Phoenix RisingBy: Elise Faber
"Sorry, lady!" The apology accompanied the collision, but the force of the impact wasn't what threatened to take Daughtry to her knees.
She would have cursed had she been able, because she'd broken her first rule of survival: always look down.
The little girl and her mother walked on, the brief moment of contact meaning nothing to them and everything to her.
Purple sparks that only she could see burst from her palms, clouding her vision. Nausea burned the back of her throat, and her legs went rubbery.
She tried desperately to throw up some mental barriers around the vision flooding her mind, but she'd never had any control over them. Her efforts were too late anyway. The scene was already playing through her head…
The little girl jerked away from her mother and ran straight into the middle of the road. A beautiful smile split her face as she splashed up and down in a huge puddle.
That joy only lasted a moment.
The vision speeding through Daughtry's brain screeched to a halt, playing every detail of what happened next in painful motion. The girl's jeans were soaked all the way up to her knees. One pigtail hung crooked; the other glued to her head with dirty water.
The girl's mother frantically rushed after her, but it was clear that she'd be too late. A tractor-trailer barreled down the road.
Daughtry's mental horror flick sped up, suddenly playing in fast forward. There was the deafening wail of the truck's horn, an ear-piercing shriek of tires against asphalt — the driver's futile attempt at stopping the heavy vehicle. The little girl lay prone in the street, her body mangled and unrecognizable aside from one pink shoe dangling from the toes of her tiny foot…
As quickly as the vision came on, it vanished. Daughtry found herself on her knees in the middle of the intersection, the rough asphalt biting into her skin.
The irony stung. No big rigs were barreling toward her. She was a sitting duck, a bigger target, and yet no truck threatened to run her down.
Oh, what she wouldn't give to trade places with that little girl. She didn't have a death wish, but she wasn't so callous as to want to live in place of such jubilant innocence.
Her desire to help was restrained by her own abilities and, worse, by her own fear, because every time she altered a vision — attempted to make a person's death more peaceful — their end got worse.
Car accidents became cancer. Falling down the stairs turned into suicide.
"You okay, miss?" Out of the corner of her eye she saw a hand reach for her.
"Don't touch me!" It was a shriek, which probably made her sound insane, but she was too raw to risk another vision.
"Okay. Fine. Jesus, lady." She didn't even see the man's face, just his palms rising in a symbol of surrender — that was enough to have relief coursing through her.
It's not you, she wanted to say but didn't bother. It was her fault. After all, it was her vision, her curse that had ruined so many people's lives.
Daughtry staggered to her feet like she was completely wasted. That's when she saw the yellow ponytail holder. The same one from the vision. It was bright as sunshine against the pitch-black pavement.
That little slice of luminescence made her do something she'd been resisting for months.
Without her usual hesitation, she scooped up the elastic and followed the pair.
She'd had the vision of the accident for a reason. Perhaps seeing the hair tie was a sign that this time she had a shot at helping someone.
When Daughtry caught up with the little girl, the conversation was brief, a simple warning for her to hold tight to her mother's hand.
It was hardly anything; only the smallest slice of interference. There shouldn't be any ill effects.
As Daughtry walked back to her car she thought that maybe she could do it. Actually be out and interact with the rest of society.
The picture was there in her mind. She would smile — maybe even talk to someone — just so long as she didn't touch.
It would be so much better than staying in her apartment all the time—
"No," she cried, pressing her hands to her temples.
Another vision raced through her, stole her breath.
She should have known! She hadn't made things better for that little girl; she had made them worse — so much worse.
At least the tractor-trailer would have been instant and painless. It couldn't dish out rape or torture. Why hadn't she just left it alone?
Daughtry knew why. It was because she had made a difference. A single collision, a single vision almost a year ago, and she'd altered a woman's death for the better.
If only she could understand how she'd done it.
Daughtry walked down the street, her head pounding, her tongue swollen and dry.
It hadn't been a good night. But then, spending rent money on cheap vodka was never a good idea.