Walter looked idly out the window at the green stretches of hills and crooked wire fences that bound the grassy paddocks. There were scattered livestock who seemed fairly idle themselves as they grazed the day away. Walter wondered what it might be like to be a cow. Would they feel at peace with the world; free from the odd societal pressures that seemed relentless as they bore down on the average human? Or would they find a problem intertwined in their fears and desires and escalate this to the highest priority of anxiety? He was beginning to sound like Phil, the outspoken writer who had tagged along for the latter portion of the tour. Phil would invariably offer Walter marijuana whenever they had some time together. Walter would refuse but he didn’t mind chatting with the slightly skewed mindset that Phil would develop after a joint.
Right now Walter had found himself in a phase of escalation, his issue raised much higher than one of Phil’s recreational nights. He was sitting in the passenger seat of Lucy’s car, they had been driving for about an hour, and he had not been able to think of a thing to say for the last three quarters of it.
The radio played some soft jazz, an inoffensive number that seemed to go on forever. They had come to this station in an effort to first dull out the blaring silence and then to avoid the breaking news about Walter’s suspicious exit in the car of Lucy Blues. The range of emotions that Walter had felt that day had once seemed so grand - the anger and injustice, the self righteousness and shame, now it appeared childish as they were outweighed by a teenage-like friction between himself and the girl he had a crush on.
Walter began counting sheep in the pastures they drove by in an attempt to distract his mind. It reminded him of the old sleep-inducing trick and surprisingly he did feel very drowsy all of the sudden. He rested his eyes a moment after about 6 sheep. The he opened them and saw a herd of cattle. There were about 12 scattered throughout the paddock. He closed his eyes again wondering if it was OK to count cows as well as sheep. He opened his eyes and decided to ask one of the cows.
“You can do what you like, Walter,” the cow replied, “that’s what you have always been doing.”
“But it’s not working. I don’t even know what I like.”
“But you’re the happiest man in the world,” the cow replied incredulously, almost sarcastically.
“I don’t feel like it.” Walter said. He was suddenly fifteen years old.
“You don’t look like it either.” Phil said. Phil was standing with a bag of hay, feeding it to a cow. He still had his same dirty singlet and low hanging shorts on. Walter was afraid to reply to him.
“Walter look at where we are. Look at where you are.” The cow said. She took another mouthful of hay. Walter looked around the paddock and saw a few cattle scattered throughout, each with their own human feeding them hay. Around the perimeter of the paddock was a huge skyscraping building which fenced them in. The Sun was setting and casting a large shadow across the field.
Walter looked back and Phil was wearing a nice suit now. He was tying up his hay bag and slung it over his shoulder. The cow looked up at him almost frightened, she had Lucy’s voice as she spoke, “But there is more.”
“There’s always more.” Phil said condescendingly, “Look.” He pointed to the ground and there was a large pile of hay. He kicked it at her and laughed.
“Don’t kick that!” she said urgently, “That’s Walter’s hay.”
“You need a bag, Walter. Maybe then someone will wanna eat your bullshit.” Phil laughed again.
Walter stomped his hooves. He was ready to charge at Phil. Phil held out his hay bag and Walter charged. Phil pulled it away at the last moment and Walter ran into his own haystack, kicking wildly and trampling it into the ground.
“Stop it! The cow screamed, “Don’t!”
Walter knew he should stop but he couldn’t. He bucked wildly, and grunted. The others in the field began to stare at him. He wanted to cry and scream but he couldn’t.
“No!” Lucy screamed. Then a piercing sensation shot through the vertebrae in his neck. The ice cold blade slid back out and-
Walter jumped in his seat, the echo of the scream still ringing in his ears. He grabbed at the back of his neck, still not sure if he had actually been struck.
“Are you OK there, Walt?” Lucy said playfully. Walter was still struggling to take in his surroundings. He was in a car, Lucy’s car. They were still driving and it wasn’t morning. It was dark outside and he had saliva smeared across his cheek. He was never a graceful sleeper, and not a fan of sleeping before 9pm - The disorientation seemed to negate any benefits of catching up on sleep. “You have a bad dream?” Lucy asked again in that inviting tone, glancing sideways with a smile.
“Uhm yeah,” Walter said, repositioning himself in his seat, “How long was I asleep?”
“Couple hours. Don’t worry, the jazz kept me company.”
“Is it still the same song?” Walter asked, catching on to the conversational tone. His neck no longer hurt, and he was quickly forgetting why it should.
“I’m glad you woke up, actually. We’re almost here.”
Walter noticed the road was much bumpier now. There were no streetlights, just the highbeams from Lucy’s car. Walter could make out the shadows of the trees that appeared to line the road. It was almost an eerie setting, but Walter felt comfortable in Lucy’s warmth. “So where are you taking me, anyway?” he asked.
“To my father’s old cabin. It’s a beautiful place. And don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you.” She smiled.
“Be kind of a waste after you just saved me, right?”
“Yeah,” Lucy said, appreciating the joke if not laughing at it. Walter wanted to take it further; the comment offered an opening back into what ultimately seemed critical right now, but he sensed Lucy’s hesitation and was hesitant himself to spoil this mood. Plus it was easy to mix up one’s priorities in the company of certain people.
“Your father lives here?”
“No he passed away a few years ago. But coming here reminds me of him; I feel like he is here with me sometimes.”
They pulled into a driveway which was even bumpier than the dirt road. It was dark outside but the moonlight seemed to illuminate the house. It looked much bigger than Walter had been picturing – ‘cabin’ did not seem to do it justice. Lucy parked out the front and Walter helped her with a few bags, carrying them inside. Lucy went around the side of the house and fiddled with the switch board.
Walter felt a vibration in his hand. He was confused for a moment before he realised he was carrying Lucy’s handbag. He stumbled around trying to place it on a table so he could rummage through and catch the call. There was a dim light trying to escape from underneath her purse and whatever else was in the bag. He eventually got his hand to the phone and was about to answer when he did a double take on the caller’s name.
Sammy. The name flashed twice and then the screen went blank. Walter stared at the glow of light that was highlighted by the pitch black of the room. Then the lights came on and Lucy called out, “We have power.”
Walter shoved the phone back into the bag and spun quickly to greet Lucy with a smile.
“Is something wrong?” she asked, playfully.
Walter shook his head. “No, just the sudden light is kind of blinding.”
Lucy smiled. “Yeah,” she took a deliberate step towards him.