It’s the things that you remember that keep you alive. I’d rather forget. But I can’t. I quickly lift myself on the counter of the abandoned gas station to evade the attendant that snuck up behind me as I was leaning over to check for any dead. This is where I am. Somewhere in Texas kicking my feet at what is left of a gas station attendant. My eyes skim over the word Bub on his name tag and I find myself wondering what Bub was like before he had half his face hanging off. Maybe he was nice. Maybe he was salt of the earth. But now he is less than two feet from my face. The only thing stopping him from eating half of it off are my two arms pressed against his chest as he inches closer to me, pinning me to the counter. I look around desperate to find anything to protect myself and my brains from Bub. Desperate but not hopeful I scan past displays of gum and candy. I look directly above my head and see cartons of cigarettes stocked and notice they are organized by color. It reminds me of the garment rack conveyer at the dry cleaners. I suddenly remember I never picked up Dad’s shirts from the cleaners almost a year ago. Bub moves in closer. I feel hot tears fill my eyes as I realize I am going to die while wondering where I left my dry cleaning ticket. Bub is so close I can smell the rotted skin hanging from his face. I turn my head from the stench and something on top of the cash register next to me catches my eye. A railroad spike that has been welded to stand up straight and hold spiked receipts. I take one hand from his chest and with it goes what is left of my strength. His body smashes against mine as his hands paw at my chest. The material of my suede jacket is the only thing keeping him from ripping me open. I grab for the spike and realize it is just out of my reach. I want to cry out but I know it will take too much energy and draw more of the wrong kind of attention. I start to hit the register with one hand hoping to knock the spike off while my other hand is stopping Bub’s face from eating mine. The spike doesn’t move. I look in his eyes. They used to be brown but have become the muddiest red like Georgia clay. I feel myself giving up. My mind starts to close out the horror that’s in front of me. It takes me to a different place. A better place.
I remember my mother’s face in the cold. Her cheeks would get so pink and her ivory skin would become paler in comparison. Like one of my sister’s porcelain dolls. Like a 1920’s starlet. She was beautiful. Even more so in my memories. I remember ice skating on Duck’s Lake two blocks from our house. They had an actual ice skating rink in town but mother would say “Why pay for what God gave us for free?”. No matter that there were signs posted everywhere warning against skating on the frozen lake because of thin ice spots. She pulled my sister and me through the snow covered streets in our rusty radio-flyer. She told us to pretend we were on the Oregon trail in the highest mountains with the worst terrain during the bleakest leg of our journey. I can see her pulling us along only looking back to add excitement to the adventure she was weaving for us, the red waves of her hair coming loose from Dad’s furry hunting hat on her head and falling to her shoulders in single curls. She said “Remember girls, it is when the road is the roughest that strength is found. Courage is never pretty”. We skated for hours that day. Till our noses were red and our fingers numb. When the sun sat low in the sky Mother insisted we get home to start dinner. I begged her to let me go round the ice one more time. She leaned down and pressed her eskimo nose to mine and agreed. I remember wanting to make her proud so I decided to go as far out on the ice as fast as I could hoping that when I turned around she would laugh at me and wave. When I reached the far end of the lake I turned to find her yelling to me. She looked upset. I started to move to return to her and as I did I heard a loud crack. I froze and looked to my mother. She read my face and stopped shouting. I wanted to skate back to her. I wanted her next to me. I started to move again holding her wide eyes with mine. I will never forget the look of horror on her face. Pure fear. It’s the last thing I saw as I fell through the ice. That look. It’s etched in my memory. It haunts me. I know it must have been the look she wore before the dead took her from me. Pure fear. With that thought my mind brings me back to the present. I see her face as I punch the register for the last time. The spike wobbles and falls to the counter. I quickly grab it and lift it in the air above the back of his head. I remember that day on the ice. I remember her red curls. I remember and with all the strength I have left I bring the spike down into the skull of Bub the gas station attendant that once had brown eyes.
Somedays I feel just as dead inside as the lifeless eyes that lurk and follow waiting to catch their prey and make me one of them. Waiting to take away what little light I have left in my cold blue eyes. I don’t know what stops me from letting them have it. From walking into a herd of flesh eaters like they were oncoming traffic at Time Square. It’s the memories that will you to live even when life isn’t worth living anymore. Try and forget all you want but the life you lived is still there and as long as it exists in your mind, in your heart, in your soul; then the hope for having it again will never leave you. Like a dream that wakes you from your slumber when all you wanna do is sleep. Like a dream that keeps you awake when you’re so tired. I’m so tired. I remember being unable to feel anything but the ice cold water in my veins. I remember trying to kick but only sinking further and further. I remember the light from the day above the water starting to go dark. I was so sleepy. I forgot about fighting my way to the top. I stopped kicking my legs. Just as my eyes closed I saw hands reach in the water and grab a hold of me. My mother’s hands pulled me from the water to the shocking cold of the surface. She shook me awake, willing me to live. It’s the things you remember that keep you alive.