Friday, June 15, 2012

'Big Empty' (Finale)

Wake to blood, glass, pain like I’ve never felt after any scrap. The warm glow of the morning sun makes everything look orange. Slumped over, face pressed into the top of the wheel, nose bent to the left and numb. Left eye’s swollen shut. Raise my head to see I’ve driven into a pole. Look to the rear-view for answers. See my mangled face, recognize myself better than I ever have. 

Bathe in the silence for a moment, take a breath but instantly regret it when a lightning bolt of pain strikes in my chest. The rest of the world is absent. Turn to my right. She’s facing me now. Jane or Rhonda or Izzy or Anne is orange and red and purple, lifeless on the passenger seat. Her neck is bent at a strange angle, her face expressionless. Reach down beneath her legs, open her purse. Begin searching for some truth. Find a blank notebook, a picture of an older man with a little red-haired girl on his knee, four condoms, some birth control, a bullet, three dollars and seventy-three cents, half a mickey of tequila, an ID. For a Catholic school.


Meridian Eileen Hollowberry


Take a swig of the tequila to dull the pulsing in my skull, look at her once more, take a gulp.  Something about her arouses me. She’s finally quiet. Almost beautiful, as flawed as she is. Whisper her name. No reply. Find myself pressing my lips to hers, which are hanging cold and loose from her mouth. She remains still. Reach into the back for my camera, press to it to my good eye. A tribute. With the flash, her head jerks up. She smacks the camera out of my hands.

“What the hell! What’d you do? You crashed? Taking pictures? I could have been dead, asshole!”

“Yeah, it’s a shame, about that. I almost found you attractive.”

“What the fuck? I guess the animals and psychos don’t live in the dark after all. I’m outta here, sicko! Total creep!”

It takes her three shoulder bumps to get the door open. Her leg gives out and she falls onto the grass. Put my camera in my bag, pocket Stevie’s chew-toy. Find her on the ground, sobbing into her knees. The sound tickles me. It annoys me that I’m still interested in this wreck. Extend my hand to help her up. She raises her head and spits on my jeans. Drop my bag, use all my strength to force her up by her good arm. The sun is now high in the sky and shines on the sign above us. The sign that stopped us.


WELCOME TO MANITOBA


“Made it. Car’s dead. Teach me how to hitch?” 

Motion to the road with my head, wrap my arms around my injured mid-section. She rubs her neck, just staring at me. Her eyes make me uncomfortable so I turn away. Catch my full reflection in the cracked car window. Realize I’ll never be six years old again. Wonder what Mom would think if she saw me like this. Before I can punish myself for such a ridiculous though, a wave of dizziness hits. Fall to my knees, cough up blood near Meridian’s feet. Take a moment to catch my breath, regain my composure. Use her shoulder to pull myself up, look into her eyes, smile red. Her eyebrows drop and she licks her lips. She licks them again and sinks to an even paler shade of white. Her face contorts with rage and she smacks my swollen eye.

“Oh my God! You kissed me? You kissed me! You drank my tequila and kissed me when you thought I was dead! What is wrong with you!”

The hit turns throbbing soreness into numbness, brings on a moment of clarity as the sun shines into my right eye. All I taste is blood. All I feel is void. All I know is the thundercloud. Suddenly, it occurs to me that I’ve broken enough noses in my lifetime, decide not to retaliate. Even now, she doesn’t deserve it. She yanks my white and red shirt off her ripped-up, infected arm and throws it at me. 

“Why’d you do that? You get off on dead chicks? That’s why you don’t like me? Too alive for ya? I should’ve stabbed you. Oh man, I should have dropped you when I had the chance.”

“Tell me what your name is.”

“I already did!” 

She hollers into the air, stomping her foot down. The sun once again owns the sky. Relentless.      

“Give me the truth. I’ll leave you alone and go drop dead somewhere. I just need to hear it.”

“Alright, fine! If it means so much to you…” 

She turns her head towards the road so I can’t see her eyes.  

“…Maggie. Short for Magdalene. Okay?”

“No more lying, right?”

“Promise. And don’t drop dead. I’ll find you some help. I guess I, like, owe it to you or whatever. I still think you’re a freak though. But you coulda kissed me while I was awake, you know. Loser.”

“Offer’s still open for my aunt’s house. If you want.”

She smirks and picks my bag up and takes my hand in hers. Kiss the top of her hand, leave a lip-shaped bloodstain. Without a word between us we leave the accident scene, drag ourselves half a mile. Three cars pass, nobody stops. We must not look broken enough. It seems that I might not survive this. I might not deserve to. Before these thoughts can develop, a dirty yellow truck pulls over ahead of us.

Meridian releases my hand and runs over clumsily, tossing my bag into the back. Despite being battered, bleeding, and annoying to look at, she puts her best flirt on and chats with the driver, motioning over to my and winking at him. After an excruciating minute of waiting for negotiations to finish, it’s a relief to see her hobble around the side of the truck and wave me over. Stagger a couple feet until her hand curls into a fist with one special finger raised. She blows me a kiss and hops in. They speed off faster than I could ever run. Typical. I dissolve. This entire trip pulls me to the dirt. Curl up on the side of the road. Pull out Stevie’s chew-toy, clutch it against my chest. Cry like a six year old. Cough up more blood.

Must have passed out at some point because the bright world turns black for a while. Hear the faint sound of squeaking. Louder, closer. Open my eyes to see that I’m in the shade of a gorgeous girl blocking the sun. She’s golden. She grins and drops Stevie’s toy next to me.

“I didn’t think you were going to wake up. Are you okay? Is that your car back there? You need a hospital.”

Struggle to push myself to a standing position, decide instantly that I like her better than Molly or Meridian.

“I’m, um. I’m alright. Alive, still.”

She asks my name and I tell her.

“You seriously need to be checked out. My phone’s dead but I’ll give you a ride, it’s no problem, really.”

“I honestly think I’m okay. But I do need to get somewhere, if you’re offering.” 

Slide the ID card out of my pocket, lift the card up to my one good eye, then read Meridian’s address aloud to my saviour. The thundercloud rumbles. 

“Can you take me there? I mean, after the hospital or whatever. There’s a girl there, waiting for me. I have something for her.” 

“Sure, yeah. It’s on my way. Let's get you some help, poor thing.” 

She leads me over to her white Jeep and I painfully climb inside. Pass out again some time after that, no longer feel any heat or pain.

(End)

Note: I'm pretty well versed in copyright laws, so I'd appreciate it if nobody tried to steal this story. I have definitive proof that I wrote it. If you share or re-post it, please give credit to Chessterr Hollowberry. Thanks!

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