01 Feb The Left/Right Game: Part 6
Sorry it’s taken a while to get this posted up. I’ve been busy chasing leads with US missing persons.
I won’t waste more of your time. Log is below. If you have any information then please send it my way.
Thanks for your help guys, it means a lot.
The Left/Right Game [DRAFT 1] 12/02/2017
Silence used to be an absolute.
That’s something I definitely miss.
Back in the real world, it would stand as self-evident that a group of people saying absolutely nothing, by definition, could not be saying any less. Maybe things are different on the road, maybe I’d just never encountered it before, but it’s clear to me now there are degrees beyond silence. A pervasive realm of deafening quiet which, following the loss of Eve and Apollo, our group has unreservedly embraced. Constructed out of our collective trauma, cemented with a cruel mixture of grief, guilt, and harrowing self-doubt, it quickly becomes apparent that this silence is stronger than all of us. The challenge of breaking it remains unmet for the rest of the journey.
We spend the next few hours burrowing through a featureless corridor of maize. The stalks rise far above the Wrangler, leaving only a thin strip of clear sky visible like the painted ceiling of a renaissance church. I find myself glancing intermittently at the CB radio, half expecting, half hoping, for Apollo’s voice to crackle through the speaker, bringing words of comfort, or a much needed attempt at levity.
After I catch myself staring at the radio for the fifth time, I decide it might be best to get on with my work. I plug my headphones into my notebook, bring up the audio files I’ve recorded thus far, and set about creating a very rough cut of our first day on the road.
APOLLO (VO) Everybody knows Rob, Rob’s the god! Ahaha
I listen through Apollo’s first interview, making notes for the closing paragraph I’ll now be forced to write about him. When I have everything I need, I listen to the interview again, and then once more. It’s not lost on me that I just want to hear his voice, to lose myself in a pleasant digital echo, far removed from the frantic screams that followed him into the asphalt.
I listen to Eve’s interview next. She bristles with excitement as she talks about her upcoming visit to Roswell, steadfastly attempting to recruit me to the effort. She had no idea what she was heading into when she stepped out onto Rob’s front lawn. Then again none of us did.
The thin strip of sky is turning deep orange as I reach our encounter with the hitchhiker. It’s chilling to hear his voice after the fact, to revisit the conniving, veiled pleasantries he employed against us. I cringe as I hear Rob’s hand grasp my arm, ashamed that I let myself fall for the hitcher’s trickery.
ROB (VO): You did good, I’m sorry for grabbin’ you. I just didn’t want you to do something you’d regret.
AS (VO): No it’s fine. I was going to. Do you know what happens if you talk to him?
ROB (VO): Not sure. Came close myself once, a few years back. The way he looks at you when he thinks he’s got you? I don’t think I wanna know.
AS (VO): Rob, I-
I pause the audio file, clicking back ten seconds before pressing play again.
AS (VO): No it’s fine. I was going to. Do you know what happens if you talk to him?
ROB (VO): Not sure. Came close myself once, a few years back. The way he looks at you when he thinks he’s-
I certainly didn’t notice that at the time. I’d been so shaken by my run in with the hitcher, and so curious about the abandoned car that I’d been completely blind to anything else that had come my way. Maybe Rob misspoke, maybe he meant to say weeks or months. But if it wasn’t a mistake, if it was a truth carelessly uttered, then Rob has some explaining to do.
The Left/Right Game was posted online in June 2016, less than a year ago.
I glance sideways at him, a wall of corn rushing past us as we approach the rest stop. Throughout this trip, every emotion Rob’s displayed has seemed genuine. The sadness, the anger, the concern. They tell a story of a man who cares deeply about the welfare of those around him. Yet at the same time, it’s strikingly clear that there’s something he isn’t telling me.
With every new piece of the puzzle, the car, the text message, the faceless creature with the ringing phone, I’m left with the dilemma of when to confront Rob Guthard with what I know. I feel I’ve gathered enough to bring before him, enough to demand an explanation, but there’s no way I’d be able to truly verify his answer. I have a collection of strange and perplexing notions, lacking in the common thread that could bring me to any workable conclusion. If I am going to confront Rob, I need to uncover that thread. Much like the greatest journalists of our time, I should know the answer before I ask the question.
The jeep pulls up onto a large green space. Staring straight ahead, I find myself puzzled by the way the ground seems to stop, as if the horizon lies only twenty metres away from the car. As soon as the engine cuts out, I unbuckle my seatbelt, climb out and walk towards the grassy verge. The rest of the convoy pulls up behind me as I go.
I stop a few steps short of the edge, realising we’ve found our way to the top of a sheer cliff. A sudden swaying vertigo takes over, forcing me to take a few steps back. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been heading uphill, the road has been level since Jubilation, yet somehow I’m standing at the edge of a 400 ft. rock face, descending straight downwards, the distant earth shrouded by stalks of corn.
That’s the truly strange thing about this monolithic precipice. On either side of me, the maize runs to the very edge of the cliff and, at its base, the endless harvest continues until it stretches beyond the darkening horizon in every direction. It feels like I’m standing on the cliffs of Dover, staring over a golden ocean, its waves governed by the evening breeze. I wonder for a moment where it ends, then, taking consideration of the world I now occupy, I start to wonder if it ever does.
A belligerent scream rips me from the view. The source of the noise is blocked by the Wrangler and the first thing I see as I circle around are the shocked, wide eyed faces of Bonnie & Clyde. Once I make my way past the Wrangler’s hood, my expression mimics theirs.
Lilith has pinned Bluejay up to the side of the Jeep, a locked forearm pressing her chest against the door. Her other arm has been grasped in Bluejay’s hands, desperately stopped before it can strike her across the face. The two of them yell through gritted teeth as Lilith struggles furiously against her, vying to cause her any conceivable harm.
BLUEJAY Get the fuck off me you bitch! Get off!
I take a few quick steps over to Lilith as Bluejay attempts to kick her away.
AS: Lilith, we can’t do this… Jen…
Lilith doesn’t even register my presence as she continues her assault, deafened by the bubbling vitriol in every growling breath.
AS: Jen! We are not doing this now. Not after-
Before I can comprehend what’s happening, I’m staring at the sky, my head knocked back by the force of Lilith’s flailing elbow. A hot, raw ache radiates across my lower lip as I stagger back, raising my hand over my mouth.
Before Lilith can continue her assault, Rob swings open his door and takes two short strides over to her. He puts one arm around the girl’s waist and picks her up, carrying her safely, but firmly, over to Bonnie & Clyde’s Ford, and planting her back on the ground.
I seem to always forget how strong he is.
ROB: Damnit this is not the time.
LILITH: Take it back!
Bluejay has lost her usual snide demeanour, yet her aura still radiates an unbridled scorn. In response to Lilith’s demand, Bluejay walks back to her car and sits on the hood. She takes the Marlboros out of her pocket along with her lighter, and ignites a cigarette. I imagine the burning embers are the only company she’s comfortable to accept right now.
By the time I look back to the rest of the group, Lilith has stormed away.
AS: What did she say?
BONNIE: I didn’t hear it all.
AS: What did she say Bonnie?
BONNIE: I heard something about… she said Lilith was… that we were complicit.
ROB: Ah goddamnit… Bristol can you…
I watch Lilith, as she sits on the grass and looks over the cliffside. She begins to cry, yet I get a strong notion that it’s not something I should interrupt. It feels like something between her and Eve, a final act of reactionary mourning reserved for them, and them alone.
AS: Yeah… don’t worry. I’ll handle it.
ROB: Ok. I’ll cook us somethin’ up.
An hour passes. Lilith grows slowly calmer, drifting from cathartic release into a cold, wordless melancholy. Finishing up my dinner, I make my way over to her.
AS: It’s a strange view.
Lilith looks up at me. Her face falls.
LILITH: I cut you… I’m so sorry.
AS: It’s fine. You should see the other girl.
LILITH: Hah, yeah, I bet she looks like shit right about now.
I help myself down onto the cool ground, staring alongside Lilith into the ocean below.
LILITH: Bluejay thinks I’m complicit… in what happened to Eve.
AS: I heard.
LILITH: She used to think we were morons, now she thinks we’re all in on it… doesn’t make sense.
AS: I think she he has to believe this place is a lie. She needs it to make sense, and the harder it gets for her to rationalise the more she… Anyway, she shouldn’t have said what she said. She’s just… I guess the word is “troubled”.
LILITH: She’s a fucking thundercunt.
AS: Umm… uh… ok.
LILITH: She’s right though… I killed her… and I killed Apollo too.
I look to Lilith, concerned, not quite sure what she means. Her eyes remain locked on the impossible horizon.
LILITH: Sarah… she wasn’t cut out for this, and she knew it. She wanted us to turn back this morning… but I didn’t want to.
AS: That wasn’t just your decision Lilith.
LILITH: Yes it was. She uh… she followed my lead. Always. Through everything. And I knew why she was doing it. I knew. But I let it continue, because it was convenient, because it was easy…. because deep down I liked having someone around who… who’d jump through fucking hoops for me… god it’s so fucked.
Lilith rests her head in her hands.
LILITH: She was weak. She was anxious and shy and… but that should be ok, right? You’re allowed to be weak that’s… but I made her come here. I dragged someone who couldn’t swim into the fucking deep end. And the last thing I did was lie to her and she fucking knew it.
Lilith takes a few deep, frayed breaths.
AS: What do you mean?
LILITH: I’m not uh… I didn’t, I… I loved her, you know as a… as a friend. It was always this fucking one-way street and… I don’t think she minded but. Then suddenly she’s vanishing right in-fucking-front of me and she said what she said… I mean how else was I supposed to respond to that? I had to say it back right?
Lilith maintains her composure as a steady stream of tears roll down her cheek.
AS: I don’t know what I’d do in that situation.
LILITH: I could see it in her eyes that she didn’t believe me. Fuck… I wonder how many people have died while being told like… comforting lies. How many of them fucking knew?
AS: I think you did the best you could Jen. I think you did better than most.
LILITH: You don’t need to tell me that just… are you tired? Do you need to go to bed soon?
AS: No, I don’t need to.
LILITH: There are some beers in uh… in Apollo’s bag. Is that like… looting? Or is that ok?
AS: I think he’d want us to have them, as long as he got a toast.
Lilith laughs briefly and finally smiles. She walks over to Bonnie and Clyde’s car, returning a moment later with a four pack.
We spend the next hour and a half slowly drinking them. Lilith can’t muster the right words for a toast so we just say thank you to Apollo, raising out cans to the open air. We talk about his tireless humour, his attempts to keep us all up during our first night on the road, how caringly he spoke to everyone, even at the edge of death.
We talk about Eve as well, about the pair’s misadventures, awkward college parties and the future of Paranormicon. Lilith smiles, and tells me there’s always a place for me once radio dies out.
After everything that’s happened on the road, the night can’t help but feel bittersweet. But for once, on a solitary cliff side in the middle of nowhere, it’s more sweet than it is bitter. That may not be much, but at the end of an awful day it’s more than either of us could have hoped for.
The next morning goes quickly. It’s amazing how efficient a group of people can be when none of them feel like talking. Not only that, but breakfast has become a noticeably brief affair. I manage to get through half a bag of trail mix before I find myself uncomfortably full. Rob’s words about the road’s sustaining properties ring in my ears as I look around the group. Everyone leaves their bowls half empty. Lilith hasn’t eaten a bite.
By this point, the launch protocol has been drilled into us. Despite our preoccupations, and the fractious rifts developing between us, the cars line up like clockwork as they merge onto the road. In fact, the mood of the group seems strangely procedural. All radio contact starts with the stating of a call sign, followed by that of the recipient. The cars maintain an even, careful distance between one another. We’ve seen all too clearly what happens when the rules are neglected, and no one wants to take chances any more.
AS: How far away are we?
ROB: From where?
AS: You haven’t got to the end of this road right? I mean… you’re still charting it?
ROB: That’s right.
AS: Well, how long until we get to… you know to… uncharted territory?
ROB: To be honest, not too long.
AS: What’s going to happen once we reach that point?
ROB: We’re gonna keep drivin’.
AS: Until we get to the end?
ROB: That’s the plan. You know I won’t judge you if you wanna turn around. I’m sure you can talk someone into it.
AS: Could I talk you into it?
ROB: ‘Fraid not. This trip ain’t like the others. Road’s kickin’ back like never before. I think it knows I’m comin’ all the way this time.
AS: … What is this place Rob?
Rob sighs as he slowly takes the next left on a quiet, rural T-junction.
ROB: I think it’s a stray thread… runnin’ off the spool.
The radio crackles.
BONNIE: Rob you just took the wrong turn.
An instant drum of fresh panic hammers in my chest. I stare at Rob, and he stares right back. I know he’s feeling the same thing I am, though he’s doing a much better job of keeping it off his face.
He thinks carefully for a moment.
ROB: No… no. I been down this road before. We took a right last time.
AS: Uhhh… yeah. Yes. The turn before this one was a right, I remember.
ROB: Ferryman to all cars. Thanks Bonnie for giving us the fright of our lives. We’re on the righ… we’re on the correct road.
BONNIE: No no that can’t be its… that’s wrong… Martin tell them…
CLYDE: Our mistake Rob, let’s keep going.
There’s concern in Lilith’s voice. I lean over to my wing mirror, attempting to gauge the atmosphere in the car behind me. There’s clearly some commotion between Bonnie and Clyde, with the latter attempting to gently remove the walkie talkie from his sister’s hands.
There’s something else however. Past Bonnie & Clyde. Past Bluejay. An old, dilapidated road sign made of weathered timber stands by the side of the road behind us. I can’t read all of it as the peeling letters grow ever smaller, but I can piece together what it probably once said.
“Wintery Bay – 5 Miles”
BONNIE: We’re going to turn around right?
AS: Uhh one second Bonnie, I’ll… check the map.
I promptly switch off the radio.
AS: Are we not passing through Wintery Bay?
Rob turns to me, a puzzled look in his eyes.
ROB: Through where?
In the wake of those two, innocently inquiring words, my mind reels back to the morning of our third day on the road. Watching Bonnie and Clyde wander over to Rob to confess their transgressions with the hitchhiker, the quiet conversation that passed between them, Rob’s seemingly comforting response. I’d felt wretched in those moments. A few minutes prior I had tricked and deceived Clyde… yet I’d never once considered he might have done the same to me.
AS: Is it safe to pull over?
ROB: What? Why?
AS: Is it safe Rob?
ROB: Uh, yeah should be.
AS: Then pull over.
I switch the radio back on and grab the receiver. As I make a connection to Bonnie and Clyde’s car, it’s clear that an argument is brewing. Lilith is asking for me, a helpless passenger, caught in the middle of something she doesn’t understand.
AS: Bristol to all cars. We’re stopping up ahead.
Rob seems acutely aware that I’m not messing around. As soon as we roll to a halt, I throw my door open and jump onto the dusty roadside, striding over to the rest of the convoy, who are just starting to get out of their own cars. I’m conscious of a driving anger behind each step I take.
AS: You didn’t tell him.
CLYDE: Bristol, I…
ROB: What’s goin’ on Bristol?
Rob’s marches up behind me, more than a little restless to get a grip on my motives.
Clyde looks around a circle of expectant eyes. When he delivers his answer, he’s unable to meet any of them.
CLYDE: Bonnie… Bonnie talked to the hitchhiker.
Rob’s expression shifts, his confusion degrading into a solemn understanding.
ROB: God… ahh Goddamnit. You knew about this Bristol?
AS: I told them to tell you the morning of the third day. I saw them go over to you I… I thought they did.
CLYDE: Bonnie… thought you’d… turn us around.
ROB: Well she’s was damn right. You seen what happens when the rules get broken. You shoulda told me as soon as you saw me and headed right back home.
CLYDE: That was before Ace… before everything. I didn’t know this place was-
ROB: The rules are the rules Clyde! Is anything even wrong with Bonnie? You said she gets confused… was that a lie?
Clyde doesn’t answer, avoiding Rob’s glare. As I process what Rob’s just said, I have to say I’m surprised by the deviousness of the two siblings.
When I thought they were telling Rob about the hitchhiker, it appears they’d instead told him that Bonnie was, to some degree, senile. It was a simple lie, but one that would adequately explain her odd behaviour, draw sympathy from Rob and, most ingeniously, prevent him from telling me about their conversation. A truth buried beneath an unpleasant lie, its subject matter just uncomfortable enough to head off any chance of discussion.
Still, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
CLYDE: We can head home if you want.
The group turns to Bonnie. She speaks in a tone more decisive than I thought her capable.
BONNIE: He… the hitchhiker… he was talking about a… about the village we just passed. I was looking forward to seeing it, that’s all. I’m ok really.
AS: You’ve been talking about it a lot Bonnie.
BONNIE: It just sounded like a lovely place, I was sad that we passed it by. I’m sorry for worrying everyone. Please don’t make us turn around Rob.
Rob stares at them both. His position has been made crystal clear.
ROB: We’re stopping a little early today. Come the rest of the way with us, rest up… then tomorrow you both go home. You should count yourselves lucky you get the chance to turn around.
Rob marches back to the Wrangler, signalling that the discussion is over.
ROB: Lilith, you’re with us.
Lilith doesn’t even try to hide her relief as she shuffles away from Bonnie & Clyde and climbs into the back of the Jeep. It’s a little heart warming that Rob still has the awareness to look out for her, angry as he may be.
As well as his surprising strength, I also tend to forget how perceptive he can be.
Bonnie, Clyde and Bluejay climb back into their respective vehicles. I catch Bonnie’s eye, the moment before she returns to the Ford. She appears truly disappointed, but otherwise resigned to keep going, satisfied to let Wintery Bay fade into the distance. It’s comforting to hear that she’s ready to put the place behind her.
It’s just a pity I don’t believe a word of it.
LILITH: It was fucking weird Bristol.
Lilith seems happy to be in the Wrangler, enjoying the sense of security the modded behemoth affords, and also greatly relieved to be away from Bonnie & Clyde. She’s spent the last five minutes detailing the thirty second argument that unfolded between them, charting its disturbing nuances as well as it’s eerie conclusion.
LILITH: … but I swear she was basically like crying like… she didn’t understand how we could be going the wrong way. But then like, as soon as you pulled us over and she just stopped. Like I mean… stopped.
AS: That must have been disconcerting.
LILITH: You have no idea… So Rob, when are these cornfields gonna fucking end?
ROB: Soon. We’re gonna rest up for the night in a few turns. Then tomorrow it won’t be long until we’re on a track through the woods.
LILITH: The fucking woods? Are you kidding? Are we talking like… Sleepy Hollow bleeding trees or what?
ROB: Hah, wish I could tell ya.
LILITH: Wait, what do you mean?
ROB: I ain’t been that far yet. It’s new territory.
LILITH: Oh… great. Maybe the cornfields aren’t so…
Lilith goes quiet, transfixed by something in the rear view mirror, before quickly turning around to get a better look out of the back window.
The car behind us is out of control.
Bonnie is fighting to wrest the steering wheel from her brother. The Ford swerves erratically behind us, driven mad by the dynamic power struggle taking place inside it. Rob sharply accelerates out of the way as the car behind lurches drunkenly to and fro before skidding to a shuddering halt. Rob hits the brake hard, and by the time I’ve turned in his direction, he’s already slammed the door of the Wrangler, storming across the tarmac to Bonnie and Clyde.
ROB: Cut the engine!
The Ford’s engine goes silent and in the absence of its rumbling growl, new sounds emerge. The sounds of a struggle, and of wild desperate screaming.
Stepping out of the car for the second time today, I jump onto the road and cover the distance between us.
Rob is attempting to pull a screeching Bonnie from the car. Even with his impressive strength it seems to be a challenge. Bonnie claws at the walls, trying with all her might to regain her grasp on the steering wheel.
BONNIE: Please! PLEASE! Let me go! Let me go!
Rob extracts Bonnie from the car and attempts to subdue her amidst a flurry of flailing hands and elbows. She writhes and kicks as he pins her arms to her sides.
AS: Bonnie! Bonnie. Calm down ok? Let’s talk this through.
BONNIE: He told me it was on our way! He said we’d pass through!
ROB: He lied Bonnie.
BONNIE: No… no we’re going the wrong way. We’re going the wrong way!
Bonnie lashes out again, striking at Rob’s legs with her own. Rob holds her firmly, hit teeth gritted through every impact.
It’s clear that Bonnie isn’t going to let up. I run back to the Wrangler and open up the trunk. After a few moments of rummaging through my bag, I find the first aid kit and pull out an unopened pack of white zip ties.
AS: Clyde, open the back door.
Rob sees me standing with the zip ties. Even in the midst of Bonnie’s incessant struggle, he looks at me with an almost questioning air, as if he’s wondering how we ever arrived at this point. As if he’s asking whether we can really do what I’m wordlessly suggesting.
Bonnie answers the last question for him. In the slim few seconds of distraction, she slams her head back into his nose, eliciting a disgustingly loud thud and a pained growl from Rob. Dazed and confused, his nose immediately fountaining blood, Rob manages to keep his arms wrapped around her. But it’s clear this isn’t going to be sustainable, and that she isn’t anywhere close to calming down.
Clyde has opened the door, stepping back and looking on like a frightened child as we carry Bonnie over to the back seat of the Ford. I lean in before him, adjusting the headrest until it’s pressed against the ceiling, ensuring that it can’t be removed from the bracket. I then loop a zip tie around each bracket and fasten them.
BLUEJAY: What the fuck is going on?
Bluejay has stepped out of her car, making her way towards us. I realise that, to someone who is fighting to not believe in any of this, the following scene would appear at best as a melodramatic farce, and at worst, as the attempted detention of an innocent and distressed woman.
Sadly, I don’t have time to field her questions. I climb into the car. Bonnie working constantly against us as Rob eases her in after me, his hand on her head to prevent it bumping against the top of the doorframe.
Once she’s inside, I loop a second zip tie around the one I’ve already fastened on the right bracket, forcing her right hand inside it. I pull the plastic tab over the sleeve of her jumper.
I hope it’s not too tight, but at the very least it’s secure enough to keep her in place. Bonnie continues to pull against the zip ties, but it’s clear her strength has been sapped from her spirited battle with Rob.
Not quite able to look her in the eye, I push a pile of luggage out of the way and climb out the other side of the Ford. Rob and I are both getting our breath back, the former pinching his nose and adjusting stoically to the fresh pain.
BLUEJAY: Hey what the fuck are… you’re not going to leave her like that are you?
AS: Get back in your car Bluejay.
I walk back to the Wrangler, tuning out Denise’s coarse protests. Rob reaches into the Jeep’s still open trunk, and pulls out a pile of blankets and pillows. In the rear view mirror, I can see him placing them on Bonnie’s lap, giving her a place to rest her elbows.
She leans her forehead against the back of the headrest. Even with her face blocked from view, I can tell that she’s crying.
We arrive at the rest stop some twenty minutes later, the vague outline of a deep green forest blooming on the horizon. It’s earlier in the day than we would usually stop. Rob tells us he wants the entirety of tomorrow to chart the woods, as well as good time to turn back before night fall should the need arise. I’m not complaining, I’m glad of the chance to rest up following today’s events.
For the rest of the day, we take it in turns to keep an eye on Bonnie, making sure she has everything she needs. When the Ford pulled up alongside us, Lilith, Rob, and I expected to see a quivering wreck, tugging ceaselessly against her bonds. We were all surprised, and more than a little disturbed, to find her smiling. By the time my turn comes around, the sun is already dipping in the sky. Rob has prepared a small pot of miso soup in case anyone can bring themselves to eat. I finish my bowl, all too aware of how unnecessary each meal now feels, and pour out a helping for Bonnie.
I find her in good spirits.
BONNIE: How are you doing Alice?
AS: I’m fine. How are you doing Linda?
BONNIE: I’m ok. Sorry for giving you all such a fright earlier. I feel terrible.
AS: It’s fine honestly. I’m sorry about… about all this.
I gesture to the zip tied restraints. Rob has reapplied them, fastening bandages underneath the straps to afford Bonnie a modicum of comfort. Still the scene rings with a sinister barbarity which no kind consideration can make up for.
BONNIE: It’s ok. I wasn’t myself.
AS: I brought you soup. I know you might not be hungry.
BONNIE: No no I’d love some, thank you. Everyone’s being so lovely.
AS: Well, we just want to make sure you’re alright.
I submerge the spoon, drench up a measure of warm broth, and begin to raise it towards her.
BONNIE: Oh no you don’t have to… I can feed myself…
She gestures to her bound hands, the clear implication hanging in the air.
AS: No I… I don’t mind. I think it’s-
Bonnie throws her weight sideways, her elbow jabbing outwards and hitting the bowl out of my hands. Soup spills over my fleece, just a little cooler than scolding hot, and soaks immediately into the fabric. I back away reflexively, and watch Bonnie’s expression flicker like a faulty lightbulb from kind tranquility to utter, burning contempt. It’s gone as quickly as it appears, just in time for the rest of the group to look our way.
BLUEJAY: What are you doing with her?!
Bluejay storms across from her car, angrily drawing from a Marlboro and forcing the smoke draconically back into the air.
AS: Nothing. Just an accident.
BONNIE: It’s ok Bluejay, it was my mistake.
BLUEJAY: Did she get any on you?
Bluejay leans in placing her hand comfortingly on Bonnie’s, before turning to fix me with a murderous stare. It’s almost impressive how, even when caring for someone, Bluejay still manages to be simultaneously venomous to those around her.
BONNIE: No no it’s ok it was my fault. It’s fine. I’m sorry for causing trouble.
Bluejay laughs at Bonnie’s submissive apology, unable to believe what she’s thinking. Her eyes remain fixed on me.
BLUEJAY: You’re a fucking coward. Look what he’s making you do. Look!
My eyes follow where she gestures. I have to admit the helpless figure of Bonnie, restrained in the back seat of the Ford, rings with an innate inhumanity, and being forced to stare my actions in the face makes me feel utterly ghoulish.
The choices I’ve made must seem insane to Bluejay, but that doesn’t mean hers are not. Despite her pretensions of rationality, I can’t help but feel that Bluejay’s actions are simply being governed by a different insanity. An insanity borne out of the desperate need to explain the unexplainable, which has morphed into an ugly cocktail of paranoia, self-grandeur, and fervent antagonism.
Bluejay notes my silent expression, most likely taking it as a personal victory. Without another word she returns to her car and shuts herself inside, festering silently and alone.
BONNIE: Do you want to know what’s wonderful Alice?
Bonnie leans towards me, lowering her voice so no one else can hear.
BONNIE: He told me there’s a house… waiting for me. My home by the sea.
AS: I’m sorry Bonnie. I don’t think there is.
BONNIE: It’s going to be a such a beautiful place. Such a beautiful place.
Bonnie flashes me a broad grin.
BONNIE: It’s been lovely knowing you Alice.
Bonnie turns away from me, placing her forehead back on the headrest. The grin doesn’t fade as I turn away. I walk back to the Wrangler, faced with the choice of changing into new clothes or my thermal pyjamas.
After removing my fleece and lying down for a just a moment, I end up sleeping in the clothes I’m wearing.
When I wake up, the Wrangler is moving.
The air mattress reverberates and my body rocks as we make a sharp U-turn. I sit bolt upright, Lilith waking up next to me, similarly bleary eyed and confused.
Rob is behind the wheel. The gear stick shakes as he transports us down the road at incredible speed.
AS: Rob what’s happening?
ROB: Bonnie got herself free. She’s headed for the turn.
I pull myself into the passenger seat, suddenly wide awake.
LILITH: What? How did she get free?
AS: Is she with Clyde?
ROB: She hit him over the head, dragged him outta the car. I couldn’t wait for him, but he’s catchin’ up.
Lilith and I turn around. Bluejay’s car is gaining on us, a distant pair of high beams steadily drowning the rear window in light.
LILITH: Why’s Bluejay helping him?
AS: She probably wants to keep an eye on us. Rob, do you think we’ll catch up with Bonnie?
ROB: I’m workin’ on it.
The Wrangler continues to rocket through the darkness. We keep our eyes fixed forward, scanning the very edge of the horizon for any sign of Bonnie’s Ford.
When Bluejay pulls alongside us, I get a look at the pair. Bluejay is nought but steely determination, dedicated to reaching Bonnie before we do. Clyde looks mortified, rocked by his sister’s actions, a small contusion on his head to mark her vicious betrayal.
Rob screeches to a halt once we arrive at the junction. Bluejay’s headlights are already illuminating the road to Wintery Bay, and Rob’s lighting rig coats the entire area in an artificial twilight. In the middle of it all, we see Bonnie, standing next to her car, smiling.
She’s already beyond the threshold of the turn.
CLYDE: Linda! Linda, please… come on back now, ok?
BONNIE: You can all come with me. There’s a place for all of us. He told me. There’s a place for everyone.
CLYDE: Please Linda. You have to come back.
A strange trail of black dust is streaming off Bonnie’s skin, rising into the air and dancing in the breeze. After a moment, it becomes clear that the edges of Bonnie are slowly degrading, converting quietly into dark ash and drifting into the atmosphere.
BONNIE: I love you very much Martin. You’re always welcome.
CLYDE: No please… please.
Bonnie turns around and climbs into the car. Without looking back, she pulls away down the road to Wintery Bay. The trail of black particles rise from the Ford as she goes, with greater and greater volume as the entire car starts to wither away before our eyes. Less than a minute later the Ford, with Bonnie inside it, gradually dissolves into dust and scatters to the winds.
Clyde doesn’t speak. His entire being is quiet. Lilith immediately runs back to the Wrangler. Rob waits a while, staring at he dancing cloud of dust, before putting his arm around Clyde and gently escorting him to the Jeep.
As I turn away from the road to Wintery Bay, I take note of Bluejay’s reaction. She looks absolutely petrified, more so than I’ve ever seen her. She impulsively removes the pack of Marlboros from her pocket and holds them in her hands, before quickly returning them, unsmoked.
The night passes slowly after we return to the rest stop. All of us are exhausted, and more than willing to surrender to the escapism of sleep. Rob rests in the driver’s seat, giving up his space on the air mattress to Clyde. Everyone drops quickly enough into a quiet slumber, leaving me awake with only my thoughts for company. I find myself thinking of Bluejay, of how she could possibly hope to rationalise the disintegration of Bonnie and her car.
I wonder how I’d feel if the Left/Right Game were exposed as some unparalleled magic trick. Would I feel foolish? No I don’t think so. Impressed, maybe. Relieved? Most definitely. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I miss the innocent days when I believed the game was a hoax. I suppose I see why Bluejay is so adamant about dismissing this place; trickery however elaborate is almost always a preferable alternative to genuine horror.
The Jeep’s door opens and shuts
Part of me tries to ignore it, to wash my hands of any other developments in this harrowing night. However, exiled as I am from the kingdom of sleep, I slowly find myself sitting up, quietly putting on my boots, and letting myself out.
I step out into the cool night, observing the figure before me.
AS: Where are you going Clyde?
Clyde turns to face me, I initially interpret the look he gives me as one of resignation, but the word doesn’t quite fit. Resignation is a defeat, the world exacting compliance from you against your own wishes. But the man before me is as calm as the night air around him. His wishes are clearly his own. There’s no defeat in his eyes, but something else entirely… peace, maybe.
CLYDE: You know where I’m going Alice.
Clyde speaks softly, a quiet conviction behind every word he says. I briefly glance towards the Wrangler, wondering if I’m really equipped to handle this on my own.
CLYDE: Don’t call Rob. I made a mistake coming back to the rest stop. I shouldn’t have done… please. Just let me go.
AS: Clyde, just wait for tomorrow ok? He’ll understand. He’ll turn us around and take you home.
CLYDE: It won’t be home anymore.
Clyde’s gentle stare renders me silent.
CLYDE: Linda had a husband once. He was a good man. Died young. She could never bring herself to go looking again and I… I never found who I was looking for. We’ve been by each other’s side for sixty years. Sixty years. I gotta be honest, even after all we’ve been through, everything you and I have seen, I never felt like I was in a new world until now.
AS: I don’t think I can’t let you do this Clyde.
CLYDE: I’m sorry Alice, but it’s not up to you.
Clyde breathes in the cool night air, exhaling through his nose.
CLYDE: I yelled at her to come back, when she ran off to rob that ice cream parlour. I kept calling out and calling out. I spent so much energy trying to get her to come back to me. After a while I realised she wasn’t coming back… that I’d have to follow her. I should’ve realised it earlier. That’s all I can do…. follow where she goes.
Clyde looks at me, almost apologetically.
CLYDE: Goodbye Alice.
He turns away from the convoy and wanders back down the road.
He turns around one last time.
AS: Do you want company?
It takes roughly an hour for us to walk back to the junction. In the time we have, I’m treated to the story of Bonnie and Clyde. The warmest fragments of their life together, the moments that built them, the waves that rocked them and the places they once called home. I don’t think I’ll ever agree with what Clyde is doing, but the more he talks, the more I understand.
His stories span more than half a century, supported by a transient cast of acquaintances and friends, but at the core of each tale is a pair of siblings who meant the world to one another. The pair existed as two relative souls, quantifiable only in relation to each other. In the absence of one, the remnant was indefinable. A drifting point, unanchored in space.
The story ends just as we reach the junction
AS: I hope she’s out there.
CLYDE: I hope so too. Thank you for coming with me, I know it’s late.
AS: No… it’s never a bad time to see a friend off.
Clyde smiles at me one last time before turning to face the road. He steps over the threshold, past the old wooden sign. In the silence of the night, I hear nothing but his soft footsteps and the quiet breeze, which after a few minutes carries the last of him into an open sky.
It’s a long walk back to the convoy. My mind is numb to fear as I make my way through the dark, the corn rustling in the wind beside me.
It’s been four days since I arrived at Rob Guthard’s house, sat down at his table, and listened to him speak about the new world he’d discovered. In that time, I’ve seen things I can’t hope to comprehend, sights that exist beyond the spectrum of our reality. Things I wouldn’t have deemed possible.
For all I know there is a Wintery Bay, and Bonnie has already arrived at her house by the sea, standing at the door, waiting with quiet confidence for her brother’s arrival.
I may never know. But I do hope they find each other, wherever they may be.