I didn't actually know all that much about David Bowie yet. I knew David Bowie, as everyone who is forty years old knows David Bowie. I mean, he was a cultural phenomenon, so you couldn't escape him completely. But if I was going to write a story like this, I was going to need to expand my knowledge a bit.
So, I did my favorite kind of research. I listened to music. I also delved into his history as well. Watching several documentaries on Ziggy Stardust in particular and David Bowie in general. I became a fan by way of this.
So, when I heard of his death, I was shocked and saddened. I didn't even know he was fighting with cancer. Hell, he'd just released an album a few weeks ago or so, right? You don't do that when you're on death's door usually.
Anyway, to celebrate David Bowie's life, and moreso my little connection with that life that I made researching him a year ago, I'm posting "Chloey, Joey, Zoey, and David Bowie" on my blog for anyone to read if they want. Hope you enjoy it.
Chloey, Joey, Zoey, and David Bowie
by B.D. Anklevich
If I’d realized that today would be the greatest day of my life, that all my dreams would come true in one shot, and that I’d meet David Bowie...not the David Bowie, but David Bowie nonetheless...maybe I would have worn something cuter, or spent some more time fixing my makeup after it went to hell.
I had a napkin in my purse, and I used it to wipe away the smeared mascara. My eyes were still pretty red, but that could easily be overlooked, or explained away if it wasn’t overlooked. But I’d be damned if I was gonna make it obvious that mom and I had been in yet another screaming match by leaving streaks of running mascara on my cheeks like I was those guys from Kiss or, what was that other guy, um...Alice Cooper, I think, was his name. I looked into the cracked face of the compact mirror, and did my best to repair the damage. My face, before I’d gone to the front door and told my mom I was leaving, had been a masterpiece of modern design. It had taken a full half hour to get everything just the way I’d wanted it.
Damn my mom and her bottomless lake of bitchiness. How could someone who was widely known as the town whore (believe me, I’ve heard it a thousand times from bullies at school), be so disapproving of every damn thing that I wear? So what if you could see my belly button? At least I wasn’t sucking guys off behind the diner when I got off work. I didn’t do that shit. I was never going to be like my mom. Never.
I looked back at the mirror. It was really hard to see anything, since it was so small, and broken to boot, but I had to fix up the damage that the tears had done. There was no way I was going to show up at Joey’s house looking like this. I had a major crush on Joey, and I insisted that Joey see me at my best. But, it was going to take a while, so I figured I ought to duck out of sight. A big maple tree in the field next to the feed store served my purpose nicely. I did have to be quick, though, because the sun would be down soon, and the light was failing.
After mopping up the wet mascara, I pulled out my eyeliner pencils. First blue and then hot pink. My inspiration, as usual, was David Bowie on the cover of Aladdin Sane. Not so much the design as the colors. Although I did do the red lightning bolt on my face a couple of Halloweens ago when I dressed as Ziggy Stardust, that wasn’t the plan tonight. But I loved the colors he used in those days, so I always tried to use as much color as I could.
Once the damage was patched up, I got back on the road. Joey’s house was only a five-minute walk from the trailer me and my mom shared. Joey’s parents had good jobs. They were both teachers at the county high school, and so Joey had access to a car. Once I made it there, the world would open up before me like an oyster baring its pearls.
It only took a minute, and I was knocking on the door. Mr. Davis opened it. He’d been my math teacher for two years, and I couldn’t see him without getting flashbacks of the horrors of mathematics. Luckily, Joey and me didn’t spend a lot of time at their house.
“Hey, Mr. Davis. I’m here to see Joey,” I said.
“Sure, just a minute. Come in.”
He went to the stairs and shouted for Joey. It was only a moment before she appeared. She was radiant as usual: long, black spiraling curls; smooth, unblemished skin; shining, white teeth; deep, dark eyes; and a slim figure that was nevertheless rounded in all the right places. I was always both lustful and jealous at the same time whenever I saw her.
Oh, and yes, Joey was a girl. Her name was actually Joy, but before she was old enough even to walk, her family decided that the diminutive form of Joy was Joey. You wouldn’t think a name that short needed a diminutive, but there you go.
“Hey, Joey. You look great,” I said. I was careful to make it sound like a compliment you get from a girlfriend rather than from your Girlfriend, but it was hard. I wanted her like a cat burglar wants a priceless diamond. We were best friends, but every last thing about that was difficult. I could never relax and truly be myself with her, because my feelings for her were always in the way. And I couldn’t just come out and tell her either. I mean, this is small town Montana. If you’re in the closet, you stay in the damned closet. You could come out when you grew up and you and that closet moved to California or somewhere like that where they were understanding of those kinds of things.
Besides, I had no reason to believe that she’d be receptive to the idea at all. And that’s just one of the things in the LGBT code or whatever, you didn’t impose yourself on someone that was straight. So, I had to feel her out. She seemed to like boys, after all I’d been sitting across the room at a party one time when I she was making out with Toby Barnard. He’d had a hand up her shirt and everything, and she sure didn’t seem to be objecting.
That didn’t mean it was a no go though. Most gays try to be straight to begin with. At least, that’s what I’d heard. Besides, even I like boys. I’m made out with a bunch of them. I swing both ways, and I can only hope that perhaps she does too. Seems like a long shot, I know, but I can’t help it. I’m going to hold onto that hope.
“Hey, Choey,” she said, and pressed a book into my hand. “I’m done with this one, so it’s your turn.” It was a paperback copy of John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation. “It was good,” she said, “I liked it.”
We did a lot of this, exchanging books with each other. The three of us--Zoey included, you’ll meet her soon enough--were all bookworms, and our local library was always lacking in the kind of genre books we were looking for, so we bought them ourselves off websites, and shared them around with each other. I loved it. It gave me something to do while hiding away from my mom. I’d put David Bowie in my ears, a book in front of my eyes, and I could forget for a nice long while just how shitty my life was.
Joey grabbed her purse, a tiny little black thing with a gold chain strap, and her keys, and opened the front door.
“Goodbye, Daddy,” she said, going up on her tiptoes, and kissing her father on his cheek. “Do I take the Camry or the Pilot?”
“Doesn’t matter,” her dad said, “Your mom and I are staying in tonight, so you can choose.”
“Pilot it is.” Out the door we went. We always took the Pilot if we could. Not that it was especially cool, but it was miles ahead of a freaking Camry. I jammed a homemade disc of David Bowie songs into the player, and “Let’s Dance” began pounding out of the speakers. Bowie was my thing, but I had managed to hook Joey, and was getting my claws into Zoey as well. Either she was starting to like it or to hate it. When you listened to him as much as I did, there was no way to just be in the middle.
“Let’s dance,” the two of us shouted along with the song, “put on your red shoes and dance the blues.”
In mere moments, we were pulling up the dirt lane that led to the farmhouse that Zoey and her family lived in. They didn’t farm anything--although they did keep a pretty amazing vegetable garden--they just lived there. Zoey’s parents were teachers too. So, we were all outcasts together. Zoey was waiting for us, and opened the door before we even knocked.
“See you later, Mom,” she yelled back in the house as she stepped out the door.
Muffled from within we could hear her mom shouting back, “Bye. Be home by midnight.”
Zoey frowned. She hated being the one with the curfew-happy parents. Joey’s folks let her stay out till 1:00 if she wanted, and my mom didn’t give a fuck if I came back at all. She was in wonderland pretty much all night every night. She wouldn’t know when I came back even if she installed a punch clock.
Zoey slammed the door, and skipped out to the car, her long black hair bouncing with each step. Zoey was pretty as well, but in a much more geeky way. She wore glasses, and was pudgy in a way that suggested she was probably going to blow up and get really fat once she became an adult and was in charge of her own meals.
Her parents were health freaks, but they hadn’t always been that way. A few years ago, the two of them had gone on a weight-loss regimen, and dumped a load of pounds. Now, it was all salad and veggies and that kind of thing. But Zoey was always snacking on sweets and potato chips and soda whenever her parents weren’t around. She loved that stuff, and hated the fact that her parents had swapped their unhealthy habits for yoga and free weights. In fact, I was willing to bet that the first thing Zoey would do when we got in the car was ask to swing by the gas station so she could blow some money on junk food there.
“Shotgun!” she called over her shoulder. Dammit, I’d forgotten. That’s the problem you always have when you run in a pack of three friends. Somebody’s got to sit alone in the back seat. I hated it, because you can never hear what people are saying, especially when the music gets cranked up. And I was pretty sure that Zoey would eject my Bowie CD and put in some of that lame pop stuff that she liked. At least she didn’t like country music like every single other person in this entire town and all the unincorporated areas around it as well.
We all piled into the Pilot, and Zoey immediately ejected my disc when she heard the opening bars of Bowie’s “Fame”.
“Meh. I don’t feel like Bowie right now,” she said.
She plugged her iPhone into the external jack, and put on a Maroon 5 song. Adam Levine’s unnatural-sounding voice filled the cabin of the car, and my brain twinged in protest.
“Hey,” Zoey said, grabbing Joey’s arm, “Can we swing by the gas station? I gotta get me some sugar.”
“You gots ta get ur sugar on?” Joey said, exaggerating the slang as deeply as a bookish geek like her could. We talked like this with each other a lot. It had started out as a way to subtly poke fun at all our peers, who talked like that all the time, but, sadly, it had gone past that now. We weren’t making fun anymore, it was just part of our lexicon. I think I’m using that word correctly, lexicon. I saw it in a book a few weeks ago, and have been itching for a chance to use it. Anyway, there’s nothing more humorous than watching a guy dressed in cowboy boots, a western-style flannel shirt, and a Stetson say something like, “I gots ta get ma sugar on!” Montana was probably much better off back in the days before they invented things like television and YouTube to carry that kind of shitty slang down the wire until it infiltrated to every last hidden nook and safe haven in America.
A rooster tail of dust blew up behind the pilot as Joey drove us off Zoey’s property and back out onto main street, which couldn’t have been more aptly named since it was basically the only street in town. A moment later, we were at the Sinclair station, and Zoey loaded up on crap. She was probably the only person I knew that would leave the convenience store at a gas station with enough stuff to need a bag. It was nice though, because she let me mooch from her a lot, and that was important for someone as broke-ass as me.
Joey drove us over to our spot, and we all got out and walked down the path that we’d made through repeated visits. Our spot was what we called it, though we all acknowledged the need for a better name than that. Zoey suggested we call it Under The Bridge Downtown, but that seemed a little too on the nose, and we couldn’t call it that in front of other people or they’d immediately figure out where we were talking about. And only Zoey liked the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so it didn’t resonate with us. I wanted one of those comic book sounding names like The Pit or The Hub or The Avengers Mansion, but they didn’t really fit. So, until we came up with something better, it was just going to be called our spot.
Our spot was, you guessed it, under a bridge. It wasn’t downtown though, as if our town could be said to have something so grand as a downtown. It was actually several miles outside of town, where Roberts Creek went under the road. Since it was so close to the water, there were a lot of large trees there to lay under on hot summer afternoons, and it was remote enough that none of the douchebags that bothered us at school would ever know or care that it existed. Sadly, it was no use to us during the winter, because Montana winters were cold as the heart of the Arctic and you did not want to be outside in one. But for a good two-thirds of the year our spot was usable.
We had an old metal foot locker that Joey had bought from an Army-Navy Surplus store in Missoula, and we filled it with the stuff we didn’t want to have to haul out here every time we came. We could lock it, just in case someone came snooping around, and it was weather proof too, so the stuff wouldn’t be ruined if it rained. I went straight to it, and pulled out the old computer speakers and ancient Sony Discman. The Discman was mine, so of course it was ancient. At least it still worked. I popped my Bowie CD in it, and started it up. I skipped ahead so it started on “Suffragette City”. Then I grabbed the ukulele from the foot locker, closed the lid, and sat down on top of it.
“Okay,” I said, “Check this out, I’ve been practicing.” I started strumming along with the song. Joey drummed along on her thighs, and the both of them nodded along to the beat. Even Zoey liked “Suffragette City,” I mean, how could you not, right?
“Wham, bam, thank you ma’am!” I screamed, and then strummed with zeal again, adding some hip-gyrating dance moves to the performance. Then it came to an end.
“Suffragette!” I shouted, ending on a jump with a wave of the ukulele over my head.
“Wow,” Joey said, and both of them clapped heartily.
“What do you think?” I asked. “It was at least as good as the Uke Skywalker video right?”
“Yeah,” Joey said, “Seriously, I think you need to start posting some videos of your own.”
“Yeah, well, my camera doesn’t want to work anymore. I think it may just be the program, so you never know, but right now it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen soon or anything.”
Zoey took the ukulele and started picking at it. I think she was trying to play that Gotier song, but Zoey wasn’t very good, so I couldn’t be sure. She stopped for a moment, and reached into her shopping bag, removing a king-size Take 5 bar. She ripped it open and dumped out the three pieces it included, and handed one to each of us.
“Here,” she said, and held her piece up in the air. “A toast...to the last night of summer. It was a wonderful few days--”
“A hundred and four days,” I said.
Zoey smiled and went on, “It was a wonderful few days, and we’ll miss it. Hopefully this year will be better than last. May all the rodeo queen bitches and good ol’ boys that give us shit every year burn in hell.”
We all raised our candy bars, and clinked them together. Then we brought them back down to our mouths and took a bite.
“And may I win the lottery or something, so I can finally get my own ride,” I said, and raised my candy bar again. The others brought theirs up until they touched, and brought them back down for another bite.
“And may,” Joey began, raising the nub of what was left of her candy bar. Each section of the Take 5 wasn’t all that big, so stretching it into three bites was difficult. This would surely have to be the last toast. “May my mom finally--”
Just then the whole place lit up like it was daytime. We all looked up as a huge fireball streaked across the night sky. It zoomed past us, and disappeared over a hill to the north. Then there was a rumbling sound and a brighter flash of light that was mostly obscured by the hill. The three of us stood unmoving, staring northward, astounded. At last, Joey broke the silence.
“Holy shit, that was amazing!” she shouted, and started jumping up and down.
“I think that thing landed just over the hill,” I said. “What was it? A meteor, right?”
“Yeah, I think so,” said Zoey.
“We should...we should go and try to find it, you think? That would be so cool,” I said. “Come on, let’s do it!”
I ran over and grabbed the speakers and Discman, and shoved them back into the foot locker. I placed the ukulele with a little more care, since I’d paid actual money for it instead of just scrounging it out the junk pile somewhere. I didn’t get my hands on a lot of actual money, so it wouldn’t be easy replacing it if I carelessly broke it. I snapped the lock shut, and turned to Zoey and Joey.
“Let’s go see if we can find this space oddity,” I said with a big grin.
Joey laughed, and Zoey shook her head. As we walked the path back up to where the car was parked, Zoey said, “Okay, I’ve never asked before, but I probably should have. What is your deal with David Bowie? Why do you like him so much?”
“Shotgun,” I called. I didn’t want to be stuck in the back this time, so I called it long before the Pilot was even in sight.
Now, to me, asking Zoey’s question was like asking someone why they felt it was necessary to eat, or why they insisted on breathing so much. How could you not like David Bowie? I mean seriously, he was completely awesome. Even his weakest stuff was still totally soulful and deep, and his best stuff was the amazing things that legends are made of. But he was old now, a relic from the past, a forgotten piece of history that didn’t get the kids excited like he once did in the 1970s and ‘80s. So, I understood Zoey’s non-belief. Besides, she didn’t have the factors that I had that left me predisposed to love Bowie like I do.
“Well,” I said, as we climbed back into the pilot for the quest to find the meteor. “It’s sort of a long story. But, if I boil it down, it mostly has to do with my dad.”
My dad had overdosed and died a few years after I was born. Up until that point, my family had been decently well off. But once my mom found herself the sole provider for our little family, things had quickly gone downhill. We lost our house, and had to move into our shitty trailer, and so on and so on goes the sad story.
I couldn’t say that I missed my dad, because when it came down to it, I never knew him. But I did miss the idea of a dad. I saw my friends interact with their dads, and was always filled with envy. And I did my best to keep my dad alive in memories at least.
“I was looking through his stuff once,” I told Zoey, as the car pulled out onto the road, and headed north, “and I found his music collection. He had a bunch of different things, but mostly it was Bowie. He had records, and tapes, and CDs. Like, every single thing Bowie had ever done. Even those crappy remixes of “I’m Afraid of Americans” he did with Nine Inch Nails.”
I liked that song okay, but truth be told, I liked “Young Americans” a lot more than I did “I’m Afraid of Americans.” Maybe it was just because I was an American, and felt a little betrayed as a fan of David Bowie to hear him tell me I was scary. I don’t know.
“She’s speaking English,” Zoey said, “But for some reason it doesn’t seem like it anymore. What is “I’m Afraid of Americans” and what is Nine Inch Nails?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “What matters is that my dad loved David Bowie. It was something that I’d discovered about my dad all on my own. So, I decided to listen to all of those songs, and see why he loved him so much. And basically, I found out that David Bowie was awesome. He could do anything, rock, soul, folk, even EDM. You know he’s like the only white guy to ever appear on Soul Train? He’s totally awesome.”
“What’s Soul Train?” Joey asked.
This surprised me. “You don’t know? Your parents have never talked about it or anything?”
“Oh, weird. I would have thought they would have. Well, it was one of those shows from those days where they’d have bands come on and play their music, and there was a bunch of teenagers that danced on there and stuff. Only Soul Train was for blacks. They played soul music and disco and stuff.”
“Oh, I get it,” Joey said, and rolled her eyes.
“So, it was your dad then?” Zoey said, getting us back on subject.
“Yeah, my dad. Oh, and Bowie’s totally gorgeous. I saw him in this movie from the ‘80s called Labyrinth. He was the bad guy, the Goblin King, but shit was he gorgeous.”
“Okay,” Zoey said, “So, you love Bowie because you love your dad and because Bowie is hot like the sun. I can get behind that. Throw something in there.” She pointed at the CD player, and sat back in her seat. Her seat in the back, mind you. Heh, heh.
I popped my homemade disc back into the player and skipped it forward. Soft acoustic guitar filled the car, and then Bowie’s distinctive voice crooned, “Ground control to Major Tom.”
We followed the back road from our spot until we reached main street, which at this point was now just Highway 12. We drove a few miles until we were on the other side of the hill where the meteor seemed to have gone down. There was a dirt road that left the highway and headed back behind the hill, but Joey just pulled over to the side of the highway and parked.
“All right,” she said, “we’re going to have to walk from here. I can’t bring the car home with scratches on it, or I will so hear it from my dad.”
“You’d think that he’d let you take it off road since it’s a freaking four wheel drive SUV,” Zoey said.
“Yeah, well, it’s his baby, so no he won’t. Besides, what if I got us stuck or something? I can’t really see very well out here in the dark. We’d never get to take the car out again.”
“Okay, Joey,” I said, touching her shoulder to get her attention, even though I didn’t really need to, it was just an excuse to touch her really. “The Pilot is awesome and all, but if you could have any car...if you had a bunch of money and could buy whatever car you wanted, what would you pick?”
“That’s easy. I want something really cute. I’d get a VW bug. They are cute as a button. I saw one when I was in Missoula the last time that had these things over the tail lights that made them look like flowers. It was...oh, it was just so cute.”
“You know we wouldn’t be able to take that up this dirt road either, Joey,” said Zoey, “we’d still be walking here.”
“What about you Zoey,” I asked, “What would you pick?”
“I’d want something cute too. I think I’d get one of those, um, PT Cruisers. That’s what I’d get.”
“A PT Cruiser? Are you kidding me?” I said. “That’s not a cute car, that’s, like, an old person’s car or something.”
“It is not, Chloey,” Zoey said, pushing me.
“Old person,” I said again, and ran up the path to say out of reach of Zoey. When I made it to the road, I stopped to look back at Joey and Zoey, who were lagging behind me. “You know what I’d get? I’d get a Mini Cooper. You want something cute? Those cars are super cute. And I’d get the convertible one--”
I saw headlights flash across Joey’s face, illuminating her dark lips and flawless complexion, and then everything was pain. The world tumbled end over end as my body was blasted fifteen feet down the roadway. Everything seemed to slow down, enough so that I was able to see the looks of surprised horror on Joey and Zoey’s faces, and see that the car that hit me was a dark green Land Rover with a California license plate. Then I crashed down to the pavement with a bone breaking thud, and the car passed over me one more time, its wheels crushing my abdomen, as if it felt the first blow hadn’t been enough, and it needed to make sure it had ended me.
I was conscious long enough to see the brake lights on the back of the Land Rover illuminate momentarily, and then hear the wheels screech as they dug into the road to propel the car back to full speed. The bastard had just killed me, and he hadn’t even had the decency to stop and see if there was anything that could be done. I cried out momentarily, but doing so only made the pain worse. I turned my head, and saw Joey and Zoey’s shocked faces in the moonlight, then everything went black.
But I didn’t die after all. I regained consciousness after what appeared to be only a few moments, although I couldn't be sure just how long it was, considering that I was unconscious for it. My body was still crumpled and crushed, but the pain was gone. I don’t know if my brain was filtering it out, or maybe when you reach a certain level of pain, it just stops. I’m not a freaking doctor or anything. I was still gravely injured though. I know that much.
I couldn’t move from the spot I occupied on the road, couldn’t even twitch. Joey was on her knees leaning over me, her tears showering down on me, while she held my wrist in her hand, searching for a pulse. Still on her feet, holding her phone to her ear with one hand while dragging her other hand through her hair in a gesture that perfectly communicated just how overwhelmed she was, Zoey was talking with what I assumed was a 911 operator. Tears were streaming down her face as well, turning her mascara into the same mess that mine had been when the evening began. I wanted to tell them that I was okay, that I wasn’t in pain, but I couldn’t make my mouth obey.
A light filled the area, and Joey’s mouth dropped open at the same time that she dropped my wrist. Zoey stopped talking, pacing, and dragging her hand through her now very messy hair. Her cell phone slipped from her grasp as she too stared agape at the light that was emanating from something approaching us from across the road. I couldn’t move even to swivel my head so that I could see whatever it was. I could move my eyeballs, but not far enough to get a good view.
Joey and Zoey shrank back, and clustered together, but as Zoey tried to shuffle away, Joey held her in place. She stepped around my body, and positioned herself between the approaching light and me. My heart, damaged and crushed as it was, swelled with happiness. Joey loved me. Enough to put herself in possible danger to protect me. It may not have been a romantic love (or maybe it was, that had yet to be tested), but it was a real love nonetheless.
Just as the light entered my field of vision, it seemed to explode, like a ruptured water balloon, only a light balloon instead. It blasted outward until filled all of my vision. Like one of those white flash dissolves on movie trailers, for a moment I could see nothing but white. All detail of anything around me disappeared in the brightness of the light. Then, with an audible sucking sound, like wind rushing past my ears, the light retreated back into its source, and the sound of a miniature thunderclap rumbled across the road.
And there, standing in the middle of Highway 12 was David Bowie. Joey gasped. Zoey gasped. And, with the first movement that I had been able to do with anything other than my eyes, I gasped. What was going on? This must be a dream! How could David Bowie be standing in the middle of Highway 12?
It wasn’t the David Bowie, that was for certain. It couldn’t be, because David Bowie hadn’t looked like this for 40 years. He was young, his hair dyed bright red, and cut in that mullet like he’d worn it when he’d been Ziggy Stardust. In fact, he was dressed in Ziggy’s clothes as well, knee-high red boots, and a red and gold striped body suit with huge gold shoulder pads and a high gold collar. And painted in the center of his forehead was a large gold circle.
“What the…” whispered Joey, drawing it out long and slow, completely baffled.
Zoey didn’t let her finish. “What’s going on?” she yelled. “Who the fuck are you?”
The apparition of David Bowie smiled, and quietly said, “Hello.”
Zoey was not calmed by this. “Who the fuck are you!” This time it wasn’t a question, it seemed like more of a challenge.
Again, quietly and calmly, it said, “I am David Bowie. Ziggy Stardust. I’ve come to help you. Please, excuse me, but the girl behind you, Chloey Granger, needs my help.”
His voice was melodic and beautiful, as though he were singing one of his many famous songs, only in spoken form somehow. Bowie gently pushed his way between Joey and Zoey, and knelt by my side. He was gorgeous. Oh so gorgeous. My body unlocked enough that I could move even further, and I smiled, as wide as I could. It probably looked ghastly. I’m sure my face was covered with blood. It probably gushed from my mouth when I smiled. I didn’t feel it, so maybe it didn’t. I couldn’t really feel anything at this point though. But even if it had, I didn’t care. Seeing David Bowie there before me, kneeling at my side, and touching me just made me happy.
“This may tickle a bit,” he said, and his fingers began to glow. He set his hand on my chest. The glow brightened until I could no longer see his hands. Then I noticed that I was glowing as well. With the glow came sensation. All the pain that I had felt when the car hit me, but had been blocked from me since, dropped onto me like a bucket of ice water. I shrieked. I bucked and thrashed under Bowie’s hand, but he pressed harder, and held me in place.
“Stop it!” I heard Joey shouting, “Leave her alone, she’s been hurt enough already!”
The pain was collapsing in on itself, though. Already the agony was only half what it was before Joey had started shouting. Like the light burst that had resolved itself into the form of David Bowie before, the pain burst sucked backwards like a rushing wind until it coalesced into one tiny ball under Bowie’s hand. He smiled, and raised his hand away from me. My chest rose for several inches, as if pulled by an invisible string, and then finally that string seemed to snap, and I dropped back to the asphalt.
In David Bowie’s hand was a ball of what could have been called dark light. It glowed around the edges, and there were sparkling facets within it, but otherwise it was black as a windowless room with the light off. Bowie closed his hand over the ball, brought it to his mouth, and blew over his fist like a sleight-of-hand artist finishing his trick. The ball of dark light broke apart, and flew away like a handful of dust in the wind.
My body was back under my control, and I was pain free. I flexed my stomach, and brought myself to a sitting position. My clothes were covered with gore and drenched in my own blood, but every wound on my body had closed up. My skin was whole and unbroken. Even the spot on my elbow where I’d had an annoying body zit had cleared up.
“How?” was all I could manage to say.
“With the power of the cosmos, darling,” Bowie said.
“And,” I paused for a long moment, struggling with which question to ask first. “How are you here?”
“I came across the vastness of the galaxy riding on a ship made of light,” he replied.
“And,” I paused again, but for a shorter moment. “How is it that you are David Bowie?”
“My dear, you made me David Bowie. When I found you three here, I searched your minds for a form that would be pleasing to you all. Within your mind, this form was very strong. And within the others it held positive feelings as well. So I remade myself in this image.”
He held his hand out to me, and I took it. He pulled me to my feet, then stepped back. Joey pushed her way past him to stand in front of me. Despite my newly whole and unblemished state, the fear and anxiety hadn’t left Joey’s face. She looked me up and down.
“Are you okay, Chloey?” she asked, her voice catching on my name.
I smiled. “Yeah, Joey. I’ve never felt better. I’m perfect.”
In a husky whisper she said, “I thought you were dead. I thought that you had died. That that car had…”
She looked me up and down again, and then again. Then she stepped in and embraced me hard, almost desperately.
“I thought you were dead,” she said again.
“I’m not, Joey. I’m okay. I’m okay.”
Suddenly, Joey’s lips were on mine. She was kissing me, passionately, franticly.
“Don’t ever leave me again, Chloey. Ever.”
I dug my fingers into her back, gripping her tightly, and kissed her back, unleashing all the pent up longing I’d felt for her for all the years that we had been friends. I couldn’t believe it. I’d wanted this for so long, and it was finally happening.
“Oh my God, no way!” I heard Zoey say from behind us. “How did I not see this coming?”
We kissed for a moment longer, our bodies pressed unbearably tight together in a vice grip of an embrace. Then we both stepped back, panting.
“Oh my God,” Zoey said as she stepped up to us and hugged us both. “You guys are the cutest. This is so great.”
It was nice to see that she didn’t freak out. I would have understood if she had. It seems to me like discovering that your two besties that you’d been hanging around with night and day for years were actually in love would be a decent reason to freak out. Instead, she was revelling in it.
“Okay,” she said, stepping back again, “Go ahead. Kiss again.”
We both giggled, and stepped together for a quick peck, to which Zoey squealed as if she was a tween that had just encountered her favorite boy band. I put my arm around Joey’s waist, and turned back to the alien creature that was here posing as David Bowie.
“Okay, Mr. Bowie,” I said.
“Oh, no, please call me David.”
“Okay, David,” I said, “I’m not done with my questions. So, you’ve flown across the universe in a ship made of light with the power of the cosmos in your hands. But why? Why are you here?”
“When my people finally reached a state of pure enlightenment, and metamorphosed into beings of energy and light, we dispersed in all directions to take our state of perfect happiness and spread it to all beings throughout all the ocean of space, on every star and every planet. Does that sound like something you’d like to experience, Chloey?” He smiled that enchanting Bowie smile and said, “I hope I didn’t blow your mind.”
Was he...it...still reading her thoughts? Or had it pulled a knowledge of all of Bowie’s songs from her head when he’d pulled his image as well? She smiled back at him.
“That sounds wonderful, David. Go ahead and blow my mind, again and again. Please take me away from here. Anything would be better than going home to my shitty trailer to listen to my mom scream at me some more.”
I looked over at Joey, who smiled and laid her head on my shoulder, and Zoey, who nodded her head vigorously.
“The only thing I ask is that Joey and Zoey can come with us too, wherever it is we are headed.”
David Bowie stepped back, and performed a lavish bow.
“Your wish is granted, my dear.” Then he took us by the hands. Joey and I separated, and took Zoey’s hands in ours. “Happiness and Joy will be yours forever.”
I laughed at that. Happiness and Joy. Happiness and Joey. This day had been the most wonderful of my entire life. I had been run over by a hit and run driver in a high speed collision, and had my bones and organs ground into the pavement, and still it had been the happiest day of my life. And now every day from here on out would be just as wonderful. I smiled as wide as my face would allow, as the alien light grew and grew until it enveloped us, and whisked us away forever.
The beeping of the hospital monitors and the sniffling of Chloey’s friends set Claire’s teeth on edge. She’d heard that there were different stages of grief, and that anger was one of them, but still she felt guilty for being mad rather than sad. Her only daughter lay crushed and broken on a hospital bed, only still living because of the machines that were doing the work of her internal organs for her, and Claire hadn’t shed a single tear yet. She’d screamed and yelled and punched her fist against the wall, but she hadn’t cried once yet.
She just couldn’t come to terms with this turn of events. When her husband, Martin, had overdosed years ago, she swore she’d do everything she could to give Chloey the best life possible. Sadly, there had been precious little she could do. She’d been nigh on unemployable, with no education to speak of, and precious few skills to offer as well. But still she’d scratched and clawed her way through life so that she could give Chloey a future that would be better than her own. She’d debased herself at times to make ends meet, so that Chloey would never have to do the same. She’d sacrificed whatever future she might have had of her own, so that Chloey’s future would be bright. And now that was all gone. Chloey had no future at all, and all the sacrifices and suffering were for nothing.
Somebody traveling Highway 12 on their way to Missoula had blasted Chloey with their car until her body was nothing more than a bag of broken bones. And they hadn’t even stopped to see if they could help her. Amazingly, she’d hung on to life for three days now, which was way more than any of the doctors expected. But it was time to pull the plug. There was nothing left inside her, nothing more going on in her head. Her brain had finally decided to close up shop just like the rest of her organs had already done.
Claire was so unbelievably angry. She looked at Chloey’s little friends, Joey and Zoey. So silly that all their names rhymed. Those two hadn’t left her side the entire time. They were hoping and praying for some kind of miraculous healing, but this was the real world, and there were no miraculous healings here. But despite their obvious love and devotion to her daughter, all Claire wanted to do was to scream at them.
“What the hell were you thinking?” she wanted to shout. “What were you doing out on the road in pitch black darkness in the middle of nowhere?”
Instead, she laid a hand on each of their shoulders and whispered, “I’m sorry.”
The doctors began unhooking all the machines that were attached to her daughter until all that was left was that annoyingly beeping heart monitor. As each machine was rolled out of the room, Claire couldn’t help thinking of the complete financial ruin she would soon find herself in. The health insurance from the diner was shit, and she didn’t have any money to spare for the endless stream of bills she knew were coming her way.
Joey got up, and walked to Chloey’s side, taking one of her broken hands in her own. Shortly, Zoey did the same with the other hand. Claire went to her bedside as well, and squatted so that her head was right beside her daughter’s head. Chloey’s breathing had immediately become strained once the breathing machine had been disconnected. The beeps from the heart monitor grew more and more seldom.
“Oh, Chloey,” Joey said through a wash of tears and sniffles, “I love you. Go on to whatever better world is waiting for you.”
Then the beeping stopped altogether, and became one long droning tone. Her heart had stopped. Her lungs no longer rose and fell. Chloey was completely gone now.
“I love you too, Chloey,” Claire whispered in the ear of her dead daughter. “I wish it hadn’t ended like this.”
She hung her head, and whispered, “If only things could have been different.”