Spiders danced across her skin. She brushed at her arms. The sensation didn’t stop.
Amanda wept. Her left leg half hidden under the tractor green picnic table. Sara had tried to talk Amanda into relaxing her supernatural grip, but the cell phone remained glued in Amanda’s clenched hand. Sara kept talking, trying to soothe Amanda with clumsy words.
The moon shone on Amanda’s exposed milky skin. It was dotted with angry purple bruises. Sara’s guts twisted. She forced herself to swallow. Her stomach felt like it had petrified into a boulder. Her insides threatened to explode out of her nose and her mouth, her ears and her eyes.
The eerie wail of different sirens warbled background music as the rescuers sped toward them. Amanda cried out again and the spiders on Sara’s skin responded. Sara leaned into the corner and vomited.
“Amanda, I’m here. They’re gone. Help is coming.” Uncontrolled, steaming, tears poured out of Sara’s eyes. She didn’t want them to plop onto Amanda so she leaned away from her. Sara prayed disjointed statements and mangled words as she paced and paused.
The chorus of wails intensified, and in the light of the full moon, Sara could see Amanda’s battered body quaking, almost in rhythm with the background music. Amanda’s keening had stopped and been replaced with the clattering of teeth clacking together.
Sara knew that she shouldn’t touch anything. She didn’t want to compromise any evidence so she stood and clenched her own teeth. Sara replayed and tried to rewind the events of the evening. Instead of letting Amanda leave with Terri, Sara should have insisted that Amanda stay with her, in the safety of the dorm room. Sara’s eyes were drawn back to Amanda. The new pink sweater that Amanda had put on four hours ago was splotched with blood.
Sara leaned over and vomited again, bitter acid mixed with her helplessness. If she had been a better friend Amanda wouldn’t be curled on a slab of cold cement, quaking, bloodied and shamed. The sirens grew louder until they filled the neighborhood and drowned out Amanda’s misery. Sara ran to the sidewalk and waved her arms. “Over here! Hurry!”
The professionals did hurry. They didn’t recoil. They didn’t stare too long at Amanda’s exposed flesh, when the flashlights illuminated her. The police officers pointed flashlights around the darkest spots in the enclosure and made notes. One noticed Sara’s vomit and pointed it out to his partner. “That the victim’s?” Sara flushed, and felt her stomach jump again.
“No, officer, it’s mine.” Sara said.
“Are you the friend who called?” He flipped a page in his book. “Sara Flynn?”
“Yeah.” He looked at her like she imagined that her father would have, eyes shining with emotion and a grim look of kindness around his mouth. Sara’s vision distorted with tears. She took a deep breath and thought of Amanda. Amanda needed Sara to be her voice until she could find her own again. “I’ll give you what information I can, but I have to stay with Amanda.”
“No problem, miss, we’ll talk at the hospital. They’ll probably keep her overnight, she looks pretty roughed up.” He walked to the edge of the picnic enclosure, Sara followed. She looked out into the darkness. Pieces of playground equipment, kissed by the moon, loomed, completing the surreal feel of the nightmare. Sara shivered again and rubbed her arms.
Amanda shrieked drowning out the men who were trying to help her. Sara breathed deeply of the cool air and stood taller. She forced herself to walk over to the paramedics who secured Amanda to a stretcher.
“I’m riding to the hospital with you.” The young paramedic nodded. Two of them slid Amanda into the box, Sara followed, and the door clanged shut. The siren wailed and Amanda responded with moans and whispered sobs. Sara rubbed her arms, tried to focus on being strong, and finally melted into the chorus, and wept, joining in the symphony of pain.
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