pandemic tales from the dark side of dystopia
Shadow of Pain
When Tabitha woke her hand was wrapped around Allison’s. Their fingers intertwined. She gently slithered her hand away, not wanting to wake her, not ready yet for any more talk. It was too early and her head hurt again, in a real bad way this time.
Did that really happen? I waved him forward, palm up, fingers bent. “Bring it.”
Eddie’s ghostly apparition shimmer shimmied. He’d disappeared into her.
“If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have made different choices.” He’d held out her hand. “… one last dance.” Swirling into forever and never, never ending.
The night turned pale outside. They’d curled up together, fingers laced, bodies entwined.
Rain diffused into a fine mist. He’d dissolved into the light of the morning sun rising over Nebraska cornfields. “If only. If only …” A whisper echoed in the early dawn.
It had finally stopped raining. That’s what was wrong.
Tabitha tried to squint, but the blinding light against her eyelids hurt like shattered window pane behind a curtain that a bird had flown into.
She clenched her belly, lifting herself up from the bed. It was the kind of pain that made it possible to feel every tendon in her shoulders and neck scream with agony at each tiny movement.
This was not the kind of pain a glass of water and some yoga would cure.
It was immobilizing deep agony. The kind that brought tears with each breath. It was as if all the pain that her mind refused to feel was right at the base of her skull stabbing to get in.
She looked in the mirror.
Her eyes, an ugly overcast baby shit green. One was a little more yellow than the other. It reminded her of the mossy mold in the stagnant waters of a birdbath.
Her face thin, but puffy with saggy loose skin and dark purplish shadows under her eyes.
She reached in her makeup case where she kept her pills.
Ran back out to the duffel bag. Digging, tossing things every which way.
Mutherfuck. Eddie! “Allison,” she roared.
Gone. She retraced her footsteps to the bathroom garbage can where all the empty plastic containers were piled. She pulled them out, one by one in case any stray capsules had been missed.
No more pills.
She clambered to the toilet on her hands and knees, scraping the crevices of the dirty linoleum with her fingernails.
When Tabitha woke up again, her insides roiled with spasms trying to squeeze every drop of poison out of her. Teeth rattled, shivering.
Anything that went down came right back up.
Spasms of pain.
Fevers and chills precipitated constant trips to the toilet. On top of it all, hours where nothing made any sense. In her a haze of delirium, she remembered what happened while she’d let Eddie borrow her body. Some of it.
Gently waltzing in a tiny circle within the hotel room. In the recesses and shadows, there was tenderness and kissing. Frenzied love making. Not her, she’d just been along for the ride.
Now, Allison lay in the queen bed next to her serene, placid; swiping and scrolling her mobile.
Tabitha’s sinuses engorged, breathing fire, she stared into Allison’s bright terrified eyes.
Body twisting and burning, ridding itself of softness and pain and guilt and a fucking complex grief of equal parts hate and love, passion and pain.
Tabitha shook. Her whole body convulsing.
Allison sprang up, 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 …”
She thought about how other people found themselves tethered to their homes by the pandemic. But she’d been cast out from hers.
It hurt. Everything did.
Sometime later, an abstract face hovered, bent over her, blocking out part of the glare from the window. Tabitha forced herself to blink.
The shadowy silhouette came in and out of focus. The fumbling nymphette that was Eddie’s true love grabbed her by the shoulders and lifted, plumped up her pillows, switched out her sweaty dank towel for a dry one, and shifted her around.
Her head hurt more than anything. She felt like a demolition team had spent the night tunneling into the back of her skull, getting ready to lay railroad tracks from her clavicle to her spine, which was simultaneously being squished between two rocks. Her throat was dry and sticky.
She heard the tap running in a nearby faucet and then she felt something prodding against your mouth.
Tabitha inched her lips open and felt the straw with her tongue. She sucked and was rewarded with a cool wash in her mouth.
She could feel her legs start to come to life in the crawling sensation of red ants trapped underneath her skin, but it was almost overshadowed by the power of the hammer that crashed down on her forehead. “More water,” she whispered.
“You might as well drink as much as you can. It’s a long drive to Colorado and you’re going to need it.”
She longed to return to the paralyzed comfort of the darkness. But she knew she had to get up.
It was time.