As your story ends the flames grow dimmer. There is fire yet to spin our tales.
You're sure there's nothing behind me? It sounds too large and purposeful to be the wind. No, no; I trust you. Just... It would ease my mind if you glanced up every once in a while to be sure. Thanks.
Sandra's story will be hard to follow, but I think I know one that will fit well after hers. A story about following a light in the darkness.
Oh shit Evelyn, are you okay? Did it sting you? They always say the smoke is supposed to keep the bugs away, but then again I guess it's all pooling around Jen. Weird, I've never seen a wasp quite like that...
Oh right, the story.
Have you ever been--
Sorry Jen, right I'll say the phrase first.
Let my words mingle with the swallowing smoke as I tell our third story.
Have you ever been lost out in the country at night?
It's rare to actually get lost anymore since the invention of the GPS and navigational programs. Provided you have one (and it's charged, of course) you can find your way back from pretty much anywhere, step-by-step directions pointing you back home. You don't have to wander aimless paths through the woods and plains, follow strange lights across bogs, or try to gauge directionality by the growth of moss on stones; you can just enter where you want to go and the way is relayed to you almost instantly.
When I was younger, college-aged, my friend Brianna and I used to play a game taking advantage of our inability to get truly lost. We'd drive way out into the dark countryside, making turns wherever the driver felt like it, while the passenger just tried to relax and listen to the radio. After thirty or forty minutes we'd pull over, switch seats, and the person who had been the passenger tried to drive back without having to rely on GPS. Sometimes I got lucky and found my way back to state highway or a major named road and could find my way back home from there, victorious. Other times we'd drive around in circles, or deeper into woods and fields, before giving up, punching in our college apartment, and letting the cheery electronic voice dictate our path home. To me, it always sounded like it was gloating.
The problem with our game, as we eventually learned, was that not everywhere is actually mapped. A lot of it is, but not all. Some places are winding weaves of forestry roads that no one ever bothered to plot the coordinates of. Other roadways closed down months or weeks before, the GPS constantly trying to direct you through a closed-off gate or concrete barrier until you find another route around. We finally gave up the game after one night where we drove around for two hours in confusion, the gas tank getting perilously close to empty, the GPS happily looping us in circles, before we were able to guess our way out.
Tonight's delivery reminds me a lot of that final game. Five minutes ago my GPS directed me to the start of "Access Road 23" and told me my destination was somewhere further in. I checked the notes for drop-off and found them to be only moderately helpful: "Access Road 23. Take every left." I took a look a look at the cooling bag of Chinese food, let out deep sigh, and began trekking down the gravel road.
Two turns in and I can't help but wonder what sort of person lives all the way out here. There haven't been any houses in the last two miles and even the telephone poles have disappeared. I take another left turn and my GPS chirps out a giddy "recalculating." It tells me to turn onto Hemlock Lane in 500 feet. In 500 feet there's no sign of Hemlock Lane, or any road to turn onto for that matter, and it angrily flashes as it cheerily announces that it's recalculating again. I slow down the car to turn down the volume as it presents me another route, this time a right turn down Rollins Street in a half mile. There's a left turn 200 feet ahead. I slow down as I approach it, glancing at the GPS then back to the left turn. Nervously, I make the turn as the GPS recalculates again.
Dread mounts as I drive on. First I worry that something nefarious is going to happen to me either at the destination or somewhere along these spiraling roads flanked by sparse trees and tall grass. Then that old worry of getting lost begins to crop up, I try to bat that one away with the knowledge that if I've only made left turns to get this far, I only have to make right turns to leave. As I think on that though a third fear starts to arise, an eerie, creeping dread of impossibility. As I mentally map out how far I've driven and how many turn I've made I keep coming to the realization that what I'm doing is geometrically impossible. I've made six or seven turns by this point and been driving for too long on my current to not have crossed one of the roads I originally drove in on. I try again and again to reconcile my mental mapping of the roads I had driven down with the seemingly impossible reality, but every time I get an answer that made no sense. After fifteen minutes I stop my car along the shoulder of the road, ready to turn around.
As I prepare to do a U-turn I saw a pinprick of light off to my left, a lone porchlight in an inky void of darkness. That had to be the place. I start my car again and make the next left. Then another. Then another. The light getting closer and closer with every turn until finally I am there.
The house is larger than I expected it to be, although exactly how large was hard to say. The siding stretches out away from the singular light, fading off into the surrounding darkness. Grabbing the food, still miraculously retaining some of its original warmth, I approach the door. The night wind rustles through the leaves and grass sending a chill down my spine. A light clicks on through the window of the door; the knob turns. A lady I'd guess to be in her mid-thirties gestures me closer. I oblige.
She's wearing a black dress that compliments her dark hair. Her hazel eyes grin at me more than her mouth. When she speaks the air warms around me.
"Did you find the place okay?" She giggles to herself, a sound hiding something sinister beneath its sweetness. "I guess you must have, seeing as you made it."
"I..." My mouth moves, trying to put into words the eeriness of the journey, "I don't understand quite how I got here."
"Oh?" Her mouth widens into a grin as she leans forward, "You're not lost, are you?"
"No, no," I insist, unsure if that's true, "I think I can find my way back."
"I could give you directions just in case." There's a crackling in her eyes, amusement mixed with greed.
"That would be great," I say, offering her the bag of food. She ignores it, thrusting one purple nail into the air above my head.
"So the easiest way to know how to get back to where you were is to know how you got to where you are," she started, her voice dropping in tone slightly, "Assuming you started back on Access Road 23, then you took a left turn and followed it for a time then another left turn..." Her finger begins tracing the roads through the air. I watch enraptured, hoping to understand the secret of how the roads never managed to cross.
"And then another left and then another," her voice begins dropping into a steady cadence, "Each turn taking you further inwards. Each turn taking you deeper and deeper towards me."
My eyes flutter and blink as I feel an unsteadiness in my legs.
"And with every turn you make you leave a little more of where you were behind. It doesn't frighten you though because you can just follow my finger around and around to know where you were. Another turn and another turn, around and around, deeper and deeper and deeper."
Her finger is no longer making clean-cut turns while tracing the roads. Instead the map she's drawing in the air gradually becomes a series of concentric circles. My eyes follow her finger around in a spiral as my jaw drops open slightly.
"That's it, just keep following my finger. We're almost there, just keeping following it around and deeper and inwards. Just a few more turns, I'll count them down for you. Five; you can feel you're so far from where you started, so very distant. Four; you're almost there, almost to the deepest part of the road. Three; watch these last few turns very carefully, listen closely to my words. Two; you're so very fascinated by how the road turns and turns, leading you deeper and deeper. One; you make this one last turn and sleep."
Her finger that had been making small steady circles in front of my vacant eyes taps me right between them. My eyes shut and my shoulders slump forward. My knees feel weak and heavy.
"Come on inside," she coos. I follow, not even half-aware of what's happening. She gently coaxes the bag of food from my hand and sets it on a table. She pulls a chair out and motions for me to sit. I do so gratefully.
"So are you sure you're not lost?" She asks, fingers arching in front of her.
"I... I..." The words are slow to come out of my mouth. My thoughts are muddled and blurry.
"It's okay to admit that you're lost," she purrs, "If you are, I can help you find your way again."
"I'm..." I look at her blankly for help before the word fully forms on my lips, "lost."
"You poor dear. It's understandable though, it's easy to get lost all the way out here. The way back isn't as easy as the way here, and the route might seem very odd. Do you want me to give you directions?"
"Yes," I nod sleepily.
"Are you sure? I don't want to take the time to give them if you won't follow them. Will you follow the directions I tell you?"
"Yeah." I find my back slouching against the chair.
"First, drop down onto your knees in front of me." Two purple nails point downwards at the ground in front of her. I sigh as I lurch forward, my knees gently smooshing into the cold floor.
"Next." She scoots forward on the chair, her hands hiking up her dress, "you need to pleasure me until I tell you to stop."
I cock my head towards her questioningly. She waves her finger in little circles again until she's sure I'm following it and then points at her panties. My worries and inhibitions vanish. I helplessly slide my hands along her thighs and pull them down, feeling the touch of dampness to them. My head moves forward dreamily, tongue lapping at her pussy. I can't tell how long it's been when she orders me to stop. I pull back, waiting for the next step in my directions home.
"Good girl. Next, you need to wash up and take a nap, you look terribly tired," she smirks at that, "I'm going to have my dinner and then I'll join you. Just go down that hallway and take every left." She points at an open door revealing an endless hallway. I push myself to my feet and begin shambling towards it, eager for some rest.
I stop just before the door, turning back to the nice woman who was giving me directions. There was just one thing she hadn't told me yet.
"How long," My eyes flicker closed for a second, it's such a struggle to keep them open, "How long until I'm back home?"
"Well if you keep following my directions exactly as I give them," she says with a playful grin, "Then I'd estimate the shortest route to your destination to be about five years. But we'll have a lot of fun together in that time."