Duran Duran’s New Moon on Monday played from the black boom box creekside. The beat echoed around the short banks of the large swimming hole. Heads back, fingers skipped over the water like gulls’ feet, we floated on used tire tubes in silence listening to the tunes. The brief occasional exchanges between us went silent when the surroundings began to change. Isolated above us, the sun disappeared into an ashen ink blot in the sky. Like a volcanic mud pool, the clouds boiled gray. Thunder rumbled. The wind brewed. Ripples in the current rocked our tubes. I watched over my shoulder as an opening emerged in the center—a vortex, like a mouth. I ditched my tube and struggled against the tow, laboring to break away, swimming towards shore, unmoving, moored to the mouth. It inhaled each one of my three cousins and two friends; their screams gurgled then faded. The vortex widened. I took a deep breath and went in with my eyes wide open. The water spiraled, rolling me around like drying laundry. I didn’t resist and allowed it to take me conserving energy for whatever was ahead.
I felt my body transform as the whirlpool wrenched me to and fro. The change was piercing, tingly, strange and slow—fragmented, like I was neither here nor there but everywhere. Water rushed through every atom of my body like blisters of air exploding and imploding. I became mindful of an awareness…and memories—so many memories. I opened my mouth and inhaled swallowing a mouthful of dirty creek. The water—thick and polluted—had changed into a gangrene-like soup. It gagged me.
On the verge of unconsciousness, whatever it was finally spat me out into blackness like a burp and a plop. I surfaced choking, hacking water from my lungs. Taking deep breaths, feet kicking to stay afloat, I listened for the others.
My eyes adjusted quickly to the change. Visible behind choking smog, the stars barely flared; the moon—full and high and slight behind me like a tired bloodshot eye—peeked in and out from its lazy lid. I spotted the dark shadowy outlines of my cousins and friends and heard their coughs and splashes drop dull off the banks of the muddy shore. Smoke camouflaged the world around me while snaps of fire and the aftermath of destruction staggered dancing towards the black. A breach in the chaos, I glimpsed swaths of trees and woods razed around us shifting and settling from the violence that flattened them. I looked for the trestle and found it behind and above me split in two beneath the full moon like an open vice. Pieces of debris dropped to the water below while white smoke twirled into the black smog above.
The night stalled and went deathly silent in my confusion. I took a breath, shook off the disorientation, and swam towards shore. Along the way, I bumped into things that made me stop and stare into the macabre stage alert and tense. Tingles of caution snaked into my limbs. Awareness tickled my adrenaline. The water churned and reeked as I waited for whatever it was to emerge. The hot sharp scent of decay hovered thick in the air; not the same earthy nature of timber and soil and fresh spring water like before. Rot and wet trash, charred earth and bark—and death; death floated by me; its languid fingers, like crusty branches, scraped across my pebbled flesh. Fixated, I watched as lifeless eyes with blown limbs and mangled bodies bobbed in the water like empty soda bottles. I continued towards shore. I tasted the metallic scent of blood and held back gags as I crawled out of the water on all fours. Dragging myself out of the muck onto more muck, the bank—slime and weeds and more wet trash: plastic bags and plastic wraps and plastic containers and all things plastic—slithered beneath my hands like slippery eels. Blood and gore and trash, wrought from the chaos around us, lapped at the shore. My stomach convulsed and I vomited what water I swallowed. My bile mixed with dirty creek water; the smell festered like an infection; the water around us, oozed from the large earthly wound, like pus.
The nausea subsided. I looked up and around. Broken moonbeams bounced off wet naked muddy bodies—older bodies. My cousins and friends…were older—middle-aged older. We stared at each other: deep lines, fuller faces, sturdy rolls, pasty white skin, the tired hunch of shoulders that came with age, and scars that weren’t there before—their bodies matured and worn; their facial expressions and eyes indicated something different—something innocent and panicky mirrored from those kids long ago. Wide-eyed with shock, they sat on the ground silent and dazed.
Natalie rose while attempting to cover herself. The mud and darkness concealed most of her. She started to speak then grabbed her head and fell to her knees. Cody, Ben, Trevor, and Reese fell next. Their mouths opened, stretched in a yawning mute wail, like that Munch painting. The lull erupted as whimpers turn to whines, like the low guttural cries of a cat or dog. I watched wide-eyed with fascination. I searched and found their pain in the haze of merge. A flood so intense flashed like searchlights through each and every synapse as thirty-some years of memories breached minds; not just memories, but emotions. Knee-jerk responses swallowed my ability to speak or even scream as the pricks of pain and pleasure became spears of agony and a frenzy of euphoria. I gripped the bloody slime beneath my hands as it oozed between my fingers. Consciousness slipped in and out as both memories and emotions doubled me. My mouth opened wide; nothing escaped but a struggle to remain silent in the pull. The gluttony of emotions, an amalgamation of orgasmic satisfaction and sweet, sweet misery. And the best fucking buzz ever.
© 2018-2019 Pamela Gay Mullins