I wash the blood off of myself in the shower. I can’t feel the hot water as I change or as I collapse in the bathtub. I’m not sure if I’m crying or merely shaking and struggling to breathe.
Remember your DNA, Nel. Dull hazel eyes. Dirty blonde hair. Petite. Female. Me.
I sit in the shower long enough for the water to turn cold. I feel that. The cold feels nice. Calming.
I dry off and get dressed. I pick up my bloody pajamas with a plastic bag and throw the whole thing away. I need new pajamas, so I decide to go find some.
It’s not late–I’ve only been asleep two hours at most. The sun is still up, though it’s getting lower in the sky.
New pajamas. That’s where I’m going.
That man is dead and I’m going to go buy new pajamas.
That man is dead because I killed him…and I’m going to buy pajamas. I killed him, he’s dead. End of story. Dead. Pajamas.
I have to drive by the police station on the way to Walmart. I notice the parking lot is full of the usual police cars and a couple black FBI vans. I slow down and turn right at the intersection past the station. How far are they in the investigation? Am I safe?
I killed a man.
I should be in a cell somewhere.
A car horn honks at me as I almost run a stop sign. No cops in sight, so once the other car leaves the area, I turn right again and make the block around the police station. Then I pull into the parking lot.
How far are they in the investigation? Did I leave any of my hair in the trunk? Fingerprints? I park and shut my car off, head on the steering wheel.
I killed a man. I should be in a cell.
I walk in a daze into the police station.
“Oh! Hey, Nel,” Officer Miles says as he sees me enter. “Bringing any more copies of the radio dispatch in?”
“Oh… Not today…I…”
“There you are!”
A familiar voice chirps behind me. Before I can turn, Amber Lawson wraps her arms around me in a warm bear hug.
“Thanks for coming by to pick me up,” she says.
I can’t move. I can’t think.
“You two know each other?” Office Miles asks.
“We went to school together,” Amber replies.
“I asked her to give me a ride since my uncle’s busy with the case, and… Well, you know.”
Miles nods. “Be careful. Nel, you should get some sleep–you look like you’ve had it rough.”
Amber shepherds me out the door. “Thanks, Officer Miles!”
She whispers as she continues to push me into the parking lot, “What are you doing here?”
“I…came to turn myself in.”
She stops me, looks me square in the eyes. “For what?”
Her hand is over my mouth. I can Read her DNA. Somewhere down the line, she and I are related–fifth or sixth cousins, through her mother’s side of the family. Amber has hazel eyes like me. That’s where she gets that from.
“Where did you park?”
I point with my right hand over my shoulder, and she pulls me toward my car as if we’re friends, playful after a long time of not seeing one another. How can she be like this after what she’s been through? How can she keep going?
I get in the car automatically. There’s so much we do automatically. Like Read DNA. She…Amber…is related to me.
“I…you…I killed him.”
“He deserved it.” Amber is firm, her words cold and hard.
I look at her with my own hazel eyes, boring and weak. “How…how can you go on?”
There are tears in her eyes. “I have to. For the ones that didn’t make it. There were others before you or me–I have to live for them.”
“But…you saw what I did…”
“I don’t know how you did that…but thank you.”
“Part of him is inside me…”
Amber grabs my shoulders again; it’s awkward in the car. “He’s gone.”
“But…you don’t understand. He’s not…” There are too many tears for me to see her face. “I keep the last person I change into with me…and…he’s haunting me…”
“Don’t be him.”
“I can’t… He’s there. I can feel him.”
How can she be so strong?
Her DNA…I Read part of it.
“Let me know what you need to do that. You said I was strong. Become me–become strong.” Her fingers squeeze into my shoulders. “Do not let him win. Don’t let him take you.”
The sun is setting, the parking lot is getting darker. No one’s walking by, though I don’t care if they are.
I take her hand, Read her DNA, and let the pain wash over me.
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