The lull of the tires is numbing. I click the radio on to cut through the humming of highway 64. The Kill is playing. My fingers tap the cracked steering wheel. It’s cathartic for my early morning trek to work.
The Sun beams its’ crooked light into dawn. It is just beginning to peak above the edge of the roadway. My eyes blur at the sudden brightness. The tip of my right finger scrubs tiny tears from the corners of my eyes. A yawn escapes my pursed lips.
Shifting my line of vision, I see a glinting black out of the passenger window. Outlined by the stretching rays of sun, vultures circle. The tips of their long, dark wings flirt with the morning breeze. I thought for a moment that I might have missed them this morning.
I’ve seen them coasting air currents for a few weeks. They appear over a short patch of woods. Their insistence sends my mind reeling. Right hand on the steering wheel, I run the edge of my nails along the bottom row of my teeth. My eyes dart to the rear view mirror. It’s a half-mile to the First Baptist Church.
My right turn signal clicks briefly. The gravel crunches under my shiny black wheels. I pull behind the chipped white exterior, invisible to the highway. My keys jingle. The engine dies. My hands fall from the steering wheel to my sides. Some stirring knot in my stomach had jumped to my throat this morning. Some searing sense of longing forced my lead foot to stomp on the breaks. My black shoes toss grey rock. The car door thumps shut. I just need to see. I know it will be okay if I am a few minutes late for work.
A thudding in my chest quickens. I gaze towards the looming steeple. Its’ point casts a shadow on the dewy ground. The shadowy tip touches the tree line. The vultures dip deep into the woods. I lower my head. I step into the shadow, and I follow it into the trees.
I bite at the soft flesh inside my check. A weightless drifting guides my feet forward. My fingers dig into mossy bark as I pass through crooked trees, caressed by their branches. The underbrush groans and wraps itself into my skin. It stings. I feverishly jerk deeper into the grey-green growth.
The weightlessness stops in a small clearing. Towering trees protect its edges, the fringes of their bright green leaves glitter, giggling with sun’s morning rays. In the center, small, dead trees hang loosely. Their grey bark is smooth and hollow, poisoned by the tainted ground. White chigger flowers bloom in defiance around their base.
A sudden gasp for breath leaves my lungs heavy. The Queen Ann’s Lace cradles two skeletons. Their bones have been picked clean. A companion lays a few feet away. It is newly decomposing. I shiver uncontrollably as vultures alight on a hollow branch. Their beady eyes flick back and forth as their heads tilt. They are not afraid. They are here for their prey.
I choke back a racking wave of nausea as my senses fail. The putrid smell of death exhausts itself. My hands smooth the gagging from my distorted face. My knees buckle. I can’t help but kneel in front of my company. Their presence is luring. I run my palms along the ruptured skin. The bloated body molds with my touch. This feels familiar. I jerk back my burning hands. The blistered body rejects me. Its’ open wounds are oozing. I feel an overwhelming sense of rage. Everything will be fine.
On hands and knees I crawl to the beautiful bones. They are cold to the touch. It soothes me. I shake the sprigs of hair from my eyes. Sitting back on my hands, my foot bounces. I claw at the caked clumps of dirt. A sinking sorrow fills me. It leaves a cavernous ache. I close my eyes.
My jagged fingernails tap at the cracks in my palm. The feeling is cathartic. As the hour ticks by, the sun begins to peak above the edge of the trees. My eyes blur at the sudden brightness. The tip of my right finger scrubs tiny tears from the corners of my eyes. A yawn escapes my pursed lips.
Shifting my line of vision, I see a glinting black out of the passenger window. Outlined by the stretching rays of sun, vultures circle. The tips of their long, dark wings flirt with the morning breeze. I thought for a moment that I might have missed them this morning. ..