By Kate Alexander-Kirk
The body lay before her, rigid and lacking any trace of life or personality. Zoë’s most morbid fantasies could never have prepared her for her first encounter with a dead human being. She felt glued to the spot as if she had, in some childish dare, stuck her tongue out on a frozen pole. Terror and panic gurgled in the pit of her stomach as hysteria threatened to engulf her. A fellow pedestrian finally “unstuck” her, guided her to the safety of the pavement, away from the growing crowd. The person tried to comfort her in a quiet, calming fashion, but the words were mere gibberish. Somehow, Zoë managed to tell the person where she lived and who should be contacted to come and retrieve her.
At school the next day all her friends wanted to talk about was the accident that she had witnessed.
“What was it like?” Casey demanded.
“Did you get a good look at the body?” Craig said as he licked his lips.
“Was there a crowd? Was anyone sick? Was the pavement all covered in blood and guts and spew and shit?” Mark grinned, his eyes wide, desperate.
Zoë cringed as she listened to their lurid questions in the playground. Somehow this brush with death lifted her above her peers. She closed her eyes to escape the sight of them but her mind was filled with the image of the young woman sprawled across the road, limbs twisted and tangled like a rag-doll that a child had discarded without care or grace. The left leg was flung at a right angle to the right and the left arm was wrenched by the impact of the vehicle, straight from its socket so that it lay broken and deformed - useless. Zoë’s mind was scarred with the gruesome distortion of the young woman’s features. The blood smeared across what may once have been a beautiful face. The nose smashed beyond repair and the jaw knocked out of line with the rest of her profile. Zoë shuddered at the memory that was now etched in vivid detail.
Her friends’ questions replayed in her mind, even weeks later. She couldn’t understand the cruel, impersonal, voyeuristic nature of their gruesome curiosity. They referred to the victim as “it”.
Zoë grew more distant from them as they had refused to acknowledge that this victim was a real person with relationships that were now shattered. She soon found that she could block out the echo of their thoughtless, unkind jibes. But she could never quite escape the screeching of brakes and the faint odour of rubber from the friction of tyres on asphalt as the driver made their desperate and despicable escape. The crowd of people gawping; astonished and appalled, before the harshest memory of all: the crushing of bones, fragile as egg shells being trampled underfoot.
Copyright ©2012 Kate Alexander-Kirk. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form, including electronic, without the author’s express permission.
Kate Alexander-Kirk drinks copious amounts of tea as she dreams up weird and wonderful stories that she one day hopes to realise. And she does it all donning her Top Hat at a jaunty angle. Her work has appeared previously in Long Story Short, amphibi.us, Postcard Shorts and is soon to be published in Pure Slush, Negative Suck and Winamop.