Kevin stops, takes a few steps back to the bedroom, turns on the light, and looks in. Juan’s face looks completely normal although confused as he says, “What the hell is wrong with you? You almost gave me a heart attack.”
He really shouldn’t joke about heart attacks. Kevin gives him an uneasy smile as his heart is still beating a hundred times a second. “No face.”
“Black… face,” Kevin manages to mutter, knowing that it might be even more confusing.
Juan shakes his head like he is trying to dislodge some of his thoughts. “I’m glad you’re finally awake. Step inside and close the door. I need to tell you something.”
Kevin just stares at him and doesn’t move.
“What is up with you!?” Juan demands.
“Before I turned the light on, you looked like you were turning into one of those things,” Kevin says, now that he has calmed down a little.
Juan looks even more confused. “If anything, I’m the one who should think you are turning into something. You knocked on my door and when I opened it, you were just standing there staring at nothing.”
Now Kevin has the confused expression.
Juan continues, “I’m telling you. You were just standing at the door completely still with one hand in the position it was in when you were knocking. You stood there for what had to be about 5 or 6 minutes. You weren’t responding to anything I said, so I figured you were in one of your catatonic states.”
“You’re talking crazy. I’m not catatonic.”
“Of course you’re not right now. We’re having a conversation. But you do have your moments. It’s like you freeze in the middle of doing something and just stay there for a while. On a few occasions, I picked you up and you put on the couch because I was scared you might fall and hit your head. I thought about getting one of Jenn’s giant dildos and putting it in your hand but figured that would be too cruel. But yeah, it happens, just not very often.”
Kevin is very troubled by this revelation. “How long have I been doing this?”
“Since we first met. It happened a lot less back then.”
“Shit, man! You didn’t think to mention something like that to me!?”
Juan shrugs. “Why would I? I figured it was something you knew about. Since I barely knew you, it would have been out of place to ask you about something that was probably very personal.”
“Yeah but after you got to know me over time you would think a friend would show some concern,” Kevin says with irritation. Kevin thinks about how he occasionally loses time daydreaming and wonders if that is when it happens.
“Look, we figured that was your thing and it didn’t seem like a big deal because it would only last a few seconds at best. This time is the longest I have ever seen you frozen. Since Jenn has known you longer, she might know more.”
That hadn’t occurred to Kevin. If anyone should have brought it up, Jenn should have been the main one. Kevin grew angrier at Jenn. She doesn’t talk about herself much, but she is always candid when it comes to talking about him.
“This is my first time hearing about this. Ever. What if I had blacked out while driving?”
“Well, that would have been a problem, but you didn’t have a car, and I don’t recall ever seeing you drive anything since day one.” Juan’s face changes like he suddenly remembers something. “We can talk about this later. I really need you to step inside and close the door.”
Kevin remembers that he met Juan only a couple of months before the whole world went to shit, and cars stopped working at that time. He has known Jenn much longer and doesn’t recall her ever mentioning anything about catatonic episodes. Maybe it is somehow related to these shadow creatures. Am I turning into one? Kevin shakes off the absurd thought. He starts to close the door and then stops. “Is closing the door really necessary? What if you lose your face again and attack me before I can get out?”
“Yes, it is. And I promise not to lose… my face. Trust me.”
“Trust is something in short supply lately. How ‘bout this. If you happen to see me do anything unusual, I mean anything, like go catatonic, sprout wings, howl at the moon, would you be kind enough to tell me about it right away?”
“Will do. Now can we get to the important stuff?”
Kevin is visibly annoyed by the dismissal but closes the door as instructed. “OK then. What’s so important?”
Juan lowers his voice to a whisper and says, “Listen, I think something is up with Jenn. I think she’s hiding something.”
“No shit, Sherlock!” Kevin exclaims loudly, “She’s secretive about almost everything.”
“Dammit keep your voice down,” Juan whispers angrily.
Kevin can tell by the look on Juan’s face that it might be something serious, so he sits down next to Juan and decides to play along. “Alright, what’s going on?” he whispers.
“Listen. On days that Jenn leaves, she doesn’t always stay on the main road. Sometimes she goes down that old trail with the broken ‘Keep Out’ sign.”
“How do you know that? Did you come out the house to follow her? How on earth did you keep her from seeing your big ass?”
“That’s not really important. The main thing is that she does this when she’s going to get food and supplies. As far as I know, that trail just goes deeper into the woods. There’s no way to…” Juan stops and looks toward the door for a short time before continuing. “There’s no way to get back to the main road without going through miles of forest. That wouldn’t make sense when she could just use the road instead.”
“So what do you think is her deal?” Kevin asks with more curiosity than before.
“Well, she always comes back with several bags of groceries and I can’t see her walking several miles through thick woods like that. My guess is that there is another cabin in the woods where that trail once lead or…”
“Or there is another road beyond that trail where she meets someone,” Juan concludes.
Kevin ponders the implications and is still unsure why she would go through great pains to conceal where or how she gets groceries. He already knows that there are a number of people still alive in town, so there’s nothing surprising about getting food and supplies from someone. It’s not a big deal to him who that person might be. He pressed her about her connections a while back, in case something were to happen to her. He remembers her making an odd comment about how he and Juan would both die if something happened to her. He is now thinking about possibly grilling her to find out more about what she does each day and why.
“So let’s both question her about it,” Kevin suggests.
Juan shakes his head, “That’s exactly what we should not do.”
“OK, what do you suggest?”
“I think you should wait for her to go to sleep.”
“And do what to her?” Kevin asked in disbelief.
Juan looks at Kevin sideways. “Anyway. Since you can’t follow her during the day without either being seen or getting yourself killed, we should make sure she is fully asleep. That is very important. Then you should grab a couple of flashlights and any other gear you need and head down that road. Once you reach that pathway, clear it as much as you can and go down that road as far as you can or until you find something. Once you find what you need, come on back.”
“Maybe I should snag her digital camera and bring it along,” Kevin suggests. He is starting to get a little excited about the idea of some cloak and dagger action to break the monotony. It might even decrease his insistent urge to play with blades.
“If you can do it without waking her, then go ahead.”
“If she wakes up, just tell her I went for a stroll.”
Juan looks at him admonishingly, “She cannot be awake when you do this. She… She seems to ‘know things’ when she’s not asleep.”
“What? You mean awake like she is now.” Kevin starts to wonder about Juan’s sanity. At the same time, his own sanity can be called into question too.
“Yes. Do you ever listen to her when she is rambling?”
“I do whatever I can not to listen to her crazy ass when she’s going on and on. It’s like a cat trying to climb a metal flagpole.”
“That’s one of your biggest problems. You hear but never listen,” Juan scolds him.
“Thanka yoo, sensei,” Kevin says with an offensive accent, “I wirr try much, much hahda to risten nexa time.”
Juan ignores the provocation, “When you think she’s rambling you really need to listen to what she is saying. What sounds like gibberish really contains a lot more important stuff than you realize.”
“Do you know how you sound right now? Tell me, does this happen when you smoke with her.”
“You’re the one who always complains about what she doesn’t tell you, but she tells you things all the time and you don’t even realize it.”
“So she kicks out these riddles that I’m supposed to solve in order to find my way to the Ark of the Covenant? Better yet, will they help me get out of this fucking prison?”
“You act like a goddamned jackass at some of the worst times. And lower your voice.”
“Maybe you can inform me of the most convenient time for jackassery.”
“Look, if you want to find a way out of this hell, wait until she is sleep, then go down that road. If it’s not that important to you then sit in the cabin and just rot.”
“Like you, sensei? I suppose it doesn’t take much effort.”
Juan’s face reddens. Kevin realizes that he needs to stop with the snide comments.
“OK I’ll do it when she’s fast asleep,” Kevin says as he gives in, “Before I forget, what were you doing for the last hour or so before I knocked on the door?”
“I was sleep. Why?”
“Jenn and I saw the really big shadow thing that I thought was after me last night. I was wondering if you heard it clawing at the doors and windows.”
“It apparently wasn’t loud enough to…”
A loud knock at the bedroom door startles both of them.
“Honeys, I’m home,” says Jenn’s muffled, monotone voice through the door, “Can I come in or are you two still boinkin’ in there.”
“No, you missed all of our hot, sweaty boinking,” Juan says, “Come on in.”
They hear the knob twist a few times, but it doesn’t open.
“It’s locked,” Jenn replies.
Kevin hops up to unlock the door. When it swings open, Jenn meekly waves and mouths the word ‘Hello’. Then she plops down at the foot of the bed and sits hunched over with her arms and elbows close together resting on her knees.
“So what are we meeting about?” Jenn asks suspiciously.
“Meeting? You call this a meeting?” Kevin says.
“Well, I can’t imagine any other reason why you would be locked in a room talking,” Jenn says with an accusatory tone.
“Kevin was just telling me about the large shadow thing you two saw earlier,” Juan says.
Jenn seems even more suspicious. “Was that all he was telling you about?”
“Yup,” Kevin and Juan respond almost at the same time.
“Why lock the door then?” Jenn asks.
“Kevin probably locked it back without thinking because I had it locked, like usual, before he came in,” Juan replies
“Without thinking," Jenn says flatly, "Huh.”
They sit there in silence for a long time. The tension probably could only be cut with an axe. Kevin and Juan wait for Jenn to respond, but she just sits there staring at the floor.
Jenn startles them when she finally says, “OK. You kids get back to it. I need to get some sleep. I have a long day at the office tomorrow.”
She gets up without looking at them and shuts the door behind her. Kevin and Juan can only look at each other like they both just got in trouble for stealing cookies.
Kevin eventually whispers, “Do you think she heard anything.”
“I’m pretty sure she didn’t,” Juan concludes.
“OK. I’ll go up front till its time.”
Kevin leaves Juan’s room and notices Jenn’s door slightly ajar. He almost walks over to say ‘good-night’ but then thinks better of it. He heads over to the couch instead and lies down, staring at the ceiling. He needs to find something to do until Jenn goes to sleep, otherwise he’ll doze off too.
Copyright 2018 Darrell Winfrey