“The ambulance had turned its siren off. Mike knew what that meant. He looked at the cracked watch on his right wrist. Time of death: 12:01.”
The room was cold. They liked it that way. They used to talk about living in a snowglobe.
“Maybe you should talk to him, Mike.” Sarah’s back was pressed against the thin plaster wall, her knees curled into her chest, her cherry hair tangled beyond hope, her eyes sunken like stones. “Maybe you should hear his side of the story.”
Mike scoffed. His position, perched on the windowsill like an owl, cast his body in faint darkness, until Sarah could only see a black silhouette where pale skin and hazel eyes used to be. He faced the outdoors, nose pressed against the foggy glass, breathing onto the chilled surface and watching little clouds of his dirty exhalations form.
“I’d rather jump out this window,” he muttered, peering at the bustling city street below. There were yellow umbrellas down there. Yellow like the sun, like caution signs, like dead skin. Like her dead skin. “And become a flat little pancake.” He almost laughed, thinking about how the ants below would shriek and crowd around him, wanting to know why he’d done it. Tyson, he would’ve said. Ask him.
“Then go ahead.” Sarah’s voice was biting, venomous. Her eyes widened as soon as the words escaped her lips. She was always the pacifist, but just look at what the world was doing to her.
Mike turned around and she could now see his face. His eyes were sunken, too, and he grimaced. “Harsh, Sarah.”
She looked down at her bare feet, at the way her mangled toes curled on top of one another, making her cracked nails the least of her problems. She usually wore socks, but today, being raw felt comfortable.
“It’s not a bad idea,” she whispered, clenching and unclenching her toes. “It might do some good.”
Mike rolled his neck, then turned back to the window and the lifeless people below. “What, killing myself?” There goes an ambulance, he thought. Someone else is dying. But an ambulance isn’t a hospital, and paramedics can’t do shit. It’s all too slow. They’re probably already dead.
“No!” Sarah was too loud; her ears rung. “Talking to him. He deserves to hear what you have to say.”
Mike scowled. “That son of a bitch deserves nothing.”
The people below were frantic now. The cars were still; the ambulance couldn’t get through. Too slow, too slow, too slow. Mike imagined the line going flat, the steady beep that told him she was gone, piercing through their shrieks like a child’s scream. Then a punch was thrown, and Tyson was knocked to the ground, and Mike’s knuckles were bloody, and she was still gone. All because he was too slow.
But this ambulance didn’t have his sister in it. This was someone else’s doom.
“You can’t ignore him forever.” Sarah pulled her arms around her, goosebumps suddenly prickling her skin. “He didn’t know Jo was gonna take too much. None of us did.”
Mike whipped around now, gripping the edge of the windowsill like a lifeline. Sarah tried to shrink against the wall. Smaller, she thought. She wanted to be smaller.
“He fucking well knew she was going to take too much,” Mike hissed, his heart thumping. “And when she did, he did nothing.” His eyes were red, ablaze like candle flames and fresh blood. Sarah turned away.
“Did you ever think maybe it wasn’t just his fault?” Sarah asked, stroking the wall against her back. The plaster was scratched and flaking. A delicate pastry, like the ones Mike used to buy her when they pretended they lived in a snowglobe. “That maybe we all had something to do with it?”
“Are you saying I killed my sister?” Mike turned back to the window. He pressed his nose against the glass and breathed out, one drawn-out sigh escaping his lips. “That’s pretty fucking screwed up, Sarah.”
“I don’t know. I was just thinking. Maybe we were all just blind.”
“Blind?” Mike watched as the people below bustled through the streets, yellow umbrellas twirling and feet moving faster than cars. The ambulance had turned its siren off. Mike knew what that meant. He looked at the cracked watch on his right wrist. Time of death: 12:01.
“Yeah. Like, we all just kind of ignored her,” Sarah’s words were fast, fast and quiet, like quick breaths in the absence of oxygen. “We knew something was wrong, but you and I just lived in our fucking snowglobe, while Tyson kept her pain going. Until it was too late.”
“And then we were too slow,” Mike whispered. The cars started to move again, and the ambulance with the dead girl disappeared around a corner, heading to the hospital. Next comes the calls, Mike thought. Then the fighting. Then the funeral and the blame and the numbness that falls over a widowed family like a noose. That’s when you know your snowglobe is shattered. That’s when the water starts leaking out, and you suffocate, and there’s nothing you can do but watch and wait and try to breathe.
Mike suddenly turned around, eyes wide. “Why is it so cold?”
Sarah shrugged. “We used to like it this way.”