Over the Hedge
Walls of Jericho, Part Ten
20 June 2007
When I woke up in the hospital, I had no memory of how I’d gotten there. Everything was blurry, my head was spinning, and I was surrounded by noises and voices I couldn’t place. I came around enough to register when Matteson, Alice, and Mandy informed me they’d be back in the morning, but not enough to really respond to them. The nurses helped me get settled, got me some dinner, and then left me to try to get some rest until a doctor could see me in the morning. I couldn’t sleep, and I had trouble meditating, so I mostly spent the night trying to process what I could remember. I thought through what little I’d gathered from my spell, and tried to piece together the encounter with Jeremiah. At some point, I realized I had no idea if Matteson knew his grandfather was sniffing around, and after searching through my things I found my phone to text him, but it was dead, and I hadn’t brought a charger with me when I went to perform the ritual. I remembered the phone having nearly a full charge, and that was when it set in that I had no idea how much time had passed since then. It wasn’t until a nurse came in to check on me a little after one in the morning that I learned I’d been unconscious for about three days.
I must have managed to get to sleep at some point, because I distinctly remember being awakened by Alice and the harsh light of day hitting me like a train. Behind her was Matteson, who shifted sideways until his shadow fell over my face and I could start taking them in. They both looked tired, and I wondered how many hours they’d spent sitting up worrying about me the last few days. There was no time to ask about that then, however; the doctor arrived quickly and talked through what they knew of what had happened to me. He didn’t really have answers, and when he tried to press for more information I found that neither did I. What little I did know, I couldn’t tell him. What was I supposed to do? Report a hundred-year-old man who looks to be in his forties, stepping out of the spiritual world to assault me while I was distracted looking at a realm deep beyond the physical reality? I determined getting out of the hospital was more important than honesty, and told him what was probably more true, anyway; that I didn’t really know what happened to me, but I felt alright now. I was discharged an hour later, and Matteson stepped out of the room as Alice helped me change into a set of clean clothes she’d brought from the house.
They told me what they knew in the car. Unfortunately, I got the impression Alice was hearing about Matteson’s encounter with Jeremiah at the ritual site for the first time, as well. While he tried to pass it off as something he just hadn’t had time to explain, she went pretty quiet for a while afterward. I learned about the new house spirit, and Mandy’s help the last few days, and Alice finally rejoined the conversation when it reached the point where they told me about her unraveling the spells around me so Matteson could remove them. I pointed out that it sounded like they worked well together, and neither of them seemed to know how to respond to that. I started to wonder what the hell was going on between them since her apparent return from England.
Mandy, Marz, and Tony were all at the house when we got back, and they each tried to ask how I was feeling without crowding around me too much. We had lunch delivered, and over the next few hours other people dropped in to check on us and people slowly filtered out. Matteson finally kicked the few remaining people out, except Alice, reminding them I’d had a rough few days and needed some space, and I went up to my room and finally managed to get some decent meditation in. When I finally got back downstairs, I found Alice sitting alone in the living room reading through a book on phrenology.
“You know that isn’t there as a valid resource, right?” I asked.
She smiled and set it aside. “I certainly hope not,” she answered as I sat on Matteson’s chair. “But it’s interesting. How are you feeling?”
“Better, now. I think the whole ordeal knocked me pretty well out of alignment. I’d better get to the river before I try any magic, just in case.”
“That’s probably wise. Listen, Matteson said you were out there looking for Rick. Did you find anything?”
“Nothing helpful. Did you find anything in England?”
“No.” We sat in silence for a while. “So what happens now?”
“I…I don’t know. I think, maybe, we’ve run out of options.”
“There’s nothing else we can do? Are you sure?”
“I’ve put all I have into this so far, Alice. And you went to one of the greatest hubs of magical knowledge in this plane, and we came up with nothing. I can’t rule out the possibility that we’ll find something new one day, but…I don’t know what that would be, at this point.”
“Are you going to be okay with that?”
“I’m going to have to learn to be, eventually. Will you?”
“What choice do I have?” She got up and paced around a bit as I lit a cigarette from Matteson’s pack.
“Where’s Matteson, anyway?”
“He went to pick up dinner. Should be back any minute now.”
“Do you want to tell him, or should I?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we’ll all discuss it when he gets back. See if he has any ideas.”
I nodded and felt my eyes began to water. Was I really okay with this? Was this really the only way? As I stared off into space, I thought I saw myself, just flickering for the briefest moment, like I’d glanced in. And then I remembered, I remembered seeing Alice and I here, in this moment, just a fleeting glance as I was rushing forward in time back in Chicago. I remembered the wedding I’d seen, and it all clicked. This was really it, wasn’t it? This was why I didn’t see Rick anywhere forward of here. Because he wasn’t here. He wasn’t going to be here, and at some point, I moved on. I’d already seen it, and now it was happening, and I’d had no idea what I was leaving behind to go into that future.
By the time Matteson walked in the door with bags from Burger King, Alice and I were holding each other and crying.
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