A dreary night spent in a rusty stationwagon, and the exhaustion trickles down my spine like the shaking drops on the windshield. I hear the creak and slide of the wipers, the rumble of the semis as they whip a muddy spray across my vehicle, and the faint whistle and whine of a window not quite closed. And yet, to the ticking in my mind, the moment is deathly silent.
When the final exit nears, I pull from the highway like a crow turning for the roost. The humming of the engine cuts off, and I slow into town, my chest tight against the seatbelt as I decelerate. Amber lights splash across my windshield, and the rain is suddenly present on the rooftop. The stoplight flashes green, and I follow the blurred lights of the vehicle in front.
I navigate the streets with patient curves and a gentle foot on the gas until I bump into the parking lot of a rundown motel on the edge of an industrial park. I park around the back by the dumpsters and then sit in silence as the engine settles.
Have I gone far enough? Will they find me here?
After some preparatory minutes, I unlatch the door and step down into the mud of a lifeless retreat. The door slams shut, the sound dull and graceless, and the crunching of my boots across the wet gravel is magnified until every particle of dirt is being ground into my ears.
I reach the cement walk against the building, and the ache across my forehead releases tension; a bed is awaiting.
I pull the collar up on my jacket and tighten my shoulders with a shiver before entering the burning light of the office.
"A wet one," croaks the man leaning behind the counter.
"All the more reason to get a room," I murmur.
"O' course," he replies, moving from his stool to fetch a room key.
"And are you alone?" asks the man.
"Very...very...alone," I respond.
His mouth moves to form the first of a sentence, but he says not a word. I take the key and hand him a few tattered twenties. Then I raise the key a fraction, nod my head, and retreat.
As I walk the cement path once more with the spitting rain, I feel an urgency enter my legs. I need to lock out the world. I cannot help it. The fear rises in my chest, and I break into a run, my boots clunking pathetically across the cement, my coat dragging me down, and the key held in a single tight fist.
The room is plain, ordinary, and false of any emotion. The warmth is second-hand, the comfort of the walls only temporary, and the bed an illusion of relaxation. I drop my coat, stumble from my boots, and hit the bed with a disatisfying impact.
Am I safe? Can I rest?
Somewhere, a vehicle crunches into a lot. A siren rises pale and distant. The rain has followed me here.
An hour passes and I reluctantly sink into the simple comfort of the room. My fears subside, my worries grow numb, and my mind falls breathlessly from the carousel of floating conclusions.
But just as I feel that the night has settled and the day will say no more, the phone rings harsh and shrill through the room. I freeze. And yet, my insides have turned to flame.
Through the steady hum of my mind and the shaking of my limbs, I somehow find myself kneeling on the floor with my hands flat on either side of the phone. How can I answer when I know it must be the call of an ill fate? It rings again, adding to the urgency that has accumulated in my chest.
I lift the receiver.