Serial Saturday: Road Trip, Part 16

JT shifted in the motel room’s uncomfortable chair, making the shotgun in her lap rattle against the arms of the thing. The TV was on with the volume muted so Israel could take his turn at sleeping, and she was trying half-heartedly to decipher the closed-captioning on Road House, which for some reason was playing at four AM. Whoever had transcribed the dialogue seemed to have been drunk, or at least twitchy, not that it mattered much. In the chair, she could feel every bruise that she’d acquired in the fight the previous evening, but she was afraid that if she moved to her bed she might fall asleep. At least her hair was finally dry. She and Israel had each used up a lot of time taking long showers earlier, and when she’d gotten up to take over the watch, JT had taken another. She hadn’t gotten much sleep anyway–Israel had kept her awake for a while muttering at Lucien, demanding to know why he hadn’t warned them about what had been in the trunk of the car. It wasn’t the volume of the muttering that had bothered her so much as the idea of falling asleep near someone holding a shotgun and arguing with himself. Even when she had finally drifted off she’d been snapped awake almost immediately by nightmares. Finally, she’d just given up and told Israel to go to sleep.

She jerked, half-lifting the shotgun as Israel began muttering.

“You can do it, Laurent. I’ll be right here if…” He trailed off. JT stood slowly. “I can try next. As long as Bryce doesn’t…”

Eyes narrowing, JT stepped closer to Israel’s bed. She leaned in, trying to make out the words.

“H’rak-Jia! mt’luk hgrit!” Israel said. JT recoiled, reflexively bringing up the shotgun. Israel continued speaking in Old Tongue, and she reversed the gun and gave him a solid shove with the butt. He sat up quickly, making a grab for the gun that was almost too fast for her to avoid.

He blinked, and relaxed a bit. “JT. What is it?”

“You were using Old Tongue,” she replied. “Bad enough you’ve been farting out Old Ones all night. I don’t need to listen to that, too.”

Israel yawned and fell back onto his pillow. “Maybe if I’d been carrying one of your Old Weapons I wouldn’t have ingested so much of the damn thing.”

JT took another step back. “The only way you’re getting my knife is point-first, cowboy.”

Israel shrugged awkwardly where he lay. “Fair enough. I know how these things get a hold on a person. Had a flute like that once.”

“Fuck you,” JT said, “and get your ass up. It’ll be light soon. We might as well get this over with.”

Israel yawned again and swung his legs out from under the covers. He scratched his bare chest and yawned again.

“Might as well,” he agreed. He shambled into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. JT stood, looking down at the shotgun in her hands, listening to him piss and considering just kicking open the door and cutting him in half with a load of buckshot. After a while she shook her head and started to get her things together.

They managed to find a doughnut place with a drive through, which was good because JT had no interest in being out of reach of her guns, not with things being the way they were. Israel was driving again, since he had a better idea where to go, but not enough of one to just give directions. JT wasn’t sure if it was better or worse than driving herself. At least she had an easier reach to the shotguns that sat in the back seat under a few sheets from the motel. Soon Israel was taking turns that led to narrower and narrower roads, taking occasional sips from a massive cup of coffee.

Finally he pulled up to a T intersection with a dirt road, and glanced back and forth a few times.

“Well?” JT asked after a bit.

“Close,” Israel muttered. Close, T’yrach h’tal.

“Hey,” JT said. “Hey!”

Israel looked over at her and blinked, then grinned. “Left,” he said, and swung the Pontiac onto the road.

JT was used to dirt roads with a healthy amount of rocks in them, maybe a few potholes but basically firm. This one seemed to be made of half-clay that sucked at their wheels.

“Ah, yes, close now,” Israel said, as the car suddenly lurched into a rut.

“Christ, watch the road,” JT said, grabbing the door handle.

“Oh, you hardly need to do anything on a road like this,” Israel said. “You just follow whoever made the ruts in the first place.”

JT made no reply to that, just kept looking around. There were trees closing in on either side of the road now, almost meeting above them and dimming the light of what was already a cloudy sunrise. It was the kind of hot, muggy weather that could have a thunderstorm on them any minute. The Pontiac lurched again, in a particularly deep rut. JT listened to dirt hitting the bottom of the car and wondered if they’d even make it out if it rained.

They drove for another half an hour or so, the car bucking and sliding through deep ruts, before Israel began to slow. After a moment, JT saw that they were approaching a narrow drive leading into the woods, but she had a feeling Israel had been slowing down before he’d even really known it was there.

He pulled down the dirt drive, branches scraping the sides of the car. JT almost asked him if they were going to be able to turn the car around up ahead, but stayed silent. From the look on his face, he didn’t know and didn’t care. For a time after he stopped, JT couldn’t see why he had. Then, as he shut off the engine, she saw the buildings. The woods were thick and old, massive maples and birches clustering around them, and the old gray shack with the tin roof and weathered log cabin a few dozen paces away seemed to fade into the trees until they were nearly invisible.

There was a distant rumble of thunder as they stepped out of the car. Israel put on his stupid hat, in an absent-minded way. JT found herself unwilling to slam the car door, and she closed it quietly and leaned on it until it clicked closed before opening the back door and pulling out her old Winchester twelve gauge. On the driver’s side, Israel pulled out another shotgun.

A breeze suddenly made the trees overhead whisper together. There was definitely a storm coming, JT thought, then glanced over toward the shack at the sound of a metallic clink. Like the buildings, the ragged form hanging by a length of chain from a maple had faded into the background at first. Now that she was looking at it, though, she could hear the buzz of flies around it. A swirl of wind brought the smell of decay to her, as well. Israel followed her gaze, but seemed only passingly interested in whatever had been hung there to rot and dry out in the shade. He looked around the whole area again, eyes narrowing as his gaze came to rest on the cabin, its blank windows staring sightlessly at them.

“This isn’t right,” he said.

Copyright © 2011 SM Williams


~ by smwilliams on July 23, 2011.

2 Responses to “Serial Saturday: Road Trip, Part 16”

  1. As usual, you make me feel like a lazy scribe. Enjoy your site and the serial more each time I return.

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