Words of Wisdom
Again, the beast drew near, and again it was time to run. Mary paused a lot more often than she needed, just to let Eric catch up. On several occasions, she had to stop to help him up or free his foot from a snag. The second time, the beast nearly caught up to them; it wasn’t close enough to see but its mindless advance rained debris on them. They got away, and finally managed to put some distance between it and themselves.
Mary cut down a side street, then turned to look. “Eric! Hurry!” she yelled.
“I wasn’t on the cross-country team!” he puffed; she took off again as soon as he caught up.
“Neither was I, but you either run or die!”
“Why did it get so close? Is it after you?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. Maybe.” She dodged through a gaping hole into what was once a fancy restaurant. “I think we can rest in here.” They caught their breath for a moment.
“That’s comforting,” he said, looking at the overturned tables and other wreckage. “Can I look at your drawings again? They’re good.”
Mary huffed, but handed over the sketchpad.
“The one of the beast. How long did you work on it?”
“Three weeks. The others I just did off the cuff.”
“That’s even more amazing, when you think about it. They’re simple, but there’s still a lot of detail. I can draw some, but not that good. Especially the part where stuff comes to life.”
“Yeah.” Eric was kind of a pain — he slowed her down and talked too much — but he didn’t patronize her or try to hit on her. And he seemed to mean what he said about her work. That was nice. She tried to imagine this place the way it was, maybe sitting with Eric at one of the tables. Maybe on prom night.
“If you made it, couldn’t you get rid of it?”
“Yeah.” He held up the drawing of the beast. “I mean, you got the idea for this thing before you knew you could bring it to life, right?” He frowned. “Maybe it gave you that power, and it’s after you because it knows you could undo it somehow.”
“No way.” But his words — his idea — found a way through her armor, reaching the core where all that anger lay waiting, another beast looking for a way into the light. The anger and the idea roiled together inside her.
“Yeah. It let you use the power to get rid of people — the creepy dude and Megan Garner — and they both deserved it, probably. Once it knew you could do it, it just had to wait for you to get mad enough to bring it to life too. So maybe you can draw something to kill it. Superman, maybe.”
“That’s so whack.”
“No more whack than that thing out there. Or any of the other stuff. It’s worth a try, isn’t it? I don’t guess we can outrun that thing forever. If you can kill it, you really ought to. Even if you don’t care about yourself, my Mom always said if you can do the right thing, you should do it.”
She shook her head, but could not deny the logic. “Where is she now?”
Eric looked out the hole in the wall. “We tried to drive out, the first day. She was going too fast and wrecked, about a mile from the apartment. I was okay, but she didn’t make it.”
“Yeah. Sometimes I wish I’d died too.”
She sighed. “Listen, I need to think about this. How to do it.” She started pacing, and Eric retreated into the kitchen to forage. The restaurant shook to the rhythmic pounding of the beast’s feet, but it felt far enough away to be safe a while longer. She righted a table and chair where the light was good. “But maybe the world deserved this,” she muttered, tapping the sketchpad with her pencil. A world full of psycho parents, creepers, and evil students — and the occasional nice guy like Eric, sure. She nodded her head to the vibration.
“I think it’s getting closer,” said Eric, looking over her shoulder. “How — you’re almost done?”
“Huh?” Mary looked down. She didn’t remember starting, but there it was: a shaft of light thrust the clouds aside and shone upon the prone beast. It writhed, not under Superman, but the sword of an avenging angel. The rubble of the city lay all around them. Should I do this? She reached down into that core, found the anger there and strong as ever, but now it spoke different words: It used us! Kill it!
“Almost. Give me a little space. I think we have time.” She bent to her drawing, as Eric retreated. It was almost done, but something was missing. Something for her.
With great power comes great responsibility. At this moment, Eric’s words seemed more true than anything. But she deserved something… something nice. Somebody who cared about her for a change. Making that happen wouldn’t hurt anything, right? And maybe she wouldn’t want to destroy the world again. She sketched in a low hill, with her and Eric standing on it… holding hands. She’d saved his life at least twice, after all.
“We’ve gotta go! Now!” Eric looked wild-eyed at the hole in the wall.
“Okay. Just a few more seconds.” She spoke the words as she wrote: “Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.”
“Speaking words of wisdom, yeah. Hurry!”
She stuffed her sketchpad into her backpack, and they ran.
They reached a low hilltop as a shaft of light split the churning overcast sky.