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How Many Lives

Story by Cedrix E. Clarke (Read author interview) September 23, 2014

art by dem_Christoph

It was the silence of flight that Jenny noticed. When the tires of the Camry left the shoulder of the road and went over the cliff, the only change of sound should have been the absence of the tread of the tires, but there was nothing. She had a moment that confused her, but she realized time had slowed, or maybe stopped, and the sound waves from the engine, air conditioner, and stereo were suspended while she was lost in the moment. The sounds were still there waiting for the moment to begin anew, and it was the oddest part of dying. Jenny knew she couldn’t survive the crash into the rocks below, and she found irony in that she’d been singing along with AC-DC’s Highway to Hell. Of all days to die, this is not the one she would have picked, and she would have chosen a much better way for her life to end. Not the day the divorce was final in a car crash. She worried that it was almost a cliche. She wondered if she could survive, but all she could see through the windshield was white—

—from the glare of the lights in her eyes. She screamed at the top of her lungs as she felt Julia emerging, and it hurt terribly. She squeezed Jack’s hand, as if holding on to the pain, for snapshot of a memory, and he urged her to push, push, push—

—but the ring wouldn’t slide on her finger. She didn’t panic, but saw that Simon was about to lose it in front of all their friends and family, so she reached to his hand and held it and he looked up at her, and she smiled. He resisted smiling back until she whispered, “Don’t worry.” That’s when his face lit up, and she looked into his turquoise blue eyes—

—and saw the anger there. Her father held the used condom between his thumb and forefinger and screamed, “Jesus fucking Christ. You’re only fifteen. If your mother was alive…” She wanted to scream that she loved Brad, wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, but she couldn’t overcome the self-hatred for disappointing her father. When he turned—

—he handed her the half-smoked joint and exhaled the sweet smoke. “Are we going screw or what?” he asked. She wished she could remember his name, and it was on the tip of her tongue. Lonnie? Gale? She wanted to answer that as soon as he got out the coke, she’d fuck him, but instead she reached—

—for the file, opened it, and glanced at her notes. She looked up at her client and said, “Even if we plead it down, you’re going to spend two years in jail. It’s a second offense, man. I’m sorry.” She saw that he watched her—

—open the file, glance at her notes like she cared about him, and when she looked up, he saw the fake sympathy. She told him the best she could do was two years. It was just a job to her. Fuck her, he thought. He made a fist, and—

—she rubbed her eyes, trying to get the tears back in. She didn’t want to cry. Her mother wouldn’t want her to cry. They’d prepared for death since Dr. Cooper told them the cancer had spread. She felt the world shift beneath her feet, and she had to sit down. Jesus. Both parents in a year. A tissue appeared in her hands, and she wiped—

—off as much of her blood as he could from his murdering hands—

—onto a paper towel and wondered why the hell she hadn’t been paying attention to the fucking game. Brandon was on second base, and she should have been watching him and not talking to Alice. But Alice was telling her about the size of her boyfriend’s cock, and that image still wouldn’t go away. She reached into her purse, which was still sticky with the blood that had gushed out of her nose, and grabbed the baseball where it had landed and held it up. A fucking foul ball. She’d give it to Brandon after the game, to make him happy despite the loss. Her grip on the ball loosened and it fell—

—down with the urgent pull of gravity as the moment reformed, and all the sound waves began again with all clarity in the world and a sudden and loud HAAARUUUMMPPHHH. Bon Scott sang “… I’m on the hiiiiiiighway to hellllll…” and Jenny screamed a scream that lasted long enough for the Camry to slam into the rocks. As she laying dying, Jenny felt cheated. None of those memories had been hers. Why didn’t she get to see her life flash before her eyes just like the cliché? Why did she have to see moments in the lives of strangers? But they hadn’t been strangers, Jenny realized, and she knew only what the dying know. She’d been all these people, and they’d all had been her, like fingerprints on her soul. And she’d be born as another and another until she’d lived all her lives, not in any particular order, for time had no real meaning. Her last breath carried one final thought: How many lives could one soul live?

About the Author

Cedrix E. Clarke is a pseudonym for a Kentucky writer that has written his entire adult life, but only recently began self-publishing his writing. His short stories appear on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Cedrix has a professional day job in a small town in Kentucky and writes at night, and like most comic book heroes, he must protect his identity. Cedrix does not fight crime…not yet, anyway.

About the Artist

Photo by Flickr user dem_Christoph via Flickr Creative Commons.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-Five of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Five

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