The Incense Salesman
A half hour after leaving his house – that’s forty minutes after their phone call ended – Megan pulls up to the pond and parks on the side of the road. She’s wearing a sleeveless crop top and shorts which don’t quite cover her legs, an odd choice of hiking attire if Darren’s ever seen one. Not that he’s complaining – Megan hasn’t dressed this delectably for him in a long, long time; ever, in fact, and by the way he’s looking at her all wide-eyed and such, she can tell her outfit’s producing the desired effect.
“Hey babe!” Megan chirps as she wraps her boyfriend in a tight hug. She kisses him on the cheek then breaks away, saying, “Ready for the hike?”
After picking his jaw up off the ground, Darren says, “Yeah, definitely!” Hand in hand they cross the pond’s lawn, walk over the concrete bridge (taking care to step gingerly over the tilted block which separated from the rest for God knows what reason) and embark into the forest. They follow the wide trail – Darren reminds Megan that this trail used to be a logging road in the early nineteenth century, and Megan tries to roll her eyes less obviously than she rolled her ankle a minute ago – until the second turn-off point before the main trail goes down an excruciatingly rocky hill. This looping, sidewinding side trail was dubbed Dirtbiker’s Path by a dude who used to live on Fricker Drive with his folks before everyone started moving away; Owen, his name was. Darren ran into him a few times out here – he was an odd one for sure, but he knew these woods like the back of his hand and he showed Darren all the best spots, including the glorious Raspberry Perch, a flat-topped boulder which Dirtbiker’s Path runs over after passing by a grassy rock outcrop called The Lost Colony, of all things, so long as you’re walking it in reverse, which they are, because Megan doesn’t like to be in the woods and Darren is conscious of that, so he took a shortcut to skip a big portion of the walk for her. Because he loves her, even if he doesn’t say it. The Lost Colony was the go-to spot for woods parties when Darren’s parents were still in high school, but it doesn’t get much use anymore.
Until today, that is, when Megan tugs on the back of Darren’s collar and makes him stop. “It’s so sunny over here, let’s go lay down on one of those rocks.”
Darren looks over to Raspberry, hardly twenty meters away. “The spot I wanna take you to is like ten seconds that way, let’s keep going. There are berry bushes growing over there, if they’re fruiting we can eat ‘em!”
Megan pouts. “Can we lay down on the rocks first? I’m tired from all this hiking.”
“But we’ve only been walking for like five min–”
Megan convinces Darren to lay down on the warm rocks with her, and when her shirt’s back down, she grabs his wrist and pulls him across The Lost Colony. They cross the sun-browned tall grass and climb up on a gently convex boulder with zero trees growing over it, then lay down together and soak up the rays like snakes basking in the sun. A moment later, Megan rolls over and climbs on top of Darren, then kisses him.
“What was that for?” Darren asks, sending his hands to travel where they may.
Megan smirks, allowing his hands to roam. “I dunno, I’m just feeling some type of way today… hey, you know uh… you know that thing you always ask me to do?”
Knowing damn well exactly which thing Megan is referring to, Darren plays the fool.
“You know…” she hums, moving one hand slowly down his chest until her fingers find his belt. “That special thing that I’ve never done for you before…”
Megan sits up and scoots back to Darren’s shins. Then, she begins to unlatch his belt.
“I uh…” He gulps as sweat begins to form on his temples. “I think I might…”
Megan bites her bottom lip as she unzips the zipper. Then she leans forward. The sun feels cold, frigid as an Alaskan ice box, in comparison. Darren rocks his head back with his mouth open and closes his eyes in ecstasy, and things continue along this route for a blissful minute and a half. Then, Darren jerks himself upright and shouts, “Ow, the fuck?! Why’d you bite me?” but he doesn’t even hear himself say it over Megan’s blood-curdling scream. She flops off him and rolls over on her side, grasping for her trembling left leg.
“Megan, are you okay?!” Darren pulls his pants back up and does up the zipper, then kneels over her, trying to figure out what happened. Had he not taken the time to make himself decent he would have seen the snake, the brown snake with the black circles running from the back of its head to its tail, but he didn’t, and so the gushing chop meat in the middle of his girlfriend’s calf is the only indication that she was bitten.
“I-I-I don’t know, I think a– FUCK!! I think a snake bit me!”
Darren musters another look at the wound, the oozing flayed patch of unshaped hamburger embedded into Megan’s calf, and genuinely doubts that a mere snake caused that damage. But still, semantics and specifics really don’t matter too much right now; they’re in the middle of the woods, his girlfriend of three years is bleeding, and by the sound of her cries, she’s in immense pain.
“Oh God, what do I do? What do I do?!”
“I don’t know!” Megan shouts between shrill sobs of horror. “You’re the fucking hiker, what do you do?!”
Hyperventilate, apparently. Darren can’t take his eyes off the visceral wound; between his breathing and Megan’s crying the whole rest of the world just doesn’t have room to register, and so he doesn’t hear the footsteps coming up from behind them.
“What the hell is going on?” asks the voice, and Darren looks up to its speaker like a fearful man of faith witnessing God in all His glorious wrath. A young woman with long brown hair dressed in hiking attire – her backpack has a blue water tube coming out of it and everything – was standing over them before she crouched down to inspect Megan’s wound. She looks sharply at Darren and says, “This looks bad, what the fuck happened?”
“I-I-I–” he stammers, half disassociated from reality. “I don’t know, I think she got bitten by a snake, I–”
Megan screams as the random woman’s hands grip her calf on either side of the wound, the scream leveling up into a howl when she squeezes. “A snake? It looks like she was shot by a fucking shotgun! You’re sure it was a snake?”
“WHAT THE FUCK ELSE WOULD HAVE BITTEN ME?!” Megan screams, thinking she’s talking to Darren.
“Okay… okay, hold on.” The woman bends low and puts her mouth over the swollen hole in Megan’s leg, then begins to suck. She comes up to spit out venom-laced blood four times before she has to stop and retch. “I can’t… there’s too much blood, I don’t know if it’s working.” She then faces Darren. “You got a phone on you?”
Daren shakes his head no, feeling too nauseous to speak.
“It’s fine, I have mine. Listen, I’m going to call an ambulance, yo–”
“NO!” Darren shouts. “Neither of us have insurance, there’s no way we can afford an ambulance!”
“Then how the fuck are you going to get her to a hospital? I’m parked on the other side of the Monksville Dam, it would take me at least forty minutes to get back there, and that’s if I ran.”
“Uh… UH…” Darren uhs as dots and stars begin to flood his vision. He feels a crack across his face, then looks back up at the woman, who’s rubbing her hand.
“Sorry, but you kinda needed it. I’m not from around here, dude; even if I could get my car here in ten seconds, I don’t know how to get to a hospital. You need to get her there, so how are you going to do it?”
“Uh… she, she parked her car by the pond, I can drive her.”
“Good. What’s your cell number?”
Carried by the moment, Darren gives this random woman his cell phone number without asking questions.
She saves it under Snakebite. “Okay. I’m going to run back to my car now. You’re going to carry her to the pond, throw her in her car, and go straight to the nearest hospital. Break the fucking speed limit, because that bite looks bad. I’ll call you when I get back and you’ll give me the name of the hospital, then I’ll meet you there. Okay?”
“Wuh, why are you go–”
She slaps him again. “Because I just sucked out a bunch of her blood and I’m going to need a fucking myriad of tests performed on me, and I have insurance like a rational human being so I’m not afraid of getting myself help. Now stop asking questions and fucking go!”
Darren stops asking questions and fucking goes. The woman helps him get Megan, who’s weeping has grown disconcertingly faint, into his arms. Both parties split off in opposite directions.
Hello Commons, this has been the third subchapter of the ninth story from Convenient Incidents, an anthology of fifteen interconnected short stories which revolve around a man by the name of Hilter Odolf Williamson.
Convenient Incidents is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Convenient Incidents is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Convenient Incidents and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~