"My life with Priscilla" by Thomas Stewart
I guess this story starts at the lake. I sat there for hours, looking off in the distance, thinking about her. Priscilla Crenshaw, my best friend since high school. She and I had been through just shy of everything together, from going on road trips every weekend, to crashing parties we weren't invited to, to bailing each other out of jail multiple times. Well, that's what used to be anyway, in a lifetime long passed.
This lake was where we'd first met. I remember I was out fishing alone that day when she came up from behind me and scared the hell out of me. I remember snapping around to face her while simultaneously jerking my rod out of the water. What happened was what you'd call a "Once in a blue moon occurrence" because apparently, right at the moment my rod was jerked from the water, I'd somehow caught a nice big one that was sent soaring through the air, landing right smack on the top of her head.
For just a second, time stood perfectly still. The air, the trees, even the water were all dead silent. After this passed, she and I broke out laughing. "Well, looks like I helped ya after all." I remember her saying.
Plucking the fish from the top of her head, I laughed and said, "Yep, guess so." I went to try casting my line back out, only to find that it'd snapped about a few inches from the hook itself. "Woulda been nice if it didn't cost me good line, though." She gave me a shy "Oopsie-daisy" smile.
"Eh, it's alright." I picked up the fish and started rooting around the tackle box for some extra line. Just my luck, too, there wasn't any. I put the fish, which was a decent sized little catfish, by the way, in my cooler while packing the rest of my stuff up. The sun was going down.
"You live around here?" I asked her.
"Yeah, sort of."
"Just moved here?"
"Yeah, I actually don't live too far from the lake here." She turned to look at the lake. The sun was almost gone entirely, showing only about halfway out. "Well, I gotta get home." she said, turning to leave.
"Wait up," I cried, rushing over to catch up to her. "You want me to walk you home? It's getting kind dark, you know."
"Oh uh... I mean, you don't have to." She shrugged. "Seriously, it's only like, a mile or two away."
"I don't mind the extra mile." I said, picking up my tackle box. She smiled, chuckling. We walked back through the trail where we came and down the quiet street leading to the lake.
"So uh... What's your name, anyway?"
"Cool. I'm Sherman. So how long ago did you move down here?"
"Oh, just last week."
"Where you from?" She chuckled again.
"You meet all new people like this, by interrogating them?" she asked.
I grinned and replied, "Only the fish heads." She barked with laughter.
"'Fish heads", nice one." I shrugged.
"Seriously though, what brought you and your folks this far deep in the sticks?" She just shrugged. "Probably the cheap housing, am I right?"
"Well, Priscilla, if you like quiet, you'll love this place."
"Yep, except fourth of July, of course, then you won't go an hour without hearing at least 10 or more people shouting "God bless the USA!" She giggled at this. I figured she'd get a kick out of this joke, given that, at least in appearance, I could see she was a city girl, even though she never actually confirmed it. Yep, she was from the streets while I was from the woods. A perfect foil-- or so it seemed.
The sun was just about gone by the time the two of us stopped at her "house". Now, notice I use this word liberally. Think of those old shanty houses from the Great Depression, and now imagine it's made of twigs, bark, and a metric FUCK TON of leaves. It was about four to five and a half feet high, just barely tall enough to fit the both of us through its little door at the front of it.
"Well here we are..." she said, nonchalantly. I remember cocking my head at it, thinking surely this's a joke, right? She's just punking me here, right?
She merrily skipped her skinny little ass on right up to the door and opened it up. "Well?" she called out, having looked back and seen that I wasn't following her. "You comin'?"
"Um... Y-You mean in there?" She snickered.
"No, in the sky, YES, in here. Come on!" she started waving me over like she was waving over her friends or parents to come look at something. I kept standing there, bewildered beyond belief. How the hell could she, or anyone for that matter, live here? Hell, even hobos got cardboard boxes, right?
So much for the "City girl" and "Woodsman" duo thing I mentioned earlier, huh? More like Woodsman and nature girl.
Now obliviously, I didn't say any of this to her. I didn't know her, her folks, or her situation so who was I to judge, right? Still, though... Couldn't help but wonder.
"Sherman?" My focus snapped back to her. She was still standing at the opening of the hut. "You good?"
"Y-Yeah." I replied. "Yeah, hold up." I speedwalked up to the hut.
"So this's your family's place?"
"Yep." I turned my attention back to it. She turned and opened up the door, guiding me by my hand inside. I followed behind her and, to say I was "amazed", would be putting it very lightly. Think of "Lord of the Rings" for a second; specifically, Bilbo's little hole he lives in. You remember how fancy and inviting and... well, I guess you could say "magical" it looked? Now take that image and apply it to whatever you expected the inside of this little hut to look like, and you have my best summary of what this little place looked like.
I mean, obviously it wasn't like some sort of 5-star lodging. It looked weird and smelled like the inside of a sewer, but at the same time... I don't know, it just felt warm, inviting, welcoming in an odd sort of way. She went inside and sat down in the middle of the floor. I stepped inside, looking around. "So what do you think?"
"Uh... Um... It's uh... It's cool." I looked back down at her and asked, "Hey so, where're your folks?"
"Oh, they're still out. They'll be around later, though."
"Oh, okay..." I looked outside, peering through a small opening in the side of the hut where the leaves didn't entirely meet, and saw the pitch black sky. Shit, it's already dark.
I knew ma was gonna rip me a new asshole already, but there was one other, perhaps even bigger problem: I didn't know where the hell I was, and with it being this dark already, I wasn't going to be able to actually see my way through the trail-- on top of the fact that I didn't even know where the hell I was! I'd never been that far deep in the woods before and now, I had no way of getting out, especially since this was still the dark ages where we didn't all have cell phones, and those that did, usually didn't spend weekends like I was, sitting alone on the lake, fishing.
Priscilla must've seen this, too, because I saw her scoot to the right and pat the area next to her. "Take a load off." she said.
"I-I can't, I gotta get ho--" Before I could even finish that sentence, I heard rain spontaneously start pouring. Thanks to my unprepared ass, and the fact that there hadn't even been clouds as far as I knew the entire damn day, I didn't have either a jacket or a damn umbrella. She looked at the small opening and then back at me, grinning.
"You were saying?" I kept my mouth open, trying to force a protest out, but nothing came and so I relented, sighing and sitting down next to her. The rain hammered against the leaves that made up the "roof". I remember sitting there, looking up at the roof and thinking "Great, I can't leave and this thing's gonna collapse on top of the both of us. I'll get lost AND soaked. Fuckin' wonderful.
Surprisingly, despite how shallow and frilly it looked, the roof actually held, not budging so much as an inch. Not only that, but the sound of the rain's elephantine stomping on it was actually relaxing. It almost didn't even sound like rain after a while, but instead, like droning. Seriously, even ASMR tracks I've listened to didn't have me feeling as drowsy in as quick a time as this did.
"So how long have you been here?" she asked me.
"Huh? Oh, uh, I've been here my whole life."
"Yeah. You never actually did answer my question from earlier though."
"What's that again?"
"Where were you from before moving down here?" She chuckled awkwardly, like she was about to confess her feelings for me or something. "It's uh... Well, it's, it's complicated."
"Well, it's just that... Well..." She started looking around the room, making several passing glances all around before settling her eyes to the ground.
"What?" I asked.
"Well, we're from the ground." My eyes crossed.
"Huh? The ground?"
"H-How? Y-You mean like a mole or something?" She chuckled.
"Not exactly. Look, uh... I don't really know how to explain it, but me and my family are from the ground here." She laid back on the ground. My own eyes began feeling heavy, so I did the same. Her eyes, however, remained stitched wide open, looking up at the ceiling.
"Let me ask you something, Sherm..." My head lulled over to look at her. She was looking at me with a curious sort of smile. "Can I call you "Sherm"?" I chuckled and waved at her to continue with her question.
"So you know how when you die, you turn into dirt, right?"
"Um... Yeah, I-I guess." I remember frowning when I answered, confused as to what could've actually spurred this conversation of all things. She turned her head back upward to look at the ceiling.
"What if dirt turned into you, though?"
"Think about it for a second, I mean, weren't people made from dust to begin with?"
"So what if the same was still happening, but you'd only be able to actually stay in the place you died in?" My mouth fell open. No matter how much I wanted to speak, though, how much I actually wanted to say something, ask her just what and how much of whatever the fuck she was smoking to come up with this shit, I couldn't bring myself to say anything.
"Uh... I uh... I'm..." I stopped, caught my breath, swallowed, and finally replied, "I don't really know. I honestly ain't never thought about anything like that before.
"You believe in anything?"
"I... well no, not really, anyway."
"Oh uh... Okay.
"Heh heh, sorry."
"It-It's okay." Her voice was small, pathetic, disappointed. She turned over, making me face her back. This somehow made the raindrops sound less soothing and more hurricane-like, violently crashing against the roof. Regardless, I still couldn't keep myself from wanting to let my eyes fall shut. It was strange, the slow digression into unconsciousness. First, I noticed that my arms went numb as soon as my eyes closed. Then it was my legs.
Finally, my mind slipped away completely and I was in a sort of heavy trance, locked in an entropic state of both mind and body. I couldn't see or feel anything, physical, mental, or emotional. I was trapped inside my mind.
I wasn't scared-- again, couldn't feel anything-- but I wanted to be, if that makes any sense. I didn't have any sort of dreams, either. Nothing noticeable anyway. The only thing I'll say about that is that, at one point, and I'm honestly still not sure about this, but I think an image of my house flashed across my mind once or twice.Then, I was out.
When I say I was "out", that's exactly what I mean: OUT. I wasn't just in deep sleep, either, no, I was next to gone. I didn't think I'd be waking up. Imagine, then, my surprise when, hours later, judging by the sun's glare beating down on my face. What was more confusing, I wasn't in the little Leen-too anymore, either. I was in my bed.
The fuck? How did... How did I get back here?
I squinted, groaning while stumbling out of the bed. When I came out of the room, Ma was in the kitchen and the distinct smell of breakfast casserole stabbed me straight in my nostrils. I went in and saw her setting it on the stove. "Good morning, Sherman." she said sweetly as usual.
"Um... G-Good morning."
"Sleep okay?" I hesitated to answer this. Personally, I didn't know how I really could answer this. I wasn't even real sure how the hell I was even there to begin with. I mean, I should've been in the woods still, shouldn't I? If anything, she should've been asking me where the hell I was, why I hadn't come home when I was supposed to, or something like that, shouldn't she? She should've been livid with me, shouldn't she?
"Sherman?" I snapped back to reality at her calling my name. She was looking expectantly at me.
"Oh uh... Y-Yeah um, I-I slept okay." I ended this with a chuckle that, more or less, sold me out as a bullshitter. I could tell she was picking up on this too, with the "Uh huh, sure pal" sort of eyebrow raise she gave me for a second, but thankfully, she for whatever reason decided the issue wasn't worth pressing me over. "Well have a seat, breakfast is ready."
"Oh uh..." She looked back at me.
"N-No, but... Is it cool if I just go with a glass of your sweet tea instead?" This time, she went bug-eyed and I knew my luck with her just brushing off the questions had just ran out.
"You sure you're okay, honey?"
"Yeah, I mean, everything's okay, I just..." I stopped when she put the back of her hand to my forehead. "Ma, seriously, everything's cool, I'm just... I don't know, I'm just not that hungry right now."
"Your stomach okay?"
"Yes." I replied, slightly annoyed. "There's nothing wrong, I'm just... You know, not hungry."
"Well no, I don't know. I mean, "Not hungry"? Since when?"
"I-I don't know, maybe it was somethin' I ate yesterday?" Her left eyebrow parted further upward. I shrank back down. This was so bullshitty, even I couldn't believe I'd said it. I'd not eaten anything yesterday, not since lunch at school. Yet, I couldn't tell why I felt so... So... I don't know, so queazy.
You know how your stomach sometimes feels weird or "icky", even if you've not eaten anything or at least, not anything out of the ordinary? I don't know, I guess you could call it that; just an "icky" feeling. It was full, overstuffed even, yet empty at the same time.
"Sherman..." she said in her "This is the last time I'm gonna ask nicely" voice. "Is there something you're not telling me?"
"No Ma, I'm fine, I promise, I'm just not hungry right now, okay?" Her eyes fell to the floor.
"Okay." She began to carve out a slice of the casserole to put on a plate. I wrapped my arms around her.
"I love you mama." I said softly. My heart couldn't help but melt, seeing how dejected she looked here. She held my arms close to her chest, allowing me to feel her heart.
"I love you, too, Sherman. I'll always love you, in this life and the next."
These words, while on paper, sounds normal, like something any loving mother might say to her child, I've found a far deeper meaning in now as I write this. Of course, I didn't get it then. No, at the time, I just kissed her cheek and broke away, trudging over to the table and sitting down.
"Dad already at work?" I asked.
"Yep." Her voice was back to it's usual, chipper tone.
"Okay, well, if it's cool with you, I'm gonna go to the lake for a while."
"Okay, be careful."
"Aren't I always?" She gave me a look that told me "Yeah right". Just like what she'd said to me earlier, I took this to mean she was giving me the look all moms give their adolescent sons when they're going out alone. Only much later would I find out the true meaning behind these moments.
I got up from the table and headed out of the house. I was going into the garage to retrieve my bait and tackle box, when out of nowhere, came Priscilla. "Yo!" she exclaimed. I jumped, startled. "Y-You're fine." I assured her, chuckling.
"So whatcha doin'?" I directed my eyes down to the bait and tackle box in my hands and back up at her. "You're going back to the lake?"
"Yep, wanna come with?" Her eyes looked at the ground. Her shoulders stiffened, going rigid and straight by her sides. "Priscilla?" She looked back up at me, "Something wrong?"
"Oh uh... I mean... I-I-I guess not..." She looked back down, looking just to the right of my feet. "I-I just didn't think you'd really want to go back there."
I frowned. "What do you mean?" For three seconds, she kept looking at the ground before straightening herself up, smiling warmly at me, and saying, "Nothing, let's go!"
I was skeptical, but I paid it no attention and started on my way for the lake.
She followed behind me, barely seeming to keep pace with me. I didn't bother looking back or asking her a second time if everything was okay. Personally, I couldn't have really cared. I just wanted to catch some fish.
I want to say it was around mid-day that me and her made it once again to the lake.
There, I sat down and unpacked my tackle box and got to fixing a hook onto my fishing line when I looked behind me and saw Priscilla was just standing there, staring about a thousand yards past the lake. I turned to look, thinking for some reason something might be going on over there-- even though I hadn't heard anything-- and of course, there wasn't anything or anybody there.
I looked back at her and asked, "Um... Everything okay?" Her eyes slowly, damn near robotically just sort of lowered themselves to look at me.
"It looks nice, doesn't it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Exactly what I said. It looks nice." I looked out again.
"I-I mean, yeah, I guess it does, but..." I hesitated a moment before saying, "But it always looks this way, doesn't it?"
"It has." I lifted my eyebrow.
"You and I would know, wouldn't we?"
"I-I... Maybe..." I shook my head and said, "Hey, look, whatever you're trying to get at, Priscilla, I don't get it. Think you can just get to the point and quit trying to be all cryptic here, please?" She sighed.
"So you don't remember, anything."
"Huh? Remember what?"
"You, me, the lake, US? You don't remember any of--"
"No!" I blurted. Blood was rushing into my ears, turning them bright red, my head pounded furiously. "No, I don't remember, there is nothing TO "remember"! Seriously, can you just tell me what's going o--"
I heard her body crash through the surface of the lake before I finished that sentence. I jumped up and stooped to look into the lake. The water rippled and right under the surface, looking back at me, was her face, deadpan and stoic like she was back on the bank. She wasn't floating back up, either, like she couldn't, almost.
"Priscilla!" I shouted. I watched as, right under the lake, her face began weathering away, dissolving like she was made of dust. I dropped down and went to reach for her. When I did, two things happened at the same exact time, both of which scarred me for life. The first was that my hands passed right through her, further scattering her face throughout the water. The second was that my own hand then began dissolving away.
It didn't hurt, but I quickly realized, amid the panic, that what I WAS feeling was the same thing I'd felt the night before. Empty. Hollow. Like I was... was... Like I was fading away!
My arm crumbled away and I drew back. From my hand, all the way to my elbow, my entire elbow was gone. The stump looked brown, like, instead of flesh or muscles and sinew, it was all dirt brown. Even more horrifying, when I went to touch it, more and more of my arm crumbled in my hands. It was flaky and soft...
It was dirt.
I was made of dirt.
The world started spinning. My head was light, filled pretty much with helium, except...
Except well no, it wasn't helium. It wasn't air. Not air, nor bones, or a brain. Just dirt.
My panicking heart allowed no thoughts to scream in my, both figuratively and literally, empty mind. I couldn't scream. I couldn't gasp. I could watch while my body started falling further apart, unraveling itself, starting with the rest of my arm and then my legs.
Not until it all started to take effect on my head did I begin to lose consciousness again. Up until that point, I watched my body crumble and scatter across the bank. Just like before, though, I finally did lose consciousness again. Up until that point, I watched my body crumble and scatter across the bank. Just like before, though, I finally did lose consciousness again. This time, I did dream, although... I-I don't know, it didn't feel like a dream.
I don't mean like how it just "felt so real that it couldn't have been a dream", but more like I was waking up, but not at the same time. I could see the lake again; me and Priscilla.
The two of us were on the lake again, laughing. At what, in particular, I couldn't tell, but I could see the two of us laughing our asses off. There were a few key differences, though. Mainly, the way she and I both looked, how we were dressed. We looked, more or less, like we were in the mid-70's. She wore a crop top and baggy jeans while I was wearing an open-faced plaid shirt, bell-bottoms, and had hair all the way down to my shoulders.
I didn't understand it yet, but I started to feel something, deep down amid the nothing that surrounded my spirit and conscious mind. Something warm, something pure...
Priscilla's voice rattled back around in my mind. "Remember US..."
The scene shifted again to me and Priscilla, this time long before the one from earlier, with the both of us being small children. We were running around in the woods. I was bobbing and weaving around and behind the trees while she was spinning around in circles with her hands in the air. It was raining.
Lightning flashed and the scene shifted to the school. Her and I were sitting under the bleachers, her nibbling on a carrot while I masticated a cheeseburger. She wore dark eyeliner, a black dress, and a dark beret while I had on a tank top, cargo pants, and boots. We were just sitting there, looking at the dumbasses on the field, sacking the hell out of each other and running their butts off in the blistering heat.
I remember, in a way, my heart sinking. I couldn't remember any of this, not meaningfully. Deep down, I knew they happened, but I couldn't find any kind of memory of it. It was like it happened only in another life. I had no way of knowing that this was me, that any of this was my life!
The last scene that came to me was of me and Priscilla was me and her at the lake. She looked like she had when I'd seen her a moment ago, almost all grown up like me, wearing a tight tank top and jeans, while I wore my regular open-faced shirt and khakis. She and I were laying on the bank, relaxing, when suddenly, she stood up and helped me up and the two of us stripped nude and jumped in the lake together.
We both laughed, splashing each other and coming into a tight embrace. I saw myself bring my head down to meet hers and we kissed, right there in the lake. I then saw lightning flash again and it began to rain. It was a storm and, with a blinding flash, lightning struck the lake and...
There wasn't anything after that. That was the end of it. The end of me, of Priscilla, of US!
We died that day. That was the end, or at least, it should've been.
"You think dust becomes us when we die?"
When she asked this, I didn't understand what this meant at all. I couldn't have. But after seeing what I had, I began to. Somehow, it was just like she'd said, we'd died in the lake, and yet, we still lived on. It took a long time for me to understand it all as fully as I do now.
I did wake up eventually. I was on the bank, still in the clothes I was in before all of that, with the only thing wrong being that I still didn't have my arm. It was still gone, a stump, brown and rotted looking. I looked back at the lake again and around the bank. Priscilla hadn't emerged. She was gone, for good.
I remember getting up and slowly shambling away and out of the woods, heading back for my house, not even bothering to retrieve my fishing pole or my tackle box. My mind was empty. In every aspect but physically-- and really that was greatly stretching it at this point-- I wasn't alive at all. I made it back to my house where Mom greeted me.
"Hello sweetheart, how was--" She stopped, noting the static, emotionless expression on my face. "Sherman, what's wrong?" I remember just looking at her and in moments, her own face sunk, like she could somehow see and understand everything I'd seen at the lake, despite having not said a word. She rushed over to and seized me into a gigantic bear hug. Though she didn't actually say this, I could almost hear her say to me, "God, Sherman... I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
Every day since then, for the last five to ten or so years, I've been static. I almost immediately became despondent from the rest of the world, closing myself off to the world and never stepping out of my house. A month or two back, Mom and Dad moved out, but I stayed. I have to.
Just like she told me, I can't leave where I died. Neither could she. How many times She and I had been resurrected the way we had been, I couldn't tell you. I don't like to think about it, plus, it wouldn't matter now, anyway.
I realized something else that day, something that also made sense to me only after hours of looking back on it. Priscilla didn't want to go back to the lake, yet she wanted me to remember what used to be with us. I think she knew that it'd be the only way I'd be able to do so, but she also knew it would cost her. She can't come back now, ever. She's gone for good.
Now that I'm done telling you all this, this haunting truth, the truth of mine and Priscilla's lives, I am going to be following behind her. I can't think of any reason not to. I'm essentially nothing; a walking husk, living on borrowed time, having spent most of my memorable life as such and not even realizing it. I don't even have her anymore, the one person who could've understood how it truly felt, all of it.
I wanted to leave this here, for you all, as a testament, a memorial, so that there's something people know of me, of my life. All my lives with Priscilla.