Lewis Arnold had always hated his father’s name. Not his father. No other trait of his ever bothered Lewis; just his name, which in most cases is decided by forces distant to the person who is to don said name. Lewis knew this and held no grudge towards his father.
Yet if there had been anything he could have changed about his old man, it was his name. Arnold. Lewis couldn’t ever justify his dislike with a specific reason, and truth be told, he probably didn’t even have a good reason. It was like a bad taste or a rancid smell, a base reaction to something foul. Something foul sat in front of Lewis, and Lewis displayed his disgust like a mask.
Sitting across the kitchen table was Lewis’s father. His skin was drawn tight around his face, his teeth peeking through his slit of a mouth. He was wearing a black suit, a suit that looked like a good one to be buried in. A red tie and white undershirt complimented the rich darkness of the coat. Through decayed lips and teeth like gravestones, his father started singing, and from somewhere nearby a band struck up, accompanying the dead man’s vocals.
"Psychotic girl, I won’t get lost in your world, oh not again." An electric guitar painted train tracks through the melody, the percussion stomping along in time.
Lewis looked about himself, and realized he knew where he was. His mother’s kitchen. The table he and his father sat at, usually blanketed in a mound of letters and paperwork for everything and nothing, was bare. Lewis set his hands on the table and tried to push his chair away, but found it fastened to the red and white checkered tiles. Lewis looked around the room and then down at himself, his eyes meeting with his singing father only momentarily, and saw he was strapped into what appeared to be an airplane seat. Thick black belts crisscrossed his body like snakes, holding him to the chair. The wall with the stove against it had a yellow clock above it that read a quarter past three. The wall opposite of the stove was stripped away to the frame of the house, a scene of vast blues and greens beyond. The malaise of green and blue ocean water smeared together as far as Lewis could see, and he felt dizzy after staring into where he thought the horizon should be.
Looking back to the table Lewis heard a woman scream most hideously above him. He looked up. Standing upside down, hair hanging like vines, was a woman who Lewis had never met, but found intensely beautiful. He was also terrified of her.
She looked directly at Lewis, her face turned to his, skin like cream and her mouth open so very wide. The high pitch wail held, the band quit playing, and his father silenced himself. She kept screaming, eyes locked with Lewis’s.
This went on for an indeterminable amount of time, Lewis even taking a moment to glance to the clock above the stove (which curiously read three o’ clock on the dot), only to return his stare to the woman standing on the ceiling. Then in a blink it was all gone. The vision of the woman standing upside down and Lewis’s father sitting across from him in his mother’s old kitchen was replaced with the back of a brown seat. The train’s whistle screamed, announcing their arrival. To where they had arrived was yet to be seen.
Lewis picked his pack up off the ground and waited for the train to come to a stop, the whistle eventually ceasing its screech. Lewis put his hands in his coat pockets.
Stepping off the great steel train, Lewis entered the station, inhabited by but a handful of people. A dog howled somewhere nearby.
As Lewis made way for the exit of the station he noticed a young blonde haired girl following him. He held open the door, a golden bell dinging as the door brushed it. Lewis was expecting a smile as she left, or a thank you, but instead the girl stopped and looked at Lewis.
"Go ahead." Lewis smiled.
The girl responded immediately as if she had been hurt by Lewis’s words. "Oh…" She looked away and paused. "Okay then." The girl slowly started walking.
"I didn’t mean to offend." Lewis said, puzzlement tickling his statement.
The girl stopped at this and looked back at him. Her mask had changed to one of mild interest and she began speaking to Lewis.
"Where you goin?" the girl asked.
A man in a bowler hat and grey suit walked through the door nodding towards Lewis and glancing at the girl as he passed. Lewis nodded back to the man, silently admiring his thick curved mustache.
"I don’t quite know. Actually I don’t quite know where I am at all."
"Well I ran away from where I was living and don’t know where I’m going either." the girl said.
They both looked at each other’s eyes. A thin brown haired women exited the station, thanking Lewis in a voice like a mouse.
The girl’s hair reached down to her neck, but not much farther than that.
"How old are you? You look like you could be a minor."
"A miner? Of course not. Do I look like I mine anything to you? I don’t even think I could hold up a pickax." the girl said this in a genuine manner. Lewis smiled, and the girl smiled too.
A woman in white came running into the station, her high heeled shoes sounding like a horse trotting on cobblestone. "Oh my, oh my, oh my, I’m late, late, late," the woman and her concerns of the fourth dimension rushing away on clopping heels.
Lewis looked outside into the daylight.
"We should go together." Lewis said this while looking at the thin black highway that seemed to stretch on forever.
The girl didn’t say anything for a moment and then, "Well okay." Another pause. "If you really mean it," her tone, while reserved, indicated that she was pleased Lewis had suggested this.
"My name is Mindy. What’s yours?"
"My name is Byron."
"What an interesting name." Mindy said.
"I don’t think so. I don’t like my name." Lewis said this and looked outside again. "We should go."
A man and woman walked into the station and thanked Lewis. They held hands as they walked toward the ticket booth.
"Okay. Lead the way Byron."
Lewis walked into the daylight, with Mindy following him.
Standing off the black highway, Lewis and Mindy looked each way in silence. The road stretched on for so many miles in each direction. One way led towards the pale silhouette of a city, the other towards open fields that reminded Lewis of the ocean.
"Byron, where are we going?"
Lewis looked back at the train station. The train tracks ran perpendicular to the road, crossing them to create a + shape. He looked back at Mindy.
"I don’t know Mindy. Do you know what town that is?"
"Don’t you mean city? That’s a city."
"Then the city… Do you know what city it is?"
Lewis looked back towards the open space leading away from the pale blue shadow of the unnamed city, and sighed.
"I’m no good at this."
"At what Byron?"
"At deciding… At doing things."
"Yea. Doing stuff…" Lewis looked at her, his face distorted with what could only be shame.
"Don’t you think that’s a bit of a generalized statement?"
"Don’t you think you ask a lot of questions?"
"You say that a lot."
"You’ve only just met me though," Mindy sounded hurt.
Lewis looked back towards the train station and wished he had stayed on the train. His eyes shifted to the parking lot, a brown and tan truck demanding his attention.
"Okay I’ve done this before but only once. And I was alone."
"Wait what?" Mindy sounded confused now.
"Just come with me."
They walked towards the parking lot, Lewis leading Mindy. As they reached the truck Lewis turned about and checked for anyone that could be observing the two of them. The parking lot was sparsely decorated with vehicles; the truck was the biggest there, surely outweighing the several station wagons accompanying it in the lot. Nobody seemed to be there so Lewis acted swiftly.
Lewis hoisted himself into the truck bed and turned to Mindy.
"Do you need help?" he asked. He extended his hand out to her as he talked.
"I’m just not too sure about this," Mindy said, standing beside the truck looking up at Lewis.
"I know me neither, but I’m going."
"Okay." Mindy took Lewis’s hand and lifted herself into the truck. They both laid down.
"We shouldn’t talk." Lewis said in a hushed tone.
Mindy looked at Lewis. Lewis looked up into the sky. Thin clouds smeared across the expanse and the sun hung high. Jets cut white cords against the pale blue. Lewis closed his eyes and felt Mindy slip her fingers into his. He gripped her hand in his loosely. Sleep, like a drug, took Lewis away from the truck, and the train station parking lot.
A night sky brilliant in its splendor welcomed Lewis’s waking gaze. Still in the stupor of sleep, Lewis thought he was home. Then he thought about where that was. Someone sighed and bumped Lewis against the shoulder.
He looked towards Mindy. She was laying with her head turned away from him. Her blonde hair looked bright despite the dark of the night.
The truck wasn’t moving, and Lewis couldn’t tell whether they had even left the train station. From his positioning in the truck bed he thought he could see light being cast from where the station stood. He could clearly see tall lights, a haze of gnats and moths surrounding the tall orbs of light.
Mindy shifted onto her back, exposing her small face to the immensity of the sky. Lewis thought she looked beautiful. As he lay on his back, staring at Mindy he heard the golden bell from the station ring. Following the ring was a moment of silence, followed by the sound of gravel under boot. The sound reminded Lewis of crunching glass and imagined having to chew on a mouthful of gravel or broken bottles. The sound of crunching gravel grew louder as time passed, and it became apparent that the steps were intended for the direction of the truck that Lewis and Mindy had stowed themselves away on.
Lewis held his breath. The approaching steps sounded louder than Lewis could have ever imagined footsteps through a parking lot could be, when they abruptly stopped. The sound was replaced with the jingle and jangle of someone fumbling with their keys. Lewis could just make out an outline of a forehead crowned with a severely receded hairline. The jingling and jangling ceased, and Lewis heard something smack the gravel sharply. This was followed by a curse and the snapping of joints. The shifting of gravel. Someone placed a hand on the edge of the truck bed, steadying themselves as they stooped down to pick up their keys. The hand was gnarled and wrinkled and reminded Lewis of the branches on a tree.
The owner of the truck stood and juggled his keys a bit more before opening the driver side door and getting in. The engine turned over. As the engine burst to life, a grey cloud of smoke ejected out of the muffler and Mindy was startled awake. Her eyes opened wide and stayed huge. She looked like a frightened cat to Lewis. The truck began to take off.
Lewis put his finger to his lips and smiled. Mindy’s eyes slowly drooped back close, and she was soon asleep again. Lewis couldn’t tell what way they were heading; towards the city, or towards the open fields. Either way, he was happy to be moving. He closed his eyes.
Lewis’s eyes opened.
The sky was passing at the pace that it always would, anchored by constellations.
The clouds raced away quicker than the dim stars.
The power lines overhead flitted out of view just as soon as they came into sight.
"Byron will you say something?"
"Quiet Mindy, shhhhhh," Lewis said this with his index finger to his lips.
"Byron where are we going?" Mindy whispered.
"What?" Lewis said. The sounds of the road passing by at seventy miles an hour and the battered brown truck’s suspension mixed to form a choir of noise that suffocated any conversation to be had.
"Where are we going?" Mindy repeated, louder this time.
"I told you already. Wherever this truck is going. Now quiet," Lewis placed a finger to Mindy’s lips and they were both quiet.
Lewis looked back to the sky.
Mindy stared at Lewis.
The clouds kept racing each other to whatever finish await them.
The sounds of air rushing above and all around the two secret passengers began to die away as the truck gradually slowed. Mindy gripped Lewises hand.
"Byron I’m scared, what if he knows we are here and he is stopping to kick us out what’ll we do?" Words gushed out of Mindy as if a pipe had ruptured somewhere in her throat.
Lewis returned Mindy’s grip, holding her hand firmly and turned his face to hers.
"It’s going to be okay Mindy. Whatever happens. It’s going to be okay." Lewis smiled after he said this, delivering the statement in a serene manner that caused Mindy’s grip to loosen a bit and her eyes to soften.
"Thank you Byron. I believe you." Mindy almost whispered. The air was still around the two as the truck was moving slower than it had been moving since the drive began.
Lewis wondered for a moment if they were going to stop. The truck then turned sharply to the right ninety degrees, and the engine coughed new life into itself. They began accelerating to the speeds they had once driven at, the cacophony above and all around them returning like dark in the night. Mindy moved even closer to Lewis and put her head on his shoulder.
The truck eventually stopped. The area they stopped in had clear skies, save for the occasional diner sign they would see, and the consistent company of the telephone lines. The engine quieted and the driver’s door opened. The crunch of gravel came after this. Lewis exhaled joyously, listening to steps grow fainter and fainter until a familiar silence settled in around him. Mindy was asleep, her fingers still twisted around Lewis’s, her body nearly on top of his.
Lewis sat upright and looked around. He then lay back down. Mindy was awake and looking at him. She looked frightened.
"Why did we stop?"
"We are in a driveway. In front of a house. The street is dark, but the house lights are on. We should go."
Lewis started to lift himself out of the truck bed then stopped himself. If he got out on his side of the truck, he would chance being seen from the illuminated window of the house. He turned to Mindy. "We have to get out on your side."
"You go first. I’m frightened."
Lewis rolled so that he was on top of Mindy. Their faces were inches away. Mindy smiled and Lewis kissed her. Mindy laughed in a high pitch sort of way and smiled more. Lewis smiled back and rolled off of her towards the edge of the truck. He lifted himself over the side, then turned back to Mindy.
"Let’s go." He extended his hand to Mindy. She took it and lifted herself out of the truck.
"What are you doing? Hey! I see you!" a voice like an old house ready to collapse in on itself sounded behind Lewis and Mindy from the porch of the home next to the one they were doing so well to avoid.
"Byron what is happening?" Mindy asked, much too loud for Lewises taste.
"Whose Byron huh? Whose she talkin too Lew–" that voice like an old house again.
"Time to run." Lewis said almost like a bark. He then ran. Mindy followed him.
The old woman who had seen the two shouted and shouted, her cries of alarm chasing Lewis and Mindy into the grey night, following them passed broken old driveways and yards with garbage adorning the yellowed patches of lawns. They kept running, through streets with burnt out lights and cars on cinder blocks. They passed by windows cracked and empty on houses that looked abandoned. They ran until they were at the end of the street, two signs with large red x’s on white boards of wood signifying that the road no longer continued, that it was the end.
One house stood at the end of the street, a decrepit wood fence surrounding it and an ocean of yellow fields beyond that and the red x’s. Lewis stood very still, breathing slowly while he looked out towards the fields. He couldn’t tell if the dark was playing tricks on him, but the horizon was hard to identify.
“Byron where are we?”
Lewis looked at Mindy. She was breathing hard.
“Are you alright?” Lewis asked Mindy.
“Yes. I am just tired. I don’t run very often. Where are we going to sleep Byron?”
Lewis looked back to the house at the end of the street. The lights were off, but coming from the back, light could be seen.
Mindy walked after Lewis as they approached the house, keeping a distance so as to avoid detection. Lewis mounted the waist high fence and swung his body over it, vaulting like an athlete. Mindy approached where the gate for the fence was, only steps away from where Lewis had jumped it.
After pushing and pulling on the gate a bit, without result, Mindy stood in the dark and said "I think it is locked Byron."
"No no, you just gotta lift on the gate when you pull, here like this." Lewis grabbed the underside of the gate and pushed towards Mindy, the gate opening without protest.
"Oh. Right. I guess I should have tried that." Mindy said, traces of uncertainty staining her voice like wine on clean sheets.
Rounding the corner of the house, a small shed came into view, the very base illuminated by the light of a window on the back of the house. The light was comforting and Lewis continued towards it. Mindy stopped.
“Byron I don’t think this is a good idea.” Mindy stood a good thirty feet from the house still by the fence edge. Lewis continued walking slowly towards the window. Mindy’s protest was unanswered, the statement leaving a tension in the air outside the back of the house. Lewis glanced back only once to Mindy before looking in through the window. She was frowning, her face hard to see contrasted against the dark and invisible horizon.
Lewis looked in through the window and saw a stove with a yellow clock above it. The time read eleven fifty something. There was a round table in the center of the room with an old man in a suit seated with his back to the window. He was tapping his hand on the table, as if waiting for something.
Lewis stood up on his tip toes, trying to see more of the kitchen. Black and white checkered tile covered the floor and Lewis noted how shiny the man’s shoes looked. Lewis backed away from the window returning to Mindy.
“The sheds unlocked. We can camp out in there.” Mindy looked confused at this statement, wondering how Lewis knew the shed was unlocked, and for the first time since meeting him, questioned to herself if Lewis was telling the truth.
“Okay Byron. I’m cold though.” Mindy said this with a frown on her lips.
Lewis took off his coat and put it around Mindy’s shoulders. “Lets go to bed. I’ll keep you warm.” Mindy moved closer to Lewis at this statement.
"Thank you Bryon. I’m glad that I met you, and I’m glad we are here." Mindy said this as they walked, relief and something that might have sounded like happiness making itself audible in the tone of her voice. They walked to the shed, fading from the light of the house at the end of the street into a patchwork of dark grey space until they disappeared into the complete darkness of the shed.
Copyright © Jordy Lynch