Episode 2 - Hammertown

Page 3

On My Radio

Jane turned up the radio. "More. Tell me what else they're saying. This is the only station we can get on the wireless, and it's driving me batty not knowing what's happened to the world."

"Well, for one thing, there's dragons," Eddie said. "Are dragons normal for you?"

"Dragons are fairy tales," Jane said.

"But so is magic," Bryce said.

"No, magic is real," Jane said.

"This whole world seems to be some kind of weird mishmash of different possibilities," Eddie said. "Who's to say there can't be magic and dragons. Maybe Pinocchio is real."

Bryce glared at him. "Of all the things to make real, you mention Pinocchio?"

"What's wrong with Pinoccio?"

"It's a lame story, that's all. Why not wonder if Star Wars is real or hobbits and elves? But no, you go with Pinoccio. Who cares about Pinocchio?"

Jane waved a hand between them. "Boys," she said. "Who cares. Pinocchio is real. Dragons are real. Everything's real. Let's listen to the wireless and tell me what you hear."

Eddie turned back to the radio and listened. He translated. "... abductions do not appear to have any pattern. The dragon riders are targeting citizens of Graden at random..."

He paused. "Where is Graden?" He asked.

Jane shook her head. "No clue."

He turned back to the radio. "... reward is offered of $10,000 for anyone who can bring in a live rider for interrogation. The mayor himself..."

That's as far as Eddie got when the old woman walked in, followed by Loretta. Loretta's mother was stoop shouldered, gray hair pulled back in a bun, dressed in a red gingham dress similar to her daughter's. She moved with slow care, approaching the others. "My Lottie says we got visitors. I told her I sensed no harm in...."

Her eyes fell on Eddie.

Her expression went blank, the half smile wilting from her lips.

She screamed.

Petunia

The next minute was a chaotic mess. Loretta and Jane tried to comfort the old woman who now thrashed like a wild badger. She retreated to the wood stove where she retrieved a cast-iron skillet. She hoisted it with both hands and stumbled toward Eddie ready to strike. Eddie now stood, backpedaling towards the door. Bryce remained at the table, stunned amusement on his face.

Jane held the old woman's arms as Loretta turned from her mother to the two drifters. "Get out of here. Both of you. Now!"

Eddie didn't need to be told twice. He yanked the door open and ran out. Bryce scooped a last heaping forkful of pie into his mouth before following.

Eddie and Bryce stood outside on the narrow porch. "Should we go?" Eddie asked. "Aren't we supposed to fix something?"

Bryce studied Eddie's face. "What is it about you that makes people go all ape shit?"

"Maybe I should comb my hair."

"Huh! You definitely need to comb your hair, but I don't think that's the problem here."

Something glass inside the house smashed. There was a shout. "Get her." Then more wailing.

"I think we should go," Bryce said.

"Yeah. We could leave them some Mountain Sunrise."

Bryce nodded. "Least we could do."

At the car, Eddie plucked six cans from the cooler. He tiptoed back towards the porch. He was about to lay the cans on the porch when Loretta tore the door open. "You!" she shouted.

"Uh. I thought you might like some soda, you know, for your trouble."

She glared down at him with eyes of flaming rage.

"You know. Soda pop. It's very tasty and—"

She kicked the cans from his arms. They tumbled onto the porch and in the dirt. "I don't know what kind of demon you are," she said, pointing. "But you get off my land this instant. I never want to see you anywhere near here again." When he didn't react, she stooped, picked up one of the rolling cans, and threw it at him. "Now!"

Eddie ran back to the car. Loretta spun on her heals and slammed the door behind her.

Bryce had only driven a hundred yards when Jane overtook them on the back of her reptile bird. "Hang on," she called.

Bryce stopped the car. They both turned towards her.

Jane stared down from her mount.

Farewell

"Come to scream at my friend some more?" Bryce asked.

"Nope." She lifted a small cloth bag she'd had hung over her shoulder. She tossed it into the car between them. "Mutton jerky," she explained. "Should keep you going until you get down to Holcomb."

"Is that where we're headed?"

"It's the only town near here. There was another town further down river, but they say it's not there anymore. The world really has gone mad."

"Things seem okay for you though," Bryce said.

Jane shrugged. "We'll see."

"So what happened to Loretta's mother back there?" Bryce asked.

"You tell me. It's your friend that set her off."

"I don't know what I did," Eddie said. "I didn't even say anything."

Jane studied him. "I don't know, kid. Old Petunia has a gift. She's a seer, or at least she was up until a few days ago. She could tell us if there were predators and predict the weather. She lost her touch when everything changed, but... she still doesn't like you."

Eddie couldn't think of anything else to say.

Finally, Jane shrugged. "Well, you seem harmless enough to me. Of course, I'm no seer." She pointed south. "Holcomb's five miles that way. I've got to warn you, the people are edgy since all the changes. And the town is... well, I haven't seen it myself, but they say the town defies gravity."

"What does that mean?" Bryce asked.

"I'm not rightly sure. I'll be up there in a couple weeks after the sheep get sheared and find out for myself. They're probably looking for someone who can translate, given all the strangers they've had coming in."

She gave them directions, nodded and turned her reptilian ride away.

Eddie and Bryce didn't talk for several minutes. Bryce navigated the car over a narrow cart road that wound around hills of sagebrush, a thoughtful frown on his face.

Eddie slumped in his seat. The old woman had known something about him—something he couldn't remember. It had been the same with the boy with the glowing eyes. They saw Eddie and they lost all reason. What had he done?

'"What do you call that think she's riding?" Bryce asked.

"That's a raptor," Eddie replied.

Bryce stopped the car. He tapped the wheel a few times, then turned to Eddie. "Okay, we need to talk about how you do that?"

"How I do what?"

"You just know things. Let me see that driver's license of yours again."

Eddie reluctantly pulled out his wallet and handed the license to him. Bryce studied it. "Rapid City, like me. You lived on McKinley Road. I know where that is."

"You do?"

"Sure. The Safeway is on McKinley Road. I lived with my sister in an apartment on Washington Avenue. Do you remember Washington Avenue?"

Eddie shook his head.

"Do you remember Rapid City?"

"No."

"You're seventeen years old. Do you remember your birthday?"

"No."

"So how do you know that thing is called a raptor?"

Eddie raised his hands and shrugged. "When you asked, I knew that was the answer. I don't know where it came from."

"Okay, so what do you remember?"

"I remember a girl with purple eyes."

Bryce nodded. "And?"

"And... that's it."

"Come on, man."

"I'm serious. Every time I try to remember something, I get this kind of mental diarrhea. All these images come out that aren't connected and don't mean anything. It hurts my brain, and it doesn't help."

Bryce shook his head. "What do I do with you, man? If people wet themselves every time they see you, we won't be able to go anywhere." He popped the glove box open and pulled out a pair of sunglasses. "Put these on."

"Wait, we've had sunglasses all this time?"

"Yeah. Put 'em on."

"We were in the scorching sun for days and it never occurred to you they might be useful?"

Bryce gave a hard smile. "They're not my style. Now put them on. You'll need a hat as well. Preferably something with ear flaps."

Eddie put on the sunglasses. Bryce studied him and nodded. "Okay."

They drove on in silence, the cart path continued to meander over hills and across a log bridge over a narrow stream. It wound back and forth up a large hill. Eddie pondered all that had happened. The troll had called him Godsbane. The kid had said he'd killed the future. Those were his words. What did it mean?

Eddie was so lost in thought, he didn't notice the view awaiting them on the other side of the hill.

"Holy moly," Bryce exclaimed.

Eddie sat up to face the village below... and above. His eyes grew wide. "That... that's not possible."

SHOCK!

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page published 8/18/2016