I wrote this for a contest, only to discover that said contest limits its entries to 2,500 characters. Yeah, not a whole lot of story room in there. :/ I decided not to let it go to waste, since I spent forever working on making it perfect, so here ya go. 🙂
Frost coated everything. The statue of a war veteran, chipped and crumbling, the rusty old swing-set, the benches that look as though they would collapse if you so much as set a Starbucks cup on it, the well-dead grass. Even the spider webs that seemed to be in every opportune spot were shining white, frozen spiders clinging to them still.
She wrapped her scarf tighter around her mouth, struggling to keep a grip on it with her knit gloves. Even though the young woman seemed perfectly dressed for the freezing November weather, she felt as though even her bones were shivering inside her. Her hands were numb inside their gloves, her toes pain-stricken inside the thick snow boots and fuzzy socks, and every breath came out in a cloud of fog.
This cold, shivering woman was Wylie. She was a college student in a university all the way up in Michigan, but had decided to drive down to Tennessee for the weekend. However, there was no one in this state she knew anymore. She was alone.
A bronze statue of a man on horseback was missing a leg and the tail, and the rider’s nose was also lacking – the rest of the statue was chipped in random places. The trees dotting the park here and there, once full of beautiful green leaves in Wylie’s distant memories, were now thin, decaying, and its branches seemed to be hanging on only by this year’s frost. A lone swing-set, struggling in a pit of moldy bark and countless wrappers that once were candies and potato chips, sits ominous in the center of it all. Its two swings – the third lying on the other side of the park, hidden in the grass – creaked softly as the crisp, face-numbing breeze pushed them lightly. Crows squawked in the distance, their black silhouettes in lonesome trees watching the young woman with beady eyes. Fog was laid across the whole area, completing the eerie old park.
Why did I come here, Wylie found herself asking constantly. Why am I here.
She knew what this park was – she knew what had happened here. Why she felt the urge to return, though, was beyond her.
It wasn’t just abandoned – it was closed. It had been shut down by the police because, ten years earlier, a child had been murdered on that very playground. Who was the murderer? No one knew. Who was the unfortunate child? Why, that was Riley Dugport, the eleven-year-old girl who did nothing to deserve such a fate. The mystery of exactly what caused the motivation to kill an innocent girl is a story for another day.
Stretching out her stiff legs a bit, Wylie slowly trudged through the waist-high, frostbitten grasses and stumbled toward the swing-set. Her gray-blue eyes burdened with the great weight of sorrow, the young woman stared solemnly at one of its quietly squeaking swings, until something new caught her eye – something underneath the second swing. She bent down and, being as cautious as she could be, Wylie reached her gloved hands into the foggy shadow beneath the swing, and pulled out what everyone would recognize as a skateboard.
Broken in half, missing its wheels, and caked in an unbelievably thick layer of frost and webs, it was obviously a toy long-abandoned. A toy abandoned exactly ten years ago today.
The woman brushed the spider webs off of what remained of the skateboard, flicking away a few spiders as well, and breathed through her mouth onto the frost. She barely made any difference with it, but she’d done enough to make out a few faded letters written on the bottom in Sharpie.
YL E RO E
Just those letters alone were enough for Wylie, one of the smartest and wisest students in her college, to figure out what was once written.
WYLIE ROSEN. Wylie’s name was written on this skateboard, ten or eleven years earlier, by her mother. Because this was her skateboard.
I can’t believe it’s still here, the woman thought to herself in wonder. She had abandoned it when . . . when it happened.
I don’t suppose . . .
Yes, there it is!
A rickety, partly-built old fence lied on one side of the swing-set. She and her best friend had volunteered to paint this same fence a pretty snow-white color; Wylie could even remember the name of the paint they’d used. Frosted Estate. Oh, the irony.
The long-gone paint. The broken skateboard. The creaky swing-set. It all overwhelmed Wylie with memories of heartbreak, horror, struggle to move on with her life and dig herself out of a three-year depression. The young woman sat in one of the frosted swings – it buckles slightly under her weight – and, clutching the half-skateboard to her chest, she broke out in a full, genuine sob.
She wept, and sobbed, and sniffled, and did it all again. If there was a single soul besides the cawing crows, they perhaps would have looked in Wylie’s direction and thought, Ah, the murder must still scar that girl. Poor lass.
But that was not the case at all. Wylie was so utterly heartbroken because she was sitting in the exact spot in which her best friend sat, only moments before she was killed.