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Let Us Never Say Goodbye


by Verkaro


Parked on a stretch of forgotten highway, the truck idled, the cab radio jangling softly with biscuits and gravy and the deathless sweet Clementine of country music. Jake touched the volume up, took a swig of Old Crow, and recapping it, stashed the bottle under the seat. He pressed his mouth against his sleeve. The stars winked, the road laid out dark far ahead. It was a perfect night to see what she could do.

Polished chrome ready, the intake stood prominently above the manifold through the hood. Answering the pedal, twin butterfly valves flipped open onto a gaping throat that resonated with a hollowness hungering for air. The motor roared. Tires smoking, the '57 Chevy jumped forward, pressing the driver firmly into his seat, his fuzzy dice decidedly back.

Jake whooped, shifting gears. The speedometer registered eighty, ninety, one-hundred... Jake whooped again.

Despite the newly hopped up engine being barely broke in he couldn't have waited another night. Despite the standard octane, to the racing yellow clearcoat and the flame-job decals rimming the curved fenders, she was proving true--truer than true--his chariot, his wheels-of-fire. In testimony Jake decided then and there at one-hundred and fifteen miles an hour to have stencilled across the tailgate, in bold script, "Let us never say goodbye" instead of "The Decider" as he previously intended. 

Satisfied, he decelerated to eighty and patted the dash. Glowing gauges reported oil pressure and water temperature all within the comfort zone.

Jake glanced with patriarchal pride and a little love over the gauges once more and back to the road. But it was too late.

In one knee-jerk reaction followed by a split-second decision the tires barked only briefly in favor of his keeping control and taking the collision head on. But the collision didn't happen--only a whoosh of white that instantly passed.

Jake looked in the rear view mirror. There was nothing. 

"What the hell?"

He recalled the split-second before the truck dissolved it. At first it seemed some large white animal barreling out from the bushes and across the road. But that was not quite right. It had been somehow bigger than a deer yet no horse. It was white and the impression of running was unmistakable. However, no matter, it turned out to be no more solid than a puff of rolling fog.

Jake snatched a breath and blew hard hoping to get his stomach down where it belonged. That what he'd seen proved neither deer, nor horse, nor cow, for that matter he was grateful for the sake of his truck. He kept his speed more reasonable for night driving and decided to put the matter behind.

Still, that it was a clear night and without wind nagged him. As the vision insisted on replay after replay Jake reluctantly became convinced the vaporous shape he'd dispersed was not four-legged or simply some rude patch of fog but rather something clothed in fog and running--on two legs.

Jake checked the speed and added five miles an hour more to it. Seeing himself do that scared him even more so he eased off the pedal and feebly laughed it off.

"Come on Jake," he said. "That thing would have scared the bejeezers out of anyone."

Which certainly might have been true but for the lone exception now sitting beside him, cold as ice and pale blue, in a white full-length prom-dress. When Jake felt the change he saw her.

The headlights went crazy as his truck flipped six times. It landed upside down in the middle of the road and smoke rose from the undercarriage. One tire was spinning down as Jake regained consciousness. The radio played on. He was alone. It had all been a dream. Sure it was a dream. He'd fallen asleep at the wheel, flipped his damn truck, and now his left arm didn't work. He painfully hung upside down by the seatbelt. 

He struggled with his left hand to release the catch. There was the smell of gasoline and then a woof of flame from the rear of the truck.

The hem of a translucent prom-dress and two cold-pale feet stood in the broken glass outside the window of Jakes crumpled door. The dream, as he had called it, bent down to look in on Jake struggling with his seatbelt.

"Jake."

Jake turned, his heart withering to a prune. He managed to croak. "You were always on the crazy side Beth. You can't blame me for what you done. Please."

"Let us never say goodbye, Jake," the dream said.

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