(The second place winner – our Animated Corpse Colonel – in the DaRK PaRTY Wicked Scary Short Story contest is a Canadian college student. Shannon Fay is a journalism student at King’s College in
The judges were struck by how Fay incorporated her journalistic style into her story. The straight-forward narration and strong voice of the main character kept us reading to the surprise ending. Short, but powerful.)
By Your Side
By Shannon Fay
Love has always frightened me. How could it not? It is an omnipotent force, cruel in its blind impartiality. ‘Love conquers all.’ ‘Love will find you in a crowded room.’ ‘Love can come at any time.’ I took these quaint sayings for what they really were: warnings. Dire messages tucked safely inside greeting cards and sealed in envelopes. I’ve always been able to see the true meaning behind common words and pictures, and I always took their advice straight to the heart.
And so I was careful. I wore long sleeves and wore my hood up and tucked my hands in my pockets throughout high school. I avoided eye contact by letting my hair hang in front of my face and looking at my ink scribbled shoes. Somehow I managed to graduate without love finding me.
But then I went to university. I let my guard down and got comfortable, sure that love would never find me among Plato and Darwin. But love comes when you least expect it. And one day, I noticed that Jonathon Thisby wasn’t in tutorial. Where was he? Had he dropped out? Was he sick?
He came back the next day. I listened to every word he said, laughed at every lame joke. I was just so relieved he was back.
It was only after tutorial that I realized what this meant. It was a new sensation, this nauseous feeling from the root of my brain stem to the pit of my stomach. Even after I threw up in the dorm bathroom the feeling did not go away.
Last year I went to a party knowing that he would be there as well. I didn’t drink, I never did, but I watched as Jonathon downed shot after jello shot. It almost made me wonder if he was as uncomfortable there as I was.
I stayed late because he did, but it was worth it because he offered me a ride home seeing as we both lived on campus. I barely heard myself say yes. I just couldn’t believe it. I was going to be alone with Jonathon Thisby. The hours of standing awkwardly in the corner of a stranger’s house had paid off.
We didn’t talk too much on the way back. I was always pretty quiet, but I just couldn’t think of the right way to confess my feelings.
“How are you liking philosophy?” he asked.
“I like it,” I replied, surprised that he had broken the silence. “Even though I wonder if I even belong here.”
“Hey, don’t sell yourself short.” He rubbed his forehead with his hand. “There are plenty of people who will do that for you.”
He didn’t see the STOP sign. I did, but it didn’t matter. There was no secret message in the sign; it was one of the few things in life that meant what it stood for.
He didn’t STOP. Neither did the car coming from the other direction, but they didn’t have a STOP sign so it’s understandable. They slammed into the passenger door and pushed us into the other lane.
I don’t remember the accident beyond that. It’s been a year but things are still strained between me and Jonathon. He blames himself. His hands still shake when he puts them on a steering wheel.
We haven’t spoken since then, but he knows I’m around, always. Sometimes he’ll see me out of the corner of his eye, or glimpse me in the mirror when he shaves or brushes his teeth. Or he’ll be studying and suddenly look up from his book as if he expects to see me standing there, but he never does. But I am there.
I think he thinks I blame him too. He thinks I’m out for revenge. No, Jonathon, that’s not it at all. I’m here because I love you. Maybe if I had told you that night, things wouldn’t have happened the way they did. I know this love is bad for both of us; it consumes me and soon I won’t have any soul left. It keeps you up at night and looking over your shoulder during the day. It’s eating away at both of us, but hopefully I’ll be able to make you understand before it devours us whole.