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Louise M. Walken

Innocent 

Since I can remember, I’ve loved running. I became alive feeling the wind on my face, my legs burning, my lungs expanding, and my heart beating. Everything in my body working in unison as it was meant to. Due to bad weather I had skipped my morning runs, and I had missed them. Crankiness easily got the best of me, and I saw a snappy version of myself whenever the days between my runs were too far apart. Now on the road, there was no sign of a bad mood. I felt the sweet thrill of adrenaline pumping through my veins and I pushed myself even further, deciding to take the extra detour past the train tracks.

I sped up as my favorite pop song started blasting in my ears. I remember that I was smiling, until I saw it, the scene that would change my life forever. At the time I didn’t realize the full impact that second would have on my life. If I had known, I would have looked the other way, or better yet, I never would have chosen the longer route.

I came to a quick halt as I saw something that seemed oddly out of place.

It took my brain a few seconds to make sense of it all. Here, in front of me, to the side of the train tracks lay a boy. He couldn’t have been older than 13, I thought as I approached. At first I thought that he had fallen and was just a bit slow on the rise. Then I realized he was bleeding. My heart skipped a beat as I removed my earphones and heard his muffled cries. I approached himas nervously and cautiously as if I was approaching a wounded animal.

“Um..Are you OK? What happened to you?” I asked my pulse quickening even more. I saw his face, as he turned his gaze to me. His big eyes spoke of discomfort and sadness.

“I’ve been attacked. Can you help me? It’s so heavy on my chest, please,” he said in a barely audible voice.

I saw that he was balancing a big brick on his stomach. I removed it instantly and felt a hot, sticky liquid spreading to my fingers. Blood. This boy had been assaulted with this brick.

Who would do that?

Who would be so cruel to attack a boy and then leave him to suffer with the weapon of his downfall placed on his person?

With shaky hands, I took my phone, closed the iTunes app, and dialed 911. The operator answered immediately. She sounded like the kind of lady who would have given this kid a Mars bar and a big hug, warm and loving. I gave her all the information I had while holding the boy’s hand and looking at his suffering face.

My heart bled for him as much as his head was bleeding into the surrounding soil.

“Please, can you stay with me until they arrive? I don’t like to be alone,” he pleaded. I nodded my head, feeling the warmth of my tears as they started running down my face. It felt like an eternity before the sirens became audible. The paramedics arrived and they started working on the boy with swift and confident hands. They were working fast and before I knew it, they were moving him to the ambulance. He kept eye contact with me all the while as they carried him across the abandoned tracks. It seemed that I offered him a comfort. After they put him in the ambulance, they started working on him further. It was his cries, deep and hysterical cries that broke the silence around me. I stepped closer wanting to tell him that it was all going to be alright, that all he needed to do, was to hang on. I was met with a raised hand, and a finger pointing right at me.

“It was her,” the boy said weakly before adding,

“She did this to me.” The paramedics froze, and as if in slow motion, turned to face me. I scoffed, unsure of how to react, and shook my head in protest.

He was confused, I thought to myself. He had a head injury causing him some confusion. I tried to reason it all away. I met his gaze one last time, as he smiled, a cruel and sadistic smile that haunts my dreams to this day, and closed his eyes, never opening them again. I still hear the sound of the machines announcing that he had flatlined when I close my eyes at night.

“That’s what happened,” I said in frustration, although not sure why I bothered repeating the events that landed me here. I have told it all before, close to a hundred times, I was sure of it. They didn’t believe me, never did. Now I was stuck in my own little hell. I shared a cell with two other inmates. They belonged here, I didn’t. The state appointed legal council sighed, sitting back in his chair, and put his pen down. I could tell that he was disappointed that I didn’t have more to offer. The truth had left too little to build a defense upon, it seemed. He wore a neatly pressed suit that matched his piercing blue eyes. He smelled of vanilla and tea tree oil. He probably had a date later tonight and I was merely a check he needed on his list. My story didn’t matter to him, to any of them. To them all, I was a killer, even worse, a child killer.

After he left, I was escorted back to my cell. I sat down on my bed. It was hard, cold, and smelled of urine that wasn’t mine. I started weeping into my hands as I did everyday since I had arrived. I heard a giggle from the corner of the cell. My second cellmate joined in the laughter until it seemed almost deafening. A swift and hard hit to the cell door made them quiet down instantly as the officer walked past.

“Welcome home, sweetheart,” I heard them whisper and as I opened my eyes, I could only see the wicked smile of the boy who put me here.

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