about the author

Amber Sparks lives and writes in Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, including Annalemma, Wigleaf, mud luscious, Necessary Fiction, and A capella Zoo. You can find her online at: ambernoellesparks.com.

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When Other People’s Lives Fall into Your Lap

Amber Sparks

They practically fall out of bed when the dude starts yelling outside. He’s got a loud yell, a dangerous, scary yell, worse than angry because you can tell his rage is slipping into the space outside the brain where it pools and pushes against the skull and makes you do things, Things, THINGS.

It’s just one of the homeless guys trying to get in, she says. She moves closer to him, and they lay very still in the bed hoping someone has properly shut the back door.

But no, no someone hasn’t, and they hear a flat bang and the door swings open and suddenly a woman is screaming in the laundry room next door, high and horrible and help me, help me, she’s actually saying that, or rather shrieking it, and they hear a large something slamming against the dryers over and over. The noise is shocking, gruesome. Meat hitting metal. The yeller’s voice is muffled, he’s all messed up, he’s mumbling now but the rage is spilling over worse than ever. I’ll kill you motherfucker, I’ll kill you, he keeps saying, and the screaming and slamming won’t stop.

Until they do, suddenly. And everything goes quieter than space.

They call the cops in a whisper and sit huddled in front of the door in the dark, shushing each other. She wishes they had a gun in the apartment; she could have run to the laundry room and shot him, maybe not in the head but in the chest or leg or somewhere meaty. Somewhere substantial. Though she’s heard that if you’re high on PCP or whatever you don’t feel pain and you don’t die right away, that your momentum keeps you moving forward, all the bone and blood and muscle in you hanging together until the adrenaline rush finally goes for good.

Oh my god, she says. Oh my god, it’s just like Kitty Genovese. How could we not have saved her? She puts her palms flat against the floor, presses hard to feel the wood fibers digging at her skin. I think that woman’s dead, she says. Don’t you think she’s dead?

Shhhhhh, he says, we don’t know. We don’t know anything. His chin rests on his knees; his arms are wrapped tight around his legs. They shiver in their underwear. They hear sirens: close, closer, here they are now in the back parking lot. Lights flash outside, soft and red through the blinds.

She starts to cry. How will we live like people now, she says. How will we. It’s not a question, even though it sounds like one.

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