Hassayampa by Rachel Zhao

Mile 89

When archaeologists finally broke down the last wall to King Tut’s tomb, they found his body along with over 5,000 items to ensure his safe passage to the underworld.

I wonder what their reaction was when sunlight filled a room that had been left forgotten for so long, filling it with light and life and breath for the first time in centuries. And when they looked at the small, shriveled corpse of a boy who had experienced too much in his lifetime. Two stillborn daughters, political unrest, malaria and any record of his last days, lost to time.

I wonder what his last words were.

I know what mine would be.

“Fuck you, Daisy.”

“You’re going to need to stop saying that at some point.” Daisy’s strappy sandals kicks up dust behind as we continue to trek at the side of the highway out of some misplaced sense of courtesy. I’m fairly sure there are not going to be any cars coming as there haven’t been any for the past hour, and we only passed one suburban with tinted windows around two hours ago when the car was still running. “I read somewhere that there were about 200,000 words in the English language?” she tilts her head, squinting one blue eye towards the sky, “of course you’d pick one of the most obscene ones,” she shook her head.

“Excuse me? I wasn’t the one who forgot to fill the tank all the way. I wasn’t the one who took a wrong turn at that exit. I wasn’t the one who shot - “

“Semantics,” Daisy sniffs, “all semantics.”

“You’re not even using that word correctly.”

“Semantics,” Daisy grins. I roll my eyes. “Are you really going to be mad at me the whole way, Rosie? Is that really how this is going to be? Are you ever going to forgive me?”

“You never told me what happened. I wouldn’t even know what to forgive you for.” I sigh. Paused. “You haven’t even told me where we’re going.”

“City of Gold, my dear sister. City of Gold.”

Mile 89.05

The gas attendant is staring at Daisy’s legs.

His eyes are skittering over the curve of her tanned calf when I slam the 50 dollar bill on the counter.

“Praying mantis.”

His face whips towards mine, staring at me blankly, “what?”

“Trust me - “ I squint at his nametag, “Chet. Don’t even try it. She’ll rip your fucking head off at the end of it.”

His lips tremble into a smirk, “well, what if I like a little pain?”

I stare at him. After a few seconds, his face turned as red as he fumbled for my change, “so where are y’all headed?”

Daisy twirls into the conversation, depositing a Coke onto the counter. Chet scrambles to readjust the change.

“California. We’re disgruntled librarians turned strippers turned aspiring movie stars,” She winks.

Chet blinks, “...librarians…?”

“But right now, we just need to get back to our car. Ran outta gas and it’s a pretty long way back so we should probably head out soon.”

“I - ah - well alls I know is that it’s dangerous for two young ladies like y’all to be out in the Arizona desert all alone, this close to sundown and - hey, are you going to pay for that?”

My hand hovers over a Hershey bar for a moment. I shrug before I grab it. Chet sighs and recounts the change yet again,

“Do - do y’all need a ride?”

I open my mouth.

“Oh my gosh! You’re such a  sweetheart! That’d be such a big help. We don’t mean to be an imposition on you, of course.”   

Chet’s face reddens even further, “no imposition at all, ma’am.”

The sun claws angry purples in the sky as I sit in the back seat of Chet’s Toyota. I listen to Daisy’s giggles in the front alongside Chet’s deeper voice that cracks intermittently. I somehow know that it’s cracking more now than ever as Daisy’s hand artfully brushes against his on the gearshift.

Chet leaves his number on the gas receipt that he shoved into Daisy’s hand. Cliche move, honestly. Daisy lets the wind blow it out of her hand as soon Chet drives out of sight.

“Let’s grab some food. Need to feed the monster,” Daisy pats her stomach, “I’ve only eaten half a bag of Fritos and a bottle of Coke today.” Daisy complains as we climb back into our car.

We’re still driving as the last glimmers of the sun disappear from the horizon.

“What was that kid’s name again?” Daisy muses.

“Who the hell knows?” I mumble.

“You paid cash right? He can’t track us?”

“Yea. Don’t worry Daisy.”

“What a nice kid.”

“Yea, he was.”

The male Australian redback spider offers itself as food to the female during sex. Daisy wouldn’t wait for the sacrifice to begin eating.

Mile 102

We park a few miles away from the diner so I could still see the distant light of the road sign: “Here Ingest”. I appreciated the pun.

“You ever feel like you’re swimming out here?” Daisy asks, biting down on her greasy diner burger. She got bacon on it today. She only gets it when she’s feeling “dangerous,” she would say as she winks at the cashier. I’ve never seen her reach above a size 4.    

We stopped eating in any restaurants anymore, preferring to take everything to go and eat out on the hood of the car. It was easier this way. Without the paranoia of prying eyes, or the smell of bacon and eggs that stick to our clothes.  

“It’s a fucking desert Daisy. Jesus Christ, is the heat getting to you?” I asked, as I chewed on my own burger.

“I meant metaphorically, you condescending asshole. Like, look at this sky. It’s so dark. So many stars. So much space. It feels like...like water sometimes. Nothing seems real does it? When you’re just floating there.”

I craned my neck up. I’d always thought that I would get used to this sky. But I still felt like I could reach up and dip my fingers that darkness, allow starlight to ripple out and drip down my fingers. Daisy was right. It did feel like swimming sometimes. Rightside up. Standing up.

“Yea, I can feel that.”

“It’s a real curse. All this empty space. It could make someone go crazy, honestly.” Daisy sighed as she leaned back on the windshield, “But the view’s worth it,” She laughed.

We sat in silence for a moment.

“Did...did you ever really love him? Pete?” My voice was small.

There was a moment of silence.

“Yes. I thought I did. I..I think I dd” Daisy paused, “you could probably argue that I loved him too much actually.”

“Do you miss him?”

She shook her head, “Can’t miss him right now.” She barked out a laugh. Short and bitter,  “He’s right here, isn’t he? I’ll miss him when he’s gone...do you miss him?”

I keep my gaze on the stars as I answer, “yea. I do. A lot actually.”

I pretend I don’t hear Daisy’s voice catch as she forces out, “I’m sorry.”

“He was going to take me to Egypt, you know. He promised me we were going to see King Tut’s tomb together.”

Another beat of silence.

“Rosie, honey, you realize he was kidding about that? He was a just mechanic, there was no way - “

“We were going to see it together,” I repeat, “He was going to take me. He was saving up.”

“...ok honey.”


“A-are you ever going to tell me what happened that night?”

“At this point, does it even matter?”

Mile 0
“Rosie. Rosie. Wake up.”

“Wha - Daisy? What are you doing up? It’s - It’s 3am.”

“Get out of bed. We need to go.”

“Go? Go where? It’s 3am. What’s happening? Wh - Daisy...why are you holding Pete’s gun?”

“Shh...it’s ok. C’mon, just get up.”

“Where are we going?”

“Shh...I need you to keep quiet when you see it.”

“See what?”

“Just remember. Do not scream.”


“...oh my God.”

“Here, help me. Grab the other end of the trash bag, and I’ll grab his legs.”

“What’s going on? What happened?”

“Just do it, Rosie. Stop crying. Listen to my voice. Just do what I say and we’ll be fine.”

“...I’m scared.”

“Don’t be. I’m your big sister, Rose. I’ll always take care of you. Always. Now just grab the bag. Please.”

“We’re just shoving him into the trunk?”

“I know where to take him. Don’t worry, Rosie. Don’t worry.”

Mile 110

When Daisy and I were kids, she would try help me climb to the highest branch in the tree in our backyard. I could feel her grip on my leg, so tight that it almost hurt. She said I could reach the moon from there. Just take a straw and burst it like an overripe berry. Moonlight. Better than lemonade.

Daisy sleeps  as we speed down the highway. I follow the directions on the GPS as the moon hangs low in the sky. And I laugh at absurdity of it all.

Mile 200

Creeping dawn tints the water of the river gold. It’s almost lost under the restless tussling of the water. I recite a quiet prayer in my head as I watch the trash bag sink into its depths, weighed down by the rocks we added. It’s no King Tut sendoff, but I hope it’s enough.  

Pete deserves at least that.

Mile 210

We keep going. Daisy drives.

There was a sign there transcribing a local legend that anyone who drinks from that river can never tell the truth again.

I want to tell Daisy about it.

Instead, I say nothing at all.