For the first time this blog introduces a work of fiction. This short story, my attempt at a modern day parable, grew out of an assignment from my spiritual director. Due to its length, this will run over the next few weeks. Explanations of the symbolism involved will be given at the end of the series.
Part 1 published on May 3, 2009
From My Ride – Part 1
It’s too late. By the time I see the BRIDGE OUT sign ahead of me I’m suspended in mid-air just long enough to brace for the pain of impact and to hear the cackle from the backseat.Damn! From what corner of darkest Hell did that thing crawl? Oh shit! It can’t be…
MY RIDE – PART 2
I never felt the impact. I’m lying in very tall marshy grass next to a stream about six feet below the road. Everything hurts and blackness is crowding in on me from all sides. Yet somehow I’m alive. How long I’ve been here I can’t tell. It was before noon when I started driving but I lose track of time when I drive. The sun is still out but it’s early spring and the sun will only be out until seven. Fading in and out. Breathing hurts but I don’t think anything’s broken. My car. No way my car survived a wreck at that speed. Forcing my eyes open again I see the thick blacksnake about three feet in front of my nose. Ugh, I hate snakes and instinctive recoil forces me to my knees as he slithers off in the other direction, equally spooked by the intrusion of a human into his domain. I almost faint again from the pain but at least I know I can move. I smell the gasoline and antifreeze. Not good.
I push myself to stand and look around. My beautiful car is nearly unrecognizable. I must’ve caught a few of the small trees as I came off the road at the bend. The car looks like it’s been used for a game of kick-the-can by a bunch of giant street urchins. The windshield is gone and for the first time I’m seeing the cuts on my arms and hands. I can feel the liquid warmth on my face. As for my car, she landed right side up just missing the stream but she’s pretty banged up. The radiator is shot judging by the steam still rising from the mangled hood. The chassis is pretty twisted and I can see that the gas tank is ruptured too. Not that I could get it back up on the road without a winch anyway. I had been thrown clear and landed about 15 feet away in the grass. Anyone passing by wouldn’t be likely to notice me or my car in this little ditch. Hell, with the bridge out, most locals would have enough sense to take another route. The nearest crossroad is probably 10 miles away at least and probably farther.
Time to find a way out of this mess. My cell had been on the front seat. It could be anywhere now. What’s a bigger waste of time – trying to find it in chest high grass or walking down the road and trying to figure out where I am? I always loved that bumper sticker “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” but it’s sinking in now that if you wander long enough, you get lost. Turning around a slow circle, surveying my surroundings, I see him.
About 50 yards further downstream from my wreck, seated on a fallen tree is a rugged looking young man dressed in white robes. No, he’s not in the gleaming angelic robes with dazzling sunlight and all that jazz, but definitely biblical-looking clothes. Roughly woven off-white linen and sandals – this guy is something else. I’ve either crashed into some cult’s backyard or I’m going to have some ‘splainin’ to do very shortly. So far it doesn’t look like he’s even noticed me. Now how do you have a car go careening off the road right past you, take out a bunch of small trees and you don’t even notice? He’s just sitting there, idly playing with a bunch of grass in his hand like he’s been there thinking all day and nothing is out of the ordinary here.
“Oh come on now, you aren’t stupid enough to think he’ll help you, are you?” came the familiar hissing voice from behind me.
Spinning around I see the gremlin sitting on the hood of my car, smoking one of my cigarettes, blowing the smoke through its long razor-like teeth.
“You’re not real,” I whisper even as my chest tightens as I come face-to-face with the nightmare that has lived in my head for years. I’ve lived with the gremlin for a very long time. It’s that nasty little voice that tells me what a total fuck-up I am and questions everything I do or say. Sort of like that whole angel/devil on the shoulder thing but this little shit doesn’t poof away when I make the good choice. No, the gremlin hangs around telling me all the ways I’ll screw it up anyway. I made up this imaginary creature as a way of personifying my own self-doubts and self-recriminations. It seemed like a very clever idea at the time. Somehow it was easier for me to deal with, having a creature behind the voice. Easier until now, when it’s suddenly in front of me – all seven feet of him complete with black scales, big leathery bat ears, yellow eyes, long teeth and longer claws. “I made you up! You can’t be real.”
“Wanna bet?” It laughs at the obvious tremor in my voice. It’s low cackle ripples with derision, delight, and the promise of desecration. Sliding off the hood, it takes several steps towards me in strong sure strides. It stops and turns, tossing the still burning butt towards the car.
“Noooooo!” Too late. The blast from the explosion knocks me flat as blackened metal and burning upholstery rain down around me.