Here’s a somewhat spooky piece of writing for Halloween, inspired by a thought I had while …
On the Walk Home
My legs pound into the ground, leaden, burning.
I stumble. I stop.
I’ve never seen this place before. I don’t remember getting here. I don’t remember anything from this walk, I don’t know how long I’ve been walking, but I started for home at noon, and now it’s dusk. I’m on the side of a deserted highway, surrounded by unfamiliar, old, low buildings with peeling paint, and tall dark pine trees.
“…He has had a long day in court. I left him there with Vholes. You don’t like Vholes, I hope?”
That’s the audiobook of Bleak House. It drones in my ears.
I don’t know what part of the book this is. When I headed home from school, I was just listening to the first chapter, trying to get a head start on my reading for Tuesday.
A cold wind leaps up behind me and swoops over my shoulders and through my sweat-soaked shirt.
The sun is low, pumpkin-orange, gray clouds puffed in front of it. I look at the buildings, search them for some scrap of familiarity that might orient me. “Canaan Groceries” is beside me. It looks long closed, but there’s a faded blue pickup parked in front of it. A daycare squats across the street from me with a bleached sign bearing a rainbow and some illegible lettering. Not far ahead is an impoundment lot, filled with the rounded bodies of cars hunkering down.
Lights flare up and a car zooms past me on the road.
“… in her most genteel accents, ‘my executor, administrator, and assign. (Our Chancery phrases …’”
I tear my phone out of my pocket, and just as I do the audiobook stops playing, and a battery icon, empty, blinks on the screen. Then the screen goes black.
I stick my phone back in my pocket and twist around. The seat of my shorts is wet, my underarms are wet, the back of my shirt is wet, and its all cold in the wind. I hold my thumb out to the road stupidly, but there are no cars coming from either direction, just the fast disappearing red winks of taillights on the car that just passed. The only other motion is the pine trees, big dark furry sprouts walling in the highway, swaying. My arm aches after only a few seconds of holding it up.
I turn around and yank off my earbuds. I walk to the pickup in front of the grocer’s, but as I approach I see that the tires are gone, the thing is beached, stranded, ownerless, covered in dead leaves and pine straw.
I hear a car coming, and I run back to the street and hold my thumb out, but the approaching headlights just blast past me. I realize how dark it is now. The sun is just a few jagged scraps seen through fractal black foliage. Long shadows blend into one big shadow which spills across all the road and all the parking lots and all the trees. I start walking up the street, in the opposite direction from where I had been heading before.
My footsteps sound strange, out-of-sync. I stop for a moment, and quiet, crunching footsteps continue. I am riveted in place. My throat is dry. My eyes burn in the wind. I start walking again, looking straight ahead, into the darkness of the road. The footsteps are near me. I hear rubber soles squeaking. I fumble at my side, not looking down, grab my dangling earbuds, and put them into my ears. The footsteps start running, whapping the ground faster faster faster right toward my back with deafening crunching thunking sound blasting into my skull through the earbuds and I keep walking, don’t think, into the wind, into the dark of the set sun.
My legs pound the ground.
I’m in front of the door to my apartment complex. I reach for my keys.
“… has come up from her place in Lincolnshire (hotly pursued by the fashionable intelligence) …”
That’s the audiobook of Bleak House droning in my ear. I realize that I haven’t actually been listening to it. A warm wind blows past me, and I enter my apartment building, stepping out of the mid-day sun. As the door shuts behind me, I realize I don’t recall anything from my walk home. I left my classroom, started listening to the audiobook … it doesn’t matter. I’ll have to re-listen to those chapters, or just actually read them, tonight, since we have a reading quiz for them tomorrow. It’s a shame. I was hoping to get the reading done on my walk home so I could have the night free.
It sure sucks having Halloween on a Monday.
Copyright © by Francis Bass 2016. All Rights Reserved.