The world was dark, and fuzzy blobs wooshed past them at incredible speeds, Bright white blobs, incandescent yellow blobs, fuzzy red blobs that flashed yellow and then green were all just beyond Albert’s perception as they chugged down the road.
“Do you think I’m crazy?” Albert turned to the brain in the front seat of the car, anticipating an answer, yet hoping there wouldn’t be one.
“I don’t know.” Helen sounded exhausted, and Albert tried to determine if her voice was reflecting off the car like it used to from the passengers seat, if her voice was carried up to his ears from her place on the rough leather, or if it was merely echoing off the inside of his own thick skull.
Albert tapped on the brakes, and blinked at the passing signs and lights. He couldn’t make out anything, but he turned anyways. Someone honked, but the road seemed clear. Fuzzy but clear.
“Do you think I’m real?” The brain asked Albert hesitantly as they sailed toward somewhere.
Albert shifted the car into fourth. If the brain had asked him that just hours before the answer would have been obvious.
“I don’t know.” Albert said, and exhaled. He took another right.
They arrived at a bridge either by fate or by muscle memory, Albert did not know. It was a long bridge, an ancient bridge, one flanked by bright yellow street lamps arcing into the black sky, peeling into the scattered flickering starlight of a million homes pressed into the hillside across the bay.
He pulled the car over and lifted the parking brake gently.
“What are we doing?”
“Remember when we were just kids, and we came out here on cold nights.” Albert thought back on it, it had been fifty years since they stopped on that bridge. “We stared at the bay and we wondered what life would be like.”
“Is this the bridge? I thought we went to the eastern bridge…”
“Remember what you promised me?” Albert cut her off.
“That we’d only have two kids instead of three?” She chuckled.
Albert shook his head. “Helen, I’m trying to be serious.”
“Okay, be serious then.”
“You promised me…” Albert stared out the car window past the bright lights of the bridge to the moonlit bay. Light played with the water, gleaming silver across the windswept waves. “That you wouldn’t die before me.”
The brain was silent, but Albert went on. “I always thought I would go first,” He said. “I was supposed to go first. But it was you.” He unbuckled his seat belt and glanced at the brain. “I’ll never get over that.”
It was just a mushy brain then. Just a gray mass, bobbing there, a little more worse for wear than the day he brought it home. Flecks of flesh peeled off it’s membrane like the whole thing was disintegrating. It looked dustier, browner yet Albert knew every curve, every wrinkle, every discoloration on every lobe. He knew the brain like he used to know Helen’s body, her scars, her folds, the exact location thick black hairs would emerge from her chin.
This brain didn’t have a mouth, it didn’t have ears or eyes, it was sitting so low in the seat that it couldn’t see out the window even if it wanted to. How did Helen know which bridge they were on, how did she know anything?
A semi rushed past them, rumbling the car, and the disintegrating flaps of brain swayed like the thin transparent cilia of a jellyfish until long after it had gone.
Albert opened his car door and got out.
“What are you doing?” the brain called from the front seat.
He ran a hand through this thin gray hair as he rounded the car and opened the passenger door. He leaned across the brain and unbuckled her seatbelt, he pulled her into his arms and ambled to the edge of the bridge.
“It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it.” The brain continued in Albert’s embrace. Albert didn’t respond. It was a beautiful night.
“Helen.” Albert set the brain on the thick stone railing and peered over the edge. Frigid wind whipped him in the face and made him gasp. He looked at the water, deep, dark, black, and so far away it almost looked soft. “I don’t know what’s real anymore.”
“Sure you do.” Helen said, “I’m real, you’re real, this is real.” There was fear in her voice now, a waver of concern that palpitated her words.
“I don’t know.” Albert looked over the edge again. “I think I’m crazy. I think you’re crazy. I think all of this is crazy.”
“You’re not crazy, this is just us, it’s just us!”
“I can’t speak to a brain forever.” Albert pressed his toes between the balusters of the railing and held tightly to a thick suspension wire above him as he leaned over the edge again. The waves and the wind made him want to vomit, and he pulled himself back.
“Sure you can.”
“I can’t.” Albert stroked the glass of the brain and furrowed his brow, “I don’t know what’s real.” He said again.
“This is real!” Helen’s voice was getting higher, more concerned.
“I don’t want to do this.” Albert shook his head. The wind was so strong he could barely hear her.
“Forgive me Helen.”
He leaned over the edge.
And he thrust the brain off the railing and into the cold night. He watched it tumble for a moment, catching sharp light on it’s shiny metal lid. Then it stopped spinning, it hung in the air like it was flying, and for a moment Albert thought it would fly back to him.
He could barely hear the splash over the wind, and he certainly couldn’t see it, but Albert knew it was over. He stared over the edge, and tried to catch a glimpse of Helen floating along the bay, but there was nothing, and if there was Albert wouldn’t be able to make it out anyways.
Guilt filled him like a soreness, then mourning, then fear. Helen was gone from his life again, and Albert had killed her, murdered her with his own two hands. Her company, her voice, her breath was gone. And Albert would never be able to forgive himself for that.
He tucked himself back in the car and let himself cry. He let himself cry for the Helen he had lost a year ago, and he let himself cry for the Helen he lost today. He let himself cry out of relief that he abolished the voice, that he wasn’t crazy, and he let himself cry out of fear that maybe he still was. Albert was alone again.
He started the car and wiped his eyes.
“Sure glad we got rid of that thing.” Helen’s voice came out of no where. “It was really starting to cramp our style.”
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C. L. Brenton