Sunday, August 17, 2014

Part 45

I was freezing.  I mean really, really freezing.  The end of my nose felt like an ice cube.  When I rubbed it, it hurt, close to frostbite.

Then something penetrated and I jumped awake.  "Jace!  We let the fire go out!"

My next thought was of Sunny and what the cold might have done to her.  I turned, expecting to see her corpse and Jace watching her in a catatonic state like he had been after Sammy.  But there was no Sunny.  And there was no Jace.

I called frantically, "Jace!"  Then I remembered to turn the voice down in case there were puss brains around.

The first thing I thought of course was that Sunny had been infected.  Like Dad would have said, I wasn't running on all cylinders.  I couldn't figure out if she'd been infected how she'd been so quiet about getting away.  Then I worried that if she had been infected somehow she'd gotten Jace or maybe Jace had figured out what was going on and had gotten her out of the building to try and save me.  Again though I couldn't figure out how it had happened but I wasn't ready to discount anything since the puss brains up here had been acting different than the ones that I had run into in the city.

I was almost dizzy when I stood up.  Between fatigue and cold it was a real job to get out from under the covers that someone - presumably Jace - had wrapped me in.  And that fact went into the basket of things I was currently not understanding.

I stumbled towards the door, juggling my bat and taking the gloves out of my pocket and putting them on.  I stopped myself from just charging outside; I gently pulled back the heavy drapes that covered the front windows.  The light was incredibly bright partly because the sun was reflecting off of the snow that covered the ground.  The snow was no longer a light dusting; there was a good six to eight inches of the white stuff everywhere I looked.  It was piled even deeper in a couple of places which meant that it must have blown as well as just come down.  And from the porch and moving around the front of the truck was what could only have been drag marks.

There were no other marks just that one continuous drag that looked like what was left behind when Toddie would pull me along on our snow saucer.  It was easier for him to pull me along than for him to wait for me to try and keep up.  It was one of the few win-win situations which entailed work that he didn't complain about.  He would still dump me in the snow, or send me down before I was ready, when we got to the top of the hill but even that was more of a joke we would both laugh at than real meanness on his part.

I shook my head then to clear the cobweb of memories out and I've found myself having to do the same thing again now.  Transcribing what happened then, it is like draining a festering sore.  I know it needs to be done but it is gross and more than a little painful, reminding me over and over how I got the wound to begin with.

Rather than exiting the front door I ran to the back employee area and looked out the windows there.  No tracks.  Ran to a window on either side and no tracks there either.  Finally I decided whatever the action was had only happened on the front porch and moved away.  I carefully exited and used whatever I could to hide me the best I could as I moved forward.  The most confusing of all the clues I was gathering was seeing Jace's coat hung neatly on the driver's side mirror.  That made less sense than all the rest of it put together.  It was freezing outside, in the teens or low 20s at the most.  I looked around but nothing was clearing the mystery up.

The snow next to the Welcome Center was pristine white as was the track, whatever caused it; but, as I cautiously followed it along I realized that a slight pink tinge began to show in places.  Drawing on my experience growing up with a brother that wasn't afraid to wrestle in the snow, as well as what I'd seen in the city, I quickly came to the conclusion that that particular pink on white could only come from red ... in other words blood.  There wasn't a lot of it but I could tell that it was smeared rather than drops.  The pink became darker and more distinct the further along the trail I followed.

I looked around and realized the trail was heading towards a boat ramp.  What the heck?  There wasn't a lot of cover between where I was and where the trail ended, nor was the snow deep enough to hide something people sized.  There were trees but no tracks toward them or away from them ... just the drag mark I was following.

At the top of the boat ramp was a boulder just big enough to dent a boat trailer and just small enough to hide in a driver's blind spot.  Based on all the scrapes on it I surmised I wasn't the only person to have ever noticed what a pain the bolder likely was.  But for the moment the only thing I cared about was what was sitting on top of the boulder.

Just to make sure it wasn't a trap I inched my way over carefully.  Back in the sitting some of the gangs would bait traps in the same way.  I moved the rock holding the pile of stuff down just enough to pull out the paper and started to read.

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