Sunday, March 12, 2023

Corrupted Grief

For those who lost everything and still stand, and especially for those who couldn’t hold on anymore.


A vast variety of colors and shapes swirl together. They collide, combine and begin to mold the shape of her long lost daughter.


The whisper fills Crystal’s ears, the sweet sound of her daughter’s gentle voice. Suddenly, her daughter reached out her hand to Crystal.

“Come home now. Come-” 

The alarm blares and Crystal opens her eyes. She knew it was just a dream for two reasons. One, her daughter Sarah only ever called Crystal by her name when she was dreaming and two, Crystal knew Sarah was not lost and she was most certainly not dead.

“Good morning, Mom!” 

Sarah was sitting into the blue armchair beside Crystal’s bed, smiling at her mother. 

“Good morning, Sarah!”

“Did you rest well?”

“Not really. I had the same dream about you again.”

Sarah’s smile dropped and she says nothing in response.

The door creaks open and a young male nurse steps in with a tray of oatmeal, fruit and her favorite chocolate milk. He smiles and brings the tray to her nightstand. His short brownish blackish hair bobbed slightly on his head as he moved. He flashed his big teeth in his big smile and asked

“How did you sleep last night, Mrs. Crawfield?”

Crystal grumbles. Although Seth was a nice young man, there was something she didn’t like about him recently. There was nothing wrong with his appearance, he certainly would have caught her eye had she been fifty years younger. He was tall, olive-skinned and overall a good looking young man. There was nothing wrong with his personality either, he was patient, understanding and a great listener. He always made sure she got only the best care, but still, there was something behind those dark hazel eyes with the mention of her daughter’s name. Something that felt… off. What was he thinking?

“What did you dream about today? Hopefully it wasn’t another nightmare.”

“Oh it was nothing, don't you pay any mind to it” She replies. 

He chuckles kindly. 

“It certainly doesn’t sound like it was nothing.” He sits on the edge of her bed. “Why don’t you tell me about it?”

“Oh it was just the same dumb dream about Sarah again.”

“I see.” He says thoughtfully. “What do you think it means?”

“It means nothing. It’s just a random dream.” 

“Well, I’ve always believed that dreams have a deeper meaning. Maybe someday you’ll come to terms with it and understand.”

“There’s nothing to understand. It’s fiction." 

“I’m sure it feels like that. Would you like me to stay and keep you company?”

There it was again, that look beneath his eyes. What was he really trying to say? Crystal pondered this question for a moment. If it was about Sarah, she was just fine. She was sitting right next to Crystal.

“I’ll be alright. It’s not like I’m alone. Sarah’s here with me.”

He nodded hesitantly.

“Okay. I’ll be out in the living room tidying up if you need me and I’ll check up with you in a little bit. Don’t forget that your son-in-law and the grandkids are coming over this afternoon.”

He walked out the door and disappeared, closing the door behind him.

Carefully, she reached for the tray and brought it to her lap, her hand’s failing to do so steadily. 

“Careful mom,” Sarah says.

“Oh stop it.” Crystal chuckles. “You’re always looking out for me but it’s me who should be looking after you. It’s my job to protect you, you know.”

“I know mom. But you can’t.”

Crystal gulps. Sara didn’t used to speak to her like this. Something was off about her recently, something… different. Crystal grasps for the locket around her neck and gently strokes it with her thumb. Suddenly, images of Sarah’s mangled body in her imploded, blue minivan flashes in her mind, and then the gruesome picture vanishes.

“Are you okay, mom?”

“Yes dear. It’s just I am still seeing those awful things from my dreams, but it’s alright because you are alright. You are here with me, aren’t you?”

She smiles at Sarah, her beautiful dark skin glimmering in the lighting from the nearby window. Sarah smiles back.

“I never left your side mom.”

 “That’s right.” Crystal pushed her doubts away. It didn’t matter how Sarah was acting, she was her daughter, always and forever.

The air is still and silent as Crystal scoops up her oatmeal, spilling droplets here and there as she brings the spoon to her lips. By now she was accustomed to Parkinson’s disease, and has always ignored it, despite how painful it was. Seth would clean the sheets and dishes anyway. She looked back at her daughter and smiled whole-heartedly. When Sarah was little, Crystal would sit at her bedside all day and all night long when she was dangerously ill. As they both aged, Sarah returned the favor when her mother grew weaker. Just as they both did when Sarah’s father was on his deathbed. Just as Sarah was now, patiently waiting for her mother to be better.

Better from what exactly? Crystal thought. Sure her hands were shaky and she had difficulties walking, but that was why Sarah hired Seth to take care of her. Crystal wasn’t sick, she didn’t need to get better from anything, she was just old. A bit sad too, Crystal supposes, but there was no real reason why, she just, was. Having her daughter with her at all times was a blessing… but a part of Crystal felt sad about it. She didn’t know why and took every opportunity to never find out. She was content with the way things were now.

Seth knocks on the door and peers in.

“How was breakfast?”

“Oh just fine, thank you.” 

He comes in and looks at the tray. 

“You’ve only touched the oatmeal. Did you want me to put the milk and fruit in the fridge for later?”

She looked down at the remaining food.

“I suppose so.”

Crystal grasps for the glass of milk.

“Oh no Mrs. Crawfield, I can-“

She accidentally jerks her hand and the glass falls onto her hardwood floor, shattering in fractured splinters. The milk splattered around the glass shards.

Crystal’s eyes are flooded with haunting images of a blood pool with shattered glass sprinkled within it. The images flutter in her mind's eye and continue to morph into flashes of a scene with the car accident. The thick, drip, drip, drip of dark red, the scent of decay and chemicals, the smoke plaguing the air, and Sarah’s imploded, mangled corpse.

“Mrs. Crawfield!” Seth’s voice pulls Crystal from her thoughts. “Mrs. Crawfield, are you alright?”

“I…” Crystal's voice is shaky and her words fade. Her breath hitches and gets caught in the lump in her throat. 

“I’m so sorry dear, I don’t know how it happened I just-“ Crystal stammers.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay.  I just want to make sure that you are alright.”

“I’m alright.” She lies.

 Seth fetches a broom and sweeps up the broken glass. Moments later, he mops up the spilled milk with a few towels.

“Alright.” Seth says, carefully picking up the tray. “I’m going to get this out of the way for you and then I’ll help you out of bed. I’ve gotta wash those sheets anyway today.”

He disappears and leaves Crystal to her thoughts. Frantically she turns to see Sarah and for a moment, she isn’t there. She blinks and Sarah reappears. 

“Mom is everything okay?”

Crystal sighs and smiles.

“Of course sweetheart, I just thought for a moment you weren’t there anymore. My old eyes must be playing tricks on me.”

“I’ll always be here mom.” 

Crystal nods slowly, no longer as confident in that statement as she was before.

Seth comes back in and brings Crystal’s walker to her bedside.

“Alright, Mrs. Crawfield. Let’s get you up and to the bathroom.”

Seth reaches his arms to steady Crystal as she plants her feet to the cold hardwood. Her joints creak in response for having to hold her weight.

“There we go.” Seth encourages.

He guides her to the bathroom and closes the door behind her.

“I’ll be right out here if you need me, Mrs. Crawfield.”

“Thank you dear. I’ll be alright.”

Crystal looks into the mirror and freezes, taking in the features of the aged woman before her. It hadn’t really occurred to her just how much her face had sunk. She no longer recognized herself. The woman before her was tired and worn out, there wasn’t much life left in her eyes. 


“Sarah!!! Oh no no no my baby! My poor baby!”


The voice, barely recognizable as her own, echoes in her ear drums and rattles against her skull. A headache begins to form.


Crystal was on the phone with her daughter, and a concerned Seth looked towards her.

“Hold on mom, I’m coming to you now. I’ll help you find your locket.” Sarah says over the speaker. 

“Oh what am I going to do!” Crystal cried, “It was the locket your father gave me before he passed. I’ve got to find it!”

“Just take a deep breath mom, I’ll help you find it. I’m on the way now. I love you, I’ll see you shortly.”

Before Crystal could return the love, Sarah hangs up.


Crystal’s mind returns to her reflection, she watches the old woman grasp the locket around her neck. The accident was all her fault.


Tires screeched and the sound of clashing blared through her home.

Against Seth’s instruction, Crystal raced to the door, opened it and there it was before her on her very own street.


Without moving her eyes from the mirror, Crystal sees the old woman open the medicine cabinet as tears stream from her wrinkled, baggy eyelids.


The mustang t-boned her daughter’s minivan as she was turning into Crystal’s driveway. He was street racing, and the bastard sent her car rolling backwards into the ditch across the road. Glass, plastic and metal littered the road as the two mangled cars lay frozen in time. Seth runs outside after Crystal as she races across the road.

“Mrs. Crawford no!”

She collapses as she reaches the edge of the road.

“No no my baby!” She screams, her cries turning into sobs.


Crystal watches intently at the old woman grasping at a bottle of sleeping pills. Seth is trying to open the door, but Crystal had locked it only seconds after Seth shut it. His calls for her are drowned out by the memory. 


Sarah’s blood oozes out into a pile of lost organs, staining what was left of her car.


Seth pounds on the door as Crystal’s reflection sobs. The old woman fumbles to open the bottle and she spills the capsules all over the counter.


Instead of trying to pull Crystal off the ground, Seth lays next to her and holds Crystal firmly against his chest. Crystal never knew this would be the last time she would care for his warmth. His right hand holds a phone to his ear.

“There’s been an accident on Maple Road. I think both drivers are dead. Please send an ambulance now!”



The old woman in the mirror at last downs the last remaining pills in the bottle.


The sirens drown out Crystal's cries as she watches her beloved Sarah wheeled away. The last part of her daughter’s body she sees is her dirty hand, which hung out lifelessly from the black body bag.


Crystal falls down, no longer able to see her reflection. Her weary eyes close and her body sinks into its resting place.


She watches as her daughter’s casket is lowered into a hollow grave.

It was then that the new Sarah was formed by Crystal’s corrupted grief, but deep down she knew well that this Sarah wasn’t real. Crystal couldn’t lie to herself anymore; she wanted her real daughter back.


The world around Crystal spins and the colors fade in a swirl of goodbyes. Sarah appears one last time, in an everlasting glow, holding her hand out to her mother.

“Welcome home, Mom.” She whispers. “We will never be apart again”.

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