It almost felt like it was watching me.
I glanced down at the new tattoo. It was an eye, the kind I’d seen in odd gift shops and as logos for psychic services. Maybe it was some sort of new age thing. I didn’t buy any of that nonsense, but the tattoo was still wicked cool. The bold red ink emblazoned on my skin almost made me feel like a new person.
Brandon Conrad meant business!
I walked with a new, more confident air as I strode along the downtown sidewalk, away from the parlor where I’d gotten the tattoo. The place had seemed pretty sketchy; the model skulls, weird masks, and freaky posters giving me cultish vibes the second I had stepped through the door. That was before I had seen the prices. The tattoo had only cost five bucks, and look how great it had turned out!
I doubted my parents would like it, but since when had they ever let me do anything? I was almost seventeen and they hadn’t even let me get a phone! I had to use a dumb map, on actual paper, whenever I needed to go somewhere! I couldn’t wait until I was eighteen. It seemed like no matter where I went, everyone treated me like I was twelve or something. Like I couldn’t handle myself. It drove me crazy!
It was late, past my curfew of course, so I’d hear about that from them. I was only halfway home, driving down a long country road surrounded by cornfields. I had been driving for ten minutes before I saw someone approaching the opposite way. I quickly switched off my brights as to not offend anybody.
Then I noticed a sudden odd pain in my upper arm, like a cramp but worse. Had I slammed it on something earlier? In seconds, it began to burn, like a branding iron had been pressed against my skin. I cursed, yanking up my sleeve, steering with one hand.
The eye tattoo on my arm was moving, the black ink pupil sliding around in its socket. It blinked, watching me. I stared in shock, the agony flaring up worse and worse. I screamed, losing my grip on the wheel.
A second later, I felt the two cars collide.
I had been speeding, sixty-five on a fifty road, trying to get back home before my parents could get even more annoyed. It was like being hit by a sledgehammer. Glass slashed my face and I slammed forward, the airbag crushing me like a steamroller.
It took me a moment to realize I was still alive. Thankfully I had chosen today to wear my seatbelt, otherwise I would have gone through the windshield. My head throbbed from the airbag. My face was already swelling. Blood oozed from dozens of gashes.
How had I survived?
I managed to pull myself out of the wreckage of my car. If the dashboard had been forced any further back it would have impaled my head. I drew a choking breathe as I stared at the other car. It had been totaled, taken far worse damage than my own.
The windshield was shattered. The driver hadn’t been wearing a seat belt. I could see the body lying beside the road fifteen feet from the car. No. No. Please no. I staggered away from the car, barely believing my own eyes. This couldn’t be happening. This wasn’t real. I couldn’t get arrested. No one had seen the crash, but at any moment a car could appear down the road.
I had to get out of here.
I sprinted off the road and plunged blindly into the rows of cornstalks, the dry husks lashing me in the face as I raced through like a mad animal. The dark, the rain, the mud all mixing together into some hellscape I couldn’t escape. I ran, half clawing my way through, until the rows of corn ended abruptly. I was in a clearing.
I saw something there in the clearing. A shack. I charged for it, my whole body shaking with cold and fear, just needing shelter. I opened the door and slammed it behind me. Alone in the shack. I sunk down on the floor, trying to take deep breaths. My shoulder still hurt, stinging like insects were nesting beneath my skin. I rolled up my sleeve, and the eye was there. It looked eerily up at me. What the heck was happening!?
Then I realized that something about the room had changed. Something about the light. It seemed odd, like blood was covering the windows. The whole room was two shades, soulless black and bloody red fused into a garish, clashing turmoil.
Wait. This wasn’t the same room.
This…this was my room! In my house! How had I even got here? I got to my feet, the room shifting and bending around me nauseatingly, like it was alive. I found the door and opened it, the creak way too loud. Did the hallway beyond my room seem…longer now? The silence was deafening as I made my way down. Something wasn’t right.
I found myself at a window, and glanced out. The moon was dark red in the sky, shining down on a lifeless red landscape, empty and forlorn. I raced to the nearest door and threw it open to the crimson night. No sound. I walked out, across the scarlet grass, something guiding my steps to a small hill with several bloody elm trees. I found myself walking to the top.
There was something there looming from the ground. A single gravestone. Red, like everything else. It was unlike other headstones in the way the name was written after the epitaph.
Was killed in a car crash one night
I walked with a new air as I strode along the downtown sidewalk.
The crimson eye on my arm watched me, and blinked.