Headlights: The mesmerizing blindness

Sometimes we follow the light; sometimes the light comes for us.

Sometimes “mainline” is a train whose momentum just can’t be stopped. If you blink at the map of all the routes of any railway, does it not resemble the topography of veins beneath the skin?

Headlights

by Spike Ties

Nothing could end well for us.

We’d just been a bunch of wide-eyed kids hanging out in the backroom; twenty minutes later we were in the shooting gallery a few blocks from the school. Six years and forty minutes later, a part of each and every single one of us had been buried, locked up, or shot. It wasn’t hard. It started with a sip, and then a drink. Then we started reaching for the needles; just a few lines later we were on the streets, homeless and out of work.

Your parents always tell you not to, your teachers and your straight-laced friends, too. We heard every single word they said- and we were scared. They didn’t seem pompous. No, they actually made perfect sense. Destroying yourself from the inside out, skipping classes, failing high school: these were all the things we weren’t supposed to do. That wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was the stress of homework- English, history, science, math- looking for colleges, playing an instrument, being on a sports team. That was what made us scared to live. It made us long for that special spit-second before you woke up in the morning. You know, that gray haze where you had no idea who you were, or what soul-crushing responsibilities you had.

After all of that, you wonder if anything you did was for pleasure anymore, or if was all just a meaningless grind.

Imagine all of that going away. Imagine finding something in the world that made everything else worth it. It sounds fake, I know; drugs sure seemed like science fiction to me too. After all the stuff we did, the least any of us could’ve asked for were just a few minutes out of the day to forget. Right? Minutes stretched to hours and hours to long nights sweating bullets. We were complacent and pacified, but happy.

The last we saw each other was at senior prom. Our “wide eyes” were half shut, baked out of our minds; strobe lights and ambient music flooded the gymnasium with multicolored glare and indistinct sound. We stumbled, bumping into the punch bowl, everyone’s faces warped and twisted- everyone’s but our own. We were crystal clear. We had been dead for so long; then we were electric.

I know that three of us overdosed in a youth hostile a month later. One became an escort and two others were in prison. Another missing. My best friend shot over a kilo of coke. It was red on white. I couldn’t even use it; the alabaster powder vampired whatever dribbled, dribbled, dribbled from the gory gash I heard the coroner describe as: “a punctured thorax.” I ran and ran, red, white, and blue lights flashing over my shoulders. The crunchy gravel under my blistered feet turned into icy, frost-covered, metal. My head turned on instinct; the haunting repeat of a locomotive engine; the steam whistle’s murmuring drone; headlights.

9 comments

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    “Headlights” takes us down the tracks of drug addiction, excuses offered, life flashes lined in escapism from being overwhelmed in despair’s destiny. The story is a compelling, realistic set of snapshot moments and lives evaporating in doom before our eyes. There are many brilliant philosophical and tragic lines of thought marbled into this cut of excellent writing. Bravo.

    I did wish to point out that much like the previous story about rape, the mention of the train connection seems to me to be an add on moment to make this story fit the contest.

  2. Michael Stang says:

    Talented writing made this flash a go for me. The ending made sense in the way the story started, almost expected. “Red on White” is wonderfully creative.

  3. Diane Cresswell says:

    Wow my nerves are all bundled on this trippy story. One could hope it isn’t true, but many times it is. The track lines in this entry is well described and scary. Excellent imagery.

  4. Kyle Katz says:

    Stunning piece. The writer captures the rhythm of the train…in sync with the development of the story. A sometimes straight on a track of devastation. A relevant topic of youth that falls between the cracks when school systems fail, parents fail and society has no fit for the frailties of growing up. In the end could YOU even see the train coming?

  5. Laura G says:

    This is a deep piece in many ways. The language itself is natural and raw, intimate and matter-of-fact. The confessional style keeps the reader’s interest and informs us of a world some know, many don’t, and others choose to forget. It serves as both a warning and an invitation to know more, to help others in this situation. In 500 words, the author has accomplished many things.

    The train theme is introduced with the headlights signaling fate, danger…and the train wreck that this life can become, literally and figuratively, if continuing in this direction. But the wreck was averted (?), since the author lived to tell about it…In my view, one of the finalists…

  6. Parisianne Modert says:

    I wish to tell the author of this story that I had them as my 8th place pick and only because the train connection seemed added on as the flash at the end. This story otherwise had as much quality as my number 3-5 picks. Thank you for sharing your writing with us. If I had been the deciding judge I would have sent my first 8 choices to the finals without reservation. This piece belonged in the finals.

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