The End of the Road
The sun beat down on the New Mexico desert, waves of heat radiating onto the rocky, sandy ground. The day was dry as well, humidity seemed to not exist and water evaporated on the ground. Despite the searing heat a cool breeze fluttered through; soft, carefree, playing with the loose grains of sand and the tumbleweeds that littered the area and brought with it the slight smell of salt.
Cars rarely drove on this road, the one in such a worn down construction and how it seemed to never end. Some who had driven on the road swore they saw the world curve in the distance. Their cries were unheard, claims of the heat that was always present playing tricks on the mind. During the day it was a road of mirages while at night it was more of a ghost story than a road. The stories told of the dead, told of the living, but no one really knew what they were about or if they were true. The human senses are easy to manipulate.
The road did have travelers though, people who did not know the stories or the claims, who seemed blind to how some roads should not be traveled. Not until their time.
Izzy sighed, running a hand through her short, brown hair. Of all the places she could’ve broken down it had to be on a road where civilizations seemed to not exist. The problem was quite simple actually, an empty tank of gas, but having already driven from one side of the states on her way to meet an old friend this had to happen. Honestly it was just her luck, she knew she was not a ‘lucky’ person, yet this was a step too far.
Izzy’s chocolate brown eyes scanned the area around her, with only the sand and few dry plants in her gaze. She was right about no one being out here, nothing existed and the world kept turning hazy every few minutes as the sun blinded her temporarily. Eventually she became frustrated at the lack of life, and after a few creative words she sat back in her car, letting the shade of the roof calm her burning eyes.
“How am I even going to get out of here anyways?” She said to herself. “I still have another six hours too. Stupid GPS and it’s crappy directions.”
She pulled out her phone and tried once again to get some kind of signal, only to pout when nothing connected. Knowing her phone was useless at the minute she threw it in the backseat and rubbed her eyes, the burning sensation mostly gone now. Her eyelids felt heavy too, and deciding that she could figure what to do later, she slumped over and fell asleep.
Izzy knew she shouldn’t have fallen asleep like that, sitting up, because when she woke up her back was aching and her neck was sore. She groaned, still tired, but opened the car door to stretch.
When Izzy stepped out it surprised her that time had passed. The sky had gotten slightly darker, day letting night weave itself over the sky in pale bursts of color and shadows. She could still see in front of her, but she also noticed the chill in the air. A soft breeze filtered around her, and she could detect the slightest bit of salt in it, signalling it was from the west. It danced around her, and she abandoned the want of stretching her legs in favor of letting the wind carry her.
She didn’t know where she was going, only that the breeze felt good on her skin and the landscape around her was more fascinating than she first realized.
Suddenly a tumbleweed crossed the road in front of her and she jumped back in surprise just as another followed the same path. However, it was not the tumbleweed that had surprised her, but more of the figure that she swore she saw standing there right before the other one crossed.
Izzy was suddenly afraid, but her curiosity overpowered her fear and she walked to where she thought she saw the figure. Just as she was a few feet away, another tumbleweed passed, and she stumbled.
The figure was back.
This time, however, the figure stayed, and from up close Izzy could see that it was no animal or thing, but rather a person. Not only that, a child.
The child was a young girl, maybe four or five, standing in the middle of the road and facing the horizon, the breeze playing with her sandy blond hair. Her skin was shaded by the limited light of the setting sun. Izzy could not see her face though, and something told her that this was not right. Of course she knew that, why would a child be alone in the middle of a desert in the first place? Yet the feeling of unease had settled into her stomach and she approached the girl.
“Um...hello? Ex-excuse me, but who are you?” Izzy asked, wanting to smack herself for her limited knowledge of talking to kids. She should of babysat her brothers more.
However, the girl did not answer, still facing down the vast desert road.
Izzy decided to try a different approach. “Um...what are you doing, exactly?”
Izzy blinked in surprise, not entirely expecting that to work. There was something else though, the voice was familiar.
“W-waiting for what?” Izzy asked.
“You.” The girl replied.
If Izzy was not startled before, she was now, stuttering over herself and her eyes wide. “Wha-what?”
The girl turned towards Izzy now, letting her see the young girl’s face. Why was she so familiar?
The girl also had chocolate brown eyes, bright with knowing and innocence, yet something more swam under the surface. Her face was childlike as well, what one would expect, and had her lips relaxed in a soft smile.
The girl held out her left hand to Izzy. “Come.”
Izzy was nervous, she was afraid, but just as the wind had pulled her, she felt compelled to let the small girl take her hand.
They then began walking, the girl lightly pulling Izzy in the direction she had been looking in minutes before. The sun was setting even more in the distance and she noticed they were walking towards it. The last few rays of light warmed her skin and cast shadows on the ground behind her. She felt the warmth spread, it was comforting really, and she forgot why she had been on the road in the first place. A few stars were beginning to appear as well, small specks of light in the sky where the night had taken hold. It soothed her, calmed her, and the desert did not seem like a desert anymore. More of a lost land that just needed to be experienced.
“Are you ready?”
Izzy looked at the girl with a confused look. “Ready for what?”
“Your next life.” She said, still looking forward.
Izzy didn’t know why the ‘yes’ passed through her lips, but the light felt so good and the night was so beautiful and words were forgotten between them all. Somehow saying ‘no’ or anything else would only ruin the beauty.
They continued to walk, and Izzy forgot why she was here in the first place. Her memories played in her head simultaneously, but she only smiled at them; no words, no thoughts, no tears. She was no longer afraid. She had no reason to be.
Everything was peaceful.
It could’ve gone better, but the tears and the desperate hugs and pleas could only be tolerated for so long. Cami wanted nothing more than to go home and crawl under her covers and let her shed her dreaded tears.
She hated funerals.
Cami did not want to speak either, her memories with the deceased her private, no one had the right to take them away, to hear them but her. She had to though, and almost burst into tears as she spoke, just barely holding herself together. It was ripping her apart on the inside.
Eventually the service was over and the casket lowered into the ground. People dispersed with last farewells and apologies that they did not need to give. Eventually only her and the family remained, yet Cami chose to stay back and wait. After what couldn’t have been more than thirty minutes the family left as well, leaving Cami staring at the grave with tear filled eyes and a heavy heart.
She walked over to the tombstone, and without a care sunk to the ground on her knees, sobs wrenching from her throat and tears flowing like a waterfall. That name shouldn't be there. That name shouldn’t be there!
Cami pulled at her hair, the image of her friend filling her mind; when they were kids playing together, the time she had dyed her hair to brown, the video messages and calls they made to each other.
She looked at the grave again, letting the name embed into her mind.
Izzy...I’m sorry...I’m so sorry…
And the tears continued.