( 9 ) The One Gone Bad
It was proving easier to find these tucked away locations the longer I found myself in this world. Coming out of hiding with each readied explorer, desperate for the chance to be new in anothers eyes again. The sun had been riding the swing next to me, eager for our two paths to line up. The tandem became in sync as it began to set with my arrival to these ruins. I only assumed they were ruins, there had been no prequalifying exam to designate it so. It had been described as a medical mecca, when the static sea outbreak hit, it was close enough to accommodate any recently influenced citizens. No one knew exactly what they were dealing with, but apparently enough liked minds resided here to chip away at the cause. Depending on who you asked, there seemed to be mixed views on whether it was in fact abandoned. From where I was standing, I was given the honorary title of finding out the answer, can’t say I was all too flattered. The entrance must have posed for a full length spread on horrid locations to avoid. The main road leading into the welcome station was cluttered with a mishmash of overgrown plants, a few abandoned motorcycles, and a beat up gate that in its current state relied on sympathy alone to halt any possible intruders. I wore the definition of a prude as I skipped any foreplay and stepped over the gate and into the complex.
I had no sense of direction, no map, no idea on where to find the item. It seemed childish and a bit ironic but I picked a building at random. Directly in front of me.
My ears heightened to a slight rattle in the distance, the weather had stepped on a creaking floor board as it attempted to sneak up on me. The rain would be inviting me out on a second date. I made use of the dry seconds left in the evening sun and checked for any unwelcome openings protruding on my knapsack. All of my belongings were safely tucked away in a perfect companion, an experienced weather partaker. I almost felt flattered as little beads splashed against my skin. This search was going to prove difficult with my friendly weather.
I tried to use a hint of reason and neglect the entrance doors that had already become in possession of the wilderness around me. Overgrown vines and shrubbery provided some artistic flair to the rustic and industrial look of select doors. I veered down a gravel path to see a large stone building, and more importantly what seemed like a well maintained door.
My agitation in the situation seemed to come in the form of luck as I had successfully reached an unlocked door. Releasing a rust inspired screech, the door hesitated to allow my passage. I was relying on the logic of the buildings electrical engineer as I felt for any light switch in proximity to the door.
The door had led to an empty corridor and although unlit, a faint glow was creeping through the darkness towards the end of the hallway. Four thin strips of light were escaping a steel door changing into the form of a question. Why was there a light on in this abandoned facility? I stood debating my next actions, was I ready to begin taking on the role of heroic room clearer, guardian of left on lights.
I opened the door only to be introduced to a mess and a familiar sight. Case files, medicine cabinets, and a relaxed Carmine occupied the room of about forty or so square feet. She was sitting on top of a desk that had been slid up against a wall, leaning back. Her eyes looked calmed as I noticed the open pill bottle in her left hand.
“I’ve sailed to the moon Sails, it’s wonderful up here.”
Her words wore a toxic aftertaste, they left her lips covered in the dissolved form of the treasure she had been found. I couldn’t help but play along.
“I didn’t know you were a pilot.” I had to be careful with my compliments towards this woman.
“Oh it’s really just a hobby of mine, something to pass the time you know?”
“A pilot, a tour guide, I’d have to ask when the autobiography is coming out?”
“Join me and I’ll give you the inside scoop, tell you the ending of the story before it gets released.”
I didn’t want to ask how long she had been in this room, pretending to have ownership of a license to fly the skies, but I can’t say I had much desire to join her. I came here with purpose, taking part in some taste testing of miscellaneous patient prescriptions wasn’t included in that itinerary.
“I won’t be joining you this time, taking other people's pills wasn’t really high on my list of tasks to do today.”
“Oh hush, your opinions never did matter much. If I recall, you were the one who always talked about blasting off into space.”
“Is that so, it must have been wrapped somewhere in the two or three conversations we’ve had so far. Maybe it was the one where you unexpectedly left in the middle of the night.”
“Oh I don’t want to talk about any of that right now, I’m in the mood for a more intriguing conversation. Do you know exactly where we are Sails? Her hands motioning slowly to different parts of the room.
“Please, enlighten me Carmine.” She grinned at the compliment, I was following suit with the sentences so was trying so hard to pull out of my mouth.
“Well dear, this place has quite the past, you could learn a thing or two from its history. These buildings were once filled with crazies, people who lost their way from the static sea and who were taken here to be observed. But the lovely part is that last word, no one here planned on treating them, only observing their behaviors. I’ve been going through the case files of the patients who were staying here, it’s all so arousing.”
“That oddly seems wrong, anyone you knew in there?”
“Well your case is still an ongoing investigation, so no darling, no one. But lighten up, these files will just grow dust unless I honor them with my curious eyes. There’s a stack of no names and fools on this desk, all kept within these walls to leave nothing but a paper log left for their dying existence. Take this poor sap for instance”, she held up a vanilla folder with the initials H.E.B. written at the top, “Henrik , age 27, admitted 1 year before this place fell apart. Am I intriguing enough for you yet Sails…?”
I smirked, it appeared I had missed her playful games she masked in conversation.
“And just what was wrong with Henrik, Doctor Carmine?”
“Well for one he was crazy,” she started laughing, “It says here his exposure to the static sea was only a few days and that he could maintain normal habits during the day, but at night he needed full body restraints to contain himself. They started adding artificial light to his cell during the midnight hours, but it goes on to say that after six days of exposure he completely lost it.”
“What happened to him?”
Her smile was starting to seep in, I was showing interest in her at a dangerous level.
“I’m serious Sails come to the moon with me and we’ll find more friends to read about.”
It only took minutes, but I had been hijacked, steered out of orbit by the phosphorus glow in her eyes. The action seemed so easy to her, handling a misplaced toy, in need of guidance to find its place back on the shelf. Covered in a gentle dust, I started to look forward to a night of watching her cold body pace around the room.
I noticed myself using my left hand to wave goodbye at goodwill standing by the exit and the other to form a five finger scooper. She remained silent as not to take my accepting nature for granted and placed three pills between the guilty creases of my palm. There was no need to stare up and notice her eloped eyes that must have been eager to have another sedated playmate about to join her. I made sure to use one swift gulp, I wouldn’t want the bitterness of the situation to linger in my mouth.
She inched her body towards the edge of the desk and slowly let her feet touch the ground. One after the other they lifted her slender body up in the air, I decided to join her.
“Now come, we must find the doctor a white lab coat” she whispered, “Maybe on the way I’ll show you where I found these case files. We can play games with these forgotten names.”
I didn’t respond, only nodded to her newly formed demands, following her as we began to head for the exit. We had reached the doorway when Carmine halted, spinning around with acquired intentions. She anchored both of her hands around my hips and pulled her body closer, this is what she really wanted to do.
“It took maybe 10, 15 minutes for the dosage to kick in, how to best spend the eye of the storm.”
I decided to ask, the precursor of anxiety was beginning to kick in, “So just how many did you take?”
She aimed her seducing eyes directly at me, her left not bearing the cover of hair it usually did. “Oh I only took one….. but I’m really glad you decided to join me.”
I felt slightly sick, clearly her fragile body couldn’t handle the bulk mine carried, but three times the amount. I couldn’t think which was worse the tension leading up to the burst of toxins, or the toxins themselves. Carmine had gotten bored of my distracted nature of concernment, as her body began inching over mine. A first strike, her venomous bite struck my lower lip with force, she wanted blood. A single streak ran down my chin. She stopped momentarily and let her fangs approach my ear, they vocalized while decided where to strike next.
“I can hurt you, you know.”
The declaration joined by a swift prod to the side, as she guided my body to the corner of the room. Her dictating mass didn’t join me, instead it’s position remained unchanged, purged of my excess body. It all seemed undecided, a nature Carmine didn’t know anything about. Ignoring any subtle cues she had given me, I stepped forward to join her again in the doorway. A single finger reached out and poked the center of my torso.
“I’ll save my fun for later.”
With the words still forming their connections to each other in my head, she left the room.
“Where the hell are you going this time?”
I had forgotten the hallway remained unlit, the illuminated room providing the only light source. I stepped outside the doorway to see her dancing body lose its sight within the shadows. She was gone, again.
Trying to keep a mental count of how much time I still had left of clarity, I ran after her, shouting her name. I found myself back in the main lobby, there were too many directions branching off that I didn’t think I had enough luck left to guess correctly. Noticing the half read stack of medical records, I decided to try and keep my mind focused in any attempt to rid of this dosage. I could do this, find something covered in dry words, read it times through until I held back this storm that was on the horizon.
The determination ran through my hands as I ripped the first folder off the table.
Noah Korra, age 31, length of observation::12 weeks
Subject was captured by the reconnaissance team approximately 1.4 miles into the static sea, taken from boundary marking 7. Supporting team member six did not note any difficulties in reaching the subject and even expressed a lack of contact they had experienced during the trip. Taking precautions not to enter the second ring, supporting team member two and five scouted ahead to accurately locate the second boundary. Scouting operations concluded that 2.3 miles still remained between the reconnaissance team, the subject, and the second ring. Subject was sedated using compound G34 shot out of a high powered rifle modified for capture purposes. Using the standard protocol roaming cart, subject was placed within restraints and brought back to the primary test facility for identification. After sedation, and during the interview process, subject was identified as Noah Korra, chief inspection manager for drilling operations at the Northern Drilling Company. Vitals seem to stabilize through use of high levels of compound R7, though stock counts of compound R7 remain low as of current third quarter stock quantity counts. It has been decided that administration of compound R7 will no longer be included in subjects medicinal dosage. Subject will be prepared for external monitoring in test pit 07.
It was all of a sudden, but I became overwhelmed with the desire to leave this place. Escape through the fire exit, ducking past all that was supposed to unfold in front of me to instead cue in the credits. I couldn’t imagine that my luck would turn to such a degree. I’d repeated the process far too many times to show any faith in simply drifting off into sleep in a hope to finally wake back up to reality. My eyes began to close, searching for any stillness that existed within me. I feared I was running out of time and the set pieces would soon start to change all around me. It didn’t last long, apart from the apparent patter of rain heard with my closeness to the exit, I heard something. Damnit Carmine this wasn’t the time for games, my open eyes were met again with an empty room. Another case file, it dangled in front of me as my only swinging option at this point. I grabbed the next folder on the stack and began to rifle through any part that included an excess of words.
Subject: unidentified, approximate age 15, length of observation::ongoing
Subject is by far the longest standing patient of this facility. In preparation for the possible outbreak, this station was initiated before activating the static sea. Subject was the result of the preliminary reconnaissance team dedicating a section of land to observe in hopes of research for the newly dedicated fallout area. Subject was alone and delirious, the first prescribed symptoms of exposure. After sedation, subject was transferred to the east holding wing, separated from other subjects. Due to the age of the subject, test standards have been modified and reduced in the early stages.
>>update on file
Testing has begun on subject and come up inconclusive. Through administration of different compound types all research has stopped, subject appears to be immune. Subject has also been identified as a possible fire hazard.
An immediate thud brought my attention back to my surroundings, someone else was here, I took a child's guess at who. A shadow walked into the faint hallway light.
“Hey there stranger, have you found the stars yet?”
“I have to say it makes sense for you to show up so subtlety now.”
“Oh don't be like that, I came back didn't I? Maybe I just needed some space, how would you know, huh?”
I was beginning to realize I had opened a near empty box of crayons, her playful color was all that remained. A fixation would soon follow, I was coming to the conclusion that the drugs had reached my doorstep, carrying with them with them a guest, my dear carmine. A seemingly endless rain.
She reached into her bag of seduction and stretched two light duty plastic gloves over her fingers. The operation light would flip on soon, anesthesia unnecessary. There would be no need for anesthesia in this operation, my steady nature was already prepped for treatment.
I disregarded the noise from the dropped papers, my hand doubled as a waterfall of mysterious information. but had exposed subject nonames valuable case file to the ground below.
It appeared she had been hunting for me.
It wasn’t necessarily some newly fashioned pair of triply glasses that joined me, but moreso a change in perception. I lost care for the well being of everything around me, they sort of just existed. I reached out a hand in Carmine’s direction, I wanted to see if she felt warm, it had gotten cold all of a sudden. My motions had been put on auto pilot, I now sat comfortable in the passenger seat with my boots on the dashboard wishing I had brought a snack to watch this scene unfold. The scripted movements of suspense were over, my hand had reached Carmine’s torso, a large sigh of relief could be heard throughout the audience. I couldn’t really tell if she felt warm or not, I should keep at it. My right hand joined the exploration and headed to higher ground. Perhaps we shared the same curious brain cells as her claws grazed mine. They felt like foreign entities that had yet to be logged in. She squeezed my hands tight and set our bodies in motion.
“Where do you want to go baby” I thought the increase in affection suited our interaction.
She didn’t answer, maybe she didn’t hear me. I moved my mouth in motion to make sure everything was in working order, my teeth moved back and forth against each other in a calming fashion. Dropping the notion, we were now moving, gliding through the air molecules, proceeding down stairwells and unlocked doors until the train halted, this must be my stop. I didn’t want to stop moving, why had we stopped moving, was I being tricked?
“Answer me!” The shout startled her, turning around with the shock she threw on a smile.
She kept pressure on my palms, I guess I had been wrong, they did feel warm.
“You’ll have to tell me what’s beyond the moon.”
I focused on the question, I wasn’t noticing any cosmic guests arriving fashionably late so I answered almost immediately.
“You are Carmine, it’s hard to see anything else.”
The complement didn’t seem to satisfy her appetite, the food pyramid she envied left no unused space for personal affection. Maybe I was starting to overdo it.
“You’re flattering sometimes when you’re pathetic.”
I used the response to shift my attention to where she had led us, she had a nose for finding the only lit lights in this complex. Three dim red lights were being broadcast around us, they looked strained from some lack of electricity being provided. The dependant one in the relationship, I found myself relating. This area was different from the rooms we had been before, it somehow felt even more uninviting.
“This way.” Her hand met mine and began to trolly us threw the cracked steel door in front of us. My first impressions of our new habitat were a mix of a photography black room left unattended for centuries and a laboratory we had no business being in.
“Before you arrived I read about this room in a few of the case files, lets see if we can find a little more about it. Be a dear and help me rummage.”
Her movements went left as I was instructed to search right, a row of filing cabinets collecting dust fell under my current tasks.
“Look for anything in a green folder, green.”
She hadn’t been gauging my depth down the rabbit hole, as it wasn’t so easy to place colors anymore. My eyes were holding their own resistance rally within my body, shifting focus every few seconds with my vision. Their list of demands included a firm stance on not allowing any object to remain in my sights for too long. My stomach had joined the cause also, aiding with nausea if I didn’t comply. I found myself faking the action of searching as not to bring up any more attention to my changing state of mind. My performance didn’t last long as it appeared Carmine had found something.
“This will do nicely, three green folders in a row, and you?”
I decided not to answer, but I did initiate my legs to walk in her direction. She had made use of a reclined operating chair which showed space for one more.
“Well if you’re taking an absence from talking, perhaps I’ll begin with our first story.” Her soft hands moved slow as they unwound the string holding the folder together. A packet of papers was enclosed inside with a photo paper clipped at the top. My vision was continuing to disagree with my intentions as I caught a glimpse of a man appearing in his mid forties. I closed my eyes as Carmine read aloud the case file.
Subject name: Wayne Dedrick, approximate age: 45, length of observation: 1 week.
Subject was located within the second ring of the static sea shortly after activation. After receiving confirmation from reconnaissance team on subjects state of decay, it was the decision of operations to dispatch the tactics team for defensive retrieval. Due to the size of subject, lethal blended tranquilizers had to be used for sedation. Once subject was temporarily neutralized, a modified evacuation cart had to be used to transport subject to testing.
>>Testing results: Subject was reviewed on two separate occasions for extent of frontal lobe damage. It was the recommendation of the acting doctor and assisting staff that subject has experienced too high of exposure levels for any other testing or observations to conclude as beneficial. Subject is scheduled for closing procedures during the end of the week in hazard field 3.
“This place seems to be riddled with ghosts, how lucky” I had heard her, but the words were standing outside my ears, confused about how to enter the mind I had just set ablaze. She wasn’t necessarily asking any questions, but my lack of replies was dulling the picturesque journey that had been set up, maybe I was getting paranoid. I chose the three or four seconds to lift my head up and peer in her direction before resuming the steady slouch I was experiencing. Not that I would be fully trusting in my judgement at the moment, but the blurry outline she created didn’t seem to have an agitated lean to it. Three pills huh? There must have been a trace of tough guy in my genetic makeup that only showed his perfectly tanned face when a bad decision arose. Sitting was proving to become even harder as I sweat each minute off the clock. I wanted so badly to close my eyes and doze off into the stars.
More words stood outside my door, this time with a reassuring knock.
“Maybe you should lay down, just a quick rest.”
She left her position on the operating chair and helped move my body into a laying position similar to that of a patient during this facilities peak hours. I was granted permission to finally close my eyes and began to focus on the darkness the underside of my eyelids provided. I would need a pole to grab onto for holding back this storm. I heard her feet move about the room as if she was dancing with intention, at least that part seemed accurate. She would claim inspiration from the many sonnets sung in her head, holding up a gun while it forced the rhythmic movements she possessed.
“I’d hope it’s not me making you drowsy this evening, but rest assure I might have something to help bring you back into orbit.” I couldn’t tell if she was still carrying any side effects with her, the neural connections in brain had all been repaired.
That sounded hopeful, maybe all this time I pegged her as the wrong kind of person. Allowing her pleas of innocence to pass through my ears as I wrote in an angry bold font guilty on my clipboard. It was after hours, and the two gated holes that formed eyes on my skin were closing fast. Five or ten minutes ago hell had appeared to freeze over, but now things weren’t so bad. The two guests that were greeted at my doorstep with a panicked laced host were now casually enjoying themselves to a three person game of charades.
She scurried back across the room to where I was laying, melodies still ringing clear. I felt Carmine’s hands graze my boots, and a piece of leather cloth joining in on the threesome. A sudden pressure soon followed with the noise of metal clacking back and forth. Some form of deja vu striking me as the action was repeated with my hands as well. I had no intention of opening my eyes at this point, even if I had become involved in dramatics, a limb amputation wouldn’t shake me out of this state.
It was all beginning to get dark when an immediate flinch ran down my entire body. An ear piercing alarm was sounding all around us, blurry red lights joined in the hysteria. I would have to begin to panic, it would only be logical. My eyes weren’t expecting the sudden change in content. My arms and legs were the body parts to follow suit in the rude awakening, although quickly halted by the gentle straps I allowed on. I would need to up the panic, now that I realized I had been strapped down.
“Carmine!” It felt wrong needing to say more. She must have been staring the whole time, waiting for the precise moment for me to realize my predicament.
Very little time was wasted as she pounced on top of me, my hairless tail still hanging out of the trap. Her inner thighs began rubbing against the poor hands I had allowed to become imprisoned. I delayed bringing my focus to her gaze, there wouldn’t be any turning back at that point. This new array of familiar and foreign commodities did not bring forth any addition of a rope swinging me to mental freedom. I broke my own rule, newly made and newly forgotten, I looked up.
“You and I Sails, we’re two trains...both heading nowhere. We’re designed to collide, to create a beautiful pile of wreckage.”
“Carmine, you have to let me out of this. I need to get out of this right now.”
“You. Aren’t. Listening to me. I am the only one getting you out of this….I do envy your amnesia, the freshness that must still be in the air. Landing in place in the daylight hours with the morning dew. You have to listen to me Sails.”
Her restraint on my lower body was increasing, I would prove as a lackluster partner how things currently were. I had maybe six or seven seconds left before her talons ripped me apart.
“I’m listening, I’m listening Carmine. Please I just want it all to stop.”
“That shouldn’t be all you want.” She took one hand off my chest and placed the underside on the surface of my cheek.
“Let this lack of comfort dissolve between my thighs.”
I wanted to tell myself that I enjoyed it, that the whirlwind of shit had lost all bearing as it swirled over the unmovable object that she was. Forgetting its shadow on the horizon, my eyes never broke focus from the black eye liner that housed each green pupil. When it was all said and done, I looked around to notice there no longer was any wind, only a slurry of destruction that lay around me. She had untied my hands.
And just like that the piercing alarm that had sent my system into a shock was gone, I used my next few seconds wisely and untied the shackles around my feet. There wasn’t a question in my mind that I was still feeling the effects of the chemicals, but it didn’t bother me as much anymore.
I looked around the room to see Carmine putting her clothes back on in a slow fashion. She was all that existed.
She peered over, acknowledging my acceptance of this state of mind.
“If you’ve had your fill playing astronaut, some fresh air might help clear your head.”
I looked over and smiled, maybe this was enough for me. As if impatient, my train of thought was slightly interrupted.
“Well, what are you waiting for?”
She wasn’t leading, and I had to state the obvious.
“How will I know where to go?”
A smirk littered her face. “Just listen for your exit, but I would hurry, the safety locks will surely soon engage.”
The idea of fresh air soon became a parasite leached onto every desire spread out within my body. As if the last hour or so had been my greatest attempt of holding my breath under water, the idea of the air was seeming as almost a necessity. Only an arbitrary choice of directions accompanied me through the labyrinth of hallways, twisting and turning with indecision and fear. It was after making a swift left turn did a familiar sound sting my ears. It led my half conscious body through the second portion of mazed corridors that separated me from the rain. The tapping whispered to a restless body all tied up in leather and chains and spoon fed poison. Nearing an almost similar sound to that of actually having the droplets of water in front of me, I had to be getting close. Sweet sweet rain. My body tried not to burst through the exit door hard enough to break it.
I gulped the air with a full mouth, hopefully this would help wear down the effects of my misdoing. The distant moon joined me in my new surroundings, revealing only half of its elusive mass. I felt a slop of wet soil squeezing between my fingers accompanied with an inaudible ew murmured under my breath, maybe this was a sign of my returning consciousness. No longer pierced by the sound, the emergency siren had mostly halted, this must have been the lockdown Carmine was talking about, the emergency lights still remained low lit. A glow of red blanketed the courtyard, tucking in every object that lay abandoned and overgrown. Over compensating its reach as it fought with the moonlight on which hue each object deserved. A dull mist had been created by the rains attendance, combining with the shift in light to emphasize the setting. I had been curious, so I took the notion of turning around, she did love the rain after all.
She stood there, motionless, under no cover whatsoever, only allowing the slow burning light to expose any texture along her face. A statue, hand crafted with the blister ritten palms of my buried intentions, the pain shining through with each passing flash. The airborne droplets of water hesitating as they landed on her, traveling through the darkness, anxious to meet the ground.
It would seem my bent over posture gave the illusion I was praising the ground as well. The air was feeding me clarity, feeling lucky as it appeared my dosage was losing weight. Her presence apparent in the background, I had been playing with fire and came out horribly burned and disfigured. She broke her stillness, sending her own personal vibrations through the wet strands.
“You’ve gotten too comfortable playing on the rain.”
I had heard her correctly, clarity was returning.
“You know I can’t change.”
“Don’t forget darling, even the heart has one rough edge at the bottom.”
She started pacing over to an overgrown tree, a used to be centerpiece for visitors at this complex.
“I thought you had something else to do.” She was right, I still needed to obtain something.
More convo. I exhausted all options, through some twisted fate the only unlocked door left were the test pits. I couldn’t put into words the wishing I was making for it to be vacant.
I stepped in, gloomy, read another case file, I wanted to delay this as long as possible.
After maneuvering through the puzzle of abandoned corridors and shafts I was met with an open main hall. I suddenly heard footsteps, had Carmine really followed me in?
I didn’t have to speak first in this altercation.
“Who the fuck are you?”
This man was holding a gun, a flashlight, and my confidence.
“Well speak up will you, how the hell did you even get in here...and wait was that you setting off the fucking alarms?”
Uh oh, it appeared I had woken up the only resident of this pile of ruins, perhaps I should fetch some milk.
“I was...well I was looking for the location, there’s a whole long story that goes along with the rest of it, but honestly that’s it.”
“Well that is for resistance members only, who do you think you are?”
( 12 ) Camp Stories
The fire started to die down, but Evelyn began to ignite into an endless flame. Her embers started to spread themselves out amass the floor, slowly conquering it’s new landscape. Every spark gliding through a scripted performance, rehearsed through constant recollection.
Until now, she had never hinted to any details that might answer the “who, what, why?”, the “How did you get this way?” or the “How did the fire that set ablaze your insides grow a pair of fangs?” Without missing her cue she began to tell her story, and began to incinerate us both into the first chapter of her life.
“No one ever tells you the dangers of creating memories. Its as if it should be someone’s sole duty in life to pat you on the shoulder each time you were to create one and ask you, are you sure about this? In 5 years time this memory will begin to haunt you, keep you up at night, are you sure you still want to conjure such a monster?”
“Shortly after turning 14, no one ever patted me on the shoulder. The morning before setting off on an overdue family vacation, nobody ever warned me. Moreso, right before an immense dark cloud swallowed the horizon, not a single person screamed Evee, run, run as fast as you can, you don’t want this. No, I never got a warning, instead I had to etch into my skull the very last memory of my family.”
She swayed from side to side, surely this was an uneasy script to recite.
“I had come home from school the week before to such excitement. Pappa had received a paid trip from work to Valle. Now you aren’t too familiar with how things were a decade ago, but any kid would have killed to take that trip. He had said it was a reward for excelling at work that month. His company specialized in mineral acquisition and his assistance with drilling deeper into the earth’s core became a very lucrative business. I packed my bags that night, which looking back was quite the foolish thing to do. The trip wasn’t for another 5 days, and each day I would have to take essentials out to use…..but who could blame a kid with that much excitement. Finally the day came and we took the train south to Valle. I disobeyed any decisions to rest on the 10 hour ride, and woke both my parents up the moment of our arrival. Stepping into the station felt like something out of a dream. We took some time to settle into the house we were assigned. I remember spewing my luggage across the room in the most dramatic fashion, even for a child. I begged and begged for us to go see the orange glazed daisies that only grew there, picnic blanket already in hand. We took some pastries, my mother brought her warm flannel jacket, and we headed to the fields. I can’t exactly remember how much time we spent there, me laying on my back admiring pedal after pedal floating through the air, being carried away from each flower by the windy weather. Most of what followed has gotten blurry over time, but I do remember it was after counting exactly 23 pedals when the storm hit. Not from the distance, or from any warning at all, it just appeared. A black cloud that began to grow in darkness. I looked at my father almost instinctually, then behind me hoping somehow it didn't extend in both directions. Everything was becoming dark, the daisies began to wither in front of me. I became fixated, unable to take my eyes off each pedal dropping, almost as if to start a new count altogether. A minute or two might have gone by, and I was still staring at the damn daisies. My father's hand grabbed my shoulder and as I turned around in comfort, to my surprise I was greeted with horror. I could make out only remnants of my father, but it wasn't him. He stared at me with such cold eyes, all I wanted was to look away. His grip began to tighten….he had always kept up his physique, it was necessary for his profession with all the heavy lifting and such, but it wasn’t until that moment did I ever really feel his strength. The next moment I lay on the ground, the dust still settling from my body scraping along side it. He had thrown me with all his force. I felt breathless. I glared over to my mother hoping for any reassurance, but she glared back with the same stone eyes as my father. What I guess hasn’t faded with time, were the screams they both made as they moved closer to me. It didn’t seem natural, or even human. I didn’t think it was possible to make such a bold decision as a child, but I shot up to my feet and ran as utterly far away from my family as possible. I took one initial glance back to validate my decision, but none after. I ran back in the direction of town, but when I got there I didn’t stop. I was naive to think I wouldn't get tired, but I imagined that the skyline would lose its black hue the farther I got away. It had to have been nearly an hour outside of Valle when my legs gave out. I didn't know what to do, I was stranded. I….It was all so much.”
She seemed to be winding down, her recollection ceasing to function.
It was ironic, what she said that night. After what I had thought to be a rather trivial question, she stood up straight, hands clenched without hesitation and muttered her reaction.
“What you want is unrealistic, no one ever said you had wings.”
The exchange ended with her trotting off, leaving ample time to piece together such this distaste. I found it ironic, no one ever pointed out the simple fact that I did not have wings. Maybe I just had the strong belief that over time they would jut out of my back, a failsafe mechanism waiting to be released after some lifetime experience quota had been met. As if eventually I was owed the grace of freedom, a break in pose. As a child no one wants to accept change, the slightest inclination of which might even cause hysteria. But with time that resistance begins to lose its balance on the pedestal, and the idea of change becomes inevitable. In my case, and to my belief, all this change would surely amount to a pair of feathers eventually. After all dues paid, pledging full acceptance to change, why wouldn’t I be able to fly off into the world. Throughout the years I had collected each feather one by one, placed them carefully in their desired location, and have tried to claim possession of a full glimmering span.
This view clearly was not shared between the two of us. In her eyes my back lay scorched, burnt a blaze from the remains of many failed attempts to create such arches.
“You know what Evelyn, you might be onto something.”
What exactly did I want? It seemed she knew better than me to be so bold with a statement like that. What I want, what anyone wants, changes over time. It chases ideas and desires through an even split. Half of the time inside your head, and the other half out and about in the world. Sometimes each side telling you something entirely different. Though on occasion, your inner thoughts can become just shy of unrealistic. In this moment of time I wanted to be, to feel, exactly as I was 10 years ago. To relive those simple pleasures again as an adult but with the ensemble of today's life. Compassion, camaraderie, innocence. The how though, always seemed a rather peculiar anomaly. One that might actually require wings to achieve.
( 13 ) Two Crayons
I brushed the last few strands of dust off the folded map that had been clutched in my hand for the last three hours. I pulled it out as a companion the closer I traveled inland. Each discussion between my eyes and the paper compass conjured a surprise at its unchanged state. A mental imprint of times tallied for each glance would not change my reality, I would soon arrive there. Usher in the welcome wagon, it's single membered crew nautious of the uncertainty that might lie ahead. There was an underlying feeling of preferring them all to be wrong, some nonsensical hoax set up to make me roam aimlessly. It was them who drew up the map and pointed me in this obtuse direction, and I can’t say I really gave them much faith. I didn’t buy that I had traveled there before, that I had occupied this world ever before. I felt I knew with such certainty, that this foreign world I found myself in was not my own. They muttered that if I wanted to understand any of this, if I wanted to find my answers, this was where they would be.
I’d be committing personal treason if I told myself I wasn’t thinking about the newly acquainted ghost wandering the empty halls of my mind. Constantly fighting for my thoughts, tugging each string that formed the neural connections down towards her. I had grown fond of her company, casually rooting my puzzled identity into her delicate skin. The plane now soaring the open skies with no pilot, lost in this wilderness. I started to wonder if I was honestly developing attachment in this world, that of which I was still waiting at any moment to cease to exist, to wake back up in my warm bed. Recollecting the last conversation I had with Evee, I never spoke of having wings. I was stuck like everyone else to wander this landscape flat footed and empty handed. She had left with such distaste, an unwanted flavor left in her mouth unaware that she had swallowed me. Our campfire lay cold on the ground, extinguished by the lack of knowledge the two of us possessed in taming such a flame, reminded of the truth that no fire ever grew here. Those words echoing through a valley cluttered with the remnants of brave romantic novels, each trying to withstand the storm anticipated ahead of them. I had to untangle the slew of thoughts rushing my beachhead, a clear mind might be an asset for the moments to come.
To be clear, there was really no trail to follow, only a vague direction given to me by the wiser aged. The loosely repeated words to follow the landscape became an exceptional piece of advice. My unfamiliar shelter resided at the lowest elevation in the region. Through years of severe storms, erosion had molded a curvy path to follow, a permanent crease folded towards the mountain’s valley. For a majority of the descent, the bottom kept itself hidden from view, a dull mist blanketed itself atop the location. A floating prisoner tasked to discard its charm to protect something as elusive as itself. Unaware of the secret it helped disguise below, the dampness in the air kept its weight as it embellished my presence. Colder, it sung a frigid melody claiming courtship as it lingered above my skin. It would seem easier to get lost in my surroundings with the addition of such a thick fog. The incline I had been traveling on began to grow flatter, I had to be getting close to the bottom. I happened to notice what appeared to be a large entrance to my immediate left, it had no welcome mat but it did have a front door. A chiseled out opening maybe six feet in width, the walls burdened through non use. Nothing but darkness lined its interior, I would be needing a lantern to continue, some form of illumination. I hesitated for a moment, days had fallen off the calendar during this voyage of mine just to be standing at this location.
Something was moving inside, a black canvas with a subtle sway was inching its way into my peripheral and out of the cave. It was a familiar movement I had chased with my eyes times prior. Sidestepping the how or why, possibly even a what, Carmine walked out.
“Hey there stranger” Her voice adding to the surprise she had provided. I had to say I was puzzled by her normality in the situation.
“What on Earth are you doing here, have you been following me?”
“Is that where we are? Earth?”
She grazed my torso as she continued past me, leaving the dreary entrance and the question I had just posed. She seemed more interested in a fallen rock that stood motionless tangent to the entrance. Giving the unused location a polite dusting with her hand, she slowly lowered her body imitating some spiritual movement I doubt she knew anything about.
“You look tired sleepy eyes, come warm me up.”
I had seen this game before, she lay bearing her weight on a bent elbow, sprinkling a dash of intrigue on her tongue, preparing herself for battle. But with an almost involuntary action, my body threaded in her direction, no needle necessary. I crouched down and met her at eye level with no grace familiar to what she had just tried to flatter me with.
“I always wondered if you would ever come back here. Not that you probably remember it, or really anything these days, but I’d say that’s a good thing.” She sounded profoundly happy with my disconnect to where we were, a surprise to add to her collection. In an usual fashion, I began to drop the question of why she was even here rather quickly. I wasn’t expecting any company this late in the journey, but I couldn’t say I minded it, I almost even welcomed it.
“So tell me a story.” She halted, it appeared we were both proving to be surprising this evening, “It’s been a long trek Carmine red.”
“You just love throwing color on my name don’t you, the hue almost adds charm to your tone.” She inched closer to my body. “I’ve already told you a story and it just seems pointless to wrap you up in anything else but myself. Sails, darling, we could turn around, together. There’s nothing here for you here but a dead end, I’m sure of it.”
She was gathering the tinder to the conversation, preparing the flint when all at once it began to rain. Unbothered by the weather, her gaze allowed no deviation as she scanned my face. The shuttle, returning to a familiar planet, taking careful consideration in where to land. My first thought to try and steer out of this tailspin was to shove my withered map back into my backpack, it was valuable to the journey and the rain would surely destroy it. My hand grasped for the relic when Carmine’s caught mine in mid movement. I could feel the force she was exerting as her nails slowly dug into my skin. Through frustration, I threw my gaze up to her to see a slight smile on her face. She shifted her body weight above my torso and began to straddle my lower body with her legs.
“Don’t you want to drown in me one last time? Await the salt water to grace your lips? You’d rather get caught up in this torn up scrap than your favorite color?”
“You’re acting childish, please Carmine, just this once I need you to stop”
“Service me Sails”
She was barely able to finish the sentence when her mouth erupted onto mine, the action concurrent with her hand shearing the map out of my grip. This was her way of quieting me down, the means of getting her way. I was continuing my trials of fighting her off, but there was still a ballet of movements, mimicking some old tribal dance. Our wet bodies taking command and committing to the primal desires that existed inside of them. I found it hard stand my ground, a non existant plane I had made up in my mind of which I had no footing on. Through the carnage, I somehow managed to push her aside. I got to my feet and ripped the backpack from its calm location beside the rocks, I’d be damned if she took that also. Ignoring her presence, I started walking towards the cave entrance, for once I hadn’t been in the mood to be drenched in the rain. An unexplained shiver of guilt ran down my body, I turned around and motioned for her to follow.
The landscape proved harder with the newly falling water. The very path I had been following was now being used by separate travelers, as streams of water busied down their commute. Finding resistance as it hit Carmine’s weathered boots, they were planted firm, growing roots as they neglected to follow my lead. She wasn’t getting her way, and she would stop time if she could to make it aware. The water didn’t stop at the entrance, as it continued to flow inward in the cave, its continual trickling could be heard in the distance, apparently the descent continued in the cave as well.
“Aren’t you coming?” A statement that to me seemed utterly maddening. I watched as the constant rain traveled down her body, following each curve during its descent. Far more delayed than expected, Carmine unfroze herself and started walking in my direction. Taking her time as she savored the blissful water in the air she was always prepared for, it seemed to be giving her the resolution I would not. I watched these actions under the cover of a kind of awning provided at the entrance of the cave. Finally Carmine joined me with reluctance.
“You’ve sure learned how to lose the gentleman facade rather quickly my dear.” Her eyes glaring at me with disappointment.
“You’re one to talk with the stunt you pulled, you know how hard it was to get that goddamn map?” My choice of words doubling as instruments conveying the anger in my voice. I hadn’t planned on voicing my concern about the map in such a way, but she had begun by backing me in a corner.
“Oh so now I’m dealing with a tough guy huh? The roughed traveler who was never taught any manners.”
“I need that map Carmine, it was a given to me with purpose.”
“You have multiple purposes, and one of those is to be with me.”
“I wish you could listen to yourself sometimes, you live in your own little world, well what if I’m trying to get out of mine!”
“But that's the problem dear, there’s no leaving me, the world we created, you can look up at the sky but there's nothing else for you to see.”
I slowly became disgusted by the notion that she had once filled my mind not so long ago. Her lure working against her favor in this situation.
“You’re meaningless, just some psycho I met in wherever the hell we are.” regretting the words as they hit my teeth, I was beginning to get heated and the unwanted smoke was gushing out of my mouth. She sat quiet for a moment, emotions were stirring in her black covered head.
“You know you’re pathetic sometimes. A child who disagrees with the constructs of the food pyramid, oblivious that vegetables are actually good for you.”
“First off I don’t even know what you’re doing here, I don’t recollect asking, Hey Carmine come please please come and create a mini disaster for me.”
“Listen to yourself, crying over nothing. You’re a sad excuse of a man sometimes, you should be in ecstasy that I came here for you.”
In a frustration, I grabbed the small lantern out of my backpack which seemed to add a small dim cover to the dark and bare walls of the interior. The mist that continued in the cavern resonated with the glow of the lantern, creating a cloudy atmosphere.
I could hear a second sound of boots, it seemed my discontent with Carmine finally caved. She always got her way but if she wanted to continue, she would have to “face” this dreaded cave she despised so much. I felt a slight joy knowing I was forcing her to do something so unwilling.
I was noticing the faint flicker of the lantern when all of a sudden I began to feel light headed, as if my body was beginning to fill with fog. Perhaps it was the low altitude, maybe I was actually starting to lose it. My knees bent slightly and I went to grasp the caves side.
During the mental headcount I was making of my body's functions, I felt a warmness on my hand. Carmine had grabbed it, lifting me back up to my feet. For once a look of sincerity was painted all over her face. An unmistakable contrast to the constraint she had applied prior to my wrist, this felt different. She almost seemed scared, a weak spot that hadn’t been shown yet, an instance where her confidence didn’t reign supreme. Her hesitant nature to the situation was surprising, but I tried to reside on the side of moving forward. She remained silent, using her foot as an ice breaker by moving the dirt in front her from side to side. I somehow felt responsible for her new found optimism, I wanted her to say something, anything. Pivoting my body to face the entrance of the cavern, I moved slow with my motions and grasped her hand. Her green eyes were fading with the tint of tears that lay on them unwelcome. No words were spoken as I led us back outside.
There wasn’t much in my backpack, but I managed to take out a small blanket to place down in front of the entrance for a resting point. Recalling her previous roles, she took the lead and sat down, inviting me to join her. Her eyes began to shed the gloominess they had been tainted with prior. I tried to be gentle in my prodding.
“I don’t know what that was…….. It felt strange, almost foreign.”
“You should lie down sweetie. This place, it isn’t always pleasant. You know we could just leave, head back together and forget about all of this. Please?”
That had to have been the first time I ever heard her say please, or be pleasant in any nature. Who was this woman? I tried not to dwell too much on the notion, as my head was still emptying itself of the fog that just entered.
“Maybe it’s been all the traveling. Too much at once, my body forcing a plant wide shutdown for sake of not going belly up.
“Sails, what if you couldn't remember me,” she seemed to be having her own conversation in her head, gauging my response to compare to the me in her head. She carried on, “No matter how hard you tried, your memory ceased to draw up any elegant pictures, instead just a blank.” She was describing first degree amnesia, and she was beginning to ramble. “ If you’re happy right now, in this very moment, if you’re smiling because I’m sitting right in front of you, why would you need to search for anything else. Don't, be greedy, not again.”
I wasn’t particularly smiling, and this felt too important for me to chime in to emphasize I hadn’t a clue of any times prior.
“You make me a certain kind of happy,” the words slipping out without really assessing the impact they would have on her. “It’s as if the whole world is spinning around me, and all I can do sometimes is hold on to you to catch my balance.”
“You’re the one spinning Sails, crashing into a snow covered cliffside. There is no rescue, no search party to call in, you’re on your own without me.”
“So what, everything they told me was all just smoke and mirrors? Illusions passed on to the nearest fool, that fool being me?” She was convincing, moreso enticing than anything, but nothing she hinted at lined up with what I was being told. I traveled for three days to find this elusive location, going by the information of others. The scary part was that it actually existed, I found what they had scribbled on a crumpled map.
“When I saw you in that bar, you seemed so different. Changed from who I had known before, a stranger with the face of a man I used to love. We had created our own galaxy, miles away from the cruel world that surrounded us both. For the longest time I wondered if it would ever be possible to get back way up in the stars like we were, had we plummeted to far back to this filthy place.” a softness accompanied her voice as she tailed on. “There IS nothing here for you, for us, you need to hear me when I tell you that.”
At this point I couldn’t accuse her of being mistaken, that her tear sobbed lover was simply someone with a similar looking face.
“Carmine, I’m not going anywhere, whatever I….whatever we find in this place, you’ll be at my side. I don’t want to do this alone anymore, I’m….I’m sorry I left you before, I didn’t think I existed before in this world, but stranger things have happened you know?”
She inched her body next to mine, gently resting her head on my chest, noticing the rapid nature of my breathing, none of this was easy anymore.
“I just need to feel you,” my shirt meeting a new wetness streaming from her eyes.
My thoughts began to wander almost instantly, most of their roots spawning from intrigue. If a once cynical and evasive soul like Carmine became this almost unrecognizable sympathetic woman, then what was waiting for me here. How powerful was it. I hadn’t gotten too far into my mind’s maze of conclusions, when my eyes started to become heavy. Carmine seemed to be caught in a prolonged stillness resting on my torso, and now might be a good time catch some rest, I had been aching for. I moved my arm around her lower body and felt a sudden squeeze from her arms, careful dear you’re going to wake up without any circulation. As I was losing consciousness, I could hear Carmine whispering to herself, not able to make out any of the words she slid out of her lips. My body began to lose weight as I was soon to transition between this unknown reality I was growing accustomed to and the imaginative one created when my eyes shut.
Who knows how much time is really lost when we sleep, an easily accountable measure found with the changing hand on the clock, but there never seems to be clocks in dreams. I would guess that I had been out for the whole night, waking up with the absent notice of any rain. Not only was it no longer present, but nor was Carmine. I was alone.
I jolted up to try to find any clue as to where she might be, but my eyes were moving too fast, scanning each crevice of the room. Oddly enough I noticed the map she had prior torn out of my hand sitting next to my backpack, it had been folded in two. I grabbed the relic and shoved it in my pocket, how after the long hours of sleep was now fully dry. My first willing option was to explore outside the cave, the locations surrounding the bungalow that she might be ravenging. I walked in a full circle around the cave in hopes to at least see any kicked up dirt, an indicator someone had just been here.
I was now faced with going back inside, this time alone. The curiosity was overwhelming and I had been prepared to face it on my own, but with the tease of another person in my company, I slowly dropped that confidence.
It wasn’t nearly as bad as last time, but my head started to race. I lowered my body to the ground and pulled out the map Carmine had so helpfully relinquished. I tried to picture the image I had traced with my mind so many times over on the journey here, were there any paths shown for the interior. I unfolded the first flap to notice writing, newly written with a red pen. It was Carmine, she wrote a lengthy note on the back of the stolen map. My eyes sped ahead of themselves as I began to read it.
You probably thought I was acting crazy last night, surprised to find out I had a caring side nestled inside of me. The fact that I’m writing you this letter might even add to that amazement. I guess we surprise ourselves when we’re close to loss, but hey I did tell you from the start I’d keep you on your toes.
I wanted you to know that I laid there for a while, perched on your chest thinking all of this through. Counting the heartbeats in my head as your torso oscillated up and down. I wasn’t able to stop your intrigue in this place, stop you from the choice you would inevitably make again. You’re very predictable Sails, that is something that has not changed. I can’t say I really blame you either, it’s not your fault we went so well together. The elegant story you had dreamt of from your youth. You took all the pieces she was missing, her beautiful shortcomings and wrapped them all around me. I was your drug darling, and quite a lethal one. From the moment we were introduced, you willfully overdosed on me, oblivious of any fate you were soon to fall into. But after a while it became hard for you to tell the two of us apart, her and I. The person you molded me out off was slowly waving goodbye and in some fit of denial you pivoted into me. I was always only an illusion Sails, your beautiful empty fantasy, roaming around in your head lighting candle after candle to keep you warm. In the beginning I hung my jacket up to an empty home, flooded with the artifacts you kept from her. But eventually they became ours, ones that wouldn’t fade with time. I would pick you up when your head was filled with rain and show you how to embrace it, to embrace us. But there was no trail map for you, I had broken every lit corridor in your mind’s maze to return you back to reality. We went through so much of your life together, as you aged through the years, I clutched your hand and smiled to be by your side. Without my doing, you somehow managed to find this place for the first time, created out of some conquest to rid yourself of your consuming past. You came to this very spot to free yourself from both of our seductions, but I wasn’t as flattered as you might have expected. You surrounded yourself in us, gasping for breath as you drowned in our massive wake. You died Sails, you died here. Your death in this world gave you the freedom you had sought out so badly, but it also freed the ghosts that were living in your head. I still remember that morning, walking on the dirt with my own two feet, touching the beautiful landscapes that used to be only reserved for your thoughts. I waited for your return at all of our favorite places, the lonely bar stools, the broken hotels, we had developed so much at them. I came here this time to stop you, so afraid that if you did head down to the bottom again I might disappear altogether. You could call that selfish I guess, but it's only because you made me this way. I wish there was another way for us to be together, but maybe this time around you’ll get a piece of yourself back with me leaving first ……
The bottom end of the note had been smudged from its recent use in my pocket as I was rummaging around trying to find her. I couldn't make out what the last few sentences were, the closure left fleeting out the door with her.
Each flashback leached onto my skull, pouring the past into the emptiness that used to fill my memories. I stood at these very crossroads, willfully accepting my fate. I realized I had a choice, hidden by the idea that we’d never exist in the same sentence ever again. It really made no difference what I believed in anymore, I had reached the truth. My only lit exit out of her grasp was to make a choice, I didn’t have to continue to squeeze her waving hand tight anymore. I could release it, show the leaving nature it had been trying to warn me of. I had been slowly drowning in her wake, the ship to safety never existed. I swam out into the choppy waves hoping for an island in the middle of her lush and full sea. I used it’s image to swim farther and farther into the sea, neglecting the fatigue my soul ached for me to realize. I thought of nothing besides her little mass of land and never questioned if I had ever actually seen it, nor if I ever had been granted the grace of touching its soft sands. And for the longest time I thought my only option left was to continue, I had gone too far to turn around. The small ounce of hope I had left was enough to keep my arms and legs kicking forwards. It was here though, in this very cave when I questioned my judgement. It wasn’t just one option that existed. I could continue inching my path forward in the sea, or I could just let go, let go of the thought such an island existed. Halt the movements of my arms and legs and sink into the ocean I had become acquainted with for so long. I could adore my last breaths as I smiled at the stillness around me. I could free myself, free myself from her.
( 17 ) Embers
It’s as if the seasons had changed out of some disagreement with the situation. Urging for a new climate zone to be adopted to the region, that is until it’s mind changed. My gloveless hands were positioned on Evee’s lower back and thigh, losing grip every two to three minutes as I carried her away. Her temperature matched the surroundings, coining the relationship of a possible distant cousin. I was the one who technically fashioned her arms around my body, this wouldn’t count as a vulnerable moment for her yet. Whatever happened to her had drained every bubbly trait from her body, I’m sure the smoke from the fire didn’t help. I was trying to place what could have caused such an explosion, some leftover vehicle or artifact that was able to feel alive one last time. Whatever it was, it had enough energy to take out a large area.
If I listened carefully I could still hear her lips pushing out air. Along with a subtle shiver allowed me to check off the list her breathing fragile state. Multitasking was in full effect with my eyes scouring all possible locations for us to regroup. I knew nothing about this area, only to stay away from it and yet I now found myself house hunting for a tranquil cave. Turning every corner slowly in case the next listing included uninvited guests.
I had gotten lucky with my lack of conversation starter, in my hurried state I never thought of what I actually was going to say to her. She had stormed off in such a bottled up rage, I never really got the chance to ask who told you to keep such a container. I suppose my downtime searching for our next place to converse might allow me to figure that out. Maybe I could rip off my shirt in some dramatic fashion and agree with the notion of not having wings. Maybe I could rip off my shirt because I wanted her to attack me the same way Carmine would.
I spotted an outcove up ahead, at the rate my hands were tiring I wouldn’t hold out much longer. My bladder was about to bust and the sign read Next rest stop in 100 miles. I used my last bit of energy to slowly lay her down, things seemed quiet but fragile. I sat down next to her, leaning against a rather uncomfortable rock when she spoke.
“You’re not supposed to be here….” Her lips moved slow allowing her eyes to flicker open for an instance. I had stopped asking myself that a while ago, where exactly here was, but I felt my role in where we were now laying allowed my distaste.
“Neither are you Evelyn, do you want to try to explain any of this to me?”
“I think you’re the one needing an explanation.” The nature of the conversation was piling fresh coal into her furnace. She sat up. I hadn’t massed enough bitterness to say excuse me, perhaps that would come later.
“You should rest, you have to be tired from whatever secret operation you made up for yourself.”
That seemed to have found even more additional reserve of energy.
“Why are you even here Sails? To play my savior? Heroes apply elsewhere.”
“At “xxx” by the campfire, you left in a tyrant, I wanted to…..I figured I should…” I was trailing on.
“You should what, apologize? For insisting on your make believe life?”
“It was Evelyn, I’m trying to say you were right, I wasn’t being realistic. But now, it just seems different.”
“How? You what woke up one morning and figured you’d travel all this way to tell me that?”
“I didn’t come here with a script Evee.” That had to be the first time I had ever called her Evee.
“Why did you come then, why are you even here at all?”
There was an agitation in her voice now, I had to stop thinking what to say and just let the words escape.
“I...guess I just wanted to…”
“Damnit Sails why the hell are you here!” The commotion was increasing.
“I came back for you, I don’t know what it is, what you sparked, but I don’t want it to go away, I don’t want it to leave.”
Her thinned out eyes lost their rigid posture, I don’t think she had an answer for me either.
Echoes became clear, we had caused something to follow us. With only one entrance, I began to panic. Could this really be it? Her eyes left the conversation and noticed the faint noise of side stepping as well.
“Sails, look at me, look into my eyes.”
“We have to leave, now!” I grabbed her hand trying to get the both of us up.
“Sails, trust me, focus on me.”
The footsteps were getting closer, turning the corner any second.
“Evelyn, we need to go!”
“SAILS!” She screamed, but I couldn’t force any noise out of my mouth. She had been the one who caused the fire earlier. In almost an instant everything around us was set ablaze. My thoughts were still trying to catch up with what was transpiring before me. I looked down at my hands to check if I had suffered the same fiery fate. Opposing the action, she grabbed my cheeks firmly with each hand and drew my eyes back onto her. Everything was becoming so bright around us, standing in the eye of the storm. I felt as if I was burning alive from the inside while what remained around me was being torched with flames. The brightness was almost blinding but I could still see the charm in her eyes, the imperfections around her iris. And then it was over, it all stopped, returning to the dreary cave it once was. She collapsed just slow enough for me to catch her. It felt like the first time I was actually holding her. Her gift saved us.
( 21 ) Idol
And just like that the moment passed. Somehow in an instant, what had been, what was, reduced to what will never be. An orchestra of words and feelings began to surround me. The indescribable, or unpredictable had presented itself after all. The flightless girl with a warm presence now stood in front of me, draping her new pair of wings. Each feather crystallized, elegantly matching all other aspects of her body.
My love, Evelyn, had become an idol.
That to be spoken of now in the past tense, within conversations of the wise and fortunate. Maybe at that point, after decades had passed would the waves come crashing down on me, when all at once it would hit me. But as it seemed at the present moment all I could do was stand there. Imagining what had just happened to reverse itself and cue back my happy ending. Mine, not ours. I started to dwell on the idea that I had become selfish throughout all of this. My ending didn't involve a sacrifice or any addition of translucent wings, but hers on the other hand might have just unveiled the utmost definition of a perfect ending. Who is to say my desires included some poorly written fine print. A cage to keep the flightless, whom had always dreamt of one day becoming airborne.
Maybe it is to love without fear of loss that might describe what has been written about and felt for most of mankind's existence. Had I grown into that feeling? No loss is without question, even those as simple as one's personal possessions. Then again, she was not my personal possession. She existed in her own world as I did in mine, two paper boats passing each other. Only to exist together in that moment of passing. But I had tried to defy logic, I changed course, threw coal in the engine and sailed aimlessly in her direction. For a while I had succeeded, sharing the current as we floated past chapters of our lives. Commandeering each others vessels which ever way seemed fitting. With not a wave in site and the harsh sea breeze still undiscovered, I cracked a smile for what I had accomplished. How I now envied myself for venturing off course to find this peculiar feeling. It was until I noticed how far I had taken myself off the path I had originally chosen, along with the realization that maybe I had chosen wrong to begin with. That this journey to exhaustion, following some distant pulse might have been my real destination. Although sailing along together, she had been headed somewhere else entirely. What she had been really searching for was peace, both the enduring kind and within herself. And while the sun set one last time, we found it together.
( xx ) Flashback 01
“I have something for you”
“For me? What is it?”
“I didn’t want you to forget about yesterday, I can’t stop thinking about it.”
His tender hand extended forward, small in size, it matched the amount of affection he chose to display, hiding the iceberg that formed under his shirt. As soon as the words for you left his mouth his palms began to shake, they would soon be sharing the spotlight with curiosity. The heat put off by the stage lamps caused a slight flinch in his fingers as they unraveled a small maroon box.
“I don’t know if you’re supposed to open this now, I’m sort of new at all of this.”
“We’re twelve Sails, everything is new to us.”
For a brief moment they both looked down, sharing a smile through the silence in the air. The ground proved as a haven for each set of eyes, weary to discover if the same flicker existed in each others. The concealed box transferred ownership, trading an eager heart for anticipation.
“On second thought, you should open it later. Wait until I’m really far away.”
This way he would be able to place the reaction played over in his head with the thank you she would provide later.
“I’ll put it in my special pocket so that nothing bad happens to it.”
She lifted the light satchel from around her shoulder and proceeded to unlatch the front buckle, stylishly designed as a gatekeeper of youth belongings. Now open, three pockets appeared in view, one of which bearing the seal of special. The box slid gracefully into the center compartment, where by virtue of choice it would undoubtedly be protected.
“Safest as can be!” A large smile accompanied the response, she had been raised on a strict diet of bright lights and sunlight. Her confidence in the matter not shared by the confidence he felt for her.
“When can I stop waiting for us to be together.”
Such a vague vow of intention to pose as a child. He needed to ask or else it would have been on his mind for the rest of the week. What seemed to him like a simple question, a little more than a yes or no response written in his head as her possible answer.
“We’ll be together soon, I know it.” Her tongue signing the bill as it had been presented, lighting the first eternal spark of a wildfire.
They reclaimed their admiration of one and other the very next day.