It was spring break, March 11, 2017. The buses depart to Florence, at 9 o’clock for the cross country trip. More than half the team went, more than expected, but the teammates didn’t mind sharing a bunk or two. However, not for Steph. She couldn’t stand being around Aiko, the fastest runner on the team. Her best time was a whole 45 seconds ahead of the fastest guy on the team, 18 minutes and 7 seconds, and they envied her. Steph was the second best on the team, her time only being 18 minutes and 33 seconds. At the second meet of the season, in hot Medford, she tried tripping Aiko on the last stretch just before the finish line but ended up snagging a protruding tree root, and dislocated her ankle and was injured for the rest of the season. She limped over to the finish line just as the coach caught her before falling. It’s a new season and she’s ready to strike back.
Everyone arrives, gets off the bus and hurries into the house because of the monsoon of rain coming down. All the runners bring their bags in and all the food to set up for lunch. The coach holds a short team meeting about what the day holds, and they set off to downstairs. The downstairs in the backyard leading to the beach. The steps are coated in green algae, some are rotten, and some are missing. The handrail is no better than the slippery stairs of doom. Everyone makes it down safe, except for Kai’s twin sister, Aiko. Luckily she was in the front so she didn’t make a human domino down the hill. She tumbles forward and knocks her head in all directions. Because she was only halfway down the stairs, she had a long tumble. Everyone is screaming and they scramble down as fast as they can without falling. Aiko’s body looks like something from a video game; a brutal video game. She’s on her stomach, her legs to the side and an arm is flopped onto her back. Her eyes are shut and her mouth is wide open like a fish you would catch just 100 feet away in the ocean.
“Oh my God, Aiko. Oh my God.” cries Kai pushing through the crowd trying to get to his sister. “Aiko, wake up! Come on now, you have to wake up for me, please!”
She opens her eyes like she just went to hell and saw the devil himself. Coughing up quite a bit of blood mixed with a tooth broken in half, she uses her elbows to prop herself up.
“No no no, Aiko. I got you. I’m right here for you.” Kai says in a shaky voice, wiping his tears away with his blood stained hands.
She manages to gasp out the words, “it’s okay Kai, I’m alive. But I’m cold, can you take me to the house please?”
Everyone lets out a sigh of relief, Kai and her best friend Alyssa do that cry-laugh thing people do when their wires get crossed. He picks her up, one hand under her legs and one under her upper back. She’s quiet the whole way up to the house. Kai lays her down on the living room sofa and she's? knocked out cold now.
As Alyssa is calling an ambulance, everyone is watching her, waiting for a sign of life. When Kai is laying down next to her, she sat up as if she had seen a ghost.
“Uh, where am I? Oh! I'm at the beach house. And why is everyone staring at me…? Guys what happened?”
“So… you basically fell all the way down the stairs going down to the beach. We thought you were dead, Aiko!” said Alyssa in a shaky voice.
“But I'm fine now! I don't feel hurt at all for some reason.” Aiko said as she laid back to sleep.
“Come on Aiko, you have to stay awake until the paramedics come. You have to, okay? Everything is going to be okay, you know that right?” Kai says shaking her shoulders.
She doesn't move. Her body is as limp as a noodle. Her heart shows no sign of beating. Her skin is cold as if she had been dead for hours.
“It's called the death stare. It's a stage in someone's? death where they get their final burst of energy and they feel perfectly normal. I’ve never seen this happen to anyone besides an elderly person on their deathbed.” The paramedics had just arrived just in time for her death.