True Colors

He+thinks+he%E2%80%99s+the+victim+of+this+situation%2C+but+he+knows+more+than+he+thinks+he+does.%0A%28Photo+courtesy+of+Pixabay%2C+photo+credits+to+Republica%29.

Republica

He thinks he’s the victim of this situation, but he knows more than he thinks he does. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to Republica).

October always puts me on edge, as if the howl of the wind holds secrets. With the world being too cold to bear, people pull on layers to protect themselves. Darkness battles for more time, leaving daylight waning. Despite this all, I admire the variety of the leaves as they drift to the ground, finding their place. Their true colors show in the bareness of fall.

The clouds shelter the sun, casting a gloomy view as I drive. My GPS guides me down the highway with the hum of the car as the only reprieve from silence. The lack of cars quickly draws my attention before the toll road sign appears on the roadside. 

“Of course it takes me to a toll road,” I mumble under my breath, chancing a look at my console to find spare change. I glance back up, finding an old Honda Civic about a mile ahead. I could faintly make out a ‘CMS’ sticker.

“Huh,” I mutter to myself, “another victim of my former school.” I return to my hunt for money, searching in my glove compartment. A loud screech sounds off and my head snaps up so fast I could’ve sworn I got whiplash.

Ahead of me, a car is lying overturned towards the edge of the road. No other car is in sight, but skid marks run along the highway. 

I immediately pull over behind the car and hurriedly unbuckle my seatbelt. Shivers run down my spine as if someone is watching me. I ran towards the flipped car glancing in every direction only to find nothing out of the ordinary.

When I reach the driver, she’s dangling upside down with her seatbelt strapped across her chest, protecting her from falling and worsening her head wound. The woman’s head is a nauseating sight; her head is cracked open with a concerning amount of blood dripping from it. Through her half-consciousness, her eyes find mine. I know her from high school. What is her name…Avery? Ava? Aria?

I reach out to unbuckle her seatbelt but she leans away, screaming, “No, Wayne. Wayne, please stop!”

I pause in my efforts, searching for something to say. At this point she curls away from me, flailing her body as best as she can. Why can’t I recall her name?

“Help! Help!” the girl screams, twisting and turning.

“Let me help you; you’re going to die if you stay like that,” I reason. Wait, is it Amira? Amber?

My former classmate ignores me, and with renewed intensity, struggles even harder. She can’t quite reach her seatbelt from her position and uses the windshield for leverage. She kicks and kicks with her energy draining as I yell for her to stop.

Amelia, I thought, that’s it.  As I opened my mouth to call her, she unbuckles her seatbelt with a final kick and breaks her neck as she hits the ground. 

Amelia lies still on the floor of the car and shock rushes through my body. I’m silently processing what happened with the wind’s whispers oddly bringing me comfort.

Heading back to my car, I grab my phone from the console, call 911, and relay the events.

They arrive 15 minutes later, giving me enough time to pull my thoughts together. The police question me afterward, but I don’t think I was much help. The rest of the day is like an out of body experience. I don’t remember exactly what happened; things blurred together after the accident.

The police never find the driver of the hit and run. It becomes added to the list of unsolved cases, never to be heard of again. The fear that pushed her to her death lingers in the back of my mind.

Life continued, though somewhat numbly, reminding me again why I disliked October. In an attempt to clear my head, I headed to an old summer camp I attended as a child. My conscience remained heavy and it bled into my actions. The steps I took were heavy, my breaths were quick, and my eyes were frantic. I look like a madman from afar, like I’m burdened by the world. 

While approaching the dock, I see something drifting in the water. No, wait, it’s a person. 

“Hey,” I call out to the person, “You come around here too?”

The person surfaces, a teenage girl, and replies sarcastically, “Yeah, went to summer camp here like five summers ago. Let me guess, you too, right?”

I scoff. “Wait, what’s your name?”

She rolls her eyes, “Yeah okay, Wayne, pretend like you don’t know me.” She turns her back to me continuing to wade in the water.

I glance around, raking my mind for a name or anything, but I came up with nothing.

“Okay, really, I don’t know your name. You seem familiar though…” I trail off.

She faces me with an unimpressed look. “You’re ridiculous Wayne. We date one time and you pretend like you don’t know me. I swear this is why we broke up in the first place…and probably Amelia too.”

I could’ve promised my heart stopped for a moment, long enough for my blood to go cold. In the back of my mind, I can make out the rambling of my supposed ex-girlfriend, but the leaves rustling in the wind seem to be louder than usual. Eventually, I zone back in to find her still talking.

“– like really, you act like I’m a complete stranger. And for what? I–never mind, if you can’t remember my name, you don’t deserve to know it.”

I sigh, closing my eyes and rubbing my face in hopes to calm myself. I’m was on number 3 of my count, when I heard her scream. My eyes fly open and something appears to be dragging her down as she fights to stay afloat. I dash in after her, diving into the water, dragging her up to the surface. By then, she’s unresponsive. With what seems like superhuman effort, I haul her on land. I check her pulse and start performing CPR.

It doesn’t work. She never wakes up. 

Just like before, the emergency responders place her into a black body bag. An officer approaches me as I sit in the back of an ambulance truck. “Hey, son. You know her name by any chance? We have to call her parents to inform them.”

“Zoey,” I murmur. The words leave my mouth before I can think about it. 

The officer grabs my shoulder reassuringly. “We’re going to figure this out. We will.”

I wasn’t too certain about that.

My parents and the police are convinced someone is targeting me. They think my ex-girlfriends’ deaths are just the start. That doesn’t provide any solace. It takes weeks for my parents to become comfortable with me going anywhere by myself.

About a month after the last accident, I leave my parent’s house to pick up a pizza. The streetlights begin to shine and the sun has already set, but its aura remains. I almost bump into someone, as I’m engrossed in my phone.

“Sorry,” I apologized without looking up. “My bad.”

“Whatever,” a girl’s voice responds.

After I buy the pizzas, I walk back to my car with the wind blowing on slivers on my exposed skin. I readjust my grip and glance around to find a teenage girl leaning against my car.

“What–who are you?” I ask. This didn’t feel right…

“Who killed them Wayne? I’m serious. I don’t want to die,” she investigates sternly.

I shake my head, “I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know.” It seems like a prayer more than a statement.

“I don’t believe you!” She yells, shoving the boxes of pizza out of my hand.

She–Maya throws a punch, leaving me stumbling back, rushing to cover my face. Maya comes closer to punch me again when she suddenly stops mid-air. I cautiously lower my hands to find her frozen with shock. Her hands fall to her stomach and I see it, a knife is lodged in her stomach. Maya takes several steps away from me until her back hit her car and she slides downward, leaving blood streaking my car. 

I creep towards her as she shakes her head, tears start to stream down her face. 

“What-what happened?” I ask softly, afraid to break the silence.

Her head slumps down, but her eyes follow me, “You happened, Wayne.”

I lean down, hoping to apply pressure to the wound when a folded sheet of paper falls out.

After unfolding it, it reads three words in a list:

Amelia

Zoey

Maya

“I don’t get it. Why would I have this? Why was it you three?” I mumble to myself more than to her.

She chuckles mirthlessly. “Shouldn’t you be asking yourself that?”

I peer at the knife lodged in Maya’s stomach to find small letters carved on the handle that read: Wayne R.

“No, no, no, I didn’t–I wouldn’t–” I stand to my feet to find myself staring at my reflection in the car window. It was me, but my eyes were soulless, hollow. Bags hung from my eyes and lines creased my face. That was nothing compared to the drops of blood scattered across from my face. 

I’m left breathless as the wind whistles around me. Tears flood my vision and I glance back at Maya. “I’m sorry. I really am.”

After seconds of silence from her, I assume she died before she could respond to my apology.

Her voice did reply though. “For some reason, I don’t believe you.” Maya stares a second longer before her head goes slack. 

I hate October, but I guess I’m more like the leaves than I realize. Both of us show our true colors.