28 December 1905
"Help us!" Joanna cried, seeing the car waiting. The driver turned to see her emerging from the woods, dragging a man who was softly muttering to himself. Beyond them, the smoke from the house was just visible through the trees, with the glow of the fire casting long shadows.
"Holy shit lady, what's going on?!"
"We need help!"
"Look, I'm not really--"
"Why are you here?"
"I was hired! Asked to pick up three men, a reverend and--"
"They burned down my home and have nearly killed my husband, and if you don't let us in this car not only will he die but I will make every remaining second of your life a waking hell, do you hear me?" The driver looked from her to the distant fire a few times before putting his hat on and jumping out to open the door and help her get Aaboukingon inside.
"There's a doctor in town," he offered, climbing back into his seat and throwing it into gear.
"I fear it's too late for that. Take us to the river."
"The river? What are you on about, lady?"
"Drive!" He grunted and stomped the gas.
The car wound its way to the Youghiogheny River, a tributary of the Monongahela and the closest river the driver could think of. Joanna spent the route trying to comfort Aaboukingon as he stared off into space and shivered. When they arrived, the driver helped carry him to the water and then stepped back. Joanna broke the ice and made sure Aaboukingon was mostly in the water, then knelt beside him. The driver removed his hat and began wringing it between his hands as he watched. Joanna sat for a moment, waiting for a response that didn't seem interested in coming.
"This is Aaboukingon!" She finally yelled at the river. "He is one of yours! Come to his aid!" There was a moment of silence before the ice in the middle of the river began to crack and bulge. As two mounds of water began to rise through, the driver screamed and ran back to his car. Once in, he laid down and peeked his eyes over the edge of the door, watching. Joanna remained unmoved.
"What is the meaning of this?" the spirits asked in unison.
"This is Aaboukingon, of--"
"We know who this is. He is no longer our concern."
"But he's like you! He's a river spirit!"
"He has abandoned his river and chosen mortality. So mortality he shall have."
"Please, no, there has to be something you can do!"
"Only his own waters could accept him now. If you must beg of the waters, let his own determine his fate." With that, the spirits returned to the river. Joanna stood and yelled at the river for a few moments, before kicking the water and then dropping back to Aaboukingon's side and crying. Slowly, the driver emerged from his car and made his way to the riverbank, holding his hat.
"Pardon me, ma'am, but what--what was that?" Joanna sniffled hard and stood, smoothing out her soaked dress. She continued to look out into the water.
"Drive us to the Allegheny River. Near the town of the same, preferably."
"Oh, but ma'am, I--"
"I'll need your help getting my husband into the car, and then we shall be on our way quickly. There is no time to lose. If we go to Allegheny City I'll see to it you are properly compensated."
"That's rather outside of--"
"I'm sorry, sir," she said sternly, turning to face him. "Did I ask a question?"
"I--no, ma'am, you did not."
"I fear I will lose my husband today, either to death or to his own kind. If I must make that choice, then I cannot advise you to interfere with it."
"Of course, ma'am," the driver said, putting on his hat and kneeling to lift Aaboukingon.