RED HALO

By: Anonymous

I was standing in line at the amusement park, looking at the giant roller coaster with pure horror, when I saw her. Out of the corner of my eye, there was a thirteen year old girl. She was alone, with the pink balloon tied to her wrist in a sea of people, standing perfectly still in a moment of cold contemplation. The dress she wore was tattered-crimson stains and shredded fabric on her shoulders and thighs. Her hair was matted in her ponytail. She had shining blue eyes that were red with tears.

“Hey!” I called out, across the masses of people meandering the park. “Over here!”

Head turning, eyes widening, and feet racing, she looked at me for a moment in terror and took off in a random direction. The balloon is carried with a gust of wind.

“Wait!” I yelled. “Come back! I can help you!” I slid under the rope of the entryway to the rollercoaster, and dashed. I didn’t have any sort of a plan, but from the look of the blood on her dress I knew that something horrible may have happened. I had to find her.

I took off into the crowd, shoving my way through as strangers gawked. Muddy footprints on the sun drenched sidewalk became less frequent the more I jogged into a clearing. Taking a look around, I noticed they were leading to a corner in between an ice cream shop and a burger joint.The heat enveloped me into exhaustion with crisped shoulders underneath my t-shirt. Still, I carried on shouting, “Hey! I’m sorry I scared you. I just want to help…”

Sobs quietly echoed in the walkway. I did not dare to move for a moment, taking a subtle step backwards. They were from a dark entryway, where a charm bracelet glimmered at the catch of light. Thoughtfully, I took a few cautious steps forward to what appeared to be a closed, cobblestone shop. Kneeling down at the steps, I sat on my legs while the girl remained still the shadows. She gasped sharply but did not try to escape. Reflected light from the window pane  to the right illuminated a young face with a scratch on her lower lip and twigs in her hair. The charm bracelet has a small golden plate with the name “Jolene Matthews” inscribed on it in swooping letters written in cursive.

“Is your name Jolene Matthews?” I cooed.

No answer. Jolene fondles the charm bracelet on her wrist. The movement seems involuntary, as if it is a compulsive habit, and a wild look takes over her expression.

“Do you need me to call the police? Did something bad happen to you?”A small fissure in feeling seems to shake through her and her fingers tremble before she crosses her arms and shuts her eyes. I can tell she is listening but refuses to respond. She rocks back and forth and back and forth.

“It’s okay to be afraid.” I assure her, looking for words that may stir her to open up to me or at least urge me to do something. She grimaces and shakes until, to my surprise, her eyes meet mine for the first time since she sprinted off.

A sole tear runs down Jolene’s flushed cheeks and she cries out, “Can’t you see?” She  violently reaches for me but her bruised hand goes directly through mine, like I am made of water vapor. I look at my skin-translucent, pale, unfeeling. Numb.

Jolene screeches through tears. “I just want to be left alone! I don’t want to help you!”

“I don’t understand.” I manage to whisper. I am interrupted by blaring sirens.

An ambulance whizzes by the street and unloads a frenzy of paramedics. I take off running after it, until I find myself in a crowded square, as crimson oozes onto the tile through the cracks, trickling and collecting around a woman’s head like a halo.  

My heartbeat feels like it’s in my throat. She’s wearing the same t-shirt I am, right down to the small hole on the left shoulder. Running my fingers through my hair, blood seeps onto my fingertips.

I don’t even remember falling.

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