I follow a belief system that is not traditional. I don’t say I follow “XYZ” because I don’t like attributing labels to what I believe in. But some of its concepts can be quite a reach for many: that we create and control our own lives, not a divine being (though I feel the Divine Being is the medium, love, and impetus for our very existence). That we are not at the mercy of others…but attract into our lives all that we get…that we set up our own challenges…and one statement in particular really inspired this particular story…
I think you’ll figure out which statement.
This story was originally published in Black Sheep #40, the April-May 2001 issue.
© F. P. Dorchak, 1995
Vince ground his booted-heel into the Arizona sand, thoroughly pulverizing the beetle beneath it.
“Must have been your time to go…just like me.”
I raise my head and look up to the scorching sun, smell the fumes of my still-burning Camaro, and feel the heat where I stand. “Why’s everyone so afraid of dying? It’s just part of living.”
I lift my dusty .44-caliber, Dan Wesson to eye level and blow off loose sand. I look it over. What was really responsible here? Me, or this miraculously crafted piece of stainless steel? This wonder of human engineering?
What a work of art, indeed, from its utilitarian lines to its perfect heft and balance. I drop my hand and weapon back to my side and think about the trooper burning away within the remains of her vehicle and mine. I hadn’t meant to kill her, but she came at me and I just didn’t want to go. Yet. I probably did her a favor. She would have died some other time, under the hand of one who didn’t care nearly as much as I did.
At least I meant well.
I limp away from Route 93 towards the jagged precipice ahead. I stop and turn one last time to consider the wreckage of my ‘67 Camaro and the trooper’s brand new Camaro. Life can be so funny sometimes.
Must’ve been her time.
So why doesn’t anything matter?
We’re born, we die; if we’re lucky, we get laid now and then…maybe have a family or two…pay taxes from a job we more often than not can’t stand…then die. I’m not finding any answers, damn it, and I’m damn near the end of my rope—
I move off the pavement.
Vince climbed ever higher up the crags, his gun tucked into the rear of his jeans, waves of heat radiating off the rocks and sand beating into him. He sucks in thick gulps of air into aching, straining, lungs…
Where had I first heard—or read—it? The statement still plagues me like a festering wound: Fact is official fiction.
I mean, who comes up with this shit?
All my life I struggle…try to do the right thing…be the nice guy…and I’m told that everything, everything I’ve ever believed in, everything I’ve ever worked for…is false?
Fact is official fiction, all right.
If we make it all up, then what’s right (is there even a “right”)? Are we actually alive or mere characters? Me killing someone isn’t really killing since I’m not really taking anyone’s life—it’s all an illusion, fiction. There isn’t even a God because we make it all up.
Try to prove it otherwise.
Faith doesn’t work because we create that, too—sure, we create the ideas as well as the substance. It’s all part of how life works—am I the only one who sees this? But, no, it gets better, since we made up this idea of killing, now we must create the idea that if you kill someone—an untruth to begin with—you have to pay for it—another untruth.
So am I really crazy…or is crazy just another made-up fallacy? And if I’m not real, then others can’t do a damned thing to me, right (and I can’t do a damned thing to them, either)?
Look at me so far: I’ve told my boss to go to hell (punched out the idiot, in fact) then robbed an all-night supermarket. So, several hundred miles, four days, and three dead bodies later, here I am, stuck out in the middle of the Arizona desert, drying up from the summer sun, and hungrier than a circling buzzard.
Yet, here I am.
Vince climbs higher, but never sees, or hears, the Arizona troopers below who block off the road. His mind swarms with tortured, philosophical arguments full of possibilities, probabilities, and inspirations. Finding a particularly good handhold, he pulls himself up and finds a ledge large enough to allow him to stretch out…but which also extends back out of the reach of the sun under an outcropping of rock.
I pull myself onto the ledge and enjoy the feel of the rock. I sense how it reaches out to me as I grab for it. I smell the dryness and timeliness of the earth. Even though my fingers, arms, and legs scream with pain, I enjoy where I’m at and how I’ve gotten here. I settle in on my ledge and stretch out. “So what have I really done?” I casually ask the rock walls. “Have I really robbed anyone…really killed anyone?” If there’s nothing to rob, then I didn’t really commit the crime, now, did I? If there’s nothing to kill, then I didn’t really commit a crime there either, did I?
Then why do I feel so damned guilty?
How can it all feel so genuine if it’s all so illusional? I feel like I’m watching myself—or someone else is—like I’m a-I’m a character in a book, or a movie. I feel like there’re these gigantic faces peering down at me from some ungodly distance….
Why can’t I figure this out?
In a sudden burst of anger, I toss my weapon away—only to realize a moment later what I’ve done—but it’s too late. I watch as my beautiful piece of utilitarian artistry flips and sails through the air…end over end, roll after roll…until (ages later) it clatters and bounces and discharges twice off the rocky escarpment below. The discharges echo wildly and I continue to watch stupidly, even after it has settled quietly somewhere in the rubble below.
“So…what did that mean?” I again ask the rocky walls.
Did that have any significance? Was that just some random act of man, God, or nature? Someone or something guiding me? Why would I do such a thing—and furthermore, would I require further use of the weapon? If no one’s ever really killed what need do I have of the thing?
If there‘s no death, then do I need to fear for my life? Do I need a killing machine to protect a life that can’t be taken away—
This is all so damned confusing.
Why is this happening to me? Am I missing something? Getting a vital part of the equation all fouled up and confused?
I fold my legs before me and clasp them with my hands. I look about. Feel the gentle breeze that softly caresses my skin—it doesn’t care what I have or haven’t done. I enjoy my solitude—that I’m alone on this ledge—just me, nothing else, and revel (did I actual use that word?) in the fact that I got myself here. I never would’ve considered doing something like this before, climbing sheer rock walls.
I try to relax, and inhale deeply; close my eyes. When I reopen them, I notice some strange little creature, like a scorpion, but without that menacing, curving, tail, curiously checking me out. It also doesn’t seem to know what I’ve done, what I’m capable of. It cautiously approaches; stops. Comes a little closer…then again stops. It’s quick. We look at each other. I know not what this thing is, and curiously enough, feel no need to kill it.
Why is that?
I reach out to it and it scurries back a step or two, then stops. I keep my hand where it is, and it reapproaches…pauses…then touches my skin.
I feel nothing.
It takes a tentative step or two with its little legs up onto my hand—then scurries the rest of the way up. I lift my hand to eye level and examine it. Whatever it is, it, too, is magnificently crafted and suited to whatever is its purpose. I smile, but suddenly feel sad, and lower my hand back to the dirt ledge. I allow the creature to hop off and continue on in its adventures.
Maybe I’ve misinterpreted everything. Maybe—
I consider suicide.
Launching myself from this ledge to soar like my gun, until I, too, strike the rubble below…but know I could never do such a thing.
Is suicide different from so-called “natural” death?
If fact is fiction, and we make up everything, then doesn’t that also apply to death, that we choose our own time of passing? If this is so, then how is suicide any different from dying from a heart attack? Either way we take our own lives. Could it be our own perceptions that make things right or wrong…our intents—
This is too weird. If I’ve figured it all out, then what am I still doing here? There has to be more…has to be something I’ve missed….
I again close my eyes and lay back against the rock.
“Oh, God—if there is a You—this feels soooo good.”
No deadlines…no hassles…no worries—current philosophical dilemmas notwithstanding. I feel like that book, Catch-22. How can I say I’m crazy, because if I say I am, am I? I wish I had that book here, now, I never did finish it.
I shuffle my hands through the dirt alongside me and touch something unexpected for my surroundings of sand and stone. I look down and find a paperback novel. I pick it up and read its title.
It’s a worn copy…just like the one I last remembered reading.
“Wait a minute…this…this can’t be…unless—”
At that precise moment a rifled bullet slams through Vincent’s forehead, fired from the muzzle of an Arizona State Trooper’s rifle, and Vincent achieves sainthood. It was also then that I realized I was telling my own story…and that though I was a character in that story—as are any of us—characters need to care about themselves, just as readers need to care about them. It’s not about nothing—or even fiction—it’s about love, emotion, and experience—all that and more. It’s what each story means to each individual, each character. We all get out of our stories what we put into them. This is my story.
- Brains (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The Ballad of fReD BeAn (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Spirit of Hope (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Fear (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Rainy Nights and Christmas Lights (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The Ice Gods (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Tick, Tick, Tick, Tock (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Dark Was The Hour (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The Coming of Light (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The World’s Greatest Writer (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The Death of Me (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Tail Gunner (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Do The Dead Dream? (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Short Stories (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Voice (amazon.com)
- Psychic (amazon.com)
- ERO (amazon.com)
- The Uninvited (amazon.com)
- Sleepwalkers (bookstore.authorhouse.com)