Before and After the Flood – Troy James Weaver
July 2, 2021
As I drove into the forest there were blips of noise I couldn’t make out over the heavy wind. All of what Gina let me keep squeezed into a tiny trailer. The longer I drove, the trees grew, their shadows pooling into each other around me. I was driving directly to where the man on the radio said it would be. This my shame, driving all alone to my new home.
After all paperwork was finalized, Gina said, “You deserve more than you’re capable of giving. I can’t make you want to take care of yourself.” As I hitched up my belongings, now failure-relics, she said, “Please, hurry. Just go. You’re dragging it out. You’re in love with pain. That’s the whole problem.”
Lightning broke the sky and splintered through the branches. No rain, not yet. Sometimes the headlights snared an animal in their beams—rabbits, deer, unidentifiable shadows bleeding into tree trunks. The radio was low, occasionally breaking frequency, but it was only a newscaster talking about the Subway guy losing weight and fucking kids, so I turned it off. Didn’t want to let it in. Didn’t want to be reminded. Gina was always on me to go to therapy. I tried a few times. It never took. Tried washing away my memories with liquid, smoke, and worse thoughts than these.
The smell was faint at first, a match five minutes gone, but as I got deeper, it grew and grew, until it was undeniable. Then I saw it. Thick black smoke combed itself over the car in great billowing tufts. Eventually I couldn’t see a thing, but the road was on an incline so I still had some fresh air to breathe. Everything glowed and got brighter. My car vibrated, the ground beneath it moving, and that’s when I saw the first one.
Its speed was incredible. Just a big ball of fire screaming past me. Then another. Another. A whole herd of them, horses on fire, the thundering of their hooves a confusion of heartbeats. I accelerated, moving closer to the light. I let the sound of their flight lull me into acceptance. But the acceptance didn’t take. The sound became raindrops, the car jerked, lifted and drifted backwards. Water pooled into the floorboards. If only I had an oar, I could’ve made it to the last of the embers before they died and let the darkness back in.