Young adult, paranormal/historical
With her friend gone, Carla came over to where I sat, squatted next to my chair and put her hand on my arm. “I guess this wasn’t a very good idea,” she said softly. “Lobo can be rough, but I’ve never seen him like this before. Sure you don’t want to get out of here?”
“You warned me about him.” I chugged some Coke, blinking my watery eyes rapidly. The last thing I needed was for Carla to see how deeply Lobo had gotten to me.
“What Lobo said to you about your dad, it—”
“Yeah, well … my dad … my dad did kill himself like Lobo said. He deliberately drove his car into an overpass on I-4 near Orlando.” I thought it would be hard to say those words, but for whatever reason they just tumbled out of my mouth and I kept on going. Instead of keeping eye contact with Carla while I continued speaking, I kept scanning the Tiffany lamp sitting on an end table next to the couch on my left. I didn’t want to look into Carla’s eyes when I explained everything. Old fashioned or not, that lamp seemed a little prettier the more I looked at it. With an upside-down bowl made up of light blue pieces of glass, it looked a little like flowing water. At the edge of the bowl, dragonflies with yellow bodies and blue-green wings pointed their heads downward. Bright blue eyes seemed to stare all around searching for a way out of the room. Sort of like how I felt, in a way.
“That argument Lobo talked about? It was all over $20 I caught my father stealing out of my dresser. You see, Dad … well … he pretty much wiped out our family finances because of his gambling addiction. He always needed money. Even though he left a note apologizing for what he was going to do because of being in so much debt, I blamed myself for his death because of that fight we had. Guess I still do to some degree. That incident in my room was the last time I saw him alive.”
Carla was silent for a few seconds and then said, “I am so sorry. I had no idea.”
“No … of course not. It’s not something I talk about.” My mind kept going back to Lobo’s knowledge about so much of my past. “How did he do that, pick up on so much information about me?” Not giving Carla time to answer, I fired another question at her. “And how could he possibly know what my dad was planning?”
Looking uncomfortable, Carla shrugged her shoulders. “Ah, well, you see,” she began, but then hesitated.
A split second later, Lobo appeared in the arched doorway without making a sound. In his hand was a fresh bottle of water. “How I know what I know isn’t important right now.”
I wondered if the man heard what I said, or had possibly tuned in to my thoughts. My head still ached, but I somehow felt more relaxed than I had in a long time. Carla looked up at me, smiled, rubbed my arm for a few seconds and went back to her seat on the couch. I was sorry to see her go.
“So tell me about this dream,” Lobo said to me in his rumbling voice as he sat back down in his chair.
“Dream?” Neither Carla nor I had mentioned my dream yet. If anybody else had brought me there besides Carla, I would have sworn that person had already talked to Lobo about my problem.
“Am I not speaking clearly enough for you?” The man replied with this sour look on his face. “Yes, your dream.”
“Uh … OK. My dream. Well, for the past three nights I’ve been waking up with a horrible pain in my chest like something has stuck me hard while I’m sleeping. When I sit up and look down, my bed is glowing and there’s something long and pointy coming up out of the mattress trying to get me. Blood is everywhere, all over my chest, my stomach, my sheets and on the pointy thing. It’s all so real, like it’s actually happening. Then when I jump out of bed and turn the ceiling light on, it all goes away, but my chest still hurts. I still feel like I’ve just been stabbed. I’m telling you, it scares the crap out of me.” I hadn’t planned on saying that last part. It just popped out.
Lobo grunted and looked all around me in his weird way, his unblinking gaze all fiery.
Everybody blinks, right? Not him. I’m telling you, it felt really odd to be talking to somebody who keeps his eyes constantly open. Shifting his attention away from me, he put his water bottle down on the coffee table, got up and went to the display case I had touched earlier, the one with all the weapons. As I watched him, for the first time I noticed the circular display case over the fireplace held a huge collection of arrowheads, spearheads and stone knives. I wondered if they were Seminole. “Come over here,” he said, his words a rumbling command. I could feel my stomach twist the way it does when adults try to boss me around, but I resisted the temptation to say something back.
When I got to the case, he asked, “That something sharp coming out of your mattress look like any of the objects in here?” He squinted as if he somehow wanted to see the answer within me as much as hear it. I guess by then I was a little paranoid about the possibility of him being able to get inside my head. After what I had experienced while standing there before, I wasn’t sure I wanted to look, but I did. As I searched, my headache intensified, making me wince, but even so, my eyes stayed glued to this one item.
Without saying another word, Lobo unhooked the door, opened it up, pulled out the bayonet I still stared at and handed it to me. Somehow, the guy knew exactly which thing to grab.
The weapon I held felt really cold and heavy. Again, an intense chill radiated across my body. This time though, I chalked up the sensation to having touched something with a much lower temperature than mine. The base of the thing was round and hollow with a cut out space I figured had to be where it attached to the end of a rifle or musket. Man, that blade! So slender and skinny sharp at the end. It was triangular in shape and about a foot and a half long. I always thought for some reason bayonets were flat, like a sword, but not the one in my hands. I’m telling you, after running my thumb over the stabbing end of the thing, I could sure see how it might do some serious damage. I didn’t want to imagine what it felt like going through the insides of a person, but I did wonder if that particular bayonet had ever killed anyone.
I shuddered as I imagined it coming up through my mattress and sheet. A dull ache in my chest accompanied the throbbing in my head.
“That’s the one,” I told Lobo. As I started to give the man back his bayonet, it started warming up and then quickly got so hot I couldn’t keep hold. It slipped from my fingers and clattered on the cement floor, barely missing Lobo’s feet and mine. The old guy didn’t flinch, move, or of course, blink—at least from what I could see. Me, I jumped out of the way.
“Your friend is dangerous,” Lobo said, looking at Carla and shaking his head.
“It, ah, got too hot to handle,” I explained. How the thing could heat up like that, I had no idea. Only then did I realize the pain in my chest was gone.
“Hot, eh?” Lobo asked, his voice full of curiosity. He bent down, scooped the bayonet up in one hand, and held it for a few seconds before putting it back into the case. “It’s not hot now.”
“It was,” I said. “Really.”
Lobo didn’t reply at first. Instead, he walked back to his chair and sat down, leaving me standing near the display case. “There’s something more going on here than just a dream,” he said, again squinting like he had done before. “Think about it, carefully. What else in your life seems odd besides your dream and what happened seconds ago with the bayonet?”
I knew the guy had asked me a question, but I kept thinking about the bayonet’s change in temperature and how holding it seemed to make my chest feel all tight for a second, almost like I couldn’t breathe.
“What about it?” Lobo demanded.
I tried to think. “Well, there’s this one, really dumb kind of thing I’ve noticed.” I hesitated, unsure if it was what he wanted.
“Spit it out!” he ordered. “We’ll be here all night at the rate you’re going.”
You turd! The man’s pushy attitude was really starting to irritate me, but I didn’t call him on it out loud.
“Mind your thoughts and anger young man,” Lobo growled.
His statement stopped me cold. Had he actually seen those words flickering through my brain, or did he simply know how to read expressions? When I stole a quick glance at Carla, she looked down as if she knew exactly what had happened, and it had embarrassed her.
“Now,” Lobo asked in an unusually even voice, “what’s this one, ‘really dumb thing’ that’s been going on with you?”
Instead of answering him right away, I walked slowly back to my chair and sat down. It gave me time to think, organize my swirling thoughts and memories. Taking a deep breath, I said, “It’s probably nothing, but everywhere I go these days, I run into the number twenty-eight.”
“Twenty-eight?” Carla asked as I sat down, again facing Lobo. I knew she couldn’t keep out of the conversation for very long. “What do you mean?” Lobo didn’t object to her question.
That was cool. I could talk to her instead of directly to Lobo. “Well, when I turn on the TV or radio, it seems like somebody is always mentioning number twenty-eight. Mom left me food money for the week this morning and it was $28. I don’t remember her ever doing that before. There are also these kids who have been writing on the sidewalk with chalk near my house. Yesterday they wrote twenty-eights everywhere. And car license plates—so many I see have twenty-eights as part of their numbers.”
Carla stared at me like I had lost my mind.
“OK, remember when we were standing at Lobo’s gate a while ago,” I asked her. “A pickup truck went by pulling a race car? It had a twenty-eight on the door.”
This time, Carla’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’re right. It did.”
“Got any change on you?” Lobo asked, boring holes in me with his eyes.
I reached in my jeans pocket and pulled out a quarter and three pennies. That about blew me away. Carla arched both eyebrows and old Lobo nodded like the twenty-eight cents in my pocket was the most natural thing in the world.
“Now we’re getting someplace.” After he spoke, Lobo rapidly scanned the air all around me. “The Jeff Golden puzzle is starting to take shape. There are still a lot of missing pieces, but Carla is one of them. Not just a missing piece, an important one.” Here he looked long and hard at her for a few seconds before turning his attention back to me.“Something happened when you and Carla were together that you’ve never told anybody, even her. What is it? Start from the beginning and leave nothing out.”
Carla? Then it hit me. The accident. My bike accident. I never had told Carla what I saw on that day. While I worked on putting the pieces of that event together in my mind, a cat silently jumped onto the back of the couch where Carla sat. A pretty thing I guess, if you like cats—an orange color with patches of black, and some white here and there. Carla didn’t seem to notice as the thing stared at me with its yellow eyes, but I watched Lobo glance in that direction.
From his place at Carla’s feet, Spock looked up. Both animals stared at each other for a few seconds and then they both looked away. Lobo continued to watch as the cat silently walked across the back of the couch behind Carla’s head and then jump down onto the cushion next to her. Still without Carla noticing, the thing curled up and went to sleep
“Pay attention to the conversation,” Lobo said to me, jerking my thoughts back to the accident. To be honest, I didn’t want to talk about it. What happened was so embarrassing and weird that I had tried to forget the whole thing, but I couldn’t get out of describing it. Then again, I figured, I had been embarrassed so much already, I could handle a little more.
“OK, OK,” I said to Lobo, but I actually spoke to Carla. “You remember when we first met?”
“Remember?” she said with a little laugh. “You really made quite an unusual impression.”
Just hearing her talk and laugh made trying to explain what I had never shared with anyone before a lot easier. “When I first met Carla,” I said, without looking at Lobo, “we were both in the parking lot of the county library. We, well, started talking to each other, you know?”
“No I don’t know,” Lobo grumbled. “If I did know, you wouldn’t have to explain anything. Regardless of my ability to perceive things you think I shouldn’t be able to, you do need to fill in blanks. Besides, using the words ‘you know’ is a lazy speaking pattern and tiresome for the listener.”
Oh man, talk about tiresome. The guy was worse than a whole bunch of my teachers put together. But he had admitted, in a way, that he could sense at least a part of what I was thinking. Trying hard to ignore the idea of Lobo’s mind probing into my brain, I went on with my story, this time looking directly at the old guy. “As I was saying about the library. When Carla’s grandma arrived to pick her up, well … I decided to see if I could impress her, Carla I mean, not her grandma. So, as they were leaving the parking lot, I raced ahead of them and tried to do a really simple bike trick. Problem was I hit sand, went over backwards and cracked my head open.”
“Oh did you ever,” Carla groaned. To Lobo she said, “He knocked himself out for a minute or two and there was a pool of blood on the driveway under his head. Scared Grandma and me to death. The paramedics came and carted him off to the hospital. It turned out he only had a little concussion, but that’s how we met.”
“A few days after I got out of the hospital, I ran into Carla here in the neighborhood and figured out we lived down the street from each other. That’s how we became friends.”
“And,” Lobo questioned, “what is it you haven’t told us?”
“Ah, yeah, that. It’s … hard to explain. “You see, at the same time I was knocked out … I could … well … see myself.”
“See yourself?” Carla asked. “You were out cold. You couldn’t have seen anything.
“That’s the thing. I was awake somehow, really wide awake, but looking down at my body lying there in the blood. Carla, as crazy as it sounds, there was two of me, one on the ground and one looking down from maybe ten feet above. I watched you and your grandma jump out of the car and rush over to me, my body that is. Other people came around too. I remember seeing a little girl, a toddler, looking up at me floating there in the air and waving while everybody else looked at, well, my body. Then you yelled for someone to contact 911 and a redheaded woman opened her purse, pulled out her phone and made the call. None of what happened upset me. I just … watched.”
Carla sat there with her eyebrows raised and her mouth hanging slightly open.
“After that lady made the call, I wondered how I could be in two places at one time, and as I did, I … started rising into the air even more. You, your grandma, my body, the crowd of people and the library kept getting smaller and smaller. Pretty soon, I could see all of St. Augustine below me. I remember thinking how weird it looked to see the Castillo from so far up. Its design from that high up looked like a huge star. And Matanzas Bay out there,” I pointed to the water beyond Lobo’s window, “looked so sparkly and beautiful in the sun, like, like a million little mirrors were flashing up at me. After that, it’s real blurry except for waking up in the hospital.”
“Hmmm,” Lobo said. “There’s even more to your experience than what you’ve told us, but right now, I have an appointment in the bathroom.” Without any more conversation, he exited the room and headed down the hall.
At the sound of the bathroom door shutting, Lobo’s cat looked around, stood up and stretched. Taking its time, the thing jumped off the cushion onto the floor next to Spock and scooted out of sight behind the couch with its tail straight up in the air.
“Why didn’t you ever tell me all that?” Carla asked, hurt clearly showing in her voice and on her face.
“It was too wild, Carla,” I explained. “I felt stupid enough after having that accident in front of you and your grandmother, you know?”
“I guess,” she replied, still not very happy. “You’re right about one thing. That was … quite a story.”
“I don’t blame you for not believing me.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Well anyway, now you know. Hey, I thought you said old Edgar the crow was Lobo’s only pet?”
“He is, why?”
“So who owns the cat I saw in here a few seconds ago?”
“Cat? Jeff, what are you talking about? There was no cat in this room.”
For a brief description of The St. Augustine Trilogy, click here.
For Sliding Beneath the Surface on Amazon.com, click here
For reviews of this book, author interviews and blog tours, click here.
For the Official St. Augustine Trilogy Facebook Page, click here.
© 2011 by Doug Dillon. All rights reserved.