I don’t push the car too hard. The Buick and I, we travel in the left lane. It’s a 1938 Y-Job. Top down. Some custom editions on the inside. Doubtful that you’ll ever see one of these pass you on the road. I don’t particularly care how the car works. I just like the looks of it. That’s how it’s always been when it comes to my interest in cars. All based on looks. And this thing looks great.
I’m chasing down a thirty-year-old man. He’s supposed to die. I’ve no idea how he knew I was coming. Some people sense their death coming. Maybe they’re gods. Doubtful. He’s at least a day ahead of me. Probably three states between us. I’ll catch up. When I do, he’s dead. I’ll make it painful. Because this is ridiculous. Just accept your fate, man. Don’t waste my time, my life, or your time, your life. Your life is mine when I’m called on by whoever to claim it.
The chase puts me in a rotten mood. Truly. It’s been over a week now. Every time he stops, I gain ground on him. Obviously, I must rest, as well. I try to make it quick. I have quite a bit of sleep to catch up on when this is over. Chasing sleep, and this guy. Been thinking of how I should kill him. Maybe I cut his head off. The TV’s been making that look pretty popular these days. Shoot him in the head. That’s a classic. Strangle him. With a shoelace. No. Something stronger. No. That can take a while. I’ll probably just stab him. Yeah. An oldie, but goodie. Nice, clean stab.
The Buick hums on the black tar. Radio is off. Not always. But, for now. My mind slips to visions – vivid visions – of someone lost to the world. At moments, I don’t even see the highway. Just her. Disembodied, and I hear her lilt. The car drifts into the middle lane, but I catch it before I smash into another driver. Her face, her body, her movements dissolve, and still, I cannot turn on the radio. Nothing coming from the speakers is anything I want to hear.
Days and more days pass. Late September. Still on the road. The sun is dipping. How did I miss the trees beginning their transition? These leaves were green hours ago! I’m sure of it! Where did the yellows come from? And the wind. How does it feel of October? It brings with it November nights. When did it start? And how did I miss its arrival?
I’ve driven into the hours after midnight. I know where he is. Sleeping in a motel room. Less than twenty miles away. Now he is awake. Now asleep, once more. And awake, again. Alert for some time. Then sleeping. Awake. Asleep. He is restless. He is tired of running. He is awake. He slides into another slumber.
I pull into a parking lot. The motel across the road. The light is on in the man’s second-floor room. He is awake. I feel him. He thinks. He is thinking, heavily.
At the bottom of the stairs leading up to the second floor, I pause. Something is wrong. As if the man’s thinking has stopped. Not like he is dead. Simply that he has cleared all thoughts, all considerations from his mind.
A gunshot brings the hushed night to life.
I sprint up the stairs, and another shot tears through the darkness. I reach the door of his room, a third gunshot blasts from inside. The door is locked, but flimsy. I slam through it.
At the foot of the bed, in a spreading mess of blood on the wrecked carpet. The man writhes, and chokes, and holds on for his dying life to the gun. He has destroyed his face. His eyes remain intact, his mouth not looking so good, his nose pretty much gone. Good god, how many times has this man shot himself? Did I only catch the most recent shots? No, impossible. I felt him sleeping and waking and sleeping and restless. Three bullets, and this is his face now.
His eyes find me. He knows who I am. There is no fear in his eyes. Seems odd. To not be afraid of me. After all, this man has been running from me for too long. But, I suppose he has bigger issues right now.
I watch the gun in his hand. He raises it toward me. I step out of the way before he fires it. A bullet rips through the wall behind me. His hand falls. I walk toward him. He puts the gun to his forehead and pulls the trigger. His brains explode out of the back of his skull. And his head slumps onto the floor.
He can’t be dead. Not without me letting it be so.
His voice cracks. His mouth is more obliterated than I first realized. A mutter and horror from within. I sense queasiness in my stomach. I step closer to hear him.
I lean down. He says, “Wha’… wha’ th’ fu’…?” He repeats this again and again. I understand the question. He’s right to be confused.
The man raises the gun. To his temple. I kick his hand and the gun falls to the floor. I step on it, sliding it over to me.
“No more brains in your cranium to blow out, man.” I pick up the handgun. He struggles to look up at me.
He’s talking, again, “Ki’… me-e-e-e…”
“Huh? What are you saying?”
“A-a-ah…” His head-full-of-holes drops to the floor. “Ki’ me-e-e-e…”
“Oh. I get it. Kill you. You want me to kill you. Is that correct?” I laugh, and stifle the urge to vomit. The smell of blood is getting to me.
From the carpet, “Ki’ me-e-e-e…”
I turn to the bureau in the corner of the room. Empty the remaining bullets in the gun onto it. I hear the man I’ve been hunting sigh. I glance back at him, and he’s watching what I’m doing.
“Wha…?” he gurgles.
I toss the emptied gun onto the floor, pocket the loose bullets, and turn back to the man. “You don’t die on your terms,” I tell him. “You die on mine. And you’ve wasted my valuable time.”
I crouch low, looking him in his young eyes. “Even when you’re dust, when everyone has forgotten about you… even when your bones are molecules… mere molecules… you’ll still be alive.”
His eyes never leave mine.
“You ran from me,” I say. “You ran. And I still haven’t caught up with you.”
I stand, turn away from him, and exit the motel room. Slamming the door for good measure.