Over the Hedge
15 September 2005
My vision was still a bit blurry when Matteson and Rick practically threw me into the car, and the sudden movement when Matteson spun Alpha around took my breath for a moment. By the time I recovered enough to buckle my seat belt and rub the last bit of blurriness from my eyes, Charles was crying and we were going way faster than we had gone down this road before. I was about to demand to know why when I looked ahead and saw we were driving directly toward a head-on collision with the black garbage truck.
"What the fuck, Matteson!" I screamed, trying to brace myself. His eyes were fixed forward, is if he and that truck were the only things that existed in the world. I considered the possibility that Charles had been right all along.
I began to mutter obscenities at Matteson in Spanish as we got closer to the truck, and then very shortly before we were going to hit he cut the wheel, lunging into the grass and sliding sideways past the truck while flipping it off. And then we were back on the dirt, and he showed no signs of slowing down. He was whispering something as the narrow country road came into view, and when I listened more carefully I realized he was chanting "please no cars" over and over again. I braced myself again and took a deep breath.
We hit the edge of the pavement and sent the car into the air, the sound of a horn honking and the glare of headlights briefly occupying my entire window before we made contact with the ground in the dirt path on the other side.
"Probably the only car on that road all night," Matteson grumbled. I punched his arm and tried to catch my breath. I turned back to see how Charles and Rick were doing, and found Rick comforting Charles and promising never to lie to him again, and headlights following us. They were a good distance back, but not far enough for comfort. I turned back to Matteson.
"Is that the truck?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said, pointing at the radio. I hadn't even taken the time to register that the radio station was out and the odd signal from the town was faintly humming along.
"Okay, well, please slow down just a little before the next road?"
"Fine," he said, before lighting a cigarette. True to his word, he slowed down enough to check for cars before turning onto the road at the other end of the cornfield and then sped up again. The truck had already been gaining on us, and that momentary hesitation got it close enough to see our turn and follow.
We spent the next ten minutes racing down back roads, trying to shake the truck and never quite losing it. We no longer had the advantage of the town blocks to use, and Alpha wasn't really made for this kind of work long term. We dipped into Ohio at one point, and on our way back into Pennsylvania the truck finally caught up to us and tried to ram us off the road. It mostly succeeded, but it happened very near the entrance to the Bessemer Lake Boat Launch so Matteson was able to turn down the gravel entrance instead of hitting a tree. But we were going really fast when that happened, and when he tried to stop we slid on the gravel and ended up stopping with one of the tires in the water. I had, by this point, pulled out some supplies for an illusion spell, and as soon as we stopped I cast an image that hid us and made the ripples of the water seem larger. When the truck pulled in shortly thereafter, it stopped, faced the disturbed water for a little while, then slowly drove away. We took a moment to compose ourselves and all lit cigarettes.
"You guys reacted really strongly earlier," I said, once we were all a little calmer.
"What do you mean?" Matteson asked.
"When we were on the hill. I was trying to look at you and Rick but you both acted like something was wrong, before you saw the truck."
"Ah, yeah, that. Well, it was two things, I guess. One, you were crying blood."
"That happens. It's not a good thing when it happens, it means I tried to see way too much, but it happens."
"What did you see?"
"It was...I can't even describe it. There was magic at play, very powerful, very ancient magic. And a lot of it. I couldn't even piece together quite what they did before I had to look away. I'm not yet ready for something of that scale, I think if I'd spent the time to understand it I'd have gone blind, or worse."
"Well, don't push yourself. Just do what you can handle, alright?" I nodded.
"And the second thing?"
"You said there were two things you were responding to on the hill."
"Oh! Yeah! Your right eye is blue now."
"What?!" I flipped down the visor and looked in the mirror and, sure enough, my right eye had turned blue. "Shit. I hope it doesn't stay like this." Matteson shrugged.
"I think you can work with it if you need to. But for now, is everyone ready?" We all agreed we were, and he drove out. We promised Charles we wouldn't go back to try and find the town again, but as we were leaving the boat launch and heading toward the road that would take us north again, Matteson stopped the car and pointed.
On our right was a large mill, which looked largely abandoned aside from some strange lights flickering from one section set back from the road. The fence was rusted and parts of it were broken down, and the gates had fallen long enough ago that parts of them were buried under the dirt of the entrance. The sign was chipped and faded, but with a close look you could still just make out a red spiral.
"No," Charles said.
"Look, if we're getting answers anywhere, I think it might be there," Matteson said.
"I want answers," Rick said. Matteson looked at me. I looked between all of them, and then out at the strange light.
"I--I'm sorry, Charles," I said, softly. Matteson nodded and slowly pulled in to the gravel lot.
"I'm staying right here in the car, though," Charles huffed, crossing his arms. We all agreed that would be acceptable.
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