Maybe True, Mostly Metaphor pt XXIII

“Your thieving friend paid me a visit recently,” Isaac spoke to me over his shoulder from the front seat of the truck. “Have I mentioned that to you yet, Alice?”

He was trying to get a rise out of me. A reaction. something. He didn’t trust me. but he had complete control over me. I felt like a caged animal in a zoo. Pent up rage and frustration with no outlet. Just a joke–an embarrassing spectacle–to others watching me, like a helpless lioness.

“Shame I killed him before leaving Bolivia.” He let it out flatly, eyes fixed on me through the rear-view mirror. He was testing me.

“I’m pretty sure that other nuisance who’d been tracking us was there as well. So we dumped the guy’s body out the back of the building to warn them off.”

Don’t do it. Don’t let him win. Look out the window. Ignore the animated psychotic trash fire that is was is your husband.

It was pitch black outside. No moon. The barren, rocky surface of the west Texas desert stretched out in scraggly silhouettes. Stars would poke into existence if you stared long enough, but my eyes were too tear-filled to see them.

I blinked them away. Don’t let him win.

“Your sister was there, too–“

I threw my arms over the seat and strangled him with my restraints. My wrists were bound together with plastic ties, so I pulled back on the seat so hard I thought my arms would snap, trying to dig the hard plastic into his throat while clawing at his face with my fingers. My ears were ringing and a moment later I realized it was due to me shrieking at the top of my lungs. Unintelligible screams. Unpleasant screams. Inhuman screams.

I pulled and pulled and pulled on the seat, putting my bound feet up in front of me as leverage. Was I winning?

A hand came up over the seat, grabbed my hair and ripped my head forward, slamming my face against my own knees so hard my vision flashed to white and my arms went slack.

Through the ringing in my ears I heard him half sighing, half laughing to himself in satisfaction.

I wasn’t a lioness. I was a small bird in a cage. A stupid, helpless bird.

The driver of the truck just looked on ahead, keeping his eyes on the dirt road. He was used to this. Isaac had taunted me ever since I tried my escape in Omaha. He hated me now. He tested me daily. Toyed with me.

I tried sending a message out, once. With some cash in the hopes of getting some attention: “So good news and bad news. Good news, I’m sending you something. Bad news, I sold your motorcycle”. That was so long ago. I wasn’t even sure if the message would make it. Isaac found out soon after and took the opportunity to fan the flames of his neurotic, trash fire existence.

And now Isaac was telling me that desperate attempt had failed in the worst way. Caused a death that I was definitely responsible for. If only I hadn’t dragged others into this. If only I hadn’t tried to run away that morning.

Stupid, helpless bird who can’t even fly away correctly.

The tears threatened to run down my cheeks but I kept blinking them away. I couldn’t give him that. The blinding pain subsided and my eyes began adjusting to the darkness again. West Texas desert. Dim, yellow headlights. Ahead of us, a box truck. We were the middle vehicle in a three part convoy. Behind us, a smaller truck like ours, but with two people tied up in the backseat instead of me. What Isaac planned to do with us, I had no idea. Stars were outside, maybe.

I say West Texas, but I didn’t know for sure. We may have been in Mexico. This small fragment of the border was patrolled only by the fish in the Rio Grande. We were in the Big Bend Wilderness: a rocky, mountainous pocket of the desert.

“One of the darkest places in North America, honey,” I remember my mom telling Elise. We’d come to the National Park section one time as kids. A summer family road trip.

Mom and Dad argued the whole time. They never not argued. At home or on the stupid trip. Elise had her nose in her notebook, drawing pictures of plants or writing about chipmunks or something. I remember on one of the trails I saw little trinkets strewn across the dirt. I would’ve mistaken them for trash if it wasn’t for the sad scrap of cardboard that said “cinco pesos por favor gracias” with a ceramic cup next to it. There were painted rocks. Tiny, torn up dolls. Sticks and twigs bound with wire to make little wooden sculptures.

“The people from over the river sneak into the park at night and leave those here,” Elise explained. I can still hear her annoying, squeaky voice, “Every night, they come over and gather whatever money hikers leave and replace anything that gets sold. Didn’t you read the sign at the start of the trail?” She’d brag.

After Elise and I went to bed, Mom and Dad got into a big fight in their tent. At one point in the night, I rolled over in my sleeping bag and told her, “C’mon, let’s go.”

She sniffled and wiped her face (was she crying?) before she answered, “What? Go where?”

“Out of here. Let’s run away, Elise. Just across the river. If those people do it every night to leave their stuff on the trail then it should be easy. C’mon.”

“Alice, what are you doing? No, stop. Stop!” She grabbed my wrist, trying to tug me back down as I unzipped my sleeping bag. If she wasn’t crying before, she was now.

She wouldn’t let go and wouldn’t get up, so I slumped down in our tent, glaring at her in the dark. She held on to my arm, though, hugging it. “No, Alice,” she mumbled into my sleeve, “Please.”

I missed her.

A sharp metallic crash whipped my mind back to the present and my head into the side window, slamming my already bruising head.

The box truck ahead of us rocked to a halt so hard that the “box” part bounced up and down like a boat in a storm, higher than I thought possible for something so big. Our driver hit the brakes but still had to swerve to avoid a collision. After that, I heard shouting up ahead. Isaac threw his door open, dropped to the ground, then opened my door. He pulled me out, still bound and dazed, and clamped his hand over my mouth as he dragged me towards the rear truck. The shouting up ahead got louder and now there were bright spotlights casting harsh, twisted shadows everywhere, lively and animated. People with guns. People pointing. A man with a megaphone. People pointing back. People pointing guns back. All just extra tall shadows distorted on the dirt.

If this was the police, everything was over. I would be going to prison just like Isaac. The wife of a crime-lord. Guilty by knowledge. Guilty by association. Even if they figured out that I didn’t want any part of this, it would be months and months of investigations during which I’d be locked away regardless. Even if I was let go, what kind of life would be waiting for me? Someone working for Isaac would find me. I was going to lose either way.

Loud pops exploded behind us and Isaac dragged me even faster towards the rear truck, staying low. We rounded the front bumper when a fist materialized out of the darkness in mid-flight and crash landed on Isaac’s face. A second hand grabbed his collar, then the phantom appendages grew a body and feet, a head and cold, cold eyes that didn’t even register my existence. They were trained on Isaac as the dark figure pinned him to the ground, reached inside Isaac’s shirt and pulled out a hidden gun. The figure pointed it up at the driver behind the window. He put hands up while a second figure opened the back door and pulled out whoever was back there.

I started to stumble backwards, but two more arms grew out of the shadows behind me wrapping around my waist. I tried to shout but the shadow whispered a staccato song in my ear, “Shut up, before you kill us all,” while it pulled me away from the dirt road. Then, “Sorry, I’ve always wanted to tell you that,” as we vanished into the bushes.

Love you too, Elise.

Thanks for reading! Catch the full story here or start from the beginning here.

Check back in two more weeks (give or take a week…) TOMORROW for more! SOMETHING SPECIAL!


Liam Brodentel

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