​​(This is a work of fiction. The writer gives to the reader the liberty to post this work anywhere online but not with wrong credits. Also, any form of printing or publication is prohibited without prior notice.)

[Short Story]

[“The Dependence” Part 3]

I picture myself cruising down the historic Route 66 in a custom 1969 Ford Mustang, headed towards the scenic beaches of Santa Monica. Windows down, the radio is tuned to a Rock station, the horizon is marked by hills and a beautiful, crispy-orange sunset at the western end accompanies a luke-warm breeze abundant with petrichor. I am reminded of home as I breathe in the sweet fragrance of rain on dry soil. They’re right, some of them, who say home is wherever you feel like it.

I have always dreamt of this day – not just another day when I’ll be checking-off another big goal from my bucket list, but – a day when I would land on this mighty route, somehow a part of my American Dream. I cannot explain how much of it I want to absorb, all at once, especially when after the sunset rains, the dust settles down and everything is suddenly vividly clear and more contrasting; it’s a treat to my senses, a rare pleasure only few can afford. I feel I must be real lucky to be at the right place at the right time and I want to grab as much as I can, because I don’t know when would I be able to come back here. Or if I would even come back or not. So I keep the meter down to 60 miles and push through the Mother Road with the wind wiping my face.

A solitary signboard shines in the dying sunlight and my eyes follow it down to a gas station, situated a little off-track. I pull-over for a quick refueling and a smoke. As I take a turn towards the gas station, out of nowhere, as if thrown by someone, a heavy weight drops on my bonnet and leaves a huge dent before falling on the ground. I rush out of the car and move to the front to find that it’s a dead body. It smells real bad and by the looks of it, I assume that the deceased must have died a few days ago.

I kneel down, put my palms on the ground, lower my face and check the body out of curiosity. I look at the face, the skin scraped-off from the broken bones, flies buzzing all over it. I look at the soiled, tattered clothes with dried blood spots on them. I look into the empty sockets where once the eyes must have stood. As I keep looking into the hollowness, it begins swallowing me. It sucks me like air and before I could realize or cry for help in that lonely wilderness, I am gone. Yeah, just like that.

The sun prepares to sleep, the rhythmic grunts of the engine protrude and the radio of my car loudly sings, “I’m on a Highway to Hell”.

Time slows down, comes to a halt and starts running back as the hollow of those eyes on the highway spit me back to reality. I wake up to find myself lying flat on the floor in that abandoned house, stuck somewhere in the prolonged night, in front of the corpse that fly had led me to. I lay shivering either out of cold or fear, staring deep into the hollow of the eyes of that carcass as if I hope to find something I am looking for. I instantly find myself wishing I’d escape this reality and drift back to the highway, hoping again I wouldn’t see the signboard.

But you see, reality is like a snake bite – once the venom is inside you, it can only be treated with the same venom. Before it kills you, of course. This reality seemed harder than a snake bite, though. It had stung my conscience and the bite mark was going to accompany me to my grave. 

As absent-minded as I am most of the time, as if acting entirely on impulse all along, I had fallen asleep in front of that dead body while all the flies had metamorphosed into locusts and swarmed out of that house, that area, probably the whole town. They were either scared away by something or moved to something better to feast on. They had also left behind a huge dust cloud and a lot of wind.

I gather all the energy and get up to find half of my body sore and cold. With a sleeping left leg, I limp out of the house in the wind and dust cloud and cross the road to the house which looks inhabited. When no one opens the door after a lot of knocking, I look for the latch and find the gate already open. The lights are on, everything inside the house is in place and there are  no signs of a break-in. I check a lot of houses one by one to find this remarkably common thing. All the house are empty. Looks like everyone left in a hurry – and they were so hurried, they left everything behind, didn’t even bother to turn off the lights.

Suddenly, I am haunted by my one true fear, the one which I have never been able to overcome – the fear of the unknown. I am all alone in this ghost town with flickering lamp posts and abandoned houses. There are so many questions on my mind and no one to answer them. I don’t know who the dead person was, where have all the people gone and why is there a swarm of locust in my town? The image of the dark, hollow eye sockets keeps flashing in my head every time I blink.

I fight my way through the dust storm which keeps growing in intensity, and reach a tall house with multiple storeys. As I reach the house, a dog runs past me, goes to a corner, howls and runs away. I walk up to the gate and another figure walks past me from behind. I wait for the howl, wait longer, but the howl doesn’t come.

This time, it’s a giggle. Of a child.

The blood in my veins freezes. And so does the ink dripping from my pen.

[Read Part 1: http://wp.me/p2K1U7-2s]
[Read Part 2: http://wp.me/p2K1U7-3c]
[Read Part 4:  http://wp.me/p2K1U7-3L ]