Parallel Lanes


#1

I started writing this piece last summer when I considered making my own visual novel, a genre of Japanese adventure game that’s more adventure than it is game. I might finish it one day, but this story is on hiatus for now.

Also, I posted this story on the Fan Fiction Library, but I figured since it got no replies that no one read it at all. If you did, I’ve added some content since then.

I’m looking forward to your comments, advice or criticism, should you feel compelled to leave any.


All I feel on my body are the burden of a heavy knapsack and my face as a desperate sweat streams from it. Alone and lying beside a desert road at midday, I beg my toes to curl, my fingers to tremble, and my head to rotate. All of this is in vain. I take deep breaths, controlling my lungs in a last ditch effort to rattle my internal organs just enough to shake my body back into consciousness. My eyes subject to terror at a whim, the surrounding world morphs into different phases. With each passing dust cloud, day turns into night as monstrous cacti rise from the ground and stalk the land.

In my fleeting moment of glory, I am able to twist my neck slightly, and in my relief I place my hands underneath my head to pillow it against the hard desert earth. Unfortunately, having barely shaken myself out of my sleep paralysis, I was so exhausted that took a nap again. I stupidly descend into a nearly unbreakable sleep once more.

The service station that I so brilliantly decided to walk to was still a half hour away.

At least another hour passes before I find myself in the same position I was in before; trying to wake up from the living dream my ill mind superimposed on reality. This time, the silhouettes of dinosaurs crawled out of canyons from the horizon that appeared just as suddenly as the extinct lizards. I continue to channel all of my energy into breathing, as if each burst of air I take in is my last. I knew it was futile, but I hoped that someone would hear my gasping and come to my side, shaking me back into consciousness.

However.

A chariot descended from the sun which beat upon on me. The hooves of black stallions pounded the road that my face was turned to. Stepping down from the carriage was an angel whose wings shielded me from further sun rays. With only large red eyes that clashed with the white down which covered her body, she spoke to me.

“Oh, gently caress.”

Excuse me? I don’t expect angels to say that.

“Son of a bitch! Are you loving dead? Dammit.” The loud cursing was enough to penetrate my mind and rip me back into consciousness.

“Um, no, I’m not dead,” I slur my words, struggling to reply.

“Oh. That’s good!” The image of black stallion hooves reconfigures itself back into a pair of large black tires. As I wipe my eyes, the angel’s wings dissolve into the rear view mirror of a Volkswagen. The celestial host herself was in reality a blond girl in a tank top and Capri jeans, whose head was oddly wrapped in bandages. I felt depressed that the gods that be didn’t send me a real angel, but a gruff sounding tomboy in its stead. “I’m glad you’re alive. It would have been tragic to die anonymously in the middle of the desert.”

I pick myself up, feeling like an eternity had passed since my two feet were on the ground. I make note that she has a cute butt.

“Yeah. I was walking to the service station this morning and passed out along the way. Then I had a night terror until your loud cursing woke me up.”

“The service station? You’re headed the wrong way, dude.” The girl pointed a direction that was the complete opposite of the one I was walking towards. “Gas station’s east of here, not west.”

Dammit! I was headed the wrong way!

“Oh. I guess I could’ve brought my compass.”

“You said you started in the morning. If you’re a traveler, you should know that the sun rises in the east. You should have been walking towards the sunrise, not away from it.”

Dammit, quit making me look like an idiot! But thinking about that, I think I remember hearing that before. It was in the movie Shanghai Noon. Jackie Chan said that the sun rose in the east and Owen Wilson added that it set in the west. To think I learned something from the guys who co-starred in Rush Hour and I-Spy.

“I’m only a beginner at this.”

“Hum,” that woman uttered. The way she murmured, with descended eyebrows and her nose crinkled upwards, made me feel like dried poo poo, at least until I remembered not to give a drat what she thinks. Do you have near death experiences often?"

More than you’d imagine.

“Um, no. I was just going to try my luck at hitchhiking with a trucker, you know?”

“Where are you headed?” I had a feeling what she’s going to suggest. My opinion of the woman was raised exponentially. I now had good reason to give a drat what she thinks of me, and I consciously un-popped my shirt collar and brushed the dust out of my clothes where I stood.

I’d appreciate if you can give me a lift to as far as that service station. The girl got back into the van and while turning to me said:

Hop on.

She kind of reminds me of a bunny. The way she twitched her nose as she motioned me in with her hand, fingers straight like a paw. Still, she’s more crass than any bunny I’ve ever heard of. I leap into the van and quickly shuffle around garbage on the car’s floor in-between my feet as I get comfortable. The thin carpeting on the floor is permeated by the stains of cigarette butts and beer spills. Yet the leather seats remain pristine.

You listen to country? she asks with her hand fidgeting the knob of a worn car radio.

Uh, not really my thing, I let out.

It’s isn’t my thing either. Yet.

She grunted and grumbled while working the dial, which looked so beat up that she was practically unscrewing the thing with her wrists. Was she really getting this worked out over a car radio? I just came out of what I consider a near death experience and I’m feeling quite peachy.

Yeah, country isn’t my thing either, she lets out as she’s finally able to put on a country station, but I’m trying to get used to it. So we’re both gonna have to endure banjo ballads for a good while.

As we ride off, I realize that I’m completely oblivious as to her name. She’s doing me a huge, life saving favor so I might as well thank and get to know her.

So-

What were you doing lying out in the middle of the desert anyway? I could’ve ran over your head if I didn’t notice you. Your head. Did something serious happen?

This girl knows how to break the ice. Very well. Should I be talking about myself this early? Shouldn’t I be asking about her? She has a point though; I have an interesting story and she did ask for it. Fine. I’ll ask her about herself after I’m finished telling her about how I got here.

Hello? Oh my god, you’re not blacking out on me are you? She put a hand on my shoulder. I hope for your sake that one of those truckers is a doctor, or something.

Huh? Oh, yeah. Sorry, I’m up. I was just thinking about something.

It took you long enough.

Yeah, well, it’s a long story and I had to recount it. That’s classic me right there; I always have a save. But, it really is a story I’ve got to think about. Basically, I decided to walk the earth for about a year. But I gave up after my first three hours and decided that I’d go on a hitchhiking journey. I want to test the limits of humanity’s generosity.

C’heh, she chuckles. This isn’t a laughing matter. This all leads up to my existential question! This kind of thinking can very well determine whether or not I decide justice exists in the world! That’s a very important self discovery! I continue.

Um, yeah, it sounds silly, I know. I’m really moved by that though.

So how’d you wind up in the middle of the desert anyway? If you don’t know and just woke up unaware of your surroundings, then we should get you to a doctor right away. She suddenly stops the Volkswagen and pulls over to the side of the road, and peers right into the irises of my eyeballs. You might have been raped.

My butt is fine, thank you. Did you forget that I told you I was walking to the service station we’re driving to right now? Really, is she holding on to the possibility that I was raped?

Lighten up. I’m kidding. I don’t think you have to worry about being raped anytime soon.

Coming from her, that manages to wound me.

Uh, anyway. What happened was, my ride was a trucker who picked up another hitchhiker on the road. Only this hitchhiker was a cute girl from the sticks with a written sign that read ‘NEW YORK, LOS ANGELES, AND/OR ATLANTA PLZ!’ Since he could only really sit one more person in his cooped up car, the trucker traded upwards and kicked me out in favor of her.

That’s loving terrible. I’d never - uh… what’s your name?

Nate. Yours?

Crisis. Yeah, I’d never kick you out of a truck for a girl. That trucker sounds like a grade-A douche.

He was-

Wait a minute. Did she just say-?

-Uh, did you just say your name was Crisis?

Yeah, I know it sounds like a superhero name, but yes. I’m Crisis. My father sucked.

Tell me about it. He must have been a comic book geek. The penultimate DC Comics crossover event was titled Crisis on Infinite Earths, in homage to previous annual events in the company’s run also called Crisis. I am sad to say that I also know this piece of useless trivia, and I decide not to tell her this.

Did he ever tell you why he named you Crisis? I ask, now more than a bit curious.

Actually, my father died before I was born. Huh? That sounds odd. How did he bestow the name Crisis on her, then? Sometime before he passed away, he wrote down a list of names that he wanted for his child. When I was born, my grandparents pulled it out, and they decided on the name at the very top of the girl’s list. That name was ‘Chris.’ The nurse on hand could barely read his handwriting though, and she misread it as ‘Crisis.’ On March 23rd, 1998, ‘Crisis Caldor Collingwood’ was born. The worst part of it though? I was born at 4:52 PM. The afternoon. I wish I was born in the evening. That’s more romantic.

You are an odd woman, born under otherwise ordinary circumstances, Miss Crisis Caldor Collingwood. I notice that the bluegrass sound which continues to stream through the Volkswagen radio compels me to grind my teeth into powder.

You said that you’re trying to get used to country music, right? Why do you bother listening to it if you don’t really like it? I ask, stating one of the more obvious questions floating in my mind about this girl.

Because I might have to dance to this music one day. If I live in the southwest, the clubs will play country nonstop, right?

But you’re unsure where you’re going to live, right? For all you know, couldn’t you end up living in New York, Chicago, London or Paris?

My master plan is to drive my Volkswagen around the world until it broke down once and for all. Wherever that will be, that’s where I’ll live. I can’t cross the Atlantic in this thing so London and Paris are out.

Somehow, I also came to the conclusion that’d she’d just drive until she felt like stopping. This clearly groundless girl would never have a thought out time line for her life. Takes one to know one, after all.

So you go clubbing? I decide to continue the earlier line of discussion.

Yes. I hate actually clubbing though. I go only for booze.

Huh? Why not just go to house parties or something like that?!

By dancing to country music, I kinda meant just bobbing my head to it at the bar. While drunk. It makes it easier to get laid that way.

I see. Crisis Caldor Collingwood is also sexually active. She’s an attractive woman though, so it ought to be expected. I mean, aren’t they all? Yet, coming from her, I still feel a little put off by it. Maybe it’s because lately I feel out of touch and uncomfortable with other people, much less a woman who actually knows what she wants out of life. Why does this feel emasculating?

Too exhausted to diagnose myself with an acute insecurity, I pass out in Crisis’s van.

(((

At first, I can only hear a whirl of propeller blades. The blanket of white which shields my vision fades into an ocean’s horizon at sunrise. I realize that I’m sitting inside a helicopter while my legs hang out of the front door. I turn to look over my shoulder and find a woman lying on the floor with trenched in a green blanket.

That would be my exhausted mother.

The rising sun was barely able to pierce the thick barrier of gray which lined the sky.

My mother and I were refugees from New York. The rest of our family separated from each other once the war began.

The helicopter was forced to land somewhere over New Jersey. I remembered only two details of what would happen next; the puddles of rain and a path lined with the bodies of guerrilla foot soldiers. My mother dragged me by my wrist, saying nothing and running only on fatigue and maternal instinct. Following my mother, I dashed across the leveled parkway pavement, haphazardly dashing in-between the hundreds of scattered cars and trucks across the highway, all while catching glimpses of the blood on my face through the puddles of water I splashed through. The snare beat of the sound of gunshots rattled in the air, only to be deafened by ear-piercing sirens. I could only barely ingest the situation and my surroundings, yet I had the premonition that for the rest of my foreseeable future, I wasn’t going to be very happy,

I saw a little girl about my age, with an inexplicably frilly black dress, ducking behind cars before moving on to the next. She was beside the pile of corpses which used to be her family. Before we passed by her, I clenched my hand around her bony arm. I would have said, follow us, or I’ll save you, if I had the energy to talk. Instead, I smiled at her, indignantly, so as to say, I won’t let you be alone or something like that. I took her with us.

After dashing through a thrashed phalanx of abandoned vehicles, we came to a stretch of turnpike sprinkled with survivors running into the forest alongside the parkway.

For a long time afterward, I would come to equate my own reflection with impending doom, as if my own image were proof of my fragile mortality. It was only one day, when I was sixteen years old, that I overcame my fear of mirrors. Life as normal had just begun to settle in, and I lived with my mother in the California-Texas Region. I forgot why, but I was compelled to stare into my own eyes for an hour straight. That’s when, for no apparent reason, I said to myself out loud, this isn’t my world. It seemed only natural to disassociate myself from the world after the war. The hopes I had of growing up betrayed me.

)))

Hey, Chief! I hear a voice shouting while I’m being shaken out of sleep. We’re at the service station. Crisis’s right hand shoved my face into the shotgun seat window.

Aren’t there classier ways to wake a person up besides palming them? Whenever someone shocks me out of sleep, I’m surprisingly coherent. I’m probably more articulate when I’m caught between reality and slumber.

I rubbed a poo poo stain on your lip to get you to wake up from the smell, but that didn’t work.

WHAT?! I rubbed my mouth, but didn’t see or smell anything.

I’m kidding. I kept repeating your name, but you didn’t respond. Woman, have you no tact?

Whatever. Um, I really appreciate you saving me from certain death, Crisis. I’d like to buy you lunch for your trouble. That, and I think I might want to ride with her out of California at least.

So all your life’s worth to you is truck stop lunch? she pouted. You have to be kidding me! You think I go around with a cache of wealth on my person? I guess it’s alright. Lunch money is valuable to a vagrant, right?

I’m no vagrant! I’m a wanderer!

How utterly gracious of you, Miss Collingwood. But do you really think that girls who play with their dookie are too sophisticated for grease-drenched hamburgers?

Yes. Wait, what? Is that it? The burgers have to be soaked in thousand island dressing first. Oh.

I’ll see about accommodating you. We get out of the van. At least, I attempt to. I fell face flat into the ground, my legs still numb from having passed out along the highway.

Uh, you okay? she asks. I can get you to the emergency room if you really need to.

I’m fine, I manage to say in-between spitting pebbles out of my mouth.

If you say so. Anyway, just so you know I’m taking you up on your lunch offer, so don’t die before you pay the cashier, alright?

Your concern moves me. I brush the dirt off my clothes and head into the service station. I’m greeted by a gaudy gift store, cheap convenience store, an arcade, and a Burger King. Oh, yeah. You can pick up a cheap 12-volt TV/VCR here if you wanted.

If I wanted. Why would I want a cheap 12-volt TV/VCR?

Actually, I want a cheap 12-volt TV/VCR. Guess we won’t be splitting it then.

Are you an impulse buyer? Crisis turns to ask me. I give the question some thought.

A little bit. At least I can afford it, kind of. I’ll get in line at the Burger King so you can find us a seat, alright? And it’s true. I’m not an ill-prepared traveler. I’ve got about two thousand dollars cash in my sack, and lots of pepper spray. I should probably be more concerned about being robbed, but I’m a week into this problem-free. And I would like a cheap 12-volt TV/VCR. I want to at least watch the news.

I came back from the register with a couple of value meals on a tray. I found Crisis sitting at a table nearby, her eyes glued to some sort of letter. I sit in front of her.

They didn’t have any thousand island dressing, so I just got some packets of ketchup and mayo. You blend them together and they kind of taste like thousand island.

Uh huh. Thanks.

What are you reading? She looked a little surprised when I asked her. She was really absorbed in the thing.

Oh. It’s nothing.

We started eating. I really dug into my Double Whopper, because I was starving for at least twenty-four hours. I downed my onion rings like cheap booze. Crisis mixed the sauces and dipped them into a few fries, but other than that her meal was practically untouched.

Actually, she began. I want to ask you for your advice, Nate. This is kind of important.

Really? What do you need?

Well, it’s this letter. I got it in the mail a week ago. Actually, this is the reason I’m on a road trip. Wait, that seems off. Hold it!

I thought you told me you were driving around aimlessly. You told me that you weren’t even sure if you were going to roam the southwest!

That’s true. I plan on wandering around and picking a destination after I take care of business in New York.

What is this feeling of deja vu? Earlier I guessed she would travel to Chicago, New York, London or Paris. My man’s intuition hasn’t failed me.

What’s waiting in New York for you?

My inheritance. Oh. That’s interesting. That’s what I need your advice on, actually. I’ve had a rich uncle who was my benefactor throughout my childhood. He paid my way through college, even though I dropped out half-way. He even helped me start my career.

Career?

Eh… it’s nothing. She doesn’t want to talk about it. It’s probably really embarrassing, so the less asked of it, the better. Anyway, I owed a lot to him. I learned a week ago that he passed away.

Oh. I see…

He left me $20,000 in his will. drat! What manner of tycoon was this guy?!

Crisis, my only advice for you is to take it. But I knew that it couldn’t be that simple.

That’s the problem. What? There’s a problem with twenty g’s?! My uncle was a romantic and believed everyone was destined to be loved, including me. He made a revision to his will before he died called the True Love Clause. It states that I’m entitled to $50,000 if I can get to New York. I’m entitled to $500,000 if I’m married.

I can see where this might be a dilemma.

I see. Do you have a boyfriend that you really like?

Nate, my last boyfriend was such a worthless loving douche, I say his name every time I take a poo poo.

Oh.

I’m going to be blunt. I may love my uncle, and I do want to honor his memory for as long as I live, but I am not above deceiving a dead man for half a million. What I want to know is, are you?

Am I what? Wait. I see where this is going. Crisis grabbed my last onion ring and placed it around my finger.

Will you do me the honor of being my lawfully wedded husband?


#2

I always considered myself to be a decent human being. When I’m with strangers, I’m courteous and soft spoken. I always turn things in to the lost & found. Going out of my way to help another person actually feels good sometimes. As such, it’s safe to say I’m a mild-mannered person. That doesn’t explain why I’ve agreed to help the woman I’ve hitchhiked with con a dead man and his family out of an inheritance which doesn’t truly belong to her.

Don’t we have to go to a chapel first? I ask as our Volkswagen passes through Las Vegas, quickie wedding capital of the known world without stopping. I noted the near skeletal remains of the grand casinos and hotels that made up the Las Vegas of yore. Now I see a city-sarcophagus, drenched in dirt and collapsing buildings, with only the spare bar or three for the convenience of whatever damned vagabond happens to wander through here.

Let’s hold off on that for now. I think a common law marriage might work out.

You mean all I have to do is say that we’re married and that fulfills the requirements of the will?

I’m not sure whether or not New York did away with traditional marriage laws yet, but I heard many Eastern States have laissez-faire marriage laws now. Thinking about it, I do remember hearing the East overcoming a state of anarchy just a year ago. Marriage reform is probably low on their list of concerns.

Yeah. But I barely pay attention to the media so I only catch hints of national news. I didn’t watch TV too often back home.

You don’t watch TV? Crisis asks me, with an expression as if she were at a zoo, amused by naive, uncivilized monkeys

Well, no. Most of my media I get from Internet cafes. Doesn’t everybody?

Didn’t you bug me about getting a portable TV earlier?

Like I said, just for the news.

Oh. So I guess you’re not used to watching TV late at night?

Not really. I haven’t been an insomniac for a good year.

I see. I’m actually a little relieved then. She exhaled with a cute noise that sounded like a cross between a sigh and a moan. It was a very suspicious sound for anyone to make, actually.

About what?

Never mind.

We continued to drive until midnight, checking in at a cheap motel on my own cash. I tried to ignore the staring eyes of the clerks while getting our keys, poised on Crisis’s mysteriously bandaged head. Did they think I was one of those abusive boyfriend types? I’m not even capable of swatting flies. They might have had worse impressions when Crisis insisted on getting two separate beds.

Did you see the way they were staring at you? Crisis asked while walking down to our room. They just swiped the cash out of your hand like you were poo poo!

Yes. They might be calling the police on me as we speak.

You wonder why? They might be biased against… uh, what’s your race? I never asked.

Oh. I’m multi-ethnic. I have the racial composition of a stray dog. All manner of Asian, Middle-Eastern, European, and African groups swirl in me like a politically correct kid’s show. When people ask me what my race is, I enjoy letting them guess. I’ve had a couple people ask if I was part Eskimo though.

Yeah, maybe they hate two or three different groups in you.

I think they thought I gave you that. I pointed at the bandages wrapped around her head.

This? Crisis removed the bandages, showed them to me, and placed them back on. This is a head wrap, sort of.

Um… is that really necessary? People all over are gonna think I’m a wife beater.

Accessories can never be necessary.

That night would prove instrumental in entwining my fate with that of the woman named Crisis Caldor Collingwood. We came to our room, the door marked 100. I swipe the card key four times before it registers and we quickly plopped into our beds.

Crisis changes into neither her underwear or jammies. She doesn’t change at all, prepped to pass out at any moment. I still have some of the residual energy gained from my midday episode of sleep paralysis, so I expect to stay up for most of the night.

So Crisis, what’s your full name now?

Crisis Caldor Collingwood. Why?

Tch tch, I snap. If you’re married to me you have to adopt my surname.

Oh. Wait, I don’t know what your last name is!

You’re now Mrs. Crisis Caldor Collingwood Snyder.

Snyder?! That… doesn’t fit at all. It begins with the wrong consonant. She pouted. I can’t see myself as Crisis Collingwood Snyder for the rest of my life.

So that’s it? You’re going to back out of our sacred vows just because you don’t want a last name that doesn’t begin with a hard ‘kuh’ sound?

No! It’s just that the world is going through a massive upheaval. The boundaries of society and technology continue to be broken with each passing day. As children of the 21st century, it’s our duty to forge ahead with the flow of change. That is why you will be changing your name to Nathan Snyder Collingwood!

Uh… ‘Nate Collingwood’ kind of has a ring to it. Sort of.

That’s right. 21st century society is a pillar of moral high ground that our fathers could barely imagine!

And as a pillar of this new moral high ground, we get into a sham marriage to get half a million in cash.

It’s a radical era in history, Nate. Crisis laughed.

At least this upheaval of old society exempts me from buying you a wedding band.

…what. The way she blurted it, it most definitely wasn’t a question. It was a declaration of disgust. After a short, awkward silence, Crisis turned on the TV. Yo. Cheapass. She said, addressing me. Get me some M&Ms and a root beer.

Uh, what?

We passed a vending machine outside. If the happily married bride can’t get a ring on her finger, at least get her some candy and soda pop.

Ugh… fine, Mistress. You’ll have your sweets.

When I returned to the room, I saw Crisis snoring while laying on her side. I left her snack on the table beside her and got into my own bed, staring at yet another unfamiliar ceiling. I felt as if I should have been more excited about this trip. The reason I set out on my own from California is embarrassingly childish: I was out of a job. I had the foresight to save enough for such a rainy day, and was too proud to continue living at my mom’s house. The option of leaving only came natural to me.

We had just gone through an economic boom of sorts, thanks to the California-Texas region’s entertainment industry. New resettlements were popping up across the west as other would-be wanderers would inherit the largely abandoned cities for themselves. I felt I had to be a part of that. The population began to grow, with the region’s numbers swelling to 2.5 million. Seeing as how we were now entering a new age of prosperity, I had the gall to defy my mother’s protests and venture out into a world of my own making.

Yet even now, despite my dreams and this rich dowry which has presented itself, I feel unfulfilled and out of place, like a patient confined to a bed.

(((

We marched forward on the parkway. By now we had become a small group of survivors, dragging our wounded loved ones across a river of broken-down cars and pavement. We huddled around a pocket radio waiting for news. We were told that fighting in north New Jersey had ceased, and that survivors were to return to their ordinary lives, despite the now staggering loss of family and home. My mother had fought with the others for food and water for us; us being, myself and the girl who had up to now been completely silent, such was the fear that her eyes betrayed.

Nathan, I’ll need you to sleep now. I won’t be able to get any of it tonight because someone needs to watch over you two.

Mom-

I don’t care if all you do is shut your eyes and breathe slowly. You’ll do that, and I expect you to do the same, young lady. My mother maintained a powerful air, her being on the brink of death like the rest of us be damned. Listen. The radio said that a lot of people are going to a bus depot at the other end of the Turnpike. That’s where we’re walking tomorrow, and we won’t stop. I need you to have the energy for the trip, okay?

We climbed into an abandoned Volvo which, luck so have it, had some food and candy in the backseat. The girl and I slumped on opposite ends, with my mother tucking us underneath tattered coats. Then she kissed me on my cheek, and right then for an instant, I imagined I saw the girl’s lips quiver in longing.

My mother betrayed her own words and immediately fell asleep in the front seat. She was never horribly consistent. I took it upon myself to act as the watch sentinel of the group, as I was the sole boy. It didn’t seem like I’d have much to look out for; most of the survivors took our lead and found cars to sleep in, while others just passed out on the ground outside.

So I looked back at that girl. I could only do what was natural, and ask the most obvious things.

Um, hi. What’s your name?

I squint my eyes to see through the darkness, while only the faint pillars of moonlight cast on her revealed her feelings.

I’m scared, she finally told me as if I couldn’t figure it out.

Hi Scared. I’m Nathan. Yes, it was a bad joke, but I was just a kid and everyone knows that finely honed sarcasm is born from shattered hopes and teenage angst. She didn’t get the joke.

My name isn’t Scared. I’M scared.

So what is your name?

…I’m Dei.

)))

I woke up from another dream about surviving the war. I suppose this is survivor’s guilt setting in, but I keep wondering about the fate of little Dei. I got over how she exited my life as quickly as she entered it once we finally got out of New Jersey, but I always wondered if, even as a kid, I could have done something to not only save her, but to cherish my life forever with her.

Instead, I’m now married to a weird girl who reeks of trailer trash, who proposed to me with an onion ring. A Burger King-patented King Sized onion ring. A king’s ring, one could say. Another famous ring that one could also comment on is the Green Lantern ring.

I’m starting to think incoherently.

I went into the bathroom and meditated while taking a dump. It’s odd, but I find that I’m most at peace when I’m sitting on a toilet. It’s as if I’m expelling all of life’s stress in one load. I grab a few sheets of toilet paper and I hesitate; this toilet paper is really nice. It feels soft, has the texture of a stretched canvas, and even has a floral design on it. I don’t really want to use it and throw it away. But I do need to wipe my bottom. What should I do?

I compromise. I take the toilet paper already in my hand, fold it up nicely, and place it beside the bathroom sink. Then I wipe myself with another few strip of sheets from the same roll. I consume more toilet paper sheets to save the other sheets. It comes off as hypocritical, to arbitrarily save one life because I’m attached to it, while damning another. But what if wiping my rear end with this toilet paper wasn’t damning it at all?

What if this toilet paper wants to be used and flushed down the toilet? Like salmon who intentionally die after they spawn? Isn’t it fate for a life to be consumed by another life?

If so, then why do animals who play the role of prey try to escape their predators as if they fear death?

Do animals fear death? I’m sure that rabbits don’t want to be eaten by wolves, but rabbits don’t necessarily reflect on their lives and think, I don’t want to get eaten because I still have unfulfilled dreams and regrets I have to correct. While animals have some semblance of emotion, it’s usually just another word for the instinct to keep living.

Unlike we humans, who have emotions that often encourage self destruction and obliteration of our own species.

You just want to justify wiping your own bottom and having to dispose of the waste.

It’s sleep paralysis. I begin breathing slowly, and loudly. My thoughts grow more nonsensical and disconnected by the second. I hope that it would alarm Crisis and signal her to shake me out of sleep. I don’t care if she has to break down the door to the bathroom and expose me for my defecating self. As my luck would have it, her own snoring deafens my breathing. I do the same familiar routine: I curl my toes, wiggle my face, and try to move this pair of arms which feels like pushing a skyscraper.

You hate the idea of throwing things away, even if it is garbage. That’s why your knapsack is filled with old receipts, wrappers, and other trash, right? That’s why you chase down plastic bags and newspaper pages flying across sidewalks?

The familiar voice continues listing off examples of an uncomfortable weakness of mine.

Dei? Is that you I hear? I ask with my mind, since I can’t even move my mouth to form the words.

You’re a curiousity, Nate Snyder. You like to linger in the past but appreciate the value of moving ahead. Instead, you let the world move around for you, so that you can plant your feet firmly in the past and yet witness the future with your own eyes. You always tried to achieve the balance between idealistic nostalgia and realistic transience.

Ha… I never imagined you to be so wordy, Dei. I also suppose that I’m compelled to imagine you this moment because you are a familiar of my guilt?

Maybe. You have the irrational feeling that you threw me away, and now try to live atoning for it. It’s kind of sweet, but ultimately really destructive. You are haunted by demons which are your own inadequacies given tangible form.

I imagine figures in the dark. Large menaces who appear to have the intent to kill. I want to scream, but can barely murmur. The best thing for me now is to give up, shut my eyes, and hope I can fall into another dream.

Poor thing, dragged into a world not of his own making.

My vision fades to black. Suddenly, cracks of light rip through that darkness, showing me visions of another world, my thoughts assailed by memories from the infinite uncertainty.

I see you’re busy now Nate. I’ll visit you when you’re done sorting things out.