I was eight years old when I attended my first funeral. Thirteen days before, I had been at my best friend Cindy Morris’ house for a sleepover. The details of that evening are still just a blur. I can’t remember when I finally fell asleep, but the image I saw when I awoke still remains ingrained in my memory. Cindy lay next to me, her lifeless eyes glazed over. The carpet was stained a deep red that almost reached my sleeping bag. Her parents came running into the room before I even realized that I had starting screaming. They collapsed onto the floor, no doubt in shock at the sight before them. The silence was replaced by heartbreaking sobs as I noticed the glint of a knife reflected onto the ceiling, the blade edged deep in Cindy’s side. I remembered something that my parents had always told me: to call the police if I was ever in trouble. Looking towards her parent’s tear-stricken faces, I knew it was up to me to get help. I pushed my blankets aside and walked calmly out her bedroom door. A sense of nausea overwhelmed me, so I took the stairs one step at a time towards the kitchen, inhaling slow deep breaths and holding the railing to steady my wavering footfalls. My vision was becoming blurrier by the second as I grasped the receiver. I listened to the small click as my tiny fingers found each button. Sobs were coming in waves from Cindy’s bedroom.
“911, what is your emergency?”
Before I knew it, the house was crawling with blue uniforms. Yellow crime scene tape lined the edges of the Morriss’ lawn, and hordes of people crowded around to gaze at the commotion. Paramedics guided me towards a big white truck, and I covered my face from the blinding lights. One of the paramedics, a tall brunette woman leaned down towards me. Her soft eyes had a hint of kindness in them.
“What’s your name, honey?” she asked. I stared back at her, temporarily unable to speak. Another paramedic swung open the truck doors to reveal a space filled with needles and intimidating machines. I gulped, turning back to focus on the woman’s eyes.
“I’m Ty… Tyler,” I stammered. “Ty... Ty... Tyler Ly...Lyons.” A police officer near us began to write on his notepad. Suddenly, I could hear my parent’s concerned voices in the distance. The police officer met them at the tape, holding one hand out to keep them from entering the scene.
“Is this your daughter?” he asked. Both of them nodded quickly, and he immediately led them to a quiet corner of the lawn. They kept looking back at me, their faces growing more concerned with each part of his lips.
I had to stay in the hospital for a couple days after that. Doctors, police, and detectives prodded me with questions, but I could never remember anything from that night, even after my dizzy state had faded.
“We know that she was drugged. We assume that whoever killed Cindy came in after Tyler was long passed out,” a voice echoed from the hallway. I recognized it as the same police officer who had stood by me at the ambulance.
“Who would do such a thing?” my mom cried. “And why did they only harm Cindy?” I noticed that she couldn’t bring herself to say the word kill.
“We are doing everything we can to find out,” he assured her.
Cindy’s funeral was where I had my first vision. Her murderer had not been found, but the entire town had their own theories. Suspicion had fallen on her mom, dad, and even me. My parents had kept me in the house since my stay in the hospital, claiming I needed to rest, but I guessed that they just wanted to shelter me from the horrid rumors. They had widely debated whether to even take me to her funeral, but Dr. Draycott, the grief counselor that the hospital had mandated that I see, had convinced them that it might help me accept that the she was never coming back. The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the church was the empty white coffin in the center of the room. On a small easel, I could just barely make out the outline of a picture frame. Cindy’s body was still at the coroner’s office being examined for possible clues. I shuddered, trying to erase that image from my mind. Sensing my distress, my mom grabbed my hand and squeezed it as we took our seats. I could feel many eyes on the back of my head, and the sound of whispers was just audible underneath the sweet melodic music playing from the front.
“Do you really think she did it?” one voice questioned. “I mean, the girl is only eight years old.”
“Well,” another voice responded. “With the kind of violence kids see these days in video games, you just never know. I’m surprised her parents actually had the audacity to bring her here.” At that, my mom whirled around, too angry to find the words to speak. Her eyes were shooting daggers at the couple, and the two quickly got up to sit in another pew. I knew that she was about to follow them, but she was stopped by the announcement that the ceremony was about to start. She took her seat, flattening her skirt as the priest began to pray. Many of his words went over my head, and my eyes drifted towards the lightly colored stained glass present around the building. I noticed that Jesus was depicted in the center of one window, and hoped that Cindy was safe with him. I smiled at the thought of her wrapped in his arms, and felt a single tear trickle down my cheek. Suddenly, everyone around me began to sing, and I quickly snapped my attention back to the front. Now, the frame that had been covered by a black tarp was uncovered to unveil a picture of Cindy playing in her backyard. She stood in her favorite pink sweatshirt, kicking at the fall leaves with her boots. A big smile was plastered across her sweet innocent face. Looking at the picture, my vision began to go black around the edges. I took a deep breath to try and calm myself, but the darkness remained. My heart thumped loudly in my chest, and a tingling sensation crashed over my entire body. I was suddenly plunged into complete darkness. I thrashed my arms and legs around wildly, but my body didn’t move an inch. A light appeared that illuminated two hands holding an antique wall clock. Each number was represented by roman numerals in black lettering against the brown rustic surface. The clock’s hands were completely missing. There was just a small hole in the middle, charred at the edges with ash lining the interior. The figure holding the clock stepped forward fully into the light. I recognized him as Charlie Matthews, Cindy’s babysitter that often watched us when her parents went out for a date night. To me, there had always been something off about him. He had always secluded himself to watch TV, telling us that he didn’t care what we did. Anytime we asked him a question, he would quickly tell us to leave him alone. The two of us had made speaking to him into a game, seeing which one of us could get him to utter the most words. We now locked eyes, his completely devoid of any emotion. Neither one of us moved for several seconds. We just stared at each other, completely frozen in time. Then my vision started brightening, and his body slowly faded. I began to recognize the church pews and stained glass windows around me once again. Everyone around me was completely focused on the ceremony, taking no note of my panicked demeanor. I drew in short breaths, trying to make sense of what I had just seen. I stood up, looking around at the faces now peering at me curiously. I didn’t even hear my parents pleas for me to sit down as I stepped out of the pew.
“Charlie,” I mumbled. “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie.” The priest stopped speaking mid-sentence, and I realized that my shrill screams had cut through the air. Every eye was on me, and it was dead silent. I turned and ran for the doors, knocking against the big chalice of holy water by the edge of the doorframe. The loud crash interrupted the deafening silence, and the holy water sprayed onto the floor, making it difficult for anyone to follow me quickly. I bolted outside, and made a run for the woods beside the church. The frantic voices faded behind me. With each step, I tried to shake Charlie’s face from my mind. I’m not sure how far I ran before I finally reached the edge of the trees and came to a gravel road. The sky was now darkening, serving as a constant reminder of what I had experienced in the church. I began to wander along the rough gravel with Charlie’s emotionless eyes still at the forefront of my thoughts.
It had taken the police nearly two hours to find me. Sirens screaming, I was surrounded by cop cars not even one minute of being spotted by a cruiser. Men and women in uniforms stood at a distance while two paramedics slowly approached me. I ignored their words, but allowed myself to be guided into the ambulance. They helped me breathe through the oxygen mask as the weight of what I had just done came crashing down. How could I have interrupted Cindy’s funeral like that? And why did I see Charlie? Did my vision mean something?
It took me several hours to finally explain my experience to the doctors, officers, and my parents. Dr. Draycott had dropped everything to come see me. He chalked my vision down to just a panic attack as a result of my grief. Something in my gut told me that this wasn’t the case. The police were very interested to hear of what I saw, and were convinced that I was remembering something from the night of Cindy’s death. They left promptly to determine if Charlie was the missing piece of the puzzle. I was becoming hysterical trying to explain to Dr. Draycott that my vision was much more than just a panic attack or a memory. I thought that the universe had revealed to me Cindy’s killer. Dr. Draycott decided that I needed to stay in the psych ward for a few days to be monitored. Those few days turned into over six months because I was adamant in my theory. Only when I pretended to believe his words was I allowed to finally go home. During my stay in the hospital, the police had proved that Charlie Matthews had in fact murdered Cindy. He had babysat for her the night before, and had laced the cup that he knew was my favorite with a drug to make me sleep. He hadn’t killed her that night because he didn’t want the suspicion to immediately fall on him. His confession revealed that he had found out that Josh Morris, Cindy’s dad, had been stealing money from his own company to provide for his family. Charlie had then blackmailed Mr. Morris, demanding a cut of the money in exchange for not telling the police. After Mr. Morris became tired of paying Charlie, he vowed not to steal any more money. Charlie’s anger led him to want to hurt Mr. Morris in the worst way imaginable: the loss of a child. Already having a key, Charlie had snuck upstairs while the house was asleep and stabbed Cindy in cold blood.
Every time I looked at a picture of Cindy I had the same vision. I constantly saw that clock and Charlie’s face, even though he was paying for his crime in federal prison. It wasn’t until sophomore year in high school that I had a vision while looking at a picture of someone who wasn’t Cindy. My criminology teacher, Mr. Thomas, had laid out a plethora of pictures in front of each table group.
“These are pictures of people who were murdered that we are going to analyze today,” he stated. The rest of his words didn’t register as I peered at the first portrait. Looking at the young woman, I felt my vision begin to go a little fuzzy. I tried to take deep breaths, but I knew that nothing I could do would stop this from happening when I felt the familiar tingling throughout my body. A small light appeared, illuminating the old clock with no hands in someone’s arms. A woman I didn’t recognize stepped into the light. She had a distinct birthmark across her left cheek. We locked eyes for a moment, then she disappeared with the light. My classmates around me came into focus. None of them seemed alarmed at my state of mind, and so I gathered up the courage to look at the other images. I was met with the same exact visions, each one highlighting a different person clutching the clock.
“Ok, now let’s look at who murdered which person,” Mr. Thomas began. His monotone voice made it seem as if he was bored with the subject, but personally I was anything but bored. With a press of his clicker, he started the slideshow. “This woman here murdered the lady in the first picture.” I gasped. Staring right back at me was the woman from my first vision. She had the same exact birthmark smeared across her left cheek.
“Tyler, hello!” Mr. Thomas shouted. “Are you even listening?” The truth was that I hadn’t heard a single word he had said. I stood, gathering the pictures laid out before me and stuffing them into my bag. “Tyler, where do you think you are going?”
“I’m sorry, I’ve gotta go,” I muttered, sprinting out the door. I was halfway down the hallway before I heard Mr. Thomas’ voice calling after me from the doorway, but I ignored him. I threw myself onto my bike and pedaled home quickly. Desperate to reach my computer, I barely noticed how close the cars whizzed by me as I rode. Upon finally arriving at my house, I threw open my front door and pounded up the stairs. My backpack bounced against my legs with each step. The computer hummed quietly beneath my heavy footfalls. I reached my desk, grabbing the pictures from my backpack. I turned the first picture over to read the name of the victim and her murderer. My fingers raced across the keys as I searched for the case details. Sure enough, the woman with the birthmark had shot the other woman because her husband had had an affair with her. I could still remember each face from my visions in the classroom vividly, and so I searched up the cases on card at a time. My astonishment grew as each face from my vision matched the murderer in the online case details. I leaned back in my chair, pondering how the fact that I had been right about my visions all along.
“Tyler!” my mom screamed suddenly from downstairs. “Where are you?” I quickly cleared my search history and put away the pictures before she reached my doorway. “What are you doing? Are you okay? The school called and said you ran out of criminology class.” I watched as she frowned slightly, worry etched across her face.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said. “I…” I paused, not wanting to add to her worry anymore. “We were talking about murder cases, and I guess I just missed Cindy a little bit extra today. I’m really sorry.” She wrapped me into a hug.
“Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry. I know how hard that class must be for you. You can definitely switch out if you want.”
“No, no, no. I’ll be fine.”
“Ok, but I am going to have to tell Dr. Draycott about this. He’s going to want to speak with you.” I held back a groan, knowing it would be a little harder to convince Dr. Draycott that I was all right. At the first mention of my visions returning, I worried he would want me to stay in the psych ward again, and who knew how long I would waste away in those hospital robes. There was no way that I was going back there. Being able to see a victim’s murderer was an amazing gift, but I was convinced that for the time-being I was going to have to keep it to myself.