"Beneath the Wheels"
by: Kenneth Cross
He didn’t know what had killed him, only that it had been large and fast. He had been crossing the street, which he
knew was forbidden, when it barreled into him. Fear paralyzed him. His head snapped up. A bright glow illuminated
his eyes, transforming them into miniature flares. It was ironic that they shone brightest right before being snuffed
Immediately, the scream ripped through the night as the innocent bystander lost her innocence. She had been looking
for her friend, newly deceased. Running into the house, she hid, immobilized by shock.
Lucy awoke to her alarm and clutched her head, feeling a heavy hangover. She groaned but stumbled to the
bathroom, retrieving aspirin and a glass of water. Her mom was a doctor, so the medicine cabinet was always well-
stocked and parental supervision was lax. For instance, Lucy’s mom had left for work the night before and wouldn’t be
back till that evening. Lucy tried to be responsible, despite her bad habits, but she still harbored black spaces that
littered her mind like fog, concealing monstrous memories.
Head still pounding like a jackhammer, she forced herself to attend school. The one thing that upset her mom was bad
grades. In the event of a sour report card, Lucy suddenly got more attention than she ever could have wanted.
She grabbed the keys to the blue 2004 Ford Escort, parked halfway on the lawn. Last night she must have been
really out of it. After a cursory glance, no new dents swam into view. Lucy didn’t really care at that point. She peeled
out of the driveway, rushing to seven hours of drudgery. She winced once passing a dead cat on the other side of the
road with its ribs smashed flat. The creature looked familiar, but she couldn’t place it. It was too mangled and went by
too fast. Other than this reminder of her mortality, the drive was uneventful.
Lucy downed the proffered can, although she knew it meant a memory lapse. Several drinks later, the familiar haze
drifted over her. Several hours later, she forced herself to drive home. Honestly, the party was only a block away from
the high school, which was only several minutes away from her house. What could happen?
Lucy knew the routine by heart. Wake up with a hangover, take aspirin, and go to school as normal. Walking through
the cramped halls she forced smiles at people, including some who had also been completely wasted the night before.
It was all part of the act, part of a mask that drove her deeper into herself.
Math was first, no hope there. She had hated it since learning to count fourteen years ago. Her grade reflected,
guiltily harboring an incurable F. Her mom would hate that. Lucy could only try to care. She hunkered down and took
Her other subjects were alright. It was only math that gave her trouble. The fact that her head was splitting open
didn’t help matters. It was fine, though. Secretly, Lucy knew that her mom had already resigned herself to her
Lunch was a relief, which was typical. She ate fast and ran to her car for some time alone. These few minutes were
the best in her day. They always were. She sat there and thought about the world, about her life, about how things
were so wrong.
In two years, she would graduate high school. After that, she would probably find a crappy college that specialized in
suck. Hey, beggars couldn’t be choosers. Lucy would do it for her mom. Her mom wanted her to grow up and “be
something”. Her mom wanted her to have a life where fourteen-hour shifts weren’t customary. Her mom was out of
Lucy didn’t care what she did in life, what kind of job she had or whether she went to college or not. It didn’t make a
difference whether you flipped burgers or towed shopping carts, you were still poor. And if it weren’t for her mom, she
would have been perfectly happy with poverty. She would have been happy just living alone, no kids, no husband,
not even cats. But really, she wasn’t the one in control of her happiness.
And that’s when the chill hit. She began to shake violently, uncontrollably. Lucy gasped for breath, barely able to draw
air. Her head slammed against the seat. Stupidly, only one thought ran through her head.
Is this what a seizure feels like?
Then it stopped. The chill left her with nothing more than a feeling of extreme unease. Something was wrong, like a
string in the universe suddenly being cut. Lucy wanted a drink, badly. If reality was what you made it, she suddenly
wanted to make it go away.
Forcing herself from the car, she shivered once before returning to class. She was tardy. She didn’t care.
Striding through the hallway, she triumphantly entered her final (and favorite) class. Senior English was Lucy’s daily
highlight. Mrs. Carew introduced the lesson.
“Alright, we’re starting something new today. Have any of you ever heard of The Great Gatsby?”
A few students grunted, and Lucy smiled. Mrs. Carew, undaunted by a lack of enthusiasm, continued.
“Well, we’re going to be reading it.”
She handed out a stack of books but was left with one extra. She counted heads and then asked,
“I haven’t seen her today, but I can give her the book. She’s my neighbor.”
This was true. Sarah lived one house past Lucy, and the two had been close friends for a long time. However, they
could not have been more different. Unlike Lucy, Sarah carried a glow of innocence. She was nearly never absent, and
Lucy wanted to know why she had elected today to skip. After all, Lucy couldn’t let her friend turn out like she had.
The drive home was dull, but Lucy welcomed the ride. The only odd part was seeing that the cat, which had lain
crushed on the street a mere seven hours ago, had vanished. A severe chill inexplicably shook her spine. The string in
the universe was still cut.
Parking the car in her driveway, she glanced at her house. Normally it seemed welcome, but today it seemed to loom
over her. Lucy shook her head, dispelling the illusion. Her mom would return in only a few hours and would expect
food after a hard shift. First, however, Lucy had a book to deliver.
Knocking on Sarah’s door, Lucy held The Great Gatsby under one arm. She waited several minutes, which seemed
longer than they really were, before she heard a shuffle inside the house. Sarah opened the door yet seemed to
immediately regret it.
Her expression twisted into pure, unadulterated terror. She attempted to shut the door, but Lucy’s shoe blocked it.
Seeing her effort fail, Sarah began to retreat, stammering,
“Y-you! You killed him! You killed my friend!”
Lucy stood in shock, but Sarah was frantic. She ran forward and shoved Lucy backwards, immediately slamming and
bolting the door.
Unprepared to comprehend the situation, Lucy stumbled back to her house and entered the ominous front door, The
Great Gatsby still clutched in her fingers.
Focus, she told herself. What’s wrong with Sarah? What is it?
Almost unconsciously, she tripped up the stairs to her room, her thinking place, and opened the door.
Lucy dropped the book.
Terror seized her, even before she saw it. It was the kind of fear that stabbed your sides and never left you, ever.
The cut string sat there. The thing sat on her bed.
It illuminated her room with two miniature flares, which had once been the eyes of Sarah’s cat. It had been a he, but
he was dead. The ribs were completely crushed, but it stood up.
Those flares burned away the black spots in her memory, and she suddenly remembered everything. Lucy had run
over Sarah’s cat as her friend had watched. She had taken Sarah’s innocence, and she was responsible.
The thing leaped from the bed, flesh falling from its carved body. It seemed to almost smile, as though Lucy were a
mouse. The creature pounced. Lucy ran, galvanized by fear. It chased her.
She bolted down the stairs and out the door, which seemed to take forever to open. Down the street, scenery
passed in a blur. Whenever Lucy turned, the beast was right behind her – never gaining yet never losing ground.
Houses flew by as she tried to outrun her guilt. Too late, she saw the car.
Lucy’s mom, returning from work early, sped down the street. Weary and impatient after a hard shift, she did not see
her daughter run in front of the car until it was far too late. The headlights illuminated Lucy’s eyes, turning them into
miniature flares. Slamming the brakes, her mom heard a sound that she would never forget. One last life had
disappeared beneath the wheels.