Twilight Eyes Page 15

She was in an uncommunicative mood, speaking only when spoken to, then responding in monosyllables. She took the money, put it away in a closet, and gave me half a day’s wages, which I tucked into a pocket of my jeans.

As she performed these chores I watched her intently, not merely because she was lovely but because I had not forgotten last night’s vision, just outside the trailer, when an apparitional Rya, smeared with blood and bleeding from one corner of her mouth, had shimmered into existence before my eyes and had softly pleaded with me not to let her die. I hoped that, in the presence of the real Rya once more, I’d find my clairvoyance stimulated, that new and more detailed premonitions would come to me, so I could warn her about a specific danger. But all that I got from being close to her again was a renewed sense of the deep sadness in her—and sexually aroused.

Once paid, I had no excuse to hang around. I said good night and went to the door.

“Tomorrow will be a busy day,” she said before I took that first step out.

I looked back at her. “Saturdays always are.”

“And tomorrow night is slough night—we tear it all down.”

And Sunday we would set up in Yontsdown, but I did not want to think about that.

She said, “There’s always so much to do on Saturdays that I have trouble sleeping Friday nights.”

I suspected that, like me, she had trouble sleeping most nights and that, when she did sleep, she often awoke unrested.

Awkwardly, I said, “I know what you mean.”

“Walking helps,” she said. “Sometimes, on Friday nights, I go out on the dark midway and walk around and around the promenade, working off excess energy, letting the stillness sort of . . . flow into me. It’s peaceful when it’s shuttered, when the marks are gone and the lights are out. Even better . . . when we’re playing at a place like this, where the fairgrounds are in open country, I walk the nearby fields or even the woods if there’s a road through them or a good trail—and if there’s a moon.”

Except for her stern lecture about operating the high-striker, this was the longest speech I had heard her make, and it was the closest she had come to trying to establish rapport with me, but her voice remained as impersonal and businesslike as it was during working hours. In fact, it was even cooler than before because it was without the effervescent excitement of the entrepreneur engaged in hustling a buck. It was a flat voice now, indifferent, as if all purpose and meaning and interest fled her with the closing of the midway and did not return until the next day’s show call. Indeed it was such a flat voice, so drab and weary, that without the special insight of my sixth sense I might have been unaware that she was actually reaching out to me, in need of human contact. I knew that she was trying to be casual, even friendly, but that did not come easy to her.

“There’s a moon tonight,” I said.


“And fields nearby.”


“And woods.”

She looked down at her bare feet.

“I was planning on taking a walk myself,” I said.

Without meeting my eyes she went to the armchair, in front of which she had left a pair of tennis shoes. She slipped into them and came to me.

We walked. We wound through the temporary streets of the trailer town, then into open meadow where the wild grass was black and silver in the night-shadows and moonbeams. It was also knee-high and must have tickled her bare legs, but she did not complain. We walked in silence for a while, at first because we were too awkward with each other to settle into comfortable conversation, then because conversation began to seem unimportant.

At the edge of the meadow, we turned northwest, following the line of trees, and a welcome breeze rose at our backs. The towering ramparts of the post-midnight forest rose with castellated formidability, as if they were not serried ranks of pines and maples and birches but, instead, solid black barriers that couldn’t be breached, only scaled. Eventually, half a mile behind the midway, we came to a place where a single-lane dirt road split the woods, leading upward into night and strangeness.

Without a word to each other we turned onto the road and kept walking, and we went perhaps another two hundred yards before she finally spoke. “Do you dream?”

“Sometimes,” I said.

“About what?”

“Goblins,” I said truthfully, although I would begin to lie if she pressed me for elucidation.

“Nightmares,” she said.


“Are your dreams usually nightmares?”


Although those Pennsylvania mountains lacked the vastness and the sense of a primordial age that made the Siskiyous so impressive, there was nonetheless a humbling silence of the sort to be found only in the wilderness, a hush more reverent than that in a cathedral, which encouraged us to speak softly, almost in whispers, though there was no one to overhear.

“Mine too,” she said. “Nightmares. Not just usually. Always.”

“Goblins?” I asked.


She said no more, and I knew she would tell me more only when she chose to.

We walked. The forest crowded close on both sides. In the moonlight the dirt road had a gray phosphorescence that made it look like a bed of ash, as if God’s chariot had raced through the woods, wheels burning with divine fire, leaving a trail of total combustion.

In a while she said, “Graveyards.”

“In your dreams?”

She spoke as softly as the breeze. “Yes. Not always the same graveyard. Sometimes it’s on a flat field, stretching to every horizon, one head-stone after the other, all of them exactly alike.” Her voice became softer still. “And sometimes it’s a snowy cemetery on a hill, with leafless trees that have lots of black and spiky branches, and with tombstones terracing down and down, all different kinds of them, marble obelisks and low granite slabs, statues that’ve been tilted and worn by too many winters . . . and I keep walking toward the bottom of the cemetery, the bottom of the hill . . . toward the road that leads out . . . and I’m sure there’s a road down there somewhere . . . but I just can’t find it.” Her tone was not only soft now but so bleak that I felt a cold line drawn along my spine, as if her voice were an icy blade impressed upon my skin. “At first I move slowly between monuments, afraid of slipping and falling in the snow, but when I go down several levels and still don’t see the road below . . . I start moving faster . . . and faster . . . and pretty soon I’m running, stumbling, falling, getting up, running on, dodging between the stones, plunging down the hillside . . .” A pause. A breath. Shallow. Expelled with a faint sigh of dread and with a few more words: “Then you know what I find?”

I thought I did. As we reached the crest of a low hill and kept walking, I said, “You see a name on one of the tombstones, and it’s yours.”

She shuddered. “One of them is mine. I sense it in every dream. But I never find it, no. I almost wish I would. I think . . . if I found it . . . found my own grave . . . then I would stop dreaming about these things....”

Because you would not wake up, I thought. You would be dead for real. That was what they said happened if you did not wake up before you died in a dream. Die in a dream—and never wake up again.

She said, “What I find when I go down the hillside far enough is . . . the road I’m looking for . . . except it isn’t a road anymore. They’ve buried people and erected headstones right in the asphalt, as if they had so many to plant that they ran out of room in the graveyard and had to put them wherever there was space. Hundreds of stones, four across, row after row, all the way along the road. So . . . you see . . . the road isn’t a way out anymore. It’s just another part of the cemetery now. And below it the dead trees and more monuments just keep shelving down and down, as far as I can see. And the worst thing is . . . somehow I know that all these people are dead . . . because...”

“Because what?”

“Because of me,” she said miserably. “Because I killed them.”

“You sound as if you actually feel guilty,” I said.

“I do.”

“But it’s only a dream.”

“When I wake up . . . it lingers . . . too real for a dream. It has more meaning than just a dream. It’s . . . an omen, maybe.”

“But you’re not a killer.”


“Then what could it mean?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Just dreamstuff, nonsense,” I insisted.


“Then tell me how it makes sense. Tell me what it means.”

“I can’t,” she said.

But as she spoke, I had the disturbing impression that she knew precisely what the dream meant and that she had now begun to lie to me just as I would have lied if she had pressed for too many details about the goblins of my own nightmares.

We had followed the dirt road up and then down a gentle hill, along a quarter-of-a-mile curve, through a hurst of oaks where there was less moonlight, perhaps a distance of one mile altogether. Finally we came to the road’s end on the shore of a small lake surrounded by forest.

The gently sloping bank that led into the water was covered with lush, soft grass. The lake looked like an enormous pool of oil and would have looked like nothing whatsoever if the moon and scattered frost-white stars had not been reflected in its surface, thereby vaguely illuminating a few eddies and ripples. The breeze-ruffled grass, like that in the meadow behind the trailer town, was black with a thin silver edge to each tender blade.

She sat down on the grass, and I beside her.

She seemed to want silence again.

I obliged.

Sitting beneath the vault of night, listening to far crickets and the quiet splash of fish taking insects off the surface of the water, conversation was again quite unnecessary. It was enough for me to be at her side, separated from her by less than the length of an arm.

I was struck by the contrast between this place and those in which I had spent the rest of this day. First Yontsdown, with its smokestacks and medieval buildings and omnipresent sense of impending doom, then the midway with its gaudy pleasures and swarms of marks. It was a relief, now, to pass a little time in a place where there was no proof of man’s existence other than the dirt road leading in, which we kept at our backs and which I tried to put out of mind. Gregarious by nature, there nevertheless were occasions when I became as weary of the company of other human beings as I was repelled and disgusted by the goblins. And sometimes, when I saw men and women being as cruel to one another as the marks had been in Joel Tuck’s sideshow tent that very day, it seemed to me that we deserved the goblins, that we were a tragically flawed race incapable of adequately appreciating the miracle of our existence and that we had earned the vicious attentions of the goblins by our own despicable actions against one another. After all, many of the gods we worshiped were, to one degree or another, judgmental and demanding and capable of heart-stopping cruelty. Who could say that they might not visit a plague of goblins on us and call it just punishment for sins indulged? Here, in the tranquillity of the forest, however, a cleansing energy washed through me, and gradually I began to feel better, in spite of all the talk of graveyards and nightmares with which we had occupied ourselves.

Then, after a while, I became aware that Rya was weeping. She made no sound, and her body was not racked with silent sobs. I was alerted to her condition only when I began to receive a psychic impression of that terrible sadness, welling up anew in her. Looking sidewise, I saw a glistening tear tracking down her smooth cheek, another spot of silver in the moonlight.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“Don’t want to talk?”

She shook her head again.

Acutely aware that she needed comforting, that she had come to me expressly for comforting, but not knowing how to provide it, I turned my eyes from her and looked out at the oily blackness of the lake. She shorted out my logic circuits, damn it. She was different from anyone I had ever known, with puzzling depths and dark secrets, and it seemed to me that I dared not respond to her as casually and forthrightly as I would have responded to anyone else. I felt as if I were an astronaut making first contact with an alien from another world, overwhelmed by an appreciation for the gulf between us, afraid to proceed lest the initial communication be misunderstood. Therefore I found myself unable to respond at all, unable to act. I told myself that I had been foolish to dream of heating the coolness between us, that I had been an idiot for imagining that a close relationship with her was possible, that I had gotten in over my head with this one, that these waters were too dark and strange, that I would never understand her and—

—and then she kissed me.

She pressed her pliant lips to mine, and her mouth opened to me, and I returned her kiss with a passion I had never experienced before, our tongues seeking and melting together until I could not tell hers from mine. I put both hands in her glorious hair—an auburn-blond mix in daylight but now argentine—and let it run through my fingers. It felt the way spun moonlight might feel if it could be fashioned into a cool and silken thread. I touched her face, and the texture of her skin sent a shiver through me. I slid my hands lower, along her neck, holding her by the shoulders as our kisses deepened, then at last cupping her full breasts.

From the moment she had leaned against me and had given that first kiss, she had been shaking. I sensed that these were not tremors of erotic anticipation, but were evidence of an uncertainty, awkwardness, shyness, and fear of rejection not dissimilar to my own state of mind. Now, suddenly, a stronger shiver passed through her. She pulled away from me and said, “Oh, hell.”

“What?” I asked, breathless.

“Why can’t . . .”


“. . . two people . . .”


Tears streamed down her face now. Her voice quavered: “. . . just reach out to each other . . .”

“You reached, I reached.”

“. . . and push aside that barrier . . .”

“There’s no barrier. Not now.”

I sensed that sadness in her, a well of loneliness too deep to be plumbed, a grayness, an apartness, and I was afraid that it was going to overwhelm her at the worst possible moment, force upon us the very estrangement that she professed to fear.

She said, “It’s there . . . always there . . . always so hard to make any real contact . . . any real . . .”

“It’s easy,” I said.

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