Reflection (new flash fiction)

As he hauled down a nondescript roadway carving its way through the poorly lit country side, Jake was giving in to the feeling of drifting off, giving into the welcoming impending conscious oblivion. He was beginning to be overwhelmed by the mundane drag of his existence, had been for a while to be honest. Each day of his life seemed to be an exact replica of the previous day, the vibrancy slowly draining with each repetition: the same bland breakfast eaten before he went and did the same workout with the same people, he went to his boring job and slogged through the morning until it was time for him to eat the same bland lunch, then he finished his work, went home to walk his same dogs on the same route before getting into the same bed to recharge his slowly dying batteries and begin again anew in the morning. When he dug deep in his mind, he was starting to notice a feeling of emptiness about him, his life felt like a dying tree which was dry rotting from the inside, hollow and barely standing.

As he wondered what exactly was going on, or how(if) he could fix it, he realized he welcomed the darkening bliss. On the surface of his mind he realized that letting go, at any moment, was akin to surrendering to his demons, to finally telling the nagging voice in his subconscious that he was ready to submit to the darkness. He did not want to concede, he wanted to tarry the next blow, weather the next mental storm, but he was tired. Tired of perpetually having to argue with an internal monologue over the very nature of existence, a voice which constantly assured him with the air of ultimate authority that nothing really mattered as much as he thought, nothing truly held any weight or value, all of his efforts were in vain. He was tired of always having to promise himself that things were going to get better, all the people in his life told him so, everybody except his own internal narration. He wondered if maybe letting go would finally provide him the peace of mind he so desperately craved. He hated this feeling; everything was empty. The world had no depth, no feel. On the surface, he wanted to fight. Deep down, in the absurd depths of the ocean of his subconscious, where the lack of light and the immense pressure created untold monstrosities which drove his every move, he had already decided it was time to surrender.

He was losing himself to thoughts; thoughts which ceaselessly drifted to him through the aether. Thoughts of lost moments of his life, broken memories he could never quite fully reconstruct, lost forever in the haze of alcohol and years. Memories that haunted him, jumped out at him in moments in which he was foolish enough to drop his guard, and taunted him. The memories shamed him. He gripped the steering wheel, closed his eyes and reeled as he heard people screaming, he saw rushed clips of people laughing together as they drank until they forgot themselves, saw people sharing themselves so wholly with each other though they had only recently met, he saw body parts strewn about a gravel road, he saw tattered faces wrenched into masks of revulsion which stared at him with a complex mix of adoration and hatred as though they wanted nothing more than for him to help them / for him to die. His eyelids were lit ablaze as explosions in the night peppered the land surrounding him.

As the explosions continued, worming their way into the very core of him, he briefly opened his eyes and saw the intermittent street lights as they marched past him on opposite sides of the narrow country road; monolithic sentinels lighting his path to a blissful oblivion he hadn’t yet known he wanted. He looked left and saw a gently rising berm of wild grass whispering in the breeze. The ghostly whispers beckoned to him. To his right was the same. Surrounded on both sides by the comforting, sweet dewy smell of the grass and blanketed by darkness broken only by the street lights, he wondered if he would ever feel alive again.

He realized he couldn’t quite remember where he was, the endless pavement and landscape becoming a shifting amalgam of all the places he had been and seen. He thought he could see an alligator backing away into the Saw Palmetto peeking through the grass on the shoulder of the Hawaiian back road. He closed his eyes for a second, reopened them and attempted to shake off the confusion. In the distance, nestled in the art deco valleys of what could only be Bisbee, AZ, he could make out the distinct shape of a Southern Live Oak, dripping with Spanish Moss. A tumbleweed jaunted lazily across the macadam, briefly bathing itself in his halogen beams. He was tired, confused and defeated.

Slowly, and without much thought, he accelerated. He lost focus again, drifting back into the recesses of his own mental prison. His thoughts drifted to Marshall, a charismatic and caring young Army Sergeant who breathed his last breath trying to stop the massive detonation which would claim his life. He remembered being frozen in terror, unable to calculate the moment, as the car bomb nearly decimated the van it was housed in and the building next to it. He recalled endless nights spent in sleepless fear as he heard mortar shells slowly walking their way toward the perimeter of the base on which he was temporarily housed. He knew the inhabitants of the land were attempting to feel out the proper distance to land their shells in order to cause the maximum damage. He also remembered the one time they did, he was finally robbed of his sense of safety. He thought about his childhood and the times he spent hiding in his own house, sobbing heavily as he hid from his father’s wrath, maybe he never really felt safe.

The street lights now two solid lines above him, twin strings of poorly powered neon rope, framing the blurry landscape. His heart raced as he laid his steel coffins gas pedal to the floor. He was crying now, his face a distorted fusion of distress, sadness and joy. He wasn’t thinking clearly but he knew the way out, the way to end the suffering that not even the cases of beer could free him from. There was a sharp curve ahead, going straight was a plunge down a steep valley.

Having committed, and now with a sense of relief, he freed himself back to reflection. In that moment, clear as glass, he saw a young man in the bright halogens standing silhouetted against a brick wall, surrounded on three sides by other young kids laughing uninhibitedly. The young man was clutching a saxophone to his chest and laughing so hard his face was turning red, his hair wildly flying around his head. Jake could see the looks on the faces of the kids around the young man and saw the adoration they each had for one another. He saw a young lady standing next to Jake, holding his hand with a joyous and blissful look. As he focused his mental energy on the boy and the girl, they suddenly began to change; both growing slightly older in the blink of an eye. The young man was now wearing an Army uniform and the girl was sobbing uncontrollably. It appeared life was ripping them apart. The mixed feelings he was beginning to feel from this vision were beginning to overwhelm him. The boy and girl changed again, this time growing older but locked in a tender embrace. He was no longer in uniform and it seemed as though whatever rift had opened up between them had now been closed. Between them was a beautiful child swaddled in their fierce pink auras. They changed one last time, two children now but somehow, they were fundamentally different. Both of them had regained their youthful exuberance, the lust for life they once had.

Jake was heaving sobs. He began to realize that, no matter how tough his circumstances, regardless of the defilements of the years, as long as he could remember the possibilities inherent in the hopes and dreams of the child he once was, as long as he could remember the love he had for his family and the love they had for him, he could withstand the arrows of his own torments. He was going to be okay. He wanted to live.

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