We’re doing Nanowrimo again over at LibriVox… each day a different writer does a new chapter, at the end of the month we’ll have a novel (sort of). It’s fun & we’re looking for more writers if you want to join in: here.
I just finished my chapter, a Haruki Murakami-inspired bit of abstract Japanofilia…was fun, and you don’t need to know anything about the rest of the book to read it, if you are interested:
The rain is pouring down, glowing like yellow bullets in the headlights, smashing into the windshield and the wipers, on high, extra high, wash against the glass, past E’s lower-lip-biting face, over and over and over, thwack thwack thwack thwack like the sound of some manic drummer, some heartbeat, some constant beating against the night, an endless fight against the rain that will not let up that comes harder and harder she thinks she must be drowning in it by now. Eiko is shaking, and cold, hands cramping against the wheel, and she leans right up against it, her nose almost touching the leather of the wheel, so that she can see better, so that she can get under this rain, get closer to wherever it is she is going, a destination that she has forgotten or doesn’t know or never knew, but wherever it is it is better than wherever she has been, which she can’t remember either, except for these quick flashes – police, batons, a truck, a big American truck from the movies, a man, a plaid shirt, a shaving kit, an explosion in a lake, deep beneath a lake, a woman’s breasts, with an amulet hanging between them. Was she running from these memories, these dreams, these images? She didn’t know, did not have time to think, she knew only that she had to keep driving, driving away from what was behind her, that if she let her mind wander, at this speed, in this dark, with this rain, on this windy unknown road wherever it was, she was lost, she would lose control of this car and smash into the dark trees that flashed at her from either side of the road, reaching at her as her headlights hit them illuminated them, trying to grasp at her, one after the other, again and again, to slow her down, get in her way, and flying by her as she kept speeding along past them. The road was getting worse, smaller – one lane now, bumpier, winding more, and she shifted down, and up again as she tore around the bend, and there was a big thunk from beneath her, and she was momentarily weightless, head flung up and back, everything seemed to stop, even the wipers, and she hung there, waiting waiting waiting for something, for the end maybe, for this dark panic in her gut to melt away to, to be washed away with warmth and calm that she knew existed somewhere, had once felt, and she waited for the cramps in her shoulder and neck muscles to loosen and relax, waited for sleep, sleep with no more of these dreams.
The car landed, and she bounced up and down again, and back into position, nose inhaling the leather of the steering wheel, teeth cutting into her lower lip. The paved road had turned to gravel and now she could hear the rocks and stones bouncing up from below her, hitting the undercarriage of the car like bullets, an asynchronous rat-tat-tat-tatat percussion to go along with the constant thwack-thwack-thwack of the windshield wipers that continued their assault on the windshield in front of her.
She turned another corner, felt the car skidding under her, sliding towards the trees, and she shifted down, spun the wheel, as the tail of the old Mercedes got away from her, fishtailing right, and then left, the full nature of her momentum, now beyond her control, and this was it, she had time to think, we think we are in control, pointing in one direction but a false move and everything we are doing is undone, beyond our control, not under it. We don’t control these machines. And she felt something welling up in her, every bit of fear – fear that was already there in her throat now took over her whole body, this is it she thought, maybe I won’t have to run anymore, but whatever she did – she could not have told you if you asked, and she briefly imagined someone asking her later, at a party or in an office somewhere, and how she would smile and giggle a little, and say, I have no idea what I did! Ha! I was so scared! – but, somehow, somehow she managed to get the car straightened, and she realized she was crying, the tears coming down like the rain outside, with no windshield thwack-thwack-thwack to wipe them away.
So she wiped at them, a second, no more, just a second when her hand covered her eyes, one beat, a moment that was so short that the wipers made only one thwack, had maybe begun the second thwack when she opened her eyes, clear of tears now.
And saw him standing in front of her, illuminated in the road, standing tall, taller than any man she had ever seen, dressed in white, drenched with the rain, but just standing there.
And as she slammed on the clutch and the brakes she had time to study him, as the car slowed, and began to skid straight ahead towards him. She did not have time even to spin the wheel – not that it would have made any difference – and as the fender hit his legs she watched is face, a kind face, crumple in pain and exertion, his fine features that reminded her, for some reason, of the black-and-white picture of her father standing, legs spread, hands behind his back, in military at-ease pose, outside their house in the mountains in Akita Prefecture, with his linen shirt and pants, and wire-framed glasses. The body hit the windshield, bounced into the dark, and the car, suddenly was stopped, and silent, except for the windshield wipers, thwack-thwack-thwack. She turned the wipers off and jumped out of the car, the wind and rain hurling abuse at her, and she slipped in the mud grabbing at the hood of the car as she raced to get to him, wherever he was, in front of the car.
He was lying on his back, lit by the bright lights of the headlamps, drenched.
He must be dead she thought, and she knelt beside him, crying again now, and took his face in her hands, wiped his black hair from his eyes. Hello, she said, hello hello please hello are you all right hello…she had never killed a man before, and she thought she might be sick.
Hello, he answered, eyes still closed. Yes, he said, I think I am OK. I think so.
He lifted his left arm, and flexed his fingers, then the next his right arm, and flexed that hand too, eyes still closed. Hands work, he said. Let’s try the legs. Left, then right, he lifted them, nodding. Yes, he said. Feet OK now. Oh, I will have a headache.
Stay, don’t move, Eiko said. What’s your name?
Daichi Okada, he answered.
Don’t move, Okada-san.
He did, he moved, he sat up.
Yes, he said, I will have a headache. He opened his eyes and looked into hers, a gentle smile on his face. He felt his forehead with his hand, tapping and pressing it, then the top of his head, behind it. All my parts are in the right place, he said.
Eiko laughed and cried at the same time, and she hugged him and kissed his neck, and then realized what she was doing, and pulled back, bowing her head. I’m sorry, she said. I’m just happy you are alive.
I know you from somewhere, he answered. And touched her cheek, briefly. Did he really do that, she thought to herself, and yes, yes he did, he did touch my cheek.
She studied him, and yes he looked like her father from that picture, but he can’t be my father, my father has been dead seven, no eight years, and had gray hair when he died, this man is in his thirties or forties. She tells him she does not think it’s possible that he knows her, and he replies, What do you mean, exactly, by possible?
Unsure how to answer him, she helps him to his feet – he groans, but nothing seems broken – and she helps him to passenger seat of the car. He is drenched and his back is covered in mud from the muddy dirt road. She opens the trunk and finds two towels – why did she bring them, she wonders – and gives him one, closes the door, and then installs herself in the drivers seat, using the other towel to dry her hair.
What were you doing out on the road like that? She asks.
Well, it’s my road, it’s a private road, so really I should be asking you that question.
She does not answer but instead starts the engine again, starts the windshield wipers. She doesn’t know how to answer, except to start driving again, which she does, and he doesn’t complain.
I was looking for an Epiphany, he says.
Again she does not answer, she’s not sure what this man means, what he wants, why he was out on the road.
That’s my dog, he says. Epiphany. My wife named him that, it was a joke. She liked to tell people on the phone that I was out looking for an Epiphany. But of course, Epiphany is always escaping. That’s the nature of that dog. I’m always chasing after it in the rain. Always looking for an Epiphany.
But that doesn’t quite make sense, Eiko answers.
I know, she was a sweet woman, my wife, she’s dead now. She thought it was funny, even if the article messed up the joke. She died in the war. I miss her. And if Epiphany wants to spend the night in the rain, that’s her problem.
What war? Eiko thinks but does not ask.
Up here, he says, just a little further, on the left. She slows, and he guides her into the driveway, a small opening in the trees that she never would have seen. This pathway is even smaller than the small road, and the branches of the trees actually caress the side of the car as she continues on, another layer of percussion in the night drive jazz show she’s been listening to since she can remember. Thwack-thwack-thwack rat-tat-tat-tatat shish-shish-shish-shish … They drive, slowly now – she feels safe, and whatever she was driving from is far behind them – down this little winding drive, until finally they come out into a clearing. Her headlights illuminate a little shack, with a kerosene lamp burning in the window, and beyond it she can see rocks and the sea. The rain has stopped, she realizes, but the wipers are still on, thwack-thwack-thwack. She turns them off.
Come in, he says, Let’s have some warm coffee and pie.
A dog barks, runs at them, tail wagging.
Epiphany, Eiko says. And the man says, Yes.
He opens the door to the little shack, and she feels the warmth inside, sees books lining the walls, hears Brahms coming from speakers she cannot see. She steps inside. It is small, open, with a little kitchen, and a loft with a ladder and a bed; two chairs by a desk and piles of books, a microphone on a stand. She is shivering, cold and wet deep in her bones, but she feels the cold (and the fear, and the panic) seeping away. Epiphany curls up in the corner, and Daichi Okada closes the door.
Coffee, he says. And pie.
Eiko? Daichi asks and he gently touches her shivering arm. Do you have a passport?
Huh… passport? she blinks. Well, yes, I have a passport. In the car.
Okay then, he says. That’s good. There is someone who wants to meet you. But first, coffee. And pie.