When she awoke, she was away. She was lying on the road, and it was undeniably the same road she’d crashed on. She sat up. The road was empty. In the distance to her right, grey mountains, and to her left, greyer clouds. She could see the darkness in the air where rain was falling. Power lines stretched ahead of her, which always made her think of spiders, stringing their way along as they went.
She stood, and turned. There was no evidence of the crash. No crumpled car, no glittering glass sprinkled across the asphalt, no barricade of police cars or rubber-necking drivers. No Saphal.
After she deduced all of this, she vomited. Her head was still spinning with the spinning car, as yet not re-calibrated with the spinning of the world. As she observed the former contents of her stomach, she thought that this must be what it was like to come back to land after a long sea voyage. Then she closed her eyes, and berated herself quietly for having such a silly thought at time like this.
But what exactly was a time like this? She hadn’t quite prepared herself to be alone – that’s why she’d brought Saphal out here. And yet, if all immediate evidence was to be accepted, she was undeniably alone. How? Is it possible that she’d been lying here on the road for days? That the police, the ambulance, the rubber-neckers had come and done their duties and never noticed the unconscious young woman lying on her back, legs in one lane and head in the other? Well, no. She would daresay that wasn’t possible at all. Maybe they didn’t have room for two in the in the emergency response vehicle, and being that she was the less injured, they whisked away Saphal and would return for her as soon as was permittable. And left her arranged neatly in the center of the road, where oncoming drivers could clearly identify and avoid the helpless body. No, that didn’t seem wholly plausible either.
Well, something would have to come next. She took in a deep breath, hoping that regaining some oxygen would regain a little sense with it. When it didn’t, she resolved to take action. She took another, smaller deep breath and said,
She was answered with a cool breeze, a herald of rain, but not with Saphal. Which did seem about right, as he most definitely wasn’t there. All around her was yellow plant life and dirt. Nothing for anyone to hide behind, and anyway she knew Saphal wouldn’t mistake this for an opportune moment for hijinks. Occasionally he would squeeze himself underneath their bed, or in their little closet, and wait for her to get under the covers and open a book before he popped out and screamed something like BANG or WHAT’S THE CAPITAL OF VERMONT, BITCH (in which case he would tickle her until she got the right answer). But she was very, very far away from their bed and their little closet and Saphal would definitely not be hiding from her at a time like this, she was sure. It was safe to assume he just plain wasn’t around.
And so, she started walking. She had no real way to tell which way they had been going before the crash. There weren’t any signs, and she was only sure which ways were east and west when she was in her home town. She also wasn’t sure whether she wanted to keep going like they had or turn back home, but she figured it really didn’t make a difference what she decided now anyway, not until she could find a ride, or a gas station with a phone, or something else within the category of decision-catalyzing stimuli. Right now she was in a sort of limbo. No man’s land (and no woman either, for that matter).
She couldn’t say how long she walked for, but she must’ve been pretty far out from what is generally recognized as the human world. This road was apparently just one long connection from one hub to another, like a vein running between organs, and she was a slow-paced drop of blood. She felt like she was somewhere between the heart and the hippocampus. Though she supposed that every drop of blood was between the heart and something. She didn’t know much about anatomy.
All the time she went, the rain loomed far to her left. But it never came any closer, and no matter how far she went it seemed like the same peaks of the mountain range sat away to her right. Except she must have turned at some point, because suddenly she looked up and the rain was on the right, mountains on the left.
It was rough going, walking alone on an empty road gives you a lot of time to think, and thinking is an absolute killer. Of course she was worried about Saphal. It was a few good hours before it occurred to her to try and call him, and by then her phone was dead. She was so annoyed with herself that she almost threw it, but stopped herself when she realized she wasn’t quite at that level of despair yet.
She also thought about many things that were so non-sensical that she almost felt guilty. She thought about whether or not there was a secret council of hyper-intelligent animals that get together and discuss how strange it is that humans are the only living creatures that drink the milk of animals besides themselves, and she wondered if it would make a difference if instead of just STOP every stop sign said STOP, PLEASE, and she decided it was strange that evolution decided to elongate giraffe’s necks so they could reach high leaves, instead of elongating their legs. She wondered how many different conjunctions she could fit into one sentence, and found that I couldn’t say that I wouldn’t want to bring Sarah who can’t seem to admit she won’t dance for anyone but Gordon despite that he wasn’t even at the last party and shouldn’t’ve admitted to her that he likes girls who haven’t even been formerly trained in Salsa and don’t have the confidence to make him look like he hasn’t even set foot on a dance floor before was the best she could do for now. She remembered why she’d asked Saphal to move in with her: because these sorts of thoughts happened when she was alone for long stretches of time.
Eventually, it was clear enough to her that walking was literally getting her nowhere. Now she was starting to get legitimately anxious. Doubt crept up her neck and into her mind, and she bent over with her hands on her knees. What if she’d missed something back at the spot she’d awoken? What if, had she walked a half hour in the other direction, she would’ve come across the actual crash site, or at least a building with people inside. What if she wasn’t even really awake yet? Any logical person would have to entertain the possibility that this was simply an irritating dream. Oh my, what if she was actually just asleep in the car, and would soon wake up to relay this entire little experience to Saphal? That thought brought her a little comfort, and she decided to turn around and start walking again.
She was getting a bit hungry, seeing as how it had been a while since she’d begun walking, and before then she’d barfed everything she’d had in her out onto the road. But food wasn’t anywhere near. She’d never entertained the idea of hunting before, not because she was against it but because it seemed to require a finesse that she assumed she didn’t have. But now, out on the open road that rivaled the emptiness of her own stomach, she imagined a fox dancing across her vision. Foxes were her idea of the type of animal one finds when they are stranded in the wild.
She imagined the fox stopping about a hundred feet up the road, not realizing she was there, or that she might have malicious intentions. She began to creep as her imaginary fox licked at something on the ground. Dumb animal, eating off of the ground with no inkling at all of the reality that it was the food on the ground. She was hunched over, keeping her right hand in front of her and her left hand behind, and thinking about what she would do if there really was a fox there in front of her. Would she grab it, and twist until it stopped moving, or would stomping be more effective? Was it a better idea to try and wrap it in her jacket and – eesh, now she wanted to vomit again, but had nothing to void.
When she reached the fox, she realized that she wouldn’t have done anything to it, had it been real. She’d never hunted before, but more than that she’d never ended a life before, at least not directly. Everyone’s liable to have incidentally and indirectly caused the demise of someone they never might’ve even met by way of a long or short chain of cause and effect. She chortled, then realized that the something that the fox had been eating was her own barf. Somehow, she’d come back to the spot already. She chortled again, and then from behind her, a man’s voice said,