Unto The Night

Unto The Night
Amazon.com/ron koppelberger

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Possum Desperation

Ron Koppelberger
Possum Desperation
Trace Merchant had driven the same eighty mile track for the last three years, from Hammock Orange to Orlando and back. The route wasn’t simple, nevertheless Trace found it to be the most expedient way to point B. He had to travel the back road passage between blossom preserve and East Orlando, fifty of the eighty miles through tangles of ancient oak, mossy swamp lands full of alligators and snakes; through the mystery of ancient drama, through vistas uninhabited and he had chanced to wonder what would happen if he broke down somewhere in the midst of the morass? It was a passing thought, not really meriting further consideration, besides this was the shortest route between the Hammock and Orlando.
The Impala was black with fat silver trim and she ran like a top. Trace was nearly twenty miles into the lush jungle terrain, nearly half way there he thought as the speedometer pushed eighty around one of the meandering curves.
The possum scraped at the loose soil with it’s front paws, looking for beetles and grubs, she was hungry. She lifted her head for a second at the sound of the approaching car; in that moment she decided to cross the concrete path.
The car sped closer and the possum scrabbled into the road near the yellow painted divider. She watched as the car, a huge black silhouette roared around a blind curve. She remained still in fear, it won’t see me she thought crouching down in the center of the road.
For Trace the moment hung suspended in a flash. He saw the crouching possum and jerked the wheel hard to the left. The car leaned on two wheels and flipped over into the rushing shadow of palm scrub and cattail filled ditch. The car careened off the soft mossy embankment and into a pine tree; there it came to rest on it’s side wheels turning and motor revving for purchase.
Trace groaned and reached for the key, turning it he cut the engine. For a moment of hypnotic divorce, divorce from the reality of the moment, in a breath of seconds he saw himself lying against the drivers side door. There was a deep gash on his right hand, the patter of dripping blood filled the silence. He tried to move and a sharp grinding pain blossomed in his left leg. Was it broken? He wasn’t sure but it hurt like hell.
Trace inhaled deeply and unbuckled the seatbelt. At least he had worn the belt, it had probably saved him from flying through the windshield. He had to work at it and the pain in his leg was nearly overwhelming, but he managed to move into a sitting position. Looking upward at the passenger door he realized he’d have to climb through the window. The glass was shattered and it lay in piles around his bottom.
The sky went from a shadowy azure and piercing yellow to a burnt orange twilight as the hours passed silently. A flock of seagulls flew east toward the distant ocean and Trace saw them through the shattered passenger glass; they were flying in a triangle heading toward warm seas and inland perch.
He maneuvered himself into a crouch, his leg hurt and he determined it wasn’t broken but sprained, nevertheless the pain was a terrific pulsing heartbeat in his hip and knee. Reaching upward he pulled himself into a standing position. His head poked through the passenger window. Orange twilight reflected in his tired eyes and the gentle whisper of a warm wind ruffled the bloody strands of hair against his forehead.
Trace pressed his good leg against the side of the drivers seat and began climbing through the window. After struggling for a few moments he found himself sitting atop the door, feet dangling down into the smashed Impala.
Trace sat there looking at the curve in the road, there were skid marks and a dirty slash in the embankment. He was lucky, no major injuries or at least he didn’t think so. He tapped out a cigarette from his breast pocket and lit it. The cool mentholated burn of the smoke filled his lungs as he leaned back and blew a cloud of smoke into the bloody twilight above.
The bleeding on his right hand had stopped, drying into a thick maroon scab. He wouldn’t bleed to death anyway. Swinging his injured leg over the side of the car he prepared to jump down to the mossy embankment. He had his good leg pointed down as he dropped down to the weedy ditch. A sharp stinging jolt traveled through his leg as he hobbled to the side of the road.
The shadows were a reflection of it’s eyes, it’s demeanor of ancient embrace, it’s silhouette in awe of the hammock, it’s eternal end and it’s place of secret, in wrath by degrees of hunt. Up until now it had been sated with small deer, and last week a coyote, separated from it’s companion travelers. It had been tough, stringy and unsatisfying. This was the promise, it’s time of imprisonment would come to an end. The promise, it’s destiny to purvey the wants of a greater ascension, he would have the man, for his promise for the future of his need, in blood, in triumph in the dark caress that would bring the others from the ethereal prison that bound them to the dreadful primitive substance of exile and isolation; the man would be his and the promise would come on the heals of dark stars and bleeding passions of flame. It waited and watched as the man stepped into the road. The two lane pass stretched into the distant swamp. Trace looked both ways’ left then right. He realized the odds of another car courting the back ally trail was unlikely. There were patches of grass and cracked unused pavement for another thirty or so miles. He would head south. Remembering the route he knew there was a service station near the end of the secondary passage. Thirty miles on a bad leg he thought. He began limping toward the frayed indigo line of darkness opposite the bloated orange sun.
The possum sat still, silent watching the man, smelling blood, his blood and something else, something dark waiting for the man or maybe the small scrabbling purchase it held on life. It was old and grown black with the despair of a hundred monsters; it had an eye for the hunt. The possum crept along the shaded wood following the man south. The possum would leave the security of it’s home, a hollow stump in the forest edge for the pilgrimage south. The possum followed the man and the glimmer of nightmares in desire, in wont of unbidden passion, of dreams in unleashed fury and freedom. A freedom of dark secret ambition in the abodes of man, in stealth and eternal hunt, it would peruse; it knew the others would come. The shadows and bent angles of egress birthing freedom from the captive alliance of the swamp. All in all the beast thought about it’s pain and how to slake it’s thirst with the blood of the man.
Trace watched the sky go from a sapphire glow to pinpoints of starlight and a crescent moon giving only a small sliver of pale light. He was wearing whit tennis shoes and he quietly thanked god for Fridays; Friday was casual dress day at the office. He was wearing a gray t-shirt, blue jeans and the white tennis shoes. On any other day he would have been wearing patent leather loafers, black thin soled bad for walking long distances, and a three piece suit.
He worked at mortgage Estates Inc., he was an estate distributor and an agent for the dearly departed. The long track to work had been worth it, his first year he had grossed Three hundred and fifty thousand and now he was earning over a million a year. The god’s had been very good to Trace Merchant.
Trace thought about the Dryer account as he limped forward. He had fudged the receipts, Eleanor Dryer had left Four million in bearer bonds behind. Trace had access to the safety deposit box they were carefully stored in. A key, a secret key to greener vistas; he had taken the bonds never mentioning them to his partners or Eleanor’s family. Four Mill free and clear. He wasn’t really greedy nevertheless he had taken advantage of the opportunity. He knew he had worked the option to the max, the grand plot and the key to a diamond bonus.
His eyes wandered to the tall pines on either side of the road, whispers of guilt, He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Hard crusted blood scratched his dry lips.
Trace hobbled along in the darkness for an hour or so. The enchanting trail marked by moss laden trees and scrabbling sounds that emanated by the woods set him on edge a cautious trepidation in a strange dream. He looked into the shadows ahead and the narrow line of concrete stretched forward to an eternity of crickets and croaking toads. He worried about snakes, alligators from the swampy prayers of ethereal smoke and hanging hammocks. Pausing, he moved to the side of the road, he would need a crutch to walk with, something to balance his aching hip and sprained knee. The ditch line was half full of swampy green water and cattails in bloom.
He moved to the edge of the water line and tried to jump to the opposite bank. He’d find a tree branch to support his aching sprain. His good leg propelled him about half way across the ditch as he landed knee deep in water and weed. Pin wheeling he fell backward to the edge of the ditch. His eyes squinted reflexively at the cool rush of water that soaked his legs and back. “Dammit!” he gasped. He pulled himself across the channel and into the grassy overgrowth. Laying there, soaked warmth from his body gluing his shirt to his back, he listened to the cascade of chirping insects and something a heavy crashing sound.
He thought of the black bears that were native to the area, huge paws and sharp crushing teeth. He was silent, controlling his exhalations as he lay in the secret of a drama told in sashes of evening tide dreams, maybe it’s a nightmare he thought as he pictured the bear and it’s hungry maw, the wild passage and the nighttime mists were surreal almost like a cloak of otherworldly illusion, maybe a dream he thought as well.
He watched from a distance in the pine and gnarled oaken root. The man was moving slow, it would have plenty of time to take him, to make his substance his own in chance and fated fathers of darkness, darkness from distant vistas in the sky and the endless cycle of travelers in wont. It would wait for the right moment, the second the stars told their song of shadow and embracing desire for freedoms unbound, by the fetters of ancient prisons and the shaped lines of rebuke. It would wait.
The possum crouched still near the man away from the hunter, away from the odor of decay and swamp gas silhouettes. She was in rare wonder of his journey, seeking the destiny of possums and man in instinct. She dug into the soft soil finding a mole cricket, she swallowed it in one gulp satisfying her hunger.
Trace looked at the wan paper machet sliver of light the moon gave. He lay there damp, chilled in a humid brackish adornment. Gathering his will he climbed the weedy embankment to the line of trees. After searching for a few moments he found a branch. “Perfect.” he said aloud. The branch would act as a crutch.
Trace followed the tree line opposite the ditch until he came to a yielding stretch, a pine tree declared the promise of the opposite bank as it weighed cradles of fallen leaves, pine needles in thick morass against the small stream. Trace used the fallen pine and it’s sprawl to cross the murky ditch.
Calm, casually compliant he sat down on the warm pavement of the two lane passage. He wondered, overtures of greed he thought in quiet devotions of conscious guilt. “What the hell is it to you? It’s only four friggen million.” he said to the rolling clouds overhead, to the darker enticement of night skies and wild swamp. Prickling heat coursed through his sprained leg as he changed position on the concrete. Reflex, it had been reflex and utility; he had proclaimed the shores of bearer bond worship at alters green, four million green, and here he sat soggy, wounded and crowned king shit by the way of a friggen possum, a shade of punishment made for a wayward bastard.
Trace rubbed his eyes and listened to the crashing sound moving closer from within the forest, closer to the edge of the ditch. It sounded heavy, maybe hungry, hunting for food, maybe an alligator or a bear, A panther on the yeowl.
It moved slowly through the Lilly pads and brackish muck, belonging to the cognate flow of shadow and dark substance, closer to the man. It paused as it listened to the mans breath, warm distantly beseeching the call of towers in stone, the rustle of human existence. It moved closer, arguing force purpose and bond, the bond of pursuer and prey, for the will of the silhouettes waiting by patient shores, by the sufferance of prisons in rhythm with the ebony night horizons of elder pass, of ancient captive waiting; it moved closer in anticipation of a new way, the way of men, bent unto the wont it was destined to fulfill.
It watched, closer now, near the edge of the ditch, hidden in secret by the fronds and cattail evanescence of its terrain, holding its exhalations it’s green moss laden back rippling in power, the power of ageless embrace. It opened its mouth prefacing it’s need for the mans blood; lichens and black soil fell from its awakening maw closer, closer to the second it would find liberation from the realms of damp earth to stony trespass along the child of humanity and its perseverance.
The man shimmered in auras of unseen remedy, first red then pale blue. Its eyes perceived those moments and the thirst it felt was staggering. It hummed in a low growl and the man moved to a standing position, seeing him, in fear, in horror of its presence, its terrible visage.
Trace heard the crashing in the palm metto scrub and cattails move closer. Thoughts of wild wolves, bears and panthers on the hunt filled his mind and tempered his nerves to the point of fear. He turned, catching a glimpse of something in the shadow, huge, dark and growling in hungry instinct. Trace stood ready to run, bad leg to hell he thought. He watched the cattails separate and listened to the heavy rhythm of giant unbidden footfalls, animal, wicked smashing closer across the bank into view. The sliver of moon glow shone in vivid appeal to the terror of a thousand demons, a backwoods visage of hell lured by the smell of freedom and blood, nightmares wrought to heights of fiendish revolt, monsters by nameless horrible beyond, careening insanity and the core of secret existence.
The creature exuded the cloying odor of swamp decay, moss moldy bread and molasses sweetness. It stood nearly two feet taller than traces six feet, and it was in a crouch hunched forward as it moved toward him yellow eyed and rippling in damp soils of ancient mystery. It screamed and the sound disturbed the sleeping thrush as they sang and flew upward in unison, sensing the beast and its desire.
Trace watched as sharp edged talons, spears of deadly grasp…..long he thought they looked like yellow ivory knives on it muscled hands. Its teeth ground together in a loud sandpapery dance back and forth, they were dirty moss covered in need in yearning wont for him.
Trace held his crutch like a spear in front warding off the dark countenance of the aged aberration. In a moment of insane revelation he saw the stack of bearer bonds in bloom, blowing in the wind, crisp and brittle like fallen leaves, an autumn death and the beast devouring him, his blood spraying across the stack of bearer bonds.
The possum moved in an uncomplicated arc behind and around the beast, dashing to the front, near its enormous mud laden feet. Traces leg gave in that moment and a symphony of coincidence occurred. The beast stumbled a second later, tripping over the scrambling possum. Trace held his crutch like a sword as he lay on the warm gritty concrete. The creature tottered for an instant screaming and flailing clumsily then fell forward onto Trace, impaled by the crutch. Its shadow covered Trace in an assembly of moss and swamp silt. Trace expelled a mouthful of dirt and clawed at the moldering pile of moss that covered him in heaps and soggy piles. In an infantile effort he rolled out of the damp pile of decaying leaves, pine needles, moss and swamp mud.
Gathering his will he overcame the storm, the tempest swollen by the reverie and worship of demons and legends in darkness. Once again he saw the lie, the sin in his tempered world of finance and quick cash. He discovered his spirit in that moment of contemplation. “Monsters and men.” he whispered as he hobbled away from the remains of the demon and the approach of sin. He realized he didn’t really need the cash, the experience heeded the birth of innocence, the basic awakening of what was possible in a world wrought with the weight of blind horizons and beggars in play.

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