The air was thinner here in the mountains, although dry. That sort of thinness that strangled you, working into your blood to simmer it down to dust. I sat perched in my usual, an orange dirt carpet at the edge of a cliff. Precarious to some, although common place to a man unafraid of death. The sun was bleeding behind the broken horizon, red strewn all over the clouds. Some would call it glorious although I had seen so many now, even that sort of majesty was commonplace. Surely I'd become more a monster as I sat there unmoved, just lost in my thoughts unaffected on the face of Bat Rock Summit.
Even now, as the seconds were pissing by, lost to the consumption of life, she was dying. That shriveled up porcelain goddess. If I were any kind of man (which I only was relatively speaking), I'd be at her side, holding one of those thinning hands, kissing her fingertips and telling her how much I loved her. She'd smile as she always did, her head tilted in warm affection as she replied, "I love you too Binky." I'd always hated that name, but I know if she'd ever stopped calling me that my heart would shatter.
I'd tried everything in my power, everything I was taught to try and save her but the old ways put down on me were just not enough to compete with aggressive cancer. My "father" would have said something generic like it was her time. But even in that vague statement, he always managed to have a tone of unique wisdom with most everything he said to me. I'd sulk or brood, but he was always right in the end.
I think she just tolerated my attempts. More of those weak smiles, some secret understanding that they'd fail. I think she'd known for a while she was leaving and nothing would disrupt the peace she'd made with that. Especially not me.
I tossed a rock into the gorge, watched it fall and hit somewhere on the bottom soundlessly, hardly a speck. The sun was lost, followed by the vague milk of twilight. It was time to go. I couldn't sit up here all night debating over this anymore. Debating if against her wishes and my better judgment if I'd participate in the 'forbiddens'. That magic Lou' had tried to keep me from knowing but I found out about anyway. For now, I had to go. I had to be a man. Her man.
My 85 Camero left dust trails in waves behind me. I think, at one point this bucket used to be black. Over time and abuse it was more brown, either from dirt or rust it was uncertain. It worked, which was all that mattered. I wasn't a man that cared two shits about appearances and the niceties of life. I lived in a shack. I drove a car riddled with dents and filth. My clothes matched the unkempt ensemble. Boots. Jeans. Flannel. Yeah, you get it… a real bum.
The hospital looked like it was preserved in the seventies and it was really no wonder how they couldn't help her. She wouldn't be moved though, predictable. I rested on her bedside, a crooked smile offered as sacrifice despite my sour mood.
She was some technological angel, wings of bedsheets and decorated in wires and tubes and all manner of annoying beeping things in a sickened chorus of noise. It smelled like chemicals, muting down her usual natural fragrance of vanilla.
"Hey Binky.." she said weakly, her voice a soft hoarse whisper bespeaking of pain she'd never admit or complain of.
"Hey sweetheart," I replied gruff, stubbly face pressing against her palm, "How you doin'?"
"I'm alive," she smiled, nose wrinkling. My god what an angel.
I smoothed back golden hair, thinned from the chemo before she'd ultimately told them to shove it and allow her to die with some dignity. But she wouldn't be dying here. Not in this place, which was partly the intention of my visit tonight.
"Baby, let's get outta here.." I said against her ear, eyes darting cautiously towards the door. That look of confusion lasted only a second before she understood, you could see it within those gleaming cerulean pools.
She nodded once, and I managed a wheel chair, blankets. I wrapped her up carefully and walked her down the halls. We only had resistance from one doctor, one that recognized her who briefly voiced her inability to leave.
I say briefly because my knuckles connected with his jaw shortly after leaving him out cold in the elevator. We were gone after that. In that piece of shit car, to my piece of shit shack and she was settled down amidst fuzzy knitted afghans and clean sheets. (She'd washed them before she'd gotten bed-ridden, as if I knew how to operate that machine.)
We talked all night, enjoying the bliss of mild conversation. One that, unless I intervened, would be here last. I had shimmied down between a rock and a hard place. What remaining moral value left in my by ol' Lou screaming against the darker magics. My love for this woman screaming pro blackness, her survival at any cost.
When the sun rose again, another murderous landscape against the sky, I knew what I needed to do.
Lou had made me the shaman about two hundred years prior, in this very place and surprisingly it'd changed little during that span of time. The wizened old Native American man had found me in the desert, half-dead. One of the first colonists of this country. I was so hungry for it then, and now. Now I'd rather it burn down, every square inch. Lou made me a shaman so he could himself pass on. I'd done little with those abilities in the mean time. He'd had hope for me, and I failed him with the inability to have hope in myself. Devoid except for Patricia. This frail dying goddess.
As the sun set, she was sleeping. Maybe she was already on that pathway towards the other side. Some restless unknown she was unafraid of. I held her hand again, and aligned my lips with her ear. "I love you sweetheart. This world needs you, not me.." and I kissed her fevered cheek.
The ritual took a few hours, well into the heat of the afternoon. She'd slept through it all, her life dimming before my eyes. Her breath shallow, but my own comprehension weaved in and out from a spirit realm to here. Hallucinations of Lou and his predecessors all staring at me with emotionless expressions that refused to indicate their approval or disapproval.
When it was over, I was drenched in sweat and her color was returning. She was now the life of this land. She was its voice. She was a healer to the people, a comfort to all the beings of nature. She was the shaman. Her heart and patience were suited to the work.
I staggered outside, returned with a desert blossom which I adorned in her hair, now that lustrous spun gold that I remembered. I kissed her unconscious lips feverishly and left. Walking. Walking. Walking until I was again on that dirt carpet, spread out watching the stars gain life in the sky above me. Little white flecks slowly materializing into existence. Lou was sitting beside me now, a smile on his face. Just a small one. It was the only way I ever knew I'd done something right. (which wasn't often).
"Close your eyes.." he said, accent thick. I did so. I did so and dropped down into utter peace, suspended in a bleeding sunset.