I found Kerry sitting cross-legged on her apartment floor cutting electrical cords into pieces. Candles lit the room. Her coffee pot was knocked over, the cord severed, the same with the toaster and the microwave and the refrigerator.
“This is what he killed them with,” she said as she took another cord from the pile and wrestled with the scissors until it was in pieces.
Oh, Kerry. I took the scissors from her. She made the motion with her fingers and tried to slice the cord. Behind her was a half-empty fifth of vodka. “Come on, let’s go outside and have a smoke.”
It was cold. I could see goosebumps on her pale arms. I pushed the hair from her face. She flinched when I hooked it behind her ear. I realized this was the first time I had seen her in over three months.
“Get down, quick!” Kerry pushed me down and Matt dropped behind us. Headlights grazed the top of the field. In all likelihood it was a minivan. A soccer mom. But we were fifteen and running like we had bested Alcatraz when in actuality it was just an abandoned grain silo. The exterior had rusted away at the bottom and vines crawled up its side like poisoned veins. I hesitated by the fence.
“Come on, Tom.” Kerry called. Kerry led the way. Kerry always led the way. But she was a sight in her tight jeans and tank tops that rode up her abdomen. Her skin looked so smooth. So soft. I would have followed her to Hell. It didn’t bother me that Matt got the same looks that I did. It was when mine had stopped that I began to care.
Moonlight shone through a hole in the roof of the silo. Kerry spun, her arms out like a princess in the beam of pale light. “Someone died in here yah know.”
We both looked at her. “No one died here, K.” Matt reached for her hand but she continued to twirl. The light faded, masked by a passing cloud.
“Yes huh.” She put her hand on the rusted rung of the ladder. “He was a boy. Lightning struck the top of the silo. He fell from way, way up and drowned in the grain. That’s why the farm’s abandoned. His parents couldn’t take it. Dad started drinking and Mom shot herself.”
There was something in her tone, the gentle sadness in her words and the longing in her eyes that had me believing, if only for a second, that a little boy had died in the place we were standing.
I put Kerry to bed and wrapped blankets around her. There was a single beer in the fridge and rather than have it go to waste, I shrugged, twisted off the cap, and drank. When I shut the door Kerry was standing in the hall, shaking, tears on her cheeks.
“You need to go, Tom. You can’t stay here.”
“Kerry, you need sleep. Tomorrow, I’m going to make you breakfast and get you to a doctor. This…” I motioned to the shredded pieces of electrical cord. “This is not healthy.”
“You can’t stay here, Tom.” She had begun crying. Sobbing. Her voice a high-pitched whine. “If you stay here, he’ll kill you. Please. Don’t let him kill you too.”
Matt and Kerry started seeing each other the summer of sophomore year, two months after we had snuck onto the abandoned farm. I was happy for her. Her smile had never been so genuine. I would say I was happy for him but now, after all of this, it seems pointless to lie. It would be another lie if I denied that I stayed up at night, wishing I were in his place. Wondering what she saw in him that I didn’t have or what I had that she didn’t want.
In the beginning, things were never awkward among the three of us. But then again things were bathed in honeymoon bliss. We would sit together at football games, drink beer and smoke pot with Matt’s other friends, and even manage to get together twice a month for a Saturday movie night. But that only lasts so long.
“I think she’s cheating on me.” It was the first week of December when Matt told me that. We were smoking a joint in the woods before heading into the Winter Social.
“Really?” I raised my eyebrows.
“Yeah. She’s been gone man. Takes hours to answer my texts. Even right now, I don’t know where she is.”
“She’s not in the dance?” I looked over my shoulder, as if I could see through the trees, up the hill, and into the gym.
“That’s the thing, I don’t know. And I should know. You know?”
My head was starting to feel fuzzy from the weed. “I guess.”
“It’s not you right?”
“It’s not me what?”
He paused, joint in hand. “With Kerry.”
I’d like to think that if I weren’t high I would have hit him or at least had enough self-respect to walk away.
“No,” I paused. “It’s not me.”
Kerry never showed for the dance. Matt tried to find her up Rachel Dean’s skirt. I snapped a picture with my phone and left when the DJ put on a remix to Mad World. That song was not meant to be danced too.
Kerry was where I knew she would be. Her tracks in the snow led the way. The rusted metal of the silo was cold as I pried it back. She was sitting on a blanket in the center of the moonlight, the star of a monologue only ghosts could hear. I knelt in front of her, eager, and showed her the picture.
I saw the flash in her eyes. The slightest quiver and it was gone. “Idiot.”
I couldn’t bring myself to kiss her. I leaned forward, trying to waft the idea into her. She instead rose and climbed the ladder, skipping the broken rungs, and humming the entire way to the top. She stood on the platform, in the shadow beneath the hole, her arms spread as if the air was lifting her away. I inched forward. A feeling of dread hit me. What if I had just killed her?
Kerry slapped my chest. She was bawling. Black lines of mascara bled down her face. “Please, Tom. I don’t want you to die. I don’t want anyone else to die.”
I grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved her against the counter. “Kerry, listen to me. No one is going to die. You’re drunk and you need sleep.”
“He’s going to kill you Tom. Just like he killed my parents and Matt and Nick.”
The refrigerator hummed behind us. My hair stood on end. I could feel the air in the room. Charged. Like the molecules themselves were palpable. “Kerry,” my words came softer. My eyes remained focused on the fridge. “Your parents died in a car accident. No one killed them.”
She would not relent. “The car was struck by lightning. Twice!”
I opened the door to the refrigerator and could feel the cool air pushing out. The light was on, most of the food knocked over. I yanked the appliance farther away from the wall but the cord never popped from the outlet. “Where’s the cord to the fridge, Kerry?”
She pointed to the floor. To a black one cut in three pieces.
They found Matt dead in his parent’s bathtub the morning after the dance. The official report said he was using his phone while it was plugged into the wall. I wondered what it was like to be electrocuted. I often thought drowning or burning would be the worst way to go. I was Kerry’s only alibi. I immediately deleted the picture from my phone but I wasn’t the only one who saw him finger fucking Rachel in the gym.
I had left her around midnight. It was brutal in that silo without a winter coat and I was tired and disappointed in the fact that she didn’t jump on me with gratitude. But that left the rest of the night. The police said he died sometime between two and three in the morning. His mother found him when she went to brush her teeth.
The apartment door was locked. Neither of us could force the deadbolt open. I fought against the handle, yanked, tried to twist until my fingers turned white. It simply wouldn’t move. The slider wouldn’t budge, frozen to the track like a tongue on metal. Kerry had slid to the floor, her head buried in her hands.
“I don’t want anyone to die,” she sobbed. “I told him I would be his friend and if he took care of me I would take care of him.”
“Kerry, there was no one.” I waved my arms. “That story never happened. The guy who ran that farm was a drunk who spent all his money on booze. There was no little boy.”
“Yes there was.” She slammed her palms on the floor. “He was playing in that silo just like us. Only he died and we didn’t.”
The microwave clicked on. Inside the glass tray spun and spun with nothing on it to heat. Green numbers counted down. 20:00 . . .19:59 . . .19:58.
I didn’t speak to Kerry for three weeks following Matt’s death. She had been cleared, but still remained a person of interest. My parents wouldn’t let me see her. “You don’t need friends like that, Thomas,” my mother said.
My phone rang late, the time of night where you are treading softly between half-awake and fully asleep. The time when you see things, little flashes or shadows that make you look back.
“I know who killed him.” She spoke quickly. Quietly.
“It was the boy from the Silo. His name is Jamie and he electrocuted Matt because of what he did with that slut.”
“Kerry, where are you?”
“Listen to me!”
I sat up and rubbed my eyes hard enough to see little greenish spots.
“OK, I’m listening.”
“Jamie killed Matt because he cheated on me. He killed him the same way he died in the grain silo.”
“Kerry, Matt dropped a plugged-in cell phone into a bathtub full of water. It was an accident.”
“It wasn’t an accident. Shit, I have to go.”
I stared at my phone and convinced myself I was dreaming.
13:44. . .13:43. . .13:42.
Kerry pulled a second bottle of vodka from a cabinet and took a swig. She handed it to me and slid back to the floor. The smell of rubbing alcohol reminded me of early high school mornings and water bottles. I swallowed and pulled the corner of my lips back as it burned.
“I’m sorry, Tom.” She had stopped sobbing. “It should have been you.”
I almost dropped the bottle. “What?”
“I should have picked you. I know you wanted me to. I did too. I honestly don’t know why I chose to fuck Matt. If I had picked you, you would have treated me right and none of this shit would have happened.”
She spoke with complete vacancy. Her eyes stared through the locked slider door and into nothing.
When we graduated high school, Kerry had started seeing this guy Nick. We got along OK. He played bass in a Nirvana cover band and did too much coke, but he wasn’t a bad guy. They were together for almost two years when he played an awful show, got too drunk, and shoved her backwards down the front stairs of their apartment.
She wasn’t sad about it. I remember that. “He’s a fucking asshole and he’ll get his.” In truth, I didn’t mind picking up the pieces of Kerry’s life. When I did, she was around a lot more.
“You’re damn right he will.” I lifted an empty glass and the bartender brought me another. “Do you need a ride to get your stuff? You can stay with me if you need to.”
“No,” she snapped. “It’s my apartment. He can get out.”
“You’re going to make him?”
She looked at me, glaring. “I’ll take care of it.”
He was dead two days later. Answered his cell phone while pumping gas, it caused a static shock and sparked the fumes. Kerry said she found the security video online. I never watched it.
7:01. . .7:00. . .6:59.
“So why does he hate me then Kerry? If all I’ve ever done is put your life back together, why is he doing this?”
She looked up at me and I realized how skinny she had become. Between every joint there was shadow. That skin that I had wanted to caress looked so thin and taunt.
“Because you’re all I have left.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“It doesn’t need to make sense for it to happen. If everything that happened had to make sense babies wouldn’t die. Rich people wouldn’t win the lotto. Drunks wouldn’t survive car accidents. But they do. All of those things happen and not one of them makes sense so why should this be any different?”
Kerry moved back in with her parents after Nick died. They were weary. I had dinner with them the first night she was back. She begged me too.
“You have to be the icebreaker. My mother loves you. Please.” Icebreaker or not, I did little to help ease the tension between her and her father. He was not happy to have a twenty-year-old college dropout move back in.
From what she would tell me, the two of them mostly avoided each other. But living in a 900-square foot ranch there was bound to be some overlap. After three months and no change in her goals, he made sure there was overlap and he made sure he was no longer silent.
“He yelled at me for three hours.” I met her on the front step of my parent’s during winter break. It was freezing, but my mother wouldn’t allow her inside. If I were an icebreaker in her house, Kerry would sink the Titanic in mine. She leaned her head on my shoulder and sniffled from what I thought was the cold but as I heard her continue I realized she was crying. “I don’t know what to do. He hates me and I’m so miserable but I can’t afford my own place and I don’t know what to do about a job. I’ve applied for a few but there is nothing out there unless you went to school.”
I put my chin on her head, yelling at myself to kiss her. Just put your lips on her head and taste the shampoo that smelled so good. “Maybe you should go back to school?”
“No.” Her head was gone. Opportunity missed. “I’m not going to school, Tom. It’s a waste of time.”
3:33. . .3:32. . .3:31.
Kerry shot upright. In a second, all of the life that I thought she no longer had flooded into her. “I know how to fix it.”
She scrambled to her feet, slipping on the hardwood. I watched her whip open the closet door and yank out everything. Towels, Q-tips, full bottles of face wash. All of it hit the floor in a scattered mess. She yanked a purple hair dryer from the back and held it up as if it were a torch in the crypt that was her life.
“I’m sorry.” She slammed the bathroom door shut and turned the lock.
Even though she was cleared in the death of Matt, as well as Nick’s, and even her parents’, following the accident that took her mother and father, the court ordered Kerry to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. So many tragedies in such a short life.
Local newspapers did pieces on her. She wouldn’t interview with anyone, but they buzzed around my parents’ house a few times which was enough to set my mother off. I was about to unlock my car, three beers in, when someone sprang up from the other side. I jumped back, dropped my keys, and nearly yelled. I slapped my hand to the back of my neck and sucked in air.
His reason for being there?
“Do you think you’re next?”
“Kerry Ells. You’ve been friends with her forever and everyone else she is close to has died. Do you think you’re next?”
I snagged my keys from the ground and held out my palm, “look guy, just stop.”
“Just answer the question. Do you think you’re next?”
“If it will get me away from you, I wouldn’t care.”
“Kerry open the fucking door!” My palm stung each time I smacked the wood. I pried at the handle but it wouldn’t turn. I heard the water splashing inside the bathtub. “Kerry! Right now, open the door. We can get you help. Nothing bad has to happen.”
She yelled through the door, “If he isn’t able to stay with me. He won’t have to hurt you.”
I backed up, lowered my shoulder and ran. The wood bent, then splintered under my weight. The frame cracked next to my ear. I waved my hands wildly, losing my balance as I tried to stop. My hip collided with the toilet. Pain shot down my leg.
Kerry stood in the tub, water to her shins. The blow dryer was in her hands, plugged into the wall next to the sink. “I’m sorry, Tom.”
“Ker–” But I didn’t finish saying her name because for the first time since that night in the silo I saw her eyes void of hurt and agony. I stood, my hip aching as I put weight on it. The microwave dinged. She flicked the blow dryer on and dropped it.
B Thomas writes from New England where he unequally balances time between hiking, concerts, and quoting seemingly random movies. Get in touch at bthomas7.weebly.com.
Betty Rocksteady is a Canadian author and illustrator. Learn more at www.bettyrocksteady.com.