Oncoming Traffic

A series of short stories, all under 1000 words, on a variety of themes.

Against your better judgement, I walk along the road. You look at me like I'm some sort of child; I'm not sure I like it. You keep looking and it almost makes me want to cry. I walk more slowly to keep up with you. We used to skip and run and laugh together but we've grown up since then. We used to hold hands and were friends to the end (of whatever our childish minds perceived that week) but our worlds have changed, and they cannot go back. Neither can we. You tell me about the birds fluttering past my head, spraying their cries and excrement wherever they please. We listen for cars, vans, lorries... but the air is quiet.

I can see you from the far side of the room, staring blankly onwards as if there is something unbelievably fascinating that needs to be observed but I can't see it. I want to reach out and pull you into my arms again but you're too far away, so far that I don't imagine I'll ever get to you. I can still picture that smile and hear the adventure in your voice when we spent our younger decades talking about living on the moon and using that magical phrase 'one day'. You remain where you are, impassive and unmoving, and I watch the tears try not to roll down my face. I hear you tell me everything will be better soon and I agree with my laughter. I blink and look away, tilt my head, and stop breathing.

You join me in the road, sneering away any of your doubts. We link arms as we always have and pull together for strength and warmth. We play hide and seek with our sun, knowing that it has ducked behind a cloud but letting it think we can't see it. We pretend, for fear of the real. Your ear is always in the wind, tugging on me whenever anything dangerous comes our way. I like to leave it to the last second, I like the rush more than you do, more than you ever did. Your eyes meet mine and we cry for what could have been and smile at what is. We were friends throughout time, a constant through past, present and future.

I'm allowed to touch you. My hand rests on your face and our eyes meet for what I'm afraid will be the last time. My heart slows and your life flashes before my eyes. I see behind your silent lips all the brewing arguments, all the mellifluous songs, all the heartfelt insults. There is something stirring at the back of my mind, a feeling that covers me and saddens me. Your eyes are blue with a hint of green. Your fingernails are overgrown. Your feet are protruding: you never did like them, did you?

We used to walk for hours. We were covered in blisters but it didn't matter, we were made of sterner stuff. You didn't like me spitting on the roadside; I didn't like you knowing where we were. I ask you where we're going but you don't understand. At the junction, you turn left and I turn right; our separate ways take us to our separate homes.

They tell me something I don't want to hear, they nod solemnly. No, not yet. I wish I had been there at the end, I wish I could have helped. I ignore my uselessness and kiss you softly. Your skin is cold. I don't want to breathe again but my love makes me. "You stay with me," I tell you, and you do.

I feel overwhelmed by light and noise. This is not our road anymore; this city belongs to someone else. But I linger, a phantom of the never-known past. I remain on street corners and force the memories to come back; I will time to turn around and do something different. My eyes clench shut in pain and a bloody, rapturous scream escapes me.

And the road is mine again. We walk together, against our better judgement, down that familiar path. But you aren't there to save me anymore.

The End

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