As I mentioned the other day, my new short story “As She Lay There Dying” will be published in Shivers VII edited by Richard Chizmar. Some of the other authors in the book include: Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ed Gorman, Bill Pronzini, Lisa Tuttle, Graham Masterton, Kaaron Warren, Del James, Lisa Morton, Roberta Lannes, Scott Nicholson, Bev Vincent, Norman Prentiss, and many others.
Here is a small preview of my story:
“As She Lay There Dying”
by Brian James Freeman
The roads were wet from another morning of April showers, and the co-ed freshman lying on the pavement was missing part of her head. Her legs were twisted awkwardly under her body and there was blood on the sidewalk. One of her tattered running shoes had landed on the other side of the street, knocked clear of the scene of the accident. A broken iPod lay just beyond her hand.
The dying girl wore mesh shorts and a pink shirt featuring the Haverton Field Hockey logo. She was sprawled next to the curb at the entrance to the school’s grounds, directly in front of the big stone wall with the sign proclaiming “Welcome to Haverton College.”
“Oh shit,” Sam whispered, turning to the bushes and vomiting. The English professor wasn’t alone in his horror.
A secretary named Marge Wilson held the girl’s hand. At the time of the accident Marge had been walking to the pizza parlor just off campus to pick-up lunch for her co-workers, and a wad of cash was still in her left hand, forgotten. She had seen everything.
Students on their way to one o’clock classes gathered around the dying girl. Some held their hands to their faces while others texted their friends.
The dying girl moaned. Her disfigured head rolled loosely on her rubbery neck and blood spit from her broken mouth. Her teeth were red.
She turned her face blindly toward Sam and she whispered in clipped breaths: “Sammy, we can’t run anymore.”
Sam blinked, startled by the sound of his name. He stared into the girl’s glassy eyes. He didn’t recognize her, but no one called him Sammy, especially not students. The only person who ever called him that had been dead for six months.
Then Sam heard the artificial click and whirl as a camera phone snapped a photo.
“Get out of here, you ass,” Sam said, turning and shoving the young man with a backpack slung over his shoulder. The student stumbled backwards and then just stood there, off balance and stunned. Sam yelled and shoved him again, right up against the stone wall with the school’s name.
Next came more shouting, but the rest was a blur as the campus police arrived and then the ambulance—the girl was dead by then—and the questioning began.
According to one of the department secretaries gossiping in the third floor hallway of McGrove Hall, the dead girl’s name was Lauren Redman, a first year Math Ed major from the other side of the state who came to the school on a field hockey scholarship.
Sam listened as he posted a note on his office door, canceling his classes for the rest of the week. He couldn’t stand the idea of facing the slack jawed students while their obvious boredom burned a hole right through him.
Walking home to his cozy neighborhood outside the small college town, Sam took a side street to avoid the main entrance to the school. The girl’s blood would still be there.
What am I going to do? Sam thought, not for the first time.
As far as he could remember, the dead girl hadn’t taken his mandatory Intro course, but the thousands of names and faces had blurred together over the years, so he couldn’t be sure.
Actually, everything was a little blurry these days. Sam’s shoving match with the cell phone voyeur felt like a distant memory of something he only witnessed. He didn’t know what had come over him, but maybe it was a knee-jerk reaction to someone disrespecting the dying.
If that student had been there and photographed Julie when she died, Sam probably wouldn’t have stopped with a shove. But his wife had died alone, with no one to hold her hand and comfort her. Sam hadn’t even known she was dead until an hour later.
Did Lauren Redman really say, Sammy, we can’t run anymore, as she lay there dying on the pavement?
Those words disturbed Sam, but he didn’t know why. The poor girl was dead. Why was he so bothered by her last words? She probably had a boyfriend named Sammy. Or a brother. It was a common name. Just because he was standing there didn’t mean she was speaking to him. She probably had no idea where she was, let alone that she was dying.
The words didn’t mean anything. They were just a result of the last firing synapses as what remained of her brain shut down. Some fragment of a memory.
This conclusion should have comforted Sam, but it didn’t. He just kept hearing the words over and over in the dead girl’s halting voice:
Sammy, we can’t run anymore.