I was going to the doctor’s appointment, though I wasn’t sure why. It was going to be bad news, it was always bad news, it’d been bad news since the headaches started, since the MRIs and the CAT scans and radiation. I could stay home.
Everybody’s got to be somewhere, I guess. The alternative is I stay in bed and wait for the end.
But I’d forgotten. The freeways were slaughterhouses.
It had been bad enough before, but as I got closer to death, I had started to see the dead.
I wouldn’t have known the shadow on the ground had once been a black-and-white cat, if I hadn’t seen its shade, gone nearly translucent as its body decayed.
But the small tabby kitten had been recently killed. It stood on the side of the road, beside a corpse that still looked like it was sleeping, and if I hadn’t known better I would have stopped to rescue it.
It was beyond rescue, as was the pit bull that stared at me from beside the median.
I was beyond rescue, too. I just hadn’t fallen down yet.
How much would it hurt, I wondered, if I hit the median at full speed, or went over the edge of the rail?
Not that I’d do either of those things. Too much chance of being hurt.
If I did decide to end it all, I wasn’t going to do take anyone else with me. I wouldn’t leave any more roadside corpses, fading echoes gradually going thin.
I wouldn’t leave a mess, either. Not a physical one, not a financial one. But soon, I’d have everything tied up. And then?
And then, I saw the boy.
Latino. Five or six years old. Dark curls, big eyes, and why hadn’t anybody stopped to help him?
I pulled over, slowing, and that was when I realized that his curls weren’t even moving, despite the Santa Ana winds that were whipping across the freeway.
There was a rolled-up carpet, just on the other side of the guard rail.
A carpet just big enough to hide the body of a child.
I nearly swerved. The guy behind me laid on the horn.
I straightened the wheel, got back into the lane, shaking, but not from the close call.
I could imagine what had happened. I could imagine a lot of things that could have happened. Child abuse, hit a bit too hard.
The kid deserved a decent burial, and someone deserved to go to jail for it.
I took the next off-ramp, and pulled over as quickly as I could. Got my cell phone out — and stopped.
I should find a pay phone — if they even still existed — and call in my anonymous tip from there. Otherwise, they’d have my phone number. They’d trace me. And what could I say when they asked me how I’d known “Yes, officer, I’ve been seeing ghosts ever since I developed an inoperable brain tumor.” I was probably looking at being the prime suspect, at least for a little while.
But then again, what else was I going to do with the rest of my life?
I unlocked my phone, and dialed 911.