The Incense Salesman
The Hill of the Neverending Stride
Darren doesn’t bother with the trails on the way back to the pond. Lumbering along with his girlfriend in his arms, the two crash through tree branches, rip through saplings, and shred through bramble bushes, the thorns sinking into Darren’s jeans like the fangs of the monstrous snake into Megan’s calf. The sweat pours off both of them in disgusting, rank waterfalls, and Darren tries to ignore the flow of Megan’s blood soaking his right arm, but he’s totally unable. His left arm catches on the back of Megan’s top and pulls it up, revealing her breasts by accident, but not even that distracts him from the horrific morbidity of this anniversary hike gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Finally, after what feels like eons stretched into fat infinities, each passing second longer than the last, they breach the end of the trail and leave the woods of Fricker Drive. Darren rockets over the shifted concrete pathway, miraculously not tripping, not yet at least, and crosses the lawn in a flurry of whimpers and pants. He lays Megan down on the hood of her car and tries the passenger door, but it’s locked. He tries the back seat, locked. He tries the driver’s side door. Fucking locked.
“Megan, where are your keys?!”
But Megan says nothing, as the venom has seeped into her brain and she’s more than a little bit delirious, fading faster and faster by the second. Darren checks the pockets of her shorts but finds nothing. Then, after fixing her top and saving her at least a little humiliation in case a car comes by, Darren goes around and tries the driver’s door again, just in case he didn’t pull hard enough the first time, and that’s when he sees the keys. They’re dangling from the ignition, just one turn away from starting the engine. One impossible turn.
“Fuck! You locked your keys in the fucking car, Megan!”
Megan says nothing back. Her breathing has devolved into a strained wheeze.
Without thinking, Darren scoops her back into his arms and starts running down the road. He lives at the beginning of Fricker, it’ll be a long run but he’ll get there, he’ll throw her in his car and they’ll take off to the hospital – hell, he’ll even call them and let them know they’re coming – it’s going to be okay, Megan is going to survive, everything is going to be oka–
Fricker Drive is a deceptively hilly stretch of black pavement. Turning onto it off Stonetown Road, you think it’s a flat driveway leading back into the forest, maybe to an old farm house, but that’s simply not the case; the reality of the situation is that the pond at the end of Fricker is about one hundred fifty feet higher off the ground than the lawn surrounding the first house on the road, which just happens to be where Darren’s family used to live, and where Darren lives now. The first one hundred feet of that incline is very gradual, deceptively gradual; one doesn’t notice it until one takes a walk (or run) and experiences the torture for themselves. The last fifty feet, however, is marked by a gruelingly steep climb up a hill. This hill was referred to as The Hill of the Neverending Stride by one Owen Johnson before he mysteriously vanished into the forest way back when, because on his way back from his hikes (those hikes he didn’t finish in his backyard, that is), he loved to let the decline take him and force his legs to move faster than his mind (his genius mind) could keep up with. Just a moment ago, with his belt still unbuckled, his pants unbuttoned, and his zipper falling with every harried step he took, Darren was sprinting down that hill in the same fashion as the late Owen Johnson, his legs moving faster than his mind – his average, not genius, and slightly hung over mind – could keep up with.
Was sprinting, that is, until his pants gave up their good fight and fell down around his knees, tripping him up and spilling both him and his dying girlfriend down the road, down the steep road, the steep road down which they both tumbled and rolled, their skin grinding into the pavement, their bones bruising and bursting with hairline fractures, and they only stopped when they finally hit one of the few trees growing along the side.
Or, in Megan’s case, the mailbox of the last house before the pond.
When he finally regains consciousness nineteen minutes later, Darren fixes his pants up right and hoists his dead girlfriend of three years into his arms, then limps slowly down the road. No cars pass him, as all the houses on this road besides his own are owned by one man who happens to be in a basement talking to his catatonic mother right now, and by the time Darren gets back to his house, he doesn’t even think to go inside and get his phone. He throws Megan into the passenger seat of his car, fishes his keys out of the console where he left them after getting home from the bar last night, and takes off for the hospital.
Hello Commons, this has been the fourth 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~