My chest hurt with the irregular, overworked contractions of my heart. My legs ached with every step I made down the gravel road. Escaped tears mixed with beads of cold sweat stung the corners of my eyes and mouth. I was faintly aware that the growing patch of dampness in my hair at the base of my neck was not perspiration gathering on my collar, but blood.
The crunch of footfalls behind me grew louder and closer. I stumbled over my own feet, panic gripping me like a mess of cobwebs; their icky, stringy ghost-like touch sending horrible sensations all over my skin. For a moment, I wanted to look behind me, despite my forward momentum, to see if he was still chasing me. NO! Something screamed at me not to. But out of the corner of my eye, I saw anyway. That figure of a man, running up to catch me.
I screamed. And screamed. And screamed as his hands reached out and gripped my arms.
“SARAH!” a voice said firmly. Equally firm hands were shaking me to consciousness, relaxing into gentle cradles as soon as the owner realised that focus was returning to my wide open eyes. “Breathe, Sarah. Breathe,” the voice told me. The hands neither pushed me into a sitting position, nor kept me lying flat down. My trembling, stiff muscles kept me in a fetal position. As I drew in haggard breaths, I realised I was staring at the internal wall of the inside of a jeep. My jeep. Mine and Johnny’s jeep.
Hot tears ran down my face, and my breathing turned into choked sobs. “Hey, hey ,hey. It’s okay. It’s okay,” his voice floated to me, soothing and deep. His hands had let go of my shoulders the moment I turned to the wall, but now returned to rub my arms. I grabbed the head of a seat and pulled myself into a sitting position. I didn’t realise how much I was shaking until his calm hands gripped mine and rubbed my back.
My breathing evened out, and I began to stare off into space, trying to clam my flurry of empty thoughts. Johnny sat up beside me and leaned back against the seats, pulling me into a warm cuddle. I heard his heart beat, steady and constant. His warm hand cupped my neck and massaged the back of my head.
The inside of the jeep was cramped and hot, but I was shivering. Johnny didn’t ask me any questions, didn’t press me for any explanation. Honestly, I don’t know if I could have told him anyway. About how Paul still haunted my dreams. How the memory of him still terrified my subconscious. I tried very hard not to relive my last moments with him. How he knocked me down with a wrench and pinned me down with his body. How I had to drive a screwdriver into his eye to get him off me. How his blood splattered all over my face and chest. So much blood. How I kept stabbing and stabbing and stabbing. The look on Johnny’s face as he bust into the room and saw me; and Paul on the floor of the garage.
I sniffed and buried myself deeper into his embrace, one last sob escaping my lungs. At that sound he held me closer, tucking my head under his chin. I could almost feel the question burning in his throat, how he trembled at the knowing that came to him. I pulled away from him, wiping my eyes. “You okay?” he stroked my cheek. I nodded, leaning into his hand. The cold night air seeped through the crack of a window and beckoned me outside, to open space. “I think I’ll take a little walk,” I sighed. Johnny nodded and reached over the seat to bring me my belt.
“Want me to come?” he asked softly. I shook my head. I felt a little bad, but I really needed to be completely alone for a bit. Johnny did that thing where he made a stoic face but agreed with me. He popped open the back and helped me out. Our kiss was tender and lingering. The caress of his fingers on my arm made me aware of how much he wanted to be with me but also how much he knew I needed to spend sometime alone. “You know how to find me?” I smiled. He responded with a grin and tapped his nose.
He lay back down in the trunk space of the jeep, but we both knew he wouldn’t just fall asleep anytime soon. As the distance between me and the jeep grew, I felt the biting pain of our affected dynamic gnaw at my core. Part of me wanted to collapse on the spot and just stop moving, stop thinking; but if I did that I feared I wouldn’t get up again.
I didn’t wander far from camp. I felt a little like dying, but that didn’t mean I wanted to be eaten alive, literally. My footsteps stopped at an electrical pole just outside the area. Adjusting my belt and machete, I took my time scaling the pole. The urban world had been messed up for so long electrical current was no longer available to worry about. I tucked myself between the pole and an extended beam and watched the night world around me. How strange. The world’s gone to shit and yet, it still was very comforting. It was a clear night, and the stars were even more prominent with the absence of suburban lights. Time was moving, and I was glad it did.
Writer’s note: Happy New Year, readers!!! Sorry for the day-late post; the imagination vessel needed some straightening out. Well, here’s to a brand new year and more improving 🙂 ❤ ❤ Thanks for still being here 😀
– Sarah A.