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Chapter 41

The first inkling Shelly knew she was still alive was she could feel pain where her seat belt had dug into her. She could taste blood in her mouth where her teeth had bit into her tongue and she could feel her head throbbing as a thin stream of blood dripped onto her blouse. “What happened,” she asked, unable to move.

There wasn’t any reply.

“Allen?” She searched the van with her eyes. “Are you okay?”

With no answer, Shelly tried to push the release on her seat belt. Her fingers could not press the release hard enough. “Damn, they hurt!” She looked. Her fingers looked twisted. “Damn, they’re broken,” she groaned, settling back in the seat, waiting for someone to come and release her.

Someone would come soon. She would be alright if she didn’t move. She let her eyes close. She couldn’t stop them.

It was silent in the van. Easy to fall asleep.

And then she smelled a familiar odor…she sometimes smelled it when she accidentally poured too much gasoline into her car tank. Her eyes opened. “Gas?”

She pressed the seat belt release again. Harder and harder she pressed the red release button until her fingers ached, but it would not release.

The gasoline smell was stronger.

She peered out the window and in the mirror saw a puddle forming near the van. She had seen enough movies to know what was about to happen.

Allen? Where is he? He’ll save me. “Allen,” she called. “Allen?” Why didn’t he answer?

The image of her sitting in this van as flames roared up around her sent chills of fear down her back. She pushed at the release button again and again. “Why isn’t anyone coming?” And then she remembered that the psych buildings were isolated from the rest of the campus and this back road, a short cut, was hardly ever used.

Shelly screamed. The pain in her chest was worse when she screamed, but she continued desperately calling for help. “Damn it Allen, where the hell are you?”

Suddenly she saw someone walking toward the van. “Help me,” she cried. “Please help


The man reached up to the driver side window. “You’re still alive,” he said and frowned. “I can’t believe you survived again. You’re like a damn cat.”

Shelly felt as if she were losing consciousness, but was still able to see the leering smile as Dodd looked at the gasoline puddle forming under the van. “I tried to warn you,” he said. “I did everything I could to warn you to stay away.”

Shelly’s eyes were closing, but she was fighting it, too aware of the smell of gasoline. She looked to where Dodd had been standing. There was nobody there. Was he real or was he imagined? She found it hard to believe any human being, real human, could leave another human being, even if they hated them for some unknown reason, to be burnt alive. He had to be another hallucination, another ghostly character, just as unreal as the imaginary friend she called Allen.

Where was her imaginary ghost friend when she needed him? There is no Allen. There is no Dodd. There is no Shelly in a car about to burst into flame.

Her fingers kept pressing the release button even as she drifted into the sleep that would ease her trip into death. “Allen,” she called, “I’m sorry.”

Allen was focusing as hard as he could on materializing to save Shelly yet again. He had seen the man in the middle of the road, but it had been too late to prevent the accident. Now, blaming himself, he was unable to focus his energy on what he needed to do to save her. There had been something horrifying about the man in the middle of the road. He had stood there as if he didn’t care if he were killed by the van. Allen had seen what looked like a smile on the man’s face. He had barely enough time to scream a warning because the face had seemed familiar, a face he had seen before, but could not remember where. And then he knew. It was the long hair and the desperate blue eyes…Dodd.

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