KW 1: Mustang
“You’re in shock,” Bishop said.
He named it. That’s what I’m in: shock. And—in keeping with the theory that all things have meaning, or, rather, that nothing has no meaning—I shouldn’t ignore the fact that shock, as a pathological phenomenon, is related to the circulatory function, to blood loss, to a weak pulse, low blood pressure.
Everything is about blood now, isn’t it? Its circulation from someone to me to someone else. Its loss, its pressure.
The pressure of the blood.
Evidence that I’m in shock: I’m not nearly as afraid as I should be. Wary, on guard, distrustful, yes. But frightened? Only vaguely. I’m frightened the way I was frightened that night along a desolate freeway in Pennsylvania when, during a long, uneventful drive, I decided on a whim to drift out of the left lane for the wide open inner lanes, and just as I eased the wheel towards the right and crossed over the first dotted white line, still in the midst of evening daydreams, a cement median came at me like an oncoming train in a narrow tunnel. I had enough time to see its reflectors flashing before it exploded past me a few feet to my left.
For how long I had been driving on the shoulder of the freeway rather than the left lane, I’ll never know. What is certain is that, had I decided to change lanes even two seconds later, my van and I would have become one with the median at 70MPH, the three of us a new form of life that exists for a split second in some roadside Large Hadron Collider. One moment, my hands on the wheel, my foot on the pedal while I compose a forum post in my head for the cryptid hunters online, the next, I’m tinsel and confetti and sparkles of pulverized plastic and concrete, and a tire rim rolling on to carry the news of my transformation to momma.
And the seconds ticked by as I drove in the real, honest-to-god left lane, the median rushing along beside me, and it was as though the shuttle had failed to launch but had failed to explode on the launching pad too, just sitting there in Cape Canaveral, waiting and full of fuel. I was aware that I had almost died, and that I wouldn’t have even known what hit me. Had I missed a sign? The mass of the van, and of me inside it, the inertia, the fragility of flesh, all of these things we ignore when we’re getting from A to B, they arose in my mind but stirred only the dimmest, most distant fear, because, what of it? What could be done? It was over and I was still there, flying over the asphalt. There was dinner to make and exams to grade and, in the meantime, a pedal to press, fuel to burn. I continued home
That’s the kind of fear I feel: back-burner fear, fear I have no time for.
More evidence I’m in shock: I have no identity. It’s what she wanted to know, wasn’t it? Who are you? What are you? I’m a blank slate. Zack wiped my identity once, and I was rebuilding it, finding stability, losing it to the blood madness he inflicted on me, beginning to rebuild it again when he died and took the vinculum with him, and now it’s gone once more, wiped by someone I don’t even know, someone I can barely remember even seeing before she claimed me.
I’m not human, I’m not ghoul. I’m not citizen, I’m not servant. I’m not boy, I’m not man. I’m child to a mother unknown, brother to a brother unknown, conscript to an army unguessed and a war undreamed.
I’m a Mustang, said Bishop. An enlisted soldier promoted to officer. I didn’t come from West Point or Annapolis. I worked my way up; I was elevated.
Nevermind all that. I'll invent myself later. Foot on the pedal, hand on the wheel, drive on.