The Hitchhiker (part two)
Cars drove unstoppingly past, and Rick gave her change for the vending machine and went ahead to the room. She bought chips and a coke, and followed him. Room 6. She looked over her shoulder at the road she’d been travelling. In the distance, toward the southwest, lights twinkled, the promise of civilization. She couldn’t go there, she didn’t belong. End of the road. The angry, protective presence inside her yearned to go there, go back, sensing only her awareness of what was coming. It didn’t understand that there was nowhere to go.
It would be his own fault. She didn’t want this.
The sky faded from blue to black as stars began to litter it like insects. How long ago had they burned out. Expanding, growing hotter and hotter, turning the planets around them into deserts before extinguishing all life. Hanging above her head were a billion little apocalypses. Where do monsters come from? She wondered if she could still see it
Room 6. Ground level. Around the back, the opposite side of the building from the parking lot, the earth sloped downward, spiky sharp shrubbery and rattlesnake holes slowly cascading into absolute darkness. She opened the door
He was lying on the closer twin bed. At least he hadn’t given up the pretense, although his flannel was off and he was in his sweat-stained tank. He’d turned the tv on. She’d have to walk past him to get to the other bed. He suggested she take a shower, as he lay there with his sweat and grease soaking into the bedspread. The dirty, wiry young girl considered this. She may as well, she wouldn’t likely get another chance. Not for a while. She would probably be filthy again by the time the next driver picked her up to take her in a different direction, away from the lights. Maybe she should just go into the desert and see what happened. How could it defend her against the earth itself? Her gut turned. It was the only thing that scared her.
She made sure the bathroom door was locked as she stripped down turned the water on. Under the stream, she opened her mouth and swallowed. It was her first gulp of water since the last driver. Her cracked, parched lips stung, and her stomach lurched gratefully. Almost immediately she had to urinate, and did so into the stream, down the drain, the water pouring over her head as warm as the piss running down her legs. She thought of the blood on her skin, as it dried and cracked, the black goo that remained slippery. Again and again, difficult to clean. Her scars stung and ached. Those stains can never come off. Her jacket kept some of it off her arms. Perhaps she’d try to wash her jeans, but what was the point. It would happen again, and again, she wasn’t strong enough to stop it. It would always survive. It was stronger.
She stepped out, almost immediately dry, except her slick, dark hair. Maybe she could sleep. Maybe he’d leave her alone. Maybe he’d be okay…
Rick flipped the channels as Cole was in the shower, imagining her naked and wet. He taken off his pants, was in his boxers and socks. Maybe he’d show her his cock. Maybe the rebellious little slut would make the move, climb on him like a hungry bug, like his own whore daughter, looking to piss off daddy. Probably not, but she had to sleep sometime.
There hadn’t been many. Girls don’t hitchhike any more. The road doesn’t have the same draw it used to. There used to be wandering meat all up and down the route, but word had gotten out that the open road wasn’t for them. How many had never been found? They don’t usually end up out there if there was anyone who’d noticed they’d gone. There’s no safety in the desert, no sanctuary or salvation under the blazing sun. No witnesses. Saguaro and dogbane grew out of buffalo and human skulls alike. The scavengers will eat anything.
She stepped out of the bathroom, dressed, wet hair pasted to her face. She sat on the bed and stared at the tv. He made a remark about whatever was on. She didn’t care. What was she expecting would happen here? She didn’t look at him, lying there in his underwear, clueless, helpless. Was she so helpless? Did she have no control? His lower half squirmed like worms in a bucket and her gut twisted in expectation. She swallowed hard, tried to keep it down. Her scars itched. They had turned red, perhaps from the water. They’d never really healed. The road was the only safe place, the emptiness offering her only freedom. Here, in this room, hung deadly anticipation. He stared at her, at her filthy, stained jeans, wondering how she’d gotten engine oil all over them. Had another driver’s car broken down? Had she helped him? Had she left him there in the desert and moved on to another?
He poured whiskey from a flask into the coke that she bought and offered it. She took a sip. So did he, his moist lips on the bottle she’d just drunk from. As they drank, he added more and more whiskey.
‘You never answered me. You got a boyfriend?’
‘A father? Dad?’
‘You got anyone?’
She fingered her scar. She felt the whispering urgency inside her.
Sleep. She slept fully clothed on the still-made bed furthest from the door, her jacket over her like a blanket or tarp. The toilet made noises during the night. She dreamt of her useless mother, her helpless father, whose life she’d saved when she left. Tentacles wrapped around her wrists like rope, cutting off circulation. Monsters live inside us. The thick, black, reaching tendrils denying her right to suicide, using her, making her a vehicle for its own consumption. Parasites, feeding off others, collecting trophies, leaving nothing but bones and stains. Perhaps one day she would be cleansed, her flesh finally rotted away, her skeleton exposed, bleached by the sun. She should be allowed to decay like any other corpse. Cole slept, but the force inside her lay ready, dreaming of a world where it could be free of its fleshy, putrid host, this helpless thing always in need of preservation, always insisting on dying.
She awoke to hands fumbling with her fly. The button, the zipper, the clumsy attempt at pulling her jeans off. The sky was beginning to lighten outside. A dry, rainless thunder came with the dawn. She opened her eyes and she was in danger. Radiant light blazed across her vision and the sky turned red.
‘Ssshhh, little girl,’ he whispered, ‘sshhhh, you’re okay.’
Red light flooded her vision. The sky was bleeding, the sky was on fire.
She gurgled. Her throat was full, she choked.
She could not cry out. A noise came from inside her.
‘Shut up you little cunt!’
She struggled. If she could get him off her, if she could end this…
She looked at him, her eyes dark. He froze, staring into those black eyes, behind which glowed a red fire. Pain from her wrists as they bled, opened, the jagged lines spilling a rancid liquid, as black tendrils reached out, out from her veins, out of her body, wrapping around the threat, all the rage and hunger, the thing inside her, that strong, powerful thing that would protect its host so that it could continue to feed, never allowing her to rest, to live, to die.
His eyes bulged as the air became thick for him, he couldn’t breath, the air tasted like his blood. His tongue lolled out over his drooling lips, meat juice dripping down his chin, his face red, darkening to a deep purple as the sky outside became lighter. Her eyes were locked with him, blood in her pupils, the fire of a dying sun inside her, driving him toward death. She didn’t want this. She never wanted this. His body would be found, and it would be assumed that someone large and strong had killed him. No one ever looked for her. That was important, for the parasite would kill them all.
It was over, but it was never over.
The creature drank its fuel. Hungry as it was, it never starved, as much as she tried. The sun, the heat, the scorpions and coyotes, the murderers, nothing could kill it. It would ride with her, feed off her, and she was helpless. It was time to move on, into the desert, the nothing, the closest environment to the hell from which it had escaped.
She took a final look at Rick’s bloated, soiled body, and allowed a moment of feeling before swallowing it back down. She put her jacket on, opened the door, and walked out into the sunrise.