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African American Suspense Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

I was raised to be polite and respectful to strangers, especially my elders. And yet, I wasn't allowed to trust too much in them as well? Strangers are potential friends, and simultaneously, could be a factor that is detrimental to my life? 


Since the phrase "Stranger danger" is continuously ingrained into the minds of young children, why are educators allowed to teach students if they are a "stranger"? 


Significant others start off as strangers, even extended family members become strangers after a while. To say the least, trusting strangers altogether was something I couldn't grasp the concept properly, even at the age of twenty, it was still hard to understand. If I ignore strangers, I come off as rude, whereas, if I am too nice, I give open invitations that give the impression that I am vulnerable? And despite my numerous run-ins with them, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. They are people after all. The list could go on, but I could feel my mind slowly being engulfed by the lingering darkness. So instead of slipping and succumbing to it, I continued to think. To keep my mind active so I could stay conscious. 


I was never the type to focus on something that can potentially go wrong, instead, I’d focus on the positive. I would be enthusiastic about every bad situation. Life was too short to dwell on negative things. Despite being positive all the time, regardless of how I approached it, my life was short after all. I weakly laughed at the irony, a rough, explosive cough burning my lungs as I released it, feeling a thick, metallic liquid erupting from my nose and mouth.  


Maybe, I had become so ambiguous and careless with trusting strangers because Mrs. Jackson that lived down the street. I didn't know her well, but she always fed me candy as a child. Or that time I fell off my bike, and a good Samaritan stopped their vehicle, helped me clean my scraped knee and took me home. Even now, short conversations are a fast and fun way to make friends, and connecting with someone through shared hobbies always made me super optimistic to talk to new people and make friends.


Although, I always got scolded for being too trusting at times. More specifically, my approach and friendly attitude of strangers. My mother was the first to notice. It was something she anticipated since she spent the most time raising me, opposed to my father who had to constantly work. Out of all five siblings, I, being the middle, was the only one like this.


And I wish I wasn’t. The overwhelming regret pushed me to tears as I stared up at the gray sky, black splotches growing larger, aiming to engulf my vision. My heart squeezes itself as my eyes continue to waver between the line of focus and unfocused. 


“Mom is right, you know.” I could hear my eldest brother as if he was with me. Then, I saw him. He was standing across from me, arms folded and leaning up against the door frame to my room. He was wearing the exact outfit he wore that day. I only remembered it since he kept bragging about his fit, and forced me to take a gazillion photos of him earlier that day. It was as if I was taken back in time while I vividly relived this memory. 


“About what?” I remember inquiring, looking up from my phone. 


“You are too trusting, something like that could get you seriously hurt or killed.” 


Now that I am presently thinking of this, it was as if he was foreshadowing the very exact predicament I was in now. A warning for me.


“Tay, not you, too.” I groan, irritation spiking in the pit of my stomach. “Just because I gave that hitchhiker a ride into town yesterday doesn’t mean anything! If you were in need, wouldn’t you want someone to help you as well? Most hitchhikers aren't even creeps, and the one I picked up certainly wasn't.”


“You don't know that! He could have been some murder or something.”


“I’m alive, aren’t I?”


“For now! You can’t give everyone the benefit of the doubt, in order to so you, you must be good at judging people's characters, and no offense lil sis, you have always had bad judgment in people.” 


I wish I had listened to him, too. But, it's not as if I trusted every stranger! I was cautious sometimes! During college parties, I was always reserved, and I even ignored some people in the street trying to talk to me at night! I wasn’t stupid, caution was taken when I had a gut feeling about it, so how could I allow something like this to happen?


I could hear a gurgling sound and a quiet wheeze interrupting my thoughts while I came back to the situation at hand. I could feel the liquid in my lungs rising. Realizing that I could hardly breath was a frightening revelation. I tried to get rid of it by coughing, but it only manifested as a gag. I was choking on my own blood.


Time was running out. I didn’t have long, but I could feel myself desperate to grasp onto the life that was leaving me. I was scared, I could feel myself slipping and I didn't know what to do. I don’t suppose death could wait until I see my family again? 


I already knew the answer. They were states away, in Illinois, whilst, I was supposed to be on my college dorm. They had no idea anything was wrong, and I would hate to ruin their day. The devastation of not being able to see my family again, was a dread that I couldn't process.


In lieu, I subconsciously thought of a memory that had been filed away, an event that was always shoved to the back of mind. Instead of something happy to part with, it forced me to recollect a memory I didn’t want to acknowledge until now. Maybe I was latently pinpointing where this all should have changed. The exact moment I should have listened to my mom about strangers.


I was back in my bedroom, in the fall of 6th grade. I remember getting up early in the morning for school. It was the peak of 5 am, and I heard a smooth, tired voice say, “Jewel, get up honey.” She called for me. My eyelashes make way for my eyes to open. I see my mother in her black bonnet, a silk lavender robe tied tightly around her body as she stares at me expectantly. The rattling of my purple beads pierces the silence as I groggily get up. Rubbing my eyes and attempting to blink the sleep away.


I make a show and stand up, demonstrating to her that I was awake. However, once she left the room to wake my siblings, I immediately indulged in my drowsiness, falling asleep again. I ignored the bustling activity; the arguing between my sisters, and the thumping made by my brothers. Even hearing my mom shout at all the commotion to cease did not phased me once.  


What did wake me was my mom yelling from downstairs that the bus was here. I hadn’t been dressed at all, I shot up from my bed, tripping over any and everything as I scrambled for clothes. Somehow, I had dressed fast enough. I sprint out the door and pass mom, walking on the back of my shoes. They nearly slipped off as I ran towards the bus stop that was around the corner. I let out sobs as I watched the long, yellow bus pull off, turning the corner and forgetting about me. 


The despair and fear that I would disappoint mom because I missed the bus, despite her waking me up on time, made me entertain the idea of walking to school. During my dramatic weeping, and I wasn’t exactly quiet, but while I had been wiping my tears, I heard someone approach. I looked up from my hands and saw an unfamiliar woman. She attempted to calm me down, asking me why I was crying. After a while, I was consoled. Regardless of my blubbering state, I managed to explain the reason I was crying. She was a little too close for comfort, twirling a few beads in my hair, running her hands through my braids while stroking my back. Her head shakes up and down, making a humming sound every now and then.


She smelled nice. A fragrance of laundry and lavender scented perfume lingered on her. She was so close, I could see the blemishes on her caramel skin, even getting a waft of her shampoo from her hair tied in a puff. I took notice of the black pickup truck pulling up along the curve. The backseat door opening slowly, but not enough for me to see. She makes me look at her, gently pulling my face so we can make eye contact.


“Honey, you go to Westbrook middle school, right?” She asked, sending shivers up my spine. I didn't know how she knew my school, but it caused alarm bells to ring throughout my head. She must have felt me shudder, because she quickly followed up by saying, “My daughter goes there, too, you should come with me. You know Ella Jenkins?"


I shook my head. "She is my daughter. She's in Mrs. Jacob's homeroom. I was driving her to school just now, she’s in the car, too. She told me she knew you and suggested we should give you a ride.” This did soothe me slightly. I had begun growing comfortable since she did know the name of a teacher, although I didn't know Ella Jenkins though.


At that moment, I couldn't make a decision. I didn’t want to get in trouble for missing the bus, and I certainly didn’t want to walk to school either. I don't want mom and dad to get angry with me for going into a stranger’s car, either so I was conflicted. While I was working though my indecisiveness, this woman was already pushing me towards the car. Just when I was starting to resist, I heard a loud yell that physically made me jump. I turned to see mom bolting towards me, my black backpack forgotten on the ground as she screamed at the lady to get away from me. The woman let me go, fleeing to the car that I saw had two men inside, no kid at all. They sped off, tires burning rubber. Mom had tightly embraced me, nearly crying as she tried to see the license plates on the car. She couldn’t so she held me tight. 


This was a memory I didn’t try to think much of. I hadn't even known I remembered that until now. I always thought it was a dream.


Maybe that is why I was in the situation I was in now.


I looked up at the gloomy sky, silently praying that it wouldn't go south, but the impending doom didn’t fail to make itself known as I trudged slowly behind the man in front of me. I could feel my legs drag, and I felt as if I wanted to ditch him. Although, I couldn't help but think he could have genuinely needed my help. 


While I was in my car, leaving my vehicle to go inside a restaurant downtown, I was approached by a man. He wore a black hoodie, khaki pants that had dirt and holes on it. His sneakers were talking, ripping from its seams. His eyes were bloodshot, the blue looking dull. His blond hair was greasy, and he seemed a bit fidgety. He approached me with a bag, opening it and saying in a nasal voice,


“Would you like to buy some?” He asked, while I peered into the bag full of CDs. 


Immediately, I began to conflict with myself on how I should approach this situation. Should I be nice? Rude? Standoffish? I didn't even get to decide before I saw the tears in his eyes as he suddenly spewed this story of how he was homeless and needed to feed his son, and I caved in. “Um,” I piped up and he immediately listened. 


“I don't want any of the CDs, but I have money, just not with me right now. I don't carry cash.” I said.


“Well, there is an ATM around the corner from here in the bar.”


He looks at me expectantly. "Um, well, I suppose." I respond, following behind the man. I couldn't judge what kind of stranger he was, but as I followed behind him, this devastating feeling just overcame me, and I was praying for someone to come save me from this situation. My friends were inside the restaurant, surely they would notice?


I didn’t want to be rude, but at the same time, the fear and despair prompted me to speak up, lending me courage. “Um, sir, I don't think this is a good idea. My friends are waiting for me and their getting a bit impatient so.."


“Oh, no, it's just right around the corner! It will be ok.” 


“I’m sorry. Isn't there an ATM machine inside the restaurant? I can use that one instead of the one at the bar."


"Uh, no! That one isn't with a bank! It will charge you an extra fee to withdraw money!" He frantically tries to persuade me.


"Oh, its no bother! Lets go to this one instead." I say, turning my back on this man. I was begging to ease up a bit, since I could still help this man, but with a lot of witness around too. Besides, it was already evening and its not like he could do much while the sun was still up.


I'm an idiot though. Thoughts like those, caused me to relax and let my guard down. As I approached the restaurant, I felt a heavy, blunt object struck against my head, causing me to turn around slowly. Instantaneously, I see a huge brick fall from the stranger's hand as he even looked terrified at what he did. He dropped it, and I could see a red substance staining that brick. I felt a warm, thick, liquid run down from the top of my head. My hand instinctively raises to my wound, flinching as I touched it. My body suddenly collapses on the ground, the impact shaking my whole body.


The stranger began to dig in my pockets. I didn't know what he was searching for, but when he snatched my purse in a hurry, he emptied the contents out and rummaged through it. He took my wallet, my phone, and other valuables and ran. I was stuck, laying on the sidewalk while looking up at the gloomy sky. The asphalt scraped against my skin, protruding larger rocks digging into my back.


I was always a stranger to tragedies. It was something I watched from afar, something I couldn’t personally say I experienced. It's not as if I denied the possibility of it happening to me. I always heard stories of kidnappings, shootings, gang violence, car accidents and numerous unimaginable occurrences. Although, it had never once occurred to me that I could be a victim at random. 


I couldn’t breathe anymore, the blood from my lungs depriving me from oxygen, drowning me. It was odd that even though I had ambivalent thoughts towards strangers, no one was around. I was alone.


It was odd though. It was evening and suddenly there wasn't a soul in sight. This town was on the quiet side, so seeing it deserted by evening wasn't rare. Even my friends hadn't realize my car was in the parking lot, so I will not count on them to find me.


Everything was feeling so surreal. I wasn't in much pain besides this dull throb on my head, but I was being deprived from oxygen, which was cutting my life short. In the end, it couldn't be helped. It was inevitable, so I accepted my fate.


Willingly, I close my eyes that were mingling with tears and rain that suddenly began to pour down heavily. Perhaps, for my sake. I take one last breath that only sounded like a gurgle.


Tay was right. Mom was right. I should have listened after all.


All of this, because of my trust for strangers.


July 23, 2022 02:55

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3 comments

Santina Forlenza
12:46 Aug 02, 2022

Nice story,Elle. First of all,it makes me thinking about the concept of 'stranger' and how it can be shaped by the environment. I m saying so, because I was raised in a small town where actually there was no stanger; evreybody somehow knew evrybody. Second thing, you made me reminding of an old lady tossing candies from her balcony to mine; the neighbour which is a stranger in the big city where I live now, and a known old lady in the small town of my childhood. Third, the story really pushed me to read it until the end. The suspense is b...

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Peter Naughton
12:13 Jul 28, 2022

OK, it is not nice to hear about a human being getting attacked like this. I think the sentence "Maybe that is why I was in the situation I was in now" could do with a little more detail because we find out that she had left her car parked and was walking towards the restaurant, but I think this should be emphasized more.

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Elle Curry
18:16 Jul 28, 2022

Ah, I see your point. Although, I had intentionally wanted it to be vague since I didn't want to reveal much until the very end. Yet, do you still think there could be more detail while being vague? If so, I am curious to know how you would have done this? How would you emphasis this whilst not giving much to the audience yet. Also, I do appreciate you thoughts!

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