Twilight Eyes Page 35

If I caught up with her, I might have to kill her.

I did not want to kill her.

I should just leave. Go. Never look back. Forget.

I went after her.

As in a nightmare, we ran without seeming to go anywhere, with infinite rows of travel trailers bracketing us, ran for what seemed like ten minutes, twenty, on and on, but I knew that Gibtown-on-Wheels was not that big, knew that my sense of time was distorted by hysteria, and actually it must have been less than a minute before we broke out of the trailers into open field. High grass slashed at my legs, and frogs leapt out of my way, and a few fireflies snapped against my face. I ran as fast as I could, then faster, stretching my legs, going for the longest possible strides, though I was suffering terribly from the beating I had taken earlier. She had the speed of terror, but I inevitably closed the gap between us, and by the time she reached the edge of the woods, I was only forty feet behind her.

She never looked back.

She knew I was there.

Although dawn was near, the night was very dark, and in the forest it was darker still. Yet in spite of being nearly blind beneath that canopy of pine needles and leafy boughs, neither of us slowed down much. As brimming with adrenaline as we were, we seemed to be demanding and receiving more from our psychic abilities than we had ever gotten before, for we intuitively found the easiest way through the woods, going from one narrow deer trail to another, pressing through barriers of underbrush at their weakest points, leaping from a table of limestone to a fallen log, across a little brook, along another deer trail, as if we were nocturnal creatures born for the night chase, and although I continued to gain on her, I was still more than twenty feet behind her when we came out of the forest at the top of a long hill and started down—

—into a graveyard.

I skidded, stopped myself against a tall monument, and stared down in horror at the cemetery below. It was big, though it did not go on forever, as in the dream that Rya had passed to me. Hundreds upon hundreds of rectangles, squares, and spires of granite and marble thrust up from the shelving hillside, and most of them were visible to one degree or another because, at the bottom, there was a street lined with mercury-vapor arc lamps, which thoroughly illuminated the lower portion of the graveyard and created a bright backdrop against which the stones on the higher slopes were silhouetted. There was no snow, as there had been in the dream, but the mercury-vapor globes produced a whitish light with a vague trace of blue in which the graveyard grass appeared to be frosted. The tombstones seemed to be wearing jackets of ice, and the breeze stirred the trees sufficiently to shake loose a lot of seeds that were equipped with fuzzy, white membranes for easy dispersal by the wind, and those seeds whirled through the air and settled to the ground as if they were snowflakes, so the effect was startlingly similar to the wintry location in the nightmare.

Rya had not stopped. She was widening the gap between us once more, following a twisting path down among the headstones.

I wondered if she had known the graveyard was here or whether it was as much a shock to her as it was to me. She had been to the Yontsdown County Fairgrounds in previous years, so she might have taken a walk to the end of the meadow, might have gone through the forest and to the top of this hill. But if she had known the cemetery was here, why had she run this way? Why hadn’t she gone in another direction and made at least that small effort to thwart the destiny that we both had seen in the dream?

I knew the answer to that one: She did not want to die . . . and yet she did.

She was afraid to let me catch her.

Yet she wanted me to catch her.

I did not know what would happen when I put my hands on her. But I knew that I could not merely turn back, and I could not stand there in the boneyard until I had ossified into a monument like all the others. I followed her.

She had not glanced back at me on the meadow or in the woods, but now she turned to see if I was still coming, ran on, turned again, then ran on but with less speed. On the last slope I realized that she was keening as she ran, an awful wail of grief and anguish, and then I closed the gap altogether, halted her, turned her toward me.

She was sobbing, and when her eyes met mine, there was a hunted-rabbit look in them. For a second or two she searched my gaze, then slumped against me, and for an instant I thought she had seen something she needed to see in my eyes, but actually she had seen exactly the opposite, something that terrified her even more. She had leaned against me not as a lover seeking compassion but as a desperate enemy, clenching me in order to insure that the deadly thrust was as well placed as possible. I felt no pain at first, just a spreading warmth, and when I looked down and saw the knife that she had driven into me, I was momentarily certain that this was not reality, after all, just one more nightmare.

My own blade. She had taken it from the throat of the dead deputy. I gripped the hand that held the knife and prevented her from twisting it in me, nor could she withdraw it and stab again. It had entered me about three inches to the left of my navel, which was better than if it had been centered, where it would have pierced my stomach and colon and brought certain death. It was still bad, Jesus, no pain yet, but the spreading warmth was becoming a biting heat. She struggled to wrench the knife free of me, and I struggled just as hard to keep us rigidly locked, and my racing mind saw only one solution. As in the dream, I bent my head, brought my mouth to her throat—

—and could not do it.

I could not savage her with my teeth as if I were a wild animal, could not tear open her jugular, could not bear even the thought of her blood spurting into my mouth. She was not a goblin. She was a human being. One of my own kind. One of our poor, sick, sorry, and much put-upon race. She had known suffering, and she had triumphed over it, and if she had made mistakes, even monstrous mistakes, she had had her reasons. If I could not condone, I could at least understand, and in understanding there is forgiveness, and in forgiveness there is hope.

One proof of true humanity is the inability to kill your own kind in cold blood. Surely. For if that is not proof, then there is no such thing as true humanity, and we are all goblins in essence.

I raised my head.

I released her hand, the one that held the knife.

She pulled the blade out of me.

I stood, arms at my sides, defenseless.

She drew back her arm.

I closed my eyes.

A second passed, another, three.

I opened my eyes.

She dropped the knife.


Chapter eighteen


We got out of Yontsdown, but only because everyone took extreme risks to protect Rya and me. Many of the other carnies did not know why two cops had been killed at her trailer, but they did not have to know or really want to know. Joel Tuck made up some story, and while no one believed it for a minute, everyone was satisfied. They closed ranks around us with admirable comradeship, blissfully unaware that they were up against an enemy more formidable than just the straight world and the Yontsdown Police Department.

Joel loaded the body of the Kelsko thing and its deputy into the patrol car, drove it to a quiet place, beheaded both corpses, and buried the heads. Then he took the squad car (with both decapitated bodies) back into Yontsdown and, just after daybreak, parked it in an alley behind a warehouse. Luke Bendingo picked him up and brought him back to the carnival, unaware of how the dead cops had been mutilated.

The other goblins in Yontsdown might believe that Kelsko had been murdered by a psycho before ever setting out for the carnival. But even if they did suspect us, they could prove nothing.

I hid in the trailer belonging to Gloria Neames, the fat lady, who was as kind as anyone I have ever known. She, too, had certain psychic powers. She could levitate small objects if she concentrated on them, and she could locate lost objects with a divining rod. She could not see the goblins, but she knew that Joel Tuck and Rya and I saw them, and because of her own talents—which Joel had been aware of—and because she was like us in some ways, she believed our tales of the demonkind more readily than others would have.

As Gloria put it, “God sometimes throws a bone to those of us He maims. I figure a higher percentage of us freaks are psychic than is true of the population at large, and I figure we were meant to stick together. But between you and me, honey, I’d just as soon not be psychic if I could trade my power for being slim and gorgeous!”

The carnival doctor, a reformed alcoholic named Winston Pennington, came to Gloria’s trailer two or three times every day to treat my wound. No vital organs or arteries had been pierced. But I developed a fever, a seriously dehydrating nausea, and delirium, and I do not remember much of the six days following my confrontation with Rya in the graveyard.


She had to disappear. After all, she was known to many of the demonkind as a collaborator, and they would continue seeking her out, asking her to point them toward those who could see through their masquerade. And she no longer wanted to do that. She was fairly sure that only Kelsko and his deputy had known about me, and now that they were dead, I was safe. But she had to vanish. Arturo Sombra filed a missing persons report on her with the Yontsdown Police, who found no leads, of course. For the next couple of months Sombra Brothers operated her concessions on her behalf, but at last the company exercised a foreclosure option in its contract and took possession of her businesses. Which they sold to me. Financed by Joel Tuck. At the end of the season I drove Rya’s Airstream to Gibsonton, Florida, and parked it beside the larger, permanent trailer she kept there. Through some clever paperwork I became the owner of the Gibsonton property as well, and I lived there alone from mid-October until a week before Christmas, when I was joined by a stunningly beautiful woman with eyes as blue as Rya Raines’s, with a body as perfectly sculpted as Rya’s, but with somewhat different facial features and with hair the color of ravens’ wings. She said her name was Cara MacKenzie, my long-lost cousin from Detroit, and she said we had a lot to talk about.

In fact, in spite of my determination to be understanding and forgiving and human, I still had to work out some of my resentment and disapproval of what she had done, and we were too awkward with each other to talk much at all until Christmas Day. Then we could not shut up. We were a long time feeling each other out, reestablishing ties, and we did not go to bed together until January 15, and at first it was not as good as it had been. However, by early February we had decided that Cara MacKenzie was not my cousin from Detroit, after all, but my wife, and that winter Gibsonton had one of the biggest weddings it had ever known.

Perhaps she was not as gorgeous as a brunette as she had been when blond, and perhaps the few surgical alterations in her face had taken a slight edge off her beauty, but she was still the loveliest woman in the world. And more importantly, she had begun to evict the emotionally crippled Rya, who had been a goblin of a different breed within her.

The world went on, as the world does.

That was the year they murdered our president in Dallas. It was the end of innocence, the end of a certain way of thinking and being, and some were despondent and said it was the death of hope as well. But though falling autumn leaves may reveal skeletal branches, spring reclothes the wood.

That was also the year that the Beatles released their first record in the United States, the year Skeeter Davis’s “The End of the World” was the number-one song, the year the Ronettes recorded “Be My Baby.” And that winter was the winter when Rya and I went back to Yontsdown, Pennsylvania, for several days in March, to carry the war to the enemy.

But that is another story.

Which follows.

Part two


Numberless paths of night wind away from twilight.

—The Book of Counted Sorrows

Something moves within the night that is not good and is not right.

—The Book of Counted Sorrows

The whisper of the dusk is night shedding its husk.

—The Book of Counted Sorrows

Chapter nineteen


John Kennedy was dead and buried, but the echoing strains of his funeral march took a long time to fade away. Throughout much of that gray winter, the world seemed to turn to no music but a dirge, and the sky was lower than it had ever been before. Even in Florida, where the days were usually cloudless, we felt the grayness that we did not see, and even in the happiness of our new marriage, Rya and I could not entirely escape either the recognition of the rest of the world’s dark mood or the memory of our own recent horrors.

On December 29, 1963, the Beatles’ recording of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was played for the first time on an American radio station, and by the first of February 1964, it was the number-one song in the country. We needed that music. Through that first tune and those that followed in profusion, we relearned the meaning of joy. The Fab Four from Britain became not merely musicians but symbols of life, hope, change, and survival. That year, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was followed by “She Loves You” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Please Please Me” and “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Feel Fine,” and more than twenty others, a flood of feel-good music never equaled since.

We needed to feel good, not merely to forget that death in Dallas the previous November but to distract ourselves from the signs and portents of death and destruction which, day by day, were growing in number. That was the year of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, when the conflict in Vietnam became a full-fledged war—though no one could yet imagine just how very full it would become. And that may have been the year when the reality of possible nuclear obliteration finally sank deep into the national consciousness, for it was expressed in all the arts as it had never been before, especially in movies like Dr. Strangelove and Seven Days in May. We sensed that we were edging along the brink of a terrible chasm, and the music of the Beatles provided comfort just as whistling in a graveyard can stave off grim thoughts of moldering corpses.

On Monday afternoon, March 16, two weeks after our wedding, Rya and I were lying on lime-green towels on the beach, talking softly, listening to a transistor radio on which at least a third of the programming was Beatle music or that of their imitators. The beach had been crowded yesterday, Sunday, but now we had it to ourselves. Out on the lazily rolling sea, the rays of the Florida sun struck the water and created the illusion of millions of gold coins, as if a long-lost fortune from a sunken Spanish galleon was suddenly awash in the tide. The white sand was being bleached even whiter by the harsh subtropical sunshine, and our tans were growing deeper by the day, by the hour. I was cocoa-brown with stored-up sun, but Rya’s tone was richer, more golden; her skin had a hot and honeyed sheen of such erotic power that I could not resist reaching out from time to time to touch her. Though her hair was now raven-black instead of blond, she was still a golden girl, the daughter of the sun, as she had seemed when I’d first seen her on the midway of the Sombra Brothers Carnival.

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