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SURVIVAL
Elizabeth Lowry

White.
Hot white.
White hot.
White white.
One giant square of lustrous, polished, searing white, obstructing vision and obliterating thought. White on white on white.
Tumbling white.
Radiant white.
Suffocating white.
Black

 

Prickles.
Spackles.
Prickles and spackles.
Prickles on skin. Spackles before eyes. Chill wrapped body.
Don't wake up.

This didn't happen. I'm not really here. I'm really at home cooking dinner and this is just a phantasmagoric hallucination and any second it will disappear. Better yet, I'm in bed. I'm in bed and this is one of those waking dreams and as soon as I can wake up I'll be fine.
This is not real. This is not happening. This is not
Oh, God.
My head. Who is dragging a rail spike around the inside of my head? A thick, heavy, steel rail spike is scratching designs on the underside of my skin and heading for my eye. My eye. God, my eye. It's going to puncture my eye from the back and come out through the front and gush white egg stuff all over my face and somebody stop that rail spike
Get a hold of yourself. It's just a headache. I hit my head. It's just a headache and I hit my head this morning and I hit it again and it's only right that I should have a headache. A double headache. But just a headache. Not a concussion. Don't even think concussion. It wasn't a concussion this morning and it's not a concussion now and it's not going to be a concussion.
See. You can see. It's dark but it's night and it's supposed to be dark at night and you can see what you're supposed to see and what you're supposed to see is dark. And stars. And moons.
One moon.
One car.
My car. My car. MY CAR. My car is on top of me and I'm underneath my car and they wrecked my car and I'll never be able to fix it
Oh, God.
Please, God, no. Not this. Don't trap me like this. Not this time. Any other time, but not this time. I swear, I can handle it some other time, but not right now. It's just not a good time.
My leg. I can't move my leg. I can't I have to. I have to try. Just try and move it a little. Wait do the right leg first. Move the right back and forth, just a little, just a bit. You can see it. It's all there. It's free. It moves. Now the other
Oh
God
Pain.
Relax. Relax. Breathe easy. It's easy. Concentrate. Don't tighten. Don't cramp. Don't clench. Relax. Loosen up. Don't fight it. Let it go. See? It helps. It helps. No pain. Breathe easy, breathe light, no pain.
No way.
Now think.

Where are you?
I'm in a canyon.
Where?
In Topanga.
WHERE?
I'm in Topanga Canyon. Just off Mulholland. About two miles east of Pacific Coast Highway. Maybe four miles north of Santa Monica. About six miles west of Encino.
Okay. How are you?
Alive. I'm alive. I'm alive but my car is upside down on top of me and my leg is trapped. My right leg is free but my left leg is trapped. It looks like the seat fell on top of my left leg and now I can't get it out.
Try.
No.
TRY.
Okay. Oh God, it hurts. I can't.
It's all right. How bad is it?
I don't know.
Yes, you do. How bad is it?
It's broken. Up high, I think. It's probably my femur.
Bone protruding?
I don't think so. Doesn't feel like the skin is broken. I don't see any blood. It just hurts.
Up high is bad.
I know. I need help.
How about your head?
Head hurts. Bad gash. It's bleeding.
The head always bleeds a lot, even when it's not so bad. There are just lots of little vessels under the skin. How bad?
Not bad. Just big. But I have a headache.
Concussion?
Maybe. I don't know. This is twice in one day.
Were you unconscious?
Yes.
How long?
Not long. Maybe an hour.
You're sure?
Look at the time. It was four-thirty when I left. It's six now. And my watch hasn't stopped. And before you ask, it's supposed to be dark at six. This is February. It gets dark early.
Your vision isn't blurred?
No. My vision isn't blurred. And my ears aren't ringing. And my nose still smells. My head just hurts.
Shock?
Maybe. Probably. Yes. Clammy skin. Thready pulse. I'm sweating. It was hot today, but the ground won't hold the heat. It will get cold tonight, and I'll get colder. And it's supposed to be hot again tomorrow. I'll get too hot during the day, and too cold at night
You know he'll miss you by tomorrow morning.
That's twelve hours away. And he doesn't know where I am.
He'll find you.
And in the meantime?
Help yourself.
Okay.

I can sit up. Almost. At least I've got some mobility. My arms work. My back doesn't hurt. Yet. Okay. So think. I'm hurt, I'm trapped, and I didn't tell anyone where I was going. So I've got to get some help. Officer in trouble here. Officer needs assistance. I've got to get someone's attention. I can't move a lot, but I can still yell.
Someone will hear. Someone will hear me yelling. Some rich son-of-a-bitch who owns a ranch out here will hear my hollering and help. Some surfer dude and his bikini babe will hear my screams and help. Some passing car will hear my shouts and come to my aid and help.
Yeah, sure. Fat chance. This place is deserted. They'll never find me. That's why they picked it
Shit! They tried to kill me! Someone tried to kill me! This was a set-up, goddamn it! A goddamn set-up! Someone someone that motherfucker Scobie set me up! And I'll bet it was for that fucking Humphries I busted this morning! I'm lying out here on my back with my leg trapped under my wrecked car because that scumsucker Humphries wanted me dead and that ratshit Scobie set me up! And it almost worked! I'll kill him! I'll kill both of them! I'll kill both of them and that fucking lawyer Balford, too! I'll push them all off a cliff and send TWENTY cars down on top of them

Get help.
They tried to kill me!
It didn't work. Get help.
Those motherfuckers
Those motherfuckers aren't here. You are. And your condition isn't stable.
I need help!
Get help. Try the radio.
Okay.

Goddamn scum-sucking lousy fucking bastard filth! If it's the last thing I do I'm going to see to it that Humphries and whoever else was involved with him goes to the lowest level of hell for this little trick. I can't wait to see his face when I show up to hand him a warrant for attempted murder. My attempted murder. I can't wait to see that greasy little smile of his melt into absolute terror. I'm going to take him to court and nail his leathery little hide to the wall for everything I can. I'm going to sit on that stand and pull the noose tighter and tighter until his insides ooze out over the courtroom. And then I'm going to watch those insides boil off into nothing.
And Balford. I'm going to enjoy you. Just try and scam your way out of this one, Balford. Just try and save your ass with the same tricks you've used to get your scuzzy clientele off the hook. They won't work this time. You don't have the kind of tricks it takes to keep out of my prison. Think about it, Balford. Prison. Maybe I can arrange for you to share a cell with one of the clients that you didn't manage to leave on the streets. Huh? Would you like that? Maybe I can find you a nice, big, angry ex-client who'd just love to have a piece of your ass. I'll supply you with plenty of soap for your stay.
Lou, Lou. What shall I do with you? I think prison's too good for you. In fact, I don't even see any point in bringing you into the system. I think I'll just come looking for you and let you experience the Hutchinson brand of justice. We can hold court down by the pier. Night court, so we won't be bothered. I know how much you love the water, especially when it's dark. We can look out over the water, the lovely dark water, the lovely deep water, and discuss the merits of your case. And then I can pronounce sentence. I sentence you to twenty fathoms. Twenty cold, lonely fathoms. With no possibility of parole.
Yeah, you filthy little fuckers, I'll show you what you get when you try and get rid of me. You get a hell you never dreamed of. Just wait till I get out of this canyon. I'm coming for you.

 

Aw, damn. Get that light out of my eyes. It's too early to wake up. Get that goddamn bright light out of my eyes and let me sleep. And give me the blanket, I'm freezing
Aw, shit. Aw, hell. I'm still in this canyon. Still under this car. Still in pain. And the radio's still a mess. Now what?

Now what?
I don't know.
Yes, you do. Try again.
I need help.
Then get help. Yell some more. Fix the radio. How's your head?
I slept and woke up. I'm not dead. I still hurt.
Vision good?
Not so good. A little blurry. I'm dizzy. Nauseous. Lightheaded. And I'm hungry and thirsty.
He'd say you're always lightheaded. You're also pinned at a 45-degree angle and the blood is flowing toward your head. Still shocky?
I don't know. I don't care. What does it matter? I froze last night, I'll fry this morning. My body temperature won't cope. I'm sweating. A lot. I've probably got a fever. I haven't had anything to eat in 24 hours. I need water. I need shade. For all I know I could be bleeding in my brain or gut.
Don't be dramatic.
How much blood could a bloodloser lose if a bloodloser could lose blood? I'll probably lose my leg, too. If I live I'll be a one-legged cop. I can hop along after Starsky when we're chasing bad guys. I can get a fake leg and hide extra guns and bullets in it. I can write a book about my exploits and title it Starsky and Hopalong.
Cut the chatter. Can you still move the leg?
Oh God yes. But it hurts!
Good. It still hurts. Now get help. Call for help. Look for help. Help yourself.
Okay.

Help! Help me! Is anybody there? Is somebody there? Somebody's there? Is that Starsky? Is that you, Starsky? Thank God. I didn't think you'd find me in time.

 

Starsky?
What are you talking about? God, if you tell me one more war story about how you were lost from your platoon and had to eat lizards to stay alive
I'm hungry. I'm so hungry. I'm so hungry I smell food. Beans. A bean burrito. I'm so hungry I smell a bean burrito. I'm so hungry I could eat a bean burrito
I can't swallow. I need water. Starsk, give me some more water. C'mon, buddy, I need that water
Oh. No. Now I remember. I've got a crazy man on my hands. A crazy man who thinks I'm a German spy because I have blond hair and blue eyes and Aryan features and I can't talk him out of his delusion. A crazy man. A lunatic. How come I always get the crazy ones? How come the crazy ones always come after me? What am I, a crazy magnet? Is there something inside me that says come get me, I'm a crazy magnet, you can do your crazy stuff to me? Starsky's not a crazy magnet. Crazy people don't come after him. Scammers come after him. Scammers and con artists and fly-by-nights come after him. His magnet says come and get me, I'm a gullible fool, I'll buy whatever you're selling. Unless you're crazy. Then leave me alone.
Where are you, Starsk? It's gonna be night soon. I can't be that hard to find. All you've got to do is figure out that Lou called me for a meet and I didn't make it and I'm somewhere in between. Or figure out that Humphries tried to do me in and get him to tell you where. Just trace a phone call or something. Follow my car. Figure out where I am. I'll bet anything you can find me if you try. I'll bet my life.
I'm hot. I can't feel my lips anymore. Concentrate on not feeling my lips anymore. Concentrate on not feeling my lips and don't concentrate on not feeling my leg

How's your leg?
It's numb.
Make it hurt. Try and pull it out of the car. Wiggle your toes.
I can't. I can't move it. I can't I can. Oh God, that hurt.
Good. What's your condition?
What do you think? My skin feels like I fell asleep at the beach. My throat feels like I swallowed a cactus branch. My watch won't tell me what time it is anymore. My leg won't last much longer. I'm going to
He's coming.
What?
He's coming. Hold on. You're young. You're strong. You're healthy. You can make it. You can last.
I need help. No one will help me!
He'll help you. But you have to help him. Stay alive.
Okay.

I wonder if this is what dying feels like. Am I dying? How long does it take to die? Without water ten days, if you don't sweat all the good stuff out of your system. I think. Where did I learn that? Starsky, probably. Starsky must have read it to me from one of his crazy books. I remember you can last about six months if all you eat is bread. But you have to eat something like six loaves a day. And the bread has to be low in salt or there'll be too much sodium in your blood and you'll go into a coma and die in about ten days anyway. And if you don't go into a coma you'll get scurvy. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. And your gums will bleed and your teeth will fall out and you won't be able to eat all that bread anyway. Doesn't matter anyway, I don't have any bread, or any water, and the sun's sucked everything out of my body. I'm dying.
I know what it feels like to want to die. Or at least to think you want to die. It just feels like wanting to stop the pain. All you want is for the pain to go away. For the crazy twinges and tingles and aches and pains to leave your body and stop bothering you. For your body to stop feeling uncomfortable. You just simply want to stop feeling lousy. You don't really want to die, you just want to stop feeling bad. You just want to go to sleep and stop all feeling, period. Like when I wanted the stuff so bad. I didn't really want the stuff, but I wanted it. Because it would make the pain go away. And when Starsky wouldn't let me have it, then all I wanted to do was be unconscious so I couldn't feel the craving and hurt.
Dying is for when you know when you wake up you'll still feel the pain, so you just don't want to wake up. I wanted to die then. Not that I really wanted to die, I just didn't want to wake up. I felt pain then. I feel pain now. I feel lousy. I feel bad. I want to stop feeling. I want to go to sleep
I wish I had some arms. I want some arms to wrap around me. I need some arms to wrap around me. Some arms to soothe away the pain like they did that last time. Starsk, I wish you were here like last time. I could use your arms to hold in the shivering. I could use your arms to keep away the bad things. Strong, protective arms
I wonder what death feels like? No pain, that's for sure. There's no pain when you're dead. Unless you go to Hell. Then it's all pain. Couldn't be worse than this, though. Besides, I won't go to Hell. Will I? Thou Shalt Not . . . Take The Lord Thy God's Name In Vain. Blew that one. Every day. But that's not so bad. That's forgivable. Thou Shalt Not . . . Commit Adultery. Okay. Technically, I've never done it with a married woman. Or at least a married woman I wasn't married to. So I'm okay there. Thou Shalt Not . . . Honor Thy Father And Thy Mother. I do that anyway, so that's no problem. Thou Shalt Not . . . Worship Golden Calves. No, wait, Thou Shalt Not . . . Worship Charleton Heston. I'm okay there. Never liked him. Thou Shalt Not . . .
. . . Kill . . . I . . . kill. I kill people. I kill people who try and kill other people. I kill people who try and kill me. Like Scobie and Humphries and Balford. I kill . . . no wait it's murder. Not kill, but murder. The translation is Thou Shalt Not Murder, not Thou Shalt Not Kill. I don't murder. I don't plan death. I don't take life wantonly. I only protect. Protect and Serve. I serve God. I serve
Starsky. Starsky won't be there. Who will I be with? Grandma? Jesus? Shakespeare? Einstein? I could ask everyone who ever died every question I ever thought of. I could find out the secrets of the Universe. I could learn the Answer to the Meaning of Life. I could study the Mysteries of the Histories. I could find out . . . whatever happened to Judge Crater. I could Gillian? Would she would you could I be with you? Would I want to? Is there sex in heaven? No. There couldn't be sex in heaven. Heaven's too pure for that. That means you have to find yourself in other ways. But I guess I could hang around Gillian for company until Starsky shows up. He'll go to the same place I go, we've done the same things. Almost. Unless Jews go to a different place. But then Buddhists would have to go to a different place, and Mormons, and . . . and God wouldn't send us to different places. He'd let us be together. Even if we go to Hell, we'll be together. Unless Hell is no Starsky
No Starsky? I could have Gillian to talk to, but no Starksy? How could I last forever without Starsky? I'd get bored. I'd get tired. I'd run out of stupid questions to ask. He'd never run out of stupid questions to ask. He'd just keep making them up and making them up. God would get tired of him. God would get so tired of him that he'd send him away somewhere. And since God would be so tired of him, God would figure that Hell is Starsky, so he'd send me to Starsky. Or Starsky to me. And we'd be together anyway. So I could make do until Starsky comes up. Or down

Unless Starsky comes with you.
With me? How could he come with me? He's not here dying.
He'll be here soon. What if he finds you dead?
I'm not dead. Yet.
You talk as though you are. What will he do if he finds you here dead?
He'll . . . he'll avenge me. He'll get Humphries and Scurvy and Bullwinkle and whoever the hell else set this up.
And then?
And then, he'll . . . he'll go on.
Go on what?
Go on being a cop. Being a police officer. It's what he is. It's what he does.
He does it with you.
He did it without me before me.
Will he do it without you after you?
You think he won't do it without me? He'll quit?
Will he?
Quit? Why would he quit? What would he do if he quit? He doesn't know anything else.
You're right, he doesn't know anything else. So what would he do?
He would . . . he would . . . you don't think he'd ?
He'd what?
He's not he wouldn't do that. He's not like that. He wouldn't even think about it.
You would.
I would not!
No?
Well . . . but I'm . . . I don't have as much as he does. He's got family. He's got friends. He hasn't had as much disappointment as me. He wouldn't be . . . as lonely. He wouldn't be as scared.
How can you be sure?
I know him. I'm sure. I'm positive.
You could be absolutely positive if you're here when he comes.
Okay.

But if he comes too late he'll just find me and nothing else. Just a beat up old body and a beat up old car. And he'll get crazy. I'd get crazy if I found his body just lying somewhere. But he'll get real crazy. I mean true crazy. I mean he'll go out and go straight for Humphries and his weasels. I'd wait. I'd plan. I'd plot it all out till their deaths were perfect. But Starsky'll just head straight for them. He'll just take his car and his gun and aim for every piece of their bodies he can. And when he's done there won't be a piece of flesh left big enough for a rat to eat. The only flesh that'll be left will be Starsky. And everybody will go after him until they've all had a pound of that flesh. They'll crucify him. They'll hold him up as an example of how cops can go wrong. They'll feed him to the media and they'll feed him to the department and then they'll feed him to the system and they'll swallow him up forever.
Unless he puts an end to things before they can
Please, God. Get through to Sonny. Get through to that G.I. Joe. Just drill a little piece of sunlight through the thunderclouds. Just poke a little air hole through the jar lid. A little peephole through the door. A little pinprick through the plastic. A little blowhole through the whale skin. A little pee hole through the chastity belt. A little

 

Again. Say it again. Keep saying it until your vocal cords rupture. Mayday. SOS. Officer needs help. Over and over and over. Someone will hear you. Over and over and over
cold. I'm so cold. First I was too hot, now I'm too cold. Pretty soon I'll be nothing. I'll be a big nothing. I'll be a big blond nothing. I'll be a big blond nothing under a big blond car in a big blond canyon with a big blond vulture circling over my head
what'd you say, Starsky? Huh? Really? Okay. I know, it's a hassle. Just take my clothes over to the shelter on the Strand. Unless there's something you want. Sometimes, you know, clothes keep a smell. I smell like citrus. You smell like the woods. My grandmother smelled like her kitchen. My kitten smelled. My kitten smelled me and my grandma. My clothes smell
take care of the plants. The green ones stay green, the dead ones stay dead. It's really simple if you just think about it. You just don't want to think about it. Same with the food in the refrigerator. Take the beer and pitch the rest. Take the pitcher of beer
don't worry about the banks and the lawyers and all that crap. There's a nice lady who knows what to do and she won't let anyone hurt you. Just take whatever she gives you and go out and buy something I'll hate like a car with a funny stripe or a condemned fixer-upper or a used taco stand

STOP IT.

you know your face is kind of weird? The parts don't match. Except your hair is okay. And your teeth. They hold all the parts together. They keep you together. You keep me together. We keep us together
sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to do this. It was an accident, honest to God. I didn't do it on purpose. Please don't be mad at me, buddy. I'll make it up to you. I swear I'll make it up to you

STOP IT.
I what?
THINK!
I can't not thinking . . .
STAY AWAKE!
. . . thirsty . . . cold . . . can't stop shivering.
YELL!
Can't yell . . . anymore.
TRY THE RADIO AGAIN.
Nobody's listening . . . Starsky's . . . not listening.
STARSKY'S COMING. HE'S ALMOST HERE.
Not coming . . . no one's coming . . . everybody's going. Everybody's gone.
STOP IT!
Okay.

 

God. Look at God. God looks just like Starsky. Starsky is God. Starsky is my protector. Starsky is my saviour. Starsky will take away the pain. Hey, Starsk! Hey, God! It doesn't hurt anymore! It doesn't hurt

Black
Cold Black.
Black cold.
Black black
One giant square of lustrous, polished, glacial black, obstructing vision and obliterating thought. Black on black on black.
Tumbling black.
Radiant black.
Suffocating black.
Deadly black.
White.

 

Prickles.
Spackles.
Prickles and spackles.
Prickles on skin. Spackles before eyes. Heat wrapped around body.
Wake up.

Can't move. Still. I still can't move. Don't want to move. Too tired to move.
Gotta try to move.
Oh
God
No pain.
That's a new one. No pain. I can barely feel anything. I can barely feel me at all. And look at that. My leg's gone. So's the car. The car's gone. The canyon's gone. Everything's gone. But I'm here.
Feels like whitewash slogging through my veins. Milky, gluey whitewash. Whitewash all over my body. Whitewash all over my leg
My leg! That's my leg! Goddamn it, that's not whitewash, that's a cast! That's my leg under that cast! I've still got my leg
And my arms! Look at my arms! What's wrong with my arms? I've got boards strapped to my arms. Why are they both in splints? Shit! I broke both my arms, too! I no, I'm just hooked up to tubes. Lots of little tubes. Lots of little tubes running into my arms. And up my nose. I hate tubes up my nose
Well I'll be damned. I'm in a hospital. Or I'm dead. Maybe Heaven is a hospital. Or they send you to a hospital first to get you ready for Heaven. At least I'm not still in that canyon
Uh oh. I think I'm starting to feel something. Feels like pain. Feels like the beginnings of some pain. I don't like pain. I don't want to feel any pain. I man, who started up the roller coaster? Shit, somebody slow this baby down. I'm gonna fall out of this bed if somebody doesn't shut this thing off
Yeah. That's it. Hold me down. Keep my body from spinning off this bed. Just keep holding on to my body, and I won't fall off the bed. Just keep holding on to my body. Just keep holding on to me. Feels good. Feels nice. Blunts the hurt in my head. Soothes away the tingles and twitches and aches and pains. Mmm. That's good. Always liked being stroked on my temples. Feels cool. Feels smooth. Ahh. Right there. Didn't realize my neck was so stiff. Massage those muscles. Yeah. That's it. Wish you could do the same for my leg. Massage away the cramp. Massage away the ache. Massage away the ache in my throat
Ice! Blessed ice! Who would have thought something so simple could be so satisfying? Cool, cold ice! Makes the hurt go away. Cools down the fire. Slows down the fire. Slows down everything
Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Know where I am. Know who I am. Know who you are, you grinning idiot. Got a lot of questions to ask you, but not right now. Got a lot of things to tell you, but they'll have to wait, too. I'm so tired, I don't even care they've got tubes up my nose. Just want to know you're here. As long as I can feel you, I know you're here. And I can feel you, buddy. I know you're here.
And so am I.