pandemic tales from the dark side of dystopia
Dancing in the Rain
The cheap motel room was thick with angst and silent desperation. Tabitha clicked the television on, scrolled until she found a news station and started fumbling in her purse.
Allison laid back on the bed. How am I so tired? She felt air trickling through her sinus cavity and throat. Awareness creeping back in. Whatever shit she gave me is starting to wear off.
“You try and yell or anything, I’ll end it all right here.” Tabitha peered down from above holding the syringe. “Don’t worry it’ll all be over tomorrow,” she said, depressing the needle into her skin. “That’s only a little bit, but you make a peep, I don’t mind shooting you back up full of this crap.”
So much for wearing off. It prickled and then warmth spread from her belly. Allison heard creaking floorboards under angry footsteps.
Tabitha turned sharply, her hand on the bathroom door holding the duffel. “If you want to spend your last day alive in La la Land, that’s up to you. It’ll only make your suicide seem that much more pathetic. I could give a shit.”
Allison nodded. Feeling the wet streak left behind by a tear that dribbled into her ear. She closed her eyes and pretended to snooze. Her legs were rubber and she couldn’t think. It was wearing off, but not quickly enough. Tabitha’s shoes made squeaky thumps clumping around inside the bathroom room door. Spray of water.
Every sound echoed inside the hollow chambers of her head. She fought to stay in the room. She needed to think of a way to get out of here. Alive.
Thunder rumbled somewhere far away. The shower and the rain blended. She felt herself sucked down the spiral of the drain…
“Alley cat, Alley cat … wake up!”
“Tired,” she moaned pushing his hand away from her belly. Clinging to the foggy warm mist she almost slipped back into the unconscious sea of bliss. Wait, only one person calls me that!
Allison’s eyes shot open. The spray of water from the bathroom still filled the room, but someone else was there. “Eddie?”
“Over here babe,” she heard from the dark corner. Slowly she forced her throbbing head to move. Nothing. “Where are you?”
“You can see me better if you close your eyes, Alley cat.”
Allison closed her eyes. Eddie sat in the dark corner. He was right. He was luminous, shadowy but defined. He spoke to her. “Keep her talking. Let her get fucked up and I’ll take care of the rest babe, okay?”
“Yeah,” Allison whispered. “Okay, then.” She smiled, rolled over and went back to a deep dreamless sleep.
A reporter’s staccato voice fired off all the reasons the pandemic would cause rapid decline in the global economy. Tabitha twisted open the plastic cap of her medicine bottle and chased the pills with a swig of whiskey.
The rain outside was still beating against the window. But it was black outside, nothing beyond the window but an eerie reflection of the room cast by the glow of the TV.
Allison’s mind still grasped desperately to her hallucination of Eddie. His ghost. She missed sex with him. Watching Tabitha toss back another handful of pills, she pulled herself out of the stupor. Christ, how many of those things could the woman swallow and stay conscious? Her voice scratched out. “If you cared about him, would any of this even be happening?”
Tabitha swiveled; her glowing green eyes beady with fury. “Care? Child you have no idea what marriage is like. We’ve been together ten years and, in each other’s lives, almost two decades.” She reached for the open bottle of whiskey, grabbed it off the table and filled a plastic cup to the rim. “That is a long time! Almost as long as you’ve been on this earth … You have not one fucking clue!”
“Wasn’t it obvious he was struggling?” She had no idea what to talk about with Eddie’s wife to keep her talking. Keep it about Eddie. That’s the only thing they had in common anyway.
“Yes, but who isn’t? In this bullshit pandemic, it’s a wonder anyone can stay sane.” Tabitha poured another shot and slugged it. “He’d been struggling his whole life, so what else is new?”
Allison shrugged. “Some wife you are—no wonder he was hooking up with me.”
Tabitha stood up, swerved like she was going straight for Allison but then stopped short and grabbed the remote, turning up the TV. “That fucking son of a bitch!”
Allison braced herself against the headboard. Maybe she’d pushed a little too far.
Tabitha gritted her teeth, growling a low, scary sound Allison had never heard come from a human before. Adrenalin coursed through her, clearing some of the drug cobwebs.
Tabitha staggered toward the TV and stood in place, wobbling, holding the whiskey bottle in one hand and the remote in the other.
“What?” Allison squinted at the television and in between wobbles, she saw a flurry of cops and reporters. “Gas station robbery thwarted by travelers en route to California. Mr. Matty Gale, his friend, Elaine Sherlock and a truckdriver, Mac Freeland from Wisconsin intercepted the gunman and disabled him. The police have the suspect in custody …”
Tabitha swiveled around to face Allison. “That son of a bitch stood me up!” Her face red, mad enough to chew rocks, Tabitha slammed the bottle of whiskey down hard enough to slosh the liquid to the rim and a fine mist sprinkled over the particle board tabletop.
“What the fuck are you talking about? Stood you up … who Eddie?” Allison felt sweat trickle down her back. She reached tentatively forward, her fingertips grazing Tabitha’s forearm. “Look I know this is difficult, losing him, but he made me promise to help you through this rough patch.”
Tabitha turned a deeper shade of red, yanked her arm away. “Look bitch, I don’t even know why you’re still here. You can go anytime.”
“New York’s over for me. I need a new start. Besides you traded my car in for that shit mobile out there.” Allison threw her arms up. “I got nowhere else to go at the moment. I’m down for the ride …”
“Wait, what the fuck are you talking about—you saw him too?” Tabitha cut in, as it slowly dawned on her what Allison was yammering on about.
Eddie’s haunting was like that—barely enough to feel or touch—not enough to wrap her whole self around. Inhabiting dreams like a rough stone in the pocket. A little moan coming from the corner of the darkened corner.
Tabitha’s eyes sought out the shadows and crevices of the hotel room. “Is he here? Did he come to you?”
Allison said, “I heard him in a dream.” Her eyes wide and white as the cheap Formica sink in the bathroom, shook her head. “I wasn’t sure if that was real or not.”
A glimmer materialized out of the corner of Tabitha’s eye. Eddie’s transparent form emerged in the glow of the television light being thrown off now by a car commercial. She laughed as though a sudden crazy idea had floated into her head. “The ghost can see you but you can’t see him.”
Eddie’s shadow glowered at them from the corner. His forlorn gaze fell on Allison.
“I guess the gods have a sense of irony after all.” Tabitha’s eyes glazed.
“Can I talk to Eddie, oh how?”
“I guess you don’t have witch’s blood in you then, ha, ha!”
Allison frowned. “Now you’re just fucking with me … Can you really see him?” Her eyes swiveled from the window still battered with rain and howling wind to the bathroom.
Tabitha shrugged, tossed back her drink, and swallowed another pill. “Okay, here’s what I propose.” They both looked at her. “Eddie, you possess me.”
“Can you really do that?” Allison whispered excited, “like in Ghost?”
“I know. I know. It sounds loony, but my grandma used to do this before I ran away from all that horseshit. She told me I was capable.”
Allison blinked. “It’s worth a try, isn’t it?”
“Okay, then.” Tabitha set the mostly empty bottle on the desk, leaving it. She staggered toward the bed and hit the light on the way. She stood straight, looked directly at Eddie. “Anyway, hurry up, before I change my mind.”
Allison’s head swiveled between the empty space Tabitha was looking at and her teetering frame.
Tabitha waved him forward with her hand palm up, fingers bent. “Bring it.”
Eddie shrugged. His ghostly apparition shimmer shimmied. He walked toward her, then jumped. He disappeared into her.
Tabitha convulsed with the impulse. A shock to her solar plexus.
Her breath caught and then nothing. Dark worlds collide, memories of her bedroom back in New York swirled.
Pop, pop and fizz … like the white noise on the TV.
M-T. M-T. Empty.
A deep, dark nothing.
Black as night.
“Sorry, babe.” I hold out my hand … well, Tabatha’s minus the rock I gave her. If I’d known then what I know now, in the emptiness the hornets’ nest of Adderall and tequila fueled rage carved out of my skull, I’d have made different choices. “Let’s have one last dance.”
Allison swallows hard. Her baby blues see past the murky opiate swirls and whiskey waters of Tabitha swollen brain. Oh yes there’s some post Covid malignancy in this broken body. I can feel it, but my host can’t, numb as she is to the pain. But I’m here now darling.
“Alley cat, help me get her off this shit.” Allison nods and steps into my arms.
My Tabitha hand trails along Allie’s jaw line. Such a beauty—and this final goodbye in Tabby’s meat suit—the irony is not lost on me.
We dance around collecting plastic bottles flushing tiny capsules dumping what’s left of the liquor down the drain. Flushing grazing fingertips along her rosy pink flash. So young.
We come together and move in sync gyrating around the darkness of the room. My Tabby arms enfold her, and our warm heartbeats take over. I fall into her.
Hair tickles my cheek, soft corn-silk. Goat’s milk soap and tiger balm lingering on her sports bra.
From the inside I can feel where my phantom cock should swell, a throbbing ghost limb that still fuels my desire.
My strange, but familiar, hands find her flesh, slow and gentle till it’s not. Sweat and sighs; this erotically charged frenzy suffuses my senses one last time.
I fold into her, in a body so familiar to me, but not my own.
Finding satisfaction in other ways, with fingertips and tongues. Surge of pleasure, senses raw. Soon the detox will hurt, but not yet.
I live a thousand lifetimes in the now, this bittersweet moment, an infusion of sensory overload. Swirling into forever and never, never ending.
If only. If only…
The night turns pale outside. We curl up together, fingers laced, bodies entwined.
I whisper my sweet goodbyes as I slip away into the early dawn.
Rain diffuses into a fine mist. I dissolve into the light of the morning sun rising over Nebraska cornfields.
Goodbye my loves. Until we meet again.