TWO SOULS: INTO THE FIRE
Stevie and Mandy ran across the truck stop parking lot, with Linda running after them. As they approached the horse trailer, a man came around from the back. He was laughing at the eager kids.
"Hey, hey...hold up there," he said.
"I'm so sorry," Linda said, out of breath. "They wanted to see horses, and got away from me."
The man laughed. "Oh, no bother, ma'am. I was just about to take the ponies out for a walk around that grassy area over there. The kids can come watch."
"Well, ok..." Linda said. "But, stay back, Stevie...Mandy...don't get in the way." She smiled at the man. "We haven't been around horses, before."
"These are just little ones," he said. "They're Shetland ponies. They are going to a nice little farm." He opened the back of the trailer, and backed out the first of two. "This little guy is very calm. The other one is, too." He tied the first one up, and went back into the trailer for the other one. They were both tan, with white mane and tails.
"They're so cute," Mandy squealed. "Can we watch them, Mommy?"
"Yes, we will, but just for a few minutes," Linda said. She looked around for Steve and Ghost, seeing they were over by the U-Haul, talking. She waved and motioned that she'd be over at the grassy area. She and the kids followed the man and the ponies.
Over by the U-Haul, Steve and Ghost watched Linda and the kids. Steve thought the guy looked harmless enough, but he wanted to keep a eye on them. Looking over at Ghost, who was leaning against the door, he could tell he wasn't in a good place.
"Look, Ghost, I'm sorry. I should have remembered. We shouldn't have come near this place." He took Ghost's hand.
"It's ok...it didn't happen at this place. Just the smell of those trucks...it makes me remember, and feel sick," Ghost said. "I just wanna get out of here."
"We will," Steve said. "Get in the U-Haul, and I'll go get Linda. It's time to get going, anyway." He went over to where the kids were now getting a pony ride. He smiled, as they hollered, "Look, Uncle Steve." They were having fun.
"It's time to go, Linda...round 'em up," he said.
"Come on kids, we have to go now. Tell the man thank you for the ride," Linda said.
The man helped the kids down from the ponies. "Y'all have a nice trip, ya hear." He led the horses back to the trailer.
They walked back to Linda's van, the kids chattering all about the horses. Before buckling them into the car seats, Linda washed their hands off, then got them settled with their little toys.
Turning to Steve, she asked, "What were you going to tell me?"
"About what?" Steve asked.
"About Ghost...what was bothering him in the truck stop. Is he ok, now?"
"Oh, yeah, he's ok...it's just he said the diesel fumes from the trucks was making him sick...and brings back bad memories...uh, of that time he was lost in California. It was a long time ago, Linda. I thought I told you about it."
She shook her head. "Not much, just that he hitchhiked..." she paused..."oh, with truckers?"
"Yeah, and one of them raped him." Steve closed his eyes. "God, why did I even come to this truck stop? I should have remembered."
"Oh, Steve...that's horrible. I didn't know. Now I understand why he was feeling so bad."
Steve nodded. "He said he's ok...just bad memories, but really, we need to get out of here. I didn't like the way those guys were in there, ya know. Don't want to be around when they come out."
"Yes, let's get going," Linda said, as she got into the van.
Steve went back to the U-Haul, started the engine, and pulled out, heading for the highway.
"You told her, didn't you?" Ghost asked.
Steve nodded. Ghost sighed, and leaned his head back against the seat, closing his eyes. Out of the corner of his own eye, Steve couldn't help but notice that Ghost would every few seconds reach up and wipe the tears away. No words would help, he knew, so he just kept driving.
It was getting on toward twilight, when they finally crossed over into Oklahoma. Steve had told Linda that at the next town that was big enough to have a motel, they'd stop for the night. He was getting tired of driving, and was sure Linda was too, but there weren't any towns coming up that would have a place to stay. The next one he could tell, was in the suburbs of Oklahoma City, and it looked like it was still several hours away. Up ahead, he saw a sign for a rest area, and he signaled that he was pulling in.
When they were there, and parked, he and Linda talked about what they should do. "The next motel is still a long way off, Linda. I'm not sure I can stay awake until then. I need to stop...somewhere," he told her.
"I know, me too," Linda said, and yawned. "But where? This out west business is weird...big empty spaces and no towns to speak of. How do people live here?"
"I don't know, but we gotta do something."
Linda was looking around the rest area. "Well, we could just stay here, and maybe get a little sleep. Would it be safe, though?"
Shrugging, Steve considered it. "I guess, if we lock the car doors. It'll be pretty uncomfortable, but we could do it."
"I know," Linda said. "The kids are already asleep, but they need to stretch out awhile. We have drinks and snacks...it'll be ok."
"Ok, but let's pull over closer to the back of this area...more out of sight," Steve said.
She agreed, and followed as they drove slowly back into the area. After parking, Stevie and Mandy woke up, and were hungry. Ghost was walking around, stretching his legs. Steve and Linda got out snacks for all of them, and they sat at a concrete picnic table. It was growing dark, and there had not been even one car driving down the highway since they'd arrived.
Linda turned on her flashlight, the only light they had out there, setting it on the table. Stevie and Mandy were at the other end of the table, and were giggling at their kid's conversation.
Whispering, Linda leaned over toward Steve and Ghost. "I don't want to scare them, but this is really eerie out here, guys."
"I know," Ghost whispered. "There's wild animals out here, back behind those trees. I can tell...they're watching us." He shivered, and pulled his shirt's hood up over his head.
"Wild animals...like what?" Steve asked, trying to sound skeptical and brave, but not quite pulling it off. He stared at the darkness, behind them.
"Don't you hear them?" Ghost asked.
They were silent...listening...and all three jumped, when they heard a rustling sound, back in the bushes.
"Oh my, God," Linda said, holding her hand over her heart. "That scared me half to death." She looked at the kids, but they hadn't even noticed or heard anything.
Steve got up, shining the flashlight around, over toward the dark shrubbery, his hand shaking. Linda started laughing.
"What?" Steve asked.
"He looks like the grim reaper," she managed to say, and pointed to Ghost.
Steve looked, and laughed, too. "You're right. Hey, what are you doing over there?" he hollered at Ghost.
Ghost had found a long stick, and was poking around in the tall grass by the trees. In his hoodie, and with only his face lit by the flashlight, he did look like the grim reaper come to life.
"Huh?" he asked, as he waved the stick around.
"What are you looking for," Steve asked.
"Oh, the wild animal...it's here somewhere, but it's scared and hiding, now." Ghost said.
"What kind is it," Linda asked. She'd gotten closer to the kids, in case they had to make a run for the car.
"I think it's just a little rabbit, or lizard, maybe...'cause they don't really say much," Ghost said. "If it was a turkey or a goose, they'd be making noise...and if it was a coyote, or a wild cat, they would have already run away. They don't freeze-frame...or if it is a raccoon, it would be trying to get our food...and..." he went on naming animals, and how they'd react.
Steve nudged Linda, "Yeah, and if Ghost don't stop naming things, he'll just talk it to death...hahaha, grim reaper..." he laughed along with Linda, and both had a hard time stopping.
"Ok, ok...we get the picture," Steve said. "Come back over here...leave the poor thing alone."
Ghost wasn't quite done, though. He began a little chant he was making up as he spoke.
"By the light of the stars, by the light of the moon, we mean you no harm, we'll be gone soon." He held up the stick, pointing at the night sky, and turned around three times.
"What's he doing now?" Linda asked.
"Beats me...he's just weird," Steve said. Linda giggled.
Ghost came back to the table. "I'm finished," he said, then sat down, grinning.
Linda cleared her throat..."Um...interesting..." she said. Steve kicked her under the table.
"No," he mouthed to her. "He'll never stop talking."
But, it was too late.
Next part coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing