Maps in a mirror, p.84

Maps in a Mirror, page 84

 

Maps in a Mirror
 



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  And she says to me, “Don’t get mad now, don’t get mad at me, I’m sorry, just calm down.” That was all she could think of, how I might get mad and lose control and kill her, and I don’t blame her, cause it was the hardest thing I ever did, keeping myself from busting out right there in the car, and it would’ve killed her, too. The pain in my hand was starting to get to me, too, from where I grabbed the doorknob. It was just building up and building up.

  She was driving a lot faster than the headlights reached. We’d be going way too fast for a curve before she even saw it, and then she’d slam on the brakes and we’d skid and sometimes I couldn’t believe we didn’t just roll over and crash. But she always got out of it.

  I couldn’t face back anymore. I just sat there with my eyes closed, trying to get calm, and then I’d remember my daddy who I didn’t even like but he was my daddy lying there in his blood and his puke, and I’d remember that guy who burned to death up in my room and even though I didn’t care at the time, I sure cared now, I was so angry and scared and I hated myself so bad I couldn’t hold it in, only I also couldn’t let it out, and I kept wishing I could just die. Then I realized that the guys following us were close enough that I could feel them. Or no it wasn’t that they was close. They was just so mad that I could see their sparks flying like never before. Well as long as I could see them I could let fly, couldn’t I? I just flung out toward them. I don’t know if I hit them. I don’t know if my bio-electricity is something I can throw like that or what. But at least I shucked it off myself, and I didn’t mess up the lady who was driving.

  When we hit asphalt again, I found out that I didn’t know what crazy driving was before. She peeled out and now she began to look at a curve ahead and then switch off the headlights until she was halfway through the curve, it was the craziest thing I ever saw, but it also made sense. They had to be following our lights, and when our lights went out they wouldn’t know where we was for a minute. They also wouldn’t know that the road curved ahead, and they might even crash up or at least they’d have to slow down. Of course, we had a real good chance of ending up eating trees ourselves, but she drove like she knew what she was doing.

  We came to a straight section with a crossroads about a mile up. She switched off the lights again, and I thought maybe she was going to turn, but she didn’t, just went on and on and on, straight into the pitch black. Now, that straight section was long, but it didn’t go on forever, and I don’t care how good a driver you are, you can’t keep track of how far you’ve gone in the dark. Just when I thought for sure we’d smash into something, she let off the gas and reached her hand out the window with a flashlight. We was still going pretty fast, but the flashlight was enough to make a reflector up ahead flash back at us, so she knew where the curve, was, and it was farther off than I thought. She whipped us around that curve and then around another, using just a couple of blinks from the flashlight, before she switched on her headlights again.

  I looked behind us to see if I could see anybody. “You lost them!” I says.

  “Maybe,” she says. “You tell me.”

  So I tried to feel where they might be, and sure enough, they was sparky enough that I could just barely tell where they was, away back. Split up, smeared out. “They’re going every which way,” I says.

  “So we lost a few of them,” she says. “They aren’t going to give up, you know.”

  “I know,” I says.

  “You’re the hottest thing going,” she says.

  “And you’re a daughter of Esau,” I says.

  “Like hell I am,” she says. “I’m a great-great-great-granddaughter of Jacob Yow, who happened to be bio-electrically talented. Like if you’re tall and athletic, you can play basketball. That’s all it is, just a natural talent. Only he went crazy and started inbreeding his whole family, and they’ve got these stupid ideas about being the chosen of God and all the time they’re just murderers”

  “Tell me about it,” I says.

  “You can’t help it,” she says. “You didn’t have anybody to teach you. I’m not blaming you.”

  But I was blaming me.

  She says, “Ignorant, that’s what they are. Well, my grandpa didn’t want to just keep reading the Bible and killing any revenuers or sheriffs or whatever who gave us trouble. He wanted to find out what we are. He also didn’t want to marry the slut they picked out for him because he wasn’t particularly dusty. So he left. They hunted him down and tried to kill him, but he got away, and he married. And he also studied and became a doctor and his kids grew up knowing that they had to find out what it is, this power. It’s like the old stories of witches, women who get mad and suddenly your cows start dying. Maybe they didn’t even know they were doing it. Summonings and love spells and come-hithers, everybody can do it a little, just like everybody can throw a ball and sometimes make a basket, but some people can do it better than others. And Papa Lem’s people, they do it best of all, better and better, because they’re breeding for it. We’ve got to stop them, don’t you see? We’ve got to keep them from learning how to control it. Because now we know more about it. It’s all tied up with the way the human body heals itself. In Sweden they’ve been changing the currents around to heal tumors. Cancer. The opposite of what you’ve been doing, but it’s the same principle. Do you know what that means? If they could control it, Lem’s people could be healers, not killers. Maybe all it takes is to do it with love, not anger.”

  “Did you kill them little girls in orphanages with love?” I says.

  And she just drives, she doesn’t say a thing, just drives. “Damn,” she says, “it’s raining.”

  The road was slick in two seconds. She slowed way down. It came down harder and harder. I looked behind us and there was headlights back there again. Way back, but I could still see them. “They’re on us again,” I says.

  “I can’t go any faster in the rain,” she says.

  “It’s raining on them too,” I says.

  “Not with my luck.”

  And I says, “It’ll put the fire out. Back where they live.”

  And she says, “It doesn’t matter. They’ll move. They know we found them, because we picked you up. So they’ll move.”

  I apologized for causing trouble, and she says, “We couldn’t let you die in there. I had to go there and save you if I could.”

  “Why?” I ask her. “Why not let me die?”

  “Let me put it another way,” she says. “If you decided to stay with them, I had to go in there and kill you.”

  And I says to her, “You’re the queen of compassion, you know?” And I thought about it a little. “You’re just like they are, you know?” I says. “You wanted to get pregnant just like they did. You wanted to breed me like a stud horse.”

  “If I wanted to breed you,” she says, “I would have done it on the hill this morning. Yesterday morning. You would’ve done it. And I should’ve made you, because if you went with them, our only hope was to have a child of yours that we could raise to be a decent person. Only it turned out you’re a decent person, so we didn’t have to kill you. Now we can study you and learn about this from the strongest living example of the phenomenon”—I don’t know how to pronounce that, but you know what I mean. Or what she meant, anyway.

  And I says to her, “Maybe I don’t want you to study me, did you think of that?”

  And she says to me, “Maybe what you want don’t amount to a goldfish fart.” Or anyway that’s what she meant.

  That’s about when they started shooting at us. Rain or no rain, they was pushing it so they got close enough to shoot, and they wasn’t half bad at it, seeing as the first bullet we knew about went right through the back window and in between us and smacked a hole in the windshield. Which made all kinds of cracks in the glass so she couldn’t see, which made her slow down more, which meant they was even closer.

  Just then we whipped around a corner and our headlights lit up a bunch of guys getting out of a car with guns in thei
r hands, and she says, “Finally.” So I figured they was some of her people, there to take the heat off. But at that same second Lem’s people must have shot out a tire or maybe she just got a little careless for a second cause after all she couldn’t see too good through the windshield, but anyway she lost control and we skidded and flipped over, rolled over it felt like five times, all in slow motion, rolling and rolling, the doors popping open and breaking off, the windshield cracking and crumbling away, and there we hung in our seat belts, not talking or nothing, except maybe I was saying O my God or something and then we smacked into something and just stopped, which jerked us around inside the car and then it was all over.

  I heard water rushing. A stream, I thought. We can wash up. Only it wasn’t a stream, it was the gasoline pouring out of the tank. And then I heard gunshots from back up by the road. I didn’t know who was fighting who, but if the wrong guys won they’d just love to catch us in a nice hot gasoline fire. Getting out wasn’t going to be all that hard. The doors were gone so we didn’t have to climb out a window or anything.

  We were leaned over on the left side, so her door was mashed against the ground. I says to her, “We got to climb out my door.” I had brains enough to hook one arm up over the lip of the car before I unbuckled my seat belt, and then I hoisted myself out and stayed perched up there on the side of the car, up in the air, so I could reach down and help her out.

  Only she wasn’t climbing out. I yelled at her and she didn’t answer. I thought for a second she was dead, but then I saw that her sparks was still there. Funny, how I never saw she had any sparkiness before, because I didn’t know to look for it, but now, even though it was dim, I could see it. Only it wasn’t so dim, it was real busy, like she was trying to heal herself. The gurgling was still going on, and everything smelled like gasoline. There was still shooting going on. And even if nobody came down to start us on fire on purpose, I saw enough car crashes at the movies to know you didn’t need a match to start a car on fire. I sure didn’t want to be near the car if it caught, and I sure didn’t want her in it. But I couldn’t see how to climb down in and pull her out. I mean I’m not a weakling but I’m not Mr. Universe either.

  It felt like I sat there for a whole minute before I realized I didn’t have to pull her out my side of the car, I could pull her out the front cause the whole windshield was missing and the roof was only mashed down a little, cause there was a rollbar in the car—that was real smart, putting a rollbar in. I jumped off the car. It wasn’t raining right here, but it had rained, so it was slippery and wet. Or maybe it was slippery from the gasoline, I don’t know. I got around the front of the car and up to the windshield, and I scraped the bits of glass off with my shoe. Then I crawled partway in and reached under her and undid her seat belt, and tried to pull her out, but her legs was hung up under the steering wheel and it took forever, it was terrible, and all the time I kept listening for her to breathe, and she didn’t breathe, and so I kept getting more scared and frustrated and all I was thinking about was how she had to live, she couldn’t be dead, she just got through saving my life and now she was dead and she couldn’t be and I was going to get her out of the car even if I had to break her legs to do it, only I didn’t have to break her legs and she finally slid out and I dragged her away from the car. It didn’t catch on fire, but I couldn’t know it wasn’t going to.

  And anyway all I cared about then was her, not breathing, lying there limp on the grass with her neck all floppy and I was holding on to her crying and angry and scared and I had us both covered with sparks, like we was the same person, just completely covered, and I was crying and saying, Live! I couldn’t even call her by name or nothing because I didn’t know her name. I just know that I was shaking like I had the chills and so was she and she was breathing now and whimpering like somebody just stepped on a puppy and the sparks just kept flowing around us both and I felt like somebody sucked everything out of me, like I was a wet towel and somebody wrung me out and flipped me into a corner, and then I don’t remember until I woke up here.

  What did it feel like? What you did to her?

  It felt like when I covered her with light, it was like I was taking over doing what her own body should’ve done, it was like I was healing her. Maybe I got that idea because she said something about healing when she was driving the car, but she wasn’t breathing when I dragged her out, and then she was breathing. So I want to know if I healed her. Because if she got healed when I covered her with my own light, then maybe I didn’t kill my daddy either, because it was kind of like that, I think it was kind of like that, what happened when I dragged him out of the house.

  I been talking a long time now, and you still told me nothing. Even if you think I’m just a killer and you want me dead, you can tell me about her. Is she alive?

  Yes.

  Well then how come I can’t see her? How come she isn’t here with the rest of you?

  She had some surgery. It takes time to heal.

  But did I help her? Or did I twist her? You got to tell me. Cause if I didn’t help her then I hope I fail your test and you kill me cause I can’t think of a good reason why I should be alive if all I can do is kill people.

  You helped her, Mick. That last bullet caught her in the head. That’s why she crashed.

  But she wasn’t bleeding!

  It was dark, Mick. You couldn’t see. You had her blood all over you. But it doesn’t matter now. We have the bullet out. As far as we can tell, there was no brain damage. There should have been. She should have been dead.

  So I did help her.

  Yes. But we don’t know how. All kinds of stories, you know, about faith healing, that sort of thing. Laying on of hands. Maybe it’s the kind of thing you did, merging the bio-magnetic field. A lot of things don’t make any sense yet. There’s no way we can see that the tiny amount of electricity in a human bio-electric system could influence somebody a hundred miles off, but they summoned you, and you came. We need to study you, Mick. We’ve never had anybody as powerful as you. Tell the truth, maybe there’s never been anybody like you. Or maybe all the healings in the New Testament—

  I don’t want to hear about no testaments. Papa Lem gave me about all the testaments I ever need to hear about.

  Will you help us, Mick?

  Help you how?

  Let us study you.

  Go ahead and study.

  Maybe it won’t be enough just to study how you heal people.

  I’m not going to kill nobody for you. If you try to make me kill somebody I’ll kill you first till you have to kill me just to save your own lives, do you understand me?

  Calm down, Mick. Don’t get angry. There’s plenty of time to think about things. Actually we’re glad that you don’t want to kill anybody. If you enjoyed it, or even if you hadn’t been able to control it and kept on indiscriminately killing anyone who enraged you, you wouldn’t have lived to be seventeen. Because yes, we’re scientists, or at least we’re finally learning enough that we can start being scientists. But first we’re human beings, and we’re in the middle of a war, and children like you are the weapons. If they ever got someone like you to stay with them, work with them, you could seek us out and destroy us. That’s what they wanted you to do.

  That’s right, that’s one thing Papa Lem said, I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but he said that the children of Israel were supposed to kill every man, woman, and child in Canaan, cause idolaters had to make way for the children of God.

  Well, you see, that’s why our branch of the family left. We didn’t think it was such a terrific idea, wiping out the entire human race and replacing it with a bunch of murderous, incestuous religious fanatics. For the last twenty years, we’ve been able to keep them from getting somebody like you, because we’ve murdered the children that were so powerful they had to put them outside to be reared by others.

  Except me.

  It’s a war. We didn’t like killing children. But it’s like bombing the place where y
our enemies are building a secret weapon. The lives of a few children—no, that’s a lie. It nearly split us apart ourselves, the arguments over that. Letting you live—it was a terrible risk. I voted against it every time. And I don’t apologize for that, Mick. Now that you know what they are, and you chose to leave, I’m glad I lost. But so many things could have gone wrong.

  They won’t put any more babies out to orphanages now, though. They’re not that dumb.

  But now we have you. Maybe we can learn how to block what they do. Or how to heal the people they attack. Or how to identify sparkiness, as you call it, from a distance. All kinds of possibilities. But sometime in the future, Mick, you may be the only weapon we have. Do you understand that?

  I don’t want to.

  I know.

  You wanted to kill me?

  I wanted to protect people from you. It was safest. Mick, I really am glad it worked out this way.

  I don’t know whether to believe you, Mr. Kaiser. You’re such a good liar. I thought you were so nice to me all that time because you were just a nice guy.

  Oh, he is, Mick. He’s a nice guy. Also a damn fine liar. We kind of needed both those attributes in the person we had looking out for you.

  Well, anyway, that’s over with.

  What’s over with?

  Killing me. Isn’t it?

  That’s up to you, Mick. If you ever start getting crazy on us, or killing people that aren’t part of this war of ours—

  I won’t do that!

  But if you did, Mick. It’s never too late to kill you.

  Can I see her?

  See who?

  The lady from Roanoke! Isn’t it about time you told me her name?

  Come on. She can tell you herself.

  ST. AMY’S TALE

  Mother could kill with her hands. Father could fly. These are miracles. But they were not miracles then. Mother Elouise taught me that there were no miracles then.

  I am the child of Wreckers, born while the angel was in them. This is why I am called Saint Amy, though I perceive nothing in me that should make me holier than any other old woman. Yet Mother Elouise denied the angel in her, too, and it was no less there.

 
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