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The truck clambered its way up the incline with the vivacity of a dying horse. It wept tears of grease and oil with every sputter of its smoky exhaust, shaking and arching under the heavy mixture of flesh and ash caked leather.
He paid no attention to the moans of the engine; averting his eyes from the dashboards cracked interior, the thick layers of filth and stale surrounding him like air. Refusing to face the peeling green paint, refusing to face the immodestly exposed rust of the metal, lying soft and wet like a girl in a hidden, sticky magazine or a rotting wound. He dug his thumbs into his eye sockets, letting the neon melt listlessly against deep black, harder and harder until the blood rushed to his ears and forced him to stop, replacing the swirls with an infinity of pine and peaks, and the reality of his destination seeping down his throat and filling his eyes. Like fear.
The road stretched on for eternity, stretched and curved, entangling itself into the limbs of the mountains, the jagged cliffs; he steered the wheel and stared, steered, stared. Steered, stared, stared, stared. Staring the wheel, steering so deep his eyes became stationary, listless marbles, their thin wet skin drying into a vice of flesh forcing him to see everything. Everything he hated and never wanted to see again. His sticky, whining children- their round, moist faces became blurred and interchangeable. His fat, disgusting wife- shrieking and panting, spittle flying out of her yellow mouth like rain, her splotchy cheeks quivering like mud. His decaying house, its dying lawn scattered with the carcasses of plastic toys. Her. Her blue eyes, darting back and forth, gleaming playfully, nervously. Her bones, stretching and arching beneath her draped ivory skin like a dancer. Her stomach, breathing easy and softly underneath blue light.
Her blonde hair ripping and tearing with every blow of her skull. Her blue eyes, bulging and reddening, rolling back into her head like thunder. Her bones stretching and distorting her blue skin, her stomach lurching and writhing, expelling its contents like a womb. Her lifeless body, twisted and bent like a dancer.
His eyelids tore at the dry skin of his sclera, two soft raw objects becoming one.
The truck moaned in pain as the unforgiving pavement transformed into unforgiving gravel and dirt. Wheels blindly stumbling forward like a foolish and eager soldier, deeper and deeper down the arcane path, each yard bringing the pair further into a tangled mass of trees and silence. Anticipation tightened around his chest like a vice, his eyes were wet, tears burning the dirty, red skin of his face, and sobs reverberated through his cracked bones like heartbeats.
His breath quickened with every yard the truck scrambled, he could hear nothing but the pulsating rush of blood in his ears, seeing nothing but a frame of trees and nothing, nothing and nothing, nothing. Nothing and then a small yellow cabin sitting peacefully, calmly by a sweet lake, hidden only by trees and nothing. Hidden only by years and lies. By a fat screaming wife and sticky children. Now it was tangible and palpable. And he could feel her again.
The cabin hadn’t changed in over thirty years, though he had doubted it would. Part of him believed God had kept it pristine just for him, a hardened yellowed monument immortalizing his sins as he exited his truck and dejectedly treaded on the soft damp soil into his past…
The young smiling man lightly ran over the crisp green lawn, the tight muscles of his legs stretching and warming, growing stronger off the fresh blood that was rushing to them, after the hours of speeding stillness, melding to the leather of the sports car for so long, he could swear he became one with it. Their cabin was small; the only thing remotely outstanding about it was a fresh coat of yellow paint. And yet the sight of it brought inexplicable pleasure to him.
It was quiet, sitting on the edge of a steep cliff, the only thing filling his ears was the soft rustling of leaves and his own scattered excited thoughts.
School was over, forever, and he was free.
Free to travel, live. Experience life, life outside of the terrarium of that town. If someone were to ask him what his future held he would not answer, for he did not know. The idea of not knowing what he should do next interested him, and he decided to continue on living his life this way, of course, it had served him well so far. As for his friends, he pitied them. Their lives mapped out, and seeming already torn. College, military, family business. The sheer thought of it sickened him.
The only thing he ever really gave much thought to was her.
The cabin door opened to her crooked smile…
The inside of the cabin was bare; the only thing filling it was the thick dark stench of stale air and peeling wallpaper.
His stomach lurched and he doubled over in excruciating remorse. And the tears made dusty mud against the faded hardwood as his sobs turned into whimpers and he smiled a smile he hadn’t seen in thirty years.
The cabin was their sanctuary, their getaway. Music floated in and out of the thin walls on a warm breeze, as the faces of their friends spun and whirled under the dim lights, laughing and hugging some crying, their drinks spilling. Old friends, wrapped tightly around nameless faces they hoped to never see again after this night, one last night of what they’re parents often forbid them to do. Of the things that would break their parents hearts if they ever found out. Trunks filled with bitter mouthfuls that they won’t remember drinking, the air sweetly smelling of thin burning paper and something very distinct.
He was glad to be rid of nights like these. He could never talk to the nameless faces, always inexplicably damning himself as he became foolish and strange. Thankfully she always saved him, clever and quick, interrupting slyly each time he was drowning in his own clumsy words. Their teamwork was never questioned; they became a well-oiled machine. He came to discover he couldn’t breathe without her, and she refused to breathe without knowing that.
She was not perfect, far from it. She was shallow and conceited and rude without hesitation. But at times she smiled so big, and loved the strangest things, and he forgot about how she was shallow and conceited and rude without hesitation. She did not think twice about her future, much like him. But he was blissfully naive of why. He knew she was damaged, that she composed herself by the second. But he believed he could fix her, and they would grow old together.
He gazed up at her as she threw back her head and laughed, unaware of just how broken she really was.
The voices disappeared, cars leaving just as soon as the night did. She was quiet, lying next to him, her features forming into serious shapes underneath the pale blue light.
“Let’s watch the sun come up.”
He watched her lips form excitedly over each word, as if no one had ever thought of seeing a sunrise before now, and her feet padded lightly over the stained carpet. He followed them quickly, as if she may leave forever.
The man stood in the fresh air at the cliffs edge, sensing the sun’s sluggish advance over the mountain, and closed his tired eyes.
They stood silently, waiting patiently for the sun to show itself. He felt her warm, sticky breath leave his shoulder as she looked up at him.
“I don’t want to grow up.”
Her childish words fell fast and heavy down the steep rocks and into the shallow water.
“We can stay here forever then.” He felt her smile, and for a brief second actually believed that they could. His hand gently passed over her fingertips as he advanced back to the cabin. Wanting anxiously to fall asleep next to her once more.
He turned to watch the sun rise slowly over the dark mountain, his eyes focusing instead on a pair of determined blue eyes, her small feet dancing over the rocky edge.
And for the first time since he had known her, he did not follow.
He remained still and then slowly backed away.
He saw the suns’ yellow light peering over the mountain and he could almost swear he saw wispy, golden blonde hair. Were those just familiar blue eyes he saw in that shallow rocky water?
He stepped forward and followed them quickly as if she might leave forever.