( 1 ) PROLOGUE
If you made up for the lack of the third bar, you could almost hear the chorus of the heart wrenching indie song the thirteen year old version of myself kept hidden inside a memory vault. It occasionally lost composure but was being performed in front of me by the weather above. Not having chased the life of a meteorologist, I was unable to detect the impending condensation looming over my hammy downed college cruiser. Two years after leaving the campus life behind, it still held up as if I didn’t ignore speed bump warnings or brake on a dimes notice. I had been sitting in it for close to twenty minutes now, slowly convincing myself that I would be having more fun inside, with everyone else, than sitting in near silence, matching youthful tunes to the rain. Disobeying the stereotypes of the pitter-patters or the tisk-tisks the weather felt modest imitating my own personal scrapbook, snickering at the clock. I had turned off the engine and lost all concepts of time falling into a routine daydream, the ones not involving my surroundings.
Drifting back into orbit I had a decision to make, which excuse would form the least amount of words from the mouth who I was telling it to. Apart from keeping me distracted, tonight's storm might prove to be a valuable shoulder to lean on for my tardiness. Everyone’s late from a storm, commuters, errand runners, people who ride motorcycles. I had to be careful as to not offend the gods above or moreso even myself, was I might actually need an umbrella this time. Journeying outward to swap my stuffy dashboard view for a pair of social wandering eyes. The same eyes I would try my damndest to turn into drunken blurry ones as soon as I had found the ice container. The faulty seatbelt sensor did not detect the passenger sitting beside me. A newly purchased bottle of 12 year aged Glenfiddich scotch, dressed up in a thin cardboard box. My change in sobriety would go unnoticed at first, I’d convince myself later it lasted the entire night. This delay in my evening schedule would soon become noticeable. Somewhere in the depths of my mind, a countdown had begun, slowly forcing my hand to open the door handle and march my blue shoes up to Annie’s door.
Annie and Archie lived at 117 Cocobana Lane, which housed an outdated four story apartment complex. It added to this trait with its lack of overhead lighting, a foggy undertone, and a car salesman welcoming to their ironic sounding names. For a while I had avoided half of the duo by what I would deem as my clever selection of cube farm paths to take to and fro the bathroom. Archie and I both worked together, and as much I would love to anonymously deliver the comic series that also beared his name to his desk every morning, I refrained. Any contact with the imbecile would prove unpleasant, even if it had been anonymous. I developed an annoyance to Archie rather quickly, he was the kind of co worker that made you question what mutual bender the management staff must have been on to hire him in the first place. It made you even question why you stuck around the establishment in general. That being said, I still hadn’t figured out where he landed on his view towards me. If I had fallen under the blanket umbrella of the introverted, quiet, do as you’re told engineer. The kind of engineer that never acknowledges the ladder standing in front of him, waiting to be climbed. Piling plans and books in its line of sight, dreaming of the days of uninterruption and the perfect music shuffle selection. If that were the case, and I had been filed away into the category of a non threatening, I could probably continue my distaste. I’d share about the same worth as an office lamp to him.
There was one complication in my case, each time he would get a visit from his beloved Annie, I would not be able to get the thoughts of her out of my mind. She was almost too pretty, far too close to perfection to be with such a cave dweller as Archie. Sometimes I would wonder late at night, after I had used the image of her to alleviate any stress in my lower body, did I despise him so much because they were together? That whatever he had done, he had clearly done correct to get her. And what the hell was I doing instead? Salivating over how I had realized that the rain can sometimes play the piano, I’m sure that trait would get me far, every now and then I believed it actually would. I would have to hide the fact that the real reason I had accepted his entire office invite was primarily to see her. Annie didn’t stop by the office much, and this would be a perfect opportunity to get a chance to talk to her while Archie wasn’t around. It was also a good opportunity to push Archie out of a window, but sadly I don’t think it would be high enough to matter.
There had been no shock from any increase in sound by my courageous efforts to open the car door, as my windows had been cracked to begin with. There had been a slight area by the steering wheel that fell victim to my decision, dripping water down onto my jeans. I’d enter the party with the same wet spot, but it would be masked by an entire population of other wet spots through my stroll to their door. As I exited the vehicle I glanced up, muttering a quick “sorry” and ejected the umbrella into the air.
The idea seemed foreign to me that no one had complained about the dreary exterior of the complex. It gave the appearance of a failed attempt to impress someone who knew nothing of landscaping. A few scattered trees accompanied by nearly deceased bushes matched the uneven sidewalk. Leaving my doorstep every morning, I’d imagine myself sprinting to my car as to not to get reeled into the depressing plant life. Each fern toting a single cigarette as it handed out suicide prevention pathlets to the nearly collapsed evergreen.
I was nearing the last of graveyard as I approached the two steps that lead to their front door. I had stopped counting the times Archie reminded everyone of the apartment number. It was as if a daily reminder went off in his head that forced him to stand up and scream 117 until he received a positive thumb from the entire staff. The regret entered my mind of not scouring the internet for clever knocking techniques to use on an unsuspecting door. Finding the existence of an outdated forum thread that discussed in full detail the psychology that is received from each type of knock. Next time. I centered myself on the doormat, preparing for whichever half of the duo would soon be greeting me.
She was wearing a forest green dress, undoubtedly bearing the image the seamstress had envisioned when the dress was designed. Smiling, she used the weather to close the gap on the silence I brought with me.
“You must be freezing! Come in, please, but do take your shoes off. This weather is just so awful tonight isn’t it?”
“I don’t think awful is the right word…” She seemed confused on my judgement of her greeting, I would need to put my social face on, “We’ve met before, I’m Sails….I work with your husband.”
“Of course, Sails, he’s mentioned you a few times, I’m glad you braved the storm this Friday night and joined us. Is that a gift?” She pointed at the whiskey I had brought from the car, the whiskey I hadn’t planned on sharing with anyone. As if she had snuck a magnet in the bag, it began slowly gravitating towards her hand.
“It is indeed…….well I’m sure you know what to do with it.” My words were as disheartened as I was handing over the bottle.
“Let me recall, whiskey that comes with it’s own box, chilled a small tumbler glass, one, place one large ice cube, and…... I tell you what, I’ll make sure you get the first glass. That way you can show me the proper way.”
Far too close to perfection to be in this shithole. She smiled as she walked off, exiting the scene and closing the curtains behind her. Feeling the impending doom of stage fright, I chose to walk the opposite direction towards a familiar crowd. It would later be added as one of the night’s regrets, comprised of a single step, as I felt two burly hands reach around my shoulders, his common greeting ritual.
“Hey don’t you know you’re supposed to come on time for a party?” His grip tightened with the end of his phrase. “I’ll let it slide, I will let it slide, but! I have to show you the renovations, Annie is in love with the new patio.”
“Oh, that patio right there, it’s nice Archie.”
“Ha! Funny guy Sails! Fucking climate change, one day it says clear skies, then a week before the party it changes to rain? Those assholes need to be held accountable.”
I’m pretty sure I nor even Archie himself knew of what assholes he was talking about. Surely some made up anti-climate FBI agents, known for sneaking around spraying carbon dioxide into the air. Not necessarily a bad life per say, a small side gig while you were committing other evils acts, puppies, wells, both clearly existing for only one sole reason. Perhaps if I pulled out a matching I.D. badge, I would become more interesting at this party.
“Now take it all in, if you need a beverage they’re in the kitchen, and uh don’t let me catch you telling your damn fishing story again.”
“I’ll keep the talking to a minimum.”
I could now be checked off the did you say hi to everyone at the party dear? list. That list would ultimately earn him the night with her once more. Who else was on that list of under the cover partners? Well it does so happen to be one woman at our office who goes by the name Natalie, a prior partner of Archies. And I did see Natalie’s car on the side of the road amongst many other employee vehicles. It was impressive how long she stayed around the office, or even his life for any matter, dooming each of his relationships after they were made. Dooming Annie and Archive, the beloved three letter sharing duo. Her cube mate, along with the cashier from the coffee shop next door were discussing something rather loud across the room. Nora has worked at that coffee shop since the day I started working for the corporation, six years ago. Of course Archie would ask her, he'd need her to fill his quota made up of keeping his good deed’s appearance. She was absent of the feeling that makes you keep certain personal things from people. Whenever you went in to grab a coffee, you were getting a glimpse into her life, it made it better than the coffee at times. She would go on and on about her crazed family telling her the need to actually make money living in New York. I wondered what she was talking about to get her this heated up. It would be rude to walk into their strong opinionated discussion. As long as I found a wall to lean to, I could amuse all curiosities by focusing and listening in. Although I didn't have a drink yet, it might look a bit odd without one. The kitchen was to my immediate right, covered in a bunch of pointless conversations certain to find a host to spread on.
The first of many topics, depending on the angle I enter the room, would be discussing my fake but believable love for all things sports. Maybe a bit quiet, but a fan at the least. It would almost be ironic if the night went without one of those conversations. This I could manage, and throw aside rather quickly, what I was trying to read was the potential nuclear bomb of continual conversation. One that would swallow me whole, lurking out there in the open. These kind of conversations only lived at parties like these, brewing slowly in two bodies until the moment arises to release itself onto the world. At this point I suppose I had no choice but to risk it, mosey my way through the debris to only be finished with half of my journey. The other half propping myself up against the wall and listening in to Nora’s conversation, hoping luck allowed me to catch the end of it.
I gathered myself and walked right into the most familiar face I had placed, I blamed the day of the week on my current cowardliness. He never really knew how to dress properly, a trait that must have skipped a generation, and then all together. He resembled a person who chose some clothes to wear one day six years ago, and has kept them ever since. The monochromatic color striped polo that's marketed to kids who finally get to choose what to wear. All flaws aside, I rather liked him, after the generic barrier of a stranger was knocked down, he opened up, a lot. He had only begun working at the company roughly four months ago, we both related on our choice of music, and the friendship blossomed from there.
( 5 ) Psycho in Leather
At this point I was waiting for something, anything to feel familiar. These travels of mine were starting to draw out the idea of the unfamiliar. Steadily keeping up with that thought was my overwhelming fatigue, which had decided to run laps around any other foreign feeling. As I crossed both fingers, I began to scout for anything above eye level screaming “hotel”, “Inn”, or at this point even a covered area would do. The rain decided to welcome me and it was coming on quite strong. Each repetitive strand of water choosing the role of detective as it illuminated the subtle cracks the town left hidden from the daylight. The melancholy crevices embracing their new comfort, drenched and out in the open. I had to say I shared their ideology. Getting caught in the rain always seemed similar to getting caught in a daydream, it was easy to get lost. Nearing closer to town, my fingers doubled as windshield wipers as I adjusted my focus to three distant overhead signs glaring towards me. It appeared I now had options, as two of the signs read “Maroon Inn” and “Mitch’s Night & Stay”. Veering on the side of caution, I approached the flooded entrance to the color themed alternative. The handle jiggled with my impatient pressure and gave welcome to a rather bare interior. Acknowledging my sudden change of scenery, absence of any raw weather, I let the dryness in the air present itself. I hadn’t walked maybe four steps when I noticed her. The dim light in the run down establishment did nothing any form of justice, yet there she was, shimmering. Emitting the invitation of stray eyes, her left hand proceeded to grab the tumbler in front of her. A comforting clank created by the metal bracelets hugging her wrist as each alternated in touching the glass. She sipped from the drink only for a brief moment, returning the cocktail to its position on the counter. Her head turned, and her smokey black hair began to ripple with the gesture. Still clutching her cocktail, she seemed to notice the newly arrived stranger standing by the door. With her opposing hand extended forward, she motioned for me to join her. In an attempt to be subtle, I took two swift glances to my left and right to confirm that I might be mistaken. Each side proving to match the emptiness of the place itself, not a soul to be found. I started to question how she even managed to get a drink, perhaps she toted around a spare container in case of being faced with such a dilemma. I prodded my mind back from wandering, and focused on the elusive stranger inviting me over. Surprisingly a calmness overcame me and as I wore a grin on my face, I muttered to myself, “Don’t blow this kid.”
As I walked closer to her and deeper into this shipwreck, the larger my intrigue became. At nearly an arm length’s, she had already sold me. Before I could sputter out any form of an introduction, marking my first possible attempt of being clever, she spoke.
“Are you familiar with the saying, Que Sera Sera?”
Given its current state, my mind might not have been up to the challenge, but it meandered forward, searching each catalog to grasp the hidden shelf that held such information. I had grabbed the nearest foot stool and reached out for a once tucked away volume off my minds shelf.
“What will be, will be.”
A faint smile had been expressed, clearly I proved lucky with my response. Her green eyes proceeded to gaze down for a moment, before darting back up at me. We had skipped the lines of a casual encounter in mere seconds. Maybe in a past life our bones had been acquainted. Somewhere warm, they grew accustom to the trail maps of one another.
But what to mutter next? She went the philosophical route, an easy filter to keep the riff raff away. I began to grasp at alternatives to provide, rudimentary questions that seemed reserved for more trivial meet and greets. I wondered if my hesitation displayed my concern of what words to force out of my mouth next. I felt surprised when her lips began to conjure our next topic of discussion. Maybe she was a little too eager for conversations, perched on the edge of her bar stool, staring at the entrance, aimlessly wishing for anyone to walk through.
“In case you’re stumped, I tend to go by Carmine.”
Carmine red happened to be wearing all black with not a hint of color found on any cloth draping her body.
“Sails,” if I was going to interact in this world I might as well use my name accordingly, “you could say I’m sort of new here.”
An excitement bloomed in her eyes, my unfamiliarity to everything drew the blinds to some sheltered room where she kept her lesser known pleasures. Her actions became further animated as we continued forward.
“I’ve always imagined what it would be like to be a tour guide. You know you might be able to pass as my first customer. Although…..I, decide the price of admission.”
“Sounds like you’ve thought this through already, but I don’t know if I agree with your terms, may I speak with your superior?”
“Wouldn’t you just want to speak with me instead?”
She made use of the little effort placed by both of us and stole the spotlight. Trained from conception, a thief in the act of role playing, portraying nothing short of a soon to be fantasy. I began to downplay my intrigue with the situation, thinking that to show interest in anything else would be beneficial.
“You don’t strike me as the vodka kind, so I’d have to say that clear substance in your hand must be gin?”
“From the way you dress, you seem to be accustom to wearing all black, either that or you just came from a rather wet funeral”
“You’d be surprised by how ironic that actually is Sails.” Her tone had adopted a somber accent, she was surely drawing imagery in her head from my statement. I began to backtrack, had I hijacked the situation already?
“My apologies if you lost someone close to you, I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Nothing was lost.” A reassuring smile delivering the remark. “Now about that tour, it leaves….”
The glass of gin was elevated once again, but it would be return bare. She took her time, finished the drink as if it were her final performance, a packed audience and a spotlight. Her eyes glowed as she drew her gaze away from the spectacle and back at me. A piercing gleam, the illegitimate child of both cheerful and cynical parents.
“Leaves....now!” A handful of bills was thrown towards the edge of the bar counter, and for the first time she stood up, reaching eye level. “Well then, I suppose I shall lead.”
With no sense of etiquette and seeming to bypass the reality that I had just walked into a hotel with a backpack and sleepy eyes, she reversed my plans back outside. My relief in the situation, apart from possibly her, was the pint sized luggage I freighted on my back. Lightly packed, it posed little threat for any inconvenience to accompany the two of us around town.
As the front entrance slid open, the room was filled with the ambiance of the rain again. It had intensified from the moments prior to my arrival. At first I didn’t quite understand it, but she simply walked right into it all. Any willful rationale of runny makeup or tame hair did not seem to concern her. For an instance she was converted to a liquid state, an ice cube minutes before it was about to expire, yearning to return to it’s original form. Her back was to turned to me, but I had the faint idea she was smiling, marveling at her own unnecessary nature. Clearly this was her form of an invitation, seeing if I had it in me to follow her lead. Without any hesitation, we were both under the cover of the rain. A barrier soon became placed around us, allowing the collection of spoken words to dissolve as they left our five or six foot circle of pattering noise. This curtain of water, unwelcome by most, began to bring us both closer. She was beginning to turn around when I spoke up.
“I’d ask if you forgot your umbrella, but I’d wager that you don’t own one.”
To elude she had been smiling was an understatement, her face could barely contain the smile bursting out, a voluntary explosion. After twirling her dripping body around once, eyes fully closed the entire duration, she continued with the exchange.
“If I did own one, it would be envious of the times I didn’t spend dry. But enough small talk, the tour has begun and our first stop is by the edge of town. I’d be quite impressed if you’ve seen anything like it before.”
Trying to include logic into the situation, I was currently following a stranger. The dialogue with which had spanned the entirety of only minutes. I sensed that although we were just given the honorary title of partners in crime, this was as much our adventure as it was solely hers. Bringing luggage onto a plane is desirable, but if it gets lost in transit, you’ll still arrive. She wasn’t walking, nor was she skipping either. She had created her own version of an in between, mimicking the landscape around her as she explored the entire spectrum of capable motions. This presented me with an ongoing distraction, prying my eyes away from the scenery I was newly touring. Minutes went by while I followed closely from behind, maintaining the ability not to stray. By this time my entire body had become drenched, the two of us now absent of possessing anything dry. A silence overcame me and I noticed the simplicity of it all.
The outdated structures that lined the town were disappearing from view and being traded for dark bunched foliage. The openness making the rain appear overall quite stronger. This is where it nourished, behaving primal as it claimed ownership of what was below. Carmine halted, her hand raised to chest level, extending each finger towards the sky. A muffled noise could be heard up ahead, bouncing off the atmosphere the rain drops created. It had a repetitive nature, low on the decibel scale, and sounding similar to that of a snap.
“Not too many people of this town know about this, but the excess water this rain creates does something marvelous.”
My eyes followed her finger as it pointed to the distance.
“And just what is that?” I asked with a hint of intrigue.
“Some things aren’t meant to be described, which means I’m turning you down at the moment.”
It appeared patience would be a valuable asset today. We had begun heading downhill and my mind chased several scenarios of what awaited us at the bottom. One last outcropping of foliage stood between us and the mystery Carmine had so elegantly been hiding.
I arrived to an unobstructed view, water pouring into the landscape from every direction. A mini sea stood before me, the current of which was swirling clockwise, losing its composure by flat boulders that stood sporadically in it’s way. Each ripple adding its fair amount of bubbles and mist amongst the air. Towards the center of the mass, the water seemed to end its journey, dropping into an unknown cavernous hole, small in size. Although up until now none of this seemed quite out of the ordinary, I did begin to notice an unusual presence about the center drop, the rain was accommodating the water to its demise. Without warning, a large eruption occurred from the center hole, sending water straight into the sky. The liquid continued to eject outward, filling the entire area with a constant stream of upward flowing water. Little pops could be heard throughout the air, creating a symphony of noise. The collisions occurring between the two streams of water traveling in opposite directions made a noise similar to that of a snare drum. The newly airborne water must have mixed with something in the cavernous zone below to create such a reaction. Each pop beginning and ending as a new one took its place. We had been standing there for a mere instant when she provided a short narrative.
“They are disagreeing with each other, each raindrop. The ones just arriving collide with the ones caused by the eruption. The irony is….those drops, the ones that never reach the ground, their haven, are destroyed by the ones that already have. It’s quite seducing.”
She didn’t seem to show any interest in waiting for a response to this rather scornful observation, but in a sense fleeing the scene instead. It was becoming clearer my role as a passenger in this adventure. Bearing the sole title of catalyst, an excuse for her to exit the hotel and travel to this abandoned cove. Putting all motives aside, I found myself yet again ill prepared in the judgement of sightseeing or tracking her gentle movements. She began using the flat rocks as stepping stones, balancing between motions as her body pivoted to each landing. The mist that collected right above water level gave the illusion that she was floating, sandwiched between the parallel water streams. The eruption was beginning to die down allowing the rain to take its territory back. I took this opportunity to follow her lead, trying to memorize the succession of stones recently acquainted by her soles. I felt a small slip as my boots adapted from damp grass to wet stone. I moved slow with the strong belief that should I fall in, this rendezvous would undoubtedly end. She didn’t strike me as the compassionate type, but she had dealt me in before I had even asked how to play. I was trailing behind, applying too much care with each step I took in pursuit. Carmine had been leading us closer, the rapid sound filling any void left between us. A faint vibration could be felt below us, it seemed as though this phenomena occurred more than once. I decided to brave one last step, leading into the bracing of my lower body. She didn't share my cautious reasoning skills as she was continuing her path to the center. It wasn't the swirling water or the rain that led any indication of the actions to come, but Carmine, she was unraveling. Not bothered the slightest by her soaked attire, she started with the less essential items, her leather jacket, boots, and began removing them. Her hands motioned towards her jeans, which were thrown in the her newly made pile as well. The cardigan was next, although at this stage of water damage it was hard to tell its origin. She became almost bare as she willingly accepted the dampness of the situation. One foot after the other, she dipped herself down into the running water. Remembering that she had brought another companion along, she glanced back with a smile. I dared myself to get closer, disregarding the new level of wetness my boots might become as I debated stepping into the apparent shallow water. My gestures earned me another response as she began further explaining.
“You’d think I’d be cold, out in the water like this, but maybe you’re the one who looks cold standing there by yourself. It all looks quite unbearable.”
With the water level now at her knees, she continued to stare in my direction.
“I bet you’re probably having mini conversations in your head at this very moment about how right I am. Just give in Sails, to all of it. Get a little cozy getting cold with me.”
The punchline delivered, and the cavernous hole erupted for its second time. I was much closer now to accurately judge these collisions for myself. Everything seemed to slow down around me, catching each crackle as it gave off a faint glow of light. She had been right, it was pretty intoxicating, tilting my head in every direction to be greeted with the same scene. I stepped down to her level, through a combination of the constant rain and my now quarter submerged body I was upholding the definition of being wet to the fullest. I had accepted her invitation but unfortunately not much changed in our interaction. All around us the mini sacrifices were slowly exclaiming their desperation for something, anything to happen between the two of us. I suddenly ached for her to scream how she had brought me out here to seduce me. This demonstration with water had been planned by her, the stage set for our interaction in the middle. Yet there we both were as she continued to twirl around in the waters current, stealing my lulled eyes with each movement. With a disobedient turn, I focused my attention as the pandemic died down, shorter lived than its predecessor had been. I had been far more wrapped with her during its performance to truly enjoy it. As the rain muffled the sound, Carmine brought her attention back.
“Now be a gentlemen and hand me the rest of my clothes”
It seemed an absurd request, but I handed her each article of clothing she carelessly had removed prior. To really no amazement, she took each piece from my hand, but neglected to put them back on, maybe there was logic in her bones after all. The actions seemingly offending some foreign power watching over, as the rain began to intensify to a whole new level. The added circulating water made it hard to even see what stood in front of us.
“I think that’s our cue to exit.” She nodded at the observation and motioned my hand due north. I expected myself to cease the foolish nature of following this stranger to more unknown locations, but the rain made it hard to want to deviate. Getting out of the pond proved easier than I had imagined, but once out Carmine began to sprint.
“Hey! Wait!” Prior to any real intimate interaction between the two of us, and I was already taking a desperate tone. My clothes sloshed together as I ran after the assailant, running to some apparent freedom. She was quick, and her familiarity with the terrain aided the sudden flee. In the midst of the rain, I made out what appeared to be an abandoned shack. It’s depleted features becoming more clear with my proximity increasing. Carmine ran up the stairs and poured in the front door without hesitation. After making it up the stairs, the open door granted my view of the interior. Someone had been here before, but I don’t know if it had been her.
“I hoped you kept up! This place is so dull for just one person.”
“I had half a mind to turn around after your little sprint”
“No one told you to chase after me, but I’m really glad you did.”
She was doing a superb job of not necessarily apologizing, but somehow expressing joy in the situation. I was having a hard time distinguishing the sincere nature of the subtle gleam in her eyes. We were out of the rain at this point, but that didn't necessarily bring any comfort. Trying my best to still follow the rules of attraction, I figured I might as well find out more about what I had gotten myself into.
“Is there more I should know about this velocity girl sitting in front of me?”
“Velocity girl huh, running laps around all your thoughts? I just might enjoy being refreshing for a change. You’ll have to pardon if I skip all the boring details, those seem to be reserved for me in full attire. I’d guess that this evenings late night conversations will make an exception to those habits. But that didn’t really answer your question did it? You know I've been here before, this dirty shack. I've been to a lot of places that resemble these walls, hidden away from the world. I’ve come to enjoy them, appreciate their shortcomings. It’s believing that these illusions are the true marvels of our lifetime, the pyramids, the ancient monuments, that they all reside here. They provide an escape, and become your favorite…..well…..pleasure. Not just when it rains, but all the time. For a while it wasn’t just me inhabiting these walls though, two shadows used to dance to the chorus of the rain here. The man I came to adore, he grew tired, grew weak, but he couldn’t stay away forever, it was unavoidable. I knew he’d come around, back to where he belongs with me.”
I started to feel foolish, tricked maybe. This woman had teased me into bringing her company for the night. The only intentions she had were of her own elusive story telling. I would have to begin to wipe the egg off my face, but decided to stand up first. As if offending her, she got to her feet as well, and began to make her way closer. She was at a whisper's distance, when I drew the line.
“Look, I'm not into involving myself in whatever or whoever is going on in your life right now. I ll leave you to your familiar walls.”
“You sound so foolish sometimes, you really should work on that.”
My back was against an old wooden dresser which didn't seem to show any recent use when both of her hands went into motion. Each hand was now gripping the sides of the furniture, trapping my body between them.
“These last few years have been hard, they really have, but I've craved your pitted intentions, your thoughts scribbled all over these walls like old times. I wasn't sold on the idea that I hadn't become enough for you, that you'd leave me alone.”
Her hips pressed hard into mine as her lips grazed my face. Not choosing her marks just yet, her eyes appeared to be staring into me, seeing the molecules and bonds that I was comprised of.
“I'm so happy you followed me darling….”
Her lips showed a sign of impatience as they surged onto mine. I didn't want to further increase my feeling of not knowing what was going on, but that didn't seem to be the case anymore. I matched her movements, and almost instantaneously our bodies became in sync. Predicting each other's motions as we lowered to the floor, I had no need of removing the clothes Carmine had already done herself. She had no intention of being gentle by any means, as each action used a fair amount of force. I was starting to find it hard to keep up, she knew exactly what she was doing, and what she wanted. The dirty floor provided us with a canvas, painting the portrait of unbalanced desire. Her hand made it around the back of my neck and dug deep into my inner scalp. Two hard pulls were used to mimic the conversation our evasive body parts were having down below. Not much time had passed before my body decided to end the confrontation for me. Her movements began to halt and in one swift motion she managed to remove herself from my body.
It had started and ended in mere minutes. What seemed an overload of primal movements that had been stripped of all virtues. Still catching my breath and to my amazement, Carmine stood straight up. As if familiar with the carnage, she simply moved on to her next task. Rifling through on old dusty drawer she pulled out a pack of cigarettes, it would appear she did know this place after all. With no hesitation in her eyes, she lit the cigarette between her lips and gently introduced the commodity to where a fire had just blazed. After one large inhale she let out a great sigh, her pleasure from the action felt through the air. I must say I didn't share her forethought, as I still lay on the ground astonished at what had just taken place. I couldn't say I felt any closer to this woman as after what just happened, she now stands peering out the window with a cigarette in her left hand. I grabbed my pants and was met with a sudden chill that ran through my body, It had gotten cold in this room. No longer relying on the body heat of my fleeting partner, I stood up and pointed my body in her direction.
“Is there any way to light a fire in this house of yours?” A disjointed slew of words and convictions joined my question.
“No fire has ever burned here Sails.” She walked back to the drawer she had initially opened and scratched another cigarette out of the pack. Without asking, she lit another one and placed it in my hand. I don’t recall expressing my desire to join her in this after hours snack, nor was I really interested in having one. She glanced over as if to say something, but instead produced a smirk. I took a drag from the cigarette newly presented in my palm and kept my eyes on Carmine.
“Have you forgotten what’s behind door number two?” She announced as if her next action was that of running a game snow.
I shrugged my bare shoulders and made my way closer to her. All of a sudden she filled my mind, as if something had taken place. My waterways were all colliding in her direction, I had no choice but to follow the current. Her hair, still wet from the outside endeavours clung to her body as she turned away from me. Resuming her rather upbeat epilogue nature, she floated towards the rear of the cabin to what appeared to be another door. After a slow turn of the handle, a tattered door reintroduced the rain to the rather dormant room. It’s patter echoing throughout the area, meeting our ears with comfort.
Carmine continued outside, cigarette still in hand and stood there. This had to be a reoccurring theme, girl loves rain, girl stands in rain. I second guessed my eye sight as I saw smoke still steaming from the smoke stack clutched in her hand. She had been outside long enough to extinguish the flame, but it remained lit. Her head tilted towards the sky, acknowledging some of omen for her sudden actions.
“You don’t seem to grow tired of doing that do you?”
Spinning around almost instantaneously, the cold water newly introduced to her hair became airborne. Droplets praised my presence as I stood against the entrance of the back door. As if contemplating a second question to ask in its place, I remained motionless.
“There’s nothing else really like it, but you already know that. It’s as if there are all these mini conversations happening around me, all containing my endless thoughts. But I’ll stop getting philosophical with you. Come, dance with me.”
I hesitated to the invitation, as I was still trying to piece together why we were now standing up. She had stopped all dancing actions and was now waiting for my movements. Her head began to turn and she continued to what she was doing.
“Offer has…...expired ! There is no room for doubt here tonight.”
I stared down as the moment passed by and took a final drag from my cigarette. Almost on cue, she came back inside, grazing my skin, and pulled clothes from out of the dresser. Not seeming to piece together what we had just accomplished on the floor, she shouted in my direction.
“Hey ! No peeking!”
In a state of appeasement, I turned to face the wall. How I had neglected to notice the imperfections it had to offer. I began to hear her footsteps approach the door and in a panic I spun around.
“You’re leaving? This late? And wait, you’re leaving?”
Her actions halted momentarily, and with a gleaming smile she faced my direction.
“But of course darling, I have to keep you on your toes.”
( 7 ) The Runaways
The sun was waving it’s merry face around to everything in sight, making sure that even the insects were up for the new day. I met its morning greeting with the addition of my jacket on my eyes. It was far too early to be up, feeling as if years of daylight savings time had just been tacked onto the clock, giving an unrealistic time for sunrise. My mind was beginning to boot up, shaking each disk drive as it started to lose the sense of sleepiness. Although I wouldn’t know any better, I woke up with relief that no weary traveler had stolen any of my possessions while I had been out, that would be rather unfortunate. I shook my last tin of food to gather an estimate of just how little I had left, it appears I had woken up hungry. I would have to undoubtable go find food, not in a primitive hunting sort of matter, but more of a picking berries that aren’t going to start the deceased process sort of matter.
During my scouting of the area for shelter, I had spotted a few berry esk bushes closer to the stone trail. My thoughts already planning too far ahead in the day without addressing the issue in front of me as I still joyfully lay in bed. The weather wasn’t terrible this early in the day, and the quiet sounds of the nature around me would help me gradually wake up. I took a swig from my canteen, gently ripped off the blanket I had grown an overnight relationship with, and stood myself up. Absent of any disoriented sway, I walked through the two trees I had draped my shelter over, and listened to the morning all around me. Apparently the standing had engaged some stomach muscle as I had simply grown in hunger from laying down. I should get on with this whole hunter gatherer ritual and produce some food.
The berries I was recollecting were around the size of a golf ball, with prickly shelling. Clearly someone had mixed up their peach and raspberry seeds in this location. I trekked to where the food lay, bringing my satchel to carry such goodies.
I spotted a few by a gathering of trees, I was alot closer to the trail now than I had been before. Although this part of the path lay covered in overgrown trees and desolation. I took a seat by one of the fruit bushes and began the arduous task of deciding which ones to pick. I lay my ear to the ground as I started to hear boots.
pat pat pat pat
Footsteps were gaining on my location, had I broken some fruit rule, treespassing in public? I quickly rummaged through my bag, what the hell did I have to protect myself in there.
Reducing my age to that of single digits, I pressed each eyelid shut hoping to create a permanent seal between them. It felt right to blame the early hours for my lack of courage in the situation, around two o clock was usually when my guts would show up. The footsteps had stopped, and their creator was by now standing in front of me. Recollecting my knowledge of B list horror movies, I should probably begin to open my eyes. I started with my left lid, and began to slowly allow the light rays to bombard my pupils. The pause in vision made everything around me glow, as if after being underground for years, finally exposing my eyes to sunlight again. The blurry figure was beginning to acquire clarity in front of me. It seemed to be being deceived as a petite woman my age was standing in front of me, glowing red from the sun. My mind and mouth were in some apparent feud as the unthought out words left my mouth.
“Your hair is on fire”
The sun had created the illusion that each individual hair strand had been freshly dipped in kerosene, dancing side to side in the hopes to suppress any acquired sparks. Withering slowly as they left the padded mass of long red hair kept untamed and inviting to catch such a fire. These charred fibers met and ended at an assortment of orange and brown fabrics, gently draped over her shoulder, they showed the choice in forming such a collection. Varying in sizes, material, and visible wear, they matched the autumn season her genetics had tried to mimic. Seeming to disagree with the rest of her attire, her shorts lost any looseness that they might have once had, they were not long and they did not play well in the wind. Salvaging some hope in a gust friendly outfit, a thin fabric skirt covered her right leg only, posing as more of a cape than a hip accessory. Drawing the conclusion that from the recent surprise her eyes had been elongated to a wide stance, they showed no sign of retreat with the settling of the situation. Naturally wide and with a mixture of hazel, they fit her small face. She wasn't smiling nor was she pouting, her newly registered head displayed no form of emotion.
I began to pick up the words that had just jutted out of my mouth, they seemed to be laying idle on the floor. With the marker freshly snapped, I prepared myself for a second take, dropping the grogginess that had been present prior.
“What I meant to say is well…..” she took the gap in time and used it to finish my poor attempt at a sentence.
“Maybe what you meant to say was, hi there stranger, I noticed your hair is red. That might have been a little more subtle?”
I smiled at her craftsmanship to take out a pick axe and chip away at the ice present in the situation. She had been better prepared for any simple morning interactions and continued to two handedly steer the ship.
“So what's your name, mysterious man on the ground?”
I paused for a moment, this felt like an opportunity to choose who I wanted to be for this woman. Honestly threw its hat in the ring as I responded.
“Have you ever felt like you had two names?”
“I suppose if you include nicknames, you could have a ton of names, maybe even too many.”
She established herself with a playful nature, taking the words we both spoke with and stacking them in front of her like alphabet blocks. This conversation probably could continue a few more minutes before I decided on a name to give her. Without much more deliberation, I caved.
“I’m Sails, I probably should have started with that, shouldn't I?.” I proceeded to stand up, with a now name to the face, it appeared I had graduated from mysterious man on the floor. Adding a narrative to my actions, I continued.
“I’ll have to be more cautious about where I sit down next time.”
She started to giggle, something had reached its way to that of what she found funny.
“Obviously you’ll have to sit down at some point,”her snickering began to cease, “The name’s Evee, short for Evelyn, named after my mother to be exact.”
The name suited her hopscotch manner, moreso the nickname than the full length version.
“Well thank you for not running me over Evelyn, I was actually trying to rummage through these bushes hoping to find some food.”
“That's an odd thing to do this early in the morning…...you sure you’re not still asleep?”
I found irony in the statement, I couldn’t answer that question honestly for you Evelyn, I'm still deciding on whether I want to wake up or not.
“I’m not too familiar with this part of town (or all of this for that matter), I stopped here last night to set up camp, I still have a ways to go.”
“Oh la la, a curious traveler are we? Tip toeing to new locations.”
“I'm on my way to find the false quadrant satellite camp, I’m probably still a day or two out.”
The words slipped out of my mouth so easily, I was told to proceed with caution when speaking about the resistance to anyone, even someone as bubbly as Evelyn. Most people knew about the false quadrant, it had been a zone deemed too overrun to salvage. From what I could gather, many places were deemed the same unfortunate fate. The static sea had formed a two mile circle around the city of Ceu, and any city within that city was considered gone. What made the false quadrant special was its proximity to the edge of that circle. Sitting actually outside of that circle, it was still deemed as exposed, thus the nickname “false”. There was much speculation on why it was included in the list of cities deemed unsalvageable, but regardless it was evacuated and left to belong only to a list of had beens. All of this information was new to me, but included within it was its new use as well. The resistance had apparently opened up a satellite camp rather recently in hopes to have a closer planted base to the static sea. From all the opinions that I had gathered about the static sea, the consensus was to stay as far away from it as possible. Prolonged exposure to its airborne mist slowly forced the mind to cease control, a more formidable term would that you simply went crazy, permanently. You became another prisoner of its two mile prison cell, roaming the land with others who had lost their way as well. Had Evelyn known all of this as well? Surely living in this world for twenty or however old she was years would inform you of such things, caution you proceed carefully in where you explored.
“Who exactly did you say you were again?” Her light and bubbly tone was beginning to evaporate into the morning air. It would appear she knew exactly where I was talking about, and from her tone having a concerning opinion about it as well. I had to start to decide on exactly how much I was going to fill her in on, I was heading there for answers, but would she really understand my point of view. No time to be vague on my behalf, I’d just have to deal with whatever view she decided to take on the location.
“There's a group of gentlemen there, I was told to speak to them about my past, about what I’m suppose to do next here.” Her eyes were alternating upward directions as if to be actually seeing the conclusions she was making in her head. I had probably provided more questions than answers.
“I’d hardly say they’re gentlemen, more so just bandits tied to a good cause.” I could of probably used names by the sound of her familiarity with the situation. The heated nature of the exchange had seemed to reach back to its equilibrium. I could see the bubbles returning to her skin, missing the last few moments where she hadn’t use them in her attitude.
“Don't tell them I said that! Please! That wouldn’t be fair.”
“I've never even met them before, and to be quite honest I'm still a little unsure about what exactly they do.”
She seemed puzzled by my response, slipping on an oil patch cleverly thrown her way.
“And you’re supposed to go…...talk to them? Did you come up with this too in your sleepy state?”
I didn't know how to answer, I had been a potted plant, anxious to grow my roots to the only window I had found in the room, not questioning that there had ever been a second light source. I saw no other option in leaving this world but to talk to them.
“Why are you so concerned with my meeting?” She drew a grin on her freckled face and raised her arm in the direction she had been running.
“This trail, the way I was running before I almost ran you over, is suppose to lead there.” A silence took the mood, she was waiting for an excited response from me, but I didn't share that this early.
“You sound lost, are you lost Sails?”
“I am lost Evelyn, I'm sorry.”
“Don't be sorry, that's just ridiculous, but I can point you in the right direction if you would like.”
She wasn't really inviting me to join her, but instead supplying some aid, a good luck token to a stranger unaware of the luck they actually needed.
“That would be helpful, my last traveling advice wasn't necessarily so grand.”
“Then I ll try to make this advice is twice as good! Now where's your map, you do have a map don't you?”
I fumbled towards the outcropping of trees towards where I had set up camp in order to retrieve such an item. As I was stumbling, she put down her bag and reached a delicate hand inward. She pulled out a thick folded tan piece of cloth.
“You should really use a cloth, it won't fade over time. This piece right here is ancient, had it since I was younger.”
“You were making maps when you were younger?”
“It's important Sails. There are places you should never go, places no one belongs to.”
Someone must have instilled in her at a young age, that even the galaxy and it's vastness has black holes. With two gentle motions she unfolded the map in front of me. She had been busy that was for sure, many locations seemed marked and filled in, but she drew a large black circle in the center, skulls and crossbones inked in on multiple occasions. She immediately pointed to the eye catcher.
“You’re referring to the Static Sea aren’t you?” I felt the urge to be included in these talks of elusive tales. “I’ve never actually seen it before, I haven’t be traveling long enough to see it’s shores.
“There are no shores, no warm water to greet your feet. It’s just darkness in every direction.”
“Have you seen it? It’s almost like everyone person I talk to has a different view of it.
“You don’t have to have seen it to know that you should avoid it. I’d bet that most people lie about ever seeing it. Convince you of how brave they once were for standing so close, it all just sounds so foolish. Now where is this map of yours?”
I had been using my time wisely, as Evelyn had been issuing her informal warning I was locating my lesser aged map for our next topic of discussion. I almost felt embarrassed handing the bar souvenir over to her experienced hands. It resembled a kids mat, given after a half eaten overpriced meal to the respectable parents in hopes of landing some real estate on the fridge. I could have sworn I noticed a smirk slip out of her mouth as she noticed the attempt I had given her of a map, a kids placemat. The only thing written on it was a sloppily sketched circle shouting my traveling intentions through poorly bled ink.
Initially she looked confused, if this map was any inclination of my cluelessness situation, she would surely need to sit down.
“Well, what you need is to more locations on here.” She pulled out an orange pen, even her office supplies matched her attire. Somewhere she had raided a fall catalog supply closet to in hopes to fill her ensemble. Contrary to her words, she started first by marking no new locations, but instead etching a heavy outline of a circle in the same location as her own, I interjected.
“You must really enjoy doing that, being such a beacon of safety for us ill knowledge travelers.”
“Don’t be rude, I’m just being helpful is all.” She had finished her arts and crafts for the day, I now had an envious two markings on my map. One a destination, the other an apparent hell of hells according to this stranger. She grabbed her clothed mark up, and gracefully placed it back in her bag, her hands scurried around its compartments, and I willfully watched in silence, even the birds were eager to see what she was getting at.
“Well I suppose I could take a break to gather some food too, my second beacon catching lunch you now.” Her eyes pinched the tops of her eyelids, she was smiling with more than just her mouth at her wittiness in the comeback.