Published author and Univ. Of Colorado grad. Buy my novel "One Day, Forty Nights" at any online bookstore. It's Editor's choice - I need money.
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The moon is full and high in the sky tonight; or so I hear. If you were to be in my vehicle with me, you would not see the gleaming moonlight. All you would notice is the hazy clouds that blanket the sky above, and the dense, grim fog that envelopes all. The only other sound, other than my strained breathing, is the light pitter-patter of rain that echoes through the cab. I can imagine the droplets of rains plummeting from the grace of the heavens above and shattering as they crash onto the roof of my car. It is not enough to be considered a downpour by any means, but just enough to draw my attention from my dire needs. But the aroma from the bottle at my side stirs me back to my vice. The glass is cold within my grasp as I take a sip; the liquid burns a little. I swallow and return the bottle to my side. Time to get on with it.
My fingers grip the keys that dangle from the steering wheel, and with a turn of the key, the engine ignites. The engine rumbles with a thunderous roar before it reaches the point of idling. The music of the engine serenades me, but it does nothing to ease my torment. I inhale for a moment, drawing a heavy drag from the cigar between my lips, and for a brief instant, the glow from the vice illuminates the dashboard. According to gauges, the tank is near empty and the mileage is high. It has been a longer-than-expected campaign up to this point. The winding roads, the undiscovered voyages, and the driving-in-circles have taken their toll. However, remaining stagnant in this fog is undesirable. I flip a knob, and the car becomes less gloomy. The dashboard flickers to life with a dim glow, and the headlights radiate ahead of me. My foot presses downward on the pedal, and the car lurches forward into the unforgiving mist.
I drive slowly through the grey fog. The beams from the headlights have trouble penetrating the dense miasma. There is no sense of direction as my hands turn the wheel. Am I going forward? Perhaps I’m going backwards. Is there even road underneath the bald tires? I haven’t a clue. All I know is that I am alone on this journey; been abandoned long ago by comrades that were mere shadows of humanity. Another puff on the cigar draws the toxin into my lungs. It provides warmth within my chest that is quite different than the chill within the cab. The following exhale blew the smoke into the dashboard. The fuel gauge is dropping further, and the fog is growing thicker. Am I ever going to reach the destination I crave?
There is more pitter-pattering on the roof as I push the vehicle on. Murky water splatters onto the windshield. The wipers slide across the glass, allowing my view to be not obstructed. Suddenly, there is a bump and a thud against the car. More of the murky water splashes across the windshield. The wipers swing faster and faster, right and left, right and left, but they only seem to smear the liquid on the glass. It is much thicker this time; perhaps like tar or some other substance. Slowly the car comes to a stop as I apply the break. The gears shift into park, and after another swig from the bottle, I open the door and stagger into the misty, frigid air.
The cool mist engulfs and coils around me like a snake. The illumination from the headlights refracts off the fog and gives the area surrounding me a dim glow. The only sound in the air is the rumble of the motor under the hood. I stare ahead of me with my eyes gazing around my intermediate area; there is nothing but fog. I move to the windshield, where the wipers continue to smear, and run my hand across the glass. My eyes continue to scan the fog. The liquid coats my palm and fingertips; it feels too thick to be water. My finger and thumb slide together with the substance in between. The consistency baffles me. I turn my attention to my hand which is covered in red; the liquid is blood. My wrists sting as I raise my bloody covered hands.
The sight buckles my footing. I scamper back from the car and draw my revolver. The metal shines in the light as I raise it ahead of me and aim it all around. Disruptions in the mist become visible as my movements send vibrations through the heavy air. All of my senses become keen and alert, but nothing has changed. There is only fog and the rumble of the engine. I slowly step back toward the car door, keeping my pistol ready to unleash violence against any foe. Cautiously, my frame slides into the vehicle. The pistol is the last enter the cabin before the door is slammed shut. I look down to my hand, and to my surprise, it clean; not even wet. I look up to the windshield to find nothing smearing across the glass; just the wipers slowly going back and forth in the drizzle. My mind is messing with me; that is all it is. One must regain some essence of composure during these stretches of hysteria. I holster the weapon and take a swig from the bottle again. Deep breathes, deep breathes; enough with this madness; I drive onward.
The fog seems to thicken as the winding road offers no clear sense of destination. It makes no difference on how heavy my foot is on the accelerator; the objective of this journey is no closer. I slow the car to a crawl as the gauge flutters and teases with the empty and cruel E. There must be some sort of reason, some sort of solitude, for this passage to have come this point. My foot shifts and sinks the brake pedal into the floorboard with a slow, crushing action. The automobile stops, now frozen in time. The fog slowly swirls ahead in the beaming lights. It has if this car is a derelict ship at sea. The engine putters, gasping for the motivation to press onward as the last fumes of combustible essence fill its core. I sip from the bottle while the next move is contemplated. But alas, it is all for not. This trusty steed has run aground and will carry me no further.
The engine groans out its last whimpers and jerks its final futile moments of life before it becomes still as stone. The cigar burns at my lips as the last length of tobacco is turned to ash. Soon the smoky warm and companionship it provides will cease. The aurora of light around the cabin slowly begins to fade as the battery is drained of voltage. The encroaching darkness of the blanketing fog is all around. There is only one thing to do with the time left on this everlasting excursion. My hand again finds the pistol at my side, and the other finds the bottle with a few droplets of poisoning elixir; these are my only companions now. Any resemblance of the lost souls, which were mirages of camaraderie, have long turned to dust much like the cigar that once kept me company.
Suddenly, the mist stirs in the dwindling light. A sense of inescapable dread and gloom penetrates my soul. My fingers affirm their grip on the cool metal of the pistol. The fog quivers and suddenly doesn’t look like the all-encompassing mass it once was. Is there something moving outside my car door? I hold the pistol close; it is my only barbaric defense to the demons outside this car’s cabin. The last flickers of light try to illuminate the growing terror of the outside world, but it is an inept attempt. Shadows become the owner’s of this arena. Silence is all that my senses can obtain within the dark.
The slow progress of time in that instant is unbearable. My eyes are steady on the clouds all around. Every follicle of hair and each platelet of skin is awash in perspiration. My ears pick up on the steady beat of the heart in my chest and the struggle of my lungs to stretch with fresh oxygen, but there is something else that tickles my sense of hearing. It is a gentle whoosh in the air that loops over and over, as if something swings back and forth, and every-so-often it is paired with creak. Is it just the wind that is disturbing this cell of mine? The only answer I can give is the click of the hammer of my revolver.
Just as the sounds had disrupted the silence in the air, they vanish just as quickly. The deafening of nothingness drives my ears on the brink of madness. Suddenly a tingle starts to form around my neck. The hairs stand on end and the skin feels ablaze with irritation. Suddenly it dawns on me; the matches. I fumble in my pocket and pull out the small box of stick matches. They rattle in the box; the rattling seems to echo forever. I quickly set the pistol down and pull a match from the box. After a few strikes, the match engulfs into flame. I hold the source of dim and dwindling light up to the side window. The fog seems to be blowing and shifting swiftly now. But there is no wind? You fool; the car is moving.
Suddenly there is a mighty crash. All the windows shatter and send glass flying through the cabin. My body crumbles into the steering wheel before being flung across the dashboard. I am knocked out cold. The frame of the car bends this way and that like an aluminum can. The car wobbles on its wheels for a moment before becoming still once more. The scene is quiet as the fog blankets everything once more.
Slowly I regain consciousness. The same gentle whooshes and creaks as before tickle my eardrums. The pain around my neck returns, much stronger this time. It is as if my entire neck is burning. My eyes flutter, begging for the lids to open. They slowly do, and all there is around me is darkness. I am spread atop the dashboard, gazing upward into the darkness. The strange sensation of floating deludes my current state. My hands reach upward for something to grab a hold of, and strangely enough, they find something unexpected: rope. Thick fibers of coiled twine feel rough in my palm. The rope swings back and forth against my hands. Suddenly there is a bright flash that illuminates everything. In that moment, I see the rope that swings above me from a sturdy branch. It is not a sight I expected to see; it’s a hangman’s rope.
A mighty boom of thunder jolts me from my slumber. I spring upward from the dashboard to darkness. A flash of lightning brightens everything, and I glare up at the tree. There isn’t a rope hanging from any of the branches; there is nothing at all. The darkness returns just as quick and is joined by the slow-rolling thunder. I slowly tumble out of the car to the soggy ground. The grass is long and stiff as if it is a bed of nails. I claw through the soil toward the front of the car until my bearings and my strength return. Using the destroyed bummer and grill as leverage, I stand up. Another flash of lightning gives me sight just for a moment. But in that moment, there is only fog; the tree is gone.
I feel the front of the car in the darkness; it is in disrepair. I have no choice but to continue down this path on foot. The fog is thick and darkness is all that is around me. Slowly I stumble forward, weaving this way and that, with no clear distinction in direction. Thunder continues to rumble all around much like a church’s bell echoing through the hallowed ground. Droplets of rain start to fall from the heavens above. This is inconsequential to the trek before me. I continue my march through the dense mist even as the rain starts to pour. It splashes on my shoulders and back, pounding and pushing me downward with all of the storm’s desire.
The darkness of the storm and fog surround me as if I was in need of a thick blanket during a cold winter’s eve. Through the blackness I wander with no clear distinction of direction or destination. The rain pours, and the thunder howls; that is all there is. My gasps for breath are barely audible over the sound of the heavy drops of rain that pelt my trench coat. A bolt of lightning fills the sky and causes the fog to glow. In that moment, a shadowy figure appears before me. I draw my pistol, but the darkness returns much too quickly. “Who’s there?” I call out, but the only response is the thunder of the storm and the pouring rain. Another flash of electrons lights the fog, and the shadow appears much closer, almost within arm’s length. I fire my pistol as the scene goes black again. The flashes of my barrel disturb the dark, but I hit nothing.
Suddenly, the pounding rain slows to a drizzle within a matter of moments. I swing the pistol back and forth, aiming in all directions into the shadowy veil of the fog. I have no knowledge whether my tormentor has abandoned his prey or not, but my pistol is ready to bark fire if it comes too close. The ground feels soft underneath my boots as I slosh around in circles. My trigger finger is itchy, especially in the unknown force against me in darkness. Suddenly something grabs a hold of my wrists, and lifts them high above my head. The grip is strong and feels as cold as ice. I struggle and fire one shot up into the air. The flash lights up the face before me; it is mine.
Just as quickly as my wrists were bond, they are released. I tumble to the soggy clearing floor with a sudden loss of balance. It is as if my strength has been siphoned away from my very being. I struggle to my knees as a crash of lightning jars my nerves. I look up at the sudden flash of light, and all around me are shadows of gloomy figures. An eternity of time passes as they all stare down at me. They are all different shapes and sizes, and all glare down with blank faces.
I scamper backwards on my hands and feet, trying to crawl away from these villains, but no matter how hard I try, I they hover over me. I hold the gun upward and aim at all of them. They all approach, gliding effortlessly to me. I pull back on the trigger, but the gun does nothing. Again and again and again I pull on the trigger, but the weapon only clicks to my disappointment and bewilderment. I glare up to the figures with fright spread across my face. They continue remain emotionless, but as I frantically search my pocket for rounds of ammunition, each one slowly spawns a sliver blade. My fingers grasp one bullet from my pocket, and with great haste the bullet is jammed into the chamber of my pistol. The figures enclose one me; the cold chill of death breathes on my neck. I raise the pistol to them, but then turn it on myself. There is only one escape from this madness. I pull the trigger as darkness engulfs me. There is no flash from the barrel.
The body aches, and the soul stirs. Slowly but surely, feeling returns to me. My eyes flicker within my lids, and soon they are forced open. I gaze downward into the black abyss below my dangling frame. Wind howls through the bottomless chasm of damnation. There is no ground underneath my feet to stop this crucifixion from being complete. The plummet into the bleak darkness would be my ruin if not for the painful support that prevented such a tumble. All across my back, from neck to rear, knives have penetrated my hollowed and damaged body. Each knife has been stabbed into my deep; right to the soul. They are the only humanity that keeps me from the bottom of the void below. Without their cruelty and reckless abandonment for my well being, there would be nothing but a cadaver deep in the darkness. But alas, here I dangle above the cliff, with cold daggers so deep they pierce the heart and soul, knowing the only future is either a painful tearing away from the only representation of humanity that is left or to remain here bound by the razors, living in bleak submission of sympathy’s treachery.
She was warm in my hands. Even in the icy rain that showered down on me that fateful night, she felt warm in my hands in the dim moonlight. She must have been there for no longer than an hour; she was still surprisingly fresh and not sour. The chill and grim mist in the air did what it could do to cool her lifeless flesh, but it still felt warm to my touch in the grimy mess. Against the wishes of the rain and the steady stream of murky water that had trickled through the gutter, blood had remained pooled around her form in gothic manner. A flash of a camera, and a smoky crackle that was like thunder to my spine, lit the scene for an instant, and within that moment, the whole world seemed to be silent, still, and rather carelessly distant. It was not like the warmth within my grasp.
The passing world wouldn’t have noticed that scene on any other night. It was just a snippet, hardly a grain of sand, in the fabric of time and space that was unrelenting in its motion forward like any other night. Another flash from the camera, followed by another toll of bell, and the scene was frozen; locked in an inescapable cell. However, it was not the photograph that trapped this scene in a bondage of context, spectacle, and interpretation. It was the feeling of that setting, the atmosphere of that gloomy night, that will haunt my observation. She was still warm in my hands.
The cobblestones of the alley did nothing to cushion that giver of life. She would dance and beat no more after that fateful night. It took all my fortitude, all my constitution and will, to look down upon such a dismal sight. There was nothing I could do, nothing I could say, that would deter such feeling misery and blight. She was surprisingly strong, must have put up quite the fight, even though she had been battered, bruised, and cast out during every midnight. I could do no more with the horror at my feet. I called for my carriage and left the sight. All I could do was remember warmth, and hope that some pearly gates she did meet.
The horses thundered through the narrow streets; their hooves echoing off the bricks of the path and close-knitted buildings. The driver hopped from his perch atop the carriage and opened the door so I could quickly take my seat. However, I was in no mood to hurry from the graphic scene of dread amongst the dreary sleet. I marched past the powerful horses to my ride, and I swore their strong, bounding hearts could be heard from their chests. Thud-thud-thud-thud went their organs deep within their breasts. One last look back toward her was all I could muster. The thought of her warmness was all that conjured within my mind without much fluster.
Darkness engulfed me as I climbed into the carriage. I had escaped the rain from the heavens above, but the devilish carnage of the scene still clawed at my soul. The crack of a whip shook the foundation of my being, and away we went with great haste and flow. The carriage rumbled and tumbled through the town with a grim howl, and all I found myself doing was wandering back to that image of foul. No manner of comfort in that coach could resurrect me from the depression that weighed on me that eve for I found it cold and muggy like a moor once owned by thee. The lacking of the warmth that my fingers had once touched plagued my concentration that entire ride home.
To my bed chamber I did climb, hoping to escape the reality of the world and to leave her far behind. The rain continued outside, much harder than before, pounding the roof in a manner that resembled a drum. My soggy clothes fell from my body like a snake that had shed its skin, and in that moment of being cold and in the nude, I found myself surprisingly numb. My flesh was balmy and cool, unlike the smooth, warm touch of hers. Enough of that madness and dreary thought; to bed I went to forget the mortal sin and dark plot. But no manner of bedding or furs warmed my slumber; all I could think of was her warmth and temperature.
My eyes felt heavy, and against the wishes of the outside world, I fell into sleep. Tossing and turning, my rest was disturbed with the nightmares that did creep. They seeped into my consciousness, these dreams for me to keep, and soon there she was in front of me as I counted sheep. So full of life and love she once was. Even through all the turmoil, the unrelenting strain, and the constant need to resist every perversion that would do her harm, she remained true to her cause. No manner of destruction seemed to stop or tarnish the thought of beauty, love, and compassion that fueled her strength. The auras of beauty and romance were what attracted her the most, and to obtain this she went to such great length. But no manner of travels seemed to fulfill her need for warmth.
Closer she came to me; she was so full of desire. Each step she took sent trembles through the air. Boom-boom-boom-boom; each strike of the chord stimulated my passion for her love and made it into a raging fire. I could feel with warmth of what I saw and inspired, especially in my breast. With great determination and will, it took a leap of faith into the dismal quagmire to retrieve the long sunken chest. The key is old, sturdy and worn, especially in these dark times, but no manner of lock was to keep affection from being born. Her hands gently pressed against my chest, and they felt warm; just like the standard norm.
But the stroke of midnight did much to unravel such a blissful dream. Gong-gong-gong-gong – like old father time – and all happiness was tore away at the seam. The warmth of her touch across my breast vanished. The strain was intense, a pain unlike no other, and she was ripped away and banished. Screams filled my ears, blocking all that would be music in my slumbering delusion. She, my once loving, compassionate mistress, was then turned into a vile mirage of fear. No longer was she warm to the touch. She was cold as ice and left me in great distress.
Broken was my slumber, and upward from the sheets my body sprang. My revolver on nightstand was my protection against all evil, and my hands quickly grasped the cold steel of the firearm. BANG!-BANG!-BANG! My shots echoed through the chamber, but no manner of bullets could stop the evil that lingered. I stretched the pistol ahead of me, into the darkness of my room, but there was nothing, nothing at all. The wind howled outside my bedroom window, rattling pictures on the far wall. I shouted for the demon to show itself; I got no response. I clenched at my chest; my heart should have been racing and ready to launch. But there was nothing, nothing at all.
There was no pounding or turmoil within my breast. My organ should have been furiously beating as if to abandon its nest. But nothing, nothing at all resonated from my chest. I was awestruck with fear and terror until it all became clear. The images of her laying there on the stones brought back the feeling of dread and fear. Instead of the being full of life and passion which once was her calling, she was shattered, abandoned, and trampled from continually falling. She was what I cherished most in this reality, my reason for living, and all that was left was a hole in my humanity.
There I sat, amongst the covers of my bed, the feeling of nothingness enveloping my fat. There was no life, no passion, remaining within me in a world that was for the taking. She had fought with all her might, but sadly, she couldn’t withstand my blight. Forward time went, into a future so bleak, with me playing the living dead, a lifeless wreck. No compassion, no love, healed the grave that was left. She was all I had, and all the warmth I felt came from her; she was a piece of art. T’was miserable what happened to her my beloved heart.