Twilight Eyes Page 26

Again the show call was canceled. The start of the Yontsdown County Fair was postponed another twenty-four hours.

Rya did not regret the previous night’s revelations as much as I had expected she would. At breakfast she smiled more quickly than the Rya whom I had come to know during the past week, and she was so given to little shows of affection that she would have forever damaged her reputation as a hard-nosed bitch if there had been anyone around to see.

Later, when we paid visits to a couple of other carnies, to see how they were passing the time, she was more like the Rya they knew: cool, detached. However, even if she had been as changed in their company as she was when alone with me, I am not sure they would have noticed. A pall lay over Gibtown-on-Wheels, a drab and suffocating blanket of despondency woven partly from the monotony of the rain, partly from the loss of income that came with bad weather, but mostly from the fact that Jelly Jordan was only one day dead. The tragedy of his death was still very much with them.

After stopping at the Loruses’ trailer, at the Frazellis’, and at the Cat-shanks’, we finally decided to spend the day together, just the two of us, and then on the way back to Rya’s Airstream we made a more important decision. She stopped suddenly and gripped my umbrella arm with her rain-chilled hands. “Slim!” she said, with a shine in her eyes not quite like anything I’d seen before. So I said, “What?” She said, “Let’s go to the trailer where you’ve been assigned a bed—and let’s pack your things and move them to my place.” So I said, “You aren’t serious,” praying to God that she was. And she said, “Don’t tell me you don’t want to.” I said, “All right, I won’t tell you that.” Frowning, she said, “Hey, you know, this isn’t your boss talking.” I said, “I didn’t think it was.” And she said, “This is your girl talking.” I said, “I just want to be sure you’ve thought about this.” She said, “I have.” I said, “It looked like a spur-of-the-moment thought to me.” She said, “That’s the way I tried to make it look, dummy. I didn’t want you to think I was a calculating woman.” I said, “I just want to be sure you aren’t doing something rash.” She said, “Rya Raines never does anything rash.” So I said, “I guess that’s true, huh?” And it was as easy as that. Fifteen minutes later, we were living together.

We spent the afternoon making cookies in the tiny kitchen of her Airstream, four dozen peanut butter and six dozen chocolate chip, and it was one of the best days of my life. The mouth-watering aromas, the ceremonial licking of the spoon as each batch was finished, the joking, the teasing, the shared labor—it all brought to mind similar afternoons in the kitchen of the Stanfeuss house in Oregon, with my sisters and my mother. But this was even better. I had enjoyed but never fully appreciated such afternoons in Oregon, for I had been too young to realize that I was living through golden hours, too young to see that all things end. Because I no longer labored under the childhood delusions of stasis and immortality, and because I had begun to think that I would never again be able to sample the simple pleasures of an ordinary domestic life, those hours in the kitchen with Rya had a poignancy so sharp, it was a sweet aching in my chest.

We made dinner together, too, and after dinner we listened to the radio: WBZ in Boston, KDKA in Pittsburgh, Dick Biondi making a fool of himself out there in Chicago. They played the songs of the time—“He’s So Fine,” by the Chiffons; “Surfin’ USA,” by the Beach Boys; “Rhythm of the Rain,” by the Cascades; “Up on the Roof,” by the Drifters; “Blowin’ in the Wind,” by Peter, Paul, and Mary; and “Puff (the Magic Dragon),” by the same; “Limbo Rock” and “Sugar Shack,” “Rock Around the Clock,” and “My Boyfriend’s Back”; tunes by Leslie Gore, the Four Seasons, Bobby Darin, the Chantays, Ray Charles, Little Eva, Dion, Chubby Checker, the Shirelles, Roy Orbison, Sam Cooke, Bobby Lewis, and Elvis, always Elvis—and if you do not think that was a good year for music, then you sure as hell weren’t there.

We did not make love that night, our first as live-in mates, but it could not have been better if we had. Nothing could have improved that evening. We had never been closer, not even when melded flesh to flesh. Although she revealed no more of her secrets, and although I pretended that I was nothing other than a simple drifter gratified and amazed to have found a home and someone to love, we nevertheless felt comfortable with each other, possibly because we harbored secrets in our minds but not in our hearts.

At eleven o’clock the rain stopped. It suddenly faded from a roar to a patter, from a patter to a scattered plop-thump of fat drops, which was the way it had begun two days ago, then ceased altogether, leaving the night silent and steaming. Standing at the bedroom window, looking out at the misty darkness, I felt as if the storm had not only cleansed the world but had washed something out of me as well; however, it was actually Rya Raines who had washed through me, and what she had scrubbed away was my loneliness.

Among alabaster slabs in a hillside city of the dead, I seized her and swung her around to face me, and her eyes were wild with fear, and I was filled with pain and regret, but her throat was exposed and I went for it in spite of my regret, felt the soft tissue against my bared teeth—

I pitched myself headlong out of sleep before the taste of her blood was in my mouth. I found myself sitting up in bed, hiding my face behind my hands, as if she might awaken and somehow, even in the darkness, be able to read my face and know what violence I had been about to perpetrate upon her in my dream.

Then, to my surprise, I sensed someone standing in the gloom beside the bed. With a gasp, still under the influence of the miasma of conflicting terrors from the nightmare, I flung my hands away from my face and thrust them out defensively in front of me, drew back against the headboard.


It was Rya. She was standing beside the bed, looking down at me, though in this lap of blackness I could be no more visible to her than she was to me. She had been watching while I pursued her dream analogue through cemeterial landscapes, just as I had watched her last night.

“Oh, Rya, it’s you,” I said thickly, releasing the painfully held breath in my chest, my heart stuttering.

“What was wrong?” she asked.


“But what kind of dream?”


“Your goblins?”


“Was it . . . my graveyard?”

I said nothing.

She sat on the edge of the bed.

She said, “Was it?”

“Yes. How did you know?”

“From things you said in your sleep.”

I looked at the radiant dial of the clock. Three-thirty.

“And was I there in your dream?” she asked.


She made a sound that I could not interpret.

I said, “I was chasing—”

“No!” she said quickly. “Don’t tell me. It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to hear any more. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.”

But it seemed clear that she knew it did matter, that she understood this shared nightmare better than I did, and that she knew precisely what such a strange sharing meant.

Or, with veils of sleep still clinging to me and with torn rags of dreams muffling my thoughts and perceptions, perhaps I misapprehended her state of mind and saw a mystery where there was none. She might be reluctant to discuss the situation merely because it frightened her—not because she grasped and dreaded the meaning of it.

When I began to speak again, she hushed me and came into my arms. She had never been more passionate, never more silken or more supple or more sweetly practiced in the elicitation of my response, but I thought I detected a new and disturbing quality to her lovemaking, a quiet desperation, as if she were not only seeking pleasure and closeness in the act but was pursuing forgetfulness, sanctuary from some dark knowledge that she could not bear, oblivion.

Wednesday morning the clouds blew away on a wind, and blue sky flew in with crows and robins and ravens and bluebirds, and the earth still steamed as if mighty machinery labored in a heat of friction just beneath the thin crust of the planet, and on the midway the sawdust and wood shavings were drying out in the blazing August sun. Carnies were out in force, looking for storm damage, polishing chrome and brass, snugging down loosened tent flaps, and talking about “money weather,” which this surely was.

An hour before the show call I located Joel Tuck behind the tent that housed Shockville. He was wearing woodsman’s boots with work pants tucked into the tops of them, and a red plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up on his massive arms. He was pounding the tent pegs deeper into the moist earth, and although he was swinging a hammer instead of an ax, he looked like a mutant Paul Bunyon.

“I have to talk to you,” I said.

“I hear you’ve got new accommodations,” he said, putting down the long-handled sledgehammer.

I blinked. “It got around that fast?”

“What do you have to talk to me about?” he asked, not with blatant hostility but with a coolness he had never exhibited before.

“The Dodgem Car pavilion, for one thing.”

“What about it?”

“I know that you saw what happened there.”

“I don’t follow you.”

“You followed me well enough that night.”

His broken, unreadable expression made his face look like a ceramic mask that had been shattered, then glued back together by a drunkard on a binge.

When he did not speak, I said, “You buried him under the floor of your tent.”


“The goblin.”


“That’s what I call them, goblins, though you might use another word. The dictionary says a goblin is ‘an imaginary being, a demon in some mythologies, grotesque, malevolent to man.’ That’s good enough for me. You call them whatever the hell you want. But I know you see them.”

“Do I, then? Goblins?”

“I want you to understand three things. One, I hate them, and I’ll kill them whenever I have a chance—and when I think I can get away with it. Two, they murdered Jelly Jordan because he stumbled across them while they were trying to sabotage the Ferris wheel. Three, they won’t give up; they’ll be back to finish the job on the wheel, and if we don’t stop them, something terrible is going to happen here later in the week.”

“Is that right?”

“You know it is. You left the pass to the Ferris wheel in my bedroom.”

“I did?”

“For Christ’s sake there’s no reason to be so cautious of me!” I said impatiently. “We’ve both got the power. We should be allies!”

He raised one eye, and the orange eye above it had to squint to make room for the look of astonishment in the lower orbs.

I said, “Of all the fortune-tellers and palm readers and psychics that I’ve known in other carnivals, you’re the first person I’ve ever met who actually has some ESP.”

“I do?”

“And you’re the only one I’ve ever known who sees the goblins the way I do.”

“Do I?”

“You must.”

“Must I?”

“God, you can be infuriating.”

“Can I?”

“I’ve been thinking about it. I know you saw what happened at the Dodgem Car pavilion and took care of the body—”


“—and then tried to warn me about the Ferris wheel in case I didn’t sense the trouble coming. You had some doubts when Jelly was found dead. You wondered if maybe I was just a psychopath, because you knew Jelly wasn’t a goblin. But you didn’t accuse me; you decided to wait and watch. That’s why I’ve come to you. To clear things up between us. To get it out in the open. So you’ll know for sure that I see them, that I hate them, and then we can work together to stop them. We’ve got to prevent them from doing whatever they have planned at the Ferris wheel. I’ve been over there this morning, getting a feel for the emanations pouring from it, and I’m sure nothing’s going to happen today. But tomorrow or Friday . . .”

He just stared at me.

“Damn it,” I said, “why do you insist on being so goddamned enigmatic?”

“I’m not being enigmatic,” he said.

“You are.”

“No, I’m just being dumbfounded.”


“Dumbfounded. Because, Carl Slim, this is the most amazing conversation I’ve ever had in my life, and I haven’t understood a thing you’ve said.”

I sensed that he was in emotional turmoil, and perhaps a large part of that turmoil was confusion, but I just could not believe that he was completely baffled by what I had told him.

I stared at him.

He stared at me.

I said, “Infuriating.”

He said, “Oh, I get it.”


“This is some sort of joke.”


“Some elaborate joke.”

“If you didn’t want me to know you were here, if you didn’t want me to know I wasn’t alone, then why did you help me dispose of the body?”

“Well, I guess, partly because it’s a hobby.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Disposing of bodies,” he said. “It’s a hobby. Some people collect postage stamps, and some people build model airplanes, and I dispose of bodies whenever I find them.”

I shook my head in dismay.

“And partly,” he said, “it’s because I’m such a neat person. I just can’t stand litter, and there’s no litter worse than a decomposing body. Especially a goblin body. So whenever I find one, I clean up the mess and—”

“It isn’t a joke!” I said, patience lost.

He blinked all three eyes. “Well, it’s either a joke or you’re a deeply disturbed young man, Carl Slim. So far I’ve liked you, liked you too much to want to believe you’re crazy, so if it’s all right with you, I’ll just figure it’s a joke.”

I turned from him and stalked away, to the corner of the tent and around it, out to the concourse.

What the hell was his game?

The storm had wrung the worst of the humidity out of the air, and the muggy August heat did not return with the blue sky. The day was warm and dry, with the sweet, clean tang of the mountains that surrounded the fairgrounds, and when the gates opened at noon, the marks came in numbers we had not expected to see until the weekend.

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