Aria Lawson is Dead

My name is Aria Lawson. I am a survivor. I am alone. I do not need help, but send it anyway.


2. Nostalgia drives and dreamers eyes

~~They were never any good at packing.

“Have you got the wet wipes?” Noah asked. Rooting through the bags, for at least the third time since they’d stopped. “Aria, have you got them?”

“No.” Aria mumbled back, face pressed into the car seat. “They’ll be somewhere.”

“You were meant to pack them.” Noah accused.

“Then you’re in for a disappointment.” Mornings were bitter. Under starry blanket nights Aria started to dream of warm places and people. She started to feel the itch of a pencil in her hand and not a gun. She started to be the girl who created universes in a pen stroke, not the girl who destroyed her own universe with a gun in hand. Mornings were bitter because nights were sweet, full of dreams of a reality she could recognise better than her own. Mornings were bitter because she was bitter.

“Aria.” Noah was a morning person, at least more so than Aria was. “Tell me you brought them."

“Are you that desperate for me to lie? Because either way we won’t have wet wipes.” She muttered, now dragged out of sleep.

“You could at least be sorry.” Noah groaned,  wiping her hands on his jeans. They’d turned even darker than usual with dust.

“I’m very sorry.” Aria grunted back, leaning over the seat to rummage through the bags. There was a list to go through now- wet wipes, biscuits, water bottles, fuel, a hundred and one odd little items she would never had needed to rely on before. “Truly. Although I would be a lot more sorry if you hadn’t woken me up.”

“It’s your turn to drive soon.” Noah grunted, leaning forward to tap her fingers on the steering wheel again.

“Soon is not now.” Aria shot back. Mornings where things were so calm, almost normal, always threw her out of balance. The sky pale, sun bright, it showed the dirt stains on the car. She thought of the care her dad had taken when he used to clean the car, polish it, oil it. Entire weekends spent to pull the creature back to mint condition.

She wondered what he would say now, seeing the ‘old girl’ stained and scraped in dirt and blood.

She almost laughed. Her dad wouldn’t say anything now at all.

“Since you’re already awake…” Noah trailed off, giving Aria a look from the corner of her eye. “I think it would be beneficial for you to start driving.”

“I disagree.” Aria said back, wondering how far away they were from the beach caves now. They had been on the road for weeks, but this new target had only been chosen a few days ago. It still felt tentative, precious. It almost hurt, but they had so little to live for that this one little quest felt like a right.

“Shocker.” Noah puffed, but she was smiling. Not for the first time, Aria noticed that Noah’s fingers were almost as dark as the leather on the steering wheel. Her father replaced the wheel cover every few years, she wondered if he would have replaced the one on right now, if he had the chance.

It was her car now, though. There were more important things to do with it than maintenance.

“We should be there in three days.” Aria stated, quietly, more for herself than Noah. Three days, but time didn’t really matter now. Maybe it never had.

“Mmhm. Figured we could find a café to loot or something, on the way there.” Noah grinned. “Get some goddamn wet wipes for my goddamn hands.”

“Alright, Holden Caulfield.” Aria smirked. Goddamn, goddamn. Noah got a gun thrust into her palm and cast herself as the badass, devil may care, femme fatale. It was good, though, because Aria had a gun stapled to her palms and she became a mindless, focused ball of nerves.

But Noah could swagger and talk as much as she liked, boast and take risks until the world turned to ash. But Aria was the one with better aim, Aria was the one who shot down the danger whilst Noah paved the way. They were a balance, after all.

 “You’re far too cultured for me, dear.” Noah laughed back. The horrible feeling of bitterness inside Aria began to sweep out. She would not be here without her friend. She would be nothing without her, really. “Yay or nay on the looting?”

Aria sighed. In all honesty, the risk of getting out the car was far too high to be justified for a few wet wipes. They needed to go, to get to the beach and start  their ridiculous search. They had a mission now, they couldn’t stroll around listlessly now they had picked a path. But, it wasn’t just about the massive hurdles. Life, really, was about those simple pleasures. It was just that lingering threat of losing what mattered that made it hard to consider. But they needed to keep living.

“Looting ho.” Aria grinned, as Noah followed                                                                                                                     the twist of the road to a small shop I remembered the way to.

“Do you remember the way, still?” Noah asked, small smile on her face.

“Hope so. Otherwise we may need to live in the woods.”

“Do you remember when…” She trailed off, must have noticed the tightening of Aria’s hands on her lap, fingers curling to form fists. Aria wasn’t sure, she was too busy trying to stop listening. She should have known, though, that Noah never ploughed a rotten field, if Aria didn’t want to talk about it Noah wouldn’t say it. “Right, usual plan?”

Aria nodded. She never felt the need to fill an awkward gap like Noah did, she was far happier to sink into her silences.

The path they went along turned from concrete to gravel, gravel to dirt and dirt to dust. As the road began to crumble to nothing the trees bloomed from shrubs until the sky became a whisper. Aria closed her eyes, felt the flashing shadows of branches through the sun splash across her face and let herself forget, a little- if only for a while.

“We’re here.” Noah’s voice, a lull, a song, gentle enough for Aria to like it.

The two released themselves from the car, twinned in their precision. Their feet hit the ground at the same time, they closed the door behind them with the same clatter, arched their backs in the same curl and both walked to the trunk of the car. They were a unit, the two of them. A well-oiled machine that purred over the ages, churning and whirling at work perfectly at whatever it did.

Noah began to storm ahead, gun holstered in her hands. Aria followed, but her eyes were scanning round, catching sights of the area and noting the lack of footprints. Lack of life, here. The birds sung dry, the leaves whispered themselves into nothing and the winds themselves howled a silence. The place was quiet, somewhat like a graveyard.

But Aria thought everywhere was a grave yard, she carried tombstones in her heart.

“Legolas, what do your elfin eyes see?” Noah cackled, skip in her step as she twirled the pistol in her fingers like it was a daisy. Them, of course, she stumbled and gasped.

“Your untimely death?” Aria walked past her, dragged her up and along.

“I hope not. You’d get all lonely and wound up in your macabre-ness.”

They trudged on, their two guns up and pointed, fingers near the triggers. The wooden shack appeared over the tip of the road. The windows were mercifully blood free, doors closed but hopefully not nailed shut. Nothing was assured, an entire swarm of zombies or worse could be lodged inside the old shack they used to buy ice cream and spades for digging at the beach. But it could be empty of danger, too, and filled with the treasures they would search for on the beach later.

They nodded at each other. Noah stepped back, Aria rapped on the door and waited for the silence. Then stepped back, Noah crashed into the door and knocked it open. Silence, still. No sounds of moans or groans.

The door clattered back, dust rose like a second coming and the cobwebs shook, if only a little. Still, that horrible silence. Aria kept her gun up, still, constantly trained on the like a hound. The walls were wooden straps, peeling pale pink paint. Aria let herself a small smile. As children, Noah’s mother would always let them stop here, load up on sweets and toys to keep the car boredom at bay.

It seemed only right they did the same now, it was not only the nostalgia of others they were living.

“It’s quiet, too quiet…” Noah laughed, ever the cliché. Aria rolled her eyes, keeping the gun circling.

“You would never live through a horror movie.”

“Aria doll, you better hope I do. We’re going halfsies on the looting, remember?” Noah began to whistle, relaxing her posture and swinging the gun around her fingertips. For a second, Aria felt vicious, spiteful, toxic. She was furious, so jealous that Noah could continue on her diamond spun daydreams when Aria was weighted down by every kind of cruelty in the world. But it fell away again, Aria had learned to make herself a soldier- to feel things only when they had to be felt.  “Yes!”

Finally satisfied that the building was clear, Aria dropped the tip of her gun and chased after Noah’s excited calls.

“Check it out! Ice cream!” Noah was cheeping, reminding Aria of a budgie she’d once had. It had accidentally flown out the window one day when Aria left the window open, and she’d cried for weeks. “Aria, remember we used to love these?”

Aria bent over the open freezer door and smiled. It looked somewhat like a white coffin, and the cold air had long since gone warm. But, even as a melted chocolate puddle in a packet, the ice cream reminded her of long summer holidays with good people. Something they were trying to recreate now.

“Used to?” Aria laughed, the two of them filling their arms like smugglers finding treasure. “You’re drooling.”

“Simply due to your presence, darling.” Noah winked.

They continued to snoop around the shelves, filling a large backpack each as they worked. They stocked up, Aria focused on soap, toilet paper, water and necessities whilst Noah snagged spades, buckets and frisbees.

“Oh stop looking at me like that.” Noah laughed, smirking at Aria’s rolling eyes. “They’re a different kind of necessity.”

“Ok buloo.”


Noah’s fingers rapped the windows, leaving ghosts of fingerprints on the glass as she sang. Her  voice matched the whirring of the engine, the two forming a choir that made Aria smile to herself. All the money Noah’s mother had spent on singing lessons and she sounded like a clunky old engine. But it was one of Aria’s favourite sounds in the world, one she’d heard since they were chubby children with sticky hands and scraped up knees.

“We should be there in three hours.” Aria mumbled.

“How did we ever stand it as kids?” Aria wondered how they were standing it now. There had been nothing to fear as children. “Right, can we go over the plan one more time?”

“The things I do for company.” Aria’s voice started as a mutter, and Noah released an indignant yelp. But, as always, Aria softened her voice to show the kindness she always felt, above everything else, for Noah. “We’ll get to the beach, park ourselves up and eat. We’ll take our stuff, you can get the bags ready soon, and walk along the bay.

And she told their plan like it was a story. Spilled the idea as though it were golden, releasing it to the sky to be hung like a star. Aria had a skill at weaving fairy tales from horror stories, to others if not herself, and she did it here. She whispered their new fond destiny like a lullaby, until she saw Noah lean back, close her eyes and relax.

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