Friday, May 20, 2011

Land of Shadows: Chapter XXIV - Lane Ends Merge Ahead

Sandy stared at the young man sleeping next to her.  The man she had come to love in just a few brief days.  She was worried about him, though he was sleeping peacefully enough now, he was frequently troubled by nightmares and would spend half the night thrashing about.  Lines creased his forehead even now. She gently brushed the thick blond hair that had fallen across his face back.  She wished she could help him, but he was as tight-lipped about his nightmares as he was about that nasty vertical scar on his belly.

His obsession with Houston was even more troubling.  She had never been further south than Arkansas and that was bad enough.  Her father had died under her own hand just two miles north of the Missouri border.  It had been to spare him anymore agony and it often haunted her in her own dreams.  But it held a not of pride for her too.  She had been the one strong enough to do what needed to be done.  Her brother's could not bring themselves to do it no matter how much their father begged.  She and her brothers had burned his body and continued home.  It could be worse though, he could be headed to Florida.  Her mother was from Miami and said she had not heard of anyone coming out of Florida in ten years. 

She got up and went about getting ready for the day's travels.  It was a cool this morning but she had a feeling that by this afternoon she would be wishing the AC was working in the truck.  She wondered why anyone in their right mind ever settled this far south.  She did not realize that the blasted landscape they were crossing was the result of an uncontrolled wildfire that had swept the region two years ago, burning everything in its path.  She only saw the patchy drought starved grasses and the stunted looking twiggy little trees that were only now big enough to be called saplings.  There weren't that many buildings left standing along this stretch of highway. 

By the time Puck was awake she already had breakfast ready.  They were on the road again fifteen minutes later with him at the wheel.  She was surprised to learn that he could not drive or read and she had set about rectifying that situation.  The reading would take a while, but he had mastered driving within an hour. 

It was nearing noon when Puck slammed on the brakes, jolting Sandy out of her nap.  The reason for the sudden stop was obvious as soon as she opened her eyes.  The behemoths blocking the road were at least twelve feet at the shoulder, their massive gray bodies forming a veritable living wall blocking the road.  Their legs were as big around as a man's body.  One of the beasts turned to them, its tusks gleaming in the sun.  It sprayed a blast of dust from a pothole in the road up onto its back from its trunk and regarded them calmly as the others slowly trod across the interstate.  Both of then just stared in awe as the herd of African elephants crossed majestically in front of them.

*     *     *

"Well, I'll be damned!"  Deek and the old man exclaimed in unison.  This was beginning to happen more often.  Puck's growing distraction with the girl was giving them much more freedom of movement, but a strange thing was beginning to happen.  They two of them were becoming as one.  Two personalities cannot exist within the same confines of the human brain without problems.  Deek was frightened tried to resist at times but Jewels viewed this with resignation.  He did not know if it would necessarily be a bad thing but the loss of self troubled him.  He had lost much since he had been taken over, and could never hope to be a whole person.  Aside from being reduced in status to the equivalent of a disembodied hitchhiker, there were gaping holes in his memory.  Deek had never been complete.  But the alterations made to the boy's brain by the parasite and Jewels' presence would allow for the formation of an entirely new and whole person.  Sadly, neither believed they would live long enough for this merger to be run its eventual course.

This crossed their converging minds in an instant, before they both returned their attention to the elephants.

© 2011 R. Keith McBride