It had been weeks since the accident, but it still felt fresh in my heart. As a collective, my boyfriend, his family, and myself had gone up to the high lake in honor of one of the last few glorious days of summer. It was so warm and bright. His parents had brought several outdoor cooking appliances to make a meal of hamburgers and hotdogs. We feasted. We laughed. The middle of the afternoon had brought a heavy wave of heat though. The air was so full of humidity and high temperatures that we could not resist one last swim in the chilly lake waters. We rented a small boat from the nearby marina and took turns climbing up the ladder and jumping off the back in attempt to splash anyone nearby. The fun could not last forever though. The sun started to set, and Shawn wanted to go for one more jump, one last dip. I climbed back onto the boat in attempt to coerce him back to shore with me. He did not listen.
Even though we had been free falling into the water all afternoon, the murky waves of the lake keep a secret hidden beneath it—a large boulder. When Shawn had not pushed up to the surface after the traditional several second swim to the top, I automatically knew something was wrong. Once his initial ripple had pushed out to be a negligible refraction of water, my stomach plummeted. I started screaming for him. No answer. I dove in and tried to search for him. No Shawn. It took two search teams dredging the area for nearly three hours to bring him back up. Shawn's parents wanted me to go home or at least turn away. I could not do that. I had to see him be brought up from the depths. I had to make sure it was really him. I had to be certain he was really gone. His pale blue face was evidence enough though. I thought that I might could still see animation in him though. Part of me swore that he was fine and would soon be up and smiling at me, insisting that he “meant to do that.” Yet, the stillness of his limp form and the agony on his family's face let me know my vision of a happily ever after evening was a sheer falsehood and almost cruel to imagine. I still missed him so much. Random flashed of him kept invading the corners of my eyes.
However, the phone at my home was finally ringing for me again tonight. Despite my reclusiveness over the past while, friends were calling for me specifically instead of just asking my parents how I was handling Shawn's death. My friends were begging me to go out with them to The Park. I never was much one for going to The Park. It was just an abandoned section of the city park that had a few picnic tables and broken swings in addition to some worn down grill pits that were actually good for controlling small bonfires. Lots of people who went to my school liked to go there though on the weekends to break out of the restraints of parents and authority figures. My never ending sadness from the accident was starting to worry them, and my friends just wanted to make sure that I was going to get over it eventually and start being myself again soon.
Part of me was a bit upset that they were out of the grieving phase so soon. I mean, he was my boyfriend, but he was their friend too. My true love. Their companion. While those two types of relationships cannot really be compared in an adequate way, I at least thought they should still be in mourning like me—even if only slightly mourning to the point where they did not go out and get wasted while dancing around a fire like ancient nature worshipers. Yet, even when I was trying to be mad at the easy going nature of my friends (our friends), I soon shifted to sadness at the mere thought of him. He was gone. He had vanished from the Earth. After a mere twenty days or so, they were ready to start celebrating and having fun again. I was not so sure that I was prepared to take that step back to normality with such a big hole in my chest. Yet, my parents were worried by this time too. Several weeks of locking myself in my room and only eating enough to survive had taken a toll on them apparently. With the urging of a large group of my friends and the support of my parents, I went, grabbing a scarf to wrap around myself in the irregular fall chill. The fires were lit in the rusted grills. Several other collections of people from my school were starting to converge on the same point in the center of the space. I stayed back. Being here should be enough for my friends. I sat on the top of an ancient picnic table and merely watched the frivolity of everyone else. The music combined with the fire and the hypnotism of the night soon put me in a trance though. The flashes of Shawn in my memory and in the corners of my eyes started to get worse until I saw him—actually saw him smiling in front of me.
I automatically put out my hand to him as thought nothing had happened and the accident was just a horrible nightmare. We danced. We danced with the others. Yet, with each step and sway I felt like we were being pulled away and a distance was being put between us and everyone else. Finally, this vision spoke. “Let's go for a walk.”
Shawn loved taking long walks. Maybe this was all real. Please, let this be real. We held hands and simply walked into the distant shadows of night, enjoying each others company. My legs started to hurt after a while though, and I looked around to see how far we had gone from The Park. The fires and other people were nowhere in sight. After a few more moments of assessment I realized the true horror of where we were. Shawn gripped my hand tighter than he had been. We were along the banks of the high lake. The cloud covered moon reflected along the murky water. That's when I noticed how Shawn's palm was quite wet.
“You promised to always stay with me, Maggie. I have to help you keep your promise to me.” His words hit me like a slap across the face. I turned to look up at him. Instead of his icy blue eyes, hollow holes glared back at me as his handsome face melted away to that of a rotting corpse. His jaw still moved even though I could see most of the bone underneath the decaying flesh, “I have to keep you, Maggie.”
I screamed. This was not my Shawn. I ran as fast as I could through the woods that I knew led back out to the highway. The moon tried to peek through the branches to give me light, but the darkness was more powerful. I heard the sound of heavy feet slamming into the ground close behind me, labored breathing, and roars of anger. I felt a soaking wet, bony hand grab at me. My scarf provided protection enough for me to push out of it, leaving the cloth behind while I made it to the pavement of the closest road. Then...nothing.
My eyes were itchy. I reached up to rub them then rolled over. Wait. What? I was back in my room, safely tucked in my bed as the morning sun shone through my windows. Was it all a dream? A nightmare?
I tried to shrug of the realistic night terror and go about my day at home. Shawn's dad came by that afternoon though. He had been visiting his son's grave that day, but it looked like someone had disturbed the earth on top. Cloth had been sticking out. With the help of the cemetery workers, they dug to the coffin to find—my scarf. It was shredded as though it had been viciously pulled down into the dirt, with the end of it stuck inside the tomb itself.