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When the Light Dies
Red lights and screeching sirens race around the corner of the road and slow to a stop near my wrecked car. I am lying on the hard concrete, tears falling from my eyes and a warm, salty, metallic flavor flowing into my mouth. I reach a shaky hand up to my face and find blood running from my nose. I see two paramedics leave one of two large ambulances and pull out a stretcher. They go to the passenger side of the crushed car and pull Asher from the wreckage.
Two more men come from the second ambulance and pull me onto their stretcher. I begin to notice sharp pain everywhere. I hear a distant voice. "Miss?" I hear it again, more apparent this time. I look up to see that one of the men pushing the stretcher towards the truck is speaking to me. "Can you hear me? Please stay with us. Can you tell us your name?" he asks. "B... Blair," I say weakly. "Okay, Blair, everything will be all right." He replies. "W-what about Asher? Is he okay" I ask?
"Come on, Asher, we are gonna be late!" I yell up to my best friend. He and I are renting a small house in the city together. "I’m coming, Blair!” he shouts back down to me. He bounds down the stairs two at a time. Today we are going to a family picnic with our families. Our parents have been friends since they were in high school, and Asher and I have been best friends since birth because our families have stayed so close. I was born two months after him. Asher’s older sister just returned from college in Hawaii; the picnic is a sort of reunion. “You got the macaroni salad?” he asks. “Shoot! I forgot to grab it from the fridge! Good call! You got the blanket?” I reply. “No, I forgot that!” he laughs as he goes to the linen closet to get the extra picnic blanket we promised we would bring.
“You sure we got everything?” he asked for the fiftieth time as I start my small Kia. “Yes, I’m sure. We are only supposed to bring the blanket and the salad.” I say, slightly annoyed. “Okay, if you say so.” He says back, with a hint of sarcasm. I ignore him, and I pull out of the driveway. Asher has always been somewhat sarcastic. It can sometimes be pretty annoying, but it can be funny, mainly when it's not pointed at me. He’s got a good sense of humor. It is one of the things I admire about him. “I am pretty excited to see your sister again,” I say, partially to break the silence. “Yeah, I’m excited to see Kat again too.” He says, a smile stretching across his face.
Kathrine, or “Kat,” has been studying to become a forensic scientist. She has been an older sister to me for as long as I can remember. Kat has stood up for me and helped me with homework along with Asher as if I were her sister. It was weird her being gone for the past four years, but she graduated last week, and she is home for good now. “So, where is the picnic again? I ask. “It’s in the park just outside the city. Want me to put it up on the GPS?” he replies. “Yes, that would be great,” I say as I turn a wide corner. The mechanical woman's voice in the GPS says we are about fifty-three minutes away. I am glad we need to go down the center of the city. Even though there is always more traffic, it's my favorite part of the city. It’s so beautiful in the summer and spring when vibrant purple, red, yellow, and gold pansies hang from the lampposts and brilliant blue violets in the flower beds. You can always smell the warm and cozy fragrance of the broth for the daily soups and the sweet yeast rolls and freshly baked pastries wafting out from the restaurants and bakeries in the autumn and winter.
We have been driving for about half an hour by now. We’re passing through part of the city with the tall red-brick apartment buildings with the tall green fire escapes zig-zagging up the sides. “Oh, look! They are building something new! It doesn’t look like another apartment building. I wonder what it is!” I say to Asher, nodding to a smaller clearing with machines and building materials. “Oh, yeah, your right- WATCH OUT!” he exclaims, pointing to the car impeding our lane and speeding towards us. My body stiffens before jerking the wheel to the right, bracing myself for impact.
I swerve just in time to miss the car, but I lose control of the wheel. The car spins out and runs into a fire escape. The fire escape clatters and brakes, and one of the ladders slides down and crushes the passenger side of the car. The airbag deploys and strikes me in the face. I notice the windshield smashed and broken. I fumble with my seat belt until it releases, and I force the door open. I crawl out of the car. I fall to the concrete, vision blurring in and out. “Help, please,” I call out weakly. I hear distant, distorted shouts from the slowly forming crowd of people.
Minutes later, red lights and screeching sirens race around the corner. The next thing I know, I see Asher lifted from the car. My head swims, and I hear a distant, distorted voice above my head. I hear it again, and again a few seconds after that, each time a little clearer. I look up to see one of two paramedics talking to me. “Miss? Can you hear me? Please stay with us. Can you tell us your name?” he asks. “B-Blair,” I say weakly. “I-is Asher, okay?” I shakily ask.
I go in and out of consciousness on the way to the hospital. Every time I am alert enough to think a bit, all I can do was worry about Asher. Eventually, everything goes completely black. When I wake up again, I am in a sterile white room with tubes in my nose and an I.V. in my arm. I begin to panic, and I pull at the tubes. Someone grabs my hands and holds them away from the plastic in my arms and nose. “Hey, hey, it's okay, your all right. Calm down.” Says a calming voice above me. I look up to see my mom looking down at me. It is a bit blurry, but I can see her eyes are wet and bloodshot. She must have been crying in the chair beside me.
I realize I am in a hospital bed. I wonder how long I’ve been asleep. I start to notice a pounding in my head and an aching, stabbing pain in my ribs. An audible groan escapes my lips. “The doctor says you have four broken ribs, a concussion, and you had to have stitches in five places. Do you remember what happened?” Mom asks. “Yeah, it’s a little foggy, though,” I reply in a strained voice. Then I suddenly remember.
“Asher! Is he okay? Is he alive?” I ask a new wave of panic and worry washes over me. I cannot imagine a world without him. He has to be okay! “Asher is alive.” She says. I can tell she is trying to be vague. “He is not okay, is he?” I say, starting to hyperventilate. “hey, calm down, Blair, everything will be okay.” Mom says, gently stroking my hair. “No, I need to know he’s okay! Can’t I go see him?” “No, you cannot. You just woke up. You should stay in bed.” “I can’t just stay here!” I start trying to pull things off my body, too worked up to feel much pain. Just then, a doctor comes into the room. “Hey! What are you- Blair, you need to calm down!” He says. “No! I need to see Asher!” I am hysterical at this point. The doctor briskly puts something into a syringe and puts it in my arm. Then he pushes the plunger, and my body goes limp. The next thing I know, I’m asleep again.
I wake up once more, this time less disoriented and panicked, and turn to see no one sitting in the chair next to me. I go back to my original position on my back and stare aimlessly at the ceiling. I can’t help but feel hopeless. My mom didn’t want to tell me how Asher was, so that must mean he is in pretty bad condition. Is he even awake? My mind wanders to horrible places. I didn’t get a good look at Asher when he was pulled from under the fire escape ladder. Would he even be able to survive something like that? At this point, I was too weak to get as hysterical as I did before. Now I only laid on my back, hot tears running down my face and horrible, scary thoughts flashing across my mind.
Someone enters my room. I try to sit up, but a sharp pain reminds me of my broken ribs, so I stay where I am. The person comes into view, and I realize it is the doctor who sedated me. “Hello, Blair, nice to see you awake again.” He says. “I-is Asher awake?” I ask. “I see you are still worried about your friend. No. He has not woken up yet. We are not worried, however. He should wake up soon. We will alert you when he does.” The doctor replies. “As for now, we need to focus on you. How are you feeling, Blair?” “My side aches and my head is pounding,” I say back. “Well, that is to be expected with your breaks and concussion.” He tells me. He then proceeds to check my temperature, heartbeat, and the clear fluid in the I.V. bag connected to the tube running to my arm.
During the time the doctor is checking my injuries, I hear the door open again. I hear my mother’s voice. “Oh, good! You are awake! I am sorry I wasn’t here; I was downstairs talking to the person who took your x-rays.” She says.
I am told that if he wakes up, I can see Asher tomorrow. All I can do is hope now. Hope that Asher will make it. I cannot lose him. I can hardly sleep that night. Every time I close my eyes, I see images of Asher dying run across my mind, the worst one being one where he blames me for everything, and If I am honest, I kind of agree with him.
I wake up the next morning to a nurse bringing breakfast to me. I have bland oatmeal and milk, still thinking about Asher. Just then, a different doctor enters. “I have great news,” She starts. “Asher is awake, and if you finish your breakfast, you can go see him.” A shockwave of pure joy and excitement runs through my body, almost causing me to choke on my oatmeal.
Fortunately, my legs were mostly unaffected by the crash, aside from a few bumps and bruises, so I could walk independently. I was nervous to see Asher again because I was worried about how bad his injuries, but I promised myself no matter what, he looked like I would not cry or show much negative emotion.
As I step into his room, I almost break my promise. My eyes begin to sting and tear up. Plastic tubes are coming from his nose and arms, and he is black and blue all over. He has stitches in so many different places I lose count of them all. Machines are surrounding him, one of them beeping slowly and rhythmically to his heartbeat. He almost looks undead. “Hey Ash,” I say, forcing a smile to stretch across my lips. “Hey Blair,” he replies in a voice so small and weak I almost don’t hear it.
We talk for a while, and he makes small jokes that I attempt to laugh at. I try my best to look past his injuries and see that inside he is still the same as before the accident, but it’s hard. I keep blaming myself. What if I could have seen the other car sooner? What if I could have kept control of the wheel? I know that there is not much I could have done differently, but I was the driver, so I feel entirely responsible.
I notice that the machine tracking his heartbeat is beeping much slower now. I feel the icy fingers of dread wrap around my neck, and I somehow know that this will be the last day I ever see my best friend. I walk to the side of his bed and wrap my arms around his body, ignoring my protesting ribs. “You know I love you, right? You are my best friend, and you always have been. I’ve enjoyed living with you and seeing you every morning. Nothing will ever come close to replacing you.” I whisper in his ear. I hold him tightly in my arms even after the last of the light in his eyes leaves, and the heartbeat monitor slows to a steady flatline.
Everything just becomes a painful blur after that. Every emotion I had bottled up inside of me since I first walked into the room cascades out of me as I’m dragged from Asher’s lifeless body and out of the room. I no longer feel the external pain of my injuries, only the internal ongoing ache of the grief accompanying a personal loss.
A doctor and my parents take me back to my room. I don’t fight it. I have no reason to fight it. I know that Asher is gone, and there isn’t any point in throwing myself into a state of denial. I am told I will be discharged tomorrow, but I couldn’t care less. All l could think of was the moment I saw the light die in his eyes. I know I will probably stay with my parents for a while. I might even find a different house. I can’t go back to the house I shared with Asher. I can’t go back to the place where we made so many memories and not see him there, watching tv, or playing video games on the sofa. Now, I need to find a way to cope and move on.