I’m standing in the barren dirt patch that was once my front yard, staring ahead at my humble little home. The house I am looking at now is not the same house that Nathan and I moved into. It may look the same, and is located in the same spot, but this house is different. This house is dead. I hate this house. I hate everything this house says to me.
I was walking around the neighborhood to avoid going inside of it, my house, but I’m tired now and I think I can sleep so I creep through the front door, through the initial hallway, on the tips of my toes. There isn’t anybody to wake up anymore, but still, I tiptoe out of courtesy. I’m glad my muscles remember him too. The empty air weighs heavily on my shoulders—it’s hard to breathe and it smells of fresh paint even though we finished painting months ago. When I get to the kitchen I see empty chairs where my friends once sat. In the darkness surrounding me I can sense wandering eyes and pursed lips. I pour myself a glass of water, sit down at the bar and watch warping forms of colorful lights play tricks on the inside of my eyelids.
They were whispers at first, unintelligible and foreign. Echoes sifting beneath the floorboards and leaking from ceiling vents. The voices crept from every nook, coagulated on the floor. They built into shrieks, wailing torments, and slowly curdled into an amorphous mass. The specter prods away, itching at my inner ear, demanding to be heard but refusing to speak clearly. In my mind, I can see Nathan’s broken neck.
Someone screams from my bathroom.
When did I get to the bathroom?
I sit on the floor and rest my head against the cold porcelain toilet.
I’m driving a car. A jeep Cherokee, maybe? Something big. Sunlight beams through the window and I tap my hand mindlessly on the steering wheel. A song is playing and everyone enjoys it. I can’t hear anything but I can feel the music thumping inside my skin. Nathan sits beside me with his feet on the dashboard. He beams at me, mouthing the lyrics to the silent song of my dream. It’s been a fulfilling day, hasn’t it? Probably we’re on our way home from the beach. In the back, I realize, are three more of my friends. Their faces are blurry but their mouths grin as they shape words I cannot now recall. The sun implodes and releases a thunderstorm. I can hear nothing but the crashing sound of sleeting rain. Behind the wheel, my heart quickens. I put two hands on the wheel and lock my arms. The tires slip on a turn and I start screaming. Nathan’s teeth glisten a bright purple, reflecting lightning strikes as he tells me to focus on the road. I can feel my head getting heavier. How many beers did I have today? Was it two? Six? Twelve?
“Brake!” he yells. I do.
My hands are clasped around my ears and my eyes are squeezed shut, a thin layer of tears stream calmly down my face. The tile is cold against my sweaty back. By the time I talk myself down it is nearly four in the morning and I make my way to my bedroom. On my night stand sit several bottles of cough medicine. I take a few swigs of each and crumple onto my thin mattress. Eyes flutter. I can feel a sick tension crackle in the air above me. The foot of my bed creaks, giving way to a weight I cannot see. As hot and moist as are the whispered secrets of your lovers, so was the sensation of the voices as they curled up next to me in my bed. I lulled to sleep and they cradled me as I did so.
I can feel someone’s hand grip my shoulder as the wheels to the vehicle slip on thickened water, sending it into a chaotic spin. I hear muffled screaming as we tilt over the bank of a turn and begin rolling down-hill. Bones are being crushed. Thudding bodies beat against the warping metal as we tumble.
The vehicle is violently halted by a thick tree at the base of the hill. When I open my eyes, I realize that I am upside down. Beside me an almost unrecognizable Nathan moans in painful disbelief. Half of the left side of his face is missing– shredded and smashed into an unrecognizable mess– his limbs are broken in twisted in various places. I choke a bit on my saliva, whimper. Gurgle. A thick stream of blood is collecting beneath his head, pooling from all over his obliterated body. The blood slowly begins to crawl towards me. I am frozen in horror and unable to move even as the thick liquid reaches my face and begins to seep into my eyes and nose, the scent of copper flooding my senses. I can hear whispers from far away, or are they screams? Yes, I realize, they are distant pleas for salvation. Nathan blinks, once, twice, he’s screaming now and tentatively prodding at his savaged eye socket with an equally mutilated hand, a piece of flesh pathetically clings to it by a few thin strands.
I awake white knuckle gripping my sheets. My breathing is scattered, frantic. I must collect myself. I roll onto my back and stare at the blank ceiling. This morning will not claim you, I think, you can stop it.
The dryer buzzes. Have I stood here the whole time? I change the clothes over piece by piece. A pair of jeans. A pair of khakis. A blue sweater. A black shirt that isn’t mine. Who’s is it? I unravel the foreign piece of cloth in my hand and realize it’s Nathan’s. I stare at it, unable to move. I can feel his blood pooling around my face and twitch violently. I crack my neck, still clutching the wet shirt.
Like a protective parent, the voices wrap their arms around my shoulder and lead me to his room. When I wake up, they’re still there. They will always be here with me, an undying reminder of what I had done.