Friday, February 10, 2012
The single word reverberated around him. Cody turned: there stood Delphinia in the pre-dawn shadows, in front of the boarded-up guardhouse. Her hood hid her face, her cloak making her little more than another grey shadow among the shadows. Beyond him was a truck, waiting in nearly the same spot where the old one sat before they pulled it up to the street. This new truck had been whispering all along — End your mourning. Find eternal peace. — but Cody now noticed it and tried to tune it out. It was harder than usual, and it pulled at him.
“What are you doing out here?” he asked her.
“I go where I am needed. But what of you? Why are you here?”
Cody heard the welcome smile in her voice, could imagine it on her face, but shrugged it and the question away. “I dunno.”
“Were you thinking of giving in?” She inclined her head toward the truck.
We give an end to sorrow.
“Hell no!” But what am I doing out here? He’d been gnawing at the riddle of the trucks while trying to sleep; it was better than thinking about Sondra. But he’d dreamed of her anyway… and now he was out here. And so was a truck. Pulling at him.
“This one is yours.”
“Huh?” Cody looked over his shoulder at the truck. Nothing different about it, except the pull. They all looked the same.
“You summoned it.” The overtones in her voice hinted at a gathering power.
We are ready to hear your call.
Delphinia slipped back her hood and stepped forward, leaving the ball cap in place — but still Cody stood transfixed in the deep blue of her eyes, even in the near-dark, as she approached. “Thus says the Oracle: Endure, Cody. For the sake of the future. This is also Sondra’s desire.”
Cody tore his gaze away from her eyes and glared, crossing his arms. “Is her desire? She’s dead!” His vision swam for a moment.
“Only the body perishes.” The fencing and trees whispered an echo. “The soul lives on, but can be devoured. By hate. By despair. By unrelenting grief. And…” She turned her gaze to the truck.
“They really eat your soul?” Cody gasped —
And sat up in his nest in front of the fireplace. He shook his head, but Delphinia’s words still echoed in his skull. Habit made him check his fire: coals glowed behind the glass doors. He wrapped his robe around himself, opened the doors enough to throw two more pieces of wood in and enjoy a wave of warmth, then closed the doors and tottered to the bathroom.
Dim light filtering through the living room blinds suggested early morning, and Cody took a peek outside. Nobody moving around out there, but the early risers would be getting dressed — maybe someone was already making coffee in the Laurel Room? He felt like he could use a cup or two; last night wasn’t restful. First there was a dream about Sondra, then the one with the weird bag lady there in front of the guardhouse… that one felt almost real. What had she said? Something about enduring. And the trucks eat your soul?
“That’s some nasty shit,” he said aloud. “Gotta get some guys to push that thing back out on the street — oh yeah.” That was just a dream. Wasn’t it? Dreams and reality had a bad habit of mixing together these days. “Coffee,” he said. “Get my head on straight, then I can go have a look.” He picked up his shoes —
They were wet and cold.
“What the…?” He sat on the hearth, letting the fire warm his back, and thought. He woke up from the dream about Sondra, threw some wood on the fire, laid back down… hadn’t he? The wet shoes seemed to stare back at him, and he propped them against the fireplace glass. Could he have sleepwalked out to the gate? He didn’t remember going out there… or coming back, either. Then again, Delphinia had a way of pulling everyone around her into her crazy world. What did the preacher say about her that day? She has a gift, and I fear it has driven her mad. But she sure didn’t act crazy out there.
A few minutes later, Cody left the Laurel Room, hands wrapped around a warm coffee mug, black hoodie snugged up against the cold and damp of early morning. It was a short walk to the gate, even with the customary pause to look at the spot where Sondra died. He trailed a hand along the side of the guardhouse, looked up for a moment, then slipped through the gate and looked at the pickup. He could feel the pull from yards away, the strongest ever.
This one is yours. You summoned it.
There it was, exactly where he’d seen it, dream or not. He glared at it, sipped his coffee, turned to look at the ground in front of the guardhouse. The depressions could have been footprints, but Cody was no tracker.
Life is too short for endless speculation. There is a better way.
Drive. Consider your questions for eternity.
“Like hell. You can fuckin’ starve to death for all I care.” He gave the truck a middle finger and pushed himself back into the subdivision, swimming against the tide, making a mental to-do list: Get some guys together. Find the hooks they used back around Hallowe’en to roll the old one out, then get this one off the place. Spread the word.
And keep an eye on Delphinia. She was more than she seemed. And she knew more than she was letting on.
to be continued…