Relief

by The Teeth

A woman is dead. We passed her face down on the road surrounded by cops, but there was nothing for them to do. She was long gone at that point, but they had not yet wrapped her up in plastic. She was just laying in the road, a spectacle for curious parties. I didn’t see how it happened, but I knew something was wrong before we got there—before seeing those flashing blue lights even. Bad omens, which I tried to push to the back of my head, were all around us. They were unavoidable, despite my best efforts.

It was dusk when we set out in my car. My friend needed a ride home, and after weeks of making myself into a hermit, I was more than willing to oblige. I remember looking toward the horizon and seeing huge, almost black clouds against the quickly fading daylight. I fancied seeing the shapes of primal beasts; creatures trying to claw their way out of space, seeking freedom to rape, rave and rampage through our world. I mentioned it to my friend, but he seemed either disinterested or too involved in his own sick fantasies to care.

We barely noticed the lightning at first. It came from the kind of midsummer storm that brings electricity without thunder or rain. Something way high up in the atmosphere that frightens and defies a layman’s logic. Once we acknowledged it, the sky lit up. Rivers of electric fire poured through charcoal clouds, illuminating more otherworldly creatures in the sky. Shapes of terrible things that I did not want to confront suddenly filled my vision. Demons dancing in the night, delighted by the perversions of men below.

I hoped that we could find a route around the storm, but it was all too clear that the dark clouds were right over our destination. A voice from my mouth kept saying, “bad omens,” in a tone that was both firm and soothing. I wasn’t totally in control of it, like a nervous tick. I was hoping deep down, I think, that the words would ward off evil and the harm that may come to us. Each time I repeated the phrase I glanced over at my friend. He occasionally jerked in unison with the flashing clouds—no more than a hiccup—but said very little in response. Nobody wants doom foretold, no matter how morbid they may seem. We pressed on in relative silence, peering into the future and wondering what may come.

Ahead on the road we spotted signs of an accident, and a major one at that. The blue lights were almost relieving. My mind eased for the first time since spotting the storm. Those demons in the sky took a prize, but it wasn’t me. What sickness do I suffer to think in such a way?

By the time we passed her she was already dead, and everybody at the scene knew it. My friend looked over and saw her first. He is more experienced with death than I, and took in the scene with callous humor. What he saw was a passing reality, but for me, it weighed heavily. Maybe I am too sensitive. Maybe I feel guilt, because the omen made me think only of myself and my loved ones. A woman is dead, but I never knew her, so in seeing her I felt relief. The heaviness I felt was not for her, but for myself. Selfish as always, and hardened with every passing day.

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