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A Prologue / Scarlet Stories / Where's Scarlet?
Pages from a Journal found in a shoebox left in a Greyhound Bus somewhere between Tulsa, Oklahoma and Louisville, Kentucky.
Written by Neil Gaiman for the Scarlet's Walk tour book, September 2002.
I guess I've been following Scarlet for a long time now. Yesterday I was in Las Vegas. Walking across the parking lot of a casino, I found a postcard. There was a word written on it in crimson lipstick. One word: REMEMBER.
On the other side of the postcard was a highway in Montana.
I don't remember what it is I'm meant to remember. I'm on the road now, driving north.
I'm in Montana, or maybe Nebraska. I'm writing this in a motel. There's a wind gusting outside my room, and I drink black motel coffee, just like I'll drink it Tomorrow and the night after that. In a small diner today I heard someone say her name. "Scarlet's on the road," said the man. He was a traffic cop, and he changed the subject when I got close and listened.
He was talking about a head-on collision. The broken glass glittered on the road like diamonds. He called me "Ma'am," politely.
"It's not the work that gets to you so bad," said the woman. "It's the way that people stare." She was shivering. It was a cold night and she wasn't dressed for it.
"I'm looking for Scarlet," I told her.
She squeezed my hand with hers, then she touched my cheek, so gently. "Keep looking, hon," she said. "You'll find her when you're ready." Then she sashayed on down the street.
I wasn't in a small town any longer. Maybe I was in Saint Louis. How can you tell if you're in Saint Louis? I looked for some kind of arch, something linking East and West, but if it was there I missed it.
Later, I crossed a river.
There were blueberries growing wild by the side of the road. A red thread was caught in the bushes. I'm scared that I'm looking for something that does not exist anymore. Maybe it never did.
I spoke to a woman I used to love today, in a cafe in the desert. She's a waitress there, a long time ago.
"I thought I was your destination," she told me. "Looks like I was just another stop on the line."
I couldn't say anything to make it better. She couldn't hear me. I should have asked if she knew where Scarlet was.
I DREAMED of Scarlet last night. She was huge and wild, and she was hunting for me. In my dream, I knew what she looked like. When I woke I was in a pick-up truck, parked by the side of the road. There was a man shining a flashlight in the window at me. He called me Sir and asked me for I.D.
I told him who I thought I was and who I was looking for. He just laughed, and walked away, shaking his head. He was humming a song I didn't know. I drove the pick-up south, into the morning. Sometimes I fear this is becoming an obsession. She's walking. I'm driving. Why is she always so far ahead of me?
I found a shoebox that I keep things in. In a Jacksonville McDonald's I ate a quarter pounder with cheese and a chocolate milkshake, and I spread everything I keep in the shoebox out on the table in front of me: the red thread from the blueberry bush; the postcard; a Polaroid photograph I found in some fennel-blown wasteland beside Sunset Boulevard. It shows two girls whispering secrets, their faces blurred; an audio cassette; some golden glitter in a tiny bottle I was given in Washington, DC; pages I've torn from books and magazines. A casino chip. This journal.
"When you die," says a dark-haired woman at the next table, "they can make you into diamonds now. It's scientific. That's how I want to be remembered. I want to shine."
The paths that ghosts follow are written on the land in old words. Ghosts don't take the interstate. They walk. Is that what I'm following, here? Sometimes it seems like I'm looking out through her eyes. Sometimes it feels like she's looking out through mine.
I'm in Wilmington, North Carolina. I write this on an empty beach, while the sunlight glitters on the sea, and I feel so alone.
We make it up as we go along. Don't we?
I was in Baltimore, standing on a sidewalk in the light fall rain, wondering where I was going. I think I saw Scarlet in a car, coming toward me. She was a passenger. I could not see her face, but her hair was red. The woman who drove the car, an elderly pick-up truck, was fat and happy, and her hair was long and black. Her skin was dark.
I slept that night in the house of a man I did not know. When I woke, he said, "She's in Boston."
"The one you're looking for."
I asked how he knew, but he wouldn't talk to me. After a while he asked me to leave, and, soon enough, I did. I want to go home. If I knew where it was, I would. Instead I hit the road.
Passing Neward at midday, I could see the top of New York, already smudged dark by dust in the air, now scumbled into night by a thunderstorm. It could have been the end of the world.
I think the world will end in black and white, like an old movie. (Hair as black as coal, sugar, skin as white as snow.) Maybe as long as we have colours we can keep going. (Lips as red as blood, I keep reminding myself.)
I made Boston in the early evening. I find myself looking for her in mirrors and reflections. Some days I remember when the white people came to this land and when black people stumbled ashore in chains. I remember when the red people walked to this land, when the land was younger.
I remember when the land was alone.
"How can you sell your mother?" That was what the first people said, when asked to sell the land they walked upon.
She spoke to me last night. I'm certain it was her. I passed a payphone on the street in Metairie, LA. It rang, I picked up the handset.
"Are you okay?" said a voicee.
"Who is this?" I asked. "Maybe you have the wrong number."
"Maybe I do," she said. "But are you okay?"
"I don't know," I said.
"Know that you are loved," she said. And I knew that it had to be her. I wanted to tell her that I loved her too, but by then she's already put down the phone. If it was her. She was only there for a moment. Maybe it was a wrong number, but I don't think so.
I'm so close now. I buy a postcard from a homeless guy on the sidewalk with a blanket of stuff, and I write REMEMBER on it, in lipstick, so now I won't ever forget, but the wind comes up and carries it away, and just for now I guess I'm going to keep on walking.
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