Title: Time Out of Mind
Chapter: 1 of 4
Excerpt: Their fingers brushed and Taylor’s words died in his throat. Zac’s fingers were icy, bluish, frozen, and when Taylor looked up, he saw the wizened face of an ancient. “If you know what’s good for you…” The voice grating as shards of broken crockery. “If you want to live, don’t go.”
“I don’t know. It seems like an awfully long way.” Diana eyed the paper dubiously. “They have first night celebrations right here in Portland, honey, why go all the way into New Hampshire?”
Isaac sighed, gesturing behind him into the restaurant. “All these people said Portsmouth is the place to go. That or Boston.”
“Well, you two are not going to Boston.”
“I know that. That’s why I’m looking at Portsmouth. We can buy the buttons now, they’re only ten bucks, and be there all night. We don’t even have to drive back afterward, we can get a room there. It’s only an hours drive, and it’s supposed to be the thing.” He watched her carefully. She was frowning, but it wasn’t a serious frown. “Mom…”
She looked up, rolling her eyes. “Yes Ike, you have another attempt?”
“I am 18 you know. I can just go, without your permission.”
Her eyes arched upward. “Oh so? Then why ask?”
“Because I want Tay with me.”
“Sweetie what if it snows? You don’t know how to drive in snow.”
He flipped the page on the paper, and pointed triumphantly. “Forecast is clear” Sighing, she glanced from one hopeful face to the other. “Tay, you really want to do this? Spend New Years Eve with just Ike?”
He nodded enthusiastically. “Nothing personal, but yeah, it’s gonna be cool… so can we go??” His grin was infectious, and she found herself returning it.
“I’ll tell you what. Keep an eye on the weather. Tomorrow morning, if it’s still calling for clear, all the way through to New Years Day, you two can drive into Portsmouth. Fair enough?”
Both boys nodded, grinning at one another.
Taylor’s sleep faded slowly, some sound on the edge of consciousness bringing him up. What was that? Snuggled into downy blankets, he was loath to surface much more. Whatever it was, it didn’t need him. He turned over, sliding one bare leg against silky softness. What was it his mother called him?
A sensualist? Sensations… he sighed, enjoying this small bliss, beginning to drift into sleep again, ignoring the small niggle of anxiety in his stomach.
Going away for New Years with Ike.
A thrill of something like fear needled into him then, pulling him awake.
What did he have to be afraid of?
Sighing, he turned over, lacing hands behind his head, staring into the shadows. As his eyes followed the shifting patterns on the ceiling, the sound came again.
Soft whimper, followed by a choking sound. Was someone sick? Was that what had awakened him? Shrugging off the blankets, he got up and padded out into the living room area of the suite, listening.
Yes. There. Quiet, but there.
His glance fell on the sliders, giving out onto the frozen December night. Clear black sky, icy diamonds of stars.
Again that cold thrill of fear.
“The hell…?” The thought echoed as he tiptoed toward the common bathroom, following the crack of light under the door. “Sounds bad…”
He knocked softly, and the answer was a soft moan.
“Zac?” Frowning, he gently pushed the door open, eyes falling on his brother, collapsed over the bowl. “Whoa, Zac….” Shaking his head he knelt next to him, slipping an arm around him. “Not good, buddy, not good at all.”
He held on to him, waiting it out, some kind of weird relief twisting in his gut.
If Zac was sick, he should stay here, not go out and party.
His eyes flicked up to the window above the shower. Still diamond stars on a black velvet sky. Sighing, he looked back at Zac, who seemed to be over the worst of it. Reaching up, he handed the boy a swatch of toilet paper, and climbed to his feet to run him some water. He held out the glass, Zac’s weary gaze falling on it.
“Don’t swallow any of it Zacko, just…” Their fingers brushed and Taylor’s words died in his throat. Zac’s fingers were icy, bluish, frozen, and when Taylor looked up, he saw the wizened face of an ancient.
“If you know what’s good for you…” The voice grating as shards of broken crockery. “If you want to live, don’t go.”
“Go where?” His question born of fear, no desire to know.
“Do you want to live? Or do you want to die?! Alone, and in pain, where nobody will ever see you again?!?!?! Do you want to die?!?!” The things voice was a screech, and Taylor felt his breath sob in his throat.
“You’ll stay right here…” Eyes wide, he backed away from the monstrosity that had been his brother.
“Dreaming. I’m dreaming.” Nodding, he reached up and pinched himself viciously, nodding satisfaction at the lack of sensation.
“Dreaming.” His eyes went back to the window, and he saw thick snow falling. Snow! Yes!! Relief flooded him, and he shot a triumphant glance back to the brother thing. Gone. It was gone.
He wasn’t standing any longer in the door to the bathroom. He was stretched out, safe and warm, in his bed. Beyond the window, snow fell softly.
“Safe… what a dream though.” Smiling slightly, he let sleep take him down again.
Taylor leaned over Ike’s shoulder, as the oldster’s words flowed over him. Smiling, he bit his tongue to keep from laughing. He could barely understand the man, so strong was his old time Maine accent.
“Won’t it be faster this way?” His ever practical brother indicated the road map in front of him. “It’ll take at least a couple hours to go this way…”
The old man laughed, and tapped the map.
“You boys been to these parts have you?”
Taylor shook his head. “No, never.”
“Well, if you was to go this way, you’d get there quick and painless like. But… you’d see nothing. If you was to go this way, sure it would take you a little longer, but you’d get a good look at the countryside. All done up for Christmas, winter in New England…”
“You really love it here, don’t you…” Isaac’s voice was warm.
“Ayuh, sure do. Never lived anywhere else but for that four years in the service, never wanted to. You take the long way boys, and see some sights.”
Smiling, Isaac nodded, and gathered up his maps.
“Thanks for your time. I think that’s a good idea, we’ll do that. C’mon Tay, I wanna see if Zac’s up yet.”
Zac… unease flickered in the back of Taylor’s mind. The dream had stayed with him, and it had been a bad one. Frowning thoughtfully, he followed his brother back up the stairs.
“Didn’t it snow last night?” Isaac turned, face quizzical.
“Snow? Nah, Tay, look around, it’s just like it was when we went to bed. Clear as crystal.”
Taylor frowned for a moment, hovering on the edge of memory.
“Funny, I thought I saw it snowing…”
“Nope, bud, y’ must’ve been dreaming.”
“Geez, you look terrible!” Ike’s exclamation met no surprise from Taylor. Zac did look bad, but somehow, he’d been expecting it.
“Maybe we should stay, huh Ike?” Ike paused, taking in Zac’s pale face, and glazed over eyes. “I mean, if he’s sick…”
“I don’t know maybe…”
Diana stepped in then, pressing a glass of water and an Advil into Zac’s hand.
“Here baby, take this. No, there’s no reason for you boys to stay. He’s going to be fine, it’s just a bug.” She ran her fingers gently down Zac’s back, and he sighed, wincing as he swallowed the tablet she’d given him.
“You guys don’t need to baby-sit me, Tay.”
Taylor caught his breath, stepping back involuntarily. Zac’s voice was rough, grating. The voice of the dream.
“Tay, you okay?” Zac’s eyes narrowed. Taylor almost looked scared.
“Yeah Zac, yeah… you don’t want us to stay with you?”
“No, what for?”
“I don’t know…”
“No, you don’t haveta stay with me, look out…” He climbed past his brother, and staggered off into the bathroom. A moment later they heard him throwing up. Taylor’s eyes fastened on the door.
“We should stay, he’s really sick…”
Diana snorted, moving to follow Zac.
“Don’t be silly, it’s just an upset stomach. You boys get going, and have a good time! Call me when you get there!” She vanished into the bathroom and shut the door behind her.
Isaac grinned listening to his brother’s voice. Alone, with no listening critical ears, they’d tried their hands, or voices, at a goodly number of songs on the radio, songs they’d never have tried had anyone been listening.
“Damn Tay, you got that, y’know…”
Taylor broke off, laughing.
“Yeah, weird, isn’t it?” He picked it up again, some old Zeppelin song, amazed that he could wind his voice around it. This was cool, just the two of them. They’d never taken off together, just them, before. At least, not for any length of time, and the freedom was indescribable.
He couldn’t believe he’d wanted to stay back at the hotel. The song wound down, and Taylor took a breath, cheeks flushed.
“Man that guy can sing!”
“Man, so can you, you were with him the whole time!”
Laughing, Taylor gestured grandly toward the radio.
“You’re up bud… let’s see what you got…”
Isaac glanced at his brother, dozing in the passenger seat, and smiled. Let the conversation ebb, even for a moment, and he’d be asleep. Typical.
He shrugged and reached to turn the radio up.
Tay could sleep if he wanted to.
He gazed at the passing countryside, as he drove. It was pretty, no doubt about that, but it seemed dismal to him now. They’d left the last town behind, Sanford, he believed it was, and since then had seen only scattered homes amid a white wilderness.
The yards were dotted with snowmen, and Christmas decorations, and he had to admit it had the feel of a holiday greeting card.
But so lonely…
He smiled at the sight of a child, boy or girl not evident under layers of brightly colored winter wrapping, rolling a snowball bigger than themselves.
“Gonna be a killer snowman…” He smiled, tempted to just pull over and watch. “Probably would think I was weird…” He laughed softly and drove on, as gradually the houses thinned out on an already lonely road.
“Ike!!!” Taylor’s voice, choked and urgent, broke his revery. “Ike, lemme out now!” He took in his brother, face white, lips tight, and pulled over immediately.
“Holy shit, Tay…”
Taylor was out of the car in an instant, hanging onto the door for dear life. Isaac climbed out and walked around, slipping an arm around him. Taylor clutched him, grip panic tight, gasping breath, struggling.
“Tay, just stop fighting and let go, you’ll feel better. If it’s what Zac’s got, it’s useless to fight anyway.”
Taylor shook his head, swallowing hard, feeling the sudden nausea begin to back off. “No, no s’okay, s’goin’ away.” He let his brother hold him, breathing in deep lungfulls of the cold air. “S’goin away, I’m not sick, it was a dream…” He turned then, hiding his face in his brother’s shoulder. Isaac hugged him gently, feeling him tremble.
“Must have been some dream, Tay. You feel like getting back in the car? You can tell me about it.”
Taylor nodded, scooping up a handful of the pristine snow, and pressing it against his face. “Man, that sucked.” He climbed back into the car, sighing. “I’m really sorry, Ike.”
“Oh, that’s okay. Could’ve been worse. You could’ve hurled. That would have sucked.” He grinned, and was rewarded with a faint return smile. “Tell me what you dreamed, Tay…”
Taylor nodded, and relayed what he could remember. Lost in the woods, that same venerable ancient Zac thing, warning him that he would never escape with his life. In the bright snow-light of day, it seemed silly to him, and he grinned sheepishly.
“Ike, I’m just retarded, ignore me.”
“I gotta admit, Tay, it sure doesn’t sound worth the panic. But dreams are funny that way… uh oh.” He pulled the car over, and fished his directions out. “After you go through Sanford, follow the road until you come to an intersection.” He looked up. “Look like an intersection?” His voice took on the Maine tones of the old man who’d given them the directions.
Taylor grinned, and nodded. “It does indeed, yeah, that’s an intersection alright.” Isaac’s eyes lit as he continued the exchange, bending his tongue around the unfamiliar dialect.
“There will be a general store. That look like a general store to you Tay?”
“Yeah, well it looks like store. I don’t know if it’s a general store… but it’s a store, yeah.” He grinned. He was foolish. Ike was foolish.
“Well, it says we have to turn at the intersection, after Sanford, where the store is.”
“Okay, well, that was Sanford, back there, right?”
“Yeah, that was Sanford.”
“So, this would be the place, so Ike?”
“Well…” Ike dropped the accent, and looked sheepishly at his brother. “I’m retarded. I didn’t write down which way. But I do remember it had a direction in it.” Taylor sighed.
“Ike… well that’s okay. That street over there says Hubbard Rd. This one over here says West Lebanon Rd, and west is a direction, so I guess we turn right. You really should write things down.”
Ike nodded, but he didn’t look certain. “I could have sworn he said to turn left, but there was definitely a direction involved.”
Taylor glanced down the road to their right, and felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle, as all of the spit in his mouth suddenly dried up. His voice was suddenly strained. “Ike, no, maybe it’s the wrong intersection, just keep going.”
“Tay, it’s the right one.”
“Ike!!” He shouted, and jumped at the sound of his own voice. “Don’t go down that road! Just don’t please, I don’t want to go down there.”
Ike’s eyes widened. “It’s just a road, Tay… look. I’m sure it’s the way we’re supposed to go. I’ll turn and if we don’t find civilization right off, we’ll turn around.”
“Just keep going Ike!”
Sighing, Isaac shook his head. “You’re going all freaky on me. It’s the nightmare you just had isn’t it? All those Stephen King books coming back to haunt you. Look…” He pointed down the winding road, where several houses could be seen, smoke whispering from the chimneys.
“People live there. It’s just a road, and it’s the road we’re supposed to take. Now will you just take a deep breath, let the dream go, and stop it please?”
Taylor was trembling, in the grip of an instinctive terror he couldn’t understand. “No, Ike, no, I can’t go down that road.” His voice shook, and he felt his eyes filling with tears. “Please let’s just keep going. There’s another intersection, I know there is.”
“Taylor…” He thought about it. The kid was obviously scared to death. What would it hurt to drive a few miles further, just to show him that this was, indeed, the right way? Still, he didn’t want to take a chance on getting lost. True they had plenty of time, but driving around backroads in Maine all day really didn’t thrill him. It had only been a dream. Tay would calm down.