For the past few weeks, I've lived in the embrace of apathy—I would wake up, drink coffee, and the day would fly by, immersed in the particles of time. Night came, and the days intertwined into a quantum soup.
The cycle was broken for a moment when Joe invited me to his birthday party. I hate Joe. He was my bully in high school who entered into a relationship with my cousin Ginny, and now we tolerate each other. Joe says he's changed and isn't like he used to be, but seriously, how much can you change in five years? He didn't even go to therapy or anything, he just discovered the inspirational side of YouTube.
I put on the only clean T-shirt I could find and dragged my feet outside. For some inexplicable reason, the smell of my car gives me energy. Maybe it's the air freshener called 'Volcano'. That means someone mixed some good smelling chemicals together and decided that's what a fake volcano smells like.
It started with two shots. That should have been enough, and after that I would just spend a little more time with them and then go home. The only problem is that I haven't done shots in years, so it hit me harder than gravity. A warm feeling came over my body, my eyelids got heavy. Everything sounded funny to me. At one point, Ginny just looked at me and I giggled my ass off. It was really entertaining. Oh, and I had another problem: the feelings for Lauren got stronger. A lot stronger. I could see her face, hear her laugh, and see the glimmer of her skin like a ghostly apparition everywhere I looked.
"Hey buddy, you all right?" asked Joe.
Fuck you, Joe.
"Man, I don't know." That was the only thing I got out of it after the 4th shot.
The truth was... I was not okay. For some reason, I began to be obsessed with the color blue. The depth of the ocean, the color of the sky, the color of her eyes.
The horizon is deep dark blue right now. My windshield is dirty on the inside because it's been raining for a while, and it still looks a little foggy. Damn, I hate dirty windshields. Deftones is blasting from my speakers. The volume isn't particularly high, but the light and sound are twice as vivid as usual. The snake ring wrapped around my index finger catches the streetlight and captivates me for a moment. It feels like nothing, but I miss a red light and a car almost collides with me. The loud honking makes me squint my eyes. Sorry. Or not, I don't care. Only idiots drive under the influence; or people who don't care about their lives - selfish people, if you come to think of it.
Me and Lauren broke up a month ago. She fell in love with the new bartender at the bar she was working at and cheated on me. To be honest, I would have cheated on myself with that guy too. He was damn good looking, arms full of tattoos and all. Anyway, it was still a dick move. I loved her. We had a lot in common; for example, we both hated our childhoods and now struggle with hurt inner children that wreak havoc on our relationships. At least this time I was not the one to blame; God knows I can be an asshole sometimes too.
Where the hell am I? The road to my house did not go through a forest. But I am not mad, it probably saved me from an accident. The road is clean, water flows in streams on both sides. The trees are fascinating in the yellow headlights, dark leaves that make the water roll off in the wind.
My foot presses down on the brake pedal and my senses scream at me to pay attention.
The car comes to a screeching halt—I almost run over a deer lying on the ground. The poor animal must be dead. Or maybe not, it blinks. I get out of the car and notice a trickle of blood oozing from under its leg. It flinches under my touch. I try to lift it and bring it to my car. This proves to be one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. My shirt gets soaked from the mud, but it fits perfectly in the back seat. Thank God for this old junk of a Jeep. The alcohol swims through my blood and laughs at me. What the hell are you doing? What are you going to do with a wounded deer? Anyway, I can't just leave it for dead. I am such a dumbass. I cover it up with my hoodie and keep driving. There has to be a spot where I can turn around without ending up in the ditch.
‘Change’ flies from the speakers as the rain knocks on the car. The alcohol drifts off, because after I manage to turn around and drive back to town, my vision has improved from dizzy to tired.
Something is moving in my rearview mirror. Just my intoxicated brain playing tricks on me.
"Are you going to hurt me?"
The steering wheel spins in my hands as I step on the brake pedal just in time before I collide with a pole. I turn around to find a naked girl covering herself with my hoodie. I stare at her, doubting my sanity. A mumble comes out of my mouth in response. Her big eyes stare at me and her brown hair falls to her shoulders. She flinches, and I remember her wound.
"What happened to your leg?" I ask in disbelief.
"I got stabbed." She says between her teeth.
"I am going to take you to the hospital."
"Fine, then I'll take you to my house."
She does not seem to like that idea either, but I don’t know what else to do. The city is quiet, it resembles a ghost town where we are the only survivors. I have always questioned people's will to fight in apocalyptic movies; I would just pass away.
"You can put on my hoodie. Or I can go upstairs and get you some other clothes."
A shuffle comes from the back seat as I park my car in front of my building; tall, gray and quiet—reminds me of me. Her wandering eyes search me as I open the door for her, my hoodie reaching her knees.
"Can you walk?" I ask.
She sets her bare feet on the wet, cold asphalt, then collapses in my arms. I follow my first instinct and pick her up and carry her up the stairs. Walking with a stab wound in her thigh must certainly not be pleasant. I push the door open with my hip as my annoying and loud neighbor, Carl, helps me in.
"Good evening, buddy!"
Ugh, here we go.
"What you got there?" He asks in a sleazy tone.
I give this one to the alcohol, but I look him straight in the eye and answer, "A person, Carl." And I just walk to the elevator.
As the doors close, the familiar 'suck my dick' greets me, with a penis drawn next to it in permanent marker. The hum of the wires taking us up makes the elevator shake from side to side—but the elevator is not the only thing shaking.
"Are you cold?" I ask the girl.
Her eyes look at me with fear. Her jaw is tense. I may not be the cheeriest guy, but it's unsettling to have someone look at me so frightened.
The stale smell of cigarettes from my apartment permeates the door as I enter. Home sweet, dusty home. I set the girl down on my sofa—the blood from her wound soaks in. I think I need a new sofa; oh, and new car seats. For that, I'll probably just cover it with a blanket or something. The fluorescent light of my bathroom illuminates the white walls as I search for something to tie her wound. I find a bandage in an old first aid kit.
Despite the pain she must be in, her gaze wanders around my apartment. I wish I could find it as fascinating as she does. For me it's just a depression hole.
"I can tie your wound with this."
"I'll do it!"
I hand her the bandage. Dumb me forgot she is naked. Embarrassed, I turn around. This is not how people like Carl must feel like. I go to my refrigerator and find only a couple of Red Bulls, some spoiled milk that I keep telling myself to throw away, a brown banana, and two eggs. My God, how am I still alive? I pull out my phone to see if it's not too late to order something.
"Do you like Chinese?" I ask in a loud voice. When I see she does not answer, I glance back to see if she's okay; she seems to be done.
"Chinese?" Her big eyes stare at me.
I nod and start to fidget from her curious gaze.
“The food,” I add.
"I have never eaten it before."
She pauses in the same position.
"Pizza?" she repeats slowly.
I scratch the back of my head, trying to figure out how to explain to her what pizza is.
"I have eggs, if you want."
"Eggs!" she squeals with excitement.
"Eggs it is."
I pull out the pan and pour in some oil. I open the fridge and almost bump into her as I turn around.
"My God, I almost hit you!"
"What's your name?" She asks as she moves closer to me.
"Aiden, and what's your name?"
"Aiden." She repeats as she looks down.
"Your name is Aiden too?" I giggle.
"No, I am Sofia."
The oil sizzles as it touches the eggs. Little drops splatter everywhere, burning my hands.
"So, how...why did you..." I start.
She looks up at me with her mouth half open.
"You know..." I wave the spatula in the air.
"Why am I turning into a doe?"
"Yes! Thank you!"
"I am not sure why that happens."
She starts playing with my salt and pepper shakers, which are shaped like two ghosts hugging each other. "My parents left me when I was a baby, so I am not sure why."
"And how did you survive?" I ask as I turn the eggs over.
"They left me on the doorstep of an old woman in the woods. She was the one who raised me."
Right now, I feel like I have entered another universe. I swear this is the last time I drive drunk.
"You are upset." She says, analyzing my face.
"I am just confused."
I put the eggs on a plate and discover some edible bread. I put everything on the coffee table in front of the sofa. "Here you go."
"This is for me?"
"Aren't you eating?"
I pull a pack of cigarettes out of my back pocket. It is smashed, but the three remaining cigarettes are intact. Well...almost intact. The tip of the one crooked cigarette hisses as I light it. She eats the eggs in four chunky, messy bites.
"So... who stabbed you?"
She munches the rest of the food and wipes her mouth with my hoodie.
"No one knows that I turn into a doe except the woman who raised me, but she died a year ago. I got caught in a trap and when I tried to get out of it, a man stabbed me. I managed to escape, but then my leg got tired. So I rested a little."
"You rested in the middle of the road while it was pouring?" I chuckle.
"Well, maybe I passed out." She says like it's nothing.
"So you live alone in the middle of the woods?" Ash has fallen from the tip of my cigarette and I wipe it away with my foot.
"Yes." She replies, smiling.
Honestly, oh wow!
"Would you like a pain pill?" I point to her leg.
"No, I heal faster than a normal person. It should be gone by tomorrow."
My elbows rest on my knees and I stare into space as the cigarette burns between my fingers. A crazy thought flashes through my mind: what if they drugged me? What if I am just hallucinating now? Sofia reaches for my hand and slowly pulls the almost-finished cigarette from my fingers. She puts the filter to her lips, puffs, and starts coughing up smoke. "Yacky!"
I laugh as I see her expression contort in disgust. The truth is, I want to ask her a lot of questions, but I do not want to pry.
"How do you manage to survive on your own?" I ask, looking at her reaction. The light from the streetlights coming in through the window behind us makes her eyes look like they are made of glass; big, round glass spheres.
"What do you mean?" She replies.
"Well, what do you eat, for example?"
"Oh, I have milk and cheese from the goats and eggs from the chickens. I also gather berries from the forest." A smile spreads across her face, making me smile too.
"And... did you ever go to school?"
"I never went to school because I could not control my powers. It was not until two years ago, on my 18th birthday, that I did. But you can bet that I can read and write! The woman who raised me made sure of that."
I pull another cigarette from the pack. As the fire of the lighter blinds me for a second, I realize that she's looking at me as I've never seen anyone look at me before: as if I were the most fascinating thing on the planet.
"What was the name of the woman who raised you?"
"I don't know her real name; she made me call her Gaia."
The smoke swirls in shades of blue. My head throbs with a dull ache, probably from dehydration.
"And... are you happy there?" I ask.
Her gaze wanders down before coming back up to me. "What do you mean? I'm never unhappy."
I've never heard anything like that before. I must've frowned too much, because right after that she says: "I'm alive, aren't I? The sun shines every morning, and when it doesn't, I light the fireplace and the fire takes its place. My goats and chickens listen to my every thought, and when they sleep, the moon keeps me company. The forest is my home. Every tree, every living thing has taken me in as a part of it. How can I not be happy there?"
My mouth goes dry from holding it open. A yawn stretches her face.
"Come with me," I say as I stand up and walk into my bedroom. "You can sleep here. I've some work to do and then I'll just sleep on the couch."
Without waiting for her response, I leave and sit down at my desk. Her gaze lingers on me before she crawls into bed without closing the door. A warm feeling floods my chest; maybe that means she trusts me now. The computer screen presses on my eyes before I turn down the brightness. The last thing I remember is resting my forehead on my arm to relieve the headache. It didn't feel like I was asleep, but I must've slept for a few hours because as Sofia shakes me by the shoulder, morning light filters through the windows.
"Aiden, wake up! I have to feed the chickens!"
"What?" I mutter with a bitter taste in my mouth.
"They get cranky if they don't eat at exactly 6am!"
"Oh yes, the chickens," I say, as if this is a normal, daily occurrence. I stand up stiff as a tin man and search for my jacket. I also hand Sofia a pair of pants and some socks. She's swimming in them, with only her cute little head sticking out.
The streets are damp, people with sleepy faces trudge to work. I usually go to bed at this time. Sofia starts bouncing up and down to a pop song playing on the radio. I turn the volume up, which makes her even happier. As soon as we enter the dirt road through the woods, I turn off the radio and ask her: "Where do you want me to drop you off?"
"Right here is just fine."
"I can walk you to your house if you want."
"That will not be necessary. You have been so kind to me." Her eyes are bright blue and shine in the morning sun.
"I thought your eyes were a different color." I giggle.
"Oh, they change color depending on the weather." She grins, showing all her teeth.
I wince as she leans over the gear stick to give me a hug.
"I'll never forget you, Aiden." Her voice rings dull in my chest.
I'm not sure what happened, but I wake up with my head lying back on the headrest. I can tell by the sun that it must be about noon. I hurriedly get out of the car and call out: "Sofia!"
Nothing. Just the wind blowing over the leaves. Have I imagined everything? The bloodstain is still on the back seats. As I turn on the ignition, the radio plays the same pop song Sofia was jamming to. At least I hope she got home safe.