Dreams of Shadows Chapter Six - COMPUTER SCIENCE CENTRAL

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Dreams of Shadows Chapter Six

We're Off To See The Wizard

“We ain’t stayin’ here another minute,” Munster said the minute the man’s footsteps faded. I didn’t argue that, but where would we go? He lowered the gun and turned to Lashawna. Jerrick was standing a few feet away in silence, one hand grasping the jamb opening into the bedroom.
“Get your brother and follow us to the garage.
“Amelia,” he said turning his eyes to me, “get out there and open the doors, then pile into the car.”
Hopping over the dead man, I got the funny feeling that this would be our life from then on—dashing from house to house to house, murdering people in my old town. God only knew how many hapless residents of Marysville had survived the light, and why. So far the odds of stumbling upon the civilized among them were fifty-fifty, if I didn’t include crazy Munster. Not so good considering one of the civilized was blind. The other a girl whose best reaction in a crisis was to cover her mouth and scream.
Soon enough the four of us were in the car, me in the front beside Munster. Before starting the engine, he plopped the pistol in my lap.
“Now this time, don’t squeeze the trigger until you point the barrel outside. The safety’s off. If you see anyone over ten, point it and shoot!”
“Ten!”
“You know what I mean.”
The entire car roared to life, he slammed the gear shift lever into reverse and gunned the engine. In a shriek of burning rubber we rocketed down the short drive, bounced when we hit the gutter, and then across the street in a bone jarring U that threw me hard into his shoulder. The next instant I was thrown backward when the Flamemobile’s rear fender met the uncompromising front fender of a car parked on the opposite side.
“Munster! For God’s sake…you can’t even see! Take it easy. You’re going to get us all killed!”
“I’m ok. I’m ok. Just fasten your seatbelts.”
“There aren’t any in this stupid car!”
“Well, just hang on. And don’t accidentally shoot me.”
Lashawna squeaked, “I don’t like this!”
“Don’t worry, I know how to go forward. Hang on.”
The next minutes were terrifying as he tried to stretch his foot onto the accelerator, yet position himself high enough in an unending series of wiggles to view the dark street ahead.
We flew past house after lifeless house, south toward the outskirts of Marysville beneath a moonless, overcast sky. I had lain the pistol in my lap and clenched the edges of the seat.
“Where are we going?” Lashawna asked as the last neighborhood disappeared and we came to a rise in the road that would curve gently eastward into the lettuce fields and orange orchards beyond.
Munster was calm, now.
“We’re off to see the wizard…”
“Munster, look out!”
The headlights caught the crumpled image of a dead animal lying in the road fifty feet ahead of us when we got to the top of the hill. He swerved, but the rear tire on my side bumped when we squished over it.
“Please, Munster, slow down. Ease up, we’re safe.”
“And the Pope’s a Protestant,” he answered with a laugh. “Okay, okay. Keep your eyes peeled for anythin’ movin’. Shoot it.”
Yeah, right.
I remembered going this way often on Saturday mornings with Mom and Daddy to visit the roadside stands that dotted the narrow highway. Daddy was always obediently neutral concerning the trips to buy fresh vegetables and oranges, which job to squeeze the oranges into juice afterward was mine. By the time I hit fourteen, the whole morning-consuming routine had wearied me so much that I pleaded with them to leave me home alone. They relented, but I was still made to squeeze the bags of Valencias they returned with. I tolerated the boring task only because that year Mom had cajoled Daddy into buying me my first smartphone, on which I could complain to Anna about the job as I slaved away…or discuss at great length the boys at school.
We passed by stand after abandoned stand and the occasional scarecrow sentinel on his sturdy pole in the fields. Mile after mile. Everything was quiet, except for the sound of the tires on the road, and the steady growl of the engine. Finally I began to yawn and nod off.
“Here!” Munster’s high-pitched, excited voice brought me back. He spun the wheel. The car squealed when he jammed his foot onto the brake, and we bounced off the highway onto a gravel drive, a set of tall iron gates twenty feet in.
“Get out an’ open them gates,” he ordered me. “I think I saw a light in that house up there. Gimme’ the gun.”
“Where are we?” I heard Jerrick ask.
“Home sweet home…I hope,” Munster answered.
“A light? How on earth could you see a light when you can’t even see the road? But if you did see one, how do you know there aren’t a bunch of monsters like the ones we just left living inside?” I put to him.
He cut the headlights. The Flamemobile’s engine purred.
“We’re just about on empty. We go much farther an’ we’ll be walkin’. Shoulda’ filled the tank back…I’ll go up this here road an’ recon-sider, ya’ know, the joint. We ain’t got no other choice,” he ended.
Oh Munster. You might have been in high school, but I have no idea how you made it.
I did as he said. As I pushed the gates inward, I glanced up the long drive, abutted on either side by orange trees dotted with fruit, their branches hanging heavy and low. The roof and a line of windows beneath it was all that I could see. They were dark, but as the house sat beyond the top of a hill seventy-five or a hundred feet away, perhaps from the road Munster had seen the rest of the place.
I stepped to the side, and immediately Munster gunned the engine and flew in, gravel banging the undercarriage of the Flamemobile, shooting out behind it. Twenty or so feet in, he turned the wheel for some unknown Munster-reason, and stomped on the brake. The car spun sideways, spitting stones and dirt in every direction. The rear hit the edge of the shallow ditch, banging over it, and then with the grate of metal on hard earth, came to a lurching stop. The rear wheels, elevated just over the edge, spun wildly for a second, and then Munster let off the gas. Lashawna in the back seat was screaming. Again.
“What are you doing?
He paid no attention to her, opened the driver side door and jumped out angrily. I left the gate and ran to the front of the car, the whole thing sitting precariously like an unhinged teeter-totter, rocking gently back and forth until the back end and the tires tipped slowly down and came to rest in the ditch. The engine sputtered, and then died.
“That’s just great, Munster. What the heck were you thinking about?”
“The damned thing started to spin on this fuckin’ gravel! I lost control I guess. Crap, how we gonna’ get it back out now?” he muttered, walking to the high-centered rear.
Lashawna, and Jerrick, a second or two later, pushed their doors open and climbed out, complaining bitterly about his insane driving.
“I guess it doesn’t matter. We’re out of gas anyway.” I glanced up the road at the house, half of it buried beyond the top of the hill as he cussed and fumed and scratched his head.
“You nit-wit!” I lowered my voice. “If anyone is in that place, they sure know they have visitors now.”
He turned his head.
“You stay here. I’ve got my gun. I’ll go up and take a look. The light I saw was comin’ from that window,” he said pointing to a pitch-black window on the end of what must have been the second story. He turned and kicked the rear fender in frustration, then left the stricken beast and set off up the drive. When he’d gotten only a little way, I dashed to Lashawna’s side.
“You guys stay put for a minute until I get back.
“Munster, wait up! I’m coming too!”
He turned, waving the gun over his head. “No!” And then he wheeled back around and resumed his reconnaissance mission at an enlightened pace. The moon had disappeared. A heavy layer of clouds crawled in, and I felt the first misty droplets of rain on my face. Just what we needed. No shelter, save the car and a house probably occupied by a den of thieves and murderers, or a crazy scared farmer and his family.
“Lashawna, do as I say. You and Jerrick get back into this stupid car. I’ll be right back.”
“It’s starting to rain!”
“Just wait in the car!”
I left them and ran to catch Munster, but he had already cleared the top of the hill. When I got there I noted that the house sat tucked behind a broad, low hill—no wonder all I'd seen from the drive was a bunch of windows—and it was huge, and ancient! Whoever had lived there must have been born in 1950. He could have been my grandfather! But whoever was inside, someone had maintained it well before they were murdered. Or maybe he or them hadn’t died, and were barricaded inside, watching the road and orchard every hour of the day and night. Oh please, I thought, let that be the case. You never hear of farmers being psychos. At least I never had. On the other hand, perhaps he had a shotgun. Whoever he spotted wandering up the road, he’d shoot first, and ask questions later. Or just drag the bodies inside and carve steaks out of them for himself and his insane, starving family. Maybe they got tired of eating oranges—which there were plenty off—or orange soup.
Munster was nowhere to be seen as I thought these ridiculous thoughts, and I debated whether to keep moving forward, or tuck myself beneath a wooden table sitting all forlorn in the lawn that sloped gently downward in front of the place and wait for gunfire to erupt. I ran to the table and ducked under it. From there I scoured the way ahead left and right as far as I could see for dead bodies, but it was like I had stumbled into a peaceful, abandoned park. The house itself stood almost grandly, painted a clean bright white. It was two stories tall, with a sloping, green shed roof that covered the porch running from one end to the other. Above this, six windows with thick sills coursed along the second floor. I wondered from which one of those windows, all dark and gloomy-looking, the shotgun blast would come from? That one, up there to the right of the front door? Was he peering out at me right now, raising his gun and taking aim?
I risked exposing myself after a few minutes of eerie silence had passed, calling out to Munster in a loud whisper, “Munster, where are you?”
He didn’t answer. I crouched low behind the table and tried again. “Munst…” That’s when I saw a shadowy movement directly in front of me moving along the long porch. Munster. He’d popped up at the sound of my voice, his gun in hand, waving at me to shut my mouth.
I took one last look at the windows, and then I abandoned my hiding place and ran through the wet grass toward the porch, wondering if Munster might shoot me, or bonk me with the butt of the gun he held for being so stupid. He was crouching, now, beneath a window at the end of the porch. As I raced toward him I thought I could see smoke and fire erupting out of his eyes and ears.
I should have stayed at the table.
But I hadn’t, and so I ran as quietly as I could, up the broad steps, and across the porch to his side. His eyes were razors, slashing at me. He made the funniest motions with his hands, the right one holding the gun, like he was batting at flies that buzzed around his head. I knew I was in for a good tongue lashing.
“You idiot! Didn’t I tell you to keep your mouth shut?” he huffed in a growling whisper.
“No you didn’t, but anyway I didn’t know where you were.”
“Idiot, now you do…and so does anyone else inside. Don’t make another sound, got it? I told ya’ to stay at the car,” he mumbled.
“Well, I didn’t.” Too loud. He scowled at me again.
My thoughts went back to who is inside? Potential friend, or cunning foe?
Time to find out.

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