When Forever Ends
Writing Prompt: Yes
Date: 3rd Nov 2021
Growing up in the MacKay household, camping trips were a way of life. While most would probably look at it like work, we all saw it as vacation. Places like Disney were a pipe dream for us. We simply didn’t have the money. So fishing, swimming, and hiking were what we all did together … it’s just the way it was.
I remember all us kids heading to bed early the night before we left because our father liked to get up at ‘Oh-dark-thirty’ – as us kids called it – and hit the road to avoid the morning rush of traffic. We’d all pack like sardines into that pre-minivan minivan they once called a Station Wagon, complete with that faux wood paneling that was all the rage, and road trip it to our favorite destination.
Emily Lake, Wisconsin. Just outside the Lac Du Flambeau reservation. Home of the Chippewa. It was a primitive place, but cheap, quiet, and our little summer home.
Cabin? Trailer? Hell no. We tent camped, ‘like real men and women’, as our father put it.
I don’t know why, but all of it was exciting for some reason…from carefully packing the car like a game of Tetris so all the equipment would fit, to finding the perfect spot for our massive canvas tent.
It’s the last time I could remember being happy as a kid. Carefree. Like, this is just the way things are. Every year, this is what our family will do together…
This was before Sahara was a glimmer in my eye. It was before any of us got involved in wrestling, outside of pretending to be our favorite stars of the era and wrestling around anywhere we could find some space. It was all so beautifully carefree and wonderful and I just thought it would never end…
And then, one day … it did.
And we never returned.
Sahara stood on a rocky shoreline, the toes of her boots ‘Victory and Valhalla’ soaking in the shallow tea-stained waters, gazing out across a small Wisconsin lake. Most of the leaves had already fallen, and the evergreens remained the only splashes of green that dotted the shoreline. While it wasn’t quite a stone’s throw away, the opposite side was close enough that you easily swim it. Her shoulder length blonde hair gently swayed in the wind, as the haunting calls of a lonely Loon echoed in the distance. She sidearmed a relatively flat rock, and watched it shatter the water’s surface, leaving a trail of rippling rings in its wake.”I bet you haven’t been here in a while…”
The startled blonde grabbed her chest as she turned and looked upon a young man that had somehow snuck up on her.What was this?
She remained uncontrollably silent. She wanted to respond to the man, but the words just wouldn’t come out…
”Yeah. I bring my family up here every year. The kids love it. It’s just so beautiful…” The man took a deep breath and took in the sights. That’s when he looked at her.
She hadn’t seen his face in decades. She wanted to reach out and touch it–
”Daddy?” It was the only word that escaped her lips.
”Hey, pumpkin. It’s been a while…” He squatted down and shoved a few rocks around as he continued staring out across the glassy lake.”What brings you here?” ”I-I think I’m dreaming…” ”You think? Well, do you wanna wake up?”
She shook her head.”No…not yet.”
”Daddy!” A little girl squealed in a saccharine voice.
Turning toward the source of this sweet little voice, a little blonde with skinned up knees and pigtails came skipping down the rocky boat landing. She was wearing some long lost Dukes of Hazzard iron on and ratty overalls.”Daddy, after we find a spot for the tent, can you take me fishing?”
Sahara felt a rare genuine smile creep upon her face.”After we set everything up, sweetheart. Hey, I want you meet someone–”
The little girl with those very familiar piercing blue eyes looked up at Sahara.”Lauren, this is Sahara–”
The little girl giggled, ”That’s a funny name…”
It was like looking through a mirror of time. Sahara had almost forgotten what she looked like. How innocent she was…
The little girl looked up at this Sahara woman, her eyes moving from her head to her booted feet. From her stringy blonde hair and blazing blue eyes, to her strappy top, tights, and finally those boots; one reading ‘Valhalla’ and the other – while smeared with blood – you could still faintly make out the word ‘Victory’.”Do you always dress weird?”
”Lauren!” Their father scolded his little girl. ”That’s not polite!”
Sahara laughed, ”That’s me alright…””I’m sorry! It’s nice to meet you. My daddy is gonna take me fishing, does your daddy take you fishing?”
Sahara sadly shook her head, ”Not anymore.”
”Well, you should go again, it’s really fun!”
”Lauren,” their father finally interjected, ”It’s time you head back to camp and help your mom and the boys set up…I’ll join you soon.”
As the little girl happily skipped away – without a care in the world – their father heaved a sigh. But it was Sahara that spoke–”You’re gonna fuck that little girl up. You know that, right?”
There was no response.”What happened to us? To our family? To all of this?! This was all so perfect.”
Her fathers voice suddenly felt so very distant.”Forever ended, babydoll.”
Sahara let out a mocking little laugh.
”The company I work for asked us what death shaped us most.” Sahara looked at the young image of her father. ”The easy answer would be yours. I could say it, and everyone would buy it. I mean, a little girl and her father, right? But it’s not the answer.”
Sahara absently dug the toe of her boot into the rocky shoreline.
”I almost missed your funeral because I was too caught up in tryin’ to prove you wrong about a girl becoming a wrestler, let alone one people would take seriously. Nothin’ else mattered to me anymore–” Sahara motioned down the gravel covered road where the little girl ran off. ”Not fishing. Not camping. Not family. Nothing.””You held my hand when I entered this world … and I held yours when you left it. But the only reason I was even there was because I wanted you to see I’d won. I’d beaten you. All your sons amounted to nothing in your beloved sport, and I made it to the top. Me. Lauren Ma–”
Her father shook his head, ”You aren’t Lauren MacKay. That little girl is Lauren MacKay.”
Sahara nodded, letting a derisive little laugh escape her lips. ”You think I don’t know that? I ain’t been Lauren since the day you got us all involved in wrestling. I’m Sahara. All in–” She jabbed a thumb back toward the campsite where little voices could be heard arguing over who was supposed to do what. ”That’s the death that shaped me, Daddy. The death of that little girl. That sweet, innocent little girl that loved fishing and her daddy and her mommy and her brothers more than anything else in the world…the minute you got us involved in wrestling, she became Sahara, and Lauren was never seen again…”
”That may be, but you made it! Can’t you see that?! Even though I didn’t believe in you…you made it!” Much to her dismay, there was a proudness in his voice.
Sahara nodded. ”But at what cost?”
Looking at her, he suddenly seemed to age to the way she remembered him right before his death. He shrugged–”Everything, my dear. Because that’s the sacrifice it takes to be truly great at something…”
She sighed, ”I told ya you were gonna fuck that little girl up…”
Sahara’s pale blue bloodshot eyes opened, and she lay there grasping at the remnants of her quickly fading dream. Rolling to her side, she puffed out her cheeks as her eyes focused upon a prescription bottle resting on her nightstand.
She could still hear that little girl’s voice in her head, “Why would you do that to yourself, Sahara?”
Pushing herself upright on the edge of the bed, Sahara continued staring at the bottle of pills as she heaved a sigh. She reached out and grabbed the bottle, popping it open. She shook out a couple of the pills onto her palm and stared at them.
That’s when she whispered to no-one in particular–”Because you’re long dead, little girl. And this is the cost.”
Lifting her palm to her mouth, she rocked her head back and swallowed…
But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn’t I, my dear?