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