there, but I probably couldn’t even tell you any of my teachers’ names at this point.

“I… I’ve been…seeing her…”

“Huh? You and Leanne break up?”

“Not seeing her like that, Gopher…”

“So, what? She move out your way or something? You got yourself a stalker? I bet Leanne ain’t…”

“She’s dead, Topher!”

A barrage of questions flooded my mind. Had there been an accident? Was he hurt? Was Leanne okay? They had been together for a few years. I knew he practically worshipped the ground she walked on. Could some crazy ex girlfriend have stirred up some shit between them? Had there been an altercation? Between my older brother’s frazzled state, and this whole strange conversation, I was growing more and more concerned by the second. His becoming silent on the other end of the line was not helping matters.

“Scott,” I said, trying to compose my own erratic thoughts, “what happened, big brother?”

He still didn’t speak. For a moment, I thought he had hung up, but I could still hear his breathing through the receiver. They were shaky breaths; not unlike my own had been while I fought to warm up my trembling bones the night before.

“What happened to Janice Klein, Scottie?

“She…she died a long time ago…back home…”

“Huh? If she died back then, how have you…”

My own words strained off as a sudden familiar fear struck me.

“What did she look like? What…what color was her hair?”

It took no more than my brother’s single word reply to cause my heart to pound and my back to tense back up as it had only hours before.

“Red…”

Scott lived in the next state over. I was located close to the border, but it would still be a good two hours in the truck to reach his house on those rare occasions I would visit. Though I had grown quite positive the girl on the centerline of the road was no living and breathing person, I still hoped she could be little more than some sort of hallucination; perhaps some result of the psychological trauma of having witnessed my mother’s murder when I was only a child. This theory only held up when I alone was experiencing these unsettling visitations. It had also been a lot easier to rationalize when she was someone unknown to me. Yes, I still held no memory of this girl from back home, but it would seem she was someone tangible at one point.

“D-do you see her on the road?” I reluctantly asked.

“Jesus!” My brother exclaimed, “you’ve seen her too!?”

We talked for a bit longer; ultimately leading to Scottie insisting he would start heading to my house as soon as we hung up. We were both incredibly unsettled by this experience, and I could tell there was more he wanted to tell me. His visions of this girl had been almost identical to mine, though he had been seeing her off and on for the better part of three months; twice as long as I. He didn’t elaborate on what she would do to herself after snapping her legs like sun dried twigs, but I could tell there was more to it. He promised he would tell me everything when he got here, but he didn’t feel comfortable talking about all of it on the phone.

After the conversation ended, I plugged my phone up to the charger, as I had neglected it the previous night. I was still quite shaken, not to mention beyond exhausted, but I didn’t want to see my brother for the first time in several months, looking as though I just woke up. It should likely only take him a couple of hours to get here, so I took the time to tidy the place up a bit, after taking a cold shower in an attempt to fully wake my mind and body. After I was content that my home appeared presentable, I aimlessly wandered around my front lawn for a time, before flopping down onto my couch, clicking on the tv, and surfing between my handful of streaming platforms in hopes of occupying my thoughts.

Time felt as though it trickled by at a snail’s pace, while my subconscious fought against the vision of the redhead snapping her fingers and knees; splashing blood across the front and sides of my truck. It was around then that it dawned on me that I had yet to clean the most recent crimson assault from my driver’s side door. Similarly to the stains I could not completely remove from the front end, the side doors, fender and running boards now wore those same semi translucent, scarlet marks. I think I had already decided; should this bizarre series of encounters ever come to an end, that I would look into having my truck repainted. I may even replace the windshield too.

Moms’ life insurance had afforded my brother and I our own homes, and a certain degree of continued financial security, though it was not nearly enough to warrant not maintaining a job. I still remember that night my step father killed my mother. I awoke some time in the middle of the night, due to the raised voices of the two arguing. It sounded as though he was convinced she had been unfaithful to him, though she seemed to have no knowledge of the supposed affair. Whether or not she did indeed fool around on him, I’ll likely never know. When I slowly crept from my bedroom to investigate, I arrived at the scene just in time to witness my step father plunge the knife into her chest.

Three more times, he buried the blade into her, before he noticed me shaking and crying on the second floor, gazing down at them. He just stared at me; frozen in place, with my mother’s blood still dripping from the knife he used to keep sheathed in his boot. As we glared at one another; my eyes spewing tears, and his enlarged and unblinking, I became terrified he may turn the bloodied knife on me. Before I could turn tail and run back into the safety of my bedroom, he ran the blade across his own throat, dropping him to the floor next to where my mother lay. Perhaps it was that vision of the two of them, side by side; their twin streams of scarlet conjoining before my eyes, which caused the sight of blood to leave me in such a frenzied state to this day.

When my brother returned from college to raise me, he never showed the slightest signs of contempt for the responsibility, nor having to walk away from his chance at a degree. Nobody could find any trace of my deadbeat sperm donor, but Scottie was as good a parent as my mom had been, and made sure to shield me from all of the troubles this world had to offer, while I recovered from the things I had seen at such a young age. When I chose to get myself plastered at a Halloween party, just a little before my eighteenth birthday, I had to call him to pick me up. We had some heated words the following day; after which he began to drift from me. When I turned eighteen, I was able to claim my share of my mothers’ insurance money. Soon after, we left the town in which we were raised; to leave our past behind.

I walked back into my home to await my brother’s arrival. I wasn’t entirely sure how much time had passed since our conversation ended, but I was certain he should at least be close by now. I strolled up the stairs to my bedroom; to retrieve my phone from the nightstand it lay charging upon. Not only did the time reveal to me that it had been close to four hours since Scottie set out this way, but I also had a few missed calls. As soon as I heard my brother’s frantic voice on the recording, I knew what had happened before I even got halfway through the message.

“Jesus Christ, Gopher! She’s there! Every goddamn couple of miles, she’s there! There’s cars all around me, but she’s still just sitting there in the middle of the fucking road! It’s like nobody else can even see her! I’m scared, baby brother. I don’t even know…”

That was the first message. The second was even more alarming.

“She stood up! How the fuck can she even stand!? Her legs…Jesus fuck! They’re barely holding together! Every time I pass her, she’s even closer to me. I can’t get any further out! There’s no…FUCKING CHRIST!..SHE…”

The words ended with a series of pounding noises, along with what sounded like buckling and cracking metal, shattering glass, and then silence. Just before the message timer ran out, I heard some snapping and tearing sounds, intermingled with horrific shrieks. My heart was once more hammering against my chest. I had no idea where my brother was when, I assume, his car careened off the side of the interstate. The third, and final message was from my brother’s phone, but it was not his voice.

At first, I was afraid the woman’s voice was that of Janet Klein herself, but she quickly revealed herself to be a paramedic. She told me they were currently transporting my brother to the local emergency room. It would seem Scottie was in pretty bad shape, as his car had veered to the side of the road, before it somehow flipped sideways over the curb. He was still conscious when the ambulance arrived, but only barely. He was still lucid enough to request that they reach out to me. Though the screen of his phone was cracked, they were still able to use it to contact me. She assured me that, should my brother survive the trip, he would likely be in surgery by the time I could reach the hospital.

I almost dropped my phone to the floor, while my head became dizzy and my stomach lurched. I ran to the bathroom in preparation for my gut to spew out whatever it may still have residing within. I only gagged, dry heaved and gasped for breath while the trembling hands I propped upon threatened to send me plummeting to the tiled floor. I was in a daze while I wandered out to my truck on legs no stronger than a greasy, wet spaghetti noodle, dangling from a fork. My autopilot took control of the driving while my mind raced faster than my truck, though I could not have prepared myself for the sight of what had become of my big brother.

As the paramedic had predicted, Scottie was still in surgery when I arrived at the hospital. I could barely focus on anything while I sat in the busy waiting room, awaiting any news of his condition. Nobody would grant me any input as to what sort of shape he was in; only that he was barely grasping onto life when the ambulance pulled in. Their words were a little more blunt than mine, but the facts remained the same. My brother was in rough shape, and may not survive the night, regardless of how successful the surgery may be. At some point, exhaustion finally took hold of my body and mind; allowing me to sleep away the seemingly endless hours.

The world was cloaked in darkness by the time a nurse shook my shoulder to pull me from the much needed rest. He informed me that my brother’s surgery had been successful, but I would not be permitted to visit with him until the following day, as he was still in recovery and the next few hours were crucial that he be under observation. I asked if I could stay, but it would seem I had already overstayed my welcome. I feared I would be forced to once more drive the deserted roads back to my home, some twenty miles away. I was reluctant about getting behind the wheel, as the hour was late according to my phone, so I decided to just get a room at a nearby hotel. I hadn’t even thought to bring a change of clothing, nor any other supplies for the night, but I managed to grab a few things at a truck stop just off the interstate, a few miles from the roadside motel.

I placed a call to the hospital the following morning to check on my brother’s condition, and ensure I would be able to see him. With their okay, I headed back that way again. It was only a few miles from my temporary living arrangements, so I would not be forced to endure too much time in the truck. He was still asleep when I walked into his room, which was probably a good thing as my reaction to what I saw was less than encouraging. The tears spilled from my eyes as I looked upon where the blanket covering my brother fell flat at his knees; where his legs now ended. His left hand was bandaged, while his right arm had a cast running the length of it. His left eye, along with that side of his face, was covered by gauze which had scarlet blotches seeping through.

Once I could finally command my stunned body to move forward, I took a seat at Scotties bedside, hanging my head to allow my tears to drip onto my wrinkled jeans. I was once more shivering all over; not from fear this time, but the sight of seeing my dear brother so broken. He had always been so strong and proud. He was an athlete in high school, which afforded him the football scholarship to the college he walked away from to raise me in my parents absence. He would wrap his muscled arms around me when the pain of the sight of my mother and step father’s corpses would revisit me in the middle of the night, for months on end. He was my rock, all those years gone by, and I hoped I had the strength to be his now.

After a time, Scottie began to stir in his sleep.

“He, kiddo…” he groggily spoke from the bed, next to where I sat, still hunched over.

“Hey, big brother,” I replied, fighting against the welling of my eyes.

I couldn’t reveal my fear. I couldn’t show him how much it hurt to see him like this. I would not let him down; not on this.

“How do you feel?” I asked, fully aware of what a ridiculous question it was, considering the circumstances. I just couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“I’m half the man I used to be,” he replied, chuckling slightly while softly singing the words to the old Stone Temple Pilots song.

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I couldn’t tell if it was the likely high dosage of pain medication he was on, or if he was sincerely just happy to be alive, given what left him lying in pieces on this hospital bed.

“You call Leanne?”

“Yeah. She’s on the way as we speak.”

I had almost not even thought to contact the girlfriend he had shared his home with for the past several years. It wasn’t until I made my way to visit him that morning, that it even occured to me that she would likely be beside herself with worry. She was indeed just that. Again, I tried to remain strong while she sobbed from the other end of the line, but I broke as soon as we hung up. It didn’t take her long to reach the hospital, and she practically threw herself on top of him when she opened the door. I gave Scottie a nod, before making my way back out of the room. I thought it best to give them some time, as she was far closer to him than I, these days. I would return to visit him again later, and many more times over the following weeks.

As that time passed by, the bandages were removed from my brother’s face and left hand, though his right arm would remain in the cast for a few more weeks, according to the doctor’s prediction. The eye which had been covered with gauze, was now absent from its socket, and the scaring across that side of his face would require a good deal more reconstructive surgery. Two of the fingers; the ring and pinky, had been unable to be saved, and the remaining ones would have to endure a good deal of physical therapy before they may be able to function properly again. There had been no hope of saving his legs below the knee, as the amount of damage had been significant. Scottie had no doubt he would get the hang of the prosthetics when he would be ready to learn to walk again.

Leanne stayed by his side through every single step; no God awful pun intended. So did I, for that matter. Though the injuries he had sustained that day left him with a very altered and more limited lifestyle, his spirits never waned; give or take the occasional breakdown when things got a bit too heavy. Leanne and I shared many tears ourselves, but we would never allow Scottie to see a bit of that. He had enough on his plate without having to bear the burden of our suffering. Through all that time, I didn’t see the girl in the center of the road; not once. Regardless of how many trips I made, back and forth to the hospital, or the work days I would endure between them, the only other thing occupying any roads I would travel were other vehicles. Maybe the occasional hitchhiker, who would inadvertently cause my heart to race when I saw them from a distance, but that was all.

Once Scottie was healed up as well as he could be, I quit my job, sold my house, and moved into the same neighborhood in which he lived with his girlfriend; who had since become his wife, when he was stable enough to stand on his new prosthetic legs, waiting for her to be walked down the aisle; arm in arm with her father. Not only was I thrilled he had come out of this whole ordeal so well, but I didn’t want to risk us drifting away from each other again, now that we had found our way back to what we once were.

Some two years went by since that awful day that almost robbed me of my only remaining family member. The redhead on the centerline had fallen into foggy memory, bundled up beside any other experience which was no longer worth dwelling on. I would remain a little nervous while driving the quiet roads on late nights, but I didn’t shudder at the very thought of it anymore. It wasn’t until early last week; when I shared a few drinks with my brother, while his wife was out of town on business for a few days, that he brought up the events which left him an amputee, and damn near left him for dead on the side of that road.

We had just been spending the day together; drinking some cheap whiskey and enjoying each other’s company like the old days. It had been a long time since we had spent time together like this, and I had almost forgotten how much I missed it. After many laughs reflecting on times long gone, he just got quiet, while staring down into his glass, swirling the dark liquid around in his fully fingered right hand.

“You ever see her again after that night?” He asked in little more than a whisper.

I was stunned for a moment, but I could tell he needed to talk, so I wasn’t about to brush him off. Yes, my neck tensed as soon as he asked his question, but I had a feeling we’d have to discuss this someday.

“I haven’t. No… You?

He just shook his head; not breaking his gaze from his glass.

“She just charged right at me, Gopher…”

I could even remotely think of anything to say to that. I thought it best to allow him the spotlight on this one.

“Her legs…”

He idly rubbed at the stump of his left leg with the scarred, three fingered hand.

“There was nothin’ holding them together…didn’t even make sense that she…”

A single tear blinked from his only organic eye.

“First, she rammed her shoulder into the door…blood sprayed up from where the bones broke through the skin…”

He began to tremble, inspiring my body to follow suit.

“I felt the wheels lift on that side when she hit…just a little…just enough to make me damn near shit my pants…”

He offered a false smile on the smoother side of his face.

“That one hit, and she was gone again…can’t even imagine what it musta looked like to the other cars on the road…the ones that couldn’t see her, y’know?”

He swallowed the remains of the whiskey in his glass, before reaching a shaky hand to the bottle. Before he could wrap his fingers around it, I grabbed it, pulled the stopper out, and refilled the glass which still shuddered in his hand. He instantly knocked back the liquid I poured, before giving me a nod to request another fill up.

“That’s when I called you…the second time anyway…the one before…”

I swallowed what lay tremorring in my own glass, before reaching for the still uncorked bottle to prepare my next swig.

“She was there again…about a mile up the road…still propped on those stripped down kneecaps…she was…waiting for me…”

We both drank again, before I filled his glass, then my own. He still wouldn’t raise his eye to meet mine; which could not break away from his face. I looked upon the side that still wore the subtle marks of what was once deep and grizzled scar tissue. The doctors did a good job on him, considering the mess he was in. The glass eye was close enough to the grey-blue of his functioning one, but I could still tell it wasn’t real. Most who knew him had no reason to question the reasons behind why that one would lazily drift to one side on occasion, as I imagine it fit the bill to the casual observer, but not to me. I had looked into those eyes since mine first learned how to function. They were as familiar to me as my own; more so, even. I would never tell him that I would only gaze into the real one. It didn’t feel right to stare at the other.

“She ran at me again…I tried to pull over to the side as far as I could, but…there was no getting away…away from her…She…slammed her head right into the side bracket of the windshield…I heard the bones shatter…watched the eye pop out…rolled right across…across the hood…that’s when I flipped…”

I fought against the tears which threatened to spill down my own cheeks. Perhaps I hoped to show strength to one who had always been so strong. Maybe I simply didn’t want to rub in the fact that both of mine were still capable of producing tears.

“It was like slow motion…when the car tipped and rolled…heard the frame warp and…crack…couldn’t tell if it was my car or my bones, makin’ that sound…shock, y’know?”

I clenched my jaw tightly, not caring whether or not I chipped a tooth or two. I couldn’t cry…I wouldn’t…I could let them flow later to my heart’s content, but not now.”

“When I stopped rolling, I was…I was beat up a bit, but I wasn’t…broken…I wasn’t…this…not yet…”

Wait…what!?

“Thought the worst of it was done…thought I was…gonna be ok…I…I don’t know how…how she got in…”

Jesus Christ! Don’t scream out! Don’t let him know this is scaring the everloving shit out of you! Keep it in, kid…yell out all you want later…Don’t let him see you break!

“She did…the fingers first…wrapped them all the way back, just like the ones on her…her own hand…legs were next…don’t even know how she pulled them out from under the crushed dash, but they…they were out and my feet…my feet touched my ears on each side before I knew it…barely even felt my knees snap the wrong way…the shock…I think…I think it blocked it out.”

I was beginning to hyperventilate. I could barely control my breathing, let alone convince it to settle down. His tone barely changed while he spoke; raising his brow to be more expressive than his voice was capable of at the time. I watched the false eye swim to the side as the raised flesh above it released the tension of the muscles surrounding it; allowing it a moment of freedom to roam as freely as it wanted.

“My mind was so scattered…I could barely register… register that I was in so much goddamn pain…she twisted my arm…shattering…splitting the bones…couple cut through the skin…”

He idly rubbed his three fingered hand across the scar tissue of the arm which held onto the shivering glass of whiskey. I felt my neck attempt to spasm. Control it, you son of a bitch! Don’t let him see you squirm…you owe him that much!

“Soon as she let go of my fucked up arm, she…she grabbed me by the back of my head…I…I don’t know if it was the steering wheel or…the glass she beat it against… the eye went black, but…but I thought it just swelled shut…then everything went dark…I…don’t know…”

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His words drifted off, before he chugged from his glass again, filled it up, and knocked it back once more. We sat in silence after that. I wanted to say something; anything to make all of this alright, but I couldn’t. Even if his words had not rendered me mute, I would never be able to find something to say to make this better. I couldn’t even imagine what it was like to have to endure the memories of what he shared with me that night, let alone finding a way to verbalize them without losing track of every last marble I had.

We didn’t talk much more for the remainder of the night. Truth be told, I was feeling quite loopy by the end of his recollection of that horrific night, as I kept knocking back one drink after another in an effort to convince my body to settle down. When he reached for his crutches to lift himself up onto his false legs, I helped him to his bed. I waited until he fell asleep, before walking the sidewalk of the neighborhood back to my home. I could barely walk a straight line, let alone even think about pulling my truck out of the spot in front of Scotties garage. At that point, I didn’t care one way or another about my vehicle. I just wanted to crawl into my own bed in hopes of burying the visual imagery my brother’s tale had painted across my subconscious.

As I reached for the knob to access my cozy living room behind the door, a subtle fog began to drift around me. I became aware of an unsettling crackling sound some feet behind where I stood with my arm outstretched. I stood there frozen in place; one side of my mind battling to turn the hand clenched around the doorknob, while the other begged me to turn in place to seek out the source of the sounds which drew closer by the second. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to accomplish either task. As the crunching combined with a sound not unlike that of forming ground beef into manageable hamburger patties, I became aware that there was a third noise; one which finally forced my brain to make the choice to throw open the door and allow me to pass into my home. The footsteps sounded as though there were mere inches behind me as I slammed the door shut without looking back.

I stood in place again; this time with my back pressed against the wood. I couldn’t only hope that what I expected to have been approaching, could not breach my home. I tried to convince myself this was no more than a delusion of my inebriated mind, projecting the imagery my brother’s story had practically tattooed onto the surface of my brain, but those other nagging thoughts would not hear it. After a while, I slid my back down the door to plant myself into a sitting position, before the exhaustion combined with the intoxication; leaving me passed out on the hardwood floor of my living room.

I awoke again some time in the middle of the night. It was still dark outside, and my whole body ached from the uncomfortable position I had been resting in. Not only that, but my head was pounding from the healthy degree of alcohol I had put away some hours before. Before I clumsily staggered up the stairs to my bedroom, I halfway considered opening the front door to look outside, but even groggy and still half drunk, I didn’t want to risk what could potentially still be waiting for me out there. Fortunately, my drowsiness overruled the burgeoning thoughts which fought towards the forefront of my mind, allowing me to fall back into the safety of sleep until around noon, the following day.

As I lay in my bed, glaring up at the steadily rotating ceiling fan, I had only one thing on my mind: Clearly, Janet Klein was not finished with me just yet. Would I be forced to bear the burden of similar injuries to those she; and now my brother, wore? I still hadn’t the slightest clue who this girl was! What reasoning did her seemingly vengeful spirit have for tormenting us this way? I puzzled over these questions for hours. While I showered, my mind was preoccupied with these erratic thoughts. Even as I half heartedly threw together my best attempt at a mediocre breakfast, the image of the girl still lingered.

I needed answers, and I needed them soon. I hated the idea of forcing my brother to relive that accident again, but he seemed to know who she was. I would ask him my questions, then allow him to bury the thoughts for good, but I needed to know what he knew. I had to walk back to his place to retrieve my car anyway, so no time like the present, I thought. After reluctantly opening my front door, to find little more than the daily flow of vehicles coming and going through the neighborhood, I slowly strolled along the sidewalk. When I arrived at the home my brother shared with his wife, he was sitting on one of the chairs on his front deck. I gave him a compulsory wave, to which he returned a single nod. Before I even had the chance to recite the questions I had mentally rehearsed on my way there, he began to speak.

“Nobody knew much about her, when she first moved to town…”

I don’t know if it was that strange connection that siblings share, but it would seem he already knew what was on my mind.

“I didn’t know a damn thing about her myself, since I was away at school by then…”

I decided to remain quiet as I had the night before. I think; somewhere in the darker places in my mind, I knew where this was going. Still, I wasn’t prepared at all for the truth behind it all. This is what Scottie revealed…no…this was what my brother confessed to me, just last week…

“She was a shy kid, from what folks told me. Of course, you know how it is in small towns; the quiet ones who try to keep their heads down get more rumors spilled about them than anyone. Can’t say I ever spoke the first word to her before that night. You remember it, right; that night of the Halloween party?”

Of course I remembered that party. I was seventeen; nearing eighteen, and it was the first time I had ever taken a drink. One of the more popular kids in my senior class had invited just about everyone to his parents massive house for the costume mandatory shindig. I had shared a car with several of my classmates to get there, but I ended up having to call, and practically beg my brother to pick me up, as my previous driver passed out after a shot glass face off with the quarterback of the football team.

“I know I was hard on you when you called me to come get you, and I’m truly sorry for that, Gopher. I wasn’t pissed at you for getting drunk or anything. God knows I got fucked up way more times than you when I was that age, I’d just had a rough day at work. Still, I’m sorry I snapped at you… Janet was walking out when I entered the house to pick you up. She sort of hung her head as we passed each other, but she looked so cute in her frilly skirt, I had to talk to her. Her folks were friends of the couple who owned the house you were getting hammered in, and she had stopped by to try to have some fun, but hanging with all the school kids made her feel like an old fart, so she just turned herself around and headed out…”

“Sure, I was at least a good half a decade older than her, but she was a really sweet girl; shy and soft spoken, and obviously completely unaware of how pretty she was. I could still see you knocking one back after the other while we talked, and I just sat and watched you enjoy yourself for a little while after she said she had to head home. After a while, you noticed me, and I helped your hammered ass to the car. You passed out within seconds of us leaving, and I already felt like a dick for getting pissed at you when you called. Maybe a few miles up the road, you woke up for a minute and puked all over the dash. I swerved this way and that, while I tried to pull you back upright before you passed out again and practically smashed your face into your own vomit. I was screaming at you to wake up, but you were out of it as soon as you got done barfing out a good gallon of booze…”

“I…told you we hit a deer that night, and that’s why the front end was beat to shit and the windshield was busted…I told you that’s why I got so angry the next day. I…didn’t even see her, at first. I lost control of the car, and skidded towards a tree. She…she didn’t have a chance to get out of the way…smashed her poor body right up against the thick trunk of that tree. I backed the car up and ran out to her…she was gone, Gopher. Her…legs…there wasn’t nothin’ holding them together…I guess she’d reached out when she saw me coming at her. Her one hand was all twisted back, and the other arm was…in bad shape.. Her head musta smacked up against the tree. One side was all fucked up, and her neck was all bent with the bones stickin’ out…she was…she was a mess…”

I just stared at him; completely lost for words. It all made sense now, well, as much as a ghost, hell-bent on revenge can make sense anyway.

“I just…I dragged her deeper into the woods. They didn’t even find her body for a few days. By that time, I’d already fixed up the car; as much as I could anyway. She’d apparently been nibbled on by some of the forest critters and such, so that accounted for some…for some of the damage I’d done. As soon as I read about it in the paper, I just knew I was fucked. They’d take me away from you, and you’d be all alone again…They never did, though. They never tracked down the hit and run driver that crushed that poor girl against the tree…Soon after, I moved us out this way…away from what…from what I did…”

“I…I’m so sorry I pushed away from you after…I didn’t blame you…I shoulda pulled over, but I didn’t…it’s my fault, and it was my guilt that drove us apart… I’m so sorry for everything…for walking away…for letting it swallow me…for her showing herself to you, like she did to me…”

He trailed off after that, as the river of tears flowed from his one good eye. I still just sat in place beside him; stunned and shocked, with no words available to make any of this right. Whether he blamed me or not, it was my fault he was there; my fault that the car swerved. This was my burden to bear as much, if not more than his. He should have told me the truth about that night long ago. We need not have grown so distant, had he only let me in on the sin we had committed together. We should have turned ourselves in, all those years ago; admitted to the life we took. Perhaps we would have found ourselves behind the walls of one prison or another, but we would have faced it together. Had we paid for our crime back then, we may not be enduring our comeuppance now.

I told Scottie those same words, with perhaps a bit more flare. I said little more to him after that; choosing to remain in silence as the random noises of the neighborhood provided the only soundtrack to our shared, pensive stare. After a while, I walked to my car, backed out, and left my brother sitting alone on his front porch. I gave him a token goodbye before I drove off, but I truly could not think of anything else to add. I can’t lie; I was angry. I know that what he did was to keep us together, but what did that accomplish? We had barely spoken for years after that night; even before we parted ways. In his efforts to maintain our bond, he allowed it to break. Only now; when the payment for our sins has come due, have we found a place back in each other’s lives.

I had no particular destination while I drove for hours on end. I stopped by a fast food joint to grab some lunch, though; between my hangover, and the conversation with my brother, I had little to no appetite. I still managed to ingest enough to convince my stomach to stop churning, though my head still thumped with every beat of my heart. I didn’t return to my house that day. Perhaps I was not yet ready to risk facing Scottie again. Maybe I just needed to get away for a bit. Once more, I checked into a hotel; where I would sleep that night, whether or not the mission I appointed myself proved fruitful. I picked up some necessities, along with a change of clothes from a nearby department store, took them to my room, and headed out in search of the most desolate and deserted back roads I could find.

For some time, I weaved in and out of one road to the next; growing steadily more lost with each turn. I had punched the address to my hotel into my GPS, as I would doubtlessly need directions to find my way back, but I wouldn’t let up on my quest. I had to find her. I had to know what she wanted from me. Were it to leave my body in pieces as it had my brother, I would bear that burden. I deserved it; to pay for what I had done. Though the more argumentative section of my brain attempted to convince me I was not at fault for what happened; that it was not I who pinned the poor girl between the tree and the front end of my brother’s car, I wouldn’t hear it. Around one-thirty in the morning, I once more saw the girl on the centerline of a secluded backroad; somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

She still sat in place, with her busted legs splayed out to her side at the knees; her mangled hand perched upon her thighs, while the other lay on the concrete beside her. The subtle fog worked its way across the pavement, as it had the first time I laid eyes on her hunched frame. I turned the key to my ignition, leaving the headlights beaming across her. I opened the driver’s side door to climb out into the brisk night air. My legs shook violently, as my neck began to twitch, ever so slightly, as I paced towards where she sat, with her long red hair being gently tossed by the breeze. I took a seat on the cold and rough ground before her; mere inches from where she sat. I crossed my legs, as she had the first time we met. We used to call it ‘Indian style’, when it was still acceptable to say such things, back then; back when I was just a kid. Back when life was simpler, and I had little care in the world.

“I’m so sorry for what we did to you…” I said.

“Whatever the cost…whatever you want from me…take it…I owe you that, and so much more…”

The mist drifted around us, while I sat gazing upon the thick, and beautifully wavy red hair. I wouldn’t move. I wouldn’t flee. I was ready for whatever she had planned for me. I was scared; I won’t even try to pretend I wasn’t, but I was prepared to face my judgement; whatever it may be. As her head tilted from one side to the next, my heartbeat quickened, but I would show her no reluctance. I fought against my hands as they begged me to allow them to ball into fists; not to strike out, but to brace for what was to come, but I wouldn’t show her that. She was the jury I must face, and I would keep my head high as I awaited her verdict.

Her head raised, accompanied by the bones of her neck audibly snapping back into place. As the wind took hold of her hair once more, I found myself gazing into her gorgeous, bright green eyes. I wanted to return her almost carefree expression, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I felt such pain stab into my chest. My heart felt as though it would burst from the burden of the guilt of bringing her life to a premature end. While we stared at one another, her brow became light, and the pale flesh of her freckled cheeks raised as a smile formed across her lips. I wanted to hang my head; not as she had every time I had seen her before this, but in shame.

She looked at me. I looked at her. She began to rock her head from one side to the other; slowly, at first. It almost made me think of a little kid, bobbing from left to right, like a happy little dance. As the tilting grew quicker, it felt far less joyous. She started jerking her head; left, right, left, right, side to side in such quick succession, it barely seemed humanly possible. My fists clenched; I couldn’t fight against it anymore. Whatever she had planned, it was happening any second now. My back stiffened. The trembling in my gut escalated to what felt like a volcano was about to erupt through my midsection. I bit down. I was breathing heavily. I wanted to look away, or close my eyes, but I couldn’t; I wouldn’t!

“I deserve this…” I kept repeating over and over in my mind.

“Just do it!” My brain cried out.

“FOR GOD’S SAKE, JUST FINISH IT!!”

A sudden, and hauntingly loud snap ended her flailing. The bones burst through the flesh of her neck, spraying warm and sticky blood across my face and chest. My whole body shuddered as I watched her eyes glaze over, her brow and upturned cheeks sink, and her lifeless body fall flat across the concrete ground.

For several minutes, I sat in place; still shivering from head to toe. When the beaming headlights blinked and went dark; concealing the shadow my body cast across the deceased Janet Klein, I finally cut my gaze from the corpse that was now covered by the darkness. I still stared at the nothingness I could make out for some time, before I finally convinced my numb and gelatinous legs to lift me from the hard ground. I continued to twitch and tremble while I staggered back to my truck. Somewhere behind the chaos of my thoughts, I worried my battery had died from having illuminated the road for so long, but my old Tahoe cranked right up. With the lights guiding the path that lay ahead once more, I saw no sign of the red haired girl, nor the blood which had gushed from the torn flesh of her neck.

I stopped by a deserted gas station restroom to clean myself up as well as I could. After pulling a discarded shopping bag from my passenger side floorboard, I wrapped my blood soaked shirt in it, and tossed it in the trash can next to the fuel pumps. When I climbed back into my truck, I noticed my windshield no longer wore those translucent scarlet stains. Could this really be over? I thought, while I pulled into the parking lot of the hotel. Before I climbed the stairs to my room on the second floor, I grabbed my spare jacket from the back seat. Not only was it cold outside, but I was currently shirtless. I sat on the floor of the shower in my room, allowing the hot water to rain over me once more, before I lay my weary head to rest.

It was around two in the afternoon when I finally woke up, feeling dazed from the extended sleep. Unfortunately, my oversleeping had left me with little choice but to pay for an extra night in the roadside motel, but I had no reason to actually stick around. I began to gather up my things to make my way back to my home. When I once more retrieved my phone from the pocket of my discarded pants, I saw that I had several more missed calls, along with three voicemails. They were not from my brother this time, but his wife, as it was she who had discovered his body early that morning when she arrived back home from her trip. Though neither she, nor the paramedics could find any reason for his neck being so violently broken as he still sat upright in his favorite chair, it was clear that no human hands had inflicted this life ending injury, at least not those belonging to a hundred and ten pound, five foot woman in her mid-thirties.

There would be an investigation, of course; one that is still ongoing, but my sister in law’s lawyer feels confident that she cannot be held responsible for what happened, as she had only just arrived back home when she placed the 911 call. There were plenty of witnesses who would attest that she had only left their company some hours earlier, and her drive back to the house she shared with her husband would have taken a while. I’m not a suspect either, as I had found myself some eighty miles from our neighborhood after my hours of driving the previous day, and the security camera footage from the hotel shows me entering my room only forty minutes after his presumed time of death.

I ache for the loss of my beloved brother, as well as for the life we took so many years before. I will return to my old hometown back east soon; to tell the truth of what really happened to Janet Klein. I can’t say for sure where this confession will leave me, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Not really. Yes, I didn’t know the truth until recently, but can I prove that? Will I be held responsible, even if I was just a passenger that night? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I still feel the weight of it, even if I wasn’t behind the wheel. Whatever comes of this, I’m okay with it. I’m alone in this world now, so it doesn’t really matter. Not anymore.

Leanne plans to return to her own home to recover from the loss of her husband in the company of her parents. I didn’t, and I won’t tell her about Janet Klein. It’s not her burden to bear, and I want her to remember nothing more than the loving husband she lost. I truly hope she gets through this. She stood by him through it all, and I will always love her for that. I hate that I acted so coldly towards Scottie the last time we were together. What he kept from me; I may never quite forgive him for that, but he was as much a father to me as he was a brother, even if we had grown apart. I miss him so goddamn much, but I will make right, the wrong we caused together; as much as it is possible to do so anyway.

I wonder what would have happened, had I not offered her the payment she required, that night. Would she have rendered me with the same disabilities as my brother and left it at that, or would she have still claimed his life one way or another? I expect I will dwell on this a lot over the coming years; that, along with so much more. Of course, it’s very possible that she’s not done with me just yet. I don’t think I would be surprised if I did see her again; just waiting for me in the middle of the road.

Credit: William Rayne

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