Prompt: Ever Since the Accident, You’re Deathly Afraid of Turning Out the Lights
I turned to hand Madison my water bottle, I look back up and there was a man in the road. I swerved so I didn’t hit him. My car hit a pothole wrong. As it flipped over, it was so strange. It was like that moment on a roller coaster when the bottom drops out.
Things moved in slow motion. I felt weightless. I could see Angela’s phone fly from her hand. The water bottle slowly moving toward the windshield. Makeup fell out of Becky’s purse. I could see the Kat Von D lipstick I talked her into buying.
Right before we completely flipped over, I saw the man in the road. He was dirty and scruffy. He looked homeless. He had a beard that was a few days old. His eyes looked red in the headlights. He was smiling. Then it went dark.
I could hear voices all around me. Some were angry, some were cackling, most were in pain. I couldn’t see anything but blackness. Sometimes there were hints of red when the screaming and laughing were the loudest. It was never happy laughter. The mirth came from the suffering. I could feel this happening around me but just out of reach. I tried to move and then I felt someone behind me. I turned but saw nothing but blackness. I could feel eyes boring into me. I felt a hand grab my shoulder.
Light. And pain. I gasped for air but it hurt. Everything hurt. I could hear people around me talking but the white light was so bright. The room shook. Where was I? It went dark again.
When I finally woke up, I was in the hospital. My parents were there and my little brother. A nurse came in and told me I had a concussion, a broken wrist, and four fractured ribs. I was lucky to be alive, she kept saying. I found out more details as the days went on.
The car flipped over. Madison had taken off her seatbelt to get the water bottle. She died on impact. Because of the way the car landed, Beck was trapped in the backseat and the last of us to be freed. She died from internal bleeding. Angela was comatose. Before I was discharged, I went to see her. What the doctors didn’t understand was how her heartrate would spike or slow down. It took me a while to figure that out too.
The hospital was so bright that it was never very dark. It wasn’t until I got home that it started to happen. My dad wanted to be surrounded by nature so we didn’t have any close neighbors. When I came home it was light out but as the sun set, I got the sense of being watched if I lingered near a window for too long. I thought nothing of it, at first.
My mom decided we should celebrate my homecoming with a family movie night. We dimmed the lights and started the film. I could feel something on the other side of the darkness, watching. No one else seemed to notice. I fell asleep on the couch. I don’t know for how long but my folks switched off the lights and left me there since ‘I looked so peaceful.’
It must have been either after the lights were off or I was alone. Because the world of black and red came back. I could hear the suffering and dark merriment much clearer now. The eyes were watching me again but this time I heard the voice as well. “Welcome back,” he said. “I’m so excited we finally get to spend some time together.”
I turned around. It was the man from the road with the glowing red eyes. He held a saw in one hand and a chain in the other. He was smiling. I jolted awake. It took me a second to remember where I was. It was long enough for me to feel him coming at me from across the dark of our living room. His hand was on my ribs as I hit the light.
The second the light was on, he vanished. He can never come after me if I’m in the light. If I’m with someone in the dark, he paces on the edge of the darkness, just out of reach. It took me a while before I learned these rules. I now knew what tortures he had because my parents didn’t always wake me fast enough.
I found it miraculous Angela’s heart only spiked occasionally. I paid her a visit one day after her parents had left and unplugged her life support machine. Her eyes opened long enough to reflect pain and gratitude. Maybe he can’t reach us when we’re dead. I hope not.
It’s taken me several months to establish a system but I’ve got it down. He can’t come near me if another person, dog, or cat is in the room with me. I’ve been sleeping with our dog and a night light since the accident. It doesn’t take much light to keep him away but it has to be just enough to keep him out of the corners or I can feel him there. I always have a light of some kind with me.
He resents that I got away from him. If he can ever get me back, he is eager to punish me. It’s been six months and I’ve been able to stay away from him so far. I just have to stay out of the dark.