I’m still plugging away at this book of mine, BOX. Thought I’d share a preview of chapter 5. Feedback appreciated.
DREAM 5 – CLIFF
I have walked. A million desperate miles between awakening, dying, coming back to life and now my familiar shoes are tired. I leave them behind, a fading memory. And as I shed the remnants of a worn out life, I miss nothing for I am willing to give up everything.
The eternal highway. An endless road of darkened sunspots littering the valley pass. My gaze rests frantically on a horizon that never seems to come any closer. The clouds, a great mouth agape and chomping at the bit in despair. I wonder if this giant row of red teeth in the sky would bleed sun rays should I reach up with the hand of a god and pry one loose. Better to let them be to continue their world devouring lest I unleash their gnawing vengeance upon myself. I let my mind float to the back of my memory while my body continues its automaton function of this endless drive. Somehow this all seems so familiar.
The nightmare is the dream. The dream is the nightmare.
*Breaking News* – An explosion has rocked Continental City. Details remain scarce, but a large, red cloud bloom can be seen floating above. We can only speculate what caused the explosion. Stay tuned as we gather more information and report further.
Has it really been 5 days since I set myself upon his plan of escape? 5 days since I had died a little death and succumbed under the weight of guilt? I can’t remember the last time I have eaten. My emaciated body is starving away, serving as punishment for a black deed wrongly committed. My ribs are beginning to dance through the sweat of my shirt and I can feel the metabolic feast on my muscles as they slowly diminish.
Fortunately, I had enough survival foresight to stockpile the car with the water I needed. The leftover bottles are now serving an additional purpose. Over the past 128 hours I have grown into the habit of relieving myself into any receptacle I have lying around the car. Throughout my automotive guilt box are the scattered bottles containing copious amounts of yellow, rotten fluid. These aren’t the actions of a crazed man, but a desperate and disparate one. All I want is to get as far away, as fast as possible. I have made up my mind to only pull over and stop only for the bare minimum time it takes to refuel. Every minute I stop is time for my ruined past to catch up to me. My mind is running away from itself in search of a last resort to continue on with sanity. Forgiveness has to be somewhere out there on that lonely road of the shackled and damned.
Forgiveness. A fantasy bastion of hope. I know I am fooling myself into thinking that there is anyway to atone for what I have set in motion. My despair will be everlasting and a knowing badge forever imprinted on my aching heart. My eyes are beginning to glaze over and my thoughts turn darkly inwards. In my mesmerized and displaced state I can feel the workings of my body complying to what I need, to what I crave. My foot slams towards the floor of the car. My body knows what its master seeks. Speed! I need speed! More of it to get me further away from myself. Perhaps, if I drive fast enough I can dilate time and leave the difference of myself in the past. I can then be free of my own pestilence and separate into an alternate future where I could settle, find the great love of my life, live free and unbound. My children would know only wonders and I would be their proud, loving father instilling within them the wisdom only fathers can pass on. They would grow to become the great speakers and leaders of society that I never had a chance to become. When asked, they would unanimously point to me, their father, as their greatest influence and source of inspiration. I, Denree Lucien, would finally achieve greatness by proxy and future generations would revere my teachings and admire me, this humble man who came from the streets of poverty to produce some of the greatest minds the world would ever see. See. Fantasy. What a silly fantasy.
My eyes slowly come back into focus from my day hallucination. The red teeth above draw closer with their aching maw. This isn’t a trick my unravelling mind is playing on me. I thought I had been imagining it, but the clouds above have slowly formed into a giant clawed mouth descending upon my position in the world. The sun beats behind it, pushing it ever downwards upon a rail of devil hued rays. I have never seen such a sun with the intensity of Promethean fire; the fire of beginnings, endless beginnings telling me that I will forever be trapped in a cycle without the ending that I wish for. I am fixated. The great eye in the sky pokes through where a tooth is missing, bringing its gaze upon me and now we are locked in a battle of wills where the victor is already assumed. I am in a race to avoid being consumed except I am racing backwards towards my sins. If I win, my victory will be my demise.
This isn’t what I expected. I was promised the dream not the nightmare.
*News Update* – We have picked up the broadcasts of emergency responders and from what we can glean, there is severe radioactive fallout within at least a 10 mile radius of Continental City. Roadblocks have been setup and travelers in the area are warned to stay at least 60 miles away. All communications are down within city limits and, as of now, we do not know if there are survivors. All signs point to a nuclear bomb that was set off. More to come.
I’ve dreamt of happiness only three times in my youth. The first was the strength of my father’s hands around my tiny wrists as he spun me round and round into dizzying heights. That day had been a singular day between us of carefree and wanton joy. A father and his son spinning on a needle head point in time. Our laughter came from deep within our bellies when we both collapsed in a disoriented heap upon the soft grass at our favorite park. He rubbed my head and hugged me tight and in that fleeting moment I held in my heart an infinite space filled with pride and joy and all of the things that a boy feels for his father, his guiding light. The next day he was gone without a word. Abandoned. That was the end of that dream.
My second delirium of happiness was the first time I placed my lips upon the softness of another’s in desire. Truth or Dare. A stupid game kids play to test the boundaries of honesty and random exhilaration. This was how I earned my chance at my first adolescent kiss. Truth or Dare. I chose Dare and the salacious group chose Lust’s Kiss. I gulped in embarrassment and froze in place. I had never kissed another in that fashion. The thought of practicing had never crossed my mind for who would ever kiss a quiet, loner kid with few friends. The others randomly chose the girl next to me and turned us to face each other. Alicia was celestial and exuded the soft glow only girls knew how to give off. I was a brute in her presence. The pressure was building and others began chanting, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” louder and louder. I raced to think on how to do this and then I remembered something my father had once told me about the first kiss he had ever had with my mother, “Gently, I took her in my arms and came face to face with her, eye to eye. I looked beyond the surface of her self and probed deeply into her yearning soul. I caressed her face and brought her lips closer to mine, but did not touch them. Not yet. We shared a momentary breath and when she finally closed her eyes, we touched our parted lips ever so softly. And when we finally released, I brought my gaze back to hers and smiled with my eyes upon hers. That is how you kiss a woman, son.”
This is how I proceeded, making sure to follow each careful step as related to me by my father. When the deed was done, I turned sheepishly away in tortured awkwardness and slunk back to my seat to grumble in despair and embarrassment. It was only when I finally looked up that I noticed the hush that had come across the group and the only sound that broke the silence was Alicia’s soft gasp, “Wow.” I walked home that night with puffed chest and the confidence of 100 titanic men. The next day I looked for Alicia to ask her to the movies, but when I ran into her with her mates, they pretended my existence was but a mockery. I should have known the natural order of high school would prevail and that we would go back to occupying our social roles. Forever the lonely kid wearing the skin of an outsider looking in. And thus my second dream was so easily crushed.
Is the third dream even worth repeating? It ends the same in desecrated despondence. It was just a dance. Nothing fancy. Just two people swept away in time and space to an absurdly maudlin song, but it was Her, wasn’t it? She was that Her that people talk about when speaking of soul mates and angels. She was the one who always walked with a spotlight tracking her and the wind blowing through her sex and form and forever locks of hair. Damn, Her! If only I had never asked for that blissful first dance, then we wouldn’t have wasted those many years between us in silent divide that grew too treacherous for both our hearts to bridge over. Damn, me.
That was then and happiness still remains only a dream
*News Update* – The space above the city has been declared a no fly zone until the radioactive cloud disperses. The cloud itself is predicted to pose no further danger due to strong westward winds blowing it across the surrounding desert. FEMA is being called in to manage the crisis and help emergency crews launch a survivor recovery mission. We have had no contact from anyone within city limits and we fear the worst.
Have you come to devour me? Your teeth are still stained with the blood of those scoundrels you have gulleted before me. Don’t think you can hide your intentions. You descend upon fast winds in a zeal reserved only for the most dedicated of fiends. Demon. Brute. Hellion. Rogue. You hunt and feast on the defeated. Does our ruin taste sweet going down? Your suffuse grin is answer enough. Then I suppose I will be a veritable smorgasbord. Piece by piece, you will nibble and gnaw on me, crunch on my bones, suck the marrow, and leave behind a husk of discarded bits you find unpalatable. I suppose even a fiend like you won’t swallow the bile of a magnificently failed man.
My foot is to the floor and, even though it may be inevitable that you will gobble me up, I race you to oblivion. It is the last thing I can try to do. If I must fail, then let me fail in spectacular fashion by outracing my steward sky that is falling on top of me.
On the horizon.
I race for the ledge. See if you can catch me.
*News Update* – FEMA has provided us with hazmat suits and is allowing a small news team to accompany them on a search and rescue mission within the outer vicinity of Continental City. Inner city limits are still too dangerous to probe. Thus far, we have passed hundreds of stranded cars on the freeway. Each of them containing the irradiated and charred husks of those poor unfortunate souls who found themselves too far within the fallout blast radius. We have happened upon zero survivors. If we find even one, it will be a miracle.
I can feel the grin spreading maniacally across my face. I’ve found the finish line that has eluded me these past few tormented days. It is where the world stops and my escape begins. That steep ledge rushing to greet me poses the answer. If I must be ruined, then let me be ruined on my own terms. I won’t submit to your salivating lips. I can see you twisting and turning your tongue across your teeth in anticipation. Not today. You will have to find another meal to satiate your blood lust. We poor souls are not without means and this day one of us will claim his own destiny and respite from the demon head come from the sky.
You roar. I laugh. You chase. I run to that chasm where even you can’t reach. Look down there. That’s an ending you didn’t anticipate, I bet. You thought I would choose your type of oblivion, a desperation that plugs like a cork screw ever turning without pulling. You will have to be more alluring than that. Your ever expanding, lipless mouth is not the type of sexiness that I want to kiss with my guilty lips. These lips will be reserved for my windshield when I crash head first into the stop from the fall and they will kiss with a lasting smile crushed forever into my splintered face.
…no word from any survivors…
One time, I swam to a rock out in the middle of the Aegean sea. I swam with all my might to make the first handhold and when I finally reached the upper limits of my physical exhaustion, I touched hard, jagged land. I crawled up on top of that rock and looked back over the mile I had swam. I was fatigued, depleted, and forlorn not because I looked back upon that lonely mile which I would have to recross, but because I had not failed and drowned. The rock was supposed to be my unreachable goal. I was supposed to flail, out of breath for its salvation and fade from the history of man, but my stubborn body fought for life and kept my watery grave from me. I cursed that day, “Why?!” and received in answer the sound of an empty vacuum.
I ask now, “Please.”
Cliff. Ledge. Friend. Please. Take my sorrows and ram them into the ground so that they may scatter and disperse back into soft dust. I am a wicked man who does not even deserve a wicked end. Just give me empty non-remembrance and save others from my flaws and faults.
…we can only hope…
You’re almost upon me and I can see into your esophagus. It’s lined with rows upon rows of churning teeth ready to systematically split me piece by piece and take me to your demon plane where you will use my soul to fuel your eternal rage. I can see the others struggling to climb away, but your tongue laps them up and undulates them into those vicious chompers. In the end, only hands attached to disembodied arms hang on and wriggle from nerves ending their death throes.
Give me more speed. Almost there. C’mon!
…in the night we hold each other in huddled prayer…
There is no more time for prayers. I have moved beyond hope for grace or personal salvation and if this is to be, then I will neither be for sacrifice nor damnation. I will dictate the terms of my own end. I will drop over that edge that is canvassed before me with speeding clarity and plummet to freedom. Freedom from the debilitations that course through my heart. When this heart stops, this insufferable, soiled heart, I will have the silence I need. I will close my eyes and give the only true smile I have ever given and fade.
…night fades into day and the search for survivors continues, but as far as the eye can see is the fiery haze of singed blight. There is doubt that anyone is alive out there in that tragic wasteland. The heart of a nation cries and mourns for friends, family, loved ones lost. Each day only brings a despondent silence…
I am ready. The last mile lays before me and I am reaching escape velocity. Here it comes. The launch. The downward tilt. The fall and tumble. I can feel it in my stomach. The trap door expansion in my gut that tells me gravity is an ever present force to contend with. I am determined to face this impact with presence and open eyes.
What is this?
I see in the rearview mirror your lashing tongue elongated and splitting into a multitude of curlicue tendrils fiercely licking at my rear end. Behind your Medusa tongue is a sickly, satisfied smile. The gas pedal is useless for these tires attached to nothing but rushing air. You knew this didn’t you? You knew that you would be able to reach me in this futile, free fall escape. You were only playing with your prey and giving me false hope. Oh, how insidious and methodical you are at this game. You truly are the great demon come from the sky to maraud and pillage the despondent fools who have lied and cheated themselves out of any wellspring of hope. I am such a fool and now you loom over me and show me the futility of running away.
It’s right there rushing up before me. That sweet, sweet dusty ground that waits with open arms for the potential of smashing machine and man together in one broken mass. And you will take it all away from me. This is it. Suspended between my mortal end and the hellfire of an eternal, crimson mouth.
I still accelerate downwards, but if you have the wherewithal to reach me before I twist into a mangled crush…
Have at it then!
…in the dead of night a singular miracle has presented itself. A signal flare has been shot from the center of Continental City. A lone survivor is reaching out for help. Emergency crews are now mobilizing in force and we can only hope there are more who have made it…