How It Happened

June 6, 2012
By Anonymous

A radio crackles inside the doors of an old car that sits abandoned on an empty street. The sidewalks are barren, forbidden from entry on both sides by yellow caution tape that twists in the light breeze. Wrappers and napkins and paper flutter along the dusty curbs, which remain unkempt and dirty from the age of time. Everything is quiet. Because this is where it happened.

Panning off towards the right, a shadow is silhouetted against a rundown building’s walls. It’s the body of a young girl. There are strands of auburn hair that get caught in the breeze. She seems to be propped against the red bricks, a portrait of ease in an odd, deserted place such as this. She pushes off the cool stone and moves. Alone, that’s what she was.

Her steps are as silent as the streets as she strides towards the curb, coming up along the rusty metal of the car with the dead and sizzling radio. The girl’s fingers curl around the handle of the driver’s door, and it slowly opens on its hinges with a groaning creak. She slips into the tattered cloth seat and shuts the door behind her. A shower of rust falls from the metal shortly after. The girl stares at the radio controls.

Her fingers twitch before reaching for the dials, methodically adjusting each one. At her touch, the radio crashed and went silent for a moment. She sat, waiting, until a man’s voice was emitted through the speakers with an outdated buzz. A cloudy frost overcame the girl’s eyes as she listened.

“A young girl at the age of 3 is left orphaned after both parents are killed in a devastating automobile accident on Hollow St. last night. The cause of the crash remains unknown, but local police are still searching for more information. The names of the deceased have not been released to the public, but it is said that the girl has been placed in foster care for the time being...” The reporter’s voice droned on, until it gradually faded into silence once more. The girl’s icy eyes had turned to fire.

Her balled fists crashed down onto the dashboard with the rage she had kept bottled inside for over a decade, causing the abandoned car to creak and groan once more. She sat there for an immeasurable moment, her chest rising and falling with unsteady breaths that slowly settled. The streets remained silent, for nobody ventured here. Nobody knew who she was, nobody knew what had happened.

Her blazing eyes had chilled, and she slowly reached for the car’s stereo dials once more. Only this time, she seemed cautious. Her fingers quivered at the tips, and she took a moment to pause, perhaps gathering her thoughts or her resolve. The decrepit radio clicked as she set the final dial with precision, allowing herself one last, deep inhale before she let her eyes gradually slide shut, seeming to sink back into the chair while hugging her knees to her chest. Again she waited, unsure.

The radio hummed eerily in the quiet. It remained that way for quite some time, long enough for the girl to hesitantly crack open an eye to make sure she had set it right. She reached for the volume control, about to turn the nob before a voice whispered her name. “Rachel..”

Rachel gasped aloud. Not startled, because she knew the voice had not come from outside, someone that could have possibly found her here. No, she was surprised. Surprised and overwhelmed with the fact that the voice had come from within, and was a voice she knew. She stroked the dusty speakers sadly, her voice a melancholy murmur as she whispered back, “Father...”

It was quiet for a moment except for the constant, low buzz. But then another voice hummed through the speakers, causing a salty tear to trickle down Rachel’s cheek. It was her mother this time, not in words, but humming her childhood lullaby. Rachel missed them both dearly, and was plagued by the unanswered questions of their death. Her balled fists remained, the nails digging into her skin yet it was not the physical pain she felt. She leaned her body towards the speakers from which her lost parents’ voices came, desperately speaking into them now. “Mother, father, what has happened to you? I’ve grown up alone, and the police tell me nothing but riddles. I cannot sleep at night not knowing what has taken you from me. Please, please tell me how it happened. Perhaps it will put your memory to rest...”
The tears flowed more freely from her cheeks now, falling to the dusty floors in pairs. No one was ever able to tell her what took her parents’ lives. A freak accident, they called it. No clear cause, just the driver and his passenger killed in the collision as the vehicle swerved and struck a tree along the side of the road. Rachel’s eyes sought for its broken frame across the street, still twisted cruelly around the trunk of the tree. It had never been removed in case evidence could be found, but there was nothing. And it was forgotten; a cold case.
The answer seemed prolonged from the radio, and Rachel began to question whether they were still there. But her father spoke softly, a ghostly tone in the quiet, “Rachel...” He whispered again. It was spoken sadly, almost hesitantly, before her mother broke the silence and continued instead, “You were there that night, Rachel. The babysitter had been out for a walk, and you broke free of her hand... you ran to us as you saw our car approaching.”
A sick feeling twisted in the pits of Rachel’s stomach, and her head whirled as she took in the information her mother had just given her. It didn’t take long before her father confirmed her theories. “We turned to avoid hitting you, Rachel. I saw you at only the last moment... and I was not able to stop in time as it happened so fast. I imagine the babysitter took you away right after for no one to ever say a word. No matter what happens, do not blame yourself, honey,” His voice was growing weaker, fading into the buzz of the radio. “We love you, we see you, we hear you... you’re not forgotten...” And it was gone. Just like that.
Blame herself? No, she couldn’t. She was only three years old at the time of the accident; she couldn’t be held accountable for her impulsive actions. Her babysitter had let her go. Her babysitter had held the only answer, and she kept it hidden all this time. No, she didn’t blame herself. She blamed the fool of a girl that took her life away, and she would find revenge.

The author's comments:
Our prompt was to write about a girl who discovers she can hear the voices of ghosts through a radio station, and I went with her finding the answers to her parents unsolved death. I feel like this might be one of the strongest pieces I've written.

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