((Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Today, I’ll be revisiting a story that I wrote way back when. Enjoy!))
The raindrops made a constant, soothing thud as the pattered against the windshield. Even with the wipers at full speed, my view of the road ahead was obscured. I still drove at my normal speed – much faster than the limit. Inside, there was little noise besides the engine and the breathing of my passenger.
Looking over, I saw her sleeping peacefully, knees brought close to her chest in the passenger’s seat. Wispy brown hair veiled her face from sight. She and I had been friends since high school: nothing more, nothing less. I relied on her to survive English class, she trusted me with her Mathematics grade. Finding out that we were going to the same college was thrilling. I was secretly elated that I would be seeing her for the next four years. She was quite possibly my best friend at college, and we always watched out for the other.
As if she knew I was talking about her, she stirred slightly, her hair sliding further across her face. I smiled to myself, and looked back at the sharp turn in the road. A moment later, I realized what I saw. The brakes squealed, but the tires refused to touch the ground. All of a sudden, my hands wrenched the wheel to the left, a desperate move to avoid the inevitable. The car was now in an uncontrollable skid, slipping off the road – straight towards a stand of burly oak trees. Her face contorted as she woke up, eyes full of fear. I had just enough time to give her an apologetic glance.
___ ___ ___
A crunch of metal, then nothing.
Hearing was shot, vision fading. Just turning my head towards her is an ordeal. Bright red blood is trickling from the corner of her mouth, her ears, her scalp. Exhausted from the effort of keeping my head up, I start to lapse out of consciousness. My eyes open, staring straight at her midsection. They instantly close, repelled by what they had seen. I try to open them again, but it’s impossible.
___ ___ ___
I felt someone shaking my shoulder. “Wake up,” the voice cried. Groaning slightly, I rose to my feet, blinking several times to accommodate the sterile white background. Her baby-blue eyes wave with a mixture of concern and confusion. “Where are we?” She asks.
Examining our surroundings, I reply, “I’m not sure.” I can guess, but I won’t tell her that until I’m absolutely positive.
A single hallway branched off the small room that we were in. The two of us headed in that direction until we hit a T-junction. On our left, there was a sign that read ‘Caution. Possible asbestos and brimstone leak ahead. Do not enter without proper protection.’ To the right was a large mahogany door with a gold plaque that read, “Library”. Past that was a dead end. Our choices fairly limited, I opened the door to the library. She walked through, and I followed. The neutral colors of the large room were a relief from the harsh whiteness of the hall.
As libraries went, this one was small. There were a handful of reading chairs and two tables. In the corner were two doors, and at the far end of the room was a service desk. She turned towards me. “I’ll go try to get a librarian. Could you go see where those two doors go?” Nodding, I walked towards the closest door. My hand was on the knob when I heard the chime of a bell. Smiling at her determination, I entered the darkened room. I groped at the wall, searching for a switch. Finding one, I flicked it on. As the room was flooded with fluorescent light, my eyes widened.
There was no ceiling, at none that I could see. Rows after rows of shelving units seemed to extend forever. Looking down one row, the lack of walls was self-evident. No shortage of books, however. Reaching for the closest book, I opened it near the middle. It was blank. Confused, I turned to the first page. In the center of the page was a name and year of birth. Turning the page, I saw information regarding the person’s parents, time and day of birth, and other information that would be seen on a birth certificate. Waste of pages, I told myself as I picked up another book. It was very similar to the first. I walked past a row or two before picking up another book. This one had maybe a page or two of information, adding such trivial facts as first words and incoherent thoughts.
Heading down the row, I was so transfixed by the sheer size of this annex to the library that I didn’t notice where I was walking. My foot hit something hard, and I let out a cry of pain. Looking at what struck me, I saw a scooter resting, its silver sheen dulled with age. I examined it, trying to tell if it was still functional. All I saw was a black screen, and two buttons: Power and Navigation. Pushing the Power button caused the scooter to sputter to life. Rolling the vehicle out into the aisle, I steered it towards the far ‘wall’ and began to drive. For an old vehicle, it zipped along at a decent pace.
I traveled along until I felt a thin, sticky substance on my body. Apparently, this section hadn’t been used recently, as the cobwebs told. Stopping the scooter, I stepped into the closest row. Picking up a novel at random, I blew the dust off the surface and turned it to the first page. It had a name, birth year and death year. Skimming through the text, I noted that every page had been written in. The absolute last page told of the man’s peaceful death, surrounded by his family members and given his last rites. Closing the tome, I placed it back into the gap in the shelves. An uneasy feeling began to come over me. As I headed back to the scooter, I began to piece together what this annex really contained.
Pushing the Navigation button on the scooter activated a touch screen, which asked for name and date of birth. Calmly, I entered my data, and the scooter leaped forward, sprinting into a row. Stopping harshly in of one of the sections, the vehicle’s headlight was shined directly on an orange binding. Pulling out the book, I opened to the first page. Skimming through, I recalled many memories from my life. The book didn’t neglect a single detail, up to the most recent incident. The last page with writing on it told, in sickening detail, of my crash. However, there were still blank pages after it. Turning back to the first page, I saw my name and birth year, but no death year. “I’m not dead,” I told myself as I returned the book.
With a slightly quavering hand, I entered her name and date of birth into the navigation system. The scooter rolled a little further down the row and came to a stop in front of a thin, forest green book. Going straight to the last page, the story told of how the car smashed against the tree at such a sharp angle that the frame tore through her body, ending her life almost instantly. I shuddered, remembering the portrait in my mind with crystal clarity. Flipping to the first page, I saw the death year, the current year. Skimming through, I saw her childhood memories, her school years, and some of her secrets. There were no blank pages. She’s dead, I thought, followed by I killed her. Bringing a hand to my head, I returned the book and drove the scooter back to the entrance of the annex.
I had closed the door behind me when I heard the sound of someone approaching. I saw her slowly walking towards me, face slightly pale. Upon noticing that I was there, she quickly went back to her normal expression and gait. “Are you okay?” she asked me.
“Yeah,” I found myself saying reflexively, “I’m fine. Any luck?”
She shook her head. “Nope. I rang the bell twenty or so times, but no one came. What was back there?”
I fell silent for a second, and then replied, “Just the biography section.”
“Oh.” She wasn’t convinced, but didn’t push the matter any further. With a half-shrug, she walked to the door that I hadn’t gone in, and opened it.
We walked down another sterile hallway. The place seemed to be like a maze, but she knew exactly where she was going. After what seemed to be an endless string of twists and twirls, I finally turned to her. “Are you sure you know where we’re going?”
She gave me that smile, and said, “I found a layout of the building while going through an enormous Information Directory. It had anything that you could ever want to search for.”
Such as obituary listings, I worried, which might have explained her pale face. We came across a set of double doors. Giving me that all-knowing glance, she pushed the doors open and we stepped out into a clearing.
There was a gravel path that led off into the distance. Besides this path, all that I could see was grass in every direction. I turned back to the door, only to find that it wasn’t there. The path continued behind us, with flowers springing up from the fringes of the path. I couldn’t decide which direction to go, so I turned to her. After a moment’s thought, she headed in the direction of the flowered path. My foot shot out, causing her to flounder for a pace. The moment she regained her balance, she glared at me in mock hatred. Balling her hands into fists, she started at me. Smirking, I turned tail and fled.
Gravel crunched underneath my feet as I ran from her in ‘fear’. I could hear her laughter as she tried to keep up. My teeth flashed as I twisted around to see her. She was barely within view. Turning forwards, my smile faded. Slowing to a stop, her footsteps grew louder. Small fists beat on my back, but I felt nothing. “What’s wrong?” she asked, looking over my shoulder. “Oh.”
Our path led straight to a gorge. Looking down it, there was nothing but the blackest of black. The ravine was narrow, between three and four meters wide. Could we make it? I asked myself. Could she? I was completely at a loss for words. She moved right beside me. “Let’s see if we can’t find a gap in this ravine,” I heard. The two of us split up and followed the fissure, planning to yell as loud as we could if we came across a suitable crossing.
I walked along the gorge for a few minutes, wondering what kind of twisted heaven the two of us were in. If it’s really heaven, a small voice in my head remarked. For all you know, this could just be a really bad dream. The argument was still raging in my mind when I reached the end of the world. There was a distinct line where the grass was cut off and replaced with a flat white coating. The sky had disappeared as well. Reaching a hand to the white, my fingertips pressed against a cold, hard wall. Just another room… Sighing, I went back to the path.
A moment later, she reappeared at my side. “Any luck?” I asked, and she shook her head. “Same with me.” Looking at the ravine, I commented, “Seems jumpable, with a running start. Not waiting for her to tell me what an idiot I was, I took many steps backwards and gauged the leap one last time. Charging ahead at full speed towards the ravine, I could have sworn that it was getting wider. What was originally a three meter leap had now become a good five meters. I attempted to skid to a stop before I fell over the edge. Gravel slipped out from underneath my feet, and I crashed into the path painfully. Stones flew over the edge and into the ravine.
I laid on my back, letting the wind come back into my body. Rolling off of the path, I managed to rise to a seated position. She held out her hand to help me up, and I took it. Blinking several times I stared at the pit. Slowly, a smile crept to my face. I kicked another stone over the edge, and watched it fail to fall. Crouching, I scooped up a handful of gravel. “What are you doing?” she asked, a puzzled look on her face. “Ever see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?” I replied, tossing the gravel into the air. Some stones fell into the pit, but most were suspended in midair.
She still seemed skeptical. Holding her hand in mine, I whispered, “Trust me.” My foot hovered over the edge, and then dropped down onto a sturdy, hard surface. “See? Piece of cake.” Fortunately, the path was too narrow for us to walk side by side, and she wasn’t able to see the beads of sweat dripping down my face. After we were back on solid ground, I gave her a lopsided grin. Our fingers remained entwined as we walked down the path.
My head was starting to ache. With each step, the throbbing seemed to get greater. The dull pain refused to let me focus on anything but the migraine. Her mere presence, however, was mildly soothing to my nerves. In the distance, I could see another gorge, but this one had a visible bridge. A thick fog covered the ravine, and the far side was invisible. Upon closer examination, the bridge looked old, yet sturdy. Like everything else in this place, I reminded myself as I tried to get closer.
The headache was bad before the bridge, but it intensified when I was close. I stopped at the base of the ravine, a hand to my head. She turned towards me, a worried look on her face. “I need to stop and rest for a bit,” I told her, and she nodded.
“I wondered why you looked so ill. My turn to look around,” She replied. Her foot was on the first of the planks, and I had a strange feeling pass through my body.
“Wait!” I yelled out, and she came back. A hundred different things went through my mind, which did no good for my headache. “I have something to tell you…” I trailed off.
A slight quiver raced across her face, but it was gone as soon as it appeared. “There’s no need for you to tell me,” She said, a partial smile coming to the surface.
“What?!?” I retorted without thinking.
“Not yet,” She continued, the smile blossoming. “I’ve waited this long to hear it.” Another step, and we were inches apart.” I think I can wait a little longer.” Her lips brushed against mine, and then we embraced. “Anyways,” she added, “I think I know what you’re going to tell me.”
“You do?” I inquired. Did I even know what I was going to say?
“Of course,” She answered, pulling away from me. “I’ll see you on the other side.” She stepped back onto the bridge. “You can tell me then.”
I managed to stay on my feet long enough to see her disappear behind the wall of mist. Then, I slumped to a seated position, my head buried between my knees. The migraine was getting worse by the second, now that there was nothing else to focus on. I fell backwards, lying flat on the grass. It was cool and relaxing, much better than the whining noise that made listening impossible. I closed my eyes, welcoming the darkness that it gave.
___ ___ ___
“CLEAR!!!” Lightning coursed through my body, as my chest leaped in the air. The whine came back, followed by another “CLEAR!!!” More lightning, and I could feel my body twitching involuntarily. “CLEAR!!!” My eyes shot open, and my head flew forward, gasping for air.
___ ___ ___
An oxygen mask was put on my face as they picked me up and placed me on a gurney. The stroboscopic red and blue lights were in painful contrast with the black, night sky. The rain had stopped, but clouds blocked my view of the moon or stars. I don’t know what they put in the gas, but I was quickly fading. My head barely turned to the side, and saw the bag. A paramedic was reaching for the zipper. I wanted to scream for him to stop, wanted to leap from the gurney and embrace her one last time, see her one last time.
I didn’t have the strength to move, didn’t have the energy to cry out. All I could do was watch the person close the bag. He and another person picked the bag up and put it in the back of a police SUV, and then close the trunk. At the same moment, another paramedic put the gurney into the ambulance. With a click, the doors closed, and the ambulance drove away from the crash. The SUV headed in another direction. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t feel as upset about the two of us heading in different direction as I would have before the accident. Maybe it was because I knew we wouldn’t be separate forever. I’ll see you on the other side, I mouthed as I fell unconscious.