women. writers.

Fiction: "The Other Sun" by Darci Halstead Garcia

The sensation that there were rocks in her shoe was distracting. Despite stopping twice to take them off, she could find nothing.

It must be the gravel, she thought.

The sneakers were old and worn and the small clay like rocks on the dirt road was sharp against the thin soles. Adjusting the backpack that contained all she owned in the world, she continued on.

It is all I will need, she thought. If I can just get there.

Taking out her water bottle, she sipped, still walking. It was three miles to the bus station and she had to conserve as much energy as possible. Her short blonde hair was in a single knot tied haphazardly on top of her head, pieces stuck to the sweat on her neck and forehead. Every now and then, droplets would get into her moss green eyes and sting. Her pale yellow blouse had sweat stains on the underarms that were clearly visible. It was too big and hung almost to the knees of her worn jeans. They were too short for her long legs, but it was all she could find. Normally she was only allowed to wear dresses. Tight, terrible dresses.

She wondered then if they realized she was gone. Those people that lived at the end of the road in a brown house with a brown roof filled with brown furniture. Even the food was brown. The water and air were brown. She knew too much about what went on in that house. It was why she hadn't taken the car. They would have heard. Walking was silent. It would give her the head start she needed.

The planning had taken months. Pretending she was numb. She had been there ten years.

Ten years, she thought.

Her twenty sixth birthday had passed two weeks ago. Only she knew that. There was no celebration. Just the passage of time. She felt old. As old as the barren landscape that surrounded her, older than the hills that rested at a slightly crooked angle in the distance.

“Older than time,” she whispered.

The sun beat relentlessly from a cloudless sky yet she continued, one foot in front of the other. She began to sing nursery rhymes, anything to quiet her racing mind, her frightened and confused thoughts. Quietly at first, but the monsters in her mind came faster so she sang louder as she felt the acid fear crawling, its long legs coming from the bottom of her spine, snaking and weaving its way to her throat, choking her. Suddenly she lurched forward on unsteady legs and then fell, face down in the littered, yellow road. Flecks of colored rock stuck to her face and hands. Her mouth was open and she realized suddenly that she was screaming. The panic was palpable.

“Get up! Go! You have no time.”

Still, she lay there, scraping her hands in the road, clawing at the dirt and rocks filling the nubs that were once her fingernails.

The sweat rolled down her back as she slowly rose from her position and sat there, head down, arms wrapped around her knees. She rocked slowly, trying to calm herself as she fought the nausea that continued to wrack her. There was nothing in her stomach to vomit. She had not anticipated this, had not considered it would be so vile. This beast was in every pore of her body, seeping into every inch of her skin, crawling along her flesh, invading her, mocking her. It called to her, provocative in its beautiful promises. She knew it was a liar. Even now it was hammering at her, at once gently coaxing and alternatively demanding she acknowledge its presence. Demanding to be fed.

Gradually she rose to her feet, weak and still dizzy, brushing away the sand and rock still attached to her flesh. Her nose was running and she laughed suddenly. A hoarse sound. There was no tissue. She brought the sleeve of her shirt to her face and wiped her nose and the remaining sweat. As her arm dropped back to her side she thought about what it covered, what her sleeves covered. Her grotesque appendages that shouted to the world her abject failure. Her unholy sin.

She opened her water bottle again and sipped, then spit the dust from her mouth. She watched, fascinated as the yellow brown clay seemed to absorb it, then disappear.

Like it had never been, she thought. Like I had never been.

I can still make, she thought furiously. Be something. Go to school. Be normal, whatever that was. I can still do great things.

Empowered by her thoughts, she began walking again, faster now because she had lost time. Precious time.

You almost had me, you filthy beast, she thought and now she was almost running, eating up the dry acrid lifeless ground that separated her from freedom. Rushing headlong towards the place where there was sun. Not the tormenting ball that sat there amidst a horizon, devoid of even the slightest hue of color as it fired down bolts of scorching flames that, even now, licked along her body and left bright red blisters in its wake. She was going where the sun was gentle, and while it, too, gave light and heat, it remained content to lounge carelessly among a kaleidoscope of clouds wrapped in all the colors of the rainbow. In that place the sun would blow its gentle warmth over her, caressing and gliding its fingers everywhere she was cold. Everywhere she was dead. The fingers would find her secrets and brush them away then gently enfold her in its own blanket.

She smiled when she thought of that place and slowed her pace. She was struggling to catch her breath and her body was too weak to run. Her heart was knocking furiously inside her chest. She could feel every beat, every pound, as if to remind her that she still had a heart. Still was comprised of something innately human. She stopped suddenly and felt the pain rise, the all too familiar sensation of being detached from her body, existing only in her thoughts, circling around her vessel. She tried to stop it but it was strong. It was an army and she had no weapons, as it propelled itself there, into her quiet space and invaded it.

No longer was she standing in the middle of a barren road. She was there, in that brown house with the brown roof and the brown furniture. The bed was brown and smelled of cigarettes and too much sweat and too much blood and too much agony. That brown bed was alive and hungry and she was going to feed it. It would take everything. Her hopes, dreams, sorrow, and pain. Her charity and honor, her compassion and wisdom, her health and beauty. Not her soul though. That she had lost long ago.

The liar inside her screamed, demanded she feed it. So she let them climb over her, heard their grunts as they pressed her repeatedly into the filthy brown bed. She could feel the iron underneath, feel it as they pounded and pounded and the metal would scrape her spine and mercy would come when she finally disappeared into a safer place.

They would leave when they were done and then she would invite the lie back into her body, stretch out her arm and send it into her waiting veins, send it into all of her waiting veins. It was happy to leave its beautiful glass house and glide along its metal walkway, guided by her desperate hand, pushed through to blessed heaven. She could float and see the stars and ride the clouds and cease to exist. Those times she welcomed the liar, that thieving bastard, welcomed it and embraced it because it did what she craved it to do: made her disappear, and she so desperately needed to disappear.

She was vomitting. Retching, doubled over agony and again, she fell, this time to her knees, her traitorous arms barely able to keep her up. There was only bile, but it would not stop. Her head was heavy, expanding, and she continued to retch her devils onto the road. She had badly underestimated her foe. The liar was strong within her, impaling her. Its talons now firmly embedded as it tore her intestines to shreds, ripped her apart as it continued its relentless onslaught, bending her to its will, crucifying her. The snot running from her nose joined gladly with her tears, leaking into the corners of her mouth leaving streaks on her dust covered face.

You did this to yourself you silly useless girl, she thought.

She knew that she was dying. The body, the brain, they have an instinct. That knowledge brought both terror and resignation. She would never reach her destination, never be free of this monster.  She lay on her side now and felt a crushing sensation in her chest, as though a giant weight resided there. She felt the still scorching sun, unforgiving as it continued its assault, and for a moment wondered if she should take her sweater from her backpack to cover her face against being further burned. She would laugh at the idiocy of that thought if she had the strength to.

How long had she lay there? Now there was no heat at all. She shivered, her whole body shaking as a cold settled into her bones, permeating, suffusing itself throughout her being.

They will find me here, she thought. Here in the middle of this forsaken road in this forsaken town that most did not even know existed. Would they try to reach my family? No.

She no longer had a family. The thoughts twisted and turned as her brain slowly died and she decided to find a happier place there, think of happier moments, and, suddenly, she saw herself, running, her long hair flowing behind her and she was laughing. It was joyous, and then large arms swept her up and a booming voice was calling her princess. There were pretty clothes and she smiled then and she let it come, these memories of her other life. It was a cataclysm, this spate, a rushing torrent of her before existence. She did not run from these visions. She let them encompass her, let them warm her.

Her frail, weak body was giving up, her heart no longer able to pump the necessary blood and oxygen through her besieged frame and each and every organ was in despair.. All depended on the lie to live. The shadows in the brown house had been telling the truth after all. Without the lie she would die. Now she looked fully, there was nothing to lose. Watched herself as as she had been, laughing with her friends, anxious to try the lie. She had been so sure of herself, so positive she was stronger than the lie. She would try it once or twice. Wrong. She had been wrong. Her breathing was shallow and she knew it would be soon. She was no longer afraid of death. Death was not her enemy, but a welcome friend come to take her home. She was floating in a sea of vapor, weightless and, there, in the distance, she could see herself as she once had been, smiling and beckoning. It was time to go. She did just that. There on a nameless road, in a nameless town, she went, where the other sun lived.
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