Chapter 27 – Sliding Beneath the Surface

April 29, 2013

Sliding - blogThe St. Augustine Trilogy: Book I

Young adult, paranormal/historical

27

Spiritual Insanity

Lobo pulled my ancestor’s documents out of its raggedy old envelope and put them on the dining room table in front of him. “A number of men under Major Dade’s command,” he said to me, “including your ancestor and Captain Fraser, sympathized with the Seminoles, had Seminole friends, and also hated slavery.”

“At least he had the right idea,” I said, but not feeling very comfortable being so close to all those dangerous “pipelines” to another world lying on the table.

Carla nodded in agreement, to what I said about Walton.

“He did indeed,” Lobo replied. “Being a good soldier, however, like the others, he did his job as ordered and on December 28, paid the ultimate price for doing so.”

After searching through all those old looking papers, Lobo picked out one item and held it up for me to see. “Lieutenant Walton sent this letter to his mother in New York City before he left Fort Brooke with Major Dade. In it, he told her he intended to resign his commission in the army because he couldn’t stand being a part of what might happen to the Seminoles and free blacks.”

Now that surprised me. I really wanted to read the letter for myself, but just looking at it and knowing what could happen if I touched it made me wince.

“It must have been very hard for your ancestor to even consider quitting,” Carla said. “According to the documents we found, Lieutenant Walton was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The army was probably his whole life.”

“In addition to the army, however,” Lobo said, “he did have a wife and also a daughter. The daughter’s name was Elizabeth. At first they were at Fort Brooke with Walton, but when things started going sour with the Seminoles, he sent them by ship to safety in Key West.”

“A daughter?” I asked. “So this Elizabeth—”

“Elizabeth,” Lobo said, “was your great, great, great, great grandmother. She and her mother eventually moved to St. Augustine after the Second Seminole war ended in 1842. When Elizabeth came of age, she married a businessman here by the name of Golden.”

It was very strange listening to someone I had only met hours before educate me about my own family history. I mean, especially when he got to the name Golden. Up until then, what he had said could have been about anybody’s family, you see? At that point, it all became very real to me.

Lobo again sorted through the papers until he found an old picture. “This,” he said holding it up, “is a photograph taken of Elizabeth with her two children during the Civil War. Look at it closely but do not touch it.”

I got as close as I dared until I could make out the black and white images. The picture was warped and very faded, but I clearly saw a woman and two little boys. The woman wore one of those big old floor length dresses they used to have in those days. She had a long face with her hair parted down the middle and pulled back behind her ears. The picture had faded so much I couldn’t really tell if she was pretty or not. The two little boys looked to be about maybe five and six years old, dressed in dark suits with white shirts and floppy bow ties.

“The boy on the right,” Lobo said, “is William Golden, your great, great, great grandfather.”

It felt so strange to see those three faces out of the past, specially the little boys who would grow up, have families of their own and … die. Pain and death swirled all around me no matter where I turned.

Lobo put the picture back on top of the document pile with the envelope on the bottom and shoved it all to the far side of the table towards the cracked window. “Those two pieces of information I gave you,” he said, “are all you need to know about your ancestor from his papers at this moment. Now, you have a couple of decisions to make.”

Oh oh, here it comes. “Decisions? What type of decisions,” I asked, wondering why we so quickly went from talking about Lieutenant Walton and his family to making choices.

“When I took the portrait of your ancestor away from you at your home,” Lobo replied, “I sensed some things about the man that might be of value to you. First, when Lieutenant Walton died, his spirit left the body, but stayed near it. After the battle was over he observed his physical head being split open by an ax as the Seminoles and their black allies made sure all of Dade’s men were dead.”

“Oh man,” I complained, my memory of Lyle turning into Walton popping back into my head. “I didn’t need to hear that.” As I looked over at Carla, I could see Lobo’s words had affected her as well. On her face was this pinched, painful expression.

“On the contrary,” Lobo growled, “you definitely did need to hear that. It will help you understand at least part of why your ancestor has latched onto you with such fierceness.”

“Wait, I don’t understand.”

“The horror of watching what was done to his body,” Lobo replied, “combined with Lieutenant Walton’s deep concerns regarding his participation in America’s policies toward Native Americans and slavery, was too much for him. His death began what you might call a spiritual insanity of sorts. His fear and guilt created a special after-the-battle dream world back in 1835 causing him to relive his memories of that battle every December 28 afterward. In his mind, he is still alive struggling to survive on that lonely road all by himself, but a part of him knows what is about to occur tomorrow. In ignoring the fact that he no longer lives, he is actually punishing himself.”

“So,” I said, “he kind of sent himself into his own hell without realizing it, right?”

“Exactly,” Lobo replied.

“OK, that’s really sad, and I feel bad for him, but what does he think I can do about it?”

“He has no idea.” Lobo replied as he got up and started pacing back in forth in front of his cracked window. Again, all he knows is his pain and the possibility you could be his savior. To him, you are like a dream of hope that could possibly save him from going through all that again tomorrow. You must understand that Lieutenant Walton is like a drowning person. He has grabbed onto the only thing he thinks might keep him afloat and that thing is you. The danger with helping drowning people of course is, if you aren’t careful, you may end up going under as well.

“Now, as I told you before, the Dade battle started around 8:00 a.m. For that reason, you can expect your ancestor to summon all his energy tomorrow exactly 8:00 a.m., or even earlier, in a last desperate effort to get you to help him. When dawn breaks is the point at which the danger to you will begin to escalate dramatically. The only way for me to fully protect you before then, however, is if you stay here with me.”

“Stay … with you?” I croaked, very surprised. A sleepover at Lobo’s place didn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, but waiting for my ancestor back at The Dump all by myself didn’t sound like a good alternative either. So, I agreed to stay with the old guy. Yeah, I know. It was an amazing shift from when I stormed out of Lobo’s house into that creepy fog, but a lot had happened since then.

“Good, that’s settled,” he replied. “Now, as to the next decision you need to make. Tomorrow, you can stay here with Carla and me until well after 8:00 a.m. and perhaps together, we can give you the protection you need. Or, we can all go to the cemetery and you can be in direct contact with one of the pyramids.”

“No way I’m going back there!” I squawked. “I’m not touching one of those things again.”

“Why would you want him to do that again, Lobo?” Carla asked. “You know what Jeff went through the first time.”

“It has its risks,” he agreed. To me he said, “But it would give you the best opportunity to make contact with Lieutenant Walton on your terms, convince him he’s dead, and that he is living in a memory. If you can do that, you have a much better chance of getting the man to permanently leave you alone than if we simply try to defend you here.”

“Come on Lobo,” I pleaded, “can’t you contact him for me?”

In a softer voice than usual, Lobo said, “I have tried on a number of occasions to contact your ancestor and convince him he is no longer living. Unfortunately, he looked right through me each time as if I didn’t exist. He is focused just on you, which means you are the key to your own survival.”

“I’m the key to my own survival? You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding. If that’s true, I’m outta luck.”

“I don’t kid people,” Lobo replied. “If you decide to return to the pyramids, Carla and I will go with you as added help and protection, but we must do it shortly after dawn, well before 8:00 a.m. We’ll have no time to waste. If, however, you want to take the safer route and stay here with us, we will do what we can. Either way, whatever you decide, you face the possibility of becoming lost in Walton’s dream world like I’ve told you before. As a result, both of you could be doomed to endure the annual recreation of that battle and live with its results over and over, year after year, perhaps forever.”

Lobo’s words made me feel like somebody had kicked me in the stomach. The word “forever,” I guess is what really did it. OK, he had used the word “permanently” before but somehow it didn’t make quite the impression the word “forever” did. Don’t ask me why. I couldn’t possibly tell you. I also thought about my poor old ancestor maybe having to roam that stinking road and reliving the massacre, possibly forever, unless I helped him.

My decision, I fully realized for the first time, could affect him as well as me.

“When I say dream world,” Lobo said, “make no mistake about it. If you somehow become involved in the battle, it will seem as real as anything you have experienced in your life. Remember how real your two short trips to that battlefield seemed at the time?” Here he paused, stared at me hard and said, “Rifle balls and axes will be able to do to you what they do to everyone else there. You will feel all of it exactly as you would have if you had been part of the original battle in 1835.

“There’s a whole world of continuous hurt and mental agony waiting for you if you make the wrong choice here. That’s why I’m suggesting you take the extra risk of going to the pyramids. It is truly your best bet for avoiding all of that, but only you can decide.”

It’s hard to explain what went through my head with both Lobo and Carla quietly staring at me. My thinking seemed to short-circuit and endlessly spin around and around, getting me nowhere. Talk about decision-making. I knew I couldn’t just sit there in Lobo’s house the next day, waiting for things to happen.

Not only that, I kept thinking about Lieutenant Walton. By that time, he had become very real to me. After all, I figured, the guy was my five times great grandfather, right? How could I not give him the best chance possible to get out of the hell he had built for himself? “OK OK, I’ll do it. I’ll go to the pyramids tomorrow,” I said, startling myself as well as Carla. She looked at me like I had lost my mind. Even as I said the words, “I’ll do it,” I wondered how they came out so easily.

“Jeff, are you sure?” Carla asked, shaking her head like she wanted me to change my mind.

“No,” I replied honestly, “but I really don’t see I have a better choice.”

“Good,” Lobo said and stood up. “That settles it. Carla, it’s time for you to go. We’ll take you home and then pick you up in front of your house at dawn.”

Carla stared at him without moving, and with both eyebrows raised, she said, “Mr. Lobo, sometimes you are a bit too abrupt.”

As serious as things were, I had to stifle a laugh. Carla’s words of “Mr. Lobo” had the same sarcastic tone the man used when he first called me, “Mr. Golden.” And, to hear her describe him as “a bit too abrupt,” was too much. I mean the guy was all about abrupt, you know?

“Since when do you need to take me next door to my house?” Carla asked, looking indignant, yet a little alarmed.

“Since that happened,” Lobo said, pointing at his cracked window.

“Walton’s a danger to Carla now as well as me?” I couldn’t stand the idea of my situation affecting her.

“We’re in uncharted territory here,” Lobo replied. “We simply don’t need to take any chances.”

I didn’t like hearing Lobo had limited experience with something like my ancestor’s increasing aggressive behavior. “Will she be OK at her house?”

“Yes. Besides attaching himself to you, your ancestor has also temporarily attached himself to my home and a large area all around it. In his crazed condition, it’s remotely possible he would try to connect with Carla in a similar manner if she walked out of here alone. With me going along for protection, and you to keep his focus elsewhere, we can safely deposit her outside the circumference of danger. When you return here with me, Lieutenant Walton will lose interest in her and follow you.”

As you might imagine, Carla didn’t offer any resistance to being escorted after Lobo’s explanation. With all of his outside floodlights turned on, including some on his dock, we quickly walked her to Lobo’s gate and came back to his house. As soon as we got inside, the old guy didn’t waste any time getting down to business.

“Go over to the coffee table,” he said. “Sit down on the floor right in front of it with your back to the fire.”

“Why?”

“The same reason I gave Carla,” he said, pointing towards his cracked window like he did with her.

“Oh,” I replied and did exactly as he told me to do. After I sat down, he brought more firewood into the house, stirred the coals in the fireplace, and threw on the fresh wood. Next, he turned off two of his stained glass lamps, leaving only the blue one with the dragonflies lighted. That one he turned down to a very low level using a dimmer switch.

Instead of turning off the outside floodlights, he left them on and then squeezed his big, old body between the couch and the coffee table, reminding me how Spock had done almost the same thing. There, he sat on the floor directly opposite me. With the fire starting to crackle again, he said, “We need to get begin.”

What the hell is all this? “Get started with what?”

“You’ll see,” he replied. Sitting with his back to the arched doorway and the couch, he moved the Ball of Realities, the smashed coke can, and Dade’s Last Command towards one end of the coffee table. After that, he put his big old muscular right arm on the coffee table as if he wanted to arm-wrestle me, his eyes glittering even in that minimal light.

No way. I knew he could break my arm in a second. What was the guy trying to do?

“No, we are not going to arm wrestle,” he replied to my unspoken thoughts, “but you need to put your right hand in mine and your elbow on the table as if we were.”

After what happened with the coin when Lobo grabbed me, the idea of holding his hand wasn’t very appealing, but I put my arm on the table and did it anyway. Man, that guy had a grip. My hand looked like a doll hand compared to his. He then put his other elbow on the table and covered my right hand with his left. After that, he told me to do what he had done with my left arm and put my left hand over his right hand.

It sounds complicated, I know, but when we were done, we each had both elbows on the table, all four hands clasped, and our faces were very close together, not a very comfortable situation.

“When Carla was here,” Lobo said as we stared at each other across our hands in the dim light, “I said I could protect you until morning. The only way for me to do so effectively, however, is for us to remain in this connected position all night.”

All night? Oh damn!

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Trilogy Graphic - blogFor a brief description of The St. Augustine Trilogy, click here.

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© 2011 by Doug Dillon. All rights reserved.

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