Ethan watched from his rearview mirror as Tanner tumbled across the hard pavement. His blond head hit the ground followed by a tangle of arms and legs. Metal scrapping against asphalt split the night, grinding flesh and paint, forever unforgiving.
“How hard did you hit his bike?” Ethan asked, suddenly concerned when his friend didn’t try to get up. Slamming on the breaks, the car skidded to a stop in the middle of the road. Ethan and Amanda both turned and watched Tanner, still lying on the ground in a heap.
Silvery shadows from the moonlight cast an eerie glow over the limp body in the middle of the road.
“Mandy,” Ethan’s voice trembled, “I think you hurt him.”
A mixture of fear and anger flushed her face as they continued to watch him. “He’s probably just faking. You know how Tanner is. He’s waiting for us to get out so he can jump up and yell, ‘gotcha.’”
“No, I think you hurt him really bad!” Before she could stop him, Ethan threw the car into park and jumped out of the car.
Ethan raced over to where Tanner was laying. The closer he got, the more he could see Tanner twisting on the ground. His moans were ragged with desperate gasps for air. Blood dripped over his face, matting his blond hair to his forehead.
“Oh my god.” Ethan muttered, dropping to his knees, he watched Tanner struggle for each labored breath. “It’s okay…it’s going to be okay…” Ethan said over and over, trying to convince himself as much as to help keep Tanner calm.
“Amanda,” He shouted into the night, “Tanner’s hurt and he needs help--”
“Get up, Ethan!” Amanda demanded from behind him. Her voice was harsh and calculating as she waited for her boyfriend to obey her command.
Ignoring her, Ethan remained focused on his injured friend. “You hit him instead of the bike! We have to call someone,” Ethan cried.
“I mean it,” She said, giving Ethan a shove from behind that had him looking over his shoulder for the first time. The gun gleamed in the moonlight. She pointed it at his head before turning it back to Tanner.
Writhing in pain, Tanner gulped at the cool night air, trying to fill his heavy lungs. His scared blue eyes darted to Ethan. Tanner opened his mouth and tried to speak, but only gurgling sounds rattled his chest.
“He’s dying!” Ethan growled, still on his knees.
“He was going to get all of us in trouble…maybe even get us kicked out of school. How many colleges do you think are going to scout you or the twins once you’ve been expelled for cheating? Huh? What about Sunny or Bethany, do you think they’ll still be able to go to college
now? I don’t know about you, but life as a knocked-up cashier, making minimum wage at the Save-A-Lot on Main Street doesn’t sound very fucking appealing to me.”
Ethan fisted his fingers through his black hair while listening to Amanda’s twisted lies.
“He would have destroyed everything…and he still can. If we call someone, he’ll tell them that it was you that hit him. That’s what he wants, Ethan, can’t you see that? Tanner wants you out of the picture so he can have everything for himself. Your spot on the football team, your girlfriend, your life!”
She pulled Ethan reluctantly to his feet. His eyes nervously darted between her and Tanner’s broken body. Amanda’s eyes were hard and unremorseful. “Come on,” She shoved him back towards the car, “before someone sees us.”
“P-p-pleeease,” Tanner reached out to Ethan for help. His bloody fingers twitched as they stretched out towards his once best friend, but there was no use. Amanda led Ethan into the darkness and within moments, the only evidence that they were ever there was their taillights disappearing into the night.
“So, did you like the Chinese restaurant?” Jonathan asked Gibby as they made their way back towards Shepherd’s Crook. The night was brighter than it had been since moving here. The harvest moon cast a silvery glimmer that bathed the chilly night in an unnaturally radiant light. The sky was always so difficult to see back in the city, but out here in the valley, the moon and the stars filled the country night.
“Meh, it was alright.” Gibby shrugged his shoulder rather indifferent while his eyes watched the trees pass by the window outside their SUV.
Jonathan smiled. The Golden Dragon had been Gibby’s favorite restaurant back home and when the guys at the lab told him about an authentic little place near the mall, he hoped it would make his son happy. “Just alright?”
Gibby nodded his head, “Yeah, it was okay.”
It wasn’t a commitment one way or the other, but Jonathan chuckled at his son. Admitting that it was, ‘okay’ was as close as he was going to get to an approval.
Two white cartons holding leftovers were tucked into a paper bag along with a few extra fortune cookies the waitress was kind enough to slip in. Gibby tapped his fingers against the outside of the rough paper bag to the tempo of the rock music playing on the radio. He’d had a good night. Shopping at the mall made him feel like a normal teenager again.
They chatted and listened to the radio as they headed home. Passing the school complex, Gibby’s eyes darted to the empty bicycle rack on top of the hill near the main entrance. It was silly to think that Tanner could still be there at this time of night, but thoughts of catching a glimpse of the boy had his pulse starting to race.
Rounding a bend in the road, still on the outskirt of town, Jonathan suddenly saw red and white flashing lights. He slowed down to get a better view of the emergency vehicles blocking the road up ahead. Officer Blackfeather recognized Jonathan and waved him down.
“Evening Officer,” Jonathan’s eyes peered towards the ambulance parked in front of the patrol car.
“Dr. Robinson,” The tall officer tipped his dark head to Jonathan, who was craning his neck trying to see what was going on. “Do you mind giving us a hand?” He politely asked, “There’s something…there’s something we need your help with.”
Jonathan’s brows rose at the way the officer carefully phrased his request. With Gibby sitting in the car beside him, the man probably didn’t want to say anything that would be too disturbing to a kid. Jonathan had seen him around town a couple of times and knew that he had kids of his own.
“Sure,” Jonathan said while unfastening his seatbelt. He didn’t have to tell Gibby to stay in the car. He gave his son a quick wink since he knew his son well enough to know that if a car accident sat on the other side of the emergency vehicles barricading the path, Gibby wouldn’t want to see it.
The officer leaned in closer as he and Jonathan made a path through the cars before disappearing behind the flashing lights.
“Do you know what happened?” The unexpected voice from the backseat startled Gibby. He let out a bloodcurdling scream and tossed the bag of leftovers into the air. Thank goodness it was packed tight or Chinese food would have gone everywhere.
“Jesus, Tanner!” Gibby shouted at his classmate, suddenly leaning forward between the front seats of the SUV. Embarrassed by his high-pitched girly scream, Gibby’s cheeks flushed red, mortified that the cutest guy in school had just scared the living daylights out of him.
“What are you doing here?” Glancing around the darkness, Gibby expected to see the rest of Tanner’s friends lurking outside in the cold, just dying to get some juicy information about the accident up ahead. He didn’t see any of them, but Gibby rolled his eyes anyways, sure that they had put Tanner up to finding out what all the activity was about.
“Well, did you see it or not? Where you here when it happened?” Tanner asked keeping his eyes focused on the flurry of emergency personnel scurrying around ahead of them.
“What, you think that just because my dad’s a doctor and they asked him to help out, that I’d know what’s going on? Seriously? You guys are pathetic! You can go back and tell your stupid friends that, too. Even if I did know something, I sure as hell wouldn’t tell them…especially, not that heinous bitch, Amanda Grady!”
Tanner frowned. The ambulance suddenly gave several long beeps as it started backing up. His face looked paler than usual compared to the gorgeous suntanned glow of his normal complexion, actually Tanner was white as a ghost tonight.
Gibby nibbled on his lower lip, maybe the thought of someone getting hurt had really freaked out Tanner. The guy didn’t seem like a douchebag like the rest of his friends and Gibby started to feel bad for yelling at him.
“Look, Tanner, what are you doing here anyways?” Gibby softened his tone.
Waiting for him to answer, the sirens on the ambulance started to chirp, signally that it was ready for departure. Several bystanders still milled around. By the shocked looks on their faces, Gibby could tell that whatever had happened here, it wasn’t good.
“I think they’re going to start letting traffic--” Gibby was interrupted by the driver’s door suddenly opening. The interior lights instantly turned on with the door handle, chasing away the shadows of the night.
“Who are you talking to?” Jonathan glanced towards Gibby’s hands expecting to see his cellphone turned on.
“I was talking to a kid from school…” As Gibby turned in his seat to point to Tanner sitting behind him, he noticed that the backseat was now empty. That was odd. Gibby didn’t hear the door open when Tanner left and now that he thought about it, staring up at the bright dome light, the interior lights hadn’t turned on when Tanner had gotten in the car either.
“…I guess he left.” An uneasy feeling washed over Gibby as Jonathan put the car in drive and headed towards home.
Gibby wasn’t surprised when Jonathan told him that he had to go to the hospital after dropping him off at home. Letting himself in, Gibby turned on the porch lights before heading to the kitchen to put the leftovers in the fridge. There was no telling how long his father was going to be, so Gibby didn’t bother with any of the other interior lights; instead, he just made his way upstairs to his bedroom.
Swimming in the therapy pool the other night stirred his longing for the water again, so he settled for the next best thing. Grabbing a box of Epsom salt out of the medicine cabinet, Gibby started to fill the tub with hot water before dumping a generous portion into the clear water.
The water made a sudden sizzling sound as the salt contacted the warm liquid, instantly dissolving the granules. Steam rose from the water coating the bathroom surfaces with a moist sheen.
Gibby set a towel and washcloth on the edge of the clawfoot tub. It was one of his few pleasures since moving here, he secretly loved his private bathroom. The antique feel with the exposed piping and black and white checkerboard tiles made the room one of his favorite.
Turning off the overhead lights and leaving on only the single chrome dome over the mirror above the sink, Gibby waited for the water to reach the drain.
“Aaaah” Gibby purred as the delicious sensation of the hot water caressed his skin. He sank lower until his chin was at water level. With just his toes and the top of his head poking out of the water, he closed his eyes, enjoying the wonderful feeling.
The salt eased the tension in his muscles and loosened the scar tissue covering his body. Humming softly to himself, Gibby lingered on the edge of dreamland.
“Did your dad find out what happened?” Tanner’s voice ripped Gibby out of sleep.
“What the fuck!” Gibby yelled as his eyes flashed open and he saw Tanner leaning against the bathroom doorframe. His arms were folded over his chest while he stood there watching Gibby in the tub.
Water gushed over the sides of the tub, splashing to the floor with a crash when Gibby jumped out of the tub. Trembling, Gibby’s mind raced. “What are you doing here?” He demanded. Did he forget to lock the front door? Is that how Tanner had gotten into their house?
Effects of the soothing warm water while fantasizing about sexy guys on the school’s football team, one handsome blond guy in particular, had Gibby sporting a thick boner. Tanner’s blue eyes dipped lower over Gibby’s body and then grinned at his state of arousal. Embarrassed by Tanner watching him, Gibby snatched the towel from the edge of the tub and pressed it against his groin.
“Shit, Tanner!” Gibby growled as he stomped across the wet floor, angry and ready to confront the teenage boy. “I want you to get the fuck out of my house, right now!”
“Wait,” Tanner held up his hands, trying to stop Gibby, who continued stalking towards him. Rushing forward, Gibby wouldn’t listen to Tanner, even after their bodies collided. Icy chills blasted through Gibby’s chest when he passed through Tanner’s body.
“Oh my god,” Gibby gasped as he spun around on his heels, turning back to face Tanner still standing in the middle of the doorway in a shimmery white mist.
Tanner’s body pulsed for a moment before returning to a solid form. His blond hair made a golden halo around his head. Tanner stepped closer to Gibby giving him a weak smile he said, “I think I’m dead.”
I wrote this story as a screenplay a few years ago. I’m not sure if you all know or not, but my mom died 2 months ago and while reading her journals, I found some of her entries about my writing and this story:
02/02/2008 ~ I just finished reading KC’s story. It is very good. I thought I was reading a known author with experience. The story made me cry, but maybe I can talk him into changing it for a happier ending, I’ll try.