No one ever told me what it’s like when it finds you, actually finds you. It drills into you like a dart, cold fingers flicking over your veins until you don’t feel them anymore and the only thing you can feel is the pain deep inside your chest.
I guess no one’s ever made it as far as me and remembered.
I thought that maybe I’d see my life flash before my eyes or Grandma with outstretched arms, waiting for me. They said it got her, too, all those years ago, when no one really knew what it was and there wasn’t a rule against going out at night. There one moment, not there the next, and they realized it could happen to anyone.
Instead, I see Lily. Baby Lily, toddling around in brand-new red shoes that she walked through a mud puddle in. Five-year-old Lily, princess backpack strapped to her back, ready for her first day of kindergarten. Six-year-old Lily, shoving her first lost tooth into the depths of her pillowcase, praying that she wouldn’t fall asleep before the Tooth Fairy arrived. Eight-year-old Lily baking her first batch of cupcakes, red velvet of course. Lily now, eyes bright, telling her class that it’s her birthday tomorrow and that she’s bringing cupcakes.
I want to reach out to her, hold her one last time, tell her how sorry I am for making fun of how the cake batter looked in the bowl, but I can’t. She probably doesn’t even know I’m gone.
My eyes are screwed shut, but I hear it. Them.
“What’s wrong with her? Why isn’t it working?”
“I don’t…I don’t know, Master, I’ve tried everything.”
“You didn’t try hard enough. She was supposed to be under when you brought her to me.”
That voice. I know that voice. I heard it through the kitchen windows on hot summer days. I heard it when we rode the school bus together and talked about how dumb the cool kids looked in their expensive shoes and over-groomed faces. I heard it when we promised each other that if we were still single at forty, we would just marry each other and get it over with. I heard it scream when I imagined the six-inch gash down the ridge of his spine.
My eyes fly open.