Young adult, paranormal/historical
As Carla and I rushed up San Marco Avenue, peddling hard in and out of heavy traffic, Lobo’s words about tomorrow being too late still bounced around in my mind. At the time, no amount of prodding on my part, or on Carla’s, got him to explain his meaning in more detail. The man’s previous warnings about the danger surrounding me though, made the urgency of our little trip to the pyramids seem even more important.
We didn’t waste any time dropping Spock off at Carla’s house and picking up our bikes. By the time we got there, Lobo had already called Carla’s grandmother. He explained to her how he wanted us to run an errand for him and then go to his house for dinner. Worked like a charm. All technically true, what he told her, but the three of us agreed not to mention the pyramids to Grandma. Doing so, we figured, might make her wonder about the conjuring of spirits and all that kind of stuff. Not the most honest of situations, but we didn’t have time for detours. I know it wasn’t easy for Carla to do that, but she pulled it off beautifully. No such problems for me at home. Mom planned to go straight from work and spend the night at her boyfriend’s apartment.
Actually, I hated not telling Carla’s grandma the full truth almost as much as Carla did. I mean, that lady had, well, adopted me in a way, I guess you might say. When she found out I eat most of my meals by myself, and out of cans, or at cheap restaurants, she swore she wasn’t going to let it continue. After that, Carla’s house became like a second home. I mean, I even went over there on Christmas Eve, but not inside or anything. Nope, I sat there on my bike looking at the little red, green and blue twinkle lights strung across the top of her front porch and the Christmas tree in the living room window facing the street. She and her grandma were having people over and I saw little glimpses of movement. Once I even spied Carla, but she didn’t see me.
Every window in that house, even on the third floor, was glowing with light and I just wished I could be in there with Carla. It … well, looked comfortable and inviting, is all I can say—even more so than usual. A helluva lot better than being at home with my mom and her drunk-ass lover boy. That’s where I was supposed to be, but they never knew the difference.
“So, why didn’t you tell me about Lobo and all this spooky stuff of his before I met the guy?” I looked over at Carla sitting on her bike next to me. We were waiting for the traffic light to change down the street a little way from the grounds of the old Spanish fort. Oh, the Castillo de San Marcos to be more precise. Carla keeps trying to get me to call the place by its official name, or at least The Castillo.
She tried to reply to my question, but I couldn’t hear her. A big old Harley kept revving up behind us, and a police siren nearby drowned out her words. You would think we lived in New York City. Too many tourists will definitely clog up the roads in a small town.
I shook my head and pointed to an ear to show her I couldn’t hear.
“I said,” Carla gave it another try, louder this time, “that I thought Lobo would give you a few ideas how to deal with your dream and we would be out of there. Telling you any more about him ahead of time, and you probably would never have gone to see him. Am I right?” Carla had the collar of her coat pulled up around her neck, and she blew into her cupped hands. Bike riding in that increasingly cold air chilled me, but I knew she had to be half frozen. That’s why I didn’t protest as she stopped at the red light when I would have plowed on through it. I realized she might need to warm up her hands a bit. She still wore a very worried look on her face, one I’d seen ever since I came back out of that God-awful fog.
“Yeah probably,” I had to admit. In fact, I knew for sure I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near old Lobo if she had told me even a fraction of what I found out about him after we met. Traffic started moving again at that point, heading into downtown St. Augustine and cutting off any more conversation. As we rode single file, I caught the scent of Mexican food, burritos, I think. It smelled good and reminded me dinner awaited us back at Lobo’s place. In the oncoming lanes, more and more headlights popped on as evening approached. Ahead of me, Carla’s long hair flew and whipped behind her.
Luckily, no more traffic stops slowed down our progress. All along our route, little white lights covered buildings and trees as people choked the sidewalks on both sides of the road—Nights of Lights they call it in St. Augustine. Tourists flock here like migrating birds from November through January every year to ogle those bright little bulbs, absorb all the history of America’s Oldest City during our extended Christmas season, eat in quaint little restaurants, and shop in the stores that stay open late.
Once we got past the Bridge of Lions, and the downtown plaza, the street we were on, Avenida Menendez, went from four lanes down to two, and traffic thinned out. We had finally entered the part of town I knew nothing about. Up until that point, I was able to keep my thoughts mostly on not getting run over and peddling my bike. Even so, memories of cold fog, a hot bayonet, and Lobo’s warnings rushed back into my head, making me wonder if I was truly ready to visit the pyramids. As a chill ran up my spine, something happened so quickly I almost blew it off until I thought about my nearly instantaneous journey into Lobo’s Ball of Realities. I’ll do my best to explain it.
You see, I found myself … well, floating maybe five feet in the air looking down at the, uh, the me who was riding the bike. Yeah, the same floating-type-thing I experienced after my accident. This time though, I lay flat, parallel to the street, with my arms outstretched—when I looked, I could see them. Also unlike the time with my accident, I was the me riding the bike so that I saw my surroundings at the same time from two different viewpoints. Sounds crazy, I know.
Actually, that floating was more like flying since I kept pace with the me on my bike. The flying me felt no cold at all and my forward movement didn’t ruffle my hair one bit. From the flying position, I lifted my head so I could see Carla, and there she was a couple of bike lengths away. Of course, I also watched her from where I sat on my bike. For whatever reason, looking at that girl from those two very different perspectives felt normal. It really didn’t seem out of the ordinary at all. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t have any answers.
That’s when everything changed again, and I mean very fast. The flying me felt this tug, a hard pulling sensation in my stomach. I knew it came from the me below, and I tried to resist, but couldn’t. Like a stretched out rubber band being released, the flying me snapped back into that other Jeff riding down the street. When I say “into,” I mean just that. It was like the flying me got instantly, and naturally, absorbed into a thirsty sponge. Even so, my whole body jerked—the body of the single, unified me. Without meaning to, I also jerked the handlebars of my bike, nearly smashing into a parked car on my right. For a split second, it felt very strange once again being a whole person instead of two.
Did I tell Carla about my little double-bodied, flying adventure. Hell no! I kept peddling and tried to ignore it myself. She had enough to worry about already without having to help me sort out another of my crazy situations. Besides, we didn’t have the time.
On our left, the Matanzas River ran past the city marina and a place called the Santa Maria restaurant sitting out in the water on pilings. After the Santa Maria? Nothing there but sea wall, river, anchored boats, mudflats, and oysters. Beyond the river over on Anastasia Island, the beam from the St. Augustine Lighthouse flashed briefly from time to time, reflecting off the darkening water. A slight breeze coming over the sea wall brought with it the crappy smell of low tide. To our right, just the usual mix of houses, motels and inns—and little white lights. Believe me, those lights are everywhere at that time of year.
Up the street, directly in front of us, an American flag, and one other I couldn’t identify, barely moved on top of a tall flagpole. The road appeared to end there, but didn’t. Instead, it turned sharply to the right. When we turned with it, we rode by a couple of large pillars and a low wall on our left. As the road took another sharp turn, this time to the left, a large, cream-colored building loomed into view in front of us. Large black letters across the front of that place identified it as the “St. Francis Barracks.” A sign on the parking lot wall directly across the street from the building said, “Headquarters, Florida National Guard.” Right in front of that wall, two old-fashioned cannons aimed outward towards the road. The flagpole, I discovered, was inside the National Guard parking lot containing a few cars and two modern looking cannons pointing out towards the river.
When Carla and I got to the St. Francis Barracks, a young soldier ran out of it into the street all dressed in his multi shades of green outfit and hat. Because he was talking on his cell phone and not paying attention, he almost ran into us. Luckily, he stopped in time. As we swung around him, he grinned and waved but still stayed glued to his phone. I figured he had to be talking to a girl. U.S. Army it said in black letters printed on the upper left side of his jacket, coat, or whatever you call it. On the opposite side was the word, “Basinger.” I knew that had to be the guy’s name, but for some reason, reading it made me stop and look back at him when he sprinted towards his car.
“Jeff, come on,” Carla called, looking back at me, but still peddling. In seconds, I caught up with her.
On our right, we passed four tidy looking, two-story houses painted white, each of them with a small American flag on its front porch, and more little white lights. A large historic marker identified the houses as Officers’ Quarters. Beyond those houses a short distance sat a large two-story coquina building surrounded by a metal fence made of skinny bars painted black. Down the road a little way, the fence ended, but immediately, another one started— a thick one, about waist high. Looked like it might be made of plastered coquina, brick or maybe even concrete block. I really couldn’t tell from that distance. That’s where Carla pulled to a stop, got off her bike and pushed it up onto the sidewalk. I did the same.
“How are your headaches?” she asked, leaning her bike against her hip and blowing on her fingers some more.
“No problem so far. Looks like whatever Lobo did is still working.” I wanted to ask her how the old guy seemed to be able to read my thoughts, but decided to wait until after I got to see the pyramids.
“Good,” she said, but her face still had that tense and worried look. “Let’s keep moving, have you see the pyramids, and get back to Lobo’s as soon as we can. They’re right up here.” She was definitely in a no-nonsense mood.
As I followed her, I looked between the metal bars of the fence on the other side of the large coquina house and saw tombstones. “We’re going to a cemetery?” I croaked. Now I’m not afraid of cemeteries or anything, but they aren’t the most positive places in the world, right? Besides, with Lobo talking about death and all, it, uh, startled me, you know?
“Um, yes.” Carla looked over at me uncertainly as we walked. “It’s a cemetery all right. I didn’t think you needed to know that ahead of time.”
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© 2011 by Doug Dillon. All rights reserved.