Saturday, August 7, 2010

bitter milk, pt. 15 & 16

the memory of what could be - it's strange what we choose to forget and get to remember

Winston closed his laptop and slipped into the stacks while the crowd at the library panicked - some were bolting for the exits and others were clamoring for light, looking for employees. It was a mess. He was navigating by the light of his cell phone and starting to regret not carrying a flashlight. Rosalind would be disappointed.

Someone shouted for everyone to calm down. The uproar didn't die down. Then there was a crash--a table being upturned--and silence settled over the library. After some further shuffling, some lights were set up--a few flashlights and a handful of candles.

"We need you to please be calm," said a very frazzled-sounding young man. "We've got emergency supplies to last and I'm sure the storm will pass soon. We'll be alerted by radio as soon as we know when the power will be back. In the meantime, if anyone has any flashlights or anything else that could be helpful, please help us out."

The man kept talking for a while, but Winston tuned him out. Everything he took with him for camping was in his car, which was currently being buffeted by hailstones which, according to a woman at the window, were the size of her head.

There was some more commotion at the window. He looked over to see a red glow on the horizon. Then the radio crackled at about the same time as someone shouted that the forest was on fire.


Nicole remembered when her and Rosalind had been in a used clothing store once. There was no food, and neither of them spoke at all. Nicole paced restlessly, and Rosalind sat quietly by the entrance, watching the outside. 

Eventually, Rosalind said something, but Nicole didn't make out what it if it meant anything. Nicole stopped pacing and sat down against the counter. And then...

Oh, why bother with these memories? Why bother with Rosalind? Why bother with this world, that leaves her in an alley to fend for herself? That abandons her with a litter of vicious, kitten-shaped piranhas, devouring everything, starving Nicole half to death?

Have you ever killed someone to save a life? Nicole had. The life she saved was her own. Does that make it better? Does that make it worse? You'd say it doesn't matter, it's the way of the world, but I know you think less of her for doing it. I know you rip the miscarried kitten from the mother's mouth as she tries to make use of her stillborn offspring. Are you really okay with the way of the world?

It's no secret Nicole hated the world and its ways, yet it's no secret Nicole would still lie and cheat to get anywhere she wanted. In truth, she was honest by nature, but it was her sad and wretched life that twisted her into mendacity. It was her sad and wretched life that was keeping her alive right now, cold and beaten, while weak Rosalind lay dead. Yes, Nicole deserved to live. She had earned that right.

Back at the house, the phone rang again and Winston left another message on the machine.

"The forest is on fire." There was a pause and a commotion like chaos sounding through the machine. "I'm trying to get out of here. I'm coming for you Rosalind, and for Nicole, too. I won't leave you two behind. I'll never abandon you."

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