The wind flickers through the window left slightly a jar, filling the car with the smell wet earth and rain. Petrichor–noun–a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Watching the speedometer tick higher and higher, the wind begins to rapidly enter the car plastering my hair to my face. I can’t see a fucking thing. Frantically tracing my fingers along the car door to find the window crank, a wave comes over me–I’m not alone. Through the slits of my hair–tendrils guided by the current of the wind–the rearview mirror becomes clearer. There’s a dark figure sitting in the backseat.
Ragging up through my chest, ringing in my ears, behind my eyes, filling my head, my thumping heartbeat replaces the sound of thrashing air. Meeting its gaze, blood trails down its face as the corners of its mouth turn up. It opens its mouth.
Through the crackling voice blood stained teeth bite the air.
My trembling fingers finally land on the crank. Whipping it forward, the pulsing air abruptly stops. Looking back at the seat, I’m startled–it’s empty. I still feel the presence of another. I have to piss.
My headlights meet a sign, “Welcome to Pembroke Ontario–exit ahead”. Turning the dial of the radio there is screeching static, then screeching static and muffled voices, then muffled voices and country music, then a booming voice: “you’re listening to star 96.7–today’s country”. I not-so-secretly love country music. The country channel is the only working radio station at my family cottage. The thumping in my head begins to lower; the colour comes back to my cheeks. It feels like the sun hitting my face. I can almost make out sand between my toes, the twang of country music, and the ebb and flow of the rippling lake. A fog horn–no–a car horn. Opening my eyes and the sun becomes a headlight of another car. Swerving over to the side, I barely miss the other car. The soft sand becomes the crunching gravel that frames the side of the road. Neon blue and red lights flicker in the distance, the thumping rises–oh wait– it’s just a gas station sign. I really have to piss now.
The toilet bowl is stained red from my piss. My cunt hurts. No matter how much I wipe, it never feels clean. The baby pink hand soap smells like knock-off Hubba Bubba bubblegum mixed with lavender. It stings. Catching my reflection in the mirror across from the toilet, I look like how I feel: different. Purple frames my eyes like spectacles; on my neck and wrists I’m wearing a choker and bracelets made out of burses. Greasy and unkempt tendrils of hair graze my tender cheeks. Pushing them behind my ears a wave comes over me–I’m not alone. Looking in the mirror I meet the gaze of the dark figure. It’s standing just to the left of the toilet.
My heartbeat fills me–ragging up through my chest, ringing in my ears, behind my eyes, filling my head. It opens its bloody mouth.
Blood trails down from the corners of its mouth, forming a puddle on the ground. My fingers tremble as I redress. Turning my head a little over my shoulder, trailing from the floor to the wall beside me there is nothing there–no dark figure, no blood. I still feel the presence of another. Murmuring a country tune twang, I buckle my belt, zip up my sweater, and tightly cinch my hood–my clothes like plates of armor.
My eyes meet the cold grey gaze of man standing in front of the chip section. The corners of his wrinkled mouth turn up into a smirk, “Where you headed?”
“North” I murmur.
“What’s up North?”
All I can spit out is, “I don’t know…clearer skies…cleaner air I guess”. He seems taken aback, “The skies here seem pretty clear, you can see Ursa Major tonight.”
“Is that the bear or Big Dipper?”
“I’m pretty sure both. Did you know the animal is alive when it is transformed into a constellation?”
We stare at each other for an almost uncomfortable amount of time. Stumbling on his words, he spits out, “Cann…I…I…I join you?”
Blood stained teeth biting through the air flashes through my mind. “Yeah, sure.”
The car doors seal us inside. The engine rumbles; reaching for the radio dial, his fingers meet mine. They trail up my arm to the small of my neck.
Ragging up through my chest, ringing in my ears, behind my eyes, filling my head, a thumping heartbeat replaces the hum of the engine. His fingernails begin to dig into the small of my neck. A wave comes over me. Finding the rearview mirror, my gaze it met by the dark figure sitting in the backseat.
Pulling my head down to his crotch, the man holds my head down with his elbow as he undoes his belt and begins to pull his cock out. “You like this? You want it?” he says under his breath. “No! Stop!” I yell. He holds my head down even harder, his cock pressed up against my cheek.
“What? What was that?” he’s startled, and begins to loosen his grip on my head. Flinging my head up I catch the eyes of the dark figure in the rearview mirror. Blood trailing down the corners of its mouth–they turn up–forming a smile.
“What the fuck is that!” he yells. Breaking through the cracking voice, it’s blood stained teeth bite the man’s head off.
Blood gushes, blood rushes out of the now headless body. Peering a little over my shoulder, I’m not surprised to find the backseat empty. Turning the radio dial to find a crisp spot, the rumble of the engine is met by the twang of country music, replacing the sound of my thumping heartbeat. It begins to lower; the colour comes back to my cheeks. Reaching over to the passenger door my fingers find the leaver. The headless body slumps against the window. Opening the door, I push it out of the car and slam it closed.
Catching the rearview mirror on my way up, the corners of my mouth turn up into a smirk.
Softly rumbling on the gravel of the steep driveway, the car slowly lowers down to the landing in front my family cottage. Getting out of the car I gulp the sweet air, smelling of wet earth and rain–petrichor. A breeze blows my tendrils of hair, cooling my cheeks and neck. Grabbing the spare key from under a potted plant, I wipe it clean and see the stars reflecting in the metal. Turning my head a little over my shoulder my eyes meet the stars. Using my fingers to trace Ursa Major in the night sky, a bear emerges from the stars. Burrowing my toes in the sand, the sound of the rippling lake fills me up.
The murky bathwater is stained red. Floating there for a while, weightless, warm, and clean. A booming voice on the radio, “you’re listening to star 96.7– today’s country” startles me. The soft twang of country music reverberates against the tiled floor and walls. Wrapping myself in my favorite baby pink plush towel smelling of lavender, my eyes meet the eyes of the dark figure in mirror. No longer dripping of blood it smiles at me. I smile back–I’m not alone.