Look at the lights, daddy. I want to see them, I-
Reuben awoke suddenly with an involuntary yelp that sounded thick and unnatural in the frozen silence of the morning. His entire body was trembling with the sudden adrenaline spike and, in spite of the negative-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, slightly unseasonal but not entirely unheard of out here in the hidden corners of the Canadian Rockies in May, he could feel his t-shirt clinging to him from the cold sweat enveloping his body.
"Dream," he said dumbly, the motor function that controlled his mouth not yet awake. "It was just a dream. God damn it." His breath was quiet but ragged, quivering nervously along with his hands. He had quit smoking over thirteen years ago, but he could have easily smoked his way through an entire pack right there.
As reality gradually began to seep in, he dragged his mind away from the sticky tar-like dredges of the nightmare that still clung fast to his mind; the images and sounds that yet flashed in his eyes like subliminal messages. There but not quite there. He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling of his Dodge Camper.
He paid undue attention to every dent, mark and imperfection in the ceiling. He followed patterns of air bubbles in the plastic from where the weather had seeped into the insulation. He reached up and brushed his fingers against a dog-eared flap where it had peeled away near the vent in the roof. Anything that would cement him to the here and now, and separate him as much as possible from the vivid horrors of the ghosts that swam like sharks in his mind.
Even more than two years later, it still hurt when the dreams came. The moment he saw his little girl die was painful enough. The dreams were even worse; in the dreams, everything was in painful slow motion, like everything was engulfed by invisible mulch. In his nightmares, it was like being inside a movie that kept skipping and jumping sporadically to the parts he didn't want to see.
He lay there until the colourless haze of early morning gave way to the sunrise. Eventually, with a grunt, he swung his legs over the bunk and hopped down; being six-foot-two meant that he perpetually stood with a cricked neck inside the van, but it meant having a high bunk was easy to hop in and out of.
He robotically began boiling water and fishing through the cabinets for coffee. He had bought one of those big industrial-sized tubs of instant coffee granules. The label said '1,000 servings!' Enough to last a couple of years, if he didn't mind slightly stale coffee. It tasted like dirt-water and smelled even worse, but it was hot, bitter and high in caffeine; just what he needed to get him going after a lousy night's sleep.
His body did an involuntary shiver, and he realised that last night he'd fallen asleep in little more than a t-shirt and his boxers.
It wasn't snowing, but if it wasn't freezing out then it was close to it. As the water began to bubble gently in the small pan, Reuben fished around on the floor for the pants and socks he'd kicked off the night before. He also found a thick marino wool sweater in the closet and pulled it on, revelling in the instant warmth.
"All right, what's for breakfast?" he muttered to himself. He reached down to open the fridge and then something in the back of his mind stopped him. His hand hovered above the door handle, and slowly moved away.
"What wait day is it..." his eyes diverted to a small battery-operated calendar stuck to the wall, next to the solar battery regulator. His eyes widened in disbelief.
Two years, he thought. "Oh fuck me running," he grumbled. It was time to go home. Breakfast and coffee both forgotten, he made his way to the cockpit of the van, dropped down into the passenger seat and began rifling through the glove box until he found a small, digital dictaphone. Firing it up, he waited impatiently, right foot tapping restlessly, for the device to be ready.
YOU ARE READING
Ain't No GraveGeneral Fiction
In the wake of his daughter's untimely death and his estranged wife's descent into alcoholism, Reuben Clark has spent the last two years living without internet, radio or human interaction in a camper van in the Canadian wilderness. Feeling as recov...