Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “A story that involves someone, not a stranger, standing on the edge of a precipice.”
This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, is available from her locally or on Amazon.
MISTER WOLFE (the sequel or stand-alone) coming this summer!
by Cathy MacKenzie
Lucille pondered the path before her. The road would be an easy one, effortless and without any pre-planning. No sales to wait for, no tickets to purchase, no suitcases to pack. No mad tear to wake up at ungodly hours, no stress with eyes barely open while wondering if taxis would arrive on time, no boring three-hour waits at airports. No throngs of people mashed together like potatoes behind roped barricades, itching to reach the ticket counter before the next person. No dragging of suitcases or tripping over feet while moving too slowly through the maze.
Although at one time Lucille enjoyed flying, airport travel had become horrific, what with delays and terrorists and crashes, not to mention hassles of added security and other rigmarole. In the early days of plane travel, one could arrive thirty minutes ahead of a flight and still board. One used to be able to carry shampoos and hairspray and face cream in carry-ons. Once upon a time, one didn’t have to worry about the number or weights of suitcases.
Lucille and her husband had travelled frequently, spending winter months down south until he died and left her to travel alone.
But she wouldn’t travel by plane any longer, nor would she take any more road trips despite preferring—even enjoying—driving over flying. Never again would she have to ensure the car was in perfect running order or fill up the gas.
No, there’d be none of that on her trip. Peace would prevail, which is how travel used to be before the world changed. The only worry Lucille had was the lack of light, for there’d be no light until the end—if one believed myths and suppositions.
But the journey would be peaceful despite the black. As if confined in a windowless train zooming down the tracks, the predestined trip would be without an end in sight. Time and space would take over while barrelling along, enclosed in darkness, a metal time capsule let loose like a bullet aiming for its target.
What would she see when she arrived? The fabled pearly gates, the white-robed greeters, the happy reunion with long-deceased relatives? Would endless time permit one to do endless things, or would nothingness exist—a void similar to sleeping when one didn’t dream or have any sense of life? She’d suffered those nights—too many of them when she hadn’t dreamed—and when she opened her eyes in the morning, she realized if she hadn’t awoken, she would never have known she had died. For if you’re in that state and never wake up, how would you know?
Such strange and crazy thoughts that she could never share; no one would understand.
She wasn’t so special that Mr. Death wouldn’t call; she wasn’t that naive to think he’d forget her. No, death loomed in her future. She once prayed it wouldn’t happen too soon. She had wanted to remain on earth where she felt secure, wanted to breathe in smog so she could cough and gag, wanted to cry when peeling onions, wanted to laugh at nonsensical funnies. She once wanted to take the good with the bad for that was life. But life brought death. That was the bad in the good. People had no choice.
She watched clouds rolling by. She enjoyed searching for faces—Jesus or other famous people who appeared in fluffs of white. Photos of clouds were posted as mind games on Facebook—faces others easily saw but ones she never did until she wracked her brain and examined them more closely. Even then, she didn’t always discern a face, but if she concentrated and allowed her imagination to run amok, she could see what she wanted: endless peaks and valleys, smoky ranges, bursts of sun, vast oceans—even faces.
What a waste of time though she enjoyed the puzzle. And what else would she do if she weren’t peering into clouds?
Life had gotten the best of her. Nameless life with nameless faces much like clouds. Those nameless, breathing souls were real yet as distant as the ones high above.
She looked up and saw fluff piled high upon seas of foam. Blue like the ocean or as black as night. Or virginal white marred by dirt. Send me Your love, for Your love shines down upon us all, does it not? Tears hit some; others are lambasted with hail and snow. Cover your face; close your eyes! Capture those daydreams. And see those faces.
There! Was that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?
Did certain individuals exist within that narrow sphere between light and dark? Was there a slight groove where bodies were caught, a trap from which they’d never extricate themselves? Lucille pictured a narrow roadway between life and death, one minuscule and easily invaded where an unsuspecting person could easily find oneself, on the rim looking down and not having the opportunity to decide whether to jump or flee; falling simply happened. One would not know how or why. Later, one might wonder how the fall could have been prevented, how the event couldn’t have been foreseen—for it was an event, was it not? The end of a breathing soul, the end to whatever a person believed in.
Who actually believed in Heaven and Hell? Who truly believed they’d burn endlessly in a bottomless pit or float through fluffy clouds surrounded by angels? Perhaps that’s how cloud faces evolved—nameless faces not so nameless after all: remnants of dead souls who had nowhere else to go.
Would she know when she arrived? Would she be one of those faces leering at earth, filling up lonely lives by providing them with guessing games to pass the time? Who would know it was her except for family and friends? The rest of the world would pretend to recognize her as someone she wasn’t. For the remainder of her days, she’d be one of those nameless faces peering down.
She looked again. Brad was gone and so was his famous ex-partner. Despite intently studying the moving formations, she saw no other faces. She was sure someone in the world would, though. Didn’t the same clouds hover over every facet of earth, no matter what country one lived in?
She gave up examining the sky. Her neck hurt, craning as she had. Besides, she had better things to do.
She clutched her cloth handbag against her side, metal pressing hard against her skin, the unmistakeable chill seeping through the thin fabrics.
She sauntered down the dirt road. How had she ended up in the deserted countryside? She had hopped the bus at Winchester Avenue and stayed on despite various stops—most of which she had never seen before—and when the bus lurched to a stop, she hardly paid attention when she alighted.
She was so confused some days she didn’t know if she existed in life or in a foreign state from which she couldn’t extricate herself. She hadn’t known then of the edge.
After getting off the bus, she found it, although pondering fate while examining the clouds had lessened its relevance, relegating it to the back of her mind. Sauntering through the countryside had brought it back to the forefront.
The long road before her wound like a large snake meandering through the landscape. Sections were hidden behind themselves as if construction crews hadn’t wanted trespassers to view the entire road, but she saw through the plan.
“We must go on adventures to find out where we belong,” she mumbled.
Clouds skimmed along as if they had a destination. They had the task of remaining over earth, moving or still, white or black. What could be more concrete than that? Options, seemingly at will. Options she didn’t have. Her fate was predestined; she was positive of that.
The edge. It was there, ahead of her, waiting…
Dust swirled around her feet. Teeny natty flies swarmed about her face. She swatted them away, but they persisted. She ran a few feet trying to escape. It worked.
For a while.
I think back to my story of Lucille. The truth still eludes me. I was never very religious. Sure, I believed—and still do—that some higher being exists, but really, who knows? No one—until death actually happens—can know with any certainty, and then, of course, it is too late. Who has ever returned to earth after dying—really dying—to fill us in on details? Does anyone really believe those who travel the tunnel—the real tunnel—to reach the other side come back to earth?
Studies have determined those people who travelled the tunnel and returned—those who saw the bright lights or hovered over their supposedly dead bodies—were never actually dead in the first place. In those instances, brain waves interfered or dreams took over.
While we’re living, we don’t know we live on the edge. We don’t know if we’re going to be hit by a car or murdered by a crazy. Or develop a lump and be told, “You’ll be fine. We got it all,” and a month later informed your life is ending; the doctors were wrong—they didn’t get it all.
We all live on the edge. The edge of today; the edge of tomorrow.
All of us are on loan to the world. When you die, however, you’re relegated to a six-foot-deep plot you’ll own forever unless you’re scattered to the winds where specks of ash will float and meld with the atmosphere, living on throughout time, for where would the ash go except exist forevermore, whether in the air or falling to earth? Each part of us remains though not in our earthly form.
I’ll always remember my fictional character Lucille. I’m a writer, you know, and I remember all my characters. Despite numerous individuals with varied ideas, opinions, and thoughts, I still don’t know what’s true or false. I never have, never will.
I remember stories I’ve written, stories about life and death and characters in my head who never gave up until I did them in or they did someone else in. Everyone has repressed anger! I don’t like killing off characters, but sometimes it’s fun. I can’t—and won’t—kill in real life. My parents taught me the difference between good and bad.
I could have saved those characters had I wanted.
And now it’s my turn.
I didn’t save Lucille before she travelled the tunnel, so how can I expect anyone to save me? Not that anyone would. Or could. Death happens.
Lucille reached her end. She saw the pearly gates, the white-robed greeters, the angels flying strong. Everyone needs an angel. I do, too, but there are none for me.
I see the edge, the precipice. The space. My today and my past. I don’t see my future. Nothing exists below or beyond. I don’t see gates or bright lights or masses of white. I don’t see anything except a dark, cold void. A black, blank canvas, a mass of nothingness threatening to suffocate me.
And it does.
My earthly journey has ended. I won’t return to earth. I won’t be able to tell you what happens next.
The edge beckons. I jump. I fall for what feels like an eternity.
And I land.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/