Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease
My hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly that my knuckles flashed white hot like spent coals in a fire pit. Sweat was beading on my forehead as I clenched my jaw. The tired muscles in my neck were begging for a reprieve. I felt it inside of me, felt its slimy tendrils caressing my vital organs and exploring my intestines.
The pain was excruciating, but I had become numb to it.
A loud hiss filled my ears as I felt it moving up just beneath the skin of my arms. It pushed its way through muscle, shoved nerves aside, and curled around my bones.
I gripped the wheel tighter, but I could feel it pulling against me.
With the tendrils distracted, grasping at my fingertips, I brought my foot down on the gas.
The engine howled as the RPMs spun out of control. The tires squealed and the car flew into the intersection. I could feel it panicking inside of me as I struggled against it to turn the car off the road.
It was caught between my hands and feet, it had to make a decision. As it raced down through my legs I slammed the wheel to the left, sending the car barreling full force into a tree.
“Stop! This is insane, we need to talk about this!” I shouted.
She shook her head like so many times before, but this time she started packing.
“You know, honestly, if I had instead found you sleeping with her, maybe we could have worked this out. She’s on the run, three people are dead, and you? She corrupted you, turned you into someone else,” she said, her voice stained with sadness.
I threw the glass in my hand on the ground. The remaining whiskey splattered across the driveway as shards of glass ricocheted in every direction.
“What the fuck would you have done? I was dying! No one wanted to help. The doctors wrote me off as a lost cause. Sure, her methods were fucked up, but she cured me didn’t she? The police will find her, we can just move on now.”
“You could have talked to me, we could have figured something out,” she said.
“How could I talk to you when you were never there. You wrote me off too, just like the rest!”
She shook her head one last time and started walking to her car.
“Please, don’t leave me like this!” I shouted.
She did. She backed out of that driveway, put the car in drive, and sped off. Even with the whiskey numbing my body and mind, I still felt my soul rip in two.
It was an existential kind of pain, a gushing primal wound that had no medicine or treatment. She left me alone, but perhaps that was for the best.
I pushed open the door to the car. The bent metal groaned as it swung into a nearby tree with a pathetic thud. I pulled my smartphone out of my pocket. The screen was shattered, but the GPS was still functioning.
I headed towards the cabin, crunching through underbrush and meandering through trees. A memory was stuck in my head, like a word on the tip of your tongue.
There was a woman, someone special to me, but I couldn’t remember her name. The memory was fading. There was an argument. It was bright and vivid a moment ago, but it was becoming less and less clear. Without warning, it was gone. A new one came to the forefront, a happy memory.
I clutched my head, as if to contain the leaking memory.
“What’s the matter?”
“Sorry, I was just thinking,” I said.
She smiled as her fingers intertwined with mine. I looked away from the orange glow of the setting sun on the lake stretched out before us and turned to meet her gaze. I saw everything I had ever wanted reflected in those glistening indigo eyes.
“I know. You always get that longing look in your eyes when you’re deep in thought. Care to share with the class?”
I shrugged and held her hand tighter.
“Moments like this are so few and far between. I wish I could just skip all the bullshit in between, you know?”
She laid her head against my shoulder. The sweet aroma of her hair triggered deeper memories in my senses. I knew that smell. I tried so hard to remember her name, but I could only remember the way she made me feel. She was my reason for living.
“You need that bullshit in between,” she said, “If you don’t struggle and survive between moments like this one, how can you ever appreciate them?”
I wrapped my arm around her waist and pulled her closer.
“You see, this is why I love you. You’ve got more wisdom than anyone I’ve ever met.”
“Well, that, and I’m great in bed,” she said, looking up at me with a goofy grin.
I chuckled. “Of course, that too.”
I leaned down and pressed her lips to mine. It was a moment of perfect serenity.
I was standing outside the cabin. Tears burned behind my eyelids as I heard it whispering in my ears. It sighed, as if it had finally found the memory it was searching for.
“Please, not that one,” I whispered.
I dropped to my knees and screamed in agony as it began to devour that moment we shared on the dock together. The feeling of her lips on mine, the scent of her hair, all of it was ripped out and consumed.
There was only one memory left of her. One last encounter, and I would die before I let this fucking thing take it.
Adrenaline poured out into my veins, offering me some semblance of control as I charged through the cabin with a sole purpose. I walked out into the garage and picked up two metal cans of gasoline and a box of matches.
I made my way through the cabin, pouring the pungent liquid over everything that would burn. I could remember little else, but I knew that I wanted this thing to suffer, and that was good enough.
I brandished a match and lit it. The moment the flame arose from the tip, the thing inside me let out a shriek that ricocheted across my skull and exploded outward from within my ears.
It was afraid.
The door of the cabin swung open. The shock of seeing another human being caused me to drop the match. It spiraled through the air as a woman with auburn hair and the most striking indigo eyes ran towards me.
Flames erupted all around us. She took my hand and pulled me through the flames. We fell through the front door as flames engulfed the cabin. Shadows danced across the trees as the sun dipped below the horizon.
“What were you thinking? I knew you would come here, but I didn’t expect this!” The woman shouted.
“Who are you?” I asked.
She locked those eyes with mine.
“I’m your wife! Or, I was, but that’s not important.”
Shards of memories returned for a brief moment, scattered like crumbs in my mind after the beast inside me had its fill. Her name still escaped me, but those feelings were still there despite everything.
I reached out to her just as another woman emerged from within the trees. She had unkempt black hair, ghostly white skin, ragged clothes, and a black dagger clutched in her left hand.
She charged toward my wife with the dagger raised. I felt the tendrils tensing up inside me, but managed to push her out of the way just before the black-haired woman drove the dagger into my chest.
I looked down and watched a thick black ooze pour out from the wound in my chest. It wrapped around the knife and projected outward into the space between the crazed woman and I.
The ooze started to take form. A pair of feet, legs, moving upward until the silhouette of a person exactly my height stood in front of me.
“Arise!” the woman shrieked.
I looked over as my wife climbed to her feet, but before she could move, the black-haired woman reached out and pointed at her. She froze in place. The woman turned back to me as the last of the ooze crawled out from my chest.
“Now, to dispose of you.”
I looked down as the ground opened up beneath me. A gaping black hole appeared and I felt an icy wind rush out from within. As I started to fall into it, I looked over to my wife still frozen in place, and then back at the thing crawling its way out of me.
I couldn’t save us, but I can still save you.
I grabbed the knife with both of my hands and pulled. The black ooze turned back, ripping away from the silhouette and pouring into me as I fell. The woman’s smile faded as she realized what was happening.
I fell through into the starless abyss below just as the thing returned to its place inside me. It was furious. It pushed against my skin, threw itself upon my bones, but as we fell through that infinite black, my thoughts turned to that last memory I had managed to keep safe.
I sat quietly on the bench at the park as people walked by without paying me any mind. They were in their own little world, and so was I. I looked down at the open box in front of me.
A round chocolate cake sat in my lap with the words “Happy Birthday” painted on it in blue icing, sliced into eight roughly equal pieces. It was for my girlfriend, who moments before had broken up with me over the phone.
I wasn’t one to normally eat my feelings, but with my heart in pieces I reached down and picked up a slice of the chocolate cake with my bare hands.
As I brought it to my mouth, a woman sat down on the bench beside me. I couldn’t imagine what she was thinking, but as I turned and looked into her striking indigo eyes, she just smiled.
“You look like you’re having a bad day,” she said.
I doubled-down on my decisions and took a bite out of the chocolate cake that was smeared all over my hand. It was smooth, silky, and sweet.
“Did you want some?” I asked through a mouthful of the cake.
She laughed. “Sure, why not?”
She took a slice of chocolate cake out with her hand as well, and we sat there eating it like children in the middle of the park. We talked about my break-up, about her job, about life in general. Sure, we got a few weird looks, but this was the soothing balm my soul needed.
An hour went by in seconds. She looked down at her watch and her face turned to panic.
“Shit, I’m running late. Listen, this was fun, we should hang out again.”
“Yeah, we should! Let me get your number,” I said.
I looked around for something to wipe off the chocolate smeared across my hands, but she had a better idea. With a single finger, she traced a phone number into the top of the cake, carving it into the icing. It was crude, but it worked.
I laughed. She stood up and ran down the sidewalk at a brisk pace. I panicked for a moment.
“Hey, wait, I never got your name!” I shouted.
She must not have heard me, because she kept running. It didn’t matter though, this memory was enough.
Even if I kept falling through that space until the end of time, this perfect moment would keep me company.
Her auburn hair, her indigo eyes, and the sweet taste of that chocolate cake.
About the author
Lover of dogs, gaming, and long walks on the beach. Content Marketing Manager by day, aspiring writer by night. Long time ghostwriter, finally stepping into the light. Alone, we cannot change this world, but we can create better ones.