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Split(4)

By:J. B. Salsbury



Another fissure slices through my chest and old feelings threaten to bubble to the surface.

Emotionless. Stay distant, Shyann.

“Seems to be the victim’s daughter—”

“Let me see her,” the girl pleads with police. “Oh, God, please . . .”

The girl’s anguish reaches through my chest and squeezes my heart. My throat grows tight. The backs of EMTs shuffle out the door as they carry a stretcher.

“Mommy!”

I ignore the girl as best I can and try to trudge on. “It seems . . . um . . . they’re—”

“No!” The girl throws her body onto the stretcher and it’s then I notice the woman on it is covered in a white sheet. Completely covered. Even her face.

Oh, God. She’s dead.

Trevor’s voice growls in my ear. “She’s dead! Get the shot!”

My stomach churns.

“Talk! Shyann!”

I nod. “It seems tragedy has taken a turn . . . um . . . for the . . .”

The young girl launches herself at the body again. The police hold her back while she kicks and screams for her mother.

My breath catches as memories flood my mind. I was just like her. Losing control of my body, kicking and wanting to inflict the kind of pain I was feeling. The heart-pumping panic, sudden coldness that blankets overheated skin causing uncontrollable shivers. And the terror, all of it shoots through me now like it did when I lost my momma.

“Shyann! Talk to her!” The levity in Trevor’s voice ignites my blood, replacing my frigid panic. “This is fucking gold.”

Leaf moves to get a better view and jerks his wide eyes for me to get into the shot. I turn back, studying the girl, remembering the confusion, the heartbreak, the all-consuming unfairness.

“Please don’t die . . .” Her anger turns to sobs of devastation so palpable they shake my foundation.

I take a wobbly step forward.

“Don’t be dead . . .”

“I swear to God, Shyann, if you don’t get in there and grab this story . . . this is our ticket. You hear me, dammit? Get your ass in there!”

I open my mouth to speak, Trevor’s demand in my ear pushing my lips to move, but there are no words.

I can’t.

Everything becomes irrelevant. My stupid fucking clothes, dreams of becoming an anchor for a national broadcast, all of it pales in the light of this girl’s recognizable anguish. Her cries rip through my unaffected façade and reach into my soul. It slices through vital organs and dives into the recesses where I’ve locked away my hate. Anger. Cruelty that a child would have to suffer through the loss of the single person in this world that ever understood her.

Trevor growls in my ear. “Shya—”

“I can’t.” The words come out with the force brought on by years of suppression.

“You can’t? We’re live! Talk!”

Leaf’s free hand rolls frantically through the air, his camera lens zeroing in like a weapon ready to cause mass destruction.

My head moves on my shoulders, conveying the one word that won’t leave my lips. No.

“Fuck it, she’s done!” Trevor’s voice shakes with fury. “Leaf, get in there now!”

Leaf moves before Trevor’s even done talking and shoves the camera lens into the girl’s face.

“No!” An impulse to shield her compels me forward. “Leave her alone.” I stumble over loose rocks, but it’s not enough to stop me. “Cut the feed!”

“Back off, Shyann! You’re—”

I tear out my earpiece and throw my body between the girl and the camera lens.

Leaf gasps, “What the fu—”

“Leave her alone!” I grab the camera and slam it into Leaf’s face so hard it sends him to his ass.

The firm clunk of the news camera rings in my ears and blood spills from just under Leaf’s eyebrow, signaling me to a single truth.

My short career in broadcast news has come to an end.

Five years fit into a few boxes now packed in the bed of my Ford Ranger. I never thought much about my lack of belongings. Makes sense I guess. If it wasn’t something I could wear or something I was studying, I had no use for it. The last five years of my life have consisted of meeting my basic needs—shelter, sleep, sustenance—and chasing after my career goals. Anything to keep from being forced back to the town I was raised in.

I had big plans when I left home. College, work, and get as far away from Payson as I could. Now here I am, a few months past graduation, and I made it ninety-four miles.

Not impressive.

I was looking forward to bouncing around from small market to small market, going from one furnished studio apartment to the other, ready to pack up and go when a job opportunity called. If it called. Which after last week’s incident it probably never will.

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