Audrey T. Carroll

Audrey T. Carroll is a Creative Writing major at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.  Her work has previously been published in The Blue Route, The Cynic Online Magazine, the Red Fez Review, Outrageous Fortune, andSphere.  Her favorite authors are a tie between Billy Collins, Stephen King, and Truman Capote.

 

Shards (April 20, 2011. Issue 27.)

It went green before Astrid unsqueezed her eyelids; her fingers clenched at the car door so hard that it took her a moment to remember that they could open. Once she uncurled her fingers, her rigid body shook all over like she had the chills. She tilted her head back; it creaked. Looking around, she assessed the car—it was dark, pitch black except for the stoplight's glow they were under, which was still changing colors, from green to yellow to red. The metal door frames on her side were crushed in, and some of the glass shards sat in her lap. Astrid brushed at them with the back of her hand.

It was supposed to be a fifteen minute trip to Walmart; they had made it three before being hit. Charlie had needed to buy new water bottles for his room, and Astrid had convinced Matt to take him into town, even though they had planned to go to the mall alone. She struggled with her seat belt, squirming. It smelled strongly of iron in the car. She unbuckled the belt, which had plastered itself to her to prevent Astrid from being flung out the windshield. Her air bag hadn't gone off. Astrid turned to the driver's side. Matt's airbag had exploded into his chest, and was still pressing into him. He scratched at the side of his head.

"Baby, you okay?" Astrid mumbled with the sensation of a dozen cotton balls in her mouth, and coming across with about that much clarity. Matt groaned, turning to her, his hand reaching out and touching her shoulder. "Fuck," Astrid said, squeezing her eyes again. She edged forward, carefully, twisting her body to see Charlie in the seat directly behind her. His dark hair glittered with glass like snowflakes. His mouth hung open just a little, his head hung against the back of his seat. "Charlie," Astrid whined, reaching out a hand for him. The night before, Charlie had come to Astrid to tell her what only his parents knew, what no one else could ever know. He didn't move. Even though Astrid had known Charlie for a year, she had never seen him asleep before. "Charlie," she said again, coughing. Her mouth tasted of blood. She noticed the red tears on Charlie's face.

"Charlie!" she called one last time, crawling out of her seat. She squeezed into the back of the car, kneeling on the seat next to Charlie. Her thumb wiped his check first, smearing the blood there. It was warm; she shivered. "Charlie, c'mon. Wake up. Don't do this Charlie, huh? Not now." Astrid patted his cheek. Cold. The driver's side door opened. Astrid turned as Matt left the car, stumbling to the outside world, his cell phone in hand. Charlie told her that she wasn't allowed to tell anyone, and it was the only secret that she ever intentionally kept from Matt. She almost thought she heard Charlie's voice, the way he would whisper to her when it was just the two of them, something only she was allowed to hear.

Astrid turned back to Charlie. The gold medallion around his neck—a St. Christopher metal—glinted in the flashing from the street light. Some of Astrid's hair flew into her eyes, and she noticed the sparkling glass in it, like Charlie's. "Charlie, you gotta make it through this, okay?" She unbuckled his seat belt, and his body slid downwards a little; Astrid caught him, propping him up, almost rocking him. She called his name like it was a lullaby, and his eyelids seemed to flutter.

The Legendary