one mind-chapter 10

Reads: 90  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 10 (v.1) - The Shadows

Submitted: June 13, 2016

Reads: 90

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 13, 2016

A A A

A A A

Chapter 10

Then one day, at the least expected moment, a small step began a lurch ahead in Lenny's life.  He had woken up very early that morning, casually noticing the ever present gray mist filling the outside of the window frame, trying to unsuccessfully reach it's fingers inside. Lenny could hear a harsh late fall wind beckoning the winter chill to follow it.  The candles had long been extinguished here and the embers of the fireplace still winked at Lenny in a sleepy precurser of their ending. 

Lenny knew it was none of this and all of this which had woken him up.  He had had the El dream again, where his family existed as they were, as he wanted them to be, with El completing his misty brain dreaming. There was nothing coherent about the dream, it was more like looking through a scrapbook.  Once he was awake though, not one solid photo came back to his memory.Lenny laid on his back, reluctant to go back to sleep, knowing he would be unable to return to this dream of comfort.

Lenny sat on the edge of his bed, and took his map from his shirt pocket. He unfolded it, mulling over the various locations again.  Suddenly he had the feeling of someone looking over his shoulder.  He rolled over to see his host staring at the map as well. This strange little uneducated mound man, who had shown him so much patience and understanding, stared at him and the map in curiosity.Lenny pointed to the nearest approximation of where he thought the cottage was on the map.  The mound man grunted moving Lenny's finger six inches to the left. Lenny looked up at him, shocked. Maybe this mound man knew more than he said.  Or maybe, Lenny mused, he knew less about the man than he thought. 

Lenny hesitated for a moment wondering what to disclose to this man.  How could he communicate his heart minus its missing piece, to a man who barely spoke.  Then he remembered El's I.D. Case in his pocket.  Pulling out the only piece of his daughter he had with him, Lenny placed it on the map.  The mound man picked up the case and held it toward the last glowing embers in the fireplace. 

Lenny pointed toward the sleeping mound child.  The mound man's face lit up with an understanding that only a parent could know.  This was a language they both clearly understood. The mound man handed the case back to Lenny.

“El.  See her?” Lenny asked, desperately pulling at straws, hoping this inhabitant of the mound world would understand.  The mound man only shrugged his shoulders sadly.“Others, strangers,” Lenny tried again.  Still the man looked bewildered.Lenny sighed as the mound man went back to his bedroom.

Lenny had drifted off for what seemed like a short time when the mound man woke him with a poke.  He pointed toward the west and said something which Lenny thought amounted to the word “Shadows, ” then returned to the table to eat his breakfast.  Lenny quickly scrambled up to join him, not sure what the man's greeting meant but suspecting it had some connection to their rather one-sided conversation earlier. 

As he ate, Lenny noticed an unusual tenseness, an uncomfortableness, in the air, between the man and his wife  who also sat at the table with their daughter in her lap.  This invisible guest seemed to have joined the four of them at the table, with no intention of leaving.  Even the child with her uneven brown eyes peering out from her dark, dirty face seemed to notice the cold exchange between her two parents.  There had been no harsh words between the two, at least none Lenny had heard and even if there were, he wasn't sure this is what had led to the tight resignation he was sensing.

Trying to ease the uncomfortable feeling at the usually content table,  Lenny decided to comment on the hash which accompanied his eggs.  “Very good,” he said to the woman, pointing toward the hash.  “You grow?” he said trying to communicate in the same brief language they used. 

The wife beamed, motioning Lenny to the window.  Once there, the woman pointed to the nearest mound of refuse.“Mound make!” she muttered proudly.  Lenny suddenly lost his appetite for hash or anything else being served, only hoping he would be able to keep down what he'd already consumed. 

Turning back to the table he noticed the woman's eyes dart nervously to a darkened corner of the room.  Lenny's eyes followed her gaze, his eyes settling on two knapsacks packed for a journey of at least several days.  Lenny pointed toward the knapsack and grunted.  The man let a wide tooth pocked grin spread across his face.  “Shadows,” he mumbled again.

This was Lenny's answer then.  The tenseness made physical, anxiety packed in a traveling case.  There was a hike planned, which, if Lenny judged correctly, wouldn't be a fun filled light- hearted adventure. 

While the woman cleared the dishes and the little girl played, the mound man handed Lenny an oversized jacket with a hood.Lenny watched as the man put on his coat with his knapsack over that.  Lenny did the same. 

A quick hug was exchanged between husband and wife at least that is what it would seem to the casual observer.  To those who knew these people, or to those who had lived the married life so much more than a simple good-bye was exchanged.There was an aura that hung about the two of them, as if what needed to be said, had been said so often in the past that now the words clung to one another in a silent revelry.  Lenny then followed the mound man to the door.

It was a nasty day to step outside, let alone to begin a trek.  Winter had begun to settle in here. The wind blew colder and the snow seemed firmer as if the whole season had adjusted itself to the landscape.  Dirty snow-like pellets flew through the air in front of them, with a stronger determination than he had ever seen before, as if the pellets were learning to fight to survive as they dropped.  These pellets cut at Lenny, fist sized, dirty, glass like ice, holding an odor he had never smelled before.He knew ice wasn't supposed to have an odor, and yet it did. 

The mound man hurriedly urged Lenny off of the porch.  The hellish wind which before had teased at his face and now hit him full on.  The cold wind whipped past the mounds bringing these pellets along with them on their cusp.  The pellets were ugly, the wind which edged them along it's channels even uglier. 

Lenny put his hand out as the pair started to trudge toward the outermost horizon.  The pellets landing there, melted quickly in Lenny’s hand unveiling a tiny carbon copy of the mounds which surrounded them.  He quickly wiped his gloves off, shuddering at the thought of what was flying past him in these environmentally modified flakes.  

Within an hour the pair were part of the storm itself.  Although consciously Lenny knew it wasn't possible, subconsciously he felt the wind and the snow covered flakes it carried with it, were honing in on him and his traveling companion, with the weather desperately searching for any warmth it could find in this vile land.

Lenny tried to communicate with the mound man next to him but the wind often raced through the midst of their conversation escaping with the words before an answer could even be formed.Even when Lenny's words did make it to the mound man, the response was usually nothing much more than a grunt and his finger pointing forward. 

Lenny only hoped this man's instinct was right as to the direction they were going.  Lenny had thought of offering the man his map several times, but he always hesitated as the man did not seem to need it, sizing up the identical scenery around both of them, several times, before they walked off in a certain direction.  The man always able to spot invisible pathways, markers, indicators, which Lenny himself failed to see.

So for the most part Lenny walked next to the man silently, his eyes watching, noticing the silent stark beauty of this place.  The snow covered mounds now appeared to him like some kind of vanilla ice cream with the sludge breaking through at places, sliding down the sides, gracing the piles with a gray sundae topping. 

When he tired of looking around him, Lenny looked down at his feet, encrusted with the mound snow they were walking through.  A snow which didn't stick to their boots but instead raced out several inches ahead of them, making little gray snowballs which marked their trail. 

The day began to shorten and night began to come on, when the man quietly stopped between two mounds.  Lenny watched as the man quickly built a lean to next to a mound with several poles and a tarp he pulled out of his knapsack.  With the snow still lazily drifting to the ground, a fire was also soon going with some mush lovingly packed by his wife warming up over it. 

Even through dinner the conversation was minimal, the heat melting away many of the thoughts on both of their minds.  Still conversation thawed the words which did come out.

“Where are we going?” Lenny finally asked. 

“Shadows,” was all the man would repeat, looking at the warm stew in his bowl.  The darkness of this sky soon grabbed them both, bringing them to almost instant sleep.

The sun tried to stream down on them the next morning, as they finished their breakfast of stew, which Lenny’s brain had begun to label glumly as sludge.  As they began their walk, the snow, which seemed to taunt their every step the day before, now had become mysteriously absorbed by the mounds that surrounded them.

The cold air, which had caused Lenny's teeth to chatter the day before, also seemed to turn into  into a warm steam, baking them both, as they walked through the mud tramped, ash colored ground.  Soon, both Lenny and the mound man began to shed their outer clothes, stuffing mittens then hats into their pockets.  During a mid-day break, the pair each took off their damp coats, covering their knapsacks with them, thus allowing them to dry. 

As they continued their hike, Lenny noticed an odd contrast.  While the mounds appeared to be shrinking, his companion’s nervousness appeared to be growing, although Lenny had no logical reason for either occurrence.  Lenny could tell though that there was something more than nervousness fueling the mound man’s decisions here, a fear of something, someone, some incident he was trying to avoid.

Eventually the man pointed about a half a mile ahead to a black fringe of sticks which constituted a stand of trees.  These trees dared the pair with their bare branches, challenging the two travelers to enter, threatening to grab them and drag them in if they refused.  There was a dark gloom, creeping into their very beings, and exploiting their already overwrought imaginations.

The mound man walked into the edge of the forest, stopping several times before he settled on a spot beneath a tree. Their camping spot was hidden almost by shrubbery, although hidden from what Lenny wasn't sure he wanted to ask. The mound man pulled out his blanket indicating Lenny should do the same.  The lean-to tarp however, remained in the man’s knapsack, as if he was trying to blend them into their surroundings at all costs. There was no need for a fire that night either, with the temperatures having risen throughout the day.  After a cold dinner the pair of travelers both went to bed silently, both lost in the potentials of what could happen.  Even after going to bed, sleep seemed futile.  While laying still all that was heard were the screams of others who had been swallowed by the darkness as well. These night time sounds had no distance, no size, no shape, they only came in decibels of emotion and terror.

If Lenny got little sleep than the Mound man got even less. Several times throughout the night Lenny heard the mound man awaken, pick up a stick he had leaned against a tree, then walk the perimeter of the campsite looking for who knew what.  One middle of the night trek resulted in a half an hour jaunt where the sound of Lenny’s companion’s footsteps disappeared altogether.  His footsteps came back eventually, Lenny expected they would, it was only the length of time they were gone that terrorized Lenny's every breath.

After the last episode, Lenny laid with his heart wide open, staring at the sky through the dark empty trees, puzzling over this mound man's devotion to duty, to the journey and even to his traveling companion.  The mound man and he had known each other for only a little more than a month and the man's introduction to him, in the hen house stealing eggs, should have made the mound man more than a little leery of Lenny's motives.  In the old world, that was what would have happened.  Then Lenny reminded himself, as he had countless times on his journey before, he was not in his old world, he was in a new world, with new rules and unexplainable reasoning.

The next morning the pair had a cold, anxious breakfast.  The mound man, when Lenny cast side long glances at him, seemed to be staring off into the woods, darting his eyes toward the slightest sound he heard.  The faster they were past today and the mound man’s unexplained foot stopping fears, the better it would be for them both, Lenny thought. Once they began to hike, a still, solemn silence between he and the mound man settled in.  Even with several attempts at conversation from Lenny there was a minimal response.

They had been walking almost imperceptibly in this manner for a half a day when the mound man grunted a word of caution to Lenny.  Lenny wasn't exactly sure how he knew the grunt meant to be careful, he only knew during the days in which he had been with the mound family,  their language, at least its vague intent, rapidly had become his, all without any effort on his part.

The mound man grunted another word of warning, pulling a scarf over his mouth and nose.  Lenny followed suit and the man grinned a crooked smile of satisfaction at the fact that he was understood. 

Lenny soon smelled it, although he wasn't sure what it was. Maybe that was because the smell wasn't one smell but many odors.  There was the smell of his city, or at least the new buildings in his city and a definite tinge of plastic, mixed with the chemical sanitation of the recycling center.  Several other odors were woven in as well which were indistinguishable but not totally unrecognizable. 

Coming over a branch filled hillock, still hidden by the edge of the woods, Lenny discovered the source of these odors.  Orange vats of whatever it was, appeared before him and his companion, bubbling in larger and larger circular pools with each small lake surrounding and bumping up against one another.  Flies, thousands of them, were swarming near these in-ground vats of sludge. 

This scene was made even more surreal by the creatures tending these chemical soup pots. These beings must be at least six foot tall, Lenny thought, with shiny, shocking tufts of orange and green streaked hair erupting from various parts of their body, matching the contents they were stirring.  These straggly tufts were connected by a conglomeration of warts and sores also dotting their bodies.  At the edge of each toe, brown crusty toenails blossomed.  Their bodies were all choreographed to the left, slanting somehow. There must have been 50 or 60 similar creatures dotting this valley, each with their own vat.

The giant man who stood closest to them, turned to face the vat stirrer to his left, who seemed to be edging ever closer, enthralled somehow with the contents of the first man’s vat.  The first creature eyed the second warily, guarding his vat as if it was molten gold.  With a hit that Lenny almost missed in its swiftness, the first vat creature swung his stick, tossing the other into his own vat.The second stirrer slowly drowned in a scream which echoed in its emptiness through the barren forest surrounding it. The similar beings, stirring the other vats, continued with barely a glance the scene unfolding among them, as if it was a commonplace scenario not worthy of note, glancing for not more than a second at the bubbles which were all that remained of the rapidly sinking creature.  The first creature, still stirring his vat, gloated, grabbing the stick from the second vat before it too disappeared with the offending creature.  Happily he began stirring both vats, seemingly forgetting about his recent offense, only relishing in the glory of having expanded his kingdom. Similar beings were stirring the other vats,

The mound man in front of Lenny shook his head, then the two quickly sinking back into the forest and skirting around the valley, all the while keeping an eye on the creatures below.The pair spent most of the afternoon circling this field and two more like it.  Once past a third field, the pair finally began marching into the skeleton of forestry again.

It was obvious that the mound man was used to treks through these distant forests, Lenny however was not.  Several downed logs which the mound man quickly bounded over, Lenny had to climb.  Roots which seemed to scamper out of the mound man's path, seemed to purposely place themselves before Lenny's feet to trip him up.

At the edge of this latest batch of empty woods, another field of mounds faced them.  Lenny oddly welcomed this now familiar landscape. Facing another night of mound camping and some suspicious looking rolled sandwiches, the two slept early, the anxiety filled walk of earlier in the day, exhausting them both.

The next morning they arose to a swamp-like mist hanging over the field they were surrounded by.  Despite the humidity already hearkening the heated day ahead, Lenny watched in amazement as the mound man put on his outer coat and mittens with nothing more than a slight sigh of resignation. 

He motioned for Lenny to do the same as the man carefully began tucking his pants into his boots and his sleeves firmly into his mittens. Once this was settled, he dug through his bag, coming out with two hand knit ski masks.  Lenny balked at putting something which had more than likely started out in a mound that close to his face, but it appeared, once the mound man had placed his mask on, there would be no movement forward until Lenny had done the same.

With the sun already filtering through the haze, sweat began to form on Lenny's face.  He was considering taking the ski-mask off, despite the mound man's earlier insistence, when he heard a dull sound, almost like the drone of a private plane but smaller and softer.  Suddenly the sound stopped with a quick hard thud against Lenny's arm.  He looked down to see a large mosquito like insect attached to his coat.  Before he had time to pull it off another flew into him and then another.  Swarms were soon swooping in and around the pair, attacking their clothing faster than Lenny could pull their bodies off. 

Lenny glanced over at the mound man who was also being swarmed by the insects.  There was a difference though.  While Lenny concertedly pulled off the dead carcasses and let them fall to the ground, the Mound man had another means of disposal.  With each insect body he recovered he would quickly pop it into his mouth.  Once bored with that, the man began placing them into a pouch apparently to snack on later.

Lenny went back to his own procedure of pulling and dropping, letting them crunch beneath his feet.  Later that afternoon, after another rolled sandwich with Lenny declining dead insects for desert, the mound man pointed ahead through the slowing swarms of insects.

Lenny saw what the mound man pointed at, yet another forest.  These woods, even at a distance appeared different from the other two, rockier somehow.  He stopped about thirty feet away and stared at Lenny, pointing again.

“Shadows,” Lenny was sure that's what the mound man muttered this time. He then quietly turned and began his trek back.  Lenny waved good bye, grunting at the mound man, as he was not sure he would understand more.  The man waved back, already disappearing between the mounds, soon becoming one with them.  Lenny wanted to holler to him one more time, asking one of the million questions racing through his mind but Lenny knew he would not be heard.  Even if the mound man would answer him, could answer him, Lenny knew understanding the answers would be futile.  For the answers weren't with the mound man, they were in the journey which had now brought him here, and would soon bring him there, to the shadows, a trek only he could complete alone. 

Lenny continued to watch the dot the mound man had become, as he disappeared altogether. Lenny was utterly alone once again.


© Copyright 2017 Carla Charter. All rights reserved.

Chapters