Havok Publishing
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Second Chances

By Shiann Dawson

“I can’t find anything wrong with you, Frank.” The doctor leaned back in his chair to look at his clipboard over his wire-frames.

“Come on, Doc. There’s got to be something. This ain’t normal.” Frank put his head in his hands. “I’m tellin’ you, I’ve been hearing music for three days straight.”

The doctor shook his head slowly, pored over his notes, then gave Frank a hard look. “How much are you drinking, Frank?”

Frank felt his face redden. Before the music, it had been a lot. “I already tried that. It just makes it louder.”

“I think you need to cut back a little,” Dr. Jones said kindly. He pulled out his prescription pad. “I’m going to give you something for anxiety, and we’ll see if that does anything.”

Frank nodded, but he couldn’t meet Dr. Jones’ gaze.

“I fell in…”

Frank walked up the street toward his apartment and tried—for the millionth time—to shake off the song, but it just seemed to grow in his skull, building pressure and volume. He wasn’t even sure where he’d heard the song. It sounded familiar, but he couldn’t pin it down. He stopped and leaned against a telephone pole, then closed his eyes for a moment. Bits and pieces of conversations floated over the ringing in his ears.

“…they have fresh mangoes…”

“…Rodney and his new wife bought a house…”

“…hit by a car…”

Frank’s eyes shot open, and he pushed away from the telephone pole. There was no source for the music, only chattering people. The doctor’s advice rang through his head, and the idea of getting back on the wagon caused his teeth to grind. It would be best to go home and get away from everyone else.

Frank turned away from the pole and strode up the street again.

He bumped into a woman in his haste. Instead of an apology, he heard, “Watch it, lady,” snarl out of his mouth. The lovely, heartfelt voice and accompanying instrumentals clanged louder in his ears, so he walked faster, staring straight ahead, careful to avoid bumping anyone else. Maybe I just have to be nicer… But a twisting in his gut told him that wasn’t the solution.

By the time he got to his apartment, Frank was slick with sweat. He pushed his way inside and crumpled onto the couch, lungs heaving. His eyes fluttered once, twice, then drifted shut.

Raindrops refracted red and yellow light on his windshield. The green glow of the dashboard cast sickly light over his hands—one holding a whiskey bottle, the other gripping the wheel. The needle creeped up to seventy despite the sign proclaiming that the limit was thirty-five. Dread cinched around his stomach. He wanted to stop and put down the drink. Instead, he saw himself lift the bottle to his lips.

The needle reached seventy-five.

He remembered this.

“What was it you said?” A sweet, terrible voice mused from beside him.

Frank’s throat burned, and his skin seemed to freeze as he looked over at the young blond woman now sitting in his passenger seat.

“You weren’t here before,” he told her.

She cracked a small smile. Her long, thin fingers found the radio volume and turned it up.

Frank tried to stop the car, tried to shout, but he could do neither. He watched the needle keep creeping up, watched the woman’s smile turn into a sadistic grin.

“You said something like, ‘I love this song,’” she whispered, and her hand found his leg. She pressed his knee, and his foot shoved harder on the gas.

Tears slid down his face, he realized, and he choked out a sob. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “If I’d known—I would give anything to take it back.”

The woman’s face shifted to an icy mask, and she nodded. “I know that you would, Frank. But I didn’t get a second chance.” She pressed his knee harder, and the car sped up even more.

He knew it was coming up, the moment when he was supposed to hit the girl. He knew what happened next, how he’d discover his car was badly damaged but still usable. He could see himself taking it to the garage and telling Johnny, the mechanic, “It was a fawn. It jumped out of nowhere.” He knew they’d believe him, and that no one would suspect him.

But she knew.

She was singing along to the radio, gazing forward again, expressionless.

She didn’t flinch as the girl—her own mirror image—barely had enough time to turn her face toward the headlights as Frank’s car veered off the road and into her. No expression of shock or horror. It happened too fast.

“I wanted you to see,” the wraith said from the passenger’s seat. She pressed her hand to his chest.

“… And the flames went higher,” crooned the radio.

Phantom fingers reached into his chest and curled around his heart. His body spasmed once, twice, and one final, weak tittering—then Frank felt nothing at all.

Johnny, the mechanic, found Frank’s mangled body a few days later, thrown from his slightly less mangled car. Unlike the miserable corpse, the car was rough but fixable, so the mechanic decided to quietly keep it and give it to his son.

The teenager told his dad that he liked the car, but the faint smell of booze never quite came out of the seats, and he wished the radio would play a different song.

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Shiann Dawson is a graduate student from Oklahoma, who primarily writes short stories and poetry. She is currently working on her master’s degree in creative writing, and her poems have been published in Westview. Her preferred genre is horror, but her work branches into social criticism, nonfiction, and slice-of-life stories. She is currently working on a novel and hopes to publish in the near future.

8 comments - Join the conversation


  • The suspense in this story is captivating. I couldn’t wait to learn how it ended. You also did an excellent job making Frank believable and easy to sympathize with, despite his past. I loved it!

    Is this “Ring of Fire?”

    • You’re correct! If you’re a member of the Havok Horde, you’ll be automatically entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card at the end of the month.

    • Thank you Deb! Hey, knowing what we like is all that’s really important. I’m just happy you found it enjoyable.

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