Today I have for you another short story that I have written recently. This one comes from an assignment where I had to write a story about a Good Samaritan attempt that went horribly wrong. I tried to use the story to express what happened to me during an experience that occurred about a year ago. Sufficed to say, I was in a similar position that the main character Camille is in in the story, and reacted similarly. As I wrote this story, I tried to explore how different people react to things that they aren't prepared for and what that means about who they are, ultimately searching my own soul for answers to questions I hadn't dared to ask. It's still a fictional story; my experience wasn't nearly as extreme or tragic, but I feel that the part of my soul that is contained in this story really gives a kind of reality to it that really works in the story. I hope you enjoy it.
Camille’s hiking shoes hit the loose dirt with a satisfying crunch when she jumped out of the car. She almost wanted to go back into the car and hop out a second time just to make that sound again, but then reminded herself that she was supposed to be having a horrible time, and instead made her slight smile fade into a scowl. She had better things to do than climb some hill all day. She attempted to adjust the straps on her backpack, but the straps were being stubborn and she quickly became frustrated. As she gave one last angry tug, she suddenly felt someone else start tugging, and was so startled that she almost lost her balance and she suddenly had her brown hair all over her face.
“There you go, little girl,” he said with a smile as he patted her on the shoulder. Camille was not a little girl, but Michael had been calling her that ever since she was born and he wasn’t about to stop any time soon. If he weren’t her brother, he would have been in big trouble. She stood silently for a second, watching Michael go over and help Eve get some things out of the back of the car and refused to feel any less frustrated than she had been previously, even though Michael’s interference had solved the problem with her backpack straps.
“Okay, let’s go,” he said. Camille rolled her eyes. When she didn’t budge, Eve came over towards her, and Camille smirked at the giddy, bouncy way she had of walking. Eve was fine, all things considered, and she seemed a perfect fit for Michael, but she was just too blonde to be taken seriously, and ever since Michael had proposed to her she just kept getting worse.
“Hey, Cami! Isn’t this exciting?” Camille nodded grudgingly and decided to forgive Eve for using the name that was reserved strictly for her mother.
“Now, I don’t exactly have a specific route for us today; I thought we could just wander around for a bit and have some fun. There are some caves a ways down, and they’re not especially deep, but they’re still pretty interesting,” Michael said. Camille had never regretted Michael’s Eagle Scout more than she did in that moment, but she knew that she had to start walking before Eve started to say something else to her.
It actually was a pretty nice day outside, and Camille had to admit that it was good to have a break from her computer for a while. Thinking a little more about the situation, she realized that she wasn’t really as mad about going hiking as she was mad at being coerced into going hiking. Michael had practically dragged her along, and his motives were as transparent as glass. He was undoubtedly going to orchestrate some one-on-one time between her and Eve, and she wasn’t looking forward to that at all.
“So, how long is this going to take?” Camille asked. Michael chuckled.
“We’ve been here less than five minutes and you’re already ready to leave?” he said.
“I’ve got things to do.”
“You spend too much time with your nose in a book. If you don’t get a little fresh air every once in a while, you’ll get so pale and weak we’ll have to carry you around in a stretcher and feed you broth by the spoonful.” Camille scowled again, but kept moving. The faster she went, the faster she would be back, and Michael would be off her case for at least a week.
They all walked as Michael told Eve an embarrassing story about how Camille had fainted in her science class a couple of years ago when she was asked to dissect a lizard, and he didn’t stop until they were able to see the mouth of the afore mentioned caves a little way off. It was actually only one cave, but Michael hadn’t been there since he was Camille’s age, and it was easy to forget details after that much time. Camille wished that he had forgotten more things.
“You know, now that I actually see it, it doesn’t really look that interesting,” he said. “Maybe we should just keep going.”
“Oh, I don’t know, they seem pretty cool to me,” Eve said, turning to Camille. “Don’t you think?” Camille nodded.
“Well, you two are welcome to go exploring for a bit, if you want, but there’s a stream on the other side of those trees and I wanted to do some fishing,” Michael said.
“What do you think, Cami, do you want to look at this cave with me?” Eve asked.
And there it was: the dreaded one-on-one time. They must have planned this before they even left, because Michael knew that Camille wasn’t patient enough for fishing. Camille eyed Eve and Michael for a bit, but eventually decided to play Michael’s game.
“I’ll go with Eve,” she finally said. The other two looked especially pleased, and Camille rolled her eyes again as Eve took her by the hand.
“This is going to be so much fun!” she said.
“So, what’s so important back at home?” Eve asked. They were only a couple feet away from where they had previously stopped, but she apparently had no time to lose.
“What do you mean?” Camille said.
“I thought you had things to do.”
“Oh, that. I’m writing a play.”
Eve was impressed. “A play? I had no idea you were the next Oscar Wilde.”
“Well, there are seventeen girls and two boys in my drama class, and we haven’t been able to find any plays to do that have that many female parts. So I figured that maybe I could write one myself, and I’m pretty far, but if I don’t have anything by Monday Mr. Saunders says that it’ll be too late to get anything ready by Christmas.”
“Ahh,” Eve said. Camille thought she looked a little more relaxed, “That’s why you’re so upset. I just thought you didn’t want to go because of me.” Camille stopped.
“Eve, I’m fifteen. I can give my brother away without throwing a tantrum.”
“You must be pretty mature for your age,” Eve replied. Camille shrugged and kept walking.
“It doesn’t matter how mature I am if I can’t handle a little blood,” she said.
“Oh, lots of people are squeamish—it’s not a big deal.” Eve looked at Camille and saw that her cheeks were pink. “Of course, I can talk to your brother about those stories if you want.”
“No, that’s okay,” Camille said. “But thanks.”
They kept going for about five minutes, taking flashlights out of their backpacks in preparation for their journey. From the outside, Camille could see that it wasn’t like any cave that she had seen before. The ceiling was at least three or four stories high, and there were shadowy outlines that indicated some stalactites that came down so far that they almost touched the floor. Camille was glad that she had chosen to go with Eve—after all—she had been in theater in high school too, so they had some things to talk about.
As they entered the cave’s mouth and went in a few feet, Camille had the distinct impression that something wasn’t right, and stopped cold in her steps.
“What’s wrong?” Eve asked. Camille stood silently for a minute before she responded.
“Do you hear that?”
There was something, a faint shuffling sound that was somewhere close, and though neither of them could put their finger on it, and they looked around and listened for a while until it got louder and closer, and Eve gasped.
It was too late. Eve’s gasp had caused Camille’s head to snap back to Eve’s direction, where she saw a couple if loose rocks slide underneath Eve’s feet, causing Eve to lose her balance and fall over. It was like it had happened in slow motion, with Eve’s head slowly, gently, and unnaturally swooping to the air. Camille tried to reach for her, but her arms were too short and filled with lead. They both screamed in a low and melancholy voice. Time suddenly sped up when Eve’s head slammed into a stalactite with a big “crack!” as they collided, and soon all Camille could see was her bloody, lifeless body.
Camille could barely do anything but stand and watch as the blood flowed from the body of her future sister. Every drop of blood that poured out of Eve seemed to pour a drop of something else into Camille, a kind of drug that made her senses too sharp and her blood too hot, as if she was standing inside paranoia. It was making her lose her mind. Her brain had somehow started beating, along with her heart, so quickly that it mutated into a pulsing that was completely overpowering, unbearable, and paralyzing. And so loud! It was all that she could hear, and most of what she could feel. She then looked at Eve, knowing that a good person would try to stop the bleeding and start to get their hands dirty, and found that the most she could do was contain the screams, sobs, and vomit that was desperate to escape her. After standing in a silent horror for a period of time longer than any she had ever experienced, she gathered the strength to slowly back away, gradually gaining speed with her distance, and left Eve behind.
Things were moving too fast to comprehend. Voices, shapes, colors, values, and logic all mixed together into a blur that was unintelligible. She was only able to catch bits and pieces—the wall of the cavern, an admonition from her mother, the grinding of the floor on her face, a sentence from a book. They were all both suddenly present and suddenly superseded by Camille’s pulsating body. Above all else, that needed to stop, but in a swirl of light and emotion that took her completely out of her reality, it wouldn’t, and Camille saw her brother run past her as she lay helpless on the cave floor.
Michael must have come running when he heard their screaming. They were still close enough for him to hear them, and he knew the voices too well to be untroubled by their helplessness. It was at the entrance of the cave that he found Camille, who was huddled like an animal against the cave wall. He said something to her. She didn’t know what it was, but she nodded anyway. He said something else, and this time she strained to comprehend the words. He told her that he needed to see if Eve was okay before he could help Camille, and Camille shuddered at the thought. What he would find would be worse than what he could imagine, and as he cleared the space used for emotions to make room for everything he had ever learned that could be of any help, a deep and distant part of him would know that it would be of no use. Still, Camille knew that he had to try. His shirt managed to soak up most of her blood, but it was still flowing, and was going to flow no matter what he did. Camille closed her eyes and tried to die.
When Camille reluctantly opened her eyes again, the pulsing was still there, though it was now less like a coursing river and more like a bad headache. She saw the unmistakable silhouette of a grown man sitting in the dirt, weeping uncontrollably. It all came back to her quickly and painfully—the fall, the blood, her cowardice—and she suddenly wished that she could stay right where she was, huddled and unseen, forever. Anything else was too much to bear. But as she looked at her brother through the slits in her eyelids, she felt her heart swell, and her joints start to move, and suddenly she was sitting next to Michael with her hand on his shoulder. Her touch startled Michael, who momentarily stopped his sobbing and turned to look at her with his wet eyes. There was an uncomfortably pregnant silence for a moment, as both had everything and nothing to say. In that moment it was Michael’s eyes that told Camille everything that she needed to know, for in them she could see the mixture made from remorse, loss, anger, failure, blame, guilt, sadness, concern, and a thousand other unnamed things.
“There was so much blood,” Camille finally said, her words piercing the barrier of silence. Her voice was simultaneously desperate and empty, “I just, I couldn’t . . .” she stopped to find the words, and instead looked intently in Michael’s eyes. “I just couldn’t, you know?”
Regards, best wishes, and the human experience,