by Kala Seraphin
Every step she took left an imprint in blood. It recorded her slow progress on the concrete sidewalk. She ignored the pain of pebbles and glass digging in the soles of her feet. Her blank gaze remained fixed on an invisible target.
Blisters covered the woman, streaming blood all over her naked body. Pus surfaced from the fresher wounds. The nails from her fingers and toes fell off, creating a trail along the bloody footprints. Her lips trembled, drops of amber blood dripping to her chin as her eyes also cried tears of the strange colored blood. The veins at her temple ran a golden hue, glowing under her skin. The pupils of her eyes glowed the same color.
Cars drove past her, not one of them noticing the grotesque scene. Drivers chose to contemplate the road ahead and think about the troubles of their lives: an unfaithful wife, fights with family members, unreasonable bosses, maybe even test results from their doctors.
It was a couple hours before dawn and no one lingered the streets. A cat bounced out of an alley. He took one look at the woman and his fur stood on end. With a vicious hiss, the tabby scuttled off.
She kept taking the next step, unaware of her destination. Her mind had ceased to function when the disease reached her bloodstream. There was an urge to have a thought, any thought, of her own. A vague idea of what it felt like lingered weakly in her subconscious. She wanted to stop walking, to scream for help. Her motor skills stopped being her own long ago. A cool breeze started, yet she could not feel it either.
The sidewalk ended and her feet kept on going. This time, the car driving by had no choice but to stop. The driver urged her on with his horn. It had the opposite effect. She stopped, looking directly into the headlights without covering her eyes or squinting.
The driver was a young business man coming home from the office. He had staid all night to fix some mistakes made by his predecessors. His suit was wrinkled and stained with cheap fast food. His eyes were bloodshot from looking at a computer screen all day. He stepped out of the car, yelling:
“What’s wrong with you! Damn junkie, go back to your hole!”
She did not move. He walked over to her, intending to push her out of the way. The sight of her bleeding wounds stopped him in his tracks. When he saw her glowing eyes, he stumbled back, falling.
“Don’t…don’t touch me! Just…go…go! Go away!” Fear made his voice stumble in a higher pitch than usual. He tried to back up, to get to his car and drive away but his legs kept giving out.
The woman stood still, looking at the man yet not seeing him.
“Please…I have a wife. She’s pregnant!” He started crying, still struggling to get to his feet.
The woman bent down to his height. She could see in the man’s face all his thoughts and emotions. The emotions were mingling frantically in his mind, slowing him down. Finally, her mouth opened and a voice came out. It was hers yet no under her control.
“It’s….all…just…”The otherworldly voice vibrated the young man’s eardrums. She reached out and touched his cheek with her bloody hand, “energy….”
Slowly, she backed up and kept walking backwards until a truck, whose driver was looking for a new radio station, ran her over, stopping her senseless progress. The young man simply sat on the road, watching the carnage.
The young man sat for an hour, in a daze. As the city came to life, more people gathered to watch the blood scene. Housewives with babies on their hips and curlers in their hair stood along side the business men and office workers on their way to earn what is deemed a living. They pointed to the woman’s naked corpse, to the blood covered truck, to the man sitting on the street in a wrinkled suit. However, no one gave him a hand to get to his feet. Not a single person covered the children’s eyes from the gore. It was all whispers, wondering what happened, judging the people involved or being thankful they were not involved.
Finally, a police officer helped the dazed man to his feet, asking him what happened. He explained, as best as his mind would allow his tongue.
“What is your name, sir?” The police officer sounded jaded and tiered. He was writing everything down lazily. It was going to take a lot of effort to decipher the written narrative.
“Michael Crane. I work at Woodrow Insurance Company,” he replied. The police officer took his number and said he’ll call if there’s anything else to be discussed. He thanked the witness and sent him on his way.
“Damn drug addicts…” Michael heard the police officer curse as he went into his car. When he reached his home in the suburbs, Michael was barely able to keep his eyes open. He tried to quietly go inside his house, but a big chocolate labrador barked at his appearance, happy to see his master. Michael took a moment to scratch the dog behind the ears.
“Where were you? I was so worried.” His wife was in the living-room with a book resting on her pregnant belly. She was seven months into the pregnancy and they were both very excited for this next step in their relationship.
“There was an accident. A woman was killed, hit by a truck.” He wanted to save her from most of the gory details. Michelle’s eyes grew wide with fear. Michael sat with her, reassuring her that everything was going to be fine.
“I’m safe and well… If you would have seen her, Michelle. She’s in a better place.”
He then decided to take a shower, wishing that the soap and scalding water will wash away the vision of the bloody woman. He could still hear the ghoulish voice in his head.
“What is just energy?” He wondered. The question was tied to too gruesome an enigma for his mind to hold on to. Instead, he slipped under the blankets of his bed and gave in to the weariness.
Amber light flooded his mind, filling every corner of his conscious and subconscious thoughts. It felt warm at first, like drinking hot chocolate after being out in the cold all day. Suddenly, it began to burn and itch. Michael woke up, trying to scratch away the pain, his nails digging into his temples.
“A nightmare,” he whispered, sitting up in bed. It was early afternoon now. Outside, children could be heard laughing, a dog barking and some cars driving by. It reassured him of the normalcy of his world.
Michelle came in the room, carrying a small basket of laundry. Seeing her husband awake, she smiled, inquiring on his well-being. His first thought was to snap a biting remark regarding his recent ordeal. Yet he simply forced a smile, reassuring her that all will be back to normal after some more rest.
In the kitchen, Michael stood at the counter, looking out the window. He was enthralled by a squirrel in the backyard. It leaped around frantically, burying nuts in random areas of the yard. Its bushy tail twitched as it concentrated hard on digging. There wasn’t a rhyme or reason to the pattern the squirrel was making when deciding where to bury his provisions. However, it looked very confident with the area. It was not asking the other squirrels where a proper area would be for its nuts. Michael wondered how come people were not as in touch with their instincts as squirrels or other animals were.
“Michael!” Michelle’s sharp cry startled him from his thoughts. He looked down and noticed he had poured the whole gallon of orange juice into the glass in his hand. He stepped out of the little orange puddle to get the mop.
“Sorry, I got distracted,” he mumbled, cleaning up the sticky, wet mess. His wife sat at the kitchen table, looking tiered and worried.
“Are you sure you’re alright? Maybe you need to see a doctor.” She suggested.
“I don’t need a doctor. I just need a bit of time. Don’t worry, OK? Worrying isn’t good for the baby.” He then kissed her on her forehead, straining to seem like a normal, caring husband. Needing some fresh air, he went outside to sit in the sun and drink his orange juice. He struggled with the requirements to say and do things which were consistent with what he said and did in the past. This forced consistency weighed heavy on his mind.
“Where is this coming from?” He asked the question out loud to no one in particular. No answer came to him. These feelings were new to him yet felt very natural. It was as if he was finally tuning in on his inner dialogue.
Michael decided to take a walk. The autumn sun mingled perfectly with the cool breeze. Birds flew overhead, going south before the change of season. The leaves had started changing colors, taking on golden, red, orange and yellow hues. It felt good to simply walk and move around. He had no destination in mind. It felt almost as if his feet were taking care of matters. With his hands in his pockets, Michael enjoyed simply being as opposed to doing.
He spent the remainder of the day wandering the streets. He explored side streets and found small gardens some people were growing. Eventually, he left his neighborhood and came to the outskirts of the city. Brick buildings lined the streets, offering cheap housing for low income families. There was a group of children playing in the street, jumping around the ongoing traffic. They looked unfazed by the danger. It made Michael chuckle as he walked by them. There was something fascinating about children. No matter what circumstances they were in, they always found a way to enjoy themselves.
By the time the sun was set, Michael found himself lost. He was too far out to go back and he had no idea how to take public transportation. After much searching, he found a pay-phone and called Michelle to explain his predicament.
“Are you insane?” She sounded very irritated. “We had dinner plans with the Joneses tonight. They’re going to be here soon and you’re telling me you’re lost in the city?”
“Well, yes. I suppose that is what it comes down to.” Michael surprised himself by staying so calm. There was a time when he would have answered her outburst of anger with a similar rush of rage. As his wife released her frustration on him, Michael felt no attachment and so did not take her words personally.
“Ok, if that’s how you feel, dear. I’ll just find another way back home,” he finally said. Michelle sighed deeply and decided to cancel the dinner and pick him up.
The drive back home was quiet. Michael closed his eyes the moment he sat in the passenger seat, but could not find the rest his tiered body was asking. Though she did not say a word, Michael could feel Michelle’s rage acutely. He struggled to breath, opening the window to help the air flow. Every intake was like swallowing pins and needles. Her resentment for the ruined diner date pressed on his temples, squeezing his brain. Michael could barely sit still. He wanted to jump out of the car to find release. His stomach started to clench, making him feel nauseous.
The moment the car reached their house, Michael jumped out, retching on the perfect front lawn. He felt so much pent up negativity leave his body. He was surprised to be thinking about the time he fought with his brother over a girl, which happened ten years ago. Feelings of guilt resurfaced along with bitterness and passive aggression. Memories of disappointment came and went. Grief over the loss of his father swirled around, then dissipated. Finally, when Michael stood up, he felt lighter.
To find out what happens, and for more stories, visit www.storiesonfire.com
Stay connected on Facebook
Come join the journey~
Keep your eyes open for a contest coming soon. Storiesonfire will be joining the circus!