It all started when I was seven years old. That was when I first saw it happen, first felt it. I was in the third grade, and we were just released for recess. I was the first one to reach the playground. There was a light so bright that it was near blinding. My curiosity got the better of me and I followed it underneath the slide. But the closer I got, the more the light dimmed. When I got to close enough, I could see a shoe sticking out.
“Hello?” I called out
The foot twitched and I could hear the person begin to mumble, before they got a little louder. Their voice was raspy and filled with pained moans and gasps. “I-It burns!”
“Mason! Come play with us!” A girl called out from the blacktop
I ignored her and dropped down to my hands and knees. I was going to- well I don’t know what I was going to do, but I regret crawling forward. The man was sitting up now. He was shaking violently and whimpering as if he were freezing cold in the summer’s heat.
“Hi.” I said quietly
His eyes shot up and he reached his hand out to grab me. His cold flesh tore into my wrist. I tried to jerk away from his hold, but he had a tight grip. He smelled terrible like a dumpster full of spoiled milk and rotten eggs.
“Please help me! It burns!”
“No! Stop it!” I screamed as I struggled in his hold as he tried to shove me down
I could hear the teachers and students rushing over, but the mean was already climbing over me. I could feel woodchips digging into my arms as I pushed him. I put my hands in the middle of his chest and shoved with all my might. Frightened tears poured down my face as the man’s screams echoed in my ears before going deafeningly silent. The bright light was gone completely. Suddenly, hands wrapped around my chest and yanked me away.
“Mason! You’re okay, it’s okay.”
It was my teacher, Ms. Robins, her long blonde hair always smelled like pomegranates. I turned in her arms and hugged her tighter, twirling my fingers in her hair so I could smell more of her calming shampoo. I could see teachers herding the other kids back into the school building. Another teacher came to stand beside Ms. Robins and me. She stands but keeps a hand on my head.
“Mason and a few others found a um- dean man- under the slide.” She whispered the words
She was holding my head to her thigh as if she were shielding me from her words, but I heard them. I strained my head to see the man beneath the slide. I could just barely make out the shoe peeking out. It was in the same spot as it was when I first saw it. A dead man?
School let out early that day, parents were called and so were the police. I was required to attend a few therapy classes after that, but no one ever believed my story.
“Well," She said as she glanced at her notebook, "another student said that they saw you kneeling over the man with your hand pressed to his chest-“
“No, he-he was over me! I pushed him off!”
“Are you sure that’s how it happened Mason?”
“Yes! I killed him.” I said quietly as if it were a secret
“The police said that he had been dead for at least a day before you got to him Mason. I can assure you that you did not kill him.”
This was Ms. Burton, we met on Thursdays, every week., for a year. She had short brown hair and big black framed glasses. She liked to wear long pants and sweaters that looked really itchy. Her office smelled like coffee, really strong coffee, and a hint of cigarettes.
“But I did.”
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