1. What I See
It was nineteen minutes past midnight, I had school in six hours, and I still walked the solitary street to the gas station. I had a craving for powder donuts. There were some in the kitchen. I could see them in my mind: a crumpled bag with a few staled mangled remains writhing in the bottom. I could have choked those down, but-
No. I wanted a new bag and I wanted to walk out in the snow.
Streetlamps threw piss colored light on the ground and I kept my head down from the snow. No cars rolled passed me because everyone was asleep on this quiet street in this quiet town. I pulled my jacket tighter around my body, my fingers popping in protest that I had forgotten mittens. The wind was steady at my back, slightly whipping a few loose strands into my eyes and mouth. I brushed the gray pieces away.
I reached the gas station at the corner of Gate Road. Rundown and smelly looking (the building looked like it would reek with brown discolorations along the outside) it only had three gas pumps. Half the lights were off inside and I could see the liver spotted head of Rick bent over what was probably a science fiction novel. I briskly bounded inside and made my way towards the snack aisle. I lifted my hand in hello to Rick and he did the same, his eyes never leaving his novel.
Grabbing two bags, I left the payment in front of Rick who was still deep into his book. My hand was on the door when I heard him call my name.
"Hey, Fern," he whispered. His voice was strained higher than it normally was. I took my hand away from the door and looked at the sixty-something year old man. He was still slouched over his book, the top of his polka dotted head blocking his face from view. I heard him take a gulp of air.
His shoulders shook, "My wife died. This evening." My throat clamped shut and he swallowed more air.
"I'll be out. For about two days. Could you come in. And run the station?" Through out his disconnected sentences, his voice hitched higher until it was airy and shrill.
"Sure," I said. "Do you need anything right now?" I screwed my eyes tight to keep from crying. The wife of this tiny man… she was all he had besides the station and his science fiction novels.
"Just for you to run the station. I'm fine for the night."
I didn't want to push him. If I saw a single tear from Rick, I would burst and bawl. I didn't know if he needed to be alone in his grief or if I should be there to comfort him, but I didn't want to cry. It hurt my eyes to cry. It always felt as if rocks tumbled and crashed against my tear ducts. When my throat closed like it was when I heard that his wife died, I thought there were tight fingers wrapped around my neck. When I rushed out of the station, I put my hand to my neck rubbing hard as if to brush away the fingers.
It felt colder outside and it was snowing steadily now. I looked up, snow spilling onto my face and into my eyes. I took a deep breath, the fingers finally letting go. I opened a bag of powdered donuts, grabbed the tiny pastry, and crammed it fully in my mouth. The fingers clenched over my throat again. I choked and the donut spewed out of my mouth in a giant puff. I coughed, trying to get the rest of it out of my throat and out of my mouth. After rubbing the powder off of my face, I rolled down the top of the opened bag of donuts and started the half of a mile trek home.
The wind was in my face now, biting at my lips and nose. I pulled the collar of my jean jacket up, but the wind would beat it away from me. I couldn't help but to think of Mrs. Martin because of the snow. She loved Christmas. She was older than Rick, but she was so alive during the holidays. She'd make cookies, hot cocoa, and other warm holiday treats and bring them to the station -which she always decorated- for Rick. If Theo and I were loitering outside she'd always have something for us as if she made something everyday just incase we were hanging around. We always enveloped her tiny frame in a group hug, shouting our thanks.
Theo didn't know about Mrs. Martin passing away yet. He would want to know, even if it meant waking him up around (I checked my watch) 12:45 on a school night. Besides, I couldn't go back to sleep tonight because I wouldn't be able to lie in my bed without thinking whether Mrs. Martin went to heaven, or hell, or if her soul just dissolved like fog under the sun.
One more block and I veered to the left, entering Carnation Lane. The snow continued to pick up and fat flakes were gathering in my hair. My hair would be soaked by the time I got to Theo's house. It would look ratty and the color would be a darker gray. Theo never made fun of how I looked, even if the gray hair framed the face of a sixteen year old.
I was in the pissed colored light of the streetlamp when I heard ragged panting. The animalistic breath stopped for a second and then I heard a howl. Just out of reach of the light was a large dog. A wolf or a coyote, but whatever it was it made me piss myself. It was only a little bit, but nonetheless I had still pissed myself like a five year old. I would be embarrassed later if whatever it was didn't tear into my stomach and snap its jaws at my guts; if it didn't rip into my torso and devour my innards.
With the one hell of an imagination I had, I pictured the gore; I thought it was happening. I clutched my stomach, trying to keep my entrails from falling out. Some of them would slip beyond my hands and would lie steaming in the snow. I buried my face into the snow and screamed.
I may have passed out because when I came to and looked at my watch, it was 2:37. I looked around. There was no beast. I was lying on my back in the snow and I quickly lifted up my shirt to look at my stomach. I ran my frozen hands along the untouched skin. I pushed my fingers into the area as if to check that my organs were still there.
Shakily, I got to my feet breathing heavily through my nose. I had to get to Theo's house. He never minded if I had a hallucination and even pushed that I go to him for comfort. Needless to say, he was my best friend and I needed him right now. Looking around, I saw I was five houses away from his. Grabbing my donuts off of the ground I ran to his house, stumbling several times. A house away, I fell and I lied in the snow prostrate, my head turned to the side so I could breathe. I thought I saw the beast again. I climbed to my feet and ran the rest of the way. It was only habit that I ran to his window and sharply tapped at his window with my knuckles.
A few raps on his window and it was flung open. Theo was alert though his eyes were crusted with sleep. I instantly threw my arms around his neck and clung to him. The heater was on very high in his house and I could feel the hot hair tumbling out of his room and off of his body. He was only in a pair of boxers, and while I could feel heat, he would only be able to feel the cold swarming in from the outside and off of my body. I couldn't get a hold of myself though and all I could do was cling and sob tearlessly in his neck.
He pulled me into his room as I strangled him in my vice grip. He quickly shut the window and wrapped his arms around me. My breathing was steadying and I realized he had been talking to me the whole time. Most of it was reassuring coos, but in between he asked, "What happened, Fern? Fern, take a deep breath."
I pulled away from him, took deep breaths, and released my hold from his neck. His face was slightly red and I was embarrassed that I had almost cut off his air supply. Finally, I exhaled the last deep breath and I was stable again. Theo wiped the tendrils of hair away from my face.
"Fern," he said. "Did you have another hallucination?" I knew he knew I did. He's seen me like this several times -I looked down- but this is the first time he's seen me soaked from snow and piss. My face was on fire because of how mortified I was.
"Theo," I said never looking up from his carpet. "Could I have a change of clothes I-"
He understood and cut me off. Did he smell it? Oh, God. He handed me pants, a pair of his boxers, a thick sweat shirt and a towel. I padded silently down the hallway so as not to wake his dads. His dads were also aware of my hallucinations but I didn't want to wake them since I cause enough trouble for Theo. I got to the wash room, got out of my clothes and threw them in the wash. I hoped that it wouldn't wake the Misters. I wiped off myself with the towel and threw that into the washing machine. Slipping on Theo's boxers, my face was aflame again. I quickly pulled on the other articles and crept back into Theo's room.
Theo had pulled on a pair of sweats and was sitting cross legged on his bed, his stereo playing softly. He patted the space in front of him. I shuffled slowly there. I sat down on the edge of his bed, fiddling with the corner of his sheet.
"Don't be like that, Fern. Come over here."
I scooted only a few inches closer, still on the edge of the bed. I was in arms reach of him and he grabbed me, pulling me to sit in front of him. I stared intently at my lap, not wanting to look at him. He never pitied me but I was pitiful this morning. Soaked and covered in piss and choking on air and my own tongue.
We sat in companionable silence, listening to the stereo. It was on such a low volume that the music was a lulling hum. I sank back onto his bed, lying on my back with my legs hanging off the edge. He swiped the stray hairs off my forehead. My hair was still sopping and his sweat shirt was damp on the back.
"So," he said. I finally looked up into his eyes. It was dark and the his sharp cheek bones threw shadows over the plains of his face. "It was really bad tonight, wasn't it.? You don't have to talk about it." He rubbed my cheek as I took wild gasps for air. I calmed down enough to tell him Mrs. Martin passed away yesterday evening.
"Did that trigger it?"
"No, I saw a-" I swallowed the thick saliva in my mouth and continued. "I saw a beast. No- not a beast. A coyote or something. Maybe it was just a really big dog. I imagined it eating me." I said all of that in one breath and needed to take another gasp of air.
Theo slid down next to me but turned on his side and looked at me. I was staring at the ceiling still ashamed of showing up at his house at ungodly hours of the morning covered in piss. It could have been worse though. I could have shit myself. That thought didn't take the embarrassment away at all.
When the blood left my face, I turned on my side so I could look at him, using my arm as a pillow. I was close to his face now and could make out the hazel color of his eyes. "Do you think I'm a lunatic?" I asked him. He draped an arm around my waist.
He didn't elaborate, just closed his eyes.
"Do you want me to leave?" I started to get off his bed but his arm held me heavily down.
"Shush, Fern. Just sleep here for the night."
"There's school in the morning though," I said, trying to get up again. His arm still held me down.
I smiled, closed my eyes, and drifted off to sleep not before looking at the clock. It was 3:48. School was going to be hard today.
A/N: I decided to repost this. I'm doing some slight editing but this is probably still riddled with errors. Please read and review.