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Ok, so the website have problems with text larger than 12 kb. I'll post the individual chapters from now on.
My mouth's still burning from the Tom Yam soup I bought in Meridian. The line at the bottom of the restaurant menu said, "There's no substitute for taste!" The chef who made it, if that's what he should be termed, obviously believes that taste comes solely in the form of the bird's eye chili. I get quite angry when someone ruins a simple dish; I guess by now I should be used to it in this Goddess- forsaken part of the country. Still didn't stop me from throwing it across the room though. Along with cuisine, the word comfort doesn't appear to have the same dictionary definition here as it does in the rest of the world. My chair was made for someone with three buttocks, though judging by the rest of the local populace, I imagine that's a frequent problem.
As you've probably gathered by now, I'm not in the best of moods. I don't like this place, I don't like these people, and I can't stand the food, which is a real problem. Still, my problems, for all their magnitude, are rather less than those in store for the kid opposite me. He, on the other hand, thinks that the problems he has right now are quite enough thank you, and that when we leave, they'll go with us. Very naive, this boy, for someone who's crossed half the world and seen first hand some of the most hellish places on it.
Despite that, he won't look at me. Not for the past quarter of an hour, at least. His eyes keep moving across the room toward me, but they never quite reach me. Maybe it's not that he won't, it's that he can't. Maybe there's something in his mind that's stopping him. Maybe I'm being arrogant. Maybe it's Dee that he can't look away from. I can't honestly blame him for that - he's by no means the first man to be unable to tear their gaze from her. I couldn't either, the first time I laid eyes on her. How that changed.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking: slim, pale, dark-haired, wears black a lot - hey! It's Death from Sandman! Well, Dee's actually short for Donna. Besides, I don't think she was really into angsty Brit comics even when she was alive. She's still gorgeous though, that's why I gave her that body. Not bad for a glamorous assistant.
Out of the corner of my eye I can see her flinch. She hates being called that. Still, serves her right for listening in. This is a private conversation, get the fuck out.
Sorry. She's always doing that when she thinks I'm not concentrating. Where were we? The boy, yeah. He's still sitting there, babbling away to Dee. Nice looking kid, though it would help if he didn't have little splashes of soup over his shirt and a big black eye. According to Francois, he appeared here about two years ago and has kept a pretty low profile ever since, though that's only relative when you're talking about a Cambodian in a redneck town like this. Not low enough I guess, Francois had him pegged within a couple of months with the help of Mr Jack Daniels and some friendly words.
"Time we got going, kiddo. Get concentrating and we'll get this over and done with."
Dee's ready at last. She still clings to all that hocus-pocus shit, but I ain't got time to recondition her right now.
The kid takes a deep breath, fighting to calm himself. It's not easy to concentrate in here, the air conditioning's making an irritating irregular ticking noise like an electrical deathwatch beetle, but he's good. Already I can see his breathing slow. With his eyes shut, he looks older. Why can't Dee do it this way? So much easier.
I can feel Dee's mind touching mine again, less covert this time. Connecting. We've done this once before, back up north. It's an abrupt change, yet somehow seamless. Last time it was disorienting, made me feel nauseous. The sort of gut-churning nausea that you can't ignore, no matter how much you try. Like being kicked, and I mean really kicked, in the balls, but without the lancing pain. Perhaps if I close my eyes it'll be easier.
Tell's handing me another shot of bourbon. There's a pretty little brunette looking at me from across the room, but not in an interested way. More as if I've been looking at her a little too hard. Rather cross-eyed as well, I suspect, judging by the way that shot went down without any noticeable feeling in my throat. Then again, she's been looking at me as well, and she is very pretty. That guy she's been with isn't exactly the best-looking man in the world either. Looks like a....? A whassit called...? Caveman. Need to piss.
While balancing myself unsteadily against the urinal, I get better control over my/his thoughts. It's tricky to start with, trying to filter out just the parts of the experience you don't want, but it's easier when you're in a place like this, when you're not being bombarded with too much at once. I suppose I'm adapting to his brain pattern or something; I don't know, I'm not a shrink or anything.
Back out of the john, just in time to see the brunette leaving with her boyfriend. Clearly in the grip of suicidal alcoholic lust, I'm following them, trying not to weave too obviously, but still bumping into a 30-something, hair doing a good imitation of Dolly Parton. Cleavage not quite the same, despite the efforts of Gossard's best.
"Jeez, watch it, Sam. Drink and dress don't match, ya know," says Dolly. New York accent. Goddess knows what she's doing down here in the sticks. I mumble something incoherent by way of apology. Sorry Val, says my mind.
Staggering up the steps and out of the door, I'm surprised by the fact that it's still only twilight. The voice of Shania Twain is muffled as the door swings shut behind me. This isn't a part of town that I recognize, which must mean that it's off Main Street. As I swing my head around, searching, I presume, for the shapely silhouette of the brunette, I catch a glimpse of the church steeple beyond a row of houses. That puts me somewhere on the south side of town.
The air's much cleaner out here, helping to remove some of the grogginess that's trying to clog up my mind. Sam's mind still isn't as sharp as it could be - it takes him two drunken swings of the head to spot the brunette. I saw her the first time, which is why I also saw her Neanderthal boyfriend step into an alley entrance. Somehow, I don't think he's in there taking a leak. As Sam reels off down the street, it occurs to me that maybe this was a sign. A woman that he is most definitely not going to have one night, and the next night I show up. Still, in the meantime, I think Sam's about to get his black eye. Neanderthal Man is obviously more lenient than he looks.
Even though I know it's coming, some of Sam's shock still gets through to me when he's abruptly hauled into the alleyway by a brawny arm. The pain's not so easy to block out as I'm suddenly doubled up by a fist to the stomach. All I can see is the dirty floor and a pair of Caterpillars about a foot away. From the slurred abuse he's hurling, Neanderthal Man isn't entirely sober either. As Sam gets up from the ground, strange scenes flash through his mind - dark caverns filled with rusty pipes and valves; the pain as an arm is ripped open with a shank; the smell of shit when a man's guts get opened up. In the alley, Neanderthal Man gets his cajones crushed by a knee as his fist finishes its leisurely swing nowhere near its target. It's effective, though by no means subtle, and there's the clear sound of ribs popping as Sam's feet slam in.
This is a surprise. Sam's no martial artist, but he's obviously been in a few dirty fights somewhere. I had him pegged as a harmless klutz, but now I'll watch him a bit closer.
That's better. I had to put the mental barriers up there while he puked. My stomach's now really sore. Leaning on the wall to recover, the stench of rotting garbage begins to permeate my nostrils. Makes me want to throw up again. I stagger out of the alley; foot slipping on what was probably a lettuce. Haul the clean air into my lungs; try to sober up a bit.
The last syllable coincides with a handbag hitting my face. The brunette pushes past me, but I notice, despite my throbbing eye, that she's careful to step over the pool of vomit. Black eye explained, I guess. Gingerly trying to hold my stomach and my head at the same time, I stumble off down the road, in the direction I know is homeward.
* * *
Sitting on a bench in the park for half an hour has made Sam feel a whole lot better. There's one good thing about this town - vagrants don't take up ninety percent of the benches. He's sober enough now to have cleaned the vomit off my face, and there's a soaked wad of tissues on his eye to try to reduce the swelling somewhat. Walking worse for wear through the streets with a black eye is an open invitation to be pulled in by the Sheriff's men, but it's fully dark now so there's less chance of them spotting him. He's just hoping the brunette doesn't report anything to the police. Even they're not going to find it hard to identify the mystery "Chinese guy" who beat up her boyfriend in an alley. He's worried too - I can't quite pick out the exact reason, but I'm sure that it has something to do with the way he acted during the fight. I don't think that anything like that's happened to him before and that he's worried that he doesn't have as much control over his power as he thought he had. Maybe he can't leave it behind quite so easily.
For my part, I'm getting frustrated with him. We've been here for just over an hour now and we're no further along our path. I know that he's the guy - he's the one in this town that's seen what I need to see, but I don't know what, or who, he's seen that's going to help me. And he can't fast forward his recollections, which means we have to sit here until we've seen whatever it is he's seen. Every hour we spend looking at irrelevancies is another hour lost. Keeping an objective viewpoint while we're sharing minds isn't easy either. It saps your will, chips away at your concentration, and the more tired I am, the more likely I am to miss the clue. Maybe I've missed it already. Maybe I'm just plain wrong about this guy. No, I can't be. The signs leading to him were just too clear to be misinterpreted.
At the edge of my thoughts I can sense that he's moving now. I let myself slide back into his consciousness. For a moment, I'm tempted to submerge myself, but I resist the siren's charms. I let myself sink too far before, got too concerned with his motives, his desires rather than my needs.
For the first time, I recognize his location. Just past the Baptist church on Main Street, moving north, towards the center of town. It's pretty quiet, a few cars pass but nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that shouldn't be here. The couple of people that pass by are wrapped up in their own thoughts. Not a busy night in Hickville, Tennessee. Sam's steps take us into a gas station, up to the security window. While the attendant gets a cold Coke, I watch the reflections in the glass. Sometimes you see more in them than you do by looking straight, but there's nothing. Headlights, shadows; somebody pulls up to a pump behind us. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Maybe I was wrong earlier.
The Coke's making its cold, tingly way down Sam's throat. "Sir, excuse me sir." It's a man, from the car at the pump. "Sorry to bother you an'all, but me and my wife and son are just passing through your town here, an' we were just wondering if there was any place we could stay the night?" He's got a soft voice, nothing out of the ordinary, but my spine's tingling with the knowledge that he's important.
"You might try the Best Western, just out of town to the north," says Sam. I can't make out the man's face clearly. He's standing in shadow. Excitement makes me will Sam closer to him, even though I know I can't influence anything.
"Yeah, we tried there already on the way in, but they're full. No space at the inn." He chuckles, as if it's some kind of private joke. He's got Sam's curiosity. The motel's never full, even in summer.
"Really? Well, there's always the Louisiana Hotel, back on Lee Street. They've usually got a couple of rooms free, and it's quiet. I'm sure they'll be glad to see you."
A car goes by, headlights giving a brief glimpse of the stranger's face. It's not familiar, but it's important. I don't know how, and I don't know who he is, but this man's what I've been waiting for. Sam's oblivious to it all: there's nothing more than native curiosity in his thoughts, tinged with a little liking, even respect, for this stranger. The slight suspicion he had earlier has gone, swept away by more pressing thoughts of appearing sober.
"Thanks, friend. Can you tell us how to find it?"
"Just turn left at the lights, then second right, and it's on the corner. Can't miss it."
"Much obliged for your help." He nods, and turns to go to pay for his gas. Sam looks after him for a second, and then walks off, past the car. The boy in the back seat is asleep, but the man's wife looks uneasily up at us. It's not her. I didn't expect it to be - I can't imagine one of their people having problems finding a room - but there was that tiny spark of hope. Not any more. As Sam turns away, I catch a glimpse of the plates - Tennessee.
Sam continues on his way home, and, as he walks through the pools of light from the streetlights, and then the darkness of the tree-lined road that leads up the hill to his house, his mind fills with thoughts of things other than the man at the gas station. I don't pay them any attention - I'm busy trying to work out who this mystery man is, and why he's important. He doesn't strike me as a regular mundane, but I'm pretty sure he's not a duke either. There's also the mystery of why he doesn't want to stay at the Best Western, assuming of course that Sam's right and it isn't full. Based on another assumption that he is something to do with her, the best conclusion I can come to is that she's after him for some reason and that maybe the motel is too exposed for his liking.
I'm lost in my thoughts, shutting out Sam's, though I can distantly sense him preparing to sleep, like hearing the storms lash the shore a few miles from my childhood bed. I'm still thinking of angles on this man, and why he's relevant to my quest. There's the possibility that he isn't relevant yet, but that he will be, but my hunch is that he's important now. If he is, then why are the Sleepers after him? He doesn't seem to be on the run from anyone in particular - he was too calm, too sure. Nor does he seem the type that the Sleepers would be after, though with their reputation I suppose anything could go.
While I'm thinking, Sam's vision, or whatever you'd call it, stops. There's just the briefest sensation of pain from him before Donna stops channeling his thoughts through to me. I open my eyes, eyelids gumming together as if I've been asleep for a very long time. My watch tells me that we've been under for an hour and a half. My tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth and for a horrible moment, I think that it's not going to come away. I stagger to my feet - the way I've been sitting on that damned chair has cut off the circulation to my legs and they feel like rubber stilts. Dee looks serene, sitting on the bed cross-legged, but Sam is slumped forward, resting his head in his hands with his elbows propped on his knees.
"You OK, Sam?" There's genuine concern in Dee's voice.
"Mm. Just give me a minute to take some aspirin. It's always like this afterwards."
I concentrate on my legs, willing them to propel me to the bathroom without giving way. They feel like they could bend the wrong way at the knee, pitching me forward into the well-worn carpet. Perhaps this is the way toddlers feel when they first start learning to walk. Ignoring the odd look from Dee, I cup my hands under the faucet and splash my face with the cold water, before allowing some to enter my parched mouth. Halfway through it occurs to me that I'm doing it in the exact same way as Sam was in the park, and that does more than anything to snap me back to the present.
Back in the other room, I can see Sam swallowing a couple of pills, dry. As I wipe my face off, I hear his voice, muffled through the towel. "So, you see what you wanted to see?" I take a moment to think about it, pretending to adjust my hair in the mirror. Behind me, I can see Sam, looking for all the world like a puppy that's just performed his party trick and is waiting for a biscuit.
Perhaps I should explain this a little. See, when I said before that Sam was naive, I did actually have some grounds for judgment. There's one thing above all that Sam wants in this life, and that's to be normal. Well, maybe not normal. I'm sure he'd like to be richer than normal, and happier than normal. Mundane. That's a better word. He wants to be mundane, just like everybody else he knows. I don't recall the American Dream ever mentioning supernatural powers. Maybe it's just a link back to his old life. Maybe it's because when his guard is down, he gets flashbacks, just like in the alley. That sort of thing can really screw with your mind, I guess. Anyway, he must really want shot of this power of his, because when I told him that I could get rid of it for good if only he let me see one last thing, he couldn't stop himself. I mean, all he knows about me is that I said that I'm a friend of Francois, and he's willing to trust me, to open himself up to me, to lay open what must be one of his deepest secrets. Just as well he doesn't live in LA or somewhere like that.
I turn back around to face Sam, and pretend surprise. "Sorry, did you say something?"
"Yeah, I was just wondering, you know, if you saw what you wanted to see."
"Well, Sam, did you see anything of interest, anything that you think might have...piqued my interest?" More brusque now, my irritation's showing through.
"You know, it might..." He stops. "No. No, I guess not."
He's getting annoyed by my attitude now, but he's too scared to risk offending me. He thinks the Holy Grail's just over this last hill.
"So. That was last night, yes?" I wrinkle my brow and sigh, as if all this is trying my patience. Which it is. "Take me through this morning, until we met. Everything. You saw something, and I want to see it too."
"Why are you so sure that I saw something? What have I got to do with you? Why can't you just tell me what you want to see?"
"I can't tell you that, Sam. It might influence you in some way, interfere with what I'm trying to find." Conciliatory now, almost apologetic. But not quite.
"What he means, is that he doesn't know what he's looking for any more than you," Dee says, with a malicious tinge of schadenfreude in her voice. Bitch. I resist the temptation to give her a hard stare.
"Let's continue then. This morning," I say, with what I hope is a note of finality.
"What, now?" asks Sam. "I can't concentrate now, not until I've got rid of this headache."
"And I'm hungry," chips in Dee. It's so much easier when I work alone. No distractions, no idiotic time wasting, no inefficiency.
"Fine. We'll eat, and then we'll get this over and done with. Sooner we start, quicker we finish."
It's getting dark outside as the three of us make our way down the steps that lead up to Francois' front door. The air conditioning inside may make an infuriating sound, but at least it works - the atmosphere out here is exceptionally humid. The sounds of a domestic row emanate from the house next door, a broad southern voice accusing her husband of sleeping with the woman from the liquor store. Sam and Dee are walking ahead of me, making small talk. I'm sure Sam's trying to chat her up, but I don't think he'll get very far.
I'm in a rush to get on - I hate to think of time being wasted, every day is a day longer that Daphnee escapes justice - but Sam is taking us to a bakery just around the corner that he claims does the best food in town, simple but well-cooked. I have to admit that he's right, just by seeing them on display I'm tempted by the savoury bagels they serve. Good food always lifts a bad mood, as my grandmother used to say. Counting my change, I almost bump into a man who's entering as I leave. The instinctual apology dies on my lips as I look up and recognize him. The man from the gas station. I guess I should be used to these sorts of coincidences by now, but I'm always surprised when the Goddess smiles on me.
"C'n'I help you? Stranger," there's a definite emphasis on the last word.
I get a better look at him than Sam did last night, but then again, I'm paying attention. He's a little shorter than I am, maybe about five feet ten, and he's looking a little unkempt - definite five o'clock shadow and there are sacks underneath his eyes. It's those that draw you though, there's a fire in there as if they're reflecting the light of truth itself.
"Sorry, didn't see you there. Lost in a world of my own I guess," I say, giving him the benefit of my best sheepish grin as I stand aside. As I do so, he spies Sam behind me.
"Hey there!" he says, a little loudly. He's trying to sound friendly, but to me it's just a little strained, as if he's had a bad day and just wants to get it over with, "Didn't expect to see you again. Hey, I'd just like to thank you for directing us to that hotel - it was real nice."
"It was a pleasure," says Sam. He's clearly a little taken aback by the man's reappearance. "You planning to stay a while, or move on?"
I could kiss him. Don't get me wrong, I'm not that sort of guy, but that is an opportunity too good to miss. I concentrate, convincing the world around me that the one thing this man wants to do is tell the truth to this nice young man that helped him. There's no reason to lie to him, none at all.
"We're heading on down to New Orleans right now." The tone in his voice changes perceptibly even as he's speaking, and as soon as the last syllable leaves his mouth, it shuts abruptly before anything else can escape. As for me, I'm out of the door right away, walking rapidly towards the corner. As I go, I pass his car. His wife and son are inside, just like last night. The kid's even asleep again, slumped back on the seat with his mouth wide open. His wife looks up at me through the window as I go past, but looks away again quickly when she sees I'm looking back. She's got a bruise on her cheek, just beginning to turn livid. I'm sure that wasn't there last night - maybe the Louisiana Hotel has treacherous stairs.
As I turn the corner back onto Francois' street, I check over my shoulder. Dee and Sam are following, puzzled looks creasing both their foreheads. As soon as I think I'm out of sight, I'm running, down the road to my car. In the humidity, I'm sweating almost as soon as I take my first pace, by the time I point the remote control at the car, there are definite damp patches beneath my arms. I'm actually quite surprised that I get the engine running without difficulty - despite the adrenaline that's already pumping, I don't fumble the keys, and the engine fires first time. Wasted though - Dee and Sam are only halfway between the corner and the car. I wave urgently at them.
"Come on!" It stirs them into a semi-trot - by the time they get in, I can see the man's car drive by the end of the road. Ignoring the questions being fired at me, I pull out and follow.
I have to admit, I wasn't expecting Sam to get in the car - it all happened so fast, I wasn't sure what was going to happen. But I'm not complaining - I'd rather have him here, where he's not going to tell anyone else about the strange couple that gave chase to a vacationing family.
Besides which, he might come in useful. Despite it all, I think he's caught up in it all too - as we drive he asks questions about the man in a way that definitely implies he saw something strange in him.
It's not until we're out of the town and back on the freeway that it occurs to me that I was being stupid in the bakery. This man may have told the truth about his intentions, but there's nothing to stop him changing them now, especially if he thinks he's being followed. So, I tread a fine line between keeping tabs on him and trying to make sure he doesn't get spooked by this other car behind him. Unfortunately, the freeway's quiet this time of night, which makes it difficult - besides which, I'm hardly experienced at this sort of thing. Even though he's initially full of questions about what's going on, we've only been on the road for about an hour before Sam falls asleep. Dee's following the map - what I'd really like is for her to peep into the man's mind and find out a little more about who he is, see if we can flesh out any of my private theories. Given her requirements, that's not really practical right now.
As we continue south, rain begins to fall in fat tropical drops, ghosting through the arcs of the headlamps and thudding into the windshield like transparent moths. It gets steadily heavier, and as it does so, visibility worsens, forcing me closer to the car in front. A sudden squall blots it from view, and when the rain eases off a little there's no sign that it was ever there. Urging the car forwards, past the boundaries of safety, I strain my eyes, scanning the horizon ahead for the twin red pinpricks of light.
"There was a turning back there," Dee pipes up suddenly from the passenger seat, "a couple of miles back."
"I didn't see any sign."
"I don't think there was one. Looks on the map like one of those dirt tracks or something, doesn't seem to go anywhere in particular."
Instinct tells me that's where he's gone. If he has, then he must know this road very well, which implies that he's going somewhere. No, he must have known we were following. Otherwise, I'd have seen his lights - he switched them off and took the turning. It's a big call. If I'm wrong, then I'll have lost him for good. Decision time. I turn the car around and drive more cautiously back the way we came, looking for the turning. About five minutes later, I see it - a gap in the fence at the side of the road. Dee was right, it is a dirt track - there's been enough rain now that the surface of it is mud. The lights illuminate it well enough that I can clearly see fresh tire tracks, the tread marks filled with water.
"You're not seriously taking us down here," says Dee as I turn off the tarmac, the loss in grip instantly noticeable.
"You have any other suggestions?"
"No, but if he sees us now, he's gonna know for sure that we're trailing him."
"He probably knows already. Why else would he turn down here?"
That last point shuts her up, and she subsides into a posture that's just so teenage that I begin to worry that she's lost control. Not a problem for me anymore, but I guess that even with her strength of will there's always a chance. Maybe this is a case of soul contamination, the old infecting the new.
The car slides abruptly as the camber of the track suddenly changes and takes me by surprise. Should have been taking more care, not dreaming about metaphysics. Thankfully, the rain isn't getting any heavier, and visibility is good enough that I'm in no danger of sliding off the road and into one of the ditches that form a sort of inverted verge. Progress is slow though, and my concentration is beginning to falter when I catch sight of the telltale twin glow of our quarry's rear lights, ahead of us but off to the right.
They're not moving. I switch off the lights and come to a halt, killing the engine. The rain sounds even louder on the roof, like a demented drummer beating his final tattoo.
I open the door. "Come on," I say to Dee.
She shoots me that same sullen look as my shoes sink a few inches into the mud, but opens her door nonetheless. Once my eyes adjust to the darkness, I can see that beyond the ditches on either side of the road there's a few yards of grass and undergrowth which gives way to trees. Up ahead, it opens out a little, and that's why I caught sight of the other car. I move forward, sliding in the mud. My suit is soaked already, and quite probably ruined.
"You never mentioned romantic midnight walks in the rain, you know," comes Dee's voice from behind me. That pout has gone, replaced now by a look of keen expectation, like a cat that's sighted a mouse.
As we slide our way up the mud track, the trees reveal a small farmhouse set in a clearing. There's one light shining from within, and another on the porch that illuminates the clearing - it's that light reflecting off the car that I saw earlier. Caution re-establishes it's control, and I motion Dee to a halt. Jumping over the ditch, I move into the tree line, wiry undergrowth snagging my shoes as I circle around the clearing, keeping the house in sight all the while. The light from the porch doesn't penetrate this far into the trees.
A touch on my shoulder makes me jump, and I spin round, catching my left knee on a tree stump. It's only Dee, who has moved up behind me without me noticing a thing. I'm not cut out for this sort of thing at all, and never have been. I've tried it before, and it always goes pear-shaped. Got me killed last time, in fact, but let's not dwell on that right now, OK? My knee begins to throb painfully as we continue round to the back of the house, where there's no light on.
I jump back across the ditch, making sure I land on my good leg. Dee seems to float across beside me, landing gracefully. This is a side of her I have not seen before. I creep up to the only window on this side of the building, next to a door. Peering through the dusty pane, I can just about make out some rusty kitchen utensils hanging from a wall, but there's no movement within. I wait for a few seconds, but everything is quiet, no sound bar the rain on the walls and the steady streams running from the blocked guttering. Ever so slowly, I turn the handle on the door, Dee standing by my shoulder.
The sound of a gun makes us both jump. Almost immediately, another follows, but they're from round the front of the house, not directed at us. I run to the corner of the wall, ignoring the pain that flares up from my knee. Peering around, I can see, quite clearly in the pool of light in front of the house, the body of Sam lying on the ground.
"Shit," says Dee, sotto voce, but she doesn't run out towards him. I put a hand on her shoulder, just in case.
In the mud in front of the house, Sam moves, his arm lifting feebly before falling back. I realize that I've been muttering, "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck," beneath my breath ever since I saw him. I stop.
"You think he's dead?" asks Dee. There's a slight note of incredulity in her voice, as if she can't quite believe that such a thing could be true. Strange, given our shared experiences of the afterlife, but there you go.
"Fucking right he is. Let's get back to the car." I've got no idea whether he is or not, to be honest, but I'm not running out there to find out. I've been shot before, and it hurts. Besides, I went through a lot to get this body, and I'm not about to lose it now. Dee doesn't need any persuading. I look briefly back at Sam's body, but my survival instinct is strong enough to override any impulse to go and help him, even if there is anything I can do for him now.
Dee's in a hurry. She's obviously not in the mood for self-sacrifice either. In the dark, she's out of sight quickly, leaving me on my own with the pain from my knee. I'll admit it too; the idea of being killed again is scaring me. I'm moving as fast as my knee will let me, keeping quiet isn't an issue anymore. Every time I step on a twig, I think there are more shots coming my way, but there are none. Yet. My breath's coming in short bursts, and I keep glancing over my shoulder.
The Blair Witch Project seems a whole lot scarier when you're out in the woods.
Suddenly, there's the ditch again, and the car just beyond it. Dee's there already, waving frantically at me and pointing back up the road toward the house. I turn, and there's the other car, weaving back down the track. As it goes past, dodging past us, I get a glimpse inside - it's just the woman, no one else. Ignoring the pain, I jump into the driver's seat and start the engine. And as I do so, my mind flashes back to the last time I did this, back in that shithole of a town, and I see again that car driving past the end of the road, and there's only one person in it.
The anger bursts out of me in a roar, a geyser of sound. Everything else is forgotten, for now at least. I will not be stopped. Daphnee will pay for sending me into that New Inquisition ambush. Already in my mind I'm chasing down the other car, and forcing the woman to tell me what's going on. Revenge on her first, then Daphnee.
Gunning the engine, I start to turn the car around, but the steering's even heavier than usual. And there's an unusual tilt to the car. As I peer out the window, my vengeful vision evaporates, replaced by two tires, complete with matchsticks.
Still, you know what they say. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Mattias | profile | Apr 27, 07 | 3:24 am
Chris Milne is the author of Chapter the Second. The fans are asked to refrain from rushing the stage until the end of the performance.