Here it is; after many months of not doing anything with it, here is my Halloween story.
Sugar-filled coffee and sugar-covered fried foods; every morning should start this way, he thought to himself. Ryan McCarthy patted his expanding belly and tried not to think about all of the things that could kill him hidden in his breakfast. His doctor talked to him about the threat of diabetes at his last physical, but he quickly put that thought out of his mind as well. Today, he had coffee and donuts and life was good.
He ate his donuts at the kitchen counter, giving his teenage son and “tween-age” daughter plenty of space to eat at the table. Neither of them were morning people and he had no desire to start a fight just by being happy in their presence. His wife, Cindy, had no qualms with upsetting either of them, because she sat down with some toast and orange juice while humming a song. It was something from the pop stations, but Ryan couldn’t remember what it was. It sounded familiar enough that the kids would get it though, and they wouldn’t like that their mom knew something they knew. Ryan took a sip of his coffee and decided to watch the show.
“Mom. Stop,” Daniel said.
“I can’t help myself,” she replied, “I have eighteen great years of marriage behind me with a wonderful husband, a brilliant twelve year old daughter with an incredible smile, and a seventeen year old son whose artistic talents are going to light up the faces of everyone… just as soon as he finishes high school and picks a college, of course. ” She said the last bit with a small smile on her lips.
Ryan braced for impact. College had been a big issue around the house at the moment and he knew it would set Daniel off.
“Mom,” Daniel said, and then he paused. He looked down at his food for a moment, looked back up at his mother and said with a sad look in his eye, “I’m going to miss you guys when I go. You know that, right?”
“I know that, honey,” she said with a softer expression on her face, “and we’re going to miss you just as much. But you’re going to take a different path soon. It won’t always be easy, and sometimes you’ll feel alone, but we’ll always be there with you.” Daniel smiled back with a slight tinge of sadness.
Holy shit, Ryan thought to himself, a happy breakfast and an open conversation; she’s a miracle worker. He watched in amazement as Daniel slid a hand across the table and Cindy reached out and squeezed it tight.
“Well I’m ready for you to get out,” Beth said in a snippy – sounding voice, “Your friends are annoying and you spend too much time in the bathroom spanking it.”
“Fuck you!” Daniel replied, his voice cracking in the process.
“Beth!” Cindy snapped back, “You need to cool it. Your brother and I were talking and you don’t need to interrupt just for the attention.”
Beth stuck her tongue out at Daniel and then went back to her food.
And life returns to normal, Ryan thought. He took the last few sips of his coffee and headed upstairs.
Ryan adjusted his tie in the mirror hanging off the back of the bedroom door. He turned around and stared longingly at the bed. It’s sheets still left in disarray and looking as though someone were still nestled snugly within them. Only sixteen more hours, he thought, then I can go back to the comfiest place on earth. He let out a small sigh and then Ryan reluctantly turned around and headed towards his car.
He walked outside with his head down, not paying a bit of attention to where he was going. When he finally looked up, he noticed he was standing at the passenger door of Daniel’s car.
“God damn it, Daniel,” Ryan muttered under his breath, “why did you park here?” Ryan started to turn around and head back into the house when he felt the hard smack of concrete against his skull. His head rang out in pain, his vision went white for a moment, and his heart started to race.
He had just started to realize he was staring up at the morning sky when he felt a long, bony hand grab his leg. Ryan wanted to scream, but was in too much shock when he found himself dragged under his son’s car. The back of his shirt scraped across the pavement as his face and body simultaneously smashed into the underside of the car and passed straight through it.
The pain was intense. His nose burst open in a spray of blood as it made contact with the drive train underneath the center of the car. His portly stomach had long gashes torn into it from the various nuts and bolts it snagged on. And yet, at the same time he Ryan felt himself slipped easily past each and every object.
Ryan came to a stop just on the other side of the car. Most of his body was free, but his head was pinned directly under the driver’s side tire. The hand on his leg had finally let go and Ryan prepared himself to run. Then he willed himself to get up and run. Then he forced himself to get up and run. Then he begged himself to get up and run.
But nothing happened. He remained pinned to the ground, his body betraying him. His mind begged to scream, but he couldn’t do that either. He was completely paralyzed. His entire body screamed in pain and his breath raced in terror, but all he could do was lie there.
His eyes were open and facing toward the back tire. His mind slowed down from its base, instinctual reflexes and began to allow him to form coherent thoughts when the creature appeared in front of him. The sight caused him to lose control once again.
The human, yet vaguely faceless creature was both there and not. The apparition seemed to shift from a skeletal shape, then muscles, and then a black, velvety skin all forming directly on top of each other over and over again. The cycles were happening at least once every second, if not faster. At the end of each cycle, it would blink out of existence for just a moment and then the cycle would begin again.
The right half of its human-like body seemed to be passing through the driveway while the other half was floating in the space between the ground and the car. It put one rapidly changing hand up to its mouth and it let out a shushing sound. It came closer, getting its face right up to his, and in the moments the dark flesh appeared on its body it seemed to be giving ryan a gentle and caring smile. It let out a series of unintelligible sounds that seemed to coincide with the changes in its shape. When it was a skeleton it simply made a hollow wind sound; when it became a muscled yet skinless creature it would make a mournful moaning; finally when it would reach its final form it almost seemed to be forming words. The changes were happening so rapidly though that all three sounds blended together in a cacophony of noises.
The creature flew away for a moment, then re-appeared in front of Ryan. It raised one hand, placed it on his shoulder, made a few more unintelligible noises, then stopped regenerating.
Ryan laid there in shock, pinned under the tire. His body was wracked with pain and his mind felt as though it were coming apart at the seams. He felt the cool concrete underneath him heating up under his own panic sweat. It was a small thing, but the recognition that he was sweating and it seemed to affect the world around him brought his mind back into focus and allowed him to think again.
Ok. Ok. Ok. Your sweat and your heat are causing the concrete to heat up. That’s good. (godithurtsgodithurtsgodithurts) No, that’s bad. That means you’re actually here. You’re not dreaming this. (godithurtsmypantsarewetwhatwasthatthing) But that doesn’t make any sense. How is any of this physically possible? And why can’t I move? Wait, am I having a stroke? Do these things happen when you have a stroke? (mybellyhurtsithurtssobaddeargodhelp) Is this an aneurysm or something? How bad am I bleeding?
Ryan made a few more desperate attempts to move, but found that nothing worked. He couldn’t even blink.
(Thetireispushingtoohardithurtsgetitoff) Dear God, let Cindy find me before Daniel. Please. I don’t want him to see me like this. That thing was a hallucination, right? Fucking Christ, it had to have been. But if that was a hallucination, then how did I get to this side of the car?
Ryan’s thoughts and subconscious ramblings went on for several more minutes, then he heard the front door. He heard his son say goodbye to his Cindy as he closed the door behind him.
God, please, Ryan pleaded, please don’t let him see me. He’s a good kid and I don’t want him to see me like this.
Ryan couldn’t look up, but he knew that Daniel was getting close. He heard Daniel’s footsteps come around the front of the car, then, nothing. No scream, no gasp, nothing at all.
Then Ryan heard the sound of Daniel fishing around for his keys. He heard them come out of his pocket, but there was still no reaction from Daniel.
What the fuck is happening? Ryan wondered, Am I not really here after all? Thank you Lord! This must just be a dream! There’s no way he can’t see me AAAHHHHH!!!
The pain of having his ribs shattered and his organs smashed against the other side of his body would have sent him into involuntary spasms and caused him to black out. It would have, except it wasn’t happening at the same time it was. He simultaneously felt the pain and felt nothing at all. He realized Daniel hadn’t kicked him. Daniel had stepped through him.
Another blast of searing pain came as Daniel took a second step directly through his father.
This isn’t happening. It can’t be. I feel fine and not fine. How is that possible?
Daniel stepped into the car and shut the door. Ryan felt a new sense of terror well up within him.
Fuck! He didn’t see me! What if he tries to take off? Why the fuck can’t he see me? God what is happening?
Ryan heard the car rumble to life.
God! Help me! Please! Daniel doesn’t even know I’m here! Just let him see me or notice me! Something! Anything! Please let this whole thing just be a dream!
Ryan heard the car shift out of park and into reverse. As it did, Ryan felt something he hadn’t felt since this whole ordeal began; he felt whole.
Just let them know how much I loved them.
Given the nature of the crime, Daniel McCarthy was tried as an adult. It was determined that there was no way he could have not seen his father as he entered the car and he was sentenced to life in prison. Daniel always claimed to be innocent, but was never able to offer any solid explanation.
Cindy refused to speak up at the trial. She honestly didn’t know how to react. Losing both her husband and her son in one brief moment tore her apart. She kept herself together during the trial, but over the years grief took over and her sanity started to slip.
Tragedies are defining moments in people’s lives. They change the reflection of the past and make indelible changes to the arc of people’s lives. When a family is torn apart by tragedy, it can send the survivors into disparate directions. Though the tragedy of Ryan McCarthy’s death affected them all, it was only meant to change the course of one.
This is the story of Beth McCarthy.