From Imaginary Ripples · Stories

Wanderer: Prologue

The giant yellow and brown face of the moon stared down over the cheerless, bitter city with the wretched, despondent look of a wounded father, as oppressive rain beat mercilessly down on Xavier. His waterlogged hair, matted with bloodied mud, whipped across his wounded face in the driving wind, each stroke bringing pain that played a perfect counterpoint to the anguish that tortured his mind. His glistening eyes betrayed his joyless heart, as his gaze reached out from the hillside, forlornly searching the hazy cityscape. His mind tumbled. Over and over. The images flashed past. Every time they played out as they had the time before, and every time he felt the anguish, the horror, the helplessness. Every time he remembered the poignant stench of her wounds, every time he saw the lifeless look in her eyes, eyes that seemed to call out to him to save her, to blame him. Disjointed and chaotic they came at him, never in order, always mocking, always casting blame, with harrowing accuracy the thoughts and memories battered him. He fought to forget, to escape the baleful weight of his tragic action. Wordlessly he screamed to the heavens. Screamed for whatever worthless god inhabited the heavens to undo the past, to take his life in her place. His mind tumbled, his thoughts raced. Again the memories played, incoherent yet with vivid clarity. He watched, helpless, as he sped down the slippery hill. He saw the headlights of the truck. The lights blinding him. The feeling as his car ploughed into the tree. The agonising sensation as the car spun about the tree, the horrid sound of buckling metal, the searing stings from the countless shards of glass. Again and again the memories came. The sharp crack from his ribs, the excruciating pain that shot through his abdomen, the terror he heard in Sophie’s final scream. Incessantly the memories repeated. The slippery corner, the blinding light, the screeching metal, her dying cry. Bitter tears ran freely down his face, mixing with the mud and the blood. Turning and lifting his eyes from the view down the hillside, he saw the signs of damage on that fateful tree. The memories cleared. So little remained to mark the spot. Mere days had passed. He had lost count of the number. The hospital, the funeral, her brother’s baleful hatred, the constant ache in his stomach. He could never forget, never forgive, never be forgiven. The city just cleaned up, nature simply regrew. Nothing cared. The memory of the onrushing tree through the rain soaked windscreen flashed through his mind. The terrified look of surprise on her face. The images crashed into him again, like waves relentlessly beating the shore. They wore him down until he was numb to the world. All he felt, all he experienced, all he knew was sullen pain. Bitter pangs stabbed through his gut, the agony and anxiety overwhelmed him. His mind reeled, lamenting its actions, lamenting its loss. As if stepping on to a train, Xavier casually stepped off the side of the hill, unnoticed by man and forgotten by nature. As he plummeted downwards, towards the engorged river and its unpitying rocks, the memories played one final time.

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