You can run from your fears, but you can't escape them
|Lola didn’t expect her family to understand. Nor did she waste any time hoping her friends would support the big move. Still, it was astonishing how confusion seemed universal among the many social circles she’d cultivated over the years. While their reactions ran a gamut of incredulous headshakes, dazed blinking, raised eyebrows and erratic hand waving, the question always remained the same.
“Canada? Why on earth would you want to live there?!”
For what felt like the hundredth time, Lola unleashed a sigh. Her patience had eroded into a weary groan, wondering what she could say to mollify another wounded acquaintance. “I’m sick of the humidity,” She admitted to her boss. “It’s getting too crowded for my liking,” Lola shrugged to a co-worker. “I got a job offer I can’t turn down,” She confided to her tearful mother.
These were partially true, but the real reason was one Lola didn’t dare admit. She just couldn’t stand the insects.
Florida was home to a disgusting breeding ground of massive mosquitoes, deafening cicadas, beefy cockroaches… and man-eating spiders. Well, the last part was a bit of an exaggeration. But to Lola, any arachnid bigger than a quarter was liable to feast on a petite woman like her. That meant nearly every web-spinning creature she encountered.
She loathed how spiders scuttle; the jerky movements of slender limbs, hungry fangs twitching, swiftly appearing or vanishing at the worst moments possible. It was impossible to go a day without encountering at least one.
It didn’t help that her ex mocked her for being squeamish. Chad would catch any indoor spiders with his bare hands and taunt a cowering Lola. It was a trick he pulled one too many times. After an especially harrowing experience of being trapped in a small bathroom with a renegade huntsman spider, she vowed to live someplace where creepy crawlies didn’t flourish in record numbers. And where jerks didn’t chase poor girls around while holding them.
Once the smug boyfriend dumped the offending huntsman off the balcony, Lola gave him the same treatment. Not literally, of course. Upon retrieving her apartment key from an angry Chad, she immediately began searching for housing in the frostbitten reaches of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Moving was the easy part. Acclimation however…
Lola never imagined she’d find herself longing for the warm sun rays and twenty-four-hour conveniences of Tampa Bay. The northern wind was savage and untamed, rushing over the rugged landscape and constantly threatening to take her tiny frame along with it. Any shop that wasn’t Costco held limited inventory, the missing stock had to be ordered online or risk waiting weeks for the next delivery truck to wind its way up the jagged coastline.
The locals weren’t exactly unpleasant, but neither were they friendly. Citizens were a bit more reserved than Lola expected and slow to warm up to the friendship of a ‘mainlander’. In fact, most interactions left her more confused than anything. The thick accent and bizarre slang seemed almost impenetrable.
After settling into her new apartment, Lola decided she needed a few stiff drinks to wash away the lingering doubts. Using a guidebook, she selected one of the highest rated bars in the area. Time to see what the nightlife was about.
O’Reilly’s was a charming pub, full of boisterous patrons and cheery folk music. A bearded singer warbled from the stage as he strummed a guitar before a crowd of admiring fans that held frothy pint glasses aloft and chimed in at the chorus.
Pushing through the sea of flannel shirts and earmuffs, Lola wound her way to the packed countertop. The bartender nodded to her and placed a frosty beer in front of a grizzled old timer before approaching with a broad smile. “Whatta y’at?” He asked expectantly.
Lola blinked. “Um… I’ll take a vodka cranberry please.” There was a slight pause, a brief instant where she knew that it wasn’t the right response. But the awkward moment passed as the bartender set about making her cocktail.
Beside Lola, a red-haired woman leaned close. “A CFA, are ya? What brings you to this neck of the woods?”
“CFA?” Wrinkling her nose, Lola confessed she was out of her element. “Means come from away,” The lady explained. “Poor thing, it’s a right mess getting to know the lingo.” She stuck out a hand. “Amelia, ya might see me face round here quite a bit. Place is like a second home.”
“Lola,” The CFA grinned, relieved to make a new friend. “I just moved here from Florida.”
Amelia tilted her head and frowned. “Nearly night and day that is. How she getting on?”
Once Lola understood the odd question, she admitted it was much harder to get used to Canada than she’d expected. “It was a bit of an impulsive decision, really. I just wanted to live someplace that was a bit less infested with bugs.”
The old man next to her barked a short laugh. “Now I knows you’re stunned,” He shook his wrinkled head, grey beard waggling. “Ya shagged up, lassie. Jes’ wait till the swarms of black flies come. You’ll get shitbaked an’ skitter on back to yer mudder soon enough.”
He tossed some bills onto the bar and muttered under his breath. “Oh me nerves, damn mainlanders… Can't do 'ar ting when ya got nar ting ta do 'ar ting wit.”
Amelia shouted after the sour elder as he vanished into the crowd. “You’re right crooked today, Liam! Who knit ya?” She turned back to Lola and smiled apologetically. “Don’t mind him, he gets us all drove from time to time.”
Sipping her vodka cranberry, Lola shrugged. “I’d be more upset if I had half a mind what he was saying.”
The music swelled as a new song began. Amelia began tapping the beat and grinned as everyone began to shout the lyrics. “Sorry, but I just dies at Sonny’s Dream,” She threw her ginger head back and belted out the words.
Sonny don't go away, I'm here all alone
Your Daddy's a sailor, never comes home…
Glancing around, Lola noticed that even the bartender was joining in. The soft notes washed over her as the entire bar danced and crooned along. Although she couldn’t have been more of an outsider, there was a comforting feeling, an almost homey warmth that radiated and filled a homesick heart. For the first time since her arrival, Lola felt a happy future could be carved out on this desolate rock.
All these nights get so long and the silence goes on
And I’m feeling so tired, I’m not all that strong…
Amelia was quick to show an overwhelmed mainlander around St. John’s and its outlying areas. Through her expert guidance, Lola was able to glimpse the savage beauty lying beneath Canada’s harsh veneer. They sipped warm lattes on cliff side walks, overlooking the undulating sapphire sea. Lola discovered all the best places to shop, browsing playful apparel inside Twisted Sisters Boutik, marveling at dazzling jewelry displays outside Johnny Ruth’s or picking up some humorous shirts designed by Living Planet.
She learned where free parking was on weekends, which was extremely useful knowledge. Amelia was always bursting with countless insider tips, practically glowing in her dual roles of tour guide and companion.
On the bumpy ferry to Bell Island, Lola also discovered her lack of sea legs. The trip was spent leaning over the side, trying not to let her lunch gurgle forth in an embarrassing display. Once they reached the dock, Lola quickly regained her constitution and even felt daring enough to climb the lighthouse, gasping at the majestic expanse of dramatic coasts, ancient stone formations and endless azure horizons.
It was a magical fall, capping off a sticky Floridian summer.
“We’ll make a Canuk of you yet,” Amelia chuckled as they returned from an excursion to Engine Rock. “Ya just have to get on the beer with us.” It was impressive how much Newfoundlanders drank and still managed to function. Booze, music and good food were all staples of life here. That suited Lola just fine.
After a particularly rowdy concert at O’Reilly’s, Lola and Amelia tumbled into the car, giggling. “I can’t believe that young feller daring to steal my treasure away,” Amelia playfully shoved her tanned sidekick. “Didn’t think he’d make a boast of himself, that moose tale he laid on ya was a gas.” Holding her sides, Lola recalled the baby-faced suitor who claimed to be a finer hunter than any Inuit. She glanced over at her friend with a serious expression. “Five hundred yards, one shot.”
They both burst into peals of laughter, Lola gasping for breath and Amelia slapping the steering wheel. The horn blared, startling them both. After a shocked moment, they set off in a fresh bout of hysterics.
“Sure you’re good to drive?” Lola chuckled, wiping tears away.
Amelia rolled her eyes and inspected her mascara in the rear view. “I can hold my drink, dontcha know?” After adjusting her makeup, she turned the key in the ignition and the engine rumbled to life. Headlights shone, illuminating a thick grey haze. “Goodness,” Amelia muttered.
“It’s a mausy night, that is.”
“Mausy,” Lola parroted her, rolling the word around. “Mauuusy.”
It meant nasty, or unpleasant weather. Fog wasn’t quite as bad as hurricanes or monsoon season in her book. Waking up to a shrouded world gave things an almost dream like quality. “This must be what it’s like to live in London.” Lola muttered as the vehicle rolled through the mist.
“Pshaw.” The driver scoffed. “We get more of this than they do.”
They sped into the night, Amelia following familiar roads winding to her cabin. Wisps of fog twisted and wafted over the asphalt. Lola thought it resembled spirits, dancing to a secret tune that only the silent forest knew. Fir trees leapt out of the gloom, bushy branches wreathed in smoky vapor. A road sign flashed. Speed limit – 60 km/h
Lola glanced at the speedometer. The needle rested on 70. “Maybe you should slow down a bit.”
Sighing heavily, Amelia shot her passenger a wounded look. “You think I’m a bit of a stunner? I know these roads better than anyone.”
A shape staggered out of the fog. Lola screamed, pointing at it. Headlights slashed through the mist, revealing a gangly-legged moose. Amelia jerked the wheel, trying to veer away from the lumbering animal as it limped into the road.
Turning its head, the bull witnessed the car barreling towards it.
Amelia shouted something, words lost in a mixture of screeching brakes, animal bellow and Lola’s own cries. Metal shuddered. Glass splintered, shattering in a crystalline explosion. A giant hoof filled her vision. Then all was painful darkness.
…and he watches the sea from a room by the stairs..
Music. Someone was playing Sonny’s Dream. Lola had a terrible headache, a splitting agony worse than any migraine. Eyelids cracked open, dully taking in her surroundings. Everything was a blurry dark brown. She blinked, focusing vision and thoughts. Blood trickled from her woozy forehead, stinging Lola’s sight. Lifting a hand to the muddy blob, she felt coarse fur beneath fingertips and was lost for the reason why.
Panic filled her. She twisted her neck to the left, wincing at the sudden movement. “Amelia?” Lola rasped hoarsely. The animal’s head lay in Amelia’s lap, antlers embedded in her chest. Red hair tumbled around a crimson crown of bone, glazed eyes staring down at the mortal wound. Her mouth hung open, arms embracing the bovine skull. Glass shards stuck out from the creature’s neck, ribbons of viscera dangling, weeping sanguine tears.
And the waves keep on rollin', they've done that for years
Amelia’s phone was ringing. Lola sobbed, unable to comprehend the tragedy before her and not wanting to. She reached for her own device and found it missing. It had been in her hands right before the crash. The moose’s front legs jutted out on either side of her. Lola shoved at its furry chest, tears streaking her face. It didn’t budge.
Fingers clambered for the door handle. She yanked it desperately, wishing to escape the carnage of the cabin. It popped open a mere inch. A red cedar trunk blocked her exit, bark chipping as Lola frantically slammed the door into it over and over, praying for a miracle, that somehow the tree would move, give way just enough for her to squeeze out and get help. But her pleas went unanswered.
Sonny's dreams can't be real, they're just stories he's read
She gave up, slumping into the seat. The only option left was to get Amelia’s phone.
Timidly, Lola reached around the dead animal’s leg, jacket sleeve brushing against oozing cuts, blood soaking into her sleeve. She paused, not wanting to touch her friend’s corpse. Biting her lip, Lola brushed the long ginger hair away from Amelia’s face. “Why didn’t you listen to me?” She whispered thickly. “I’m sorry I wasn’t a better friend. We should have stayed in town…”
They're just stars in his eyes, they're just dreams in his head...
Guitar strings hummed from Amelia’s pocket. Her left pocket. Lola strained against the moose, trying to grasp her only salvation. Skin rubbed against something hard and bumpy. She frowned, squinting at the dead animal.
It was covered in little black lumps, glossy orbs shining in areas where fur was patchy and thin. As Lola examined them, she was gradually aware of a faint noise. Tap. Tap. Tap.
And he's hungry inside for the wide world outside...
Something fell from the moose. It bounced off the gear shifter with a click and vanished between the seats. Another object descended onto the dashboard. Tap. She leaned forward. Then Lola recoiled from that terrible, paralyzing knowledge.
Jointed legs clawed at the air as the tick tried to flip over. A second one plopped next to it, scrambling over the plastic and moving towards Lola. She screamed, swiping both away with her sleeve. Tap. Tap. Tap.
The ticks began to fall faster, a nightmare rain pouring from the cooling animal as they headed for the only living creature in their immediate vicinity. Dozens of them raced over the dashboard, climbing on the ceiling, clambering over Amelia as Lola shrieked and flailed against the parasitic tide that came in endless waves. She could feel them scrambling up her pants, squirming down her neckline, hunting for exposed flesh.
Knuckles slammed against the window, skin splitting as fists struck every surface. Lola felt little bites everywhere, stinging her neck and legs. She ripped out ticks on her face, eyes crazed with terror as she helplessly fought against the hungry army. And still they came.
Some were slow and fat with moose blood. Others were thinner, faster and ravenous. Brown ticks, black ticks, spotted ones and banded variations all crept over her body, indiscriminate in their feasting. They nipped Lola’s eyelids, climbed up nostrils, slipped down her back, and crawled through hair before burying sinister heads deep in warm skin and drinking greedily.
The silent forest echoed with her wordless howls for hours.