The Road

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The Road Empty The Road

Post  Jessica Swanson on Fri Jul 23, 2010 1:24 pm

You can’t understand the pure splendor and terror of falling until you’re actually experiencing it, and then afterward you can never remember or describe the exact feeling. It’s nothing like flying, if you can imagine flying- you aren’t soaring or floating or swooping through the starry England sky with a fairy and a boy that never ages. You’re utterly out of control and everything is zipping past you and you just know you’re about to smack the ground and splatter yourself on the sidewalk and make a sloppy mess that some underpaid maintenance person will come out tomorrow and clean up, and people will walk by and say, “Oh, it looks like somebody threw up,” not realizing that the disgusting goop they see adorning the cement is actually your body, your brains and guts and marrow strewn out like a scattered puzzle.
And then the cord snaps up and you are flying, leaping back up and landing and shimmying out of the sweaty harness, and you wonder how you let your friends dare you into this.
“Having fun, Andrea?” yelled Kara as I ran down the steep staircase to the ground. She was standing next to our friends Aiden and Maria and holding a funnel cake. The carnival was in town, and my friends had promised to buy me a treat of my choice if I did the one thing they all desperately wanted to try but were too intensely terrified to ever actually do it: the bungee jump.
“I’ve never been so afraid in my whole life,” I gasped when I reached them. “I seriously think my blood is, like, ninety-five percent adrenaline right now.”
“Are you gonna throw up?” Maria asked cautiously, backing away. “These are, like, brand new,” she said, gesturing to her purple Converse.
“If you’re too nauseous to eat your elephant ear, can I have it?” said Aiden.
“No way!” I laughed, elbowing him out of the way and taking my dessert from Kara. “And it’s a funnel cake, not an elephant ear.”
“Same difference,” he shrugged. “Let’s go on the Vortex!” Every year Aiden tried to get us to go on what Maria had dubbed the “Spinning Terror of Ultimate Doom,” and every year we opted out for the Ferris Wheel, which Maria and Kara agreed to when I suggested it. “Aw,” groaned Aiden. “That ride’s only for old people and couples who wanna make out at the top.”
“Not with these new signs,” Maria said, pointing to one of the plastic signs that were posted around the fairground. “They’re seriously cracking down on PDAs.”
“That’s because last year this little kid saw these two teenagers gettin’ all… grop-y,” Kara shuddered. At fourteen and three months, she was the youngest of us and absolutely detested anything to do with sex. We usually found it endearing, but there were times when Maria and I wanted to gossip about who had “done it” with whom, during which we’d grow tired of Kara’s constant “Bleurghs!” and she would draw away with a disgusted Aiden.
“I’m happy about the new rule,” said Maria, surprising everyone. She’d thrown a fit earlier when we told her she couldn’t bring David, her current boyfriend, and that going to the Nebraska Annual Fun Fair was a four-person tradition we’d held since third grade.
“Help!” screamed a woman somewhere near us, interrupting our conversation. “Help, I lost my son! Terry? TERRY!!!” I saw a carnival worker run over to her and begin questioning her in a low tone.
“This is why people need to keep their kids on a leash,” muttered Kara.
“That’s awful!” I complained. “It’s like child abuse.”
“Yeah, and those stupid little bears are so tacky,” yawned Maria. I waited for Aiden to say something to her about how she should really be looking at the bigger picture when I realized that he was gone.
“Hey, what happened to Aiden?” I asked suddenly, cutting of Maria’s rant about toddler fashion.
“Yeesh, it’s like a crime wave,” said Kara. It only took me one scan of the crowd to spot him- he was conversing with the woman and the worker.
“He’s seriously concerned about this kid,” murmured Maria.
“Of course,” I replied. “Remember Greg?” Greg, Aiden’s little brother, had been kidnapped at the mall four years ago. They hadn’t ever found him, and the police had eventually convinced his family that he was gone, but Kara, Maria, and I all knew that every night Aiden jogged around his neighborhood and called out his brother’s name.
“Oh, thank God!” we heard the woman exclaim, and turned back to her. Aiden was leading a boy that looked about twelve or thirteen back to her. The boy, Terry, ran to his mother and let her hug him. The woman said something to Aiden, and from where we were it looked like “Thank-you so much.” He was smiling, a sad, peaceful sort of smile, the kind you see more often on the face of a fifty-year-old than a fifteen-year-old. We hurried over to him, and arrived just within earshot to hear Terry apologizing to his mom.
“I was really just over there, this guy was carrying one of those big stuffed bananas that they give out as prizes and I wanted to know where he got it.”
“You never leave my sight again,” she scolded. “Say thank-you to the nice boy who walked you back.”
“Thanks,” Terry muttered sullenly in Aiden’s general direction.
“Glad I could help,” he replied, turning away from the reunited mother and son. “Guys, can we go home now?” he asked in a lower tone.
“Yeah,” said Maria, at the same time Kara said,
We were all within walking distance of our homes. Maria was nearest to the fair, then Kara, then Aiden, and I was furthest. As we neared Maria’s house, she and Kara began referring to Aiden as a hero.
“You’re like… Superman, you know?” exclaimed Maria.
“Not really,” he replied bashfully. “I found a kid who’d wandered off. It’s not the same as battling Lex Luthor or something.”
“Nerd,” snorted Kara.
“This is my neighborhood,” said Maria. “Goodbye, Kara, Andrea! Goodbye, Superman!” She ran off. Soon, we’d left Kara at her house and had reached Aiden’s neighborhood.
“Goodnight, Andrea,” he said.
“Are you going to sleep already? It’s only nine.”
“I might take a walk or something,” he said, smiling that melancholy smile that made him look decades older than he was.
“Okay,” I said. “Goodnight, hero.” He laughed a short laugh that sounded a little forced, and then he turned around and ran down the sidewalk. As I walked away, I thought I heard him call, “Greg!” before his voice was carried off by the wind.

Terrence Jorgans sat in his office in New York City, studying a long essay in front of him about how aquatic life could be used to find other sources of fuel. It was extremely tedious, but he had to finish it so he could discuss it in the meeting he had later today. He groaned and shoved it to the side of his desk, deciding that a coffee break was necessary. However, as he stood up to leave, a tall man who looked about in his mid-twenties swung open the door and stepped into the room. “Hi, Mr. Jorgans,” he said rapidly. ”I’m Greg Ambles, the new intern. Your secretary told me I was supposed to come here and you were going to brief me.”
“Right, right,” Terrence said, remembering the conversation he’d had this morning with his secretary, Amy. “Sit down,” he instructed, gesturing to the chair in front of his desk and sinking into his own.
“I just wanted to let you know that it’s really an honor to work here,” said Greg, and Terrence thought that he, above all the sycophants that usually said this identical line, sounded truly sincere. He wondered what the kid would think in nine years, when he was stressed and loaded with paperwork and running on two hours of sleep and a cup of coffee, when he forgot his daughter’s birthday because he was too busy memorizing the energy sources that could be found in Central America. He decided not to tell the intern that. It wasn’t fair scaring them on the first day.
“Well, Greg… Ambles… by any chance are you related to Aiden Ambles?” Terrence asked suddenly, the name sparking a memory. His mother often liked to tell this story. When he was a kid, about ten or eleven, he’d walked away from her at a fair and had been returned to her by someone named Aiden Ambles. Though Terrence could no longer remember the stranger’s face, or the fear he’d felt when he realized he was lost, he remembered his savior’s name because of his mother’s repetition of it.
“I don’t think so,” the intern said. “I don’t actually know my family, I grew up in an orphanage in Minnesota.”
“Oh,” dismissed Terrence. “Just a coincidence, then. So, the first thing you should know about this place is that it’s a learning environment. Everything is theoretical, so we can afford to make mistakes and learn from them. However…”
Jessica Swanson
Jessica Swanson

Posts : 31
Join date : 2010-07-23
Age : 22
Location : Summerville, South Carolina

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