Thunder blasts around me and I duck down and cover my ears with both my hands. Gravel ricochets everywhere from the impact of bullet to rock... I scream and try to hide myself behind the back rubber tire of the car. I am deaf. I turn to Milo, terror in my eyes “We’re not gonna make it!” I shout like he’s not crouching right next to me. “They’re gonna kill us, and there’s nothing we can do about it!” I’m hysterical with fear and anger. I can’t believe this is how my life is going to end... by the side of a meaningless road, on a meaningless night, for a meaningless purpose...
Shots ring out into the night and the air explodes around me. I place my body up against the rim of the car and start making my peace with God. Please God forgive me for getting in this car... please forgive me for not wanting something normal, something safe... Please forgive me for always wanting more than I should have... please, please forgive me….
“Blue! Blue, can you hear me?” His voice sounds so far away... I curl up in a ball and wait for the echoes to stop ringing in my ears. “I know your cold, I know you’re tired, but we’re not dying today. Do you hear me, Blue! Not today!” He’s shaking me by my shoulders but I can’t see him. Panic has frozen me in place and I can feel my eyes glazing over with desperation.
In the chaos that has now taken over my brain I feel him slip the keys in my hand, “Take the keys Blue!” He shouts at me. “Take the keys; get in the car, and drive.” His voice quiets into a whisper, “Blue, are you listening?” his lips brush against my ear and a chill runs down my spine, “Jump in the car and drive” his voice strengthens as he gets closer to me, “ I left it in the glove compartment... I hope you won’t need it” he turns and the look in his eyes is goodbye. “Go! Now! Get in the car and drive!” He grabs my arm as he’s saying this and I see him opening the car door... I’m in shock, I’m speechless. I crawl like a child and follow his instructions about slipping from the passenger seat to the driver’s side.
I turn to him and I stutter, “I...can’t... I... can’t...” my mouth feels like it’s full of mulch... I’m out of words. He smiles at me... a little... “Promise me that you’ll drive when I move away from the car. Promise me Blue!” he demands of me. I nod in agreement... there are no words... no thoughts... nothing.
Suddenly explosions hit the car and I realize we’re being hit again, this time with a ferociousness that cannot be escaped. “Go Blue!” he shouts at me and moves out and away from the car. I watch his shadow creep into the forest... he signals me to start the car and I stare right through him. The keys are in my hand and I know I should put them in the ignition... I should start the car... I reach over and the sound of the engine roars and startles me. I look back at him and through my tears I watch his deep brown eyes turn away from me and search the forest. He stands, and now in plain view of the enemy, he begins his run through the forest. I lose sight of him in the darkness... the night is without moonlight and the trees are in full summer bloom.
One hand on the steering wheel, the other on the gear stick... I’m ready to run. Go Blue go, I hear his voice shouting in my thoughts. Yeah, I say to myself out loud, Go Blue go. But I can’t go. Something in me will not let me escape this nightmare... I stare at the wheel and I begin playing the whole night over and over in mind... Luke’s street, the car, the sweet smell of summer on my skin... how did this happen? How did I get here?
My thoughts begin to organize themselves around me and I am surprised by the hum of silence... dread begins to crawl into my chest... silence... no bullets, no shouting, nothing echoing other then my soundless ears. My hands begin to shake and my breath grows cold with terror. I stretch my arm out to the glove compartment and hope for the only thing that can save our lives now – a weapon. The compartment falls open and there in the darkness of the night, reflecting the stars, is my silver Ruger SR9 automatic. Like an old friend it slips into my hand and I feel its almost weightless body snug into the contours of my fingers.
Energy vibrates off this pistol and I am transported back to the Interrogation Room at 23 Division, two months before this nightmare.
“Ms. _______,” a middle-aged policeman clears his throat as he sits down across a cold grey table, “You understand how much trouble you’re in young lady?” he smiles at me sympathetically and looks me over. What does he see, I wonder... a young girl in a Catholic school uniform, skirt to her knees, shirt tucked in, cardigan buttoned up. My hair is in perfect pig tails, and I’ve put on my brand new glasses so I could look as much the innocent brainy victim as possible. Just a good girl who got mixed up with a bad boy... nothing to see here, nothing to worry about. I look around the room and begin calculating my odds of pulling this off. The room is small, no windows. The walls were once painted grey but there are so many dents and scratches in them that you can hardly see their colour. I stare at the testimonies so many have engraved in the wall – “G-Dog Wuz Here”, “If I don’t get out of here neither will you”, “Fuck you pigs! And your phonebooks!”... I begin to feel a little queasy.
“Now, Ms._______, if you just tell me where they are, no harm will come to you, and... we’ll pretend this never happened.” His voice is gently reassuring, but I’m already quite certain no harm will come to me. I stare innocently at him like I’m afraid to speak up. He bites, “I’m sure a girl like you,” he moves his hand up and down in front of me as though he’s displaying my purity, “Well, a girl as smart and well raised as you obviously are, did not realize the kind of trouble someone like Milo can really be.”
I look down at my shiny black shoes, “You’re right” I speak softly, “I did not know how much trouble he could be” I smile to myself... I’m not lying. “I wish I could help you sir, but I can’t believe you think I know anything about this” my voice has an edge of incredulity about it.
He stammers a little, “Well, no, but we’ve been watching him for months and we know the two of you are nearly inseparable. I’m sure you’ve at least seen some of the activities that go on around your... your... boyfriend” he spits the word out quickly like he’s too embarrassed to let me know that being inseparable from a man for months makes him my ‘boyfriend’.
I smile a little shyly now, I almost have him convinced I’m as naïve as he freely thinks I am. “I’m sorry sir, but even though it seems like we do everything together, we do not. Milo is very careful about not bringing me around any of his activities,” I pause for full affect, “I’m not that kind of girl.”
He stares at me over the dirty table and I stare at my hands. He exhales in frustration, “So, no guns then? You have no idea where he keeps his collection of guns?” His eyes are locked in view watching every movement, every blink, every breath that might betray my façade and give me away. This cop’s not as stupid as I give him credit for...
“Guns sir!” I say in honest shock, “I’d never know what to do with myself if I saw a gun anywhere” I shake my knees nervously and he continues watching me. “Guns are totally illegal sir, and I can’t believe that Milo has any guns anywhere… I’ve certainly never seen any.” My voice cracks a bit and my false nervousness is blending itself into a possible cry fest... will I have to cry to get out of this?
He looks at the papers in front of him again, and for what seems like an eternity, he writes in the margins of his notes. “Alright Ms.______, we’ll let you go this time. But be sure to tell your boyfriend that we’re keeping a close eye on him, and sooner or later, we’ll find those guns... sooner or later” he says tiredly.
I smile in relief, “Thank you sir, thank you, thank you so much.”
I walk out into the hot summer sun and arrogantly giggle to myself - hook, line and sinker – like taking candy from a baby.
That was the day I got my own automatic... “You’re a natural with that weapon” Milo would smile at me with pride in his eyes. “I’ve never seen anyone use a Ruger with such precision.” His obvious jealousy implies he’s never seen himself use it with such precision. How proud I was of myself then… how innocent and non-consequential shooting at beer cans in his back yard seemed to me… fun, even. “You know I’d never actually shoot something living, don’t you?” I’d smile back at him, proud of my own skill. “I know,” he’d say and come behind me, reach over my hand and help me adjust my aim, “This is just practise... good for hand-eye coordination” he’d tease me, implying my well known destructive relationship with all breakable and perishable items.
How far away that summer day seems now... years away... I am so much older tonight. The silence around me is unbearable and I tighten my hold around the gun. “God, let there be really big beer cans in the forest” I say to myself, and jump out of the car.
I crouch around the vehicle and look over the hood to make sure nothing is waiting for me ahead... I see nothing – not a sound, not a movement. I rise and head for the nearest tree for shelter. I look around again... weapon raised, arms in front of me... I try not to think about what I might find in this God forsaken forest or what I might have to do to survive. I concentrate on getting to Milo... visions of him lying bleeding on the forest floor nudge me forward, despite my better instincts which tell me to get back to the car and drive away.
I am startled by the distant sound of pounding... something hard is hitting something soft... it reminds me of Milo’s training bag in the basement... he would hit this bag for hours while I channel surfed and popped bubble gum on the couch. Fear engulfs me and I pray that Milo’s not the punching bag.
I am running... not the kind of running that one does on a sunny morning... headphones on, music playing, destination calculated by time or kilometres. I am running without sound, without music, and definitely without calculation. My body aches and my lungs beg for air. A sharp stabbing in the pit of my stomach alerts me that I am running too fast and breathing too heavy... I don’t care. I run through the pain... I run to avoid the pain... I run because something in me knows that if I stop, Milo will die.
The sound of grunting and heavy breathing warns me to slow down. I am here... I squint through the darkness and even though its density has increased due to the growing forest, I can still recognize the figure that horrifies not only me - small, helpless girl with a little gun in a big empty forest – but also terrifies the meanest, the nastiest, and the cruellest of those who participate in a world where fear is not a factor – Tony, “The Truck”. I’d recognize his enormous and butchered body even in the blackest of nights and the deadliest of dooms.
The image before me warps my mind and I almost hurl in fear. Tony is standing above a mass of flesh, which I could only guess to be Milo, blasting him with his right boot. The lump he’s kicking bends and breaks without resistance... I gotta do something and it has to be now! But how do I threaten someone that could probably eat all the bullets in my gun and then smile at me for more? Anger burns within me and I’m enraged with my helplessness. My hand tightens around the hold of the gun... I will not be afraid, I will not leave here without Milo, and I will not allow this beast of terror to take my life, and everything in it.
Gun raised, arms in front of me, I step out to face the monster in the dark.