Flames flickered intermittently in the corner of the room. The faint orange glow left the other side in total darkness. Next to the fire, an old lady sat almost motionless in her armchair, except for her right hand, which gingerly combed the willowy brown hairs of the young man resting on the sofa beside her. Seventy-eight years of harsh winter winds had carved cracks into the skin of her wrists. Fifty years of self-neglect had unleashed the full length of her fingernails, which housed numerous clumps of grit and dirt.
Dozens of their skeletal cats crawled around the room, some beside the fire, others lurking in the depths of the dark side, hunting for prey to no avail. The old lady stuck her hand into an enormous, outdated packet of cat food, then sprinkled the mouldy contents onto the floor. The silence was abruptly shattered by an eruption of screeching and hissing, as twenty cats simultaneously leaped onto what would be their only morsel of food for the next week. Claws pierced skin, and teeth tore flesh, wild daggers running afoul of each other. Seconds later, every single speck of edible material had disappeared. The unsatisfied, starving creatures continued to search hopefully for remains. Occasionally, they fired baleful glares at their captors.
Her bony fingers left the brown strands and instead, gently caressed the edge of a golden, anachronistic photo frame. ‘Elizabeth and David united, 1963’ was engraved below a black and white photo of two newlyweds, which befitted the historic frame surrounding it. This was the only thing in the entire room, apart from the old lady herself, that was not blanketed in dust. Sunlight seeped through in the corner of the photo. The sweet glow of youth radiated from their faces. The lady sat smiling in the man’s arms, her arms around his neck.
For a moment, she saw the picture come alive, and heard the faint rustling of the bride’s wedding dress billowing in the wind. The groom also looked dashing. A pink carnation was clipped to his lapel; although it was only light grey in the picture, she could distinctly picture the vivid brightness of the colour in her mind. It was only one of every minuscule detail she noticed that day, all of which were clearly remembered as if she had videotaped everything she saw, even over half a century later.
A tear crawled down the side of her face. Followed by another, then another again.
“So what do you think, honey?”
“Dave, it’s gorgeous! Oh my goodness!”
His thumb ran along the edge of his wedding ring. He smiled in triumph.
“See what I mean? You’ve gotta be rich to get a BMW New Class. They’re the latest. First one was manufactured only two years ago.”
She kissed her rich boy on the cheek. He tossed the keys and spun them with dexterity, then unlocked the passenger door, opening it charmingly for his wife. She giggled and stepped inside. The modest black outer skin masked a prepossessing beauty beneath. The interior was a completely different world; luxurious cream leather surfaces induced an immediate air of relaxation. Polished buckles gleamed like ice. Pulling the seatbelt across her chest, she exhaled deeply, then fastened it tight.
Dave entered the New Class through the other side. He slammed the door shut and rested still in the driver’s seat. Suddenly, waves of shyness struck her like solar flares; all was quiet, and she was alone with him. She’d thought that she would be used to these ‘awkward’ moments by now, since they were already a married couple. But it was in her nature to feel embarrassed when she was sitting beside the most handsome, charming guy in the world.
“So, it’s just the two of us.”
“By ourselves, sweetheart.”
“Yes.” She nodded sheepishly.
Softly, he touched her pink, flushed cheeks, from which a warm glow radiated. He pecked her lips and she batted her eyelashes in surprise and warm happiness. The sun was setting, and darkness was being born.
“Where do you want to go? The fuel tank is pumped up bursting. Sweet, we have the whole night to ourselves. The beach? Or the Skyliner Restaurant downtown?”
“Let’s take a drive through the forest.”
He cocked his head. “Romantic sounding, or…?”
“Well, we’ll finally be alone,” she admitted.
He laughed loudly. A tornado of embarrassment erupted inside her. She covered her mouth with both hands and turned away from him.
“Hmm… I say the restaurant.”
“Aw, Dave, please. The forest is so peaceful and quiet. It’s lovely there. We could…” she bit her lip. “Anyway, you have to listen to me, Dave. You gotta go where I tell you to go.”
“And why is that, precious?”
“I’m your passenger.”
“Alright, alright. You win. Who cares who sees what tonight - let’s just hit the road.”
Rows of buildings flashed by, until they reached the countryside open plains. Dusk showered orange light on the fields, and silhouettes of bird flocks travelled alongside the New Class. She couldn’t believe her eyes; the beauty was surreal.
She rolled the window down and her long, blonde hair streaked out into the open, flapping. A fresh, flowery scent filled the vehicle; the cool night air was curious.
“Dave, we’re in the countryside, for God’s sake! Not in a bloody parking lot! Would you please drive faster?”
The arrow on the speedometer flicked up a notch. She raised her eyebrows vehemently, still wanting some more.
“Dave! Take me to the edge!” She shouted out of the window, and her voice was instantly lost in the vast, open space.
He stamped on it. They were thrown backwards, but the spines of the nice cool seats stopped them from being chucked into the boot, and their knees were cushioned after the rebound. They flew across the plains at twice their original speed, cutting through the roads like a blade. She yelled out of the window once more.
Hundreds of trees ran past. Nature engulfed the tiny beetle. The moon was emerging from the murky darkness, and they had entered wild territory. The BMW maintained its velocity.
“Gorgeous,” she sighed, propping her head up with her elbow, which was rested on the open window.
The cold was starting to bite through her sleeves, and by now, darkness reigned. She rolled the window up as he unleashed the fiery yellow headlights with a flick.
“Pretty full-on ride, right?”
“Dave, I love you so much.”
“I love you too, precious.”
They felt a bump.
“Woah, steady there!”
“Dave, you can slow down a little now.”
Peace and tranquillity calmed her, gently lulling her into a deep sleep beside the man that meant everything to her.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the glass of the dashboard disintegrated into a thousand tiny fragments, which flew into their faces, slicing tiny cuts into their skin. They turned to look at each other in horror, opening their mouths to speak. Before they could react to do anything else, a brutal impact stunned them silent and jerked them forwards. Regretfully, the airbags did not spring into life. It was then that they realised something solid, perhaps the stump of a tree trunk, had obstructed a front wheel.
Exhilarating excitement abruptly transformed into solid terror as shrieking screams exploded like fireworks. Their stomachs lurched as the New Class became airborne, and was flipped upside down over its own headlights. It crashed into a tree, which sent it tumbling into a ditch full of litter and stinging nettles.
She whimpered a little, then lay still. Silence reigned now.
The nose and hood was crushed almost flat. Darkness obscured vision terribly. But she could tell her face was a swollen, bloody mess. She could feel it.
There was an inexplicably painful burning in her left arm, and her elbow felt as if it had been nailed on the wrong way. She howled in agony like a wounded animal and let the tears out as she clutched her arm violently.
The door was already nearly half-detached, and she kicked it open, stumbling out from the right side. She looked upon the broken wreck in horror; the wheels were still spinning lightly in the air, like the legs of a beetle which had been flipped on its back. The headlights were still on. The front left side had been planted into the ground.
“Dave!” she screeched.
Limping around the pulverized hood, she yelled his name several times. She tried with all her might to lift the left side to access the door, but to no avail. She wept furiously, re-entering the passenger door then crawling across the seat to reach his battered body, leaking blood. Removing a shard of glass from her collarbone, she screamed again.
“Dave, DAVE! GET UP! PLEASE! PLEASE DAVE! YOU CAN’T DIE!”
Sorrow, regret, shame and terror flooded her mind all at once. This should never have happened – but he followed her commands to go faster, thus was slain by her hand. It was she who had led him to his death. She choked on her saliva, her heart in her mouth, her cheeks dripping with salty prayers. Catching her breath, she grabbed his hand with her good arm, dragging him with more force than she had ever exerted before.
“Dave! DAVE PLEASE! DON’T LET ME GO!”
His limp body was dragged across the seat then out of the car. His neck had been bent back on itself, his skull crushed. She lifted his arm and frantically searched for his pulse, and when she couldn’t find it, she turned to his neck and placed two fingers there. All was as still as a rock. Her worst fears had been confirmed; there was not a breath of air left in him.
Then it dawned upon her: Dave’s soul had departed. And he wasn’t going to come back. The only man she had ever loved. The only person in the world left who truly loved her, a sick pitied orphan who had drifted around in this daunting world.
She embraced his lifeless form and wept in the darkness for what seemed like hours. Everything that had ever mattered had been swept away from her in that fateful instant. To make matters worse, she had taken him away from herself. Guilt dug into her heart like an iron stake.
The only thing she would ever see from now on was darkness; a single funeral later, life could never continue again.
No. Something struck her, and her eyes opened wide. She couldn’t – after what she had done. They were destined to be together.
“Dave, don’t worry,” she uttered, with alarming tranquillity. The tears still flowed from her eyes like rivers, but she managed a smile. “You’re up there, safe with Him now. God will look after you.”
She was home and back again.
The old lady was close to bawling now, but tightly bottled up her grief inside. She sobbed and sobbed, slowly wailing incomprehensible words. In a fit of anger, she grabbed one of the bony creatures by the neck and lifted it as it yelped and hissed. The others scampered in terror.
“Dave… it was my fault. All my fault.”
All of a sudden, she flung the cat at the dusty old cabinet. She screamed croakily like a frog, then proceeded to smash the frail creature’s body against the cabinet repeatedly until the screeching stopped and its spine gave way. She paused for a second, and then continued as the other cats watched their small grey counterpart being smashed in terror. A few minutes later, the creature’s waist had split, and its chest was close to being severed from its hips.
The old lady dropped it on the floor, where it formed a grizzly pile of red.
She was calm now. Wiping the last tear from her eye, she lapsed into a sullen silence and sat back in the armchair, her eyes fixed on the photograph.
She began to caress the young man’s hairs again, more tenderly than before, in fear that the few remaining strands would be dislodged from his scalp. There he lay, still and breathless, just like always. She touched the decaying pink carnation on his lapel with all her love, then bent down to kiss her rich boy on the cheek.
“Just like always, my love. Still your passenger.”
“This time won't you please drive faster, roll the windows down, this cool night air is curious. Let the whole world look in, who cares who sees anything - I'm your passenger, I'm your passenger.”
— Passenger, Deftones (feat. Maynard Keenan)
Written by Rinskuro13