Chapter 5A Chapter by Preeti
Chapter 5 of Semantic Blends: A Chain Novel Experiment
Written by Sarusai Hiryu (http://www.writerscafe.org/Sarusai%20Hiryu)
Written for Semantic Blends: A Chain Novel Experiment
Josh ran blindly, stumbling and tripping over his own heels. His world had never been particularly sane since the disaster, but the few coherent threads there were snapping, one by one.
He had to get away from this new horror. Fast.
“Tut. Tut.” Mockingly mournful. “One thing you might as well learn, my boy, and the sooner you learn it the happier you’ll be. You can’t run from me.”
The old man was blocking his way, one hand on his shoulder, smiling at him rather ironically. Somewhere in the tangle of grey bristles the snarl lay, sheathed for the moment, but as ready to dart forth as a wildcat’s claws.
“Relax, I’m not here to hurt you.”
For some reason Josh found himself believing the cool, amused voice. Some of his fear left him, but paradoxically, relief from immediate fear brought back his anger.
“So you are here to hurt somebody.” He said, calmer and steadier than he could have supposed himself to be. School, his bleak home, with nothing in it but a blank, greying face waiting for death, as bitter and bewildered as his own " they receded as though they had never been; he was alive as he had been in those first few days after the earthquake, every sense alert.
“If you dare to lay a hand on any of my friends or my family,” The Josh of five minutes ago could never have believed himself capable of such cold menace. “I’ll see you damned before -”
“Whoa! Whoa! Easy, young fire-eater!”
“I mean every word of it!” snapped Josh, irritated by the man’s chortling.
“I know. That’s why I chose you to save.”
“You mean " from those boys?” He could not repress a shudder as he thought of the Smart Guys.
“No. I’d do that for anyone.” He shrugged. “From them.” He spoke the simple pronoun with more vicious loathing than the vilest invective could have carried.
“Don’t pretend to be stupid, boy!”
Josh felt himself stiffen. “How dare you"”
“Oh shut up.” The old man said wearily. He had himself well in hand again. When Josh continued to glare at him, he spread out his gnarled hands and grinned. “Do you expect me to apologize? Come now, really!”
Josh would have retorted, but the old man gestured imperiously for silence. “Enough of this! Lets get to the point.”
“Fine by me.” Said Josh shortly.
“Earlier, you spoke of protecting your friends, your family. Tell me, Josh " yes, I know your name; in fact, I know quite a bit about you. Tell me, is there really anyone left for you to protect?”
The question took Josh utterly aback. Josephine, he thought. Mother. And Gail…Gail… and then he remembered as he had seen her last, in Sergeant Hawk’s arms…his mother’s face, listless and broken, Josephine, with her gentle, wistful smile, not quite of the present and not quite of the past.
“Do you truly have a life, do they truly have a life they can love and cherish?”
A life he could love…
But this time Josh did not permit memory to engulf him. He gave a hard, dry chuckle as he shrugged. “It’s been better. But what of that? What is that to you? Who are you, anyway?”
“You’ll know. You’ll know when you are meant to know.”
“When I’m meant to know? Meant to?” Suddenly he was shouting. “It’s the ‘meant to’s that destroyed Thousand Oaks in the first place! The Great Quake " it was ‘meant to be’, wasn’t it? And then the government " “
“No!” interrupted the old man sharply. “It was not. It was your own weakness that let them gain such control over you, you and all your friends.” He held up his hand for silence, cutting Josh’s reply off once again. “Don’t start whining about all your exploits right after the Quake. I know all about them. Survival " a pack of Coyotes could have accomplished as much. But what of the true resilience, the unshakable spirit that distinguishes man from beast? You show about as much of it as this.” He kicked a piece of rubble contemptuously out of the way.
“ You " You what do you know of anything?” growled Josh. He lunged at the man’s collar and twisted it almost to a chokehold. “Blind!” He spat out the word, cruelly. “You’re blind! What can you see of me, of any of us?”
“Unhand me.” The cold voice was absolutely unruffled. “Blind? Yes, my eyes are lightless, but it is you who do not see!”
Something in his voice awed Josh, made him release the mangled collar. “What do you want from me?” he demanded.” Tell me what you want!”
“I? Why, nothing at all. But your heart " your heart that’s been bleeding away for six long years, your people, who have long, long since slain theirs " they need something from you, Josh.”
“What? What?” And cracking through his voice was the plea of a child, lost and desolate.
“You’re lying again, Josh.” It was stated so simply that he could not deny it. “In your innermost heart you know. You have always known, haven’t you?”
And before Josh could say anything, he turned around and walked away.
Gail Lewellin lay on her couch, the most luxurious in all Thousand Oaks, yet another gift from the man who would soon become her husband. In front of her lay her favourite fashion magazine, full of glamorous dresses. Thomas had told her to choose anything that caught her eye and he’d get it…for her trousseau, for their new home, or simply for herself.
She pushed the magazine pettishly away. She could not concentrate; the pursuit that had given so much pleasure until an hour ago had suddenly become meaningless.
The ripple from the past had destroyed it all.
Josh. Josh Camper. Lord, how long ago it had all been. Yet she could remember as clearly as Josh himself the kiss they’d shared, all those moments of innocent, blissful love and hope. Her old shocking-pink-painted room. She smiled rather tremulously as she had remembered how earnestly they had discussed the colour, how hard it had been to reconcile her parents to their unorthodox decision.
The closet… the note she’d left for him, sure he would go back, sure he would find it and understand… but she’d never once gone back herself, so why would he?
He hadn’t forgotten her. Even with all the changes the years had wrought, he still knew her at sight, just as she’d recognised him at once. “Ok. Thanks, Gail.” Just as though she’d handed him a cup of coffee or something " just as he used to smile when she tossed his baseballs back over the wall, when they were children, when he was still too young to play with the other boys, pretending to be bored… then joining in, gradually, and then, as they grew older…
Abruptly she stood up and put her coat on. Not until she was actually in the street and locking her front door did Gail realise that she was going to break Thousand Oaks’s most stringent law.
© 2011 Preeti
Added on April 16, 2011
Last Updated on April 16, 2011
Semantic Blends: A Chain Novel (Volume I)
San Diego, CA
AboutCollege undergraduate with an inconvenient tendency to drift into imaginary worlds. Half of what I think isn't original (as there is so little these days which truly is 100% original) and the other ha.. more..
The throbbing of one's heart.
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