They say I should feel like a hero.
“In her state, she’d have been dead by morning. You’re a hero, son. You and those friends of yours.” The detective said after he’d finished firing his questions at me.
But I don’t feel like a hero.
How can you be a hero when you don’t stop the crime? How can you be a hero when you arrived too late?
I wasn’t even the one that witnessed it, just the one she called in panic.
I’m not a hero. I’m just a boy who found a girl beaten bloody in the snow.
See, my friend had been on her way home when she watched as a tall shadow dragged a body across the ground.
She saw it all not even sure of what she witnessed, then called me and my roommate who’d just gotten home herself.
The unforgiving sky above seemed a black hole of endless dark. It seemed at once it could swallow everything whole and leave simple a void in Earth's place.
But it didn’t and instead we went to investigate.
The artificial light from our phones shone brightly on the icy concrete, on the trail of blood smeared across the ground. Following that path, we lead ourselves to the very end.
And though we’d followed a colorful path, it was no rainbow and no pot of gold awaited us at the end.
Why would it? What did I honestly expect?
No, what we found at the end of that chilling path twisted my stomach like a rag. Someone had reached their hands into my body and tied my intestines into a knot.
She’d been thrown down aggressively, dumped like a garbage bag that didn’t fit into the van. Even though snow still covered nearly every inch of the ground, she lay there in only a T-shirt.
Her face has already turned black and blue, swollen beyond belief.
When one of my friends bent down next to her, she touched her arm gently but even the brush of her fingertips made the girl flinch.
My other friend stood feet away, her arm crossed over her stomach and phone pressed to her ear.
From where I stood, I could hear the operator calmly replying to her frantic ramblings that echoed in the empty air.
Down on the ground and barely awake, the girls body violently shook.
So I stripped off my jacket and laid it over as much of her as I could but none of us dared touch her after that for fear of causing her more pain.
Soon the entire area flashed blue and red. They took the girl wrapped in my coat and rolled her into an ambulance.
That was the last I saw of her. After that it was all just a blur.
Then came endless questioning and our statements to the police.
That was that. No heroic actions, nothing brave or strong, just me and my friends, unfortunate witnesses as we were walking along.
So tell me how I’m supposed to feel like a hero when I didn’t do anything heroic?
How do you tell me that I’m supposed to feel like a hero, when all I feel is haunted?