Time for another flash fiction challenge from TerribleMinds! This time the story had to incorporate insomnia in a creative way. At the very least, insomnia is there. This one kind of burned it’s way out of my brain. Not super polished, but I feel it fits the piece. Anyway, enjoy!
The blast of a car horn, loud and long and angry, breaks through the haze. I swerve right, barely avoiding the muscle car bearing down on my little economy cruiser.
Look around. Nothing familiar.
How long have I been driving? Days? Weeks? Months?
Drinking coffee in identical breakfast joints in identical little towns scattered across the map. Lunch and dinner from the same drive throughs with different names and different faces. Bathrooms at gas stations. Sleep at, well… Nowhere. Everywhere. Caffeinate. Do everything to stay awake.
If I close my eyes I see it. I see her. The blue dress matching her blue eyes. Fear. Sea salt in the air. A cracking ringing sound in my ears. Blood. So much blood. I’ve loved her. I’ve always loved her. But I don’t know her name. Don’t know her face. Except for this moment. This everything. Her hand stroking my cheek. Dropping away.
So I run. Run from town to town. Run from road to road. Can’t sleep. Won’t sleep. I’ve been running so long I don’t know if I’m coming or going.
Slip into the haze again. Comfortable. Familiar patterns. Half crumbled towns by day, highways lit by red tinged headlights by night. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Gas. Card still works. Money’s coming in from somewhere.
People keep their distance at the gas station. Can’t blame them. Wild hair. Soiled clothes. Dark bags under eyes. I catch a whiff of myself. Dried car sweat mixed with old french fry grease and the tangy vinegar of fast food ketchup. I buy a pack of moist towelettes with my cup of coffee and candy bar. The clerk keeps her distance.
On the road again. Storm front coming through. Day and night blur into one rain splattered mess. I pull to the side, stand in the deluge for a while. Dirt running off in rivulets. Back in the car, another whiff. Damp dog, but clean dog. An improvement.
Night and day go their separate ways as the storm clouds roll towards the horizon. Daylight remains. Another town, same as all the others. Energy drink in the cup holder. Rattle the can. A noise from a nearby parking lot. Car backfired. Know the sound, but doesn’t matter. I’m back in the alley. Her face inches from mine. Whispered words I can’t hear. Blood. So much blood.
A jolt. A car horn. A scream. Back in the now. Front tire smashed the curb of main street. Pedestrians running away. A uniformed policeman walking towards me. Beat him to the punch. Get out of the car. Pull it together. Say I’ve been driving all night. Ask where the nearest motel is.
Pointed glance at the car perched on the curb. Walking distance. Meter flashing green. No charge till the morning.
I smell it before I take more than a few steps. Not dried wet dog. Not fast food trash. Sea salt on the air. A memory? A dream? A hallucination from too many sleepless nights. Can’t rest. Not now.
Turn down a street at random once the cop’s out of sight. Walk for an hour or two. Come back for the car later. Good plan.
Two streets in, I see it. Blue. That damned blue dress. I stop. Stare. Her face. Fear. Determination. She stalks through the alley like an urban panther.
She passes. No acknowledgment. Is she a ghost? Am I?
Not long after, two suits pass. Thick muscles. Dim expressions. Hard eyes and knives in their hands.
I fall in behind them. Hunters being hunted being hunted. They stalk her with the singular focus she stalks her prey. I’m nothing. Just the wind.
A gunshot in the alley. A suit drops. Left behind. I pass a corpse. Forward. Twisting. Winding. I lose my way.
A scene from a t-junction. Blue dress peers ahead. Doesn’t see the suit behind her. Cry out. Rush between them. Fear reflected in bright blue eyes. Her arm past my head. A cracking ringing sound in my ears.
I laugh a sob. In the dreams, there’s no pain. But now? I taste copper. The suit falls, dragging the knife out of my back. Blood. So much blood. My blood. Her eyes lock mine. My face mirrored in blue. I love her. I’ve always loved her.
Her lips move, but I only hear ringing. Her fingers stroke my cheek. Dropping away. I’m dropping away. My eyes close. I smile.
I can finally rest.