Not for the first time, I'm flirting with insomnia. I have to be at work in seven hours and I really shouldn't be sitting in the park at 2 am. It does no good to mentally berate myself about how much that alarm clock will suck if I don't take my own advice and go to sleep. I let out a frustrated huff and watch as cigarette smoke trails out of my lungs and melds into the stagnant mist.
It rained. Everything is damp and cold and I can feel my hair curling in the still air. I should sleep. I tend to mess up people's orders when I'm tired, but I'm always tired. I only mess up when I'm shaking with sleep deprivation, sick and wobbly and red-eyed. I really should sleep, but I know as surely as some universal law of nature that I will not be going to bed anytime soon. I'll have to wear makeup to work tomorrow. It'll require setting my alarm a few minutes earlier, but if I don't I'll look like death warmed over. A pale complexion and dark brown eyes make for a terrible combination when dark circles get thrown into the mix, and it's a bad idea to look sickly when you work in food service. It puts the customers off. I kick my feet at the dirt, trying to snap out of this contemplative mood. I'm much more fun than this.
I know what has put me in such a funk. I've been trying not to think about it, but it is still the reason for my middle of the night emo-kid-smoking-in-the-fog routine. I've been having nightmares. I'm supposed to be an adult at this point in the game and I'm a little embarrassed to be so rattled by bad dreams, but jeez, they've been kind of horrific; giant figures leaning over writhing, screaming people, cities burning, end of days, the whole shebang. Every time I've closed my eyes this past week I've woken up with the echoes of the shrieks still ringing in my ears. Maybe I've been drinking too much caffeine or something. When I mentioned my nightmares in passing to my mom she just hummed something about what my grandma would say. I don't really listen when she goes on rants about her mother, my very sweet but kind of eccentric grandma.
I flick the stubby end of my cigarette into the wet grass and rub my hands together, trying to ward off the cold. I can see my breath. April in Georgia is never this cold, even after a heavy rain. I pull my jacket close and stand up. There is a winding sidewalk along the perimeter of the park and if I follow it, it eventually doubles back past my house. My parents' house. Maybe walking a mile or two will help make me tired.
A noise catches my attention. A weird, slapping echo reverberates over the street and off the side of the nearest house. Someone's running? The "park" is just a big, flat field with a few trees at the far end and houses lining the edges. Sound carries strangely over too flat of ground and I can't pinpoint where it's coming from, but I know it isn't some late-night jogger. These are the heavy footfalls of someone running wildly, as fast as they can force their legs to go. I turn around too late. He nearly collides with me. His labored breathing and wide-eyed stare are all I can process. My brain is jammed up with the magnitude of un-normal that has suddenly crashed into my calm internal monologue. Why? What could explain this? Before I can even start to speculate, he grabs my hand and gasps out one word.
"What?" I understand what he said, but I feel like I've missed the movie and walked in on the last five minutes. I do know whatever's going on is serious. The look on his face says that well enough.
"Run," He manages to sound forceful despite being out-of-breath. He lets go of my hand, nearly throwing it back at me. There's nothing else to be done, so we take off. I cut across the field. Screw the meandering sidewalk, I'm going home. The stranger falls into step behind me. I don't know where he thinks he's going, because I'm certainly not letting him into my mom's house in the middle of the night.
People are right to use the phrase "smoker lungs". They just don't work quite right. Luckily I'm young enough that my insides aren't too damaged by my bad decisions and fear is an excellent motivator. I'm breathing like a wounded rhino, but I cover the quarter-mile distance in record time. The stranger is right beside me, running almost in step. The word "why" drifts through my head, but I don't give it too much attention. In the distance I hear squealing tires and somehow I know that is a very bad sign.
We reach the street in front of the house. I make for the door, but my running partner grabs my arm again.
"Not the house. They could see," Gears are turning in his head. His eyes lock on my beat up truck parked on the side of the road, "Do you have your keys?"
"Listen, buddy-" I gasp, sounding peeved, but he cuts me off.
"For your own safety, get in the truck," He speaks almost in a growl, his face radiating unguarded honesty as if it's the most important thing in the world that I believe him. The sound of cars is getting closer. Call it panic, I guess, but I pull out my keys and course-correct to the truck. I climb in, and he's in the passenger seat almost instantly. I turn the ignition and it roars to life, cranky as always.
"Take the next right and stay off the main roads until we can get to the highway," We're in motion before he finishes speaking.
My radio is whispering the local classic rock station. I always turn it to low before turning off the truck; I hate being sneak attacked by blaring music when I crank the engine. We're turning onto the side street when he flips the sound off. This fool touched my radio. No one touches my radio.
"Hey," Not exactly clever, but it conveys what I intended.
"Shut up, I'm listening," Rude. Rude and panicked. This is not the night I signed up for, but he has a point; I see headlights in the rearview back-lighting a house in the distance. I lean on the gas. We are getting the hell out of here.
I've been driving ten minutes, taking every back way I know and speeding for the record books. We're halfway across town and not far from the interstate. I blame the adrenaline. I'm beginning to wonder if allowing a strange man in my car was a good idea. It's exactly the boneheaded thing I shout at blonde bimbos in horror movies for. It seems less dumb when you're scared and running, but what had we been running from? Just because I'd heard a car in the distance didn't actually mean anything. My mother's voice drifts through my head, "Fear makes fools of us all."
There is a sudden cold, sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach. What would my mother say if she could see me now? I have an absolute stranger in my car. A potentially unstable stranger that has a strong case against him already, now I'm thinking about it. Utter panic fills my insides like ice water. There is a can of pepper spray in my glove compartment; my dad put it there in case of emergency or Atlanta driving. Unfortunately, my glove compartment is a bit of a reach for me and right smack in front of this possible lunatic. Shit.
On the other, slightly more rational, hand I've been alone with this guy for almost fifteen minutes now and he hasn't tried to axe-murder me yet. In fact, he'd seemed quite concerned for my safety. I glance at him for a moment. I can't bring myself to think of him as a danger, and my intuition is the one thing about myself that I can truly call above average. That doesn't mean I need to be sticking around this dude any longer than necessary.
I peek at him as discreetly as I can. He looks to be about twenty three or twenty four, just a little older than me. He doesn't look outwardly crazy, his blonde hair is cut very short and his plain white t-shirt and jeans give off a simple, clean-cut vibe. If he is crazy then I've really stepped my foot into it, because his muscular build is apparent through his shirt. If he decided to attack me I wouldn't stand a chance. I want him out of my truck.
"Do you need me to drop you at the police station?" That seems rational. No need getting dragged into whatever he's tangled in.
"The police can't help. Just get to the highway and I'll tell you what exit," He's still shooting nervous looks behind us. It's making me jumpy all over again.
"Lookee here, dude, I don't know you and I've had enough of this. You're lucky I didn't just run into my house and lock you out. Now it's time you tell me what the hell is going on," My voice was supposed to sound authoritative but instead sounds squeaky and scared. Please let him not have noticed.
"What's going on is we are trying not to die. We've lost them for now, but we need to get to a safe-house before they find us."
"If you've gotten into trouble with the mob or drug dealers or whatever, that's not my problem. Last I checked no one was trying to kill me, so if you don't mind-"
"Check again, lady, cause all it takes is one of them seeing what house we ran to and your whole family is gonna be on their list. And drug dealers? Really? I don't do drugs," He sounds a little offended.
"You coulda fooled me! Running like a bat outta hell in the middle of the night! Getting me dragged into your problems."
"Alright. We can keep arguing about this, which accomplishes nothing, or you can drive where I tell you to go. I'm gonna be honest; if you don't help me I'll be dead before the end of the night," There it is again, that brutal earnestness painted across his whole face. The guy's persuasive, I'll give him that. I've never hit a squirrel on the road, much less allowed a human being to be hurt. A voice in my head (alright, a whole chorus) is telling me to kick his ass out of my truck and drive like hell until I'm home, but my insides are whirring against the idea. I have no real reason to believe him, but I've already driven this far. Why not? Don't answer that.
I sigh, suddenly quite ready for sleep, "How far?"
His eyebrows twitch, showing his surprise for a nanosecond. He lets out a deep, relieved breath, "Ten minutes. Central Columbus."
"Then we've got ten minutes. I deserve to know what I'm saving you from. Talk," I sound tired. I am tired. We're on the on-ramp for the interstate.
He runs a hand through his short, blonde hair, "I don't think ten minutes will be enough."
"Then talk fast."
He laughs, "Well," he exhales, "The more I say, the less you'll believe me," He looks at me, probably waiting for a reply. I just shoot him a dirty look. Hopefully he'll get the point and continue with whatever cockamamie story he's got in mind.
"Do you have any religious views?"
"What the hell? Are you attention deficit or just stupid? Tell me why someone's after you, not what church you attend."
"Hey, you asked for an explanation and you're right, you deserve one. You saved my life, and you're a great big hero but things are..." He scrunches his face up looking for a word, "complicated. Most people wouldn't believe it, so I had to ask."
"So skip the leprechauns and give me straight facts. Bare bones are all I need," Spare me the drama of your life.
"Alright. There are...bad things around here, bad people too. I'm part of a group that's trying to get rid of the... bad. Not everyone likes that idea, so I'm... kinda on a hit-list," Could he have been any more convoluted?
"So you're either an exterminator or a vigilante. Did I catch the gist?" He's laughing, but I can't find anything funny about this.
The road. Shit.
"Shit!" He's a potty-mouth too. The truck is swerving. Did I turn the wheel? My reflexes are faster than I realized. What the hell is in the road? I crane my neck around to look, "Now is not the time to sight-see, get this bucket moving!" He sounds scared.
I drop the pedal to the floorboard. The engine screams and wheezes as we lurch over the 100mph line, "What was that?" I glance at him with bug eyes, "What the flying fuck was that?" My voice is screechy, like Minnie Mouse on crack.
He stares at me, astonished, his pale blue eyes so wide open they threaten to fall out of his skull, "You saw that?"
"How could I not?" I'm hyperventilating, "Was that a person?" I grip the steering wheel tighter, trying not to shiver, "It was way too big to be a person."
"That was what I'm running from. Just keep driving and no, it wasn't a person," He's shouting.
"Then what was it?" I'm shouting. Anywhere above 80 my truck turns into a rattletrap, bumping down the road, windows about to shake loose or burst. It makes conversation at a normal volume impossible.
He seems to have composed himself a little, "You really saw it, didn't you?" He stares me down with half a confused smile forming on his face. I nod angrily and it seems to snap him back into the serious not right of the situation, "Would it make you feel better if I said it was a bear?" It was about the size of one of those monster grizzlies they show on nature channels, but bears are a rare sight in Georgia and unheard of in a town the size of Columbus.
"Don't bullshit me right now," I'm still struggling to bring my voice down from dog-whistle pitch. He sighs and replies, but the rumbling of my pickup drowns his words, "What?" I shout over the roar.
"It was a demon."
My brain skips a track. This dude is a lunatic. An absolute, genuine, screaming on the subway crazy person, "Right. A demon. Will we be seeing Godzilla and his giant robot friend Maurice tonight as well?"
"It was a demon," He calmly repeats.
"I swear I will throw your ass out of this-" An ear shattering blast from behind leaves my threat hanging unfinished. I don't look back, I can't look back. Red light leaps out of the darkness behind us. It fills my rearview, but I'm too scared to look. The muscles in my leg are stuck stiff against the gas pedal but we've already buried the needle. The metal frame creaks and the engine strains as we barely remain in front of the blaze overtaking the road.
"Take this exit!" He shouts, a hint of amusement in his voice. I follow his directions without slowing down. We careen down side streets and climb curbs whenever he tells me to turn. I'm amazed the truck hasn't flipped yet, "Almost there! Two more blocks, it's on the right!" He's pointing and shouting, almost standing, straining against his seat-belt as if he can will us to get there faster.
In a last burst of speed I let out a terrified, adrenaline fueled scream.
"Slow down, it's right there!" I see the building he's pointing to. I slam the shrieking brakes and turn into it. We fishtail into the open garage and the door crashes shut behind us, blocking out the night. We come to a stop finally, blissfully. The smell of burning rubber is everywhere, and the squealing of my brakes echoes in my ears as I put the truck in park.
"Are you okay?" He whispers. I nod. My voice isn't quite working yet. He lets out a quiet chuckle, "I was sure I was a goner this time. You really did save my ass."
"Where in GOD'S name have you BEEN?" Shouts someone who isn't having my issues verbalizing at the moment.
He hops out, leaving the passenger door open wide, "Everything's fine, Margaret. Look, all in one piece," He holds his arms out in demonstration.
"Thank goodness for that!" She sounds exasperated and very, very relieved. I look around the cab of my truck, trying not to eavesdrop on strangers. I'm not ready to be back on the road with giant shadow monsters running around the interstate.
"You can come out," A gentle whisper. He's leaning in through the passenger door, smiling encouragingly at me.
I open my mouth to reply but my heart seems to be stuck in my throat, so I settle for another nod. My ears are ringing in the quiet after the racket of the drive. My truck has calmed down into a pitiful puttering, and I turn it off. I take a deep breath. Wherever I am, it's probably safe. God, I hope it's safe. I hop out of the truck, but my legs are shaking. I lean back against the cab.
There are two new strangers in the garage. A young man with shaggy, dark hair and a short woman with a freckled face. My stranger is smiling reassuringly while the other two stare with blatant caution. I can only assume the woman is Margaret. She has a tiny, thin frame. It's a little surprising considering the massively loud bellowing I just heard coming from her. She has very dark hair that makes her light hazel eyes seem unnaturally bright, and a slightly large, pointy nose that flaws an otherwise pretty face. She's in her pajamas, an oversize dark shirt and baggy flannel pants that engulf her like a ship's sail. I can't read the look she's giving me, but I don't think it's good.
"Margaret, Markus," My stranger stands next to me, and it crosses my mind that he's expecting me to faint, that he's there to catch me just in case, "This girl saved my life, and we ran into a Sentinel... which she saw," These last words seem to hold some hidden significance. The other two look shocked, "She doesn't know anything," The following silence is tense, and the shock slides into suspicion.
"Nice t-to meet y'all," My voice is shaky, but I manage to form real words which is an improvement.
"What are you?" The dark-haired teenager steps closer to me looking downright hostile. He's also in pajamas, a black long-sleeve shirt and dark green pj pants. He must've woken up recently because his shaggy hair is sticking out wildly, but his brown eyes are completely alert. He's touching six foot, with the narrow build only teenagers have. Something about him is weird. This whole night is turning out to be weird, but there's something funny about this guy. It's his posture, I think. Definitely. The only people I've seen with such fire-poker straight stances are the soldiers from Fort Benning. This kid, Markus, can't be a soldier. Not with that much hair.
He's still staring me down, waiting for a response. I can't meet that harsh gaze, so I look around for backup. What am I? What kind of question is that?
"Confused," True enough. I'm too shaken up to be offended. As long as I don't have to go back outside yet. Freaking monsters are out there.
It's obvious my response wasn't quite the "open sesame" they were looking for, and the suspicion on their faces deepens. Except for the first stranger, who is smiling.
"Guys, I think we need to introduce her to Joel," From the looks they give him, they both disagree.
"I don't think it's the best course of action to allow strangers into the house," The woman, Margaret, speaks in the perfect stern mother voice before turning to me with a polite smile, "Honey, can you describe to us what you saw tonight?" Her voice is kind, but her bright green-hazel eyes are guarded.
I'm suddenly very aware that they're all staring. Their curiosity and doubt make my stomach turn. Public speaking is fine, I've spoken in front of school assemblies before but that's a big crowd. Big crowds are easy. An ocean of a hundred faces is less scary, because it's impossible to see the judgement going on behind their eyes. Speaking in front of just a few people is the absolute worst.
"Well, we were on the interstate and there was something in the road. It was just empty lane the second before, but then there was a... I don't know, a fifteen foot wall of blackness. I swerved around it and didn't look back for closer inspection, but it was massive and dark," There's a hitch in my throat, "I don't think it had eyes. Once we drove past it, I don't know. I have no idea, but it looked like the whole highway was on fire after us. There was this awful red light. I- I don't know," I wring my hands together and fall silent, fully aware of how batshit I sound.
The dark-haired young man and the woman don't look convinced, but the stranger I'd driven in with grins. He looks almost thrilled.
"I think we need to introduce her to Joel," He repeats to the others. He turns to me, "I'm Patrick by the way."
"Diana," I wave halfheartedly. The fear and adrenaline are dissipating, and I am so very ready for bed.
We're inside the narrow house, climbing up the second flight of metal stairs. The walls are all exposed brick, and the whole place has the feeling of well-maintained age. I'm familiar enough with the area to know it's all half-abandoned businesses still reeling eighty years after the Great Depression. If I had to guess, based on the giant garage and weird setup, this must've once been a very old firehouse. On the third floor now, the four of us are stopped by a lone door.
I don't know if I like this. Things would be so much easier if I could be at home. If I could just teleport. This night has been so crazy, it wouldn't surprise me if I shut my eyes and reopen them in my room. Patrick is knocking on the door, and I can't help but feel a foreboding.
I hear the door open and look up. When had I started staring at my flats? There is a tall, thin man in the doorway, silhouetted by the blueish-white light of a computer screen in the room behind him. He swings the door open wider and steps back. As he moves into the light I almost laugh. The others spoke his name so seriously, like he was some mysterious boss figure. I don't know what I was expecting him to look like, but it wasn't this. He's got a mis-buttoned flannel shirt hanging skewed off his rake-thin frame and he's missing a sock. His short brown hair is just long enough to be messy, and he's rocking the general air of someone who has been caught in the middle of throwing their clothes on in a manic rush.
"Looks like you made it back alright," He gives Patrick a look that was probably meant to be stern, but there's a hint of a relieved smile at the corners of his mouth, "I was fixin' to track your ass down," His grumpy tone is made less intimidating by his gentle, scratchy voice.
"Joel," Patrick starts, his assurances seeming to falter. He looks nervous, "We just met someone with the Sight," he gestures to me, but unnecessarily. Joel's blue eyes are already on me, "This is Diana."
If there is an "open sesame" my name seems to be it.
"Diana," If he wasn't staring before, he is now, "Come on in. All ya'll come in. Can't say this ain't a surprise, but then again, that's how it was s'posed to go," He shakes his head, still staring me down, "Don't that beat all," Sweet deliverance he's country.
"Were you expecting this?" Margaret asks.
"Not at all," He laughs, "Which means I shoulda been," He gives a tired grin, "It's an honor, Diana. I just can't tell you how happy I am to meet you," He holds out his hand to shake mine. It's a reaction, but I've always felt the intense need to disprove that women give weak handshakes. It's absolutely awful to shake a limp hand, and though it should be the last thought on my mind right now, I still jump at the chance. We shake hands firmly, and he smiles big.
"Joel," Markus breaks the silence, all his earlier hostility replaced with confusion. With one word he's clearly asking for an explanation.
"Of course," Joel looks around at the four of us standing before him, seemingly taking it all in. I think I could trust this man. He has the same honesty in his eyes as Patrick, like the truth is so vast and painful they can't handle anything else. I can say one thing with certainty; these people mean me no harm. He steps back into the room and gestures for us to follow him, "Everyone come in and sit down."
The room is larger than I expected, with a couch and chairs, a computer desk on the far wall, and bookshelves lining the sides. It looks like a living room and a library combined. There are a myriad of papers tacked to the wall around the computer. We all walk over to the seating area, and Joel is staring me down again with oversized blue eyes lit up like it's Christmas in July.
"You look like you've had a day. I'd like to hear about it."
"I think he'd be able to tell you more," I gesture to Patrick, who launches immediately into a retelling of tonight's events. Something about a mission gone wrong, running for it, finding me, our whirlwind car ride in the dead of night.
"Then we almost got hit by a Sentinel, but she swerved. She saw it. It tried to blast us off the road, but we were too fast. She doesn't know anything, so how could she see?"
"Not anythin'?" Joel's expression drops, "She doesn't..." He shakes his head, his disappointment shifting into resolve, "This'll take awhile to explain."
I'm ready to go home, but I can't bring myself to leave. If Joel's explanation is crazy, then I'm gone. If he somehow makes all this make sense, then it'll be worth listening to. I give him a nod. I don't care if it takes all night, I just need an explanation.
"Alright," Joel settles down in the armchair in the corner where he can get a clear view of everyone, "This goes back a ways, so bear with me," He runs a hand almost nervously through his short hair, thinking hard.
"There are evil things on this Earth. Usually not very many, and most ain't strong enough to do much, but they do exist. Demons and other... creatures. They cause more trouble than you'd guess, but most people have no idea. Most people can't see any of it. It's extremely rare to have the Sight. It takes study, and practice, and a lot of time for a person to learn to see," He looks around at everyone as if warning them of new information.
"It is possible for some very few people to be born with the Sight. These people are called Seers, and they're very powerful. Way back when, when demons ran loose, Seers were more common. It runs in families, so they were raised knowin' 'bout their abilities. The thing about Seers, though, is they only exist where demons are. Once they got rid of the demons they weren't needed. Their abilities were still passed along, but they were dormant. So there're people walkin' 'round today descended from magic, and completely unaware of it," His blue eyes twinkle, lost in his own thoughts on the subject for a moment, when suddenly he comes back to Earth.
He sighs, "Which is fine 'til somethin' happens to trigger their natural Sight activatin', like meetin' someone that already has the Sight. From what I've heard it's flat out terrifyin'. Imagine not knowin' a damn thing 'bout monsters, and then bein' surrounded by 'em. Not somethin' I'd wish on anyone."
"She could know nothing about this, and then see the Sentinel because Patrick was there?" Markus leans forward in his chair, his unkempt hair falling into his face. His dark eyes catch the dim light and shine a surprisingly warm brown.
"Yes, it is, and it makes sense. Particularly with this," Joel stands, walks over to his desk, and rummages through one of the drawers. He pulls out a very old, battered tape recorder. Holding the device almost lovingly, he carries it back over. He sits and places the tape recorder on the coffee table and presses play.
Explosions. Crackle of flame. Crash of falling metal.
"April... 17... 1991," A woman's voice taking slow, shallow breaths.
"Katie!" a terrified shout from a young man's voice, "Oh my God," Sounds of him running up, his shout fallen to a fearful whisper, "No, no, no, don't move. It's gonna be alright," His heavy sobs rake over her tiny, ragged gasps, "Oh God, Katie. I'm gonna get you outta here. You're gonna be okay."
"No, I'm not..." Her voice is strangely calm, but the sound of his crying almost drowns her out, "Hush..." Her words are mostly air, "It will all be just fine... I promise."
"Please, just lemme get you to the hospital. We gotta go. The others ran. Shit. They ran and now we gotta go too," Silence for a moment. Shuffle of feet, "I got you," A sudden clamor that could have been a grenade peaks the audio. There is a muffled thump and small cry of pain.
"I'm sorry. I really thought we'd make it outta here."
"I ain't leavin' without you."
"Please... take this," Crackle of fingers against the microphone, buzz of palms on the speaker.
"Are you recordin' this?"
"One... last time, Joel."
"No, please, stay here," His voice breaks.
"I can't. This... is the way," Her labored breathing changes from sporadic and broken to easy and rhythmic. Words that do not sound like either voice ring out clearly above the carnage and fire.
When hope is lost, help will come
The goddess will rise and leave demons undone
Dark before dawn, she'll find you at night
Dark are the eyes born with the Sight
Through Mother's blood, on Mother's side
She'll find what she seeks if she can confide
Different is each who have such gifts
So few have dreams so deadly to miss
The ragged breathing hitches and stops. The sound of distant, savage laughter. The recording ends.
The room is silent. The tragedy we just heard leaves me with goosebumps on my arms. Margaret has her hands clasped together under her chin, a single tear falling down her pale, freckled cheek. Patrick is shifting uncomfortably in place, avoiding eye contact with anyone. Markus has his eyes closed, jaw set as if in anger. Joel picks up the old tape recorder as gently as he'd set it down and walks it back over to the desk. He lingers as he puts it away, turns around and leans against the rickety desk.
"I'm sorry if that upset anyone," His voice holds gravel that wasn't there on the tape, "but that was Kaitlin Waters' last prophesy. Different Seers have different abilities, and y'all just witnessed hers. I hope that makes things a little clearer."
I'm not seeing the connection here. It seems like I've been given two pieces of a very large puzzle, through which I'm expected to see the whole picture.
According to the Midnight Society here, there are oogie boogies in the dark, and some people can magically see them. Apparently the last person Joel met with this super special wonder power died horrifically in what sounded like a full-on gunfight. I don't believe him. I simply can't. The tape certainly didn't sound faked, so maybe I'm just a skeptic. I wanted to believe him at first, but if even a part of this is true, then all of it is, and I'm not sure I can handle that. I'm not even sure what that would mean. Does that mean there is some sort of bad guy? Would that make Joel like Gandalf? Then who is Frodo? This is a terrible analogy. Crap, he's staring at me. What do I say?
"I believe the prophesy is finally comin' true," Joel smiles, though his eyes are still misty.
"How so?" The wariness in my voice is heavy, and he definitely notices.
"It's about you," He sounds like he's stating the obvious.
"Seriously?" Now I just sound rude, but it isn't bothering me. Screw this.
"Well, 'the goddess will rise' always confused me, but you know the origin of your name, right?" I see where he's going, but he cuts me off before I can respond, "Diana is from Roman mythology. Their version of the Greek goddess Artemis," Okay, so he's an educated redneck. Doesn't mean he's right.
"That doesn't make me a goddess," I say it like I'm talking to a four year old.
"That ain't the only example. I'd given up on ever findin' the person she spoke about. When hope is lost. There's also the fact you showed up here in the middle of the night. That you came to me without me searchin' you out. She'll find you at night. You do have very dark eyes. You saw the Sentinel without any previous knowledge of this. Diana, I've over-thought every word of that tape for the past twenty years and the few things I know about you fit the bill no one has come close to the whole time I been waitin'," He leans forward, "It has to be you."
"And what does that mean, exactly?" A little snarky, but whatever.
"It means you're a Seer. You can help us put a stop to all the evil in this town."
"I think I'd better go," I stand to leave, but Joel looks at me like I killed his puppy. I've got to get out of here before I get sucked into all their crazy. I turn and run. Through the hall. Down the stairs. Into the garage and, finally, sprinting toward my truck.
"Diana! Wait!" Patrick is yelling out behind me. I hesitate for the smallest of moments. There is a certain feeling of camaraderie formed by escaping death with someone, but it isn't enough to keep me from bolting out of this place. I'm in the driver's seat, but the engine is making a big deal out of turning over, "Diana!"
He's next to my truck. He's opening the door. Shit, why didn't I lock that stupid thing? Luckily this time I can reach my pepper-spray.
"Get the hell away, or I will use this," My thumb is on the trigger of the tiny grey canister, aiming directly at his face. I've never actually used it before, but I have had enough of today and just want to go home.
"Whoa, whoa, now. Everything's cool," He's backing up with his hands in the air, but he doesn't look scared. He looks more cautious than anything, "I know you just had a lot of very questionable-sounding information dumped on you."
"That's a pretty big understatement there, bucko," I don't lower my aim. It may not be as threatening as a gun or a knife, but it'd be hard to find someone alright with the idea of getting pepper-sprayed.
"No one's going to hurt you or keep you hostage, Diana," Margaret is walking slowly in through the door, her hands up like Patrick's.
"You're kinda lacking credibility," I refuse to take my eyes off Patrick in case he makes any sudden moves, "Because you're saying I'm free to go, but you chased after me when I ran," In my peripherals I see Markus and Joel standing beside her, but my aim doesn't falter.
"That's my fault, Diana," Joel's voice, "You can go, you really can, I just gotta say one last thing," He sounds desperate, like he's pleading for his life instead of my attention.
"Sorry, but I've reached my quota on bullshit for the day. Now Patrick is gonna back up slowly and I'm gonna leave, and that's all, folks," Patrick takes a baby-step back, and a mischievous smile spreads across his face. He's still close enough for me to see that his right canine is chipped. What the hell is he smiling at?
"Your grandmother," Joel nearly shouts from the far wall.
"What?" I almost drop my arm in surprise.
"Talk to your grandmother, your maternal grandmother, about strange dreams. Maybe you get Deja Vu? Ask her about it. If she says anythin' about powers or abilities in your family then you're welcome back any time. We can answer your questions. We can help protect you. If she doesn't know anythin' about it, then write us off as crazy."
"What does my grandma have to do with anything?"
"'Through mother's blood, on mother's side.' That's gotta be a maternal grandmother. If she don't know anythin' then I'm wrong, and we'll never bother you again. If you really think we're crazy, then ignore all this. We won't hold it against you, but you're in danger and we just want to help."
The really sick part is he believes what he's saying. Patrick has backed up enough so I close the door, finally dropping the pepper-spray. I hit the lock and crank the engine. I won't be calm until I've driven completely out of sight of this fire station full of freaks.
This has been such a long day.