Grade: 10th grade
Age: 15

Streetcar

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The streetlights streak by, illuminating her face with warm yellow hues as the starless sky stretches vastly above her. She drifts her hand out through the window, and the cool breeze runs teasingly over her outstretched palm. Hours pass, but the taxi clock’s face reads 4:52 in flashing white characters and never changes no matter how hard she blinks.
As the dusty yellow cab takes her through the streets, a breeze wafts through the window. The familiar scent of lavender soap, the kind he had always been embarrassed of using, presses in from outside the car and envelops her in the familiar smell of regret. Laughter rings dreamily in her ears as her younger self and a fair-haired boy shove each other playfully on the seat next to her. “Ju—” she blinks, and they vanish. “—lian?”
The cab stops at a traffic light, the red fluorescent glare reflecting off of the windshield and into the darkness. A crimson Volkswagen beetle, the type her father used to drive, pulls up slowly beside her, and when she turns to look at it she finds a teenage boy staring back at her, his index finger writing clumsily on the window pane. She peers intently at the chicken-scratch letters and barely makes out a name: Julian. He turns away from her, laughing to another passenger in the other car, but no matter how hard she tries, she can’t see who it is.
The corners of her lips curve up in amusement at the boy’s antics, but as her breath fogs up the glass, she hears tires screech. A cobalt blue pick-up truck slams into the buggy, and a moment later, it is no longer blue, its shattered surface dusted with glass and raked with long, claw-like slashes. Dark red blood presses its hideous face against the cracked car windows and sneers, its slimy hands sliding down the wreckage falling apart before her.
She can barely hear herself sobbing. Tears crawl out of her eyes and spill down her cheeks, and as she fights to unbuckle her suffocating seatbelt, the light turns green. The cab starts to pull away from the carnage, the blood-stained windshields and glass shards glimmering like emeralds in the too-bright glow of traffic signals.
She pounds on the windows desperately, screaming until her palms are bruised and her voice hoarse, but the driver just sighs. “Miss, I’m afraid you’ll have to stay calm. What’s happened has happened and there is simply nothing we can do.”
“There’s nothing we can do?” Her voice is angry. “There’s nothing we can do? People just died back there and we can’t call the hospital to pick them up?”
The driver shakes his head cryptically. “People don’t die in dreams,” he says, but she doesn’t hear him. The cab trudges on through the thick darkness, which presses in threateningly despite the occasional glimmer of a streetlight fighting against the gloom.
Panting, she detaches her shaking hands from the window, purple and blue blossoming on her skin, and presses the heels of her hands into her eyes, wishing for everything to stop. “Julian, please.” Her voice quivers. “Come back.”
As if summoned by name, the cab passes a lone figure waiting at a bus stop, dressed in blue jeans and a disheveled white dress shirt. The man’s eyes meet hers, and for a moment they look familiar. Has she seen them before?
And then, all of a sudden, she realizes who he is.
She scrambles to unlock the car door, and the faceless driver looks at her questioningly. “Miss? You can’t—”
She pays him no mind. Her fumbling fingers miss the handle once, twice, and on the third time she finally manages to shove open the door and stumble out into the chilly autumn evening.
She turns in circles, earlobes flushing with heat as her heartbeat palpitates through her body, and her heels splash haphazardly through puddles silvered with moonlight. Her footsteps echo as she runs frantically in the direction of the bus stop, ignoring the throbbing pain in her feet as her ankles wobble on the pavement.
“Julian?” she calls out. Her voice seems tiny in the darkness. The air turns cold, and she shivers in her pale blue sundress. She waits for what feels like hours, but the only answer she receives is the indifferent wind rustling through the trees. “Julian?” Her vision goes black, the name echoing emptily into the oblivion of her own mind, and all she can see is flashes of red, and shattered glass, and the blank-faced cab driver telling her to get up…
She jolts awake in the dim light of the rising dawn, in her own bed, and the world is silent. The birds do not sing, the crickets do not chirp, the wind does not blow… She is utterly alone, save for thoughts that even she can barely comprehend. She sits for a while, kept warm only by her own body heat underneath the thin bed sheets. Frost creeps up the exposed skin of her arms, which reach for someone who is no longer there.
Her eyes ache with the dull numbness of dried tears. She remembers crying the night before, though not about what, but it is of little importance now. The anguish is over.
She peels the sweat-stained covers off of her damp skin and sighs. Lost in thought, she turns to her nightstand and picks up a clock that had stopped two years ago, eyeing it gingerly. With shaking hands, she switches it on and watches as the hands begin to race away from the 4:52 of a nightmare long past, taking her grief with them.
Unlike most days, she decides to open the curtains, and winces as the luminescent dawn presses uncomfortably against her sleep-crusted eyes. She looks outside at the field splayed across the horizon, watches as the first rays of colorless light blossom against the mist, and dreads the coming day a little less.
The sun still rises, and so does she.

4 thoughts on “Streetcar

  1. The story has strong and descriptive imagery. It is filled with mysterious elements, but these are grounded by subtle details like the taxi driver’s mentioning that people do not die in dreams, which informs us that this is a nightmare. The despair of the situation is tempered by the hopeful tone of the ending. This is well done!

  2. Effective use of primary colors throughout the narrative: green, red, purple. Use of taxi cab in wanderings through the dream a good touch. Hints of hope–going on with life– ends story.

  3. Very powerful imagery here, but at times, it gets confusing– so much description overwhelmes the reader– cold, then hot, sweat-stained sheets, and frost. The dream is powerful but little is resolved, and there is not a sense that the character is ready to move on from the crushing grief (in an emotional sense– obviously, the character restarts the clock, opens the window). It’s not clear why this is the moment to begin moving on.

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