Guilt…

Something about the air was different, like a subtle static electricity loomed on it. Every sense felt braised by it, as if any movement might set off the small but startling jolt from touching metal. The click of her heals echoed off the driver’s side as she approached the car. Wearily she attempted to stifle their patter, straining her legs to make as little impact as possible but at a brisk pace; walking as if pretending to wade through water in fast-forward.

It wasn’t right. The mere fact that she had to try so desperately to leave without waking him was enough to tell what she was doing was wrong. He had done so much to make it better, but she couldn’t muster the courage to stay and accept such kindness. And all he asked… well perhaps the asking was too much, she thought as she reached apprehensively for the handle. Fearing the static shock, ready to be over with it, she bit her lip and grasped it with a tug.

Before she knew it she was in the sedan. Though it was the middle of the night, it was quieter now somehow. The electricity was still palpable, and she hesitated to light a cigarette; anxious that the flame would combust the built up electrified air in her car. After the crackle and pop of the tip blew she revved the six cylinder and patiently listened to the gravel crunch under her tires as she made way to the main road off of his property. She drove without headlights, she knew the passage easy enough, even under the pale plum of the early autumn sky. The oaks that lined the road contoured in shape as she passed their branches that spread out like frozen black lightening. So many walks under their shade, she reflected, recalling the texture of his cold denim jacket — his arm rapped around hers.

When the gravel turned to solid road she kicked it into third and flew up to the northbound ramp. Only then did she turn on the radio, turning it up to drown her thoughts that fed tears. As if soundtracking her actions in diegesis, Easy From Now On, by Emmylou Harris played sadly over her kicked and coffee splattered speakers. Merging too fast onto the 61, she wanted nothing more than to change the station, but in moment of overwhelmed sadness she cut-off a semi and found herself pegged between it and another sedan. Hairs-standing up in recognition of fucking up again she froze in sheer self loathing. The trucker laid on his horns and sped around her, sustaining the deafening blare as he passed her up and pulled in the lane just ahead of the other car and her. Staring at his taillights was as wrenching as the words, “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed”, which jarred her even more. Disgusted and angry now, with more than just herself, she stomped the accelerator and jostled the stick, as her engine spastically groaned into a fierce wail as she sped out past the two vehicles and down the road into the darkness beyond; darting past road lights like trails of luminous vapor that wriggled next and then past her, cast into the either behind in the wake of lamented decisions that wouldn’t dissipate no matter how fast she fled them.

As darkness gave way to the light of habitation she passed a large white building on her right with the logo “GILT” painted repetitively on its facade. Regularly she passed the facility, thinking nothing of the signage. But now it seared with phonetic meaning, each posting another bite into her. “GILT…GILT…GILT…” Soon it will be all over, she repeated more than the word passed her. The factory receded into the rapidly approaching past. She knew she’d be coming up on exit 120 soon enough, which meant just another twenty minutes, tops, to the city. She’d take the 65 north until it met Lake Michigan outside Chicago. Then she would finally stop and take further action, none of them would be looking for her there. Maybe they’d forget about her once they found out that he didn’t know anything… or maybe they wouldn’t care what he didn’t know and just…

She let the thought fall like bad news on parchment from the grasp of her conscious. It was whisked away by the wind and her thoughts became placid with the mauve darkness beyond her windshield. Everything, the wind, traffic, even the sky dimmed down now. Soon she didn’t even think about how long she’s been driving. With that thought she realized the music had vanished but she had no recollection of turning the radio off. 3:34 am the blue digital font spelled out. Had it really been that long, she wondered, realizing that she hadn’t reached the city yet. Somewhere off beyond the driver’s window a series of radio tower’s lights twinkled red in the distance, so far off that they seemed to follow her car by the lag of space.

Maybe she shouldn’t have taken this rout, perhaps highway 62 to I-75 would have been safer, though a longer escape. She began to contemplate what awful things might come to pass should someone be on to her; say if they intercepted her passing through towards the bridge. But construction on the new bridge was so dense that their would certainly be police around so she wouldn’t have to worry about simply disappearing… did she?

She turned to stare out her window, how long had those radio tower lights been next to her? In the darkness it was hard to tell how far off on the horizon they were but she felt that they had been there quite some time. In-fact she was sure several minutes had passed and yet they remained by her side still. She flitted her stare between the dim road and the lights, which seemed to be growing brighter, making a series of triangular patterns between their own fading in and out of each-other.

Driving faster now, she barreled down the obsidian road, only to realize that she could scarcely make out the lines of the lanes. Where her headlights fading too? Panic swept through her like a whirlwind, and she began to tremble at the uncertainty of its origin. Her teeth clattered and her body spasmodically convulsed. Was she shaking that hard or was the car? Like a frightened animal she stared frantically in all directions, soon jerking her head to peer out the left window. The radio towers were still there! They had grown brighter even, so much so that they all shone in a dazzling singularity that seemed to span the entire horizon, so bright and piercing that their immensely dense cluster seemed to project an inaudible sound; a low frequency hum that rattled her car as if the radio was on full blast. Her mouth fell open and she could feel cold sweat on her face and under her palms where they clenched the wheel. Suddenly a blinding glare of another car’s headlights shown into her eyes and she saw nothing but whiteness as she veered into the oncoming traffic to avoid a collision, slamming on the breaks and then-

silence…

She awoke to the cool morning air pooling through her windows in a refreshing current. The sky was a bright blue and it shown off the snow beneath the trees. Her head rested upon her arms crossed on the wheel; eyes studying her car keys which swung steadily from within the ignition. Inhaling deeply she rose. Looking around to find that she had no idea where she was. It was somewhere new, some place far from where she had come. It was 2:42 pm according to the car clock, which she glanced at before emerging into the warmth of sunlight. She was at some altitude, as she could see above a clearing over a forrest below her vantage. The snow glistened and stretched out as a primeval presence as old as the woods above it.

Her car was on a lonely two-lane, pulled off to the side with no visible tracks leading from the asphalt and into the gravel where it stood. Above it old oaks naked in the icy maw of winter craned overhead. Far beyond their immense structures lurked a lake as blue as the sky. So much in-fact that at first she mistook it for another distant vanishing point on the horizon. Her hands were quite cold. Clasping them together felt as though they were gloved, though to the contrary they were very numb. She clinched them to her mouth and breathed heavily into them before vigorously rubbing them together. Her wrist watch glinted in the afternoon sun. Its blinding glare caused her haphazard eye to curiously study it. 3:37 am it read; the second hand dead.

A sinking feeling grew inside her. She looked around, first studying the road, from one end to the next. There was no sign of anyone. The forrest below on the opposite side of the road was just as destitute. When she looked towards the lake she at first saw nothing… then a great white shape molted from an oak just above her. At first looking like a soft falling cascade of snow, it soon defied gravity and swooped gracefully upward into the tree-line. The snow soon became an immense owl, gliding stealthily towards the backdrop of the lake. It winded and glissaded amongst the thicket of trees and branches in an eerie silence that gave her some unsure solace. Considering it an omen to take flight herself, she got back into the car, not fearing what was lost in the rearview or what lay just over the horizon beyond.

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