Something Wild

Author's Note:

The following story is not one of my typical writing style or genre.  I've been making a name for myself as writer of horror/thriller, but I felt a persistent tugging at my mind to write this story, and so I followed the muse.  

Thank you for reading!

 

I used to think about the gun under my mattress.  It would call to me, perhaps like the sea calls a reluctant sailor.  Nothing in particular would remind me of it; often the thought would come to me with no trigger at all, or even stranger, during times when I found contentedness in my heart.  The image would come into my mind as clearly as a picture. I wouldn’t even have to close my eyes to see the black handle of the pistol sticking out from between my mattress and box spring.

During these times of vivid recollection, the pistol was always loaded.  In actuality, the full clip was in the drawer of my nightstand, easily accessible in the event of an emergency, but when the image struck my mind like a bolt of lightning, it was already loaded.

The images that followed varied, but always had the same theme.  Sometimes I was in my car, sometimes I sat on the foot of my bed, and other times I was standing in a nondescript field.  The field was my favorite setting because I could never make out where it was.  There was green grass, lush trees in the distance, and behind me, the soft trickle of running water.

I read once, when I went through a sort of new-age meditation phase as a kid, that places like these are where our souls dwell.  I can’t remember the name the books used, but essentially it was a sort of inner Shangri-La.  During meditation, many experts suggest you close your eyes and imagine such a place.  For some, it’s from a fond memory from their childhood, and for others it’s a scene from a favorite story, but for people like me, who really are no different than any of the others except in that we picture a place entirely new.  It’s a place I’ve never been, but can see it as clearly as if I were looking at a photograph.

Regardless of the place, the images and thoughts that are forced into my mind are the same.  I look down and see the gun in my hand.  It’s heavy and cold, and I enjoy that sensation more than anything else, because it is one of the last I will ever feel.

I hold the barrel to my temple then, or sometimes my chin, and again I find it remarkable the feel of cool steel against my skin.  The weight of the trigger is heavier than anything else in the world except for the weight that my soul bears.  I squeeze it and I can hear the click and the roar of the gun and I can feel the heat from the gunpowder contrast against the cool steel and I wonder if I would be able to feel the bullet pierce my skin before the lights are shut off.

Then the images are gone, and I’m left with a feeling of hollowness that seems to penetrate the marrow of my bones.

I tried pills and counseling, but for some reason I couldn’t give the gun up.  I knew that it was a good idea, that perhaps giving it to a friend to hold onto until the thoughts finally went away could one day save my life, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I felt like a character in a story that desires for nothing more than free will and thought, but the author refuses to allow it.  The author needs to tell a story, and I was to be the catalyst, and so the gun remained under my pillow until the day I pulled the trigger.

It wasn’t the literal trigger I pulled, but the figurative one that was attached to the gun I held in my mind’s hand that would fire and set off a series of events that would change my life forever.

When I moved the gun to the glovebox of my car, I didn’t acknowledge the reason, although I knew in my heart why it had moved.  I told myself that it was because I was going mad with it underneath my mattress – like the princess and the pea – but, in reality, I moved it so I could take it with me when I left.

I missed the exit to get off the freeway to go to work that morning.  I was deep in thought and the exit sped by almost without me realizing it.  Of course, I did notice, but I could feel something pulling me forward, like an invisible string was attached to my soul.

I missed the second exit, then the third.  I was no longer in control of my own mind and body.  I was like a passenger in the car while someone else drove.  I took no turns and made no move to even change lanes.  I was gone, and for the first time in my life, I was free.

I stayed that night in a hotel I found off the freeway, and the next morning I was gone again.

I drove for several days in this fashion.  I suppose a psychiatrist would say I was having a breakdown, and in some ways, I suppose I was, but it was the most glorious breakdown I could ever imagine.

I didn’t know precisely what it was I was after until day four or so of my journey.  Like before, the thoughts of the gun in the glovebox seeped through the seams of my mind, and I was again taken back to the empty field.  I realized then that I was looking for that field – for the perfect picture to leave in my mind when the lights were finally shut off.

Beyond that, I didn’t have a destination.  I knew where I was going, but not where it was nor how to get there, and somehow, I was all right with that.  It was an adventure like none other I had ever experienced, like those journeys taken by characters in Tolkien novels.

I pressed forward in this fashion for weeks.  I spent no more than a night in a particular place and had no destination other than straight ahead.  My spirit felt like a bird whose cage had just been smashed open and is now free to fly anywhere he chooses.

I traveled from one coast to the other in search of that perfect place.  I met Sarah a week into my tour of the country.  Our meeting was nothing more than a sideward glance and an exchanged smile, but there was something in that moment that held eternity.  I didn’t know it then, but in the weeks that followed, I would return to that moment more often than I would return to the field in my dreams.

I met her again on my second pass through Nebraska, and it was then I knew I was being guided by the hand of fate.  Over the thousands of faces I’d seen since I missed the exit on the way to work, I’d forgotten all of them but one – hers.

I found her in a diner as I was ordering breakfast.  Just as the experience I had when I continued to drive forward instead of taking the exit to work, I found myself being lifted from my seat and carried to her table.

I sat and stared at her for a moment.  Any normal person, I’m sure, would have called for help - I don’t imagine I seemed at all in my right mind – but she did not.  Instead, she met my eyes in hers.  She asked if I’d been following her.  It wasn’t in a threatening way, nor a scared way, but her tone was matter-of-fact.  I told her I supposed I had been, and that I supposed she’d been following me just the same.

She smiled and I returned the expression.  She asked me where I was going, and I told her I didn’t know.  My mind flashed to the gun in the glovebox as I delivered this lie, then mirrored the question.  She didn’t know where she was going either.  She was a drifter of sorts, not unlike myself now, and she went where the world took her.  She didn’t have a job, nor did she have money.  She said she lived off the earth and what little she was granted by God, provided she listen to what he had to say.

I told her I didn’t much believe in God, but that I did think it strange that, after some time and miles apart, we happened to run into each other again.  She said that she believed it was fate, and asked if, provided I wasn’t the type to rape and murder her, she could come along with me on my journey to the end of the world.

Those five words echoed in my head “the end of the world” and I thought how peculiar that choice of words was, yet so fitting for where the end of the road would take me.  I agreed to bring her along.

We spent nearly every moment together from that point on.  Although it was never verbally spoken, I don’t think that either one of us had ever had such a relationship with another person.  It wasn’t friendship, but something more.  In a few short days, we had grown closer than if we’d grown up next door to each other.

Although we shared the same space, sometimes even the same bed, we were never physical with each other.  She was a beautiful woman, but my spirit was too empty and hers was too broken.  Where my slate was an amalgam of gray and beige, hers was scarlet and black and indigo.  She told me her uncle had her when she was only eight, then in an attempt to bandage the tarnished childhood she’d come to known, she started using drugs by the age of sixteen.

Ten years later she was clean and sober, but she’d known more highs and lows than anyone else I’d ever met, and although it was never talked about, I suppose we were on the same journey.

She knew about the gun in the glovebox, but never spoke about it.  I knew about the scars on her stomach and legs, but never asked.  Those things weren’t meant to be explained – only understood by those who could.

A month after our journey together began and two months after my own journey started, I finally found what I’d been looking for.

It was a place in Oregon only a mile off the coast.  The lush greenery had allured me, and somehow I knew it would be there.  We hiked for an hour before coming to the clearing, and when we finally stood there, I knew I was where I needed to be.

It was just as I’d pictured it – green and beautiful, like a picture in a postcard.  I could hear the brook we crossed minutes earlier in the background and the fresh scent of pine was carried by the cool breeze coming off the ocean.

The gun in my pocket had never weighed as much as it did then.  My hand absentmindedly reached for it and felt the cool familiar metal grip.

Sarah didn’t make a sound when she saw the gun – I think she knew I’d been carrying it for the past couple days.  I looked around the clearing – MY clearing and saw her standing in the middle.

I held the gun to my side and a breeze came through the trees, and I felt a coolness on my cheeks – I hadn’t noticed till then that I’d been silently crying.  Sarah’s eyes glistened and I realized then that she was crying as well, her tears reflecting pain and understanding and the light of hope illuminated behind the dark curtain of her past.

I stepped forward toward her and she did the same.  We came together until our foreheads touched and I could feel her warm breath against my face.  This was the moment.

I looked into her eyes, and in them I saw her broken spirit and shattered heart, and in mine I’m sure she could see my own emptiness that had brought on this journey to begin with.

As we stood together I raised the gun in my hand.  The metal barrel caught the light in the corner of my eye like the flash of a camera.

Our fingers knit together for the first time, and our bodies came even closer until it was as if we were one solid person instead of what we were.  I held the gun against my temple, and for the first time in my life, as I stood on the line that separated life and death, I felt whole.

My hand released the gun, and as it clattered to the soft grass at our feet, my lips touched hers, and just as I had two months earlier - I pulled the trigger.

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