Shadow of Death

Megan Cooper

© Copyright 2011 by Megan Cooper
 2011 General Nonfiction Winner


Photo by Colin Davis on Unsplash
Photo by Colin Davis on Unsplash

It seemed like one of those nights when everything was going to go wrong. I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I could sense it. I knew that the end was coming, it was sitting there, churning inside of me. The hairs on my arms were prickling, goose bumps raced over my skin. I could feel Death waiting in the shadows. I could see him moving from tree to tree, watching. I just knew he was waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. I felt scared, weak and defenseless. I knew there was no way I could defeat Death, not now, not ever. He had come and he would destroy, shatter me into a thousand pieces, all with the stroke of his bony, gnarled ancient hand.

The wind picked up and Damian sat next to me. He put his arm around my shoulders and told me to cheer up. I looked up into his sweet face. His eyes were so blue; they made my thoughts wash away. He had that effect on me, even though I could never see him more than as a friend. Perhaps, somewhere buried deep inside the trench of my heart I loved him, but I don’t think I even knew…or honestly ever cared to know. Love wasn’t for me; I was broken and would never be fixed again. I had destroyed what existence I had on this earth and didn’t really care to fix it. I was happy being at the bottom, happy being what people called “scum.” I guess I felt I deserved this life, considering I’m the one who brought it on.

Damian was babbling about something he had done to some girl. He wasn’t the most faithful guy in the world and well, he had his fair share of one night stands. I was surprised he even mentioned it to me, considering it meant nothing. But, from his tone of voice, this girl meant something to him. He had fallen in love with her, but couldn’t figure out how to tell her. He kept mentioning some random details, I think if I had been paying closer attention I would have figured out a lot sooner the girl he was talking about was me…then maybe, and just maybe he would still be alive today. I was being selfish, caught up in the aftermath of my own shit and was ignoring my best friend. Yeah, I was all kinds of screwed up.

Once he finished talking and realized I wasn’t listening he punched me in the shoulder jarring me from my self-pity and then pulled out his stash. He looked up at me and didn’t even have to ask. Of course I was on board for this; I had been waiting for him to pull it out all night. He pulled out his small, square mirror and put it on his knee. He handed me a dollar bill and told me to roll it up. I proceeded to follow his directions as he poured the white, powdery substance from the baggie. He pulled out his razor blade and chopped up the lines a bit more, separating them into six, perfect lines of freedom. He held the mirror out to me and I took the first hit. I felt the powder rush up my nose and then in an instant, the world changed color. I felt more alive, vibrant and ready for the night. I wasn’t as depressed as I had been and I was able to shut off my brain for a moment.

Damian took his line and then passed it back to me. I took another one and the feeling intensified tenfold. I was flying and nothing could touch me. I was unstoppable. Invincible. Alive. I looked to Damian as he took his next line, his face was a bit pale, and he was sweating more than normal. I looked at him, wondering what else he had taken that night. He looked queasy, almost like he was losing it, but coke never did that to him. He was never one to falter on it. He was a pro, a champ, like me. He could handle his shit. I began to worry as he passed me the mirror once again. I hesitated a minute, thinking that maybe it was laced with something else. He looked at me and smiled and a flash of the cool, collected Damian came back. I shrugged my shoulders and took my last line. I passed it back to him and he took his. Almost instantly, my life was forever changed.

His hands began shaking and the mirror fell from his grip. He had tears streaming from his eyes, blood from his nose. He kept trying to tell me something, something that sounded like “I can’t breathe,” but I wasn’t sure. I began to panic, unsure of how to react or what to do. I screamed for help, but no one seemed to be listening…no one seemed to care. Damian slumped over onto me and his body was like ice, yet he was sweating profusely. He was grabbing at his throat, gasping for air, his eyes frantically calling for help while he couldn’t. I screamed once again and this time a passerby heard me and I told them to call 911. The passerby pulled out her cell phone and quickly dialed, screaming into the phone that “he was dying.”

He was dying.” Those three words caused my world to come to a crashing halt. Everything stopped for a moment. I could hear the river trickling by, the crickets chirping and the wind in the trees. I heard Death in the trees once again, crunching through the leaves as he got closer and closer to me. I grabbed onto Damian, trying to pull him away, trying to save him from the shadows. He grabbed my hand weakly and I looked him in the eyes. They were no longer the deep blue, but a pale, grayish color. He was no longer frantically gasping for breath. I saw his chest rise and fall slowly, he looked me in the eyes and then everything became silent. I could no longer hear his raspy breaths. His chest no longer moved. My Damian, my best friend, had succumbed to the shadows.

Everything that happened next was a blur, even though that is cliché to say. I had no idea where they took him, when they took him, or who was talking to me. I sat there, not saying a word, trying to process what had just happened. Everything was so confusing, so messed up and I was in shock. Had I really just witnessed his death? Did Damian really die in my arms? Did things like this happen in real life? I wasn’t a stranger to death, but yet, I couldn’t process what had just happened. Here we were, doing what we always do and then, this. This chaos. This mess.

Minutes turned to hours turned to days. I sank into a depression and no one could pull me out. I was still trying to make sense of the situation. Was I to blame? I didn’t speak, I didn’t eat, and I was a ghost in the hall ways. People walked on eggshells around me, but I still heard their whispers. I knew they blamed me. Some even said he got what he deserved. Was it true? Did karma really exist? Then why, why didn’t Death take me? I slowly walked home from school one night, finally making a decision. I couldn’t live without Damian, so how could he live without me? I needed to get to him. I needed closure. I needed him.

I closed myself in my bathroom, turned on my cd player and let the water in the bath run cold. I pulled out a knife from my pocket and put it on the side of the bath tub. I slowly undressed, taking note to my thin frame, my ghostly white skin and the dark circles under my eyes. I noticed the marks lining my arms like freckles; I noticed my bluish veins protruding from my arms. I saw the scars from other attempts, and I noticed the tears that had never stopped falling. I slowly lowered myself into the bath tub and felt the cold water engulf me. I lifted the knife from the side and then took a deep breath and dragged it across each wrist. Crimson rivers instantly flowed from my body, looking out of place, almost beautiful against the paleness of my skin. I let the water continue to engulf me as I slid further down. The water turning from clear, to rose, to red.

Eventually the pain stopped, my mind stopped, I could no longer feel, no longer cared what happened. Finally, I was able to breathe without the sharp, shooting pains it caused me. I slowly let the world fade away, as the water fully engulfed my head. Soon, I was sleeping the most wonderful sleep I had in weeks. I was lifted, weightless, happy. Then everything went silent, everything went dark, everything went still.

But…my slumber was not to last. I was violently jarred back to reality by screams, tears, and paramedics pulling me out. My body was tossed around, jolted, as reality began to become clear. I remember being disappointed, broken hearted and angry. Soon they were covering me with sheets, covering my arms, giving me oxygen and telling me to come back. I could see blurred faces, faces of people who what…cared? Since when?…they let it get this far…they could see it coming for weeks…why now? Why now…when I finally found my peace? I was on my way to finding Damian, to finding my sanctuary, but they brought me back to this world where I didn’t fit and didn’t understand. Little did I know that this was the beginning of the hardest journey of my life…the journey to the living.

My name is Megan Cooper and I'm an English teacher at New London Community School District in New London, Iowa. I majored in English in college and have always had a passion for writing. I have had many ups and downs throughout my life and many experiences that I can write about. I have witnessed love, birth, death and heart ache in my twenty-six years on this earth. I understand that with life, comes a path and we choose our own way.

More about me. I have a daugther who is two years old, her name is Bristol and I have a son on the way. I am married and love my teaching career. My past demons still haunt me somewhat today and they are always with me. I have lost many friends throughout the years to various events, but I feel that everything has made me who I am now. I use my experiences to help my students understand that there is more to life than the path I followed, but I encourage them that whatever experiences they have to embrace them and use them to become who they want to be. I hope to someday become a published writer, but that would mean finding time to finish the book I have started. My life doesn't call for that at the moment, but I have faith that I will finish it someday.

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