Author’s Note: If I hadn’t already used the title, I would have proclaimed this, “Good Luck with the Metaphor.” So yeah, good luck. The writing is fairly raw, but I think it serves my purpose.
His hand locked around my ankle as I kicked and writhed against the undertow. He was sinking, his body a lead corpse of hatred, of jealousy, of control. I looked down at him, my eyes betraying my emotions. I felt hurt. I felt trapped. I felt betrayed. Just as I thought he would drag me with him into the depths, his fingers loosened, and I scrambled to the surface.
The air that invaded my lungs burned, but it was sweet, so sweet. Finally, after a lifetime, I had my freedom. Dipping backwards, I let myself float. Waves that once threatened to drown me became my wings, allowing me to fly along the surface of the sea. After another lifetime, I grew weary of the drifting and leaned forward to tread.
Much to my surprise, I found myself in between two islands. The island to the north was beautiful. I remembered it from long ago. I had vacationed there as a little girl. I knew that if I could just get to the warm sand of the beach, I would be safe. But getting to the beach was difficult before; it would be harder this time. Around the rim swirled a vicious current, as if the island sat in the center of a whirlpool. If I entered, I may not be strong enough to swim through. I would surely die.
The island to the south was unfamiliar, mysterious. However, the surrounding waters looked safe, calm. I decided to swim towards it, praying that no harm would come to me along the way. After weeks of effort, I reached the shore. My fingers dug into the sand as I hauled myself onto the beach. Once out of the water, I collapsed onto my back, grains of sand adhering to every wet surface on my being. As the sun shone above, goose bumps rose on my skin. Warmth. I had forgotten the sensation.
“Can I help you?”
I pushed up to my feet and turned unsteadily. A man stood at the tree line, arms crossed and leaning against a trunk. A full water bottle dangled from his right hand. My tongue felt like bark.
“I hope so,” I answered foolishly, eyeing the water he carried.
“Are you thirsty?” he asked, taking a few tentative steps in my direction. However, he stopped before reaching the beach, concealed under the shade of the trees.
“Yes,” I breathed, stumbling towards him. My legs were so weak, so thin, after fighting the water.
He took another step, and his left foot touched the hot sand. We were only six feet apart now. I extended my hand, wordlessly pleading for him to pass me the water, for him to save me. Instead, he gasped and backed away.
“The sand is too hot.”
Fine, I thought, I’ll come to you. But I couldn’t. My legs buckled under the strain of walking. It had been so long since they were forced to carry my full weight, diminished as it may be. I kept my arm outstretched, thinking he would toss me the water, surely he would not leave me stranded here.
He crouched down to my level and held the bottle out at arm’s length, cringing as the sun seared his skin. I reached farther. My fingers scraped the bottom. The bottle was slick and cold to the touch. But I couldn’t grab it. I tried again, desperately grasping at the bottle. This time, I swiped with too much force. I sent the bottle flying out of his hand. It landed five feet away, in the sun. Neither of us could move towards it.
The man backed into the trees, his face stoic and unmoved. I wanted to cry out, to yell at him, to scream. Instead, I fell flat onto my face.
When I next opened my eyes, I was driving on an abandoned country highway. The sun had been replaced by a sliver of a moon, and the stars glittered above my car. I clutched the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white. Strands of my hair mercilessly whipped my face. Someone sat alongside me, but I could not see the passenger’s face. He rolled down his window to match mine, creating a wind tunnel in my Pontiac.
“Can you believe that?” I screamed, pounding the palm of my hand against the steering wheel. “He just left me there to die!”
Tears streamed down my face, only to be instantly evaporated by the lashing hot air.
“Come on, Angel, don’t you cry.”
I would know that voice anywhere – that soft tenor, the one that had seen me through every triumph, every heartbreak. He would see me through this, too, my savior. His hand rested on the back of my neck; his fingers snaked through my tangled hair. I couldn’t feel him, but I knew he was there.
“Why didn’t he save me?” I cried, resting my head in his hand.
He leaned over the console and put his lips to my temple. In that moment, everything went silent. I could no longer hear the howling of the air, nor the purr of the engine. The stars seemed to dim, and the lines on the road blurred, until the pavement gave way to gravel. The car fishtailed at the sudden change, but he grabbed the wheel with his free hand and steadied her. I pressed the brake, and we slowed to a stop.
“Why didn’t he save me?” I repeated, now that we were still. “Couldn’t he see that I needed him? Is it me? Maybe if I would have been…”
What could I have said? Nicer? More forceful? More desperate? Prettier?
He took his hand off the wheel and cupped my cheek. I turned to face him, staring up at him with wide eyes. He would know what to say. He would make everything better. My savior.
“It isn’t you,” he whispered, his hazel eyes boring into mine. “You’re the broken glass in morning light.”
With that, he vanished. Alone, I got out of my car and surveyed my surroundings. I found myself at a crossroads. North, east, and south were just empty roads. But to the west, I could see a pair of headlights growing closer. The gravel crunched beneath my feet as I ran back towards my car. However, it had vanished, too. My savior and my escape had both forsaken me.
The approaching car sped toward me, but before it reached me, the driver turned it sharply to the right. The car screeched to a halt, a cloud of dust billowing in its wake, absorbing us both. When the air cleared, my senses seemed to return. For the first time, I noticed the roar of the engine and the muffled guitar coming from inside. A dark figure moved over to the passenger seat and cranked the window down. Kansas blared through the open space.
“Are you getting in or what?”
“Who are you?”
He leaned down, allowing me to see his face from where I stood. I knew that face. I wanted to smile, to dive into that Impala and be whisked away. But I didn’t trust my eyes.
“You’ll just disappear,” I stated, “People always leave.”
He shook his head and smirked, as if he’d heard all my excuses before.
“You will,” I insisted, “You’ll leave me, and then I’ll die, just like he did before.”
“Sugar, as long as I’m around, nothing bad is going to happen to you.”
I gingerly stepped up to the car, crouching down so that I could still see his face through the window.
“I promise,” and there was that smirk again. He patted the seat. “Now get in, I’m starving.”
I smiled and grabbed the door handle, but as I did, it turned into dust. Piece by piece, the Impala began to disintegrate before my eyes. In less than a minute, it was merely a mountain of ash at my feet. Alone at the crossroads, I turned in circles. Help, I thought, somebody help me.
A new man appeared on the south road, just on the edge of the intersection. I stopped spinning and faced him. His platinum blonde hair shone in the faint starlight. As I stared in wonder, he smiled at me, and his eyes turned black.
“Let’s make a deal.”