A short story written as part of the Summer Prose Competition 2011 Challenges 1 and 2
I was looking for answers I didn’t think would ever come. Was any of it worth it? Was that bitter pain that lasted forever worth a few moments of fleeting bliss?
I must have been driving for hours, or maybe even days. I was somewhere between the deserts of Nevada and the endless plains of the Midwest. In the places where the stars were just close enough to touch, to taste. I was alone, but that was a feeling I’d long since grown accustom to. Only me and my thoughts and the demon in the backseat.
It was the monster that had gotten me into this whole mess. If not for her tantalizing ways, I’d be back in California beneath the setting sun. I’d be lost in the waves and the ecstasy of the summer that never quite managed to fade. But no, those things had been stolen from me one by one. The monster had gotten her hands on me; once in her grasp there was no turning back. I’d been forced to leave behind the only life I’d ever known.
I was scanning the sides of the road for a sign, anything to reveal where I was. Or perhaps I’d simply fallen off the map, and I was floating in the confines of my own imagination. Lost. I was craving a cigarette, a smiling face, a hand to hold that would let me know it would all be okay. Mostly just a cigarette.
It was these thoughts consuming me and taking my focus off the road. My eyes drooped ever so slightly, both from exhaustion and the desperate longing to feel the monster in my arms once again. Because sometimes we all just needed an escape, and there was nothing that could take me so very far from all the sorrows of the world.
When I turned my attention back to the road, it was with a harsh shriek that fell from my lips and broke through the silence of the night. My screams echoed through the car as I frantically slammed on the breaks. For there, directly in my path, was a little girl. She made no movement, only cocked her head and stared as my car came screeching right towards her. A thousand curses fell from my lips..oh, God, she was too close...I wasn’t going to make it.
And then, as abruptly as she had been there, she was gone. But it was too late to stop my car from its sliding. Every muscle in my body tightened for what I knew was coming next. The car collided with a tree off the side of the road, sending me slamming into the wheel.
The deathly quiet that followed suit was much more alarming than anything else. It took me a moment to regain control of my body, for all of the shock to wear off. “S--t,” I muttered under my breath. It was all I could think to say. My door creaked on the hinges as I opened it, stepping out into the shrouding darkness. High above me, a million tiny stars were flickering and glowing. Lighting the way for all the world, giving them something to wish and hope on. I was long past the point of wishing and hoping for anything except the monster.
I didn’t have much to take with me. A small bag with a change of clothes inside, and my beautiful demon. They say that addiction is a disease, a sickness. And that drugs are killers in disguise. But I say that addiction is the cure, and that drugs are sometimes the only things we can truly count on. A coping method, certainly, but also a chance to be something else. Something darker, greater.
I’d have killed for a fix just about then. It wouldn’t have been hard to fill the needle, to find a vein just begging for the venom. Instead I sighed. “Come on, Vince. Hold yourself together,” I whispered, and started off into the night.
With each passing mile I walked, I was plagued with memories better left untouched. Nights from my childhood, listening to my parents scream. Days as a teenager, when I’d been so sure I had everything figured out. That was before I met the monster, the demon who caressed me so lovingly. I had been nineteen the first time I’d allowed her into my life, young and naïve and longing for a place to call home. I’d believed myself to be invincible then. Oh, what illusions had deceived me so.
The thing about heroin is that it doesn’t seem like it’s taking over, not in the beginning. At first it seems easy, a quick injection brings you to a place where you cant feel a damn thing, not the bad or the good or anything else. When it started to catch up to me, when the withdrawal set in, that was when it all turned to dust. People I loved abandoned me, and I hurt them just as much. More, probably.
But the monster is so blinding, so persuasive. It was easy to forget the wrongs I had done when I was down so low there was nothing but my reverberating heartbeat. Leaving had been one of the hardest things I’d ever done. I could only believe it had been a necessary pain.
My gaze had been fixed on the toes of my worn out Converse, but now I looked up and took in all my surroundings. There was mostly a lot of nothingness, fields and the road the stretched on into eternity. The moon offered what light it could, and the rest of the world was covered in shadows. I squinted into the distance, trying to pick out any shapes looming upon the horizon. For a long time, there was nothing but the cloudless sky.
But then I saw it, half concealed by the haze and the dark of the night. A house, not so very far off. Pushing my matted black hair roughly away from my face, I clutched my bag to me and took off, sprinting in the direction of the house. With the wind whipping past my face, I felt freer than I had in a long time. I could’ve gone on like that forever, run and run until I hit the Virginia coast, until the Atlantic was sprawled out at my feet.
Instead I came to a halt before the house, taking it all in. Wooden walls towered three stories above me, a skeleton hand reaching into the sky. The windows were covered up; no light broke free from inside. The steps to the door were mostly in shambles. I assumed it safe to say that it was abandoned.
My footsteps were hesitant, but soon I had reached the front door. With trembling fingers I turned the handle, pushed the door inward. The floorboards creaked beneath me, an ear-piercing sound in the still of it all. “Hello?”I called out, hating myself for the way my voice shake. Fear was not something I wished to admit.
Just when I was certain I was alone, that the house was some twisted miracle, a sanctuary till the morning, I heard it. A high pitched giggle that bounced off the walls. “Who’s there?” I shouted in a panic, spinning around in search of the laughter.
“Who’s there?” Came a mimicking tone from somewhere in the darkness. My heart was thudding away in the cage of my chest, blood boiling and hair standing on end. “Peek-a-boo!”
I very nearly tripped, whirling around towards the sound of the voice. The figure who stepped forward from the shadows was not what I’d been expecting. With wide eyes I stared, for never had I seen anything so flawless, so beautiful.
The girl brushed back a strand of blonde curls. “Hello,” she murmured. My eyes ran over her body, eyes wide with an innocent demure, lips parted ever so slightly.
“Uh, hi,” I managed to choke out. Everything about the moment felt so surreal. She was an angel, a wingless angel fallen from the sky and come to me. Every fiber of my being longed to go to her, to take her up in my arms. There was something in her eyes that said she was broken just like me, and my body was aching to hold her close and promise it would be okay.
Instead I stayed where I was, frozen, motionless. With the monster whispering in my mind, it was hard to do anything. The demon’s voice was pleading and begging for me. And the angel was staring at me like I was some kind of crazy person.
“What’re you doing here?” I asked her eventually, because no other words would form. The girl giggled again, running her hands over her hips to smooth out her long white dress. I hadn’t noticed it before, but, yes, she was wearing a full dress. White like a bride. I couldn’t help but note how all the air was leaving my lungs.
“I live here, silly boy,” she told me. Her voice was velvet, soft and smooth. “What are you doing here?”
“Car troubles,” I grunted. All the while wondering how such a succulent creature could live in such a dank and musty place.
In the blink of an eye, the girl was before me, pale face hovering inches from my own. I swallowed hard, dared to meet her golden gaze. Her rosy lips turned up into a smile. “Come on,” she whispered, reaching out to take my hand. Her tiny fingers were cold in my own; she linked them together and gave them a gentle squeeze. “You can stay with me tonight.”
I’m not sure why, but no words had ever sounded so sweet.