There was the smell of fried wires and greasewood; the sound of tempered glass shattering, the echo of it like bar chimes.
The truck grunted as I eased it onto the fissured asphalt. I picked up speed steadily: 20, 30, 40. The desert winds came rushing through the jagged vortex of the smashed windscreen. She was ten, twelve max klicks ahead. Of course I couldn’t see her, but I knew she was there.
I’d done this so many times
The red sky rolled over, cloudless. The sun was on my tail. I opened the glove compartment where I kept the cheap gas station bourbon; closed it again.
The whole highway looked the same, except for this one stretch, here I knew every inch; every grain of sand, every coyote turd and disfigured empty half-buried
Time passed like a bad dream. Right foot on the gas, left foot swimming through an invisible swamp.
And then there she was, coming into view, stood on a grassy patch on the side of the highway.
I pulled over.
She peered through the passenger window; blonde bangs and green eyes, maybe blue, I could never tell.
Had I found what I was looking for?
“Well, have you?” she said, with a Southern lilt so soft it almost cured me of the heat. She got in. The smell of greasewood made way for burnt rubber and raw flesh.
I pulled out again.
“How many times have you done this route?” she asked.
You couldn’t count
I watched her as she bit her cotton candy gloss lips. Somehow I could hear the wet sound of peeling lip skin over the engine.
It almost cured me. But the heat that day, you would never sober up in a heat like that
Did I want to play a game?
“It’ll be fun,” she said. “Pass the time… Seeing as we’re just going round and round.”
Over and over.
She punched open the glove compartment and grabbed the cheap bourbon.
“This crap, still?” she said, shaking her head with a smile.
“OK… Never have I ever…” she started, tapping her fingernails on the dashboard, “fucked on the first date.” She raised an eyebrow at me and then took a pull.
“Woo… I haven’t missed that,” she said, screwing the cap back on.
“OK, your turn,” she said, shaking the bottle at me. “Oh right, I forget. It’s okay, I’ll go for you.”
Never have I ever
“Driven your dad’s tractor through town, naked, just for a dare,” she laughed. “Remember that?”
She filled a cap full of the bourbon and passed it to me. I drank.
“OK, me again. Never have I ever… cheated on my son of a bitch husband so I could run off with you, get loaded every day, get knocked up… shit…”
“Phwoah… OK, you’re up, cowboy… Never…”
Had I ever
“Meant to do what you did… but you must have seen it coming a mile off, right?”
We were speeding up now. Hitting 40, 50. The drink was making me hotter, and the wind was no help
“Never have I ever… supported you… always” she said, and took a glug.
Never had I ever
“Drunk a quart of whiskey and then driven straight down to the damn gas station ‘cos you needed a fucking six pack,” she laughed. “I mean, Jesus…”
She passed me the bourbon.
“You can take that for now, I got myself covered.”
She produced a bottle of beer from her bag and went to open it with her teeth.
“Fuck!” she screamed, coughing blood into her hand, and then spat a mouthful of teeth onto the dashboard.
Rainfall of tempered glass; in the distance, eyes so bright they were blinding my own; chrome bumper for a smile getting closer
“Never did I ever get to go see Daddy at County General.”
The highway began to defy perspective: not converging to a point at the horizon but diverging outwards, consuming the desert and everything beyond it. I was trying to pull to the right, to safety, but her hand was on my arm.
“No,” she said. “You know this is how it happens.”
I took a swig from the bottle. The bourbon went down my throat in burning waves and the heat was just getting worse.
Her screams in my ear; nails clawing in my ribs
“Never did I ever get to take Anna to the preserve. Remember how gorgeous it was? Remember the flamingos all stood there in the water on one leg, still as anything?”
“And the starlings…”
Weaving in and out of each other, making divine shapes
“And the times it was just us…”
Moaning of love and something about forever or maybe never while we fucked on the grass and the sun didn’t move it just stayed there
“Here we go, again” she said, and rested her head on my shoulder. “I never know what to say.”
So many times
The freeze frame dance of sprinkling glass as she flew, arms stretched, through the vortex
“Those headlights you see. They were never there…”
“We were the only ones on the road…”
“It was like you saw the devil in something and just kept going…”
Palms hot and humming from the cracked wood of the shovel’s handle; the heat getting me drunker and drunker
Her face yanked open like a flytrap, mouth full of sand, splintered teeth lodged in the glossed flesh of cotton candy lips
“How many times have you seen this?” she said, still gripping my arm, and from the way the sun was pulling back I knew we were going round again.
“I don’t know,” I said, “but I never stop.”
Image – Pixabay.com
5 thoughts on “It Was Like You Saw the Devil in Something and Just Kept Going by Rory Hughes”
The pace is fantastic. The words match the increasing speed, and the “game” a great counterpoint that releases information, atom by atom–you get all you need to know, or think you know, by and by. I guess if you’re stuck in a loop you ought to have company, but maybe better liquor.
Superb. Nicely conveys that sense of being trapped in a hellish loop, with the heat and the pain – you can almost feel that wind and taste that bourbon!
Quite a hellish ride with a breathtaking style that matches a subject matter to take your breath away. Love the title. Good graphic, too.
Another time I don’t understand the ending. I think that he’s talking with the ghost of a woman that he killed. Could be a Twilignt Zone or half hour horror show.
This was excellent.
Dark, cracking pace and a few niggles of regret and consequence.
All the very best my fine friend.