Young adult, paranormal/historical
Once on the other side of Cathedral Place, I pushed through tourists strolling along the sidewalk until I reached the bank building opposite the plaza. I whirled around to see if the bloody soldier still sat on the bench. No soldier. Instead, it was Lyle who stared back at me as if I had totally lost my mind.
Leaning against the wall behind me, I breathed a big sigh of relief. People going by on the sidewalk, though, looked at me with questioning glances. I ignored them. What they thought didn’t matter.
Still gulping air from my dash across the street, I closed my eyes to erase from my mind that bloody scene in the plaza. Didn’t work. The recollection of what I had witnessed combined with the memories of being lost in fog and in a wilderness filled with vultures. Behind my closed eyes, I fought a losing battle with memories and fear.
Right in the middle of all that mental pain though, I got whiff of something good. I smelled food. French fries to be exact. I had forgotten about my hunger and the fact that a lot of restaurants surround the plaza. Despite all that had happened to me, my mouth started watering and my negative thoughts gave way a bit to the possibility of eating. My mom says I like food so much I could probably wolf down a full meal on a sinking ship. Guess she was right.
Dinner with Carla and Lobo was definitely not going to happen, but now I had options.
One more look to make sure Lyle was still Lyle, which he was, and I walked the short distance on the sidewalk towards the Bridge of Lions to the Athena restaurant. It’s a nice little Greek place. My granddad and I ate there a couple of times before he died. I’m not really that much into Greek food, but they have all kinds of other things to eat. When I walked in the front door, nice warm air and even more good smells came my way. Packed with people, the low rumble of conversation buzzed in my ears.
A server, not much older than me, came up and asked if I was by myself. When I told her I was alone, she grabbed a menu and seated me in what looked like the last booth in the place—right in front. On each of the side walls, the murals I liked when I was little still showed those historic street scenes of St. Augustine. Taking the seat facing the windows made me feel more secure. I figured in that way I could see if whoever Lyle had turned into was coming back after me. What I would do then, I didn’t know, but I did feel a lot safer.
After looking at the menu and checking my wallet, I revised my hopes. “Crap,” I muttered and ordered a cup of soup, bread and coffee. Something hot to drink sounded really good after being out in that chilly air so long.
When the steaming coffee came, I put in three sugars, but no cream, like I always do. Oh, man, that tasted so good. Felt good on my throat too. Too much puking will definitely rub your throat raw. My enjoyment of the coffee didn’t last long though, when I remembered I had left my bike out in the plaza. Worried that someone might steal it, I almost ran out to get it. Almost. The thought of Lyle changing back into that gory soldier stopped me cold. Retrieving the bike would have to wait.
In front of me, a short distance on the other side of the Athena’s front window, all kinds of people walked back and forth on the sidewalk—male and female of every age, size, shape, race, face type, and color of hair. We get ‘em all in St, Augustine, we really do.
Created out of small rectangular panes of glass with white painted wood between them, the Athena’s windows made me think of multiple TV screens. I imagined them providing me with an infinite televised version of what lay outside of the restaurant. OK, silly, but what can I say? It kept my mind busy, right?
By the time my soup and bread arrived, I did feel a little more relaxed. Lyle hadn’t transformed again into that bloody soldier and charged through the door. Feeling more comfortable than I had in quite a while, I dug into my lemon chicken soup. It was wonderful.
About halfway through my little meal, I decided I better figure out what I was going to do. I mean, I couldn’t stay in the restaurant all night, right? Going home to an empty house still wasn’t an option. As much as I wanted to see Carla, I knew that wouldn’t work. She and Lobo were a package deal. As lonely as I felt, I didn’t want to talk to Lobo again. Not that night, anyway.
I even started toying with the idea that maybe Lobo somehow staged everything I experienced that day. I even went so far as thinking maybe he slipped a hallucinogenic drug into my Coke or hypnotized me with those eyes of his. Pretty wild thinking, I suppose, but it shows you how whacked out I had really become.
No matter what, I still worried that maybe the December 28 date really did have some meaning for me. That’s when I started hatching a plan to get out of St. Augustine, away from everything and everybody, at least until after the next day. I had enough food money and cash left over from what mom gave me on my birthday at home so that I could get a bus ticket to Orlando. One of my friends there, I hoped, would give me a place to sleep for a day or two.
Happy I had a plan, I took another sip of coffee. As I did, I happened to look out the window again. What I saw, caused me to choke and spit coffee all over my soup, part of the table and the opposite booth seat. Some of it even squirted out through my nose. God, that hurt.
Still, staring at me with his blue eyes through Athena’s window was … well … me. That’s what I said … me. Outside on the sidewalk sitting on a little bench in front of the window, sat a kid who … well, looked exactly like yours truly—shaggy blond hair, crooked grin and all. I am not lying. Where he came from or when he sat down without me noticing, I had no idea.
Maybe you think because I saw myself riding my bike on the way to the cemetery I shouldn’t have been so startled, but I was. I mean, that experience with the bike happened so fast I really didn’t have time to react. At the Athena though, the whole scene played out slow enough for me to absorb it more completely. I’m telling you, that duplicate of me even had on the same type of orange and blue Florida Gator jacket I had taken off when I sat down in the restaurant. Mine was still sitting in a heap next to me.
Talk about being freaked out! Another me? As Lobo’s words about how human beings produce other versions of themselves shot through my mind, I stared at my double in disbelief, choking and dripping coffee from my nose.
Before I had time to stop gagging and do anything, this kid, this other me, got up and stood there for a few seconds as people walk around him. Next thing I know, he winked at me, of all things, slowly turned and joined the sidewalk crowd heading in the direction of Flagler College.
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© 2011 by Doug Dillon. All rights reserved.