The Stranger Short Story
The Stranger - PART 1
Lillian Turner made her way through the crowd of sweaty people towards the exit. She mumbled “Excuse me” to the bouncer and finally made her way out. The chilly air of November hit her face and instantly made her feel better. It was way too hot inside the club. She’d yelled to her friends that she needed to use the restroom, but as she got to the line she realized it was way too long and she couldn’t hold it in any longer. She decided to go outside in order to find somewhere else to relieve herself.
She stumbled past the people who were out on the street enjoying their Friday night. U Street was especially crowded and loud that night. After a two-minute walk she caught the sight of a dark, empty alley. It seemed like the right place. With the courage that only comes after one too many drinks, she walked into the alley, further away from other people. There were a couple of cars parked behind one bar or another and two large dumpsters next to them. “That’ll do”, she shrugged. She walked towards the dumpsters, her dark hair falling on her face. Her stomach was churning, and she thought she might throw up as well.
She positioned herself behind the dumpster farther away from the path in the alley, and she could barely hold it in any longer. She messily tied her hair up in a ponytail in case she really did feel sick, then unbuttoned her pants. She felt somewhat ashamed of herself, thinking “Is this really the person I’ve become?”.
As she was about to pull her pants down, her eyes caught sight of a strange figure. It was something sticking out underneath a parked jeep, and it was something very white that had weird, dark stains. She couldn’t see well in her drunken haze, so she bent down, closer to the strange figure, and squinted her eyes. It took her a minute to realize what she was looking at, but once she figured out what that was, she stumbled backwards and hit her back hard against one of the dumpsters. She covered her mouth with both hands to muffle a scream. Her eyes went wide and everything started spinning, and she knew that it wasn’t because of the alcohol in her system. What she saw was a human arm splattered with blood.
She fumbled hastily with the button and zipper of her pants. She looked around to see if anyone was walking down the path in the dark alley. There were people ahead walking on the busy street, but no one was coming in her direction. She didn’t know what to do. She walked towards the parked car again, breathing heavily. She bent down and looked under the gap. There it was, sprawled on the dirty floor, the body of a young woman.
She was lying on her stomach. Her torso was under the front of the car, but her legs were sticking out. Her face was very close to the gap, and the position of her bloody arm gave the impression that she was trying to crawl out. Lillian couldn’t see very well in the shadows, but she appeared young, probably in her twenties. She had her left cheek against the cold, dirty floor. She had blonde hair that was to the side, a lock of it covering her part of her face. But she could see her eyes. Even in the dark, her eyes seemed to shine, but they had a freakish, dead look. They must have been of a beautiful bright blue in life. She had a familiar face, but Lillian didn’t remember ever talking to her. Perhaps she’d seen her in the street or at the club. “No”, she mumbled to herself, “she’s just a stranger”. The woman had what seemed to be small cuts all over. There were two small pools of blood, one near her head and the other near her bleeding arm. There were a couple of cuts on her face, a few others on her arms, but none of them could’ve been serious enough to have her bleed to death without asking for help.
She didn’t realize it was coming, but it came like a storm. She fell on her knees and puked all the beer and vodka and hot wings she’d had all night. Whenever she thought she was done it just kept coming. It was a good thing she had tied her hair up. She realized with terror that some of her vomit was very close to the dead body.
Lillian got up and tried her best to think straight and figure out what to do. She could almost hear the gears turning inside her skull. She started pacing back and forth, murmuring under her breath all the bad words she knew in the English dictionary. Someone could come down the alley any second now. Someone could come down for a smoke, or to make out, or to sell drugs. Whatever it is that people do in dark alleys. She reached for her phone in her back pocket and realized her hands were shaking. She was about to dial 911 when she stopped in her tracks. There was a dark smudge in her hands. She observed the smudge better and realized it was blood. Had she touched the pool of blood when she was puking? Now she was really freaking out. She let out little cries of desperation. “This is all a bad dream” she mumbled to herself again and again. “It’s a bad dream, that’s all it is.”
A ring on her phone startled her. She looked at the screen and saw that it was one of her friends, Claire, calling her. She made an effort to control her breathing, and picked up the phone.
“Hey, where are you?” Claire yelled into the phone, she was probably just outside the club. “You’ve been gone for twenty minutes.”
“Um, I had to go to the McDonald’s restroom,” her voice wavered a little. “I felt really sick, I threw up and I think I should go home.”
“Lillian, are you okay? You sound weird.” Claire waited, but no response came. “Do you want me to go home with you?”
“No!” Lillian answered a little too quickly. “That’s alright, I’m going to call an Uber and I’ll let you know when I get home.”
After a lot of convincing that she was fine and could go home by herself, Claire finally let up. Lillian doesn’t remember exactly how she got home, but eventually she did. What happened that night seemed unreal to her, and her brain seemed to be on fire. She only hoped she wouldn’t have any bad dreams.
She woke up the next day to a terrible hangover. She groaned as she sat up and had a weird taste in her mouth. She was blessed with the ignorance of those first moments after waking up, when your mind was free of thought or worry. Then, everything started dawning on her, hitting her like a freight train. Her eyes widened for a moment and her headache grew sharper. She got up and went to the bathroom, and she looked in the mirror. She didn’t look like herself. Her make-up was smeared and her brown eyes were bloodshot. Her black hair was wet and sticky with sweat, and she looked dirty. She placed both hands on the sink and bent her head down with her eyes closed. When she opened them, she saw the blood in her hands again. But the blood wasn’t really there, she had rinsed it off before she went to bed. It had looked so real, so vivid, but it had been just her imagination.
She went back to her bedroom and grabbed her phone. There were a few texts from Claire and her other friends, and she quickly reassured them that she was alright. She spent hours in bed deciding on what to do. She was still wearing last night’s clothes. She pondered whether she should call the police or not. She should’ve called them right away, but she couldn’t think straight with all the alcohol in her system. The alcohol and the pill. That freaking pill that Claire convinced her of putting in her drink. Was it too late to call now? She didn’t want to become a suspect. She’d seen many crime shows and knew that they always suspected the person who reported the crime. She did have her friends to prove her alibi, but she’d been gone for twenty minutes to use the restroom. Would they have the exact time of death or just an estimate? If she’d been out during the estimate time of the murder, she would definitely become a suspect. All these thoughts were making her dizzy.
By three in the afternoon, she had made up her mind. She called the police and waited for the worst.
Questions & Answers
© 2020 Carolina Correia dos Santos