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The smell of darkness cut through the air. Swarms of sharp clouds gathered in the east. Dead grass crunched underneath worn soles as the people voyaged to their vehicles. The tall office buildings loomed over dim streets where people scuttled like rats.

The dark haired woman pulled her coat closer to her, her eyes shivering at the gloominess of the scene outside. A few sheets of paper drifted down the street chased after by hungry cats, their rolling bags sprinting behind them. The woman observed as a merry banner reading “Happy Thanksgiving” in bright letters was pulled down by the angry wind. It was as if nature itself was protesting the few days off of work.

“See you on monday Helena!” A co-worker rolled down his tinted window as he passed the lonely woman. She nodded and smiled a ghost of a smile as he drove away. A red chariot awaited Helena which she couldn’t seem to gain access to because of the bottomless bag she was fishing around in. Finally her thin hand grasped the car keys and she was able to sit down in her comfortable throne where she was the master of the road. The beast jumped, startled out of its peaceful rest as the headlights lit up, illuminating gray pavement and a plastic Walgreens bag.

Birdcall sounded from the bottomless bag and the woman emitted a long exasperated sigh. “Hello mother,” Helena’s voice was as gloomy as the day outside.

The woman who answered her was not gloomy, actually her voice was very much the sound of school assembly, a loud nail biting sound that was unmistakable anywhere you went. “We’re expected you at Uncle Arnie’s house in less than three hours,” the mother announced in that awful voice.

“I know,” the woman’s level of happiness projected in her voice dropped another couple levels.

“Can’t wait to see you there honey,” the mother cawed. Helena cringed at the word honey, feeling as if that word was the toothpick an annoying cousin had stabbed her with all through thanksgiving meal when she was younger.

“Yes, can’t wait,” Helena said before putting the phone down. She could hardly remember her uncle Arnie. He was old but young, with the mind of a child who had not even graduated middle school. His jokes were crude, almost at the level of someone having to spit on them. He owned a proboscis that was the subject of the rest of the family’s jokes. When regarding the bee farms he owned his line was “to bee or not to bee, that is the question.” He would laugh an enormous ocean drinking laugh while the people in his company tittered and shook their heads, exchanging looks.

Helena’s fingers couldn’t seem to stab the letters of Arnie’s address on the touch screen of her fashionable car. But once she succeeded this task her eyebrows flew up into her hairline, seeing how long her car ride was going to be. It could almost be described as a nomads journey.

“Continue straight for one mile,” the GPS spoke in her therapist voice. She felt like the only fish that didn’t get the picture and was swimming upstream, the opposite lane was packed with vehicles whereas Helena was the only one cruising along in her direction. The city seemed ominous as street lamps turned on and cars became scarcer and scarcer and scarcer as Helena traveled through the warehouse district.

Helena turned on her ‘learn Korean in five weeks’ tape when she reached the freeway. A horse ran through the sky in front of her as the GPS instructed Helena to turn off onto a small road.

Dark. A heavy fist grasping the stars and pulling them away. A cats eye gleam came from a cold looking house. Cold leafless trees. Cold closed corner stores. Cold road that was dotted with potholes and strewn with cracks. Unkempt houses. Unkempt gardens and stores and roads and street lamps that weren’t turning on.

“Continue straight for 52 miles,” the therapist said from the speakers in the door. Helena checked the lighted screen in astonishment. Surely that was a mistake, surely surely surely. Surely she couldn’t go on driving on this dismal street for that long. But sure enough there was her path. 52 miles of straight blue line.

The houses disappeared, replaced by the skeletal branches knocking and clacking. The lights were gone, long gone, so very gone that Helena could feel it in her bones. She could barely see the trees anymore, only the ruined pavement shown to her by her trustworthy headlights. Dark and light. The light feeling you get when you realize that you’re the only one around, that no one can see you. That you are by yourself. It made something in Helena’s stomach flip, it made her bite her lips and tap the steering wheel with her hands. As if she was scared. But she wasn’t scared.

“Now time for review,” the ‘learn Korean in five weeks’ teacher spoke through the door speakers he shared with the therapist. “How do you say...” he paused, as if thinking about his words. “Hello,” he finally decided.

And right when the friendly man was about to say something else the mechanisms in his nice tone whirred and broke. Collapsing and breaking.

“Turn left in half a mile,” the therapist spoke loudly and clearly. Helena jumped, not expecting to hear her voice so soon. What happened to 52 miles?

Helena checked the screen again, and sure enough the blue line turned abruptly on the small map. Half a mile.

Fine.

Maybe the therapist had made a mistake. Just like a parent could make a mistake, like a brain surgeon could make a mistake, like the president could make a mistake. The teacher came back on. “Now time for review,” he repeated himself. Odd. The CD shouldn’t be repeating itself. It was the exorcist. The lights turning on and off, the girl screeching in a low mans voice. The feeling of disturbance of the repetition. “Now time for review,” the teacher said once more.

“Now time for review.”

“Now time for review.”

“Now time for review.”

Helena tried to press audio off, maybe to take the CD out and polish it like a silver cup and insert it back into the player. But the audio wouldn’t turn off.

“How do you say...”

“How do you say...”

“How do you say...”

“Turn right in two miles,” the therapist replaced the mans voice after the low hum of a choirs warmup.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Helena said to herself. “Doesn’t make sense at all. I haven’t turned left yet, I haven’t gone straight for 52 miles. I haven’t reviewed the word for hello.”

She found her hands gripping the steering wheel tighter and tighter, like it was the one buoy in the middle of the ocean that would save her from the sharks.

“Continue straight for three miles,” the therapist commanded, a general briefing the troops before the war. The light up screen went dark.

“How do you say...” the teacher started to say and then trailed off. Helena loosened her grip on the steering wheel, relieved that all the noise had stopped. She guided her car to the side of the road, which couldn’t even be considered one now. The weeds had taken over the pavement, reducing it to gravel and dirt.

If her GPS was broken Helena would just have to call and ask for directions. Sending a note attached to a pigeons foot. She rummaged through the bottomless bag as if she was a hungry man rummaging through the trash bins outside of Helena’s apartment. Her hand brushed against tissues, a cosmetic case, hand lotion, the birthday card she had meant to send to her younger brother three weeks ago and never had. No phone.

No GPS. She would take matters into her own hands. A woman who was always so dependent now would act alone, independently, with not a single handful of help. She pulled her car almost angrily onto the road.

And then there were sparks. Red embers flying through the night sky. A burning fireplace erupting into a calm living room. The screech of metal. The crash of pain. The overturned truck. An ugly scar on the peaceful face of celebration.

Sorry Helena. No Happy Thanksgiving for you.





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