With Casey subdued by the road before them and the cullings of Tori Amos reverberating through the badly-misused speakers, the rest of the troops had fallen into a malaise of fatigue, each thrown against their respective seats and windowpanes, their eyes pulled to the occasional distances between trees and hillsides. It felt like they had been driving along this merciless road for weeks.
Twice through the night, Parker convinced Casey to pull over and ask for directions, but twice now they had fallen short at the ghastly sight of the lost souls willing and able to work third shift at desolated gas stations in the middle of the Great American Nowhere. The torn, crinkled map passed through everyone's hands at least once before being discarded to the littered floor, deemed useless and deliberately obtuse.
Gordon yawned and draped his arm around Parker's shoulder, inciting an immediate twitch of panic from his poor seatmate. Parker wrestled him away and scooted himself to the far end of the minivan's bench seat, glaring down Gordon with a hatred insulated in a long, sleepless night on the road. Gordon chuckled and blew him a kiss, amused at Parker's demeanor.
"I'm bored," he lamented.
"I can tell. Stop touching me," Parker demanded.
The puddle of sweatshirt ahead of them, which contained somewhere within the tiny body of Mali, groaned disapproval at the commotion before settling back in to a quiet snore.
"I'm bored and I think we're lost," Gordon whispered.
"We're not lost," Casey muttered from the driver's seat.
"Can you tell me, then, how thirty miles spans six hours? The last time we saw a sign for Rifle was at eight-fifteen - I know because I saw Parker take his stupid pills, which he takes every bleeding night at eight-fifteen - and that was clear over six hours ago. How fast are you going, Casey?"
"The speed limit, Gordon," Casey replied.
"There's no way. We must have whiffed it altogether."
"Well, Gordon, next time we stop at a gas station - which won't be long, we're almost on E again - you can cosy up to the guy behind the counter and ask for directions."
Parker, ever vigilant in keeping the peace (since that very morning when he decided to suit the role of mediator, at least), interrupted by waving his hands in the empty air between them. "Calm down!"
Gordon pushed him aside.
"Really, though - do you know where you're going?"
The puddle of sweatshirt groaned again.
Mali was dreaming.
Yellow clouds drifted overhead, rivulets of honey trickling from their soft, doughy bellies to the bed of mints below. Overwhelmed with sensation, the princess sprinted across the deceptively large face of the flower petal, eager to peer beyond its edge. Underneath, all the world bloomed with tongues outstretched for a taste of the sky. Leaning over the edge, the princess gripped the edge of the petal with excitement, too late discovering the heft of the flower could not support her as she tumbled into thin air. Like a leaf in autumn, she drifted end over end toward the earth below, but why so slowly?
Nearer and nearer the earth crept. Ever slower and slower, she fell. Vexed and perplexed at the odd nature of her freefall, the princess folded her arms and scrunched up her nose. Even the birds turned their heads to stare as the princess fell at slower and slower speeds, to which they asked one another why? Revealing no answers, to themselves or otherwise, the birds flew on, quarreling back and forth.
God's work? Unlikely. Eventually, the ground ceased its approach and the princess discovered she was, in fact, stuck just ten feet from the ground. Suspended in the air with no way to free herself, the princess huffed and wondered what to do. She considered all possibilities, but soon relented, unable to come up with any good ideas.
With no recompense in mind and no one around to help her, the princess lamented before she relented and drew her finger across the face of a honey rivulet nearby, suckling at her forefinger while wondering what had happened. Honey? Ah! That's it!
Honey is a sticky mess. All it takes to gunk up the sky is a few light showers of honey! Pressed to get herself down from a mere few stone from the ground, the princess pondered what could be done in her predicament. Perhaps she could eat her way out? Even with an appetite for honey such as hers, eating a whole sky full of honey was a dautning task. Nevertheless, it was the only good idea she could think of. So she did.
No one can say if she ever got down.
eXcitement is best left to the
Mali awoke with a start, certain something was amiss.