This story is by Sabrina Nelson and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Loretta sat up, shivering from a cold sweat, her heart feeling like it could break through her chest. She winced in pain, turning her head towards the dream catcher on the wall, hoping it caught the nightmare. Glancing at the clock, 4:15 am, she knew sleep wouldn’t come again.
Quietly pushing herself out of bed, grabbing her cashmere robe, she gasped. Bruises covered her shins. Bile rose in her throat, remembering the feeling of hitting the dashboard as the car rose and fell, running over something. “It was just a deer,” she whispered under her breath. She shivered, pulling her robe closer as she left the bedroom.
The soft glow of the overhead stove light welcomed her to the kitchen. She ran her fingers over her temples. Tossing back the Advil and refilling the glass from the sink, she leaned against the counter, waiting for the pulsing in her head to subside. The snow began gathering on the gable windows above the sink; she thought about the windshield wipers on the car last night. Back and forth, the wipers struggled to keep up with the pace of the falling snow as they weaved along the dark road.
Suddenly goosebumps stood up the hairs on her arms and neck. The kitchen filled with an eerie silence, even the soft patter of ice hitting the window stopped. Shaking her head, she pushed the grim thoughts away.
Sipping her water, Loretta focused on the hum of the coffee grinder cutting through the silence. She shuddered, feeling the fuzz of her teeth on her tongue, the taste of stale wine still in her mouth. Tamping down the ground beans, Loretta bent over to attach the portafilter to the machine. Screeching, she jumped back, the portafilter and coffee grounds splattering to the floor with a heavy clank.
Loretta grasped the granite countertops, careful not to lose her grip, her stomach at her feet. Forcing her eyes open, she glanced behind her and back to the espresso machine, shaking her head. “It was nothing,” she whispered to herself. But she couldn’t get the site of a man in a torn business suit out of her mind, his face distorted and bloodied.
Taking a deep breath, she sat at the table, pulling her phone out, and glancing through the headlines; landing on a local story,
-April 14th Point View, CO- Following the abnormal off-season snowstorm last night police are investigating a vehicular accident on Terrace Drive with a single fatality. The incident appears to have been a hit-and-run. The deceased has been identified as Maxwell Schmidt, a prominent local pediatrician. Police are seeking any tips regarding the incident. The family has put up a $10K reward for any information leading to an arrest. –
Dropping the phone with a clang, Loretta ran to the bedroom. “MITCH, you need to wake up,” her voice shrill. She felt the world spinning around her. “MITCH” She screamed, shaking Mitch violently.
Groaning, Mitch rolled over. “You’re bleeding,” she whispered. Loretta’s hands shook as she pushed Mitch’s hair from his face. “Did you sleepwalk again?” She asked, her voice soft with concern.
“No, Loretta, I didn’t sleepwalk,” Mitch grumped, his voice raspy and deep. Loretta winced; she could still smell the bourbon on his breath.
“Mitch…I saw a picture of the “deer,” she hissed, putting air quotes up with her fingers.
“Loretta, let me go take a piss,” Mitch said, pushing himself out of bed. He winced and moaned, making his way to the bathroom. “Damn, I feel like I’ve been run over,” he grumbled.
“Mitch, are you seriously saying that” Loretta yelled; she could feel the heat creeping up her neck. Unease washed over her, and she felt like someone was watching. Staring straight ahead, refusing to look around the room, she focused on the long sound of Mitch in the restroom.
“Loretta, now what are you hollering about? You saw the damn deer on the news,” Mitch said, stomping out of the restroom.
She took a deep breath, gaining the courage to look at Mitch. “There was a news story, and it was a man…on the same road we hit the deer,” she choked up. “And then Mitch. I saw him in the coffee maker,” she whispered. Cowering, she braced herself for his reaction. He despised her ghostly beliefs.
“Loretta, I think you may still be drunk or hit your head. We hit a damn deer, and now it’s too cold to wash the damn blood off today.” He took a deep breath before continuing, “I’m going to take some Advil. Get some water and lay back down. I feel like death.”
Loretta sank further into herself at Mitch’s sick joke. Before she could gather the courage to continue, she caught the movement in the mirror. She tried to scream, but fear overtook her. Refusing to look back, she pleaded with the mirror
“Just go away, okay? I’ll go to the police.” Suddenly as quickly as he was there, it was gone. She let out a sigh, the steam of her breath dancing in front of her face.
“MITCH” she screamed, running towards her husband. “What’s wrong,” she asked, falling to her knees in the doorway.
“My chest hurts, and I’m cold, was I hit with something? Mitch whispered with labored breath and confusion.
“Let me call 911,” she said, startled by what she thought was a snow flurry over Mitch’s body.
“No, I don’t need a damn ambulance. It is too expensive. Just get me to the car,” Mitch moaned, standing up and grabbing onto her.
She knew there was no arguing with him now. “I’ve got you,” she said, putting her arm around him.
Walking into the garage, she averted her eyes from the car’s grill. Bile ran up her throat, trying to make sense of what she had seen. “Let’s go around back,” she said, walking slowly, “Mitch, we have to go to the police,” she begged, leaning against the back of the car, her legs burning with fatigue.
“Open the garage. It smells like a dead animal here,” Mitch moaned, pushing himself off Loretta and onto the car.
Letting go of Mitch’s waist, quickly spinning around she jumped in the front seat. Squinting her eyes she quickly looked down as light filled the garage. “I am going to warm up the car,” she said, shivering as the snow began blowing in. Adjusting the mirror, she yelled just as Mitch fell to the floor. Without worrying about what Mitch would think, she quickly punched 911 into her phone.
“Hello, this is 911; what’s your emergency?” The operator’s voice rang through the vehicle.
“My husband” Loretta looked back towards Mitch and screamed. The man sat behind her, his face distorted. His lips were a ghoulish blue, and his skin translucent.
“Yes, ma’am, what’s your emergency?”
“He’s hurt. I tried to get him in the car,” Loretta sputtered.
“Do you need police, fire, or EMS?” the woman asked.
“EMS,” Loretta said, shaking as she looked back again. This time the man was gone. “Yes, EMS, Please,” she said.
The locks went down on the car, and the engine began to rev. Loretta fumbled around for the parking brake as snow danced around her.
“Ma’am, are you okay,” the woman asked.
“No, no,” Loretta waved her hands frantically.
“Please..p..p..please,” she whispered to the translucent man standing in front of the car. Loretta shook her head at seeing the garage wall where his arm should have been.
“Ma’am, are you safe,” the woman asked again
The car lurched back. Mitch’s yells pierced the garage.
“NO, NO” Loretta screamed. “NO, I ran over him! Oh my god!” She yelled, trying to open the locked door.
“Ma’am, did you say you ran over him,” the woman asked? “Ma’am, police are en route.”
Loretta could hear radio calls from the woman’s desk.” Okay,” she said. Tumbling out of the car, Loretta ran towards Mitch. She dropped to her knees, vomiting at the sound of crunching bones under the rolling tires. “Mitch, can you hear me?” she whispered, feeling for his hand, his body now trapped. Mitch gave one last shuttering breath and then silence. “Mitch,” she muttered, tears falling down her cheeks.
“I told you I would go to the police,” she screamed at the heavy stillness of the garage. “It was an accident,” she yelled. “Mitch hang on with me; okay, the EMS is coming,” she pleaded fruitlessly. Loretta looked towards the street, the wail of sirens grew closer, but it was too late. An unease ran over her. Looking back at Mitch, she let out a silent scream. Her leg twisting to match the man standing in front of her in his torn and bloodied business suit.