My truck rolls down this lonely dirt road once more. I’d believed—or rather, I’d hoped—I’d never have to make this pilgrimage again, but the dreams were too torturous to ignore. My dreams of her were too powerful for me to ignore. Just the thought of her would give me a terrible anxiety. Even now my knuckles flash white as the grip of my steering wheel crunches under my palms.
The feeble headlights of my pickup venture vainly into the darkness that embraces this world, never reaching more than half a dozen feet or so. The moon provides little light, it’s cowering behind a sea of dark, stormy clouds.
According to the weatherman, a storm should be on the rise soon. Hell for all I know this storm may come to fruition tonight. Why else would the moon be hiding? Well, I suppose it could be hiding because it’s disgusted by me and by my actions.
I know that I, too, would hide from what I had done if I could. Unfortunately, one is not allowed to forget nor ignore what one has done.
A painter can never erase their more revolting piece of art from the inside of their eyelids.
A composer can never stop the ringing of their worst piece of music that echoes off the walls of their inner consciousness.
A person condemned is not allowed to ignore their victim that walks around their head all night long and through their dreams.
As these thoughts cross my mind, my truck jitters up and down due to the irregularity of the road. The road is very badly unkempt; it’s littered with rocks and dirt mounds that make for difficult driving. Luckily, not many people venture down this road anyway. It’s reserved specifically for those who have something to hide.
Or for those who seek what has been hidden.
The uncomfortable drive reminds me of the first time I ventured down this path. It was not a path I was familiar with but was instead one I happened to stumble upon whilst racing through the dark on that fateful night. With a precious piece of cargo rocking in my back seat, I raced down this road hoping to escape my fate. Though I now see that fate had not forgotten me and had instead collaborated with my beloved in order to bring me back.
Well sweetheart, I’ll be there soon enough.
I snap back to the present, aware now that I must be approaching my destination. I have no actual way of knowing this, simply intuition; a strong, otherworldly intuition. One that is leading me to the location that was never marked but was never truly forgotten. It is leading me to the place where my dark deeds were quite literally buried away; where my beloved is.
Where Susan is.
Oh lovely Susan, your death truly was awesome. I mean that in the awe-invoking sense of the word. I regret, however, that you left your eyes closed in your final moment. After all, that was the whole point wasn’t it? To see what you felt in your final moments was my primary motivation. I wanted to obtain a clue as to what awaits us all.
Were you scared, Susan?
Were you angry, Susan?
Were you sad, Susan?
My dear, sweet Susan, don’t think, though, that I’m saying your death was in vain for in no way was it. You did help me attain self-purification. I had been struggling internally for quite some time now and you provided me with the outlet that released some of this turmoil and for that I thank you. However, I still wish to know.
Were you calm, Susan?
Were you happy, Susan?
Were you accepting of your fate, Susan?
But now you won’t leave me Susan. You invade my mind in the darkest hours of the night and roam around and never leave my inner eye’s sight. Why? Why would you do such a thing? What did I do to deserve your wrath? Why won’t you let me be? Do you have something to tell me Susan? Perhaps you wish to tell me what it was you saw in your final moments? What was it, Susan?
Did it surprise you, Susan?
Did it shock you, Susan?
Did it enlighten you, Susan?
Regardless, you have drawn me back to you, Susan. I hope you’re happy.
I snap back to reality and notice I am no longer moving. Having reached my destination, I set the gear into park and kill the truck’s lights and engine. Instantaneously, the darkness overpowers any and all light that lingered. The roof lights of the truck flicker on once the truck is truly dead. As I sit here in the cold glow of the lights, I wonder what I must look like from the outside, how I must look like to Susan. A small man sitting alone in his vehicle with a feeble light cast over him; a rather pathetic light attempting to fight off the darkness that threatens to overwhelm the universe. And this man, basking in the small light of this vehicle, is just sitting there and accepting the darkness, almost daring it to come at him.
Must be an odd sight.
I open the driver’s side door and allow for some of the truck’s light to escape into the night, only to be assimilated by the dark. I step onto the ground and shut the door. The light lingers for a moment or two but then soon dies out, leaving me in absolute darkness. I look up and observe the expanse of clouds that hover above me. I try to find the moon and see if it has made itself known yet. I see no sign of that luminous coward save for a few beams of light that trickle through the clouds. Nevertheless, I trudge on.
I pull out the flashlight sheltered in my pocket and flick it on, bringing a portion of my surroundings out of the dark and into reality. I walk around to the back of my truck and reach into the back and grope around for my shovel. I find its familiar grip and pull it out and rest it on my shoulder. With my flashlight as my guide, I set out.
I walk towards the wall of trees that greets me. The forest does indeed look menacing. I don’t think I ever noticed just how menacing, though. I shake off this feeling of fear and enter.
The air’s bite of cold and stream of wind is bombarding me as I make my way towards Susan. My internal weatherman warns me that this cold and wind will only worsen. But, this doesn’t discourage me in the least. In fact, I anticipated nothing else. After all, Susan wanted me to suffer, and so she chose this night to bring me to her.
As I walk on, I think again why Susan would bring me back to her. Is there a final lesson she might want me to learn? Is there something in her cold, unmoving eyes that could provide me with the enlightenment I sought? Or does she simply want me to join her in her final resting place?
I’m sorry darling, but I can’t join you. I’ve still got things to do on this earth. I hope you understand.
I’m sorry Susan. I don’t think I ever apologized, but I am sorry. I’m sorry your time on this earth ended like it did. I’m sorry no one recognized your passing. I’m sorry you never got a true send-off into the next world.
Here, I’ll try to make it up to you.
This is a song I learned way back when; it’s meant for those who pass into the next world. I hope you like it.
“Pié Jesu, Pié Jesu, Pié Jesu, Domine.”
You know what, Susan? Sometimes, as I lay awake at night while you’re running through my mind, causing destruction to my sanity, I sort of regret what I did.
“Pié Jesu, Pié Jesu, Donaeis Requiem.”
I think of the good times we had, of the memories we created together, and I become sad. I want more of those, Susan. I long for your smile, Susan. I long for your laugh, Susan. I want you back, Susan.
“Pié Jesu, Pié Jesu, Pié Jesu, Domine.”
Oh Susan, why did you have to go? Why did you have to make me angry? You know I was on the edge Susan. Why did you have to give me that last, fateful push?
“Pié Jesu, Pié Jesu, Donaeis Requiem.”
After all, you of all people should have known how fragile I was; should have known how little of a fuse I had. Had you simply obeyed me, everything would’ve been fine.
“Agnus Dei Quitollis Peccata Mundi.”
It was your fault this became your fate. You should have remained loyal to me, Susan; you should have stayed by my side, Susan.
“Agnus Dei, Donaeis, Donaeis.”
You need to leave me alone, Susan. After tonight, I command you to leave me be. Stop walking around my head and just leave me be!
“Requiem, Requiem, Requiem.”
There. That’s the song. Did you like it, Susan? I hope you did.
As I walk through this forest that became Susan’s final resting place, my attention wanders and I begin to scrutinize my surroundings.
Tall, strong trees elongate towards the night sky, looking like a barrage of arrows that seek to pierce the moon’s barrier of clouds. The ground is littered with debris ranging from fallen leaves to the droppings of small animals. The small amount of moonlight that does make its way past the clouds and past the treetops cast strange, distorted shadows all throughout the forest landscape. Also noteworthy is the absurd amount of branches that claw at me as I make my way through the forest. They extend out from the trees and poke at me with their sharp edges and rough wood. I constantly find myself struggling to overcome them. Makes me wonder how I was able to navigate my way through here last time when Susan was with me.
As I make my way deeper and deeper into the forest, and farther and farther down the rabbit hole that is my sanity, I begin to imagine strange things. I imagine that the trees and bushes are mere spectators, watching with anticipation as I make my way towards the finish line.
I imagine that the shadows created by both the feeble moonlight and my pathetic flashlight, are actually the demons that haunt me…or the angels that are supposed to guard me…at this point I can no longer differentiate between the two.
The terrain slowly becomes more and more unstable as I make my way deeper and deeper into the forest. The dirt is not as solid as it once was and I find myself sliding down small hills while also struggle to ascend others. However in spite of these obstacles, I have no intention of turning back. As they say, I’m a mile into the woods without a shovel.
Except, I do have a shovel…funny.
With every step forward, my heartbeat speeds up just a little bit more, my breathing becomes just a little bit more desperate, and my body shakes and quivers just a little bit more. I didn’t expect for my body to react this way. I suppose it could be the paradoxical claustrophobia I feel in this giant forest. Instead of being a mere absence of light, this darkness feels tangible and solid, almost…alive.
As I continue my pilgrimage, the weather that seemed a mere threat while inside my truck slowly begins to worsen. The clouds began releasing unto the world below them a light drizzle of rain that continues to worsen. The wind has also joined the fun and races to and fro, gaining strength. Luckily, the trees and foliage bear the brunt of this weather but I fear even they too will abandon me and leave me at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Suddenly, the world near the treetops illuminates for an instant…and then a moment later a boom echoes throughout the forest.
Thunder and Lightning…what a pleasant surprise.
I think back to how unfair and unjust Susan is being. Why did she purposely choose tonight of all nights to finally reel me in? Surely, I don’t deserve these terrible conditions on top of my already extreme anxiety, right?
I climb yet another hill and upon reaching its crest, notice a light floating about a hundred yards away. In my heart I know what this means. With renewed energy at the prospect of this journey finally reaching its end, I quickly traverse the distance remaining until I find myself within arm’s length of the light.
I take a breath and reach out as if to touch the light, but as soon as my fingers would have made contact, it vanishes. Not in a puff of smoke or a dissolution of particles, but more of a now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t type of vanishing.
I look down at the spot where the light hovered above, and I am unsurprised to recognize it as the plot of land that serves as Susan’s final resting place. I set my flashlight on the ground in such a way that it illuminates the spot where I intend to work, and I set about my digging.
As I dig deeper and deeper into the soft earth, an unprecedented calm blankets over me. My working muscles release hormones in my body that help to alleviate the anxiety and fear that had been eating away at me for the past few days. The shadows that had been stalking me throughout my journey recede back into the dark as the fog that engulfed my mind begins to abate. As the physical labor continues to do its magic on my sanity, I scoff at the irrational fears and worries that plagued me throughout my trek into the forest.
However, despite my mild euphoria, or perhaps because of it, I begin to question once more why I’ve come back to Susan. What do I have to gain from unearthing her body and looking into her eyes? After all, it’s not as if I will achieve ultimate enlightenment or unlock the secrets of the universe from simply gazing into the fish eyes of my deceased beloved, so why bother?
As these questions flash through my mind, my shovel falls to the earth and rises up again slower and slower and with more and more hesitancy. Just as I near the resolution to stop this nonsense and return home, my tool strikes something unnatural. There’s no doubt as to what it is I have struck, but I still prod the thing a few more times simply to ensure that it is in fact not a mere clot of dirt. After confirming what I already knew, I toss my shovel aside and fall to my knees and begin removing the remaining earth by hand, any and all thoughts of stopping having left my mind.
As I dust away the dirt and free Susan’s body, my euphoria slowly begins to recede back into the jumble of nerves and glands from whence it came. The old fear and terror slowly makes its way back into my mind, but my current excitement acts as a temporary buffer for my sanity. I realize as I uncover more and more of her body just how much I missed Susan and how desperately I wished to see her, alive or not.
The dirt slowly begins to abate and my beloved slowly begins to emerge from the earth. I see that her beauty has not only been preserved but also improved, as impossible as that seems. Her skin is almost without flaw of any kind (disregarding that nasty incision across her throat of course), this includes any and all bruises that she may have received during her “transportation.” Her hair seems as delicate and as beautiful as the seed heads of a dandelion. Her face, however, is what brings me the most joy. I worried that so much time underground would cause her beautiful face to deteriorate but it seems to have done just the opposite. Her white skin gives off the illusion that she is illuminating beauty. Her pale lips are as tantalizing as the most delicious apples one may ever taste. Her eyelashes flow from her lids in the most magnificent way. In short, she’s perfect.
My hands make my way to her face and push away any stray strands of hair that have fallen across her brow. I lightly caress her lips with my thumbs and lean in and connect my warm lips with hers that are anything but. I savor her taste.
I eventually pull away and force myself to complete what I have set out to do. With a heavy heart I slide my palms up her face, towards her eyes. I place my thumbs on her eyelids and slowly roll them upward.
Finally Susan! The time is nigh! You will finally show me what it was you saw in your final moments! I will discover why it is that you brought me back to you! I will finally achieve enlight—
I cry out in horror and scramble backwards. I claw my way away from the monstrosity lain out before me. The rain and wind and thunder and lightning finally take their cue from those from the other world who sought to torture me and unleash their unrestricted fury. I crawl and crawl and crawl backwards until my back hits a tree and I sit there, weeping and moaning as I cower from that thing that once posed as my beloved.
The rational portion of my mind that remained understood that all I saw were the eyes of the deceased and that I was overreacting. However, with my sanity crumbling, I cannot seem to hold onto that train of thought as fear and terror and horror—O! the indescribable horror!—devour any and all senses of reason and rationality and any and all perceptions of reality.
I cower at the base of the tree and watch as the…the thing that was once my beloved slowly raises itself up effortlessly until it is sitting straight up and facing me directly. Its jaw unhinges and its mouth is open in a ghostly, silent scream. The skin that mere moments ago I perceived as the epitome of beauty has mutated into a pale, dry, revolting thing. The hair that I praised as perfect now appears to be a dirty cobweb, littered with the scum of the earth.
But the eyes…O! the eyes are worst of all! They cut straight through my body, soul and sanity and release the demons I imprisoned within the dark recesses of my mind. The creatures of the darkness materialize from the shadows and make a circle around me, dark ghosts of laughter etched on their faces. They taunt and jeer at my misery and look ready to devour my very soul. All the while the corpse sits and stares, undaunted by the rain and wind and hail that rock my body.
I sit and scream with my hands covering my head and my eyes closed as my dark demons begin to close in. I open my eyes and see a wall of darkness surrounding me, a crushing sensation.
I let out a mighty yell, rush to my feet, bolt through the wall of darkness, and run. I take no notice that the corpse of Susan was lying undisturbed, as I had left it.
I run deeper and deeper into the forest. Adrenaline heightens my senses, my night vision increases tenfold and my hearing explodes. With this sight and hearing, I cannot help but see and hear all my demons that pursue and attack me. They jump out of trees and up from the ground. They reach out to me and attempt to grab me and pull me towards them. They claw at my being and tear long gashes in my clothes. I take no notice as I barrel through them all and run for my life. I hear their laughter and jeering as they barrage my body.
Mother Nature also makes her animosities toward me clear. Lightning continues to explode above the treetops and the sounds of thunder never fail to ricochet down to the forest floor and add to the already deafening amalgamation of horrid sounds. Mother Nature also unleashes an onslaught of rain and wind in the attempt of knocking me aside. The rain drenches me in a cold, unforgiving fashion. The hail pelts my body and strikes my face, hands, and back. The wind whips through my clothes and worsens the gashes forged by my demons; it knocks me round and round. The combination of all succeeds in knocking me over and into the wet, gross dirt. I always claw my way up though and continue running.
Everywhere I look I see dark shadows and figures running alongside me. They laugh and cry out to me while also stabbing me with their branchy claws. They torment me and grab me and try to pull me back to them. While battling them with my battered and bruised arms, I relish the sounds of their claws and arms cracking and breaking off. Still, they are not deterred and continue their assault.
I run through them all. I run and run and run. I run as though I can somehow outrun and outlive my demons hunting me. I run as though I’m running towards some sort of salvation. I run as though my demise weren’t inevitable.
The darkness is becoming more and more powerful and my body can’t cope. The adrenaline and energy that gave me the strength to escape these monsters thus far begins to wane. I find it more and more difficult to fend off these dark beings.
Just then, I see an opening in the forest and light from beyond. With a renewed purpose, I make a final push for the light. I burst through out from the tree line and onto a large, lush meadow. The grass grows past my ankles and is decorated with flowers, all white, many of them dandelions. I now see that the aforementioned light turned out to be moonlight. I look up and see the moon has finally emerged from its seclusion, a tiny window in the clouds reveals the large, celestial body. The luminous coward waited until my destruction was certain to make its presence known.
Nevertheless, I continue running. I don’t stop because I know what awaits me if I do.
I notice that the meadow begins taking an upward slope, and I find myself running up a hill that dominates the meadow. I think nothing of it; in fact, I think of little else save for the fate that would result from the darkness consuming me.
I reach the top of the hill and see a blur of light about twenty feet away from me. Though I sense a terrible fate awaiting me, my body betrays me and thrusts me towards the light.
I reach the light and collapse onto my knees in front of it, my strength gone.
The light is Susan.
She has succeeded.
Oh, Susan! Darling, forgive me! I never intended for any of this to happen, believe me! I still love you, Susan; I never stopped. I’m sorry Susan! I truly am! Just make my suffering come to an end! I beg of thee, make it stop! Come, Susan! Bring what you may!
I open up my arms to Susan’s ghostly being and say her name aloud.
She looks at me, and smiles. She too opens her arms and slowly the light radiating from her shimmering form expands outward. Out of the corner of my eyes I see my demonic pursuers surrounding Susan and me at the top of this hill. They watch us, completely stoic. Once Susan’s light touches them, they dissipate and merge with the light, making it that much brighter. I wait for the end to come and for whatever waits on the other side. I can feel my bodily sensations disappearing as I myself accept my fate and prepare to join the nothingness.
However, once Susan’s light finally reaches me, I immediately realize that her light is nothing benign. It is a dark light, and it’s a painful light. The light brings a burning, dominating sensation that causes me unprecedented pain. I scream aloud and scream for mercy. I stare in horror at the smiling face of Susan as the light continues to overwhelm me.
I stare in horror at the apparition before me. It looks nothing like the Susan I once knew. I now realize that whatever does await me is nothing good. I suppose now I must atone for what I have done.
I let out a final cry. My screams fade to nothing as I am consumed by Susan’s darkness.