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A Short Story - Page 3

  • A Matter of Certain Gravity
  • Dalipalooza
  • Internal Uprising
  • Slow Suicide
  • After who knows how long, the faces ceased to be a comfort, and instead elicited a feeling of unease. So I slowly started opening my eyes, afraid to do it all a once – at an almost imperceptible rate, like a child pretending to be asleep but still trying to peek at what was going on around them. I noticed that it was beginning to get light again.

    At first I thought it might be some sleight of mind, but it did in fact appear that the sun was coming back to light my place in the world. Which was heartening on one hand, but also frightening, as I feared the return of the daunting disassociation with my physical surroundings.

    Instead another emotion trumped the disassociation. The ever-broadening dawn brought on a sense of time slowed almost to a standstill. Or rather, a sense of the enormity of time that stretched out before me. Or maybe a bit of both perhaps.

    Now it seemed that I would never get to where I was going, which was odd considering I had no idea how far it was. Which wasn't to say that I wouldn’t be able to physically accomplish it, but that mentally the distance of the time it would take to get there was too much to conquer. Had a watch been on my wrist, I'm almost certain I would have looked at it every three minutes or so, swearing that an hour had passed, wondering if the battery was running low – that sort of sitting at your desk at work at 3:48 on a Friday afternoon feeling of fatigued time. I knew this only because the sun refused to rise at what I had deemed to myself as a sufficiently acceptable rate. Worse yet, the mere thought of having to walk – no, having to exist, let alone accomplish anything – was almost mind-boggling. The sheer number of minutes, seconds to endure seemed insurmountable.

    I tried half-closing my eyes in a vain attempt to visualize faces again; any sort of distraction would be useful. But it was no use.

    And I was becoming parched, almost dangerously so. Very few things are more frightening than a mouth that refuses to maintain its naturally saturated state – not being able to breathe being one of them. Which, oddly enough, I had almost half-conquered. Oh I still had to work at it but by some strange fluke of adaptability I was almost becoming accustomed to it. Perhaps it was becoming less of a concern, now that I was dying of thirst. Which was odd, considering that out of any human necessity, air is the one we can do without the least amount of time. But I guess I had all the air I needed.

    In a fit of utter despair, and possibly unequalled self-pity, I actually began crying. Which was no easy task under my dehydrated circumstances, and frightening in it's own right. I knew what those tears were made out of, and was convinced that I was feeding my anguish with the last remaining water in my body. It was just that there was too much time in front of me to bear, I was an anachronism in a modern world that seemed to function with nary a minute to spare.

    So there I was, a parched and whimpering wreck, somehow managing to keep my feet stepping one in front of the other, left right, left right, seeing the world around me, but not really sensing it, and on the other hand feeling completely overwhelmed by the passage of time. Too say that I had a headache, the epicenter being the bloody spot on the back of my head, would be and understatement – headache doesn’t even describe the throbbing that marched in time with my heartbeat. My joints were all nearly numb from soreness, particularly my right hip that seemed to have borne the brunt of my tumble. Even the numerous scrapes and abrasions all began to hurt, a complete breakdown of my capacity for pain. I kept reminding myself to breathe through the thinly salty sobs.

    I rounded a corner, and there was a parking lot. At first it seemed a mirage, not so much an oasis in the desert, but rather the opposite. A small cement square with about fifteen or twenty parking stalls painted on in neat white rows, and a small outbuilding.

    I stopped walking, and consequently stopped breathing until my lungs protested, waiting to make sure it was real, and not just akin to the floating parade of faces I had witnessed earlier. It remained in front of me, somewhat comforting. But not even this sign of civilization could ease my emotional state. Despair of that caliber was not salved so quickly.

    With a wipe of my wrist, I dried the tears off of my face, and began walking again, not as urgently as you would imagine, but resolute nonetheless.

    It was a quick descent down the small hill to the parking lot, which held only one car. Working under the assumption that it was mine, I walked up to it and tried the driver's side door. Even if I could get in, there was the matter of what I would do after that. I had no idea if I could drive, although I assumed I still could, but where to go? As it turned out, the door was locked.

    I took off my backpack and rummaged around, this time more thoroughly. Sure enough, hiding down in the bottom corner of the large compartment, was a single key on a plastic key fob. It read ‘Ford’, which was the make of the car in front of me, so I tried it. The door unlocked.

    Tentatively I opened the door – I had a feeling of trespassing even though it was obviously my car. I was happy to sit down for a moment, marveling at the modern world held within this steel frame, surprised that I had even made it back. Shortly I noticed a piece of paper folded up on the dashboard, with a gold ring sitting on top of it. I picked up the ring, eyeing it suspiciously, then unfolded the paper and read the writing that was on it.

    Which apparently was my suicide note.

    After I finished reading it twice, I looked at the ring again. Looking down at the ring finger on my left hand, I noticed a lightly indented, polished smooth band of skin up by the third knuckle – slightly lighter in color than the rest of my hand. I slipped the ring on, and sure it enough it fit.

    The note had been written to my wife. Among the profuse apologies, I gathered that the world had been too much for me, that a constant battering of daily life had worn down my resolve to the point that it had come to the point where there was only one option. Suicide.

    It was odd to be sitting there, holding the ultimate goodbye note, a note of such magnitude, a note which I had no recollection of writing. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw my face – the face, for sure enough the man with the beard was I. The beard was gone and the glasses, most likely lost in the fall, were gone, but it was the same sullen face underneath. Suddenly a knock came on the window. I hadn't noticed anyone pull up in the otherwise deserted lot.

    I stuffed the note into my pocket, and rolled down the window. It was a park ranger.

    "Professor McNichols?" he asked. I assumed that this was I, so I nodded my head. "Well, it looks like I found you. Your wife had reported you missing, said you had come up here two days ago for a hike, alone no less. Not a good idea in the backcountry, ya know."

    "I know," I replied.

    "Are you all right?"

    "Fine," I managed, "a little parched, but fine. I uh… fell down."

    "Fell down?"

    "Yes, down a ravine, but I'm OK now. Somewhat. I think I'll make it." I managed a grin, stretching my painfully dry mouth, which must've looked terrible because the ranger's face grew more concerned. I couldn't think of anything else to say, so we sat there in a silent stalemate, staring blankly at each other. Then I began to cry again.

    "I fell down."

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