Chapter 11. (You Don’t)
The night made its way through the twinkling gushers that exploded in the sky, shining down far brighter than half of the lampposts on the streets. The traffic lights wavered down the way as Diane glanced back to the sky; she thought she could see Jupiter as well. An interesting endeavor for sure. She forced herself to look out at the traffic.
One can only be so distracted these days. A morbid, contrived thought.
And that’s that. She counted the cracks on the sidewalk with each step, each light she passed that would flicker like a liquor store sign. Flashing, orating, bulbous.
She needed this. The air flowed back at her, wrapping her in the gentle arms of comfort, of familiarity. It would caress herself, as she was vulnerable, maybe even scared (not that she would admit that).
Diane glanced up, and squinted her eyes, shadowing the adjusting setting as it faded into a darkened cortex of nightfall.
It looked stunning, as it weathered scarring pains, canvassed on the sky’s toll of stars. They illuminated even more, and it revealed the darkening moon, half shaded. It was the expanse that was the vast of it as well, and it was pure bliss to stare at, kindly, as a stranger in the universe.
It didn’t do anything for her, as she pondered among the night, watchful of activity and her small steps onto the pavement. All she could think about was the book and how she became engrossed with it again. This time, the excitement was pure, it was fear, it was unadulterated fear, she laughed. But, there was something else now; a hope.
After what happened, she was now no longer scared. She was petrified beyond belief, knowing that the book can try to murder her. And then there was skepticism. She had to remind herself that if she didn’t do anything to it, the book shouldn’t try in the first place. Perhaps it was the stupidity of hope, but she was stupid! She had to know everything now, since once she took this step, there was no turning back. There was no point to return to what was when that too could no longer exist.
Return. She wasn’t sure if she ever wanted to return anyway. What if she had a choice? No, no, she couldn’t think like that, especially since it was something to never occur. Like a distant dream, she could remember the allegory (in symbolism) but nothing else, not even the thought behind it or the intention.
She thinks back to that day, the enclosure of the sun, her father’s words, and how she needed to be alone to sort everything together. She sighed. What was it that followed her to make her more questionable of intention? She wasn’t sure, but soon she would assume it was the collective fear that was potent with sweat among her hands, her hair.
Sometimes, she had to think to herself, Why? Why this and that? Why do this again? How much time could she waste? What caused her to do this? Long ago, she thought she’d be rid of it, until she realized she wasn’t. It’s not that she never would, it was rather she knew the visions or the book would get to her first. She wanted to make the choice; it was choosing two different poisons, slowly making her sick, until she was gone. All gone, dripping off the narrow slant of the bone onto a broken, patched skin. It would be cracked open, and there was no turning back from that, she realized, there was no return to that point once committed.
There was a vibration against her pocket. Her hand, greedily grabbing the phone, she stood against a vacant building. No lights on, except for the street-lights that glistened across from her. She realized how alone she was, and she tugged at her pocket knife on her side pocket. Almost swiftly pulling it out, her finger gently angled near the black wedge that latched itself on the side, the blade’s belly flat and sharp, and closed.
She bothered to look at the notification that trembled once again, and she pulled it open to read. She smiled. It was an email from a member, Reginald, of the message board.
There was finally an understanding, as she read further into the email, between the knowledge of the book and its capability, poised by certain qualities. There were other books out there too. An Arcadian sense of relief coursed through as a river to her tumult when she began rehearsing her reply.
She knew, she knew there was finally an understanding, something to go on, a connection, a viable connection…
…And most of all, a reality to live and to see.
The tinny tin sounds blazed through a metallic pulse, soon pausing, mutilating the silence that was previously hanging in the air. Linda sat down on the bench outside, with a cigarette perched between her fingers periodically. The smoke infested her nostrils with a slight burn and pruning flame that tingled with a light, carlisle pink. She carefully exhaled, relishing in the light that quilted over her hair, angled at her neck like a medieval guillotine.
Diane was next to her in a lightly brown London fog coat, picking at an old scar on her finger, while gently trimming a nail and then disposing of it on the grass, covertly. It was nice outside as the cool air immersed and bathed over them with an invisible lace of comfort. It brought remembrance, the shiny dew smell, fresh lawn cut grass, and comfort.
It was early enough in the day that one could feel the saturated fog or mist onto their skin. The chills they patsy onto them, and then there was the lavender sky that stared down with a mid-beam, danced around the tilting lamp post across the park. There were no hollowed sounds from anyone, but only the gust of wind, and the song from a bird with musicality that could impose themselves to converse. Linda lowered the cigarette back into her hands, waiting a second before blowing out all smoke.
Diane sat beside herself on the bench. “Could you… Just not do that when I’m here?”
“Hmm? Oh. Sure.” She tapped the cigarette out and threw it into the ash tray with a mild flick.
“I’m going to meet him tomorrow.” Diane seized at the interception of conveyance, that quietness that shrouded over like licks of snow. Noticing Linda’s curious expression, she added, “Around noon.”
Linda frowned. “Why so early?”
“I didn’t think the afternoon was early,” Diane said, choosing to suppress a chuckle.
“No. Isn’t it a little too early to tell if he’s not an axe murderer yet?”
“Well, don’t worry, it’s just a side job for him.”
“Diane,” her voice trailed away.
Diane let the peek of silence through again.
“At least tell me you’re seeing him in public.”
“I’m meeting him at his house to talk about the books.”
Linda sighed, flatly, and groaned into her hands, as if to say for Christ’s sake, ya twit. Benevolence assumed her today, so instead, she muttered, “I wish I didn’t throw that cigarette out.”
I wish I hadn’t come here, Diane thought. “Look,” she began, “it’s nothing, I didn’t mean to say any—”
“You know,” Linda shook her head, lying back into the bench, “I had this ginger once.”
Diane paused to make sure she wasn’t going deaf. Or senile. “I’m sorry?”
“Yeah. He loved to dart outside and do whatever. He would kill small bugs—he even killed a rodent and brought back its beaten carcass to me.” She added with a grimace, “It was gross.”
“Yeah, that sounds… that sounds like it. What was his name?”
“Alex. His name,” she clarified softly, and Diane grunted, soon sighing in place. She must have made a weird face, since Linda was eyeing her funnily.
“That’s a nice name.”
“Mmph. My step-dad named him. I hated the name.”
“Yeah. So,” she itched a spot on her wrist, now tingling a pale then red deceitful rash, “the cat had no concept of… What was it? Um, ah, okay… stranger danger.”
Diane chuckled wryly, “With my cat, he just cries and then pees on himself around strangers. Vet visits are fun. Want to trade? I’ll pay you.”
“No. That’s alright. Your cat is a good little guy. He’d hate me.”
“Yeah. You’re pretty insufferable,” Diane laughed, and then watched as the clouds clear to revel in the sunbeams.
Linda smiled, soon fading. “I am, aren’t I?” The mood slowly faltered, and she reflected with a solemn eye with discontent in the early morn. “As I was saying… my cat–he loved strangers. He would greet them like a lost puppy and then love them to death. With his real owners,” she tried to laugh, while rubbing her eye, “we knew there was something going on if he acted like he loved us.”
She then made a Hmm and then, in a mist, reflected, “H-he loved darting out. He didn’t come back for two days. A neighbor found his body… and brought it to us. He was mangled up.”
Diane grimaced at the figurative imagery and recoiled, twisting her fingers into balled fists. Good Lord, that was awful. Linda continued, undeterred, “He was run over by a bus or truck, we think.”
Diane attempted to comfort Linda by giving her a pat on the shoulder, rubbing it a bit, mesmerized. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“That’s okay. It was a long time.”
“Still. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine, Diane,” she chose to sigh. “Why I’m telling you this… I want you to take this as a warning. Don’t be like that, don’t be clueless when you have no idea who you’re meeting with or about how anything can happen.”
“You don’t want me to be like your cat?” Diane blurted. She immediately regretted it by deflating her shoulders, and staring into the rot of ground beneath her feet, overcome by insects.
Linda scowled, and something twinkled in her eyes that were in darker shades that bounced off the sunlit beams. “Don’t be stupid—that’s the lesson.”
“This man and I have been talking about our books for a few weeks. If he’s experiencing what I do, then I know… I know I’m not truly alone.”
“You keep saying that, but you’re not. I’m here for you.”
“That means a lot, sure,” Diane dismissed passively, “but you don’t even know all of it. He’s hinted at his book and some type of shit with tarot cards playing a role in his life. I think he may understand this, whatever this is, even if it isn’t necessarily the same.”
“Fine,” Linda gave up, “Fine. But, why meet him at his house? Go somewhere neutral, public. You lower all chances of anything happening.”
“He has severe health issues. He can’t really leave the house.”
“Maybe,” Diane shrugged. “I’m not sure. I didn’t ask.”
“You didn’t ask.” There was an echo, “You didn’t ask.” There was a mutter.
“That would have been a great conversation starter, surely.”
“Don’t do this. Look at me–Look at me.” So she did. “You can’t do this.”
“I need to know. I can’t care anymore.” Diane wrung her hands up, frazzled, and she slowly, slowly reclined once in her dazed state, “There’s nothing to lose by doing this.”
“What if he’s a murderer? Why does he want you at his house?”
“To discuss the books. You said it yourself, screw the if’s and get ahold of things–maintain them, collect it–I’m looking at this as information, something to go on by.”
Linda narrowed her eyes, and lowering her voice, calmly recollected, “I didn’t mean it like that. You’re not dumb, Diane, I don’t think you are.” There was a stuttering pause along the way, “Look, what I said? I meant about the book, and the excitement of finding more things that align with it–to get answers. We both want that. I just wouldn’t meet this guy in person so soon. It sounds like a sick ruse to lure you in his house.”
Diane grumbled. She did try to consider all options and she’d be manic not to consider this one as a heavy possibility in the matter. As she said, she didn’t have any cares left to give. None of that hope left, only of finding something tangible to hold, to grasp, to flesh out of an answer upon the stilts of a mourned dream.
“Thank you for caring,” Diane wavered after a few minutes in a restless quiet solitude. “I know–I know what you mean and I’ve thought about it, but the odds weigh out all else. I truly don’t care anymore. Not like how I used to.”
“I can see that.” She looked up. “What’s his name again?”
“And,” she lowered her head, titling away from the wind’s whistling blow, “you’re going to go to his house and talk books? And your experiences too, I might add?”
“Yes, mother.” Diane shoved her on the shoulder, nearly pushing her off the bench.
Linda cackled, and brushed Diane by the shoulder, tugging at her sleeve, “Yeah, like I’m blowin’ smoke on this one. This guy’s absolutely fine! Sure come over, we’d love to have you. Wait, is he like an Oompa Loompa or something and can’t reach the door? Is that why he can’t– ”
“Shut up. That’s rude.”
“My point being. You don’t even know what he’s about, or what he could do, can’t you see?”
“Well then, I’ll find out when I meet him.”
“No, I’ll come with you,” Linda sighed, sucking on her lip. She wanted to say something else, but backed out on it, just choosing to exchange a weary look with Diane. “You can’t do this alone, and god knows I can’t stop you from doing this,” she ended with a partial, lopsided shrug.
“I’m well aware of that,” Diane remarked, crossly. “You really want to come with me for this?”
“No, I don’t, to be honest.” Linda turned away with a frown, and she softly spoke, “I just want to make sure you’re safe.”
Diane sighed as she pulled into the lot. The quiet outside shook her a bit as she adjusted to the muted sound. It melted in her ears like honey and tea, dripping a sweet comb of deafness. Not even a cricket’s beat was heard. She lavished in it like a cat in sunlight, and she loved every moment of it.
Linda brushed passed her shoulder, slightly colliding, as she moved to the entry of the house. “You coming?” She turned, “I’m not going to wait all day.”
Diane shrugged, “I have a key too, remember?”
“I need you for something.”
There was a pause. “What do you need?”
“Just come. Don’t stand out here all day–you’ll scare the solicitors,” she joked, grabbing ahold of Diane by the shoulders, guiding her to the ingress of her house.
Diane hit her with her elbow, a shove. It was a bit lighthearted, but enough to leave a minute bruise. “Jesus,” Linda glanced up. “What was that for?” She frowned.
“Don’t touch me,” Diane mumbled. Across the street, she saw a power-line with a fowl on it. When they reached the door, the looks they gave each other were balanced on annoyance and anger.
“I thought we were cool?” Linda asked when they settled inside. “I thought that this was… resolved.”
“I just don’t like being touched, okay? I’m sorry.”
“Okay,” Linda nodded, stridently confused at the sudden turn of the conversation. “Okay.”
“What was it that you needed?”
“First,” Linda emphasized,”Do you still have the book?”
Diane nodded, as she hung up her coat on the rack.
“How has that been?”
“It’s been okay.”
Linda stared and tiredly laughed. “You don’t have to lie, you know. What’s the matter?”
“There’s nothing wrong.”
“You’d have every reason to lie,” Linda pointed out with a raised eyebrow, “and I just want to know if you’ve been actually okay. None of that I’m fine garbage–just honesty.”
“I’m fine,” Diane insisted, and Linda just surrendered her hands up in the air as if she had the Bubonic Plague. “Whatever you say,” Linda decided on instead, “You seem more sullen… more than usual.”
“It must be your influence on me.”
“No, I don’t think that’s it. I think something’s wrong, yes?”
“Maybe, just maybe I don’t want to discuss it, perhaps? I know, it’s not a theoretical possibility, but I’ll start with this,” Diane paused, letting the words rotate in the hall, “you don’t know me now. I’m different. I’m not the same person I once was. Get it? Good. Stop treating me like my handler–your concern is disregarded, if at all sincere.”
“No. No. You don’t,” she convinced herself. She grabbed her coat she had hung earlier onto the rack and put it on quickly, indicating to the door with a twist. Linda had no chance of getting to her as Diane drove off, nearly hitting the mailbox in the endeavour.
Diane sighed, letting the static from the radio butcher any complete thought. She turned it off, happening to look at the time. She passed down the rows of houses and bungalows in the community; an interior that went over the head of the car shadowed her face momentarily, before clearing up once by the exit. She had to get out of there.
On the drive, she saw the numbing rings from an ambulance, the blaring blues and reds in her sight, flaring as a ricochet to blind her. It passed soon after and she maintained the overwhelming nature of this presence that exhumed her spirits; she was only trying to push Linda away.
She didn’t need to be surly to her in foul, dampened moods, but Christ, she was making it hard for herself. Diane didn’t want Linda there, and besides, it was better off in the end to do this, so it doesn’t continue to ruin something already dissolved.
She needed to be alone right now. That was it. Diane didn’t want help, not for tomorrow’s task. She just needed Linda to back away from her–to go away and leave her be. She didn’t like to rationalise her mindset and think back to the dreams, the visions. They would never be the horrors from a torrid past, but only of a monotonous present.
And that was the problem. The mutiny. Linda could never understand unless she experienced what Diane has.
She wants answers like I do. She wants to know about her father’s death and how the book may have caused it. Diane frowned, seizing a slow turn and then a stop; she was home. Is she just using me for information? Like she did at one point already? Am I just thinking too much about this… that I really can’t understand the malicious intent– too biased and too involved, she cut herself off. She couldn’t see the situation as it was due to her involvement.
She sat in her car resting for ten minutes, until there was a honk from the driveway. Diane turned her head around that before was propped on her hand. “I can’t catch a break.” She got out of the car, surrendered her hands in frustration, and thought briefly how the warmth overcame the slick, cool weather so quickly.
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