Unique Combinations

Sound travels exceptionally well at night. All the little noises of the daytime combine to make a sort of white noise that blocks other, more prodigious sounds. Picture it like dropping a stone in a calm pond. The ripples seem to carry on forever. Now drop the same stone in the same pond while it is raining. All of a sudden the big ripples get washed out by all the little ones. Everybody who can hear whether they were taught basic principles or not, knows something about sound. For instance, have you ever heard of the Doppler effect? Without getting overly scientific, when a train goes by blowing its whistle, the sound changes for you if you’re standing still. That’s the nutshell version. But what if you’re falling? What if somehow, running through the woods at night you fall over another human being, and then another human being falls over you? That’s the domino effect. Far less interesting unless the sound of the gun being fired at you is changing also. Then it becomes some sort of weird, twisted, pseudo-scientific combination.

When I felt his blood, when I heard him fall, I fell too. Sure, it may have seemed like I tripped over him, but in reality my heart instantly weighed a thousand pounds more than the rest of my body. Unable to carry the sheer and instant weight it dragged me down. When I hit the ground my heart broke in two. Half remained heavy and buried itself under feelings it didn’t have time to identify. The other half flew away, looking for answers in order to explain to the other half why it broke. Everything happened so fast.

“God Dammit Darlene! You shot me!” he screamed.

I couldn’t see old Bob but seeing as how I just tripped over him I was pretty sure it was him. That would make the lummox that tripped over me, yup you guessed it, Ross.

“My God are you Ok?” Ross asked me.

“Yeah, I’m good. She shot Bob,” I said.

“Yeah, I heard, let’s go,” he exclaimed.

“Dammit to hell Darlene!” Bob continued to yell and moan.

I was on my feet and in the process of getting the hell out of Dodge in a heartbeat, my once again one-pieced heartbeat, when I stopped in my tracks.

“No, no not this time,” I said to Ross.

“Wait! What? C’mon Phil, let’s go. What are you doing?” Ross asked.

I’ll assume for lack of asking him that Ross must have thought I lost my mind. Another victim of Stockholm Syndrome, going back to the arms and embrace of her captor. Bob was still moaning loud enough that I could have found him blind folded. Navigating the dark forest at night isn’t really that much different.

“You shut the fuck up,” I forcibly whispered.

I had one hand over his mouth and with the other I searched his body for my gun. It felt empowering to have it in my hand again. I popped the clip out, but it was impossible to see if it was loaded. I snapped it back in and put the gun under his chin.

“The clip, where’s the other clip?” I asked Bob.

Once again my rage was muted in whisper, but no less understandable. I could barely see his eyes in the thin slivers of moonlight that managed to break through the treetops. I could read his pain and fear like directions. He motioned towards his back pocket.

“Bob? You Ok out there?” Darlene yelled.

“Hell no he ain’t Ok,” I yelled back.

I fired a shot in the direction of her voice. I never really expected to hit her, but a person should always have hope.

“I got Bob now bitch, and I got my gun,” I yelled.

“Jesus, Jesus,” I heard Ross whispering.

“Let’s just get the hell out of here,” he said.

“Uh uh, no way, we’re taking this fucker with us,” I told him.

“That’s right Bob, you’re coming along, let’s see how you like it. Let’s see if you can swim with a rock around your legs Bob. Huh? Let’s see. On your feet Bob,” I demanded.

I grabbed him by the shoulder, which consequently is where the bullet must have hit him based on his new and improved pain scream. My whole heart was suddenly black. Compassion was thinned out and washed away with the same river water that cleansed the blood from my wounds.

“Now, now Missy, you just hold on to your chair for a minute,” Darlene said.

“Ima comin’ over there.”

I fired again in her general direction. The bullet struck something hard enough to ping away into the distance.

“Don’t even think about it. He’s mine now, take another step and I’ll put one right through the side of his ugly ass head. I swear to God. Sound familiar bitch?” I screamed.

“I ain’t gonna let you skate honey, you know that right?” Darlene said.

“Get me a gag, anything, your sock if you have to,” I whispered to Ross.

“Where’s the boat Bob?” I asked in the same whisper.

He motioned down stream with his head.

“Ok, you first.”

We walked down the rocky, dark shoreline using Bob as a shield. The moon was bright enough that a person with Darlene’s careful consideration for human life just might decide she had enough light to take a shot at us. Just a few rods ahead I could see moonlight on the water reflect off the canoes.

“That’ll be far enough,” Darlene said as she cocked her rifle.

“You Ok there Bob? You bleedin’ out?” she asked.

Bob was only able to mumble through his sock gag. I was perfectly content doing his talking for him.

“As a matter of fact he’s not. You shot him, remember?” I said.

“Like I said, we gonna do this a different way,” she said.

Darlene fired her rifle. I could feel the impact of the bullet striking Bob. His muscles and skin reverberated in waves from the impact point somewhere in the center of his body. Temporarily blinded by the muzzle flash from her rifle, I fired wildly at my mind’s recollection of where she stood while holding Bob by the back of his collar.

My human shield carved from the flesh and bone of his ancestors all at once became too heavy to hold. His weight pulled loose from my grip and fell unceremoniously at our feet. I could hear the hollowness of his skull clunk against the many stones. After the melee, Darlene was gone.

“Did you get her?” Ross asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so, no, I don’t know,” I said, panicky.

“Let’s go, let’s go,” Ross said.

Ross pushed our canoe into the water and held it still for me.

“Get in. Let’s go,” he said.

“No, wait,” I said.

I picked Bob up by his armpits and started dragging him to the boat.

“What are you doing? Leave him,” Ross pleaded.

“No, no, we’re not. Help me,” I said.

“Screw him, forget him. He tried to kill us! To hell with him,” Ross said.

“No, we’re bringing him,” I demanded.

“Oh for, fine, whatever, hurry up,” Ross said.

He helped me pick Bob up and load him in the middle of the canoe. I stepped into the bow and took my seat. Whenever we pushed off from shore, Ross, with both hands on the stern would push forward and hop in after his momentum took us out of the shallow water. This time, he was mid hop when I told him to wait.

“What? For what? There’s no paddle!” Ross said.

Darlene’s canoe was pulled up on shore nearly completely out of the water besides the tip. As we passed I leaned out and grabbed a hold of it, pulling the empty boat out into the water. It ghost sailed straight out from shore as we hurried downstream.

“Under him, under, roll him look,” I told Ross.

I turned in my bow seat and rolled Bob on his side while Ross slid the only paddle in the boat from under him and put it to work. I might have felt better had I seen a Bigfoot, or at least a giant bear behind us. Instead, I watched Darlene charging through the water, rifle in-hand, attempting to catch the canoe. As the water became too deep to effectively stride, she dove forward and in short order had a hold of her boat. She was swimming it back to shallow water as the darkness and the shoreline combined to remove her from my sight.

“Holy shit,” I said.

“What? What now?” Ross asked.

“It’s her, it’s her, she swam out and got the damn boat,” I told him.

“Is she behind us? Is she following us?” he asked.

“I don’t know, I don’t know. I can’t see her anymore,” I said.

I slid the clip out of my gun and found it unsatisfactorily empty.

“Damn,” I said.

“Out?” Ross asked.

“Yeah, wait,” I said.

I checked the clip I slid in my back pocket earlier when I first found Bob. The three rounds it carried were better than nothing, but far from ideal.

“Three, three left,” I said.

Ross paddled hard, doing his best to create max distance between us and Darlene but the forward combined weight of me and Bob coupled with the increasing velocity of the water was making it difficult.

“Shit, I think I see her,” I said.

I hadn’t seen her just yet, what I saw was the moonlight reflecting off her paddle with every stroke. Although she wasn’t close, as the minutes passed it was apparent that she was clearly gaining on us. Soon, her silhouette became divisible from the darkness, and catching us was only going to be a matter of time.

“She’s getting closer,” I said.

“How close?” Ross asked.

We were nearly yelling at each other over the sound of the boat cutting through standing waves.

“Close enough that she can probably hear us,” I said.

Ross tried to turn and see for himself but as he shifted his weight the canoe tipped dangerously towards swamping.

“Stop, never mind that, we gotta dump him,” I yelled

“What? Dump her?” Ross asked.

“No, dump him, dump him, we gotta dump him overboard,” I said pointing at Bob.

“It’s the only way!” I screamed.

Without any argument Ross set his paddle at his side and helped me with Bob. As we tried to wrestle him out, it became obvious that we were not going to be able to push him out without dumping.

“Gimme his legs,” Ross said. “Gimme his legs, push them up towards me, like he’s having a, yeah, like that.”

Ross grabbed each one of Bob’s ankles until he could get a hold of his crotch. Ross pulled him into a backward somersault with his left hand until he could get a decent grasp on Bob’s shirt tightly around his chest. In one fluid and dare I say heroic motion, he picked Bob up off the floor of the canoe and held him up over his head.

It was one of those moments that will be shadow boxed in my mind forever, a video memory that plays over and over and always pauses in the same place.

“Don’t! No! Don’t do it!” Darlene screamed.

While this whole Bob dumping process was taking place, Darlene threw her paddle down into the bottom of the boat in front of her and at the same time picked up her rifle and quickly fired. She was as close as two boats in a city yard. At nearly the same moment her bullet claimed a dime-sized piece of our aluminum gunwale and ricocheted off into oblivion, Ross, with one mighty grunt pitched Bob into the water behind us. Darlene’s boat hit him hard, riding up on Bob on a slight angle like a ramp set up for crashing cars in a television show. I saw her headed overboard as the whole of the canoe pitched towards the sky.

The sudden shift in the balance of our own boat sent us weaving on a tangent against the will of the river. By the time Ross straightened the canoe, by the time I regained my bearings and got eyes on their boat, the shiny bottom was all I could see. No sign of either Bob or Darlene.

The feeling of relief was palpable. It permeated our senses. It was wet and cold but not uncomfortable. It smelled like nighttime, a combination of cool dust and water and the taste was oh so sweet at the same time as fulfilling as a holiday meal. The water slowed before we spoke again.

“Do you think he was still alive?” Ross asked.

I thought about it for a few moments, running through the timeline of Bob’s demise in my head, scene by scene in order to give an accurate answer.

“Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. He was dead before we ever met him.”

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