There’s a notable gap here. Complete seizure between brain and mouth. Inside my head I’ve left this safe bunker and fallen into a virulent past. A labyrinth of ‘DO NOT ENTER’ and ‘DANGER GO BACK’ signs threaten to obscure the way back.
Memories crash into me.
The property damage and arson I commit after attempting to alleviate boredom by winding up a grandfather clock in a home for the aged. It counted out my terrors with loud ticks of its smarmy, clockwork innards. They met a violent end under the sole of my boot. I set the building on fire when the echoes of those ticks continued unabated. The conflagration spread to neighbouring buildings and ate everything in its path. An exploding service station caused me to depart the town for safer pastures.
Bright shards of recollection reveal the somnolent vacancy I sink into at an isolated highway motel. I lay on a bare mattress; waiting for a miracle to knock on my padded door of opportunity rising days later from the urine stinking bed when cockroaches begin to pluck dead skin from chapped lips. Sticky clothes stick to raw bedsores while I search the tomb of a supermarket for nappy-rash cream with the need of a Knight after the Holy Grail.
Though I do find God in hunger induced visions, escaping the city is achieved without His supernatural guidance. Short frightened hops from basements to rooftops and everything in between is a harrowing saga in itself. I reject Him again when the quick, painless demise I earnestly pray for during the cold, long nights isn’t forthcoming.
Indexing acceptable deaths fills lonely hours. When I sum up, only the unobtainable ‘old age in the arms of a loving beauty’ makes the select list.
Increasingly bizarre suicidal thoughts highlight the mind’s cracks in stark contrast to the resilience of the body. It refuses to lie down and die without very specific help. Therein lays a sticking point for a serious life-taking attempt. Fears of a weakening injury instead of instant death would leave me vulnerable to a guest appearance at some Parasite host’s feast. That would be bad enough. Then there’s the abominable alternative of possession.
Like the FIERCE SNOWMAN?
Or was it ‘fears no man’? That translation is no good either. I fear everything. Including men.
Is that Kristine shouting incongruent words into the hollow well where my soul used to dwell? Or do I mishear a kindly call from an incorporeal plane? It gets noisy in here with everyone talking at once. Broken metaphysical thought particles rotate and collide, catching and releasing like warped brakes. Their patterns strive to bind me.
This peculiar Yeti-related analogy carries a reviving slap. The same strong hand slams shut a vault I’d only meant to crack for minimal withdrawal. The banned images that spilled out are displayed by an obliging, indiscriminate, memory retrieval process. There’s much stuffed into that dungeon that should be buried, deleted, or erased by means I am yet to come across. Memories of things I had to do that are hard to justify in hindsight.
I cling to the virtual, hairy-backed monster of Arctic legend. It buoys me in the swift, deep waters of a psyche not meant to be sailed by those encumbered with my brand of baggage. The turbulence calms.
Its job done, I let the figuration drift free and dogpaddle back to familiar shallow waters of self-centred cockiness. Like chewing gum in carpet, residue of the reimprisoned experiences linger.
For better or worse I’m thrown back into Kristine’s presence. She is sitting on the edge of the lounge chair watching my internal wrangling with concern. One of my hands is clamped between hers in a crushing, sweaty grip. My fingers twitch. She shows great relief at my resurgence and lets up the pressure. I give her a pale, understanding smile.
I need to finish before this high runs down.
More carefully this time I return to the edges of my tale, describing endless days of walking and scavenging. The highways, that are clogged with a million abandoned cars with idled empty tanks. My aching feet, that follow a route determined by pilfered glove-box maps.
I divert from these highways to tramp less congested back roads. The artful lines of silent metal boxes represent a late past too strongly for my delicate emotional state. The huge wheat and canola fields that pass by, destined for rot and wild rebirth, are preferable companions.
An F100 truck parked in a shady nook alongside a minor bridge curiously draws me. The note I pluck from under the wiper is confused, apologetic and rain damaged. It pleads for the brave reader to complete a task that he, or she, didn’t.
There’s no signature.
I look over each side of the bridge. A deep dive into the shallow water below may explain the absence of the despondent owner, although the body isn’t in sight to confirm this. I don't search further.
The truck has fuel and the keys are in place. A glossy black briefcase rides the passenger seat. It is unlocked for my convenience and contains a swipe card, keys, and files holding the particulars of several locked-up juvenile offenders. For lack of a better option, I drive hundreds of kilometres north to the address on the file header. No other course has beckoned so prophetically. Was it a better option than feeding the fishes with the trucks owner? I’m not so sure now.
I’m done talking.
Exhausted, I wonder which parts of my life Kristine is privy to now and which parts have only been relived in my head. I bring myself down with shame. Kristine zooms into view from the end of a long telescope.
Sympathetic tears leak down shocked-to-whiteness cheeks. She got most of it then.
“I think I had a bad trip.”
The embarrassment sizzles on my hot face.
“That was so...amazing...horrible...mind blowing.”
Her choice of words could be subtler.
“Shanna and I didn't have any trouble at the places we stayed at. Country people help each other; we were all in it together so we did the best we could. I can’t understand people like Hadley who want to take and hurt and destroy.”
She squeezes my hand reassuringly. An inevitable sexual aspect sneaks in from my side so I pull away. I don't think it’s an urge we have in common.
I slump into the couches comforting embrace instead and stare at the ceiling. My shoulders are tight and sore from the hunched posture adopted while spilling my guts.
I drift away.