Darkness was beginning to ease in, the sun boiling off on the horizon, leaving a rainbow of colour streaked across the sky, highlighting the rises and pits in the towering clouds.
Endless miles of tarmac stretched out before her as far as she could see, the view repeating over and over with every mile the car struggled forward. The old battered pickup truck wasn't fairing any better than she was in the blistering heat, but it had cost all the money she had and the tank was full. Air conditioning and comfort hadn't been the first things on her mind, anyway what did they matter to her now.
Peering over the steering wheel she took in the view and sighed.
Her eyes were drawn back to the white lines streaking off into the distance in the middle of the road. Blurred into a single trail they had become oddly hypnotic, the flashes of black, white, black, white, the only thing keeping her from falling into a deep slumber at the wheel. The long drive across the swamps was taking its toll on her frail body; the sweltering heat magnified by the car had done its best to drain the last ounces of strength from her, leaving her feeling limp and deflated.
The chill inside her wouldn't leave though.
In the heat, the waves rising from the road melted the car and the woman together, blending the pain that ravished them both. Thank God the rear view mirror had broken off, she didn't think she could stand seeing the bags under her eyes, what was left of her limp lifeless hair and the pale, drawn face that had peered at her in mirror in the hospital that morning. That wasn't a memory she wanted to take with her.
Casting her eyes across the empty seat next to her and out to the horizon she'd never felt more alone.
Focusing on the water bottle to distract herself from the aching loneliness that threatened to swallow her whole at every second she noticed it was empty, bringing back the recollection of draining it hours ago with the last of the pills whose packets now littered the floor. The waves of pain that had ripped through her had been so intense and powerful. She shuddered despite the heat.
Now all the pills were gone, and with them the last of her release. Flinging the bottle out the window to banish the vision it skipped rapidly away behind the car, quickly falling out of view as the tarmac sped away beneath the wheels.
Black, white, black, white.
The itching began to start all over her skin, building in intensity with every second. Darkness settled within her. Pain started to roll through every muscle, making her body convulse and crumple like a rag doll. James would be bliss at this point, how she longed for his effervescent ruby eyes.. . Sharp electric jolts stretched out every nerve in her skin, sinew and bone strained against the yellow paper like skin, threatening to burst through. A searing poker of pain slithered its way up each vertebrae of her spine like a snake, up over her skull and settled deep behind her eyes. Its grip tightening with each wave that pounded around her body. Pain exploding behind her eyes, blinding her with a white ferocity.
Her mind detached itself from the torturous pain scouring her body, dulling the sensations.
Her hands left the steering wheel and started to claw at the black spots attacking her. The car began to spin, round and round, sending up waves of dust and rocks which struck the side of the car, stripping paint and denting its already bruised body.
Everything slowed, each second stretching out an eternity.
The car began to drift towards the bank at the side of the road, the driver still under attack from the unwelcome foe that had invaded her body. The car spun across a patch of grit left at the side of the road, a piece flew up at the wind screen, exploding it into a web of glass. The sound of the impact rocketed through the silence, striking every nerve, dislodging the hissing snake in her head that vanished back down her spine. Her foot slammed down to the brake.
She slumped across the steering wheel, the horn howling at the open sky. Ragged breaths struggled back and forth through lungs taught with panic.
Blood trickled from the inside of her mouth where teeth had ripped through the paper thin flesh.
It was becoming worse, harder and harder to control each time... Wetting her lips, she prayed for the rain to come and clear the oppressive heat and her mind.
But when had god ever answered her prayers?
There had been no signs of life since leaving the highway and taking the road that she now raced along. Houses and shacks had thinned and given way to endless miles of grass and swampland with only the occasional tree dotting the horizon.
The emptiness of it didn't scare her though, only the thought of going the journey alone. That had hardly been her choice though she mused.
Fields of golden grasses level with the open windows rolled by. The wind, stirred by the truck played through the long blades making a low swishing noise, oddly comforting, and a welcome release as nothing else had dared to break the heavy silence for hours.
This is what she had come for, space, time, comfort.
Back home, if it could ever really be called that, the constant busyness had managed to hold off any feelings: comprehension, sadness, and the self-pity that would follow. She had filled her days with noise and energy, anything that would stave off the realization. She had been proud, unwilling to admit defeat.
A word she used all the time now, that's all she was, a past tense, forgotten already, abandoned by everything. Just when everything was finally back on track after years of painstaking care on stitching her life back together.
It had hit her hard.
Everything she had tried to block out had come crashing through the barriers she had erected, it had caught up with her, and now she was running from it and the truth.
She was going to die.
Not in fifty, sixty years like everyone else her age, but soon. A month, a week, a day, they had no idea how long the cancer would give her, it just continued to rob her body and pride, breaking everything down. Of all the things to come at her time and time again it would be her own body that finally betrayed her.
Black, white, black, white, like the needle tracks on her bruised arms passed under the wheels.
Ominous groans started to emit from the engine, the truck stuttered and spluttered, slowing to a crawl, then to a final stop. Swinging the door open she leapt out the car and popped the bonnet, the steam hissing out of the gaps stung at her fingers as she tried to prise it up, tears pricked the corners of her eyes. Clouds of smoke billowed out of the radiator, she cursed under her breath and kicked the nearest wheel, her foot instantly recoiling in pain. When would the world stop taking from her!!! This was her saviour, it was supposed to take her way from the cancer that was advancing ever closer over the green fields in the distance. Desperation set in. The protective armour she had built around herself crumbled, layer upon layer shed away as desolation set in. There was nothing here; nobody could help her, would help her, there were only the endless miles of fields and sky. The goddamn hospital didn't seem so bad now.
A high-pitched ringing started to build up in her head, her eyes glossed over, blurring everything. The tears that had been held back for months started to stream across her face, over the cracked, dry skin and down to the dust below, where they were instantly evaporated away, their existence erased. Time marched on and they were forgotten by the world already. As if they'd never existed...
Oh the fucking irony!
Dry sobs racked her body, disturbing the heavy air. Her skeletal fingers clawed though her scalp, bringing away clumps of hair from her already thinning head, which only continued to strengthen the flood of tears. Exhaustion took her by the brow and forced her to her knees. Keeling over she made no sound as her body struck the sandy earth. A cloud of dust rose around her. Hands clasped in frenzied prayer. Her eyes lolled back into her head, the tension flooded from her, relaxing the gaunt face into a look of restfulness.
As the sun began to set strands of soft brown hair that lay strewn across the roadside blew into the grass and melted into the earth.
In the distance the last of the sun glinted off a window screen, a blinding dot racing every closer.
The silver truck braked and skidded harshly as it passed the prone figure in the dirt. Racing from it he skidded across the dirt and gravel to his knees. He bent over the figure in the dust, fingers searching for a pulse, any sign of life. As his icy cool fingers brushed the woman's neck her eyelids fluttered, as if in recognition to his presence. The relief in the air was almost palpable.
Lifting her up, he cradled her like a child in his strong arms to the passenger side of his truck. Laying her across the back seats he gently tucked a blanket around her as surveyed her limp form with worry. It was worse than he could ever imagine - his guilt threatened to splinter every atom in his body.
Climbing back into the driver's seat he reached for the mobile phone waiting in the cradle. Turning and brushing strands of fine hair out of her eyes he looked down.
"Don't worry darlin', everything's going to be alright."
Somewhere within the words reached her.
"Peter...? I've got her."
Bathing in the pure, brilliant light that shone through the tinted windows and danced across his textured skin creating a sea of rainbows, her bones began to warm in the sun.
AN. And it begins... mwahaha! This chapter is all about the desolation Bella has found herself in, it's miserable for a reason - she's been through a lot of shit. don't worry though, things are about to pick right the fuck up...