Late Night Guardians and Heroes
at the Wawa
I peered past the overhang and watched the Dark Urge pull into the gas station parking lot underneath my viewpoint. The late night hour had dimmed my essence to an almost invisible outline so I wasn't sure I'd been spotted until it thumbed its nose at me before disappearing under the pump awning. Typical of the sort and not beneath adding to my nightly agitation.
Gigi leaned over to me. "What's up boss?"
"I don't know yet. Did you see it?"
"Naw. I was ogling the blonde hunk that just pulled outta the lot. He got into the Spyder."
Gigi always lusted after the young studs. She watched a few too many movies and wanted her Heroes to be cut from the Hollywood mold. Me, I always look for something else.
Tonight Gigi was garbed like an anime' heroine. White leather hip boots and long gloves. A tight mesh bodice with silver-flashed rapier and dirk tucked in one side. Her wings were the iridescent sparkle of peacock's feathers mixed with the downy white of swan's wings. She looked like Sailor Moon on LSD.
I peered back over the awning. Yup. The Urge had latched onto some sickly looking kid driving a faded beater. You know the kind of ride. Body putty and rust holding an oil-smoker together. Probably needed to pop-start the clutch half the time. And yet, always outfitted with five hundred dollar tires. It never fails. You could see the kid wasn't holding it together much better. Through the windshield I could see stricken-looking eyes and a forehead wrinkled with deep stress lines. His fists clenched the steering wheel.
The Urge hovered near the kid like a Rose Bowl float from Hell. Ropy, stringed tentacles pushed deep inside him near the center of his chest. The suckers on those tentacles each had a mouth like a leech's, but slimier and full of sharper teeth. This Urge had the kid bad, and I knew it was going to blow soon.
"See it now?" I murmured.
"Hmm-oooh. Ugly fuck."
"Well, are we gonna go do 'im? Canwe, canwe please?"
"We can't touch it yet. All it's going to do is laugh at you. It knows we're here, and it knows we're helpless until we Connect."
Gigi pouted in disappointment. She was a good kid, but still green. And a little too eager for my taste. But that was due to her relatively recent assignment. In the 60's, Gigi was tapped for duty on her way upstairs. Seems the Big Man liked the way she held her own during the Watts riots. It took some guts to face down a gang that had the power of Dark Urges floating over them like evil pirates.
During the riots it was bad news to be the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood. They had cornered a fireman carrying a baby out of a burning building. He got turned around and wound up on the backside end of the building, isolated from the other units trying to dodge bullets and put out fires. The fireman already was a Hero, but couldn't put the baby down and defend himself. Those five punks wanted that fireman and nothing was going to stop them. Until Gigi stepped up. Needless to say, the fireman made it out with the baby, intact. And Gigi was now on assignment and still in training.
"I want to move to the other roof."
I spread my wings and floated the thirty feet to the top of the convenience store. Gigi followed in virtual silence. The Urge watched us in feigned disinterest. They have no real reaction to us unless we accost them at close range or are on the same plane. Guardians and Urges need to be either Connected or Disconnected. As long as the Urge had attached and we had not, we would not be able to stop whatever nasty it was cobbling up. If Gigi and I wanted to remove this parasite from the boy, we needed to find some Heroes and fast.
"It's making its move!" Gigi shouted.
Shit. And the parking lot was almost empty. Only now did I see that the kid actually had two girls sitting with him in the back of the car. The Urge kept them blocked from our sight. Damn creatures are not very intelligent, but they do have some animal cunning. You could see the Urge swell as it began to dump its poisons into the kid. Black lights and ribbons of sickness peeled off the thing every time it pumped itself into the kid's chest. It was a horrible kind of anti-sex act, with the Urge reveling every time its tentacles spasmed juices into him.
"We've gotta move! Now!" Gigi was frantic.
"Gigi - wait a second!"
She swooped up and disappeared over the side. Mumbling a curse, I followed close on her heels. She was headed to a tight little blonde that had pulled her red SUV halfway around the building. I glanced back toward the kid and his car. He was out and had pulled open the rear door, screaming. The Urge pulsed and throbbed. By now it had puffed up a bit in size. It was just egging the kid on. He reached in and pulled one of the girls, probably his girlfriend, out by the hair.
Suddenly I saw a blur of form rush past me. Gigi must have gotten her Hero. Looking back, I saw the blond move toward the kid and girlfriend. A little tentative, but movement nonetheless. Blondie was going to need to move faster to get to the kid before something bad happened. It looked like she wasn't going to make it. Not that that mattered to Gigi, she had caught her Connection. Silky golden threads stretched between the two ladies, thinning a bit but not breaking. A good sign. There's old Guardian tales of Heroes that Disconnect. That's always an ugly proposition and never ends well. As Blondie walked past me, I was able to breathe in her Essence. Sweet and tangy soul, like the first waft of a light sparkly wine. Hers was pretty straightforward. Charlene, 26 years old. Surprise, not a real blonde. Healthy non-smoker with a five day a week workout. Single and still unsure if she was going to go out with the married guy that was hitting on her at work. Just the kind of Hero that Gigi would go for. Not that she had a lot of choice tonight.
Charlene's Distractions clustered thick and fluttered around her like small prismatic gnats, occasionally forming a solid wall. Distractions can be a Guardian's bane. They are all the worries, grief and assorted baggage that people carry with them every day, and that build up over the course of their lives. They can create a disharmonic short circuit that bars a Guardian from releasing the potential hero inherent in all human beings. Too many Distractions can form a wall that makes it impossible to connect. Over the last decade it seemed everyone had too many.
The kid was still screaming incoherently at his girlfriend, hand tangling even further in her hair. The girlfriend blubbered; tracks of mascara ran down both cheeks. This just seemed to enrage the boy and he caught her with a fist right under the chin. Two more hits followed in quick succession. Blood and mascara mixed together as he shook her around.
Charlene caught the exchange and that decided things for her. She made a beeline for the car. It might have been Charlene's natural inclination or Gigi's influence, but Charlene strode forward in righteous fury. Simultaneously, Gigi blazed toward the Urge in fiery light, sword and dirk drawn ahead of her. The Urge moved a little way away from the car. Dead-looking fish eyes wept tears of malice. Black talons erupted from the creature's forearms and fingers as it set itself to wait for Gigi to come near. Always overeager, Gigi flew right toward it, with no thought for defense. Right behind her came Charlene.
"Is everything alright?"
"Get the FUCK out of here." From the kid.
"Let the girl go."
"I'll fuck you up, too, you don't go away!"
Charlene's Distractions thickened and thinned in response.
"Can't do that...boy. No man hits a girl."
The girlfriend wailed and tried to pull away.
Gigi closed with the Urge and made contact. A flurry of strikes and counterblows landed and were blocked, almost faster than even a Guardian could see. Just as fast, Gigi swooped by, curled her wings and landed lightly a few feet behind the creature. She had a really solid connection with Charlene based on her speed and illumination. The Urge just burped out a mucousy chuckle. Claws flashed behind its back and caught Gigi's rapier, flinging it out into the darkness. Urges look soft and slug-like, but are incredibly fast and agile. A foot claw crunched into the mesh on Gigi's bodice, throwing her back about a dozen yards and rolling her into a ball. The creature oozed toward her, tentacled connection stretching like worms being pulled apart. Stretching, but not disconnecting. Gigi was slow in getting up as it drew near.
"Let go of the girl," Charlene said again.
"Fuckin' bitch, this has nothing to do with you." This time the kid shook his fist at her.
Charlene turned a little to one side. I could see the wheels spinning in her head. The kid looked a little surprised but did let go of the girlfriend. She retreated back into the car.
Charlene turned to her and yelled, "Get out of the car-go inside the store!"
I leapt in phantom response, but couldn't help Charlene before that kid's fist landed on the top of her head. A foot came up and caught her in the thigh, knocking her back. Stumbling, Charlene caught up with herself and replanted. The kid came forward for a grab. This time Charlene was ready and blocked him, striking him hard on the nose. He huffed once and blew out a stream of snot and blood. Then the kid was all over her, all arms and legs and screams. She went down under a flurry of hammering. Nothing serious yet, but the kid had her overpowered.
Gigi was in trouble, too. The Urge's kick caught her unprepared. She was bleeding across the chest and her white outfit was stained with a widening fan of leaking blood. Gi held her dirk in one hand as she tried to rise. She coughed once and hacked up blood. The Urge spread two clawed feet and leapt at her, in a mocking parody of Gigi's first attack. As the creature came by he raked along one of Gigi's wings. I heard a sickening crack as it broke her wing at the joint.
Charlene covered up with both arms and kicked for all she was worth. The kid caught one in the crotch and turned red, then blue. He pulled Charlene up by her blouse and dragged her over to the car. The two girls inside stared in horror as the kid maneuvered Charlene close and opened the door. He placed her head just inside and started to slam the door on her head.
I looked back into the store, desperate for someone to Connect with. Too far away, and after that kid starting throwing fists, all the store patron's Distractions lined up tight. No connection was possible with them now. No-one even ventured outside. Torn between Gigi and Charlene, I howled in frustration and flew toward the store door, determined to force my way inside and demand a Connection.
Thank God! A car pulled up. Far side of the entryway door. Looked like the kind of cars they use for deliveries and such. A rotund man ventured out, looking haggard and exhausted. His Distractions wheeled thick and furious around him, more like angry bees than Charlene's. He started for the Wawa doors in a mesmerized daze, not realizing the drama that was playing out on the other side of the parking lot. I shot toward him in desperation, needing to beat him to the front. Three steps, two, and I had his measure. John Kenneth, 43 years old, a Distribution Manager for the local newspaper. About a hundred pounds overweight and asthmatic to boot. Two tweener kids, a wife, and all the worries an older father has about job security. Insecure about the future. Probably with good cause. He had the thickest wall of Distractions I'd seen tonight. But there was something else there. A tough layer inside, maybe.
Charlene was barely conscious after the beating with the door. Blood stained her face, clothes and most of the parking lot around the boy's car. He turned back toward the girlfriend to scream at her again.
"SEE, SEE what you made me do, Beth. You bitches are all alike. Always mouthing off and not knowin' when to stop."
"Tony, stop man, she dint mean nothin."
Saucer eyes, the other girl in the car, was rooted to the back seat. Probably glad she was being ignored. Tony transferred Charlene's blood matted head from his right to his left hand and awkwardly pulled out a small bottle from his jeans. Popped the top with a thumb and poured out the contents right into his mouth, chewing hard.
Gigi staggered toward the store at her best speed, the Urge following close behind her. One broken wing flapped loosely at her side, while the other fluttered frantically, a feeble attempt to get her airborne. She'd lost both her swords in her effort to get vertical and was staying up only by sheer force of will. Blood, grease and paper wrappers festooned her tunic.
The humiliating image of a Guardian bloodied, messy, and stained was not lost on the Urge. It laughed with glee and turned a sarcastic eye toward me as if daring me to Connect and come after it.
It kicked Gigi again. She landed in a heap and turned over. She turned her plaintive eyes in my direction. The Urge slowly raised an arm and extended its claws, fingertips to forearm. They bristled in a prickly array before plunging deep into Gigi's stomach and then quickly ripping away.
I turned back to Kenneth. He had stopped a few steps from the front doors and looked around in a distracted way. I was close enough to hear the laundry list of thoughts going through his head. Linda, the Missus, wanted something and Kenneth was damned if he could remember what it was. A Rolodex of other half-formed thoughts made a guest appearance and then disappeared just as fast. He was one tired man. As I closed, his Distractions fluttered nervously, turning and wheeling. Their multi-colored skins reflected the diffuse light like dragonfly wings, making walls, diamonds and a chiaroscuro of other patterns. But in spots you could see clear holes form momentarily in their wall of protection. Carefully I extended my essence in an effort to Connect. A length of golden cord carefully worked its way through the Distractions. They batted it around and buffeted it in an effort to block us. I reset my resolve and pushed a little. Harder. Only feeble movement from Gigi. Finally. A Connection! The tentative contact firmed up and glowed with the incandescent sparkle of jewels.
Kenneth felt a momentary flash of light-headedness and then shook his head to clear it. The lighter-than-air feeling left him a little breathless. He fumbled with a pocket, pulled out his asthma inhaler and took a pull. Tightened up his coat and fumbled to check what pocket he left his wallet in. A quick self-frisk and he found it in the last pocket he would have expected. As he looked up he saw a commotion at the other end of the parking lot. The screaming finally registered.
I turned and felt the solid Earth beneath my feet. All the weight of mortality coursed through me. All the smells, sights and touch of the human momentarily disoriented me. I grew fuzzy, and then solidified into the plane. And lofted into the air.
Charlene hung mostly limp and bloodied, pinned between Tony and the door. In the interim between his fight with Charlene, the two girls had tried to exit the car and get somewhere, anywhere else. They hadn't gotten far before Tony's wild eyes caught them again. He stepped around the car and shambled forward. They were caught like a couple of does in high beams when a large shadow crossed in front of the kid.
"What do YOU want, old man?"
Kenneth lumbered forward and interposed himself between Tony and the retreating girls.
"Just coming over for a look and to make sure everyone's all right."
"I took care da bitch and she was in a lot better shape than you - you don't look so tough."
Kenneth shifted his feet, a little unsure of himself and frowned a bit.
"I outweigh ya by 100 pounds, kid. But I don't want to be a tough. Everybody just needs to settle down a bit."
Tony tensed his thin frame, made a muscle, and took a step toward the older man. Kenneth's hands came forward in a half-remembered martial arts movie move. Something in his stance seemed to get through to Tony and his eyes widened. It sunk in then just how big this older man was.
Beth, the girlfriend, shouted to Kenneth, "He just lost his mom and he been trippin' for like the last two days tryin' to forget."
The older man looked past Tony and through the car window. He took in Beth and Saucer-Eyes and then down to Charlene's bloodied head.
"Go inside the store - I'll try and talk to this guy."
"His name's Tony." From Beth.
The girls dragged Charlene's limp form away from the car. Kenneth stayed between them and Tony.
"I din't tell them they could leave," Tony said.
"They're only going into the store to get some help for the young woman that's bleeding."
"Nobody leaves until I say they leave." Tony's face tightened again in anger.
"Just give them a few minutes - besides, I'm sure the police will be here shortly."
"I said nobody's - goin' - nowhere!" Tony threw his car keys high. They landed on the gas pump awning. "But I'm going." And then ran off into the shadowy underbrush.
From the doorway of the store Beth shouted, "Tony said he wants to kill himself. Said he wants to join his ma. Ya gotta find him." Her voice quivered and she added, "I just know he's gonna off himself."
Kenneth kept looking back and forth between the inviting light of the friendly looking convenience store entryway and the clammy darkness by the furthest set of gasoline pumps. The darkness suddenly looked a bit more threatening. He threw one last forlorn look at the entry-doors and then turned and lumbered off into the night.
Once airborne I was able to scan the area and get a visual on the scene. My Connection stretched thin but secure. Kenneth moved toward Tony while the Urge slumped in his direction to intercept the big man. I gained a little more height, reached for the short sword secured on my back and pulled my wings in to dive. I couldn't see Gigi moving anymore. The Urge looked up, stared right at me, and sped up to get near Tony. As I closed, it reared up on splayed feet and bristled its forearm claws. I passed over its head and took a quick cut near the Urge's neck. I supposed it thought I was going to plow right into it and wasn't quite prepared for the last second pass. The sword gashed open a shallow head wound and inky blood splashed up in a cloudburst.
Kenneth could hear Tony moving noisily through the brush and even see him from moment to moment as the headlights of the cars on the nearby turnpike fractured beams of light into the meadow below.
"Tony!" Kenneth shouted, then stopped, bent over in a coughing fit. A crackle of movement flanked him on the right. "Your girlfriend told me about your mom - I know how you feel."
From the rushes a hoarse voice answered, "What do you know about it?"
"I lost my Dad a year ago. I'm still dealing with it." Another cough and then Kenneth said, "Whatever you're feeling."
"No-one knows how I feel."
Kenneth was at a loss. Tired. Thirsty. And a bit turned around in the dark.
"Look kid, your girlfriend's back at the store, and she's worried about you."
"The ONLY one who ever worried or cared was Ma." Tony sounded close.
"What would your mom think of you acting like this? She only would have wanted what was best for you."
"I know what's best for me. I've, I've been talking to my ma for the last two hours. She's been telling me what I need to do."
"Crap," Kenneth murmured, "that sounds like the worst kind of idea."
A siren's wail was getting closer. Finally.
"Kid, the cops will be here soon. They'll be able to help, to get you some help."
"No. Ma's told me what I need to do. And she's always right."
The second I passed, the Urge fanned out both arms and flailed. I brushed by it and it only slashed at my tunic. I glided around and gained height again. Tried to get it into the air and away from Tony. If I could coax it up and away, it would need to relinquish some of its hold on the boy. Maybe Kenneth would have a chance to get through to him.
Unfortunately the Urge didn't want to cooperate. It stayed on the ground and beckoned. I landed a dozen feet away in a clearing of rushes. Sword held in front of me, I advanced on balanced feet. Then a sudden rush as the Urge charged. Both the creature's arms extended with horned spikes and they tangled the sword, trying to pull it from my grip. Unlike Gigi's rapier, my short sword was a bit too wide for it to catch. I yanked hard, was able to pull it loose and thrust in deep. The Urge countered and kicked with a foot, pushing me back. Attacks and parries came quick and relentless, neither of us able to get in more than a shallow cut or glancing blow. As we danced around each other I could hear Kenneth floundering around in the dark.
Kenneth was almost on top of the voice.
"Come with me, Tony. Beth will want to see you and get you to a hospital."
"I've found the cure I need." Now Tony's voice sounded close but muffled at the same time.
Branches creaked and moaned in the wind. Kenneth drew near.
"What the -"
Tony had climbed a few feet into one of the those low branched junk trees common on small fields and lots. He'd found an old rope and wrapped it around his neck.
Kenneth shouted, "Tony! Don't."
Tony stepped right off into space and hung there, revolving at the end of the rope.
Shit! Kenneth lunged forward and grabbed the choking youth around the waist. And lifted.
I chanced a look and could see Kenneth had come almost within arm's reach of Tony. As I did, the Urge launched itself right on top of me. Arms pummeled and foot claws scrabbled between my own legs to scratch for a lethal belly wound. I clapped my hands on its ears and stunned it for a split second. Was able to get my legs under and heave, throwing it off me. I rolled and came to my feet. Stepped back and flew right at it and then tried for some height. I tried simultaneously to make a quick grab for the creature's arms and get airborne. My wings flapped heavily to get both of us into the air. Steely-horned spikes kept popping in and out of the creatures' wrists to try and make me to let go. I continued to rise higher and screamed every time those spikes plunged deep into my hands.
I had the Urge leveraged into an angle so that at least it couldn't get to my vitals. All it could do was snarl and splatter me with blackened drool. The spittle coated my body from my chest down to my leather boots. But still I rose into the air, ascending until it seemed we were hovering a mile away from the two mortals below.
Tony was tall, and though emaciated from non-stop drug use, grew heavy after a minute or two.
"Help. Somebody help," Kenneth panted.
He tried to hold Tony up in the air with one hand while trying to reach the rope with the other. The boy's body kept twisting itself around on the end of the rope and threatened to squirm right out of Kenneth's arms. Kenneth launched a kick at the base of the tree. No avail. A slight arm tremor became a slow burn from the strain. Then his back and legs joined in as well.
"Help me," Kenneth croaked again.
Siren's sound and red flashing lights were visible right in the store parking lot. He could also see a large fire engine pulling in from the other lot entryway. Rescue was fifty yards away and no one could see them.
I had gained so much height that both our connections were stretched into thin, almost transparent threads. The distance weakened the Urge and consequently it struggled all the harder to get loose. My hands had been bloodied into raw hamburger. Eyes narrowing in sudden comprehension, the Urge stopped extending its spikes and started to twist in my grasp. The blood and leathery texture of the creature's skin made it impossible for me to hold on any longer. It chuckled as it levered itself free and free-fell to its back, smug and happy. The connection trailed loosely behind it like a streamer. After a moment of hesitation, I reached into my tunic, pulled a leaf blade knife from my harness, and sliced through both connections.
Tony's face purpled and his body went limp right in Kenneth's hands. The big man could barely see around the body to gauge how close they were to rescue. Official sounding voices and those red-flashing lights were excruciatingly near. Kenneth's arms quivered violently from the strain.
Twin threads of gold and wormy gray snapped back toward the ground. The Urge's grin turned to a snarl as it realized what I had done. I pulled in my wings in a hawk's dive to catch up to it. Collided into it and started pummeling. We struggled fist and claw as I rode him down. The marshy ground jumped up to meet us. At the last second, I stretched out my wings, lofted up and released the Urge like a torpedo. It hit the ground so hard I thought even Tony and Kenneth felt it. As I landed, hands throbbing and dripping blood, I saw Kenneth still standing underneath Tony, trying to hold him up. He looked ready to drop.
"Think of something John, anything," Kenneth muttered to himself.
Suddenly his chest constricted.
"God, no." Kenneth's asthma. "I c-can't."
The unexpected exertion ratcheted up his breath to a wheezy trill. Tony's tortured breath rattled in eerie harmony. Spots danced in front of the big man's eyes and his heartbeat thudded in his ears. But something else as well. Voices. Close now. Kenneth was almost out. He had tried to save one total stranger's life and was in danger of losing his own.
The Urge was broken in half a dozen places, bleeding its brackish life force slowly into the marsh grass. I limped over to where it lay and with a quick twist, broke its neck. The remains of the creature's slimy connection shrank like a dried-out worm. My knees wobbled with fatigue as I started back to Kenneth. I stopped short. Kenneth was holding Tony on a little less rope slack then it took to finally do the kid in. I saw that the older man was almost out of it and needed a little extra help. Exhausted as I was, as against the rules as it was, I made one last attempt to Connect.
"Hurry up, you damn heroes-stop taking your fucking time." Kenneth's feet were falling away. He dropped to his knees. Saw the splintering lights as his body continued to fall. And at the last, saw a man in gladiator's armor, golden aura shining around his body, and a sad half-smile as the lights went out.
Gigi lay unmoving in the back part of the lot. The bright phosphor of her life force pooled underneath her body. I squatted down on my one good knee and felt for a pulse.
"Still kickin' Boss," she whispered weakly.
"Dead. Back in the meadow."
"Good. Man, did that hurt." She clutched at my arm. Pain-filled eyes met mine.
I whispered gently. "Gi. You ready to go home?"
One more nod in assent.
I gathered her up in my mangled arms and held her tightly against my chest. Spread my wings and...
"...Hear me, Mr. Kenneth?"
Kenneth took a deep pull of the pure oxygen through the mask. For a second he didn't know if he was still standing or laid out flat. A blurry but smiling face belonging to an EMT loomed over Kenneth's head like an angel.
"Pulse almost down to normal. BP, still a little high, but much better now. Can you tell me how you're feeling, John?"
Kenneth's vision cleared.
"Wings. I saw wings."
"Probably hallucinations from oxygen deprivation. Gives you all kinds of wacky sights and sounds. Take another deep breath."
"What about the boy? Tony. Is he all right?" Kenneth tried to sit up. And gave it up as a bad job.
"He's alive," replied the EMT. "I don't know how you did it. None of the boys here believe that you were actually able to hold that kid up for as long as you did. You weren't even conscious."
Kenneth tried a second time to rise.
"The police that found you couldn't get you to release your hold off that kid. You were wrapped so tightly around his body. And you wouldn't relax until they cut him down and actually had him on the ground." The EMT pulled off his rubber gloves. "You saved his life. Twice. By the time that kid stepped off the tree, he was already overdosed. He was pretty much in a coma when he hit the end of the rope."
"How about the girlfriend - I think her name was Beth. Oh, and the blonde-haired lady."
"They're both at the other end of the parking lot with the firemen. Charlene, the blonde will be fine, all things considered. She has a minor concussion and some scalp lacerations. Those are always heavy bleeders. But they look worse than they are."
Kenneth winced anyway.
"The girlfriend has some old contusions and bruising. Those three girls claimed you saved them all."
"Na. I just happened to come by and keep things from getting worse."
The EMT helped John sit up on the gurney. "Mr. Kenneth, would you like us to take you to the hospital?"
Kenneth thought about it for a second and did a quick internal inventory. "No." After all, it was just an asthma attack. His lungs seemed to be fine. In fact, he took a deep breath. "I feel pretty good.."
Kenneth levered himself off the gurney and walked the length of the parking lot toward his car. From the doorway and through the store windows, twenty pairs of customer's eyes followed him.
Charlene, a bit groggy, body beaten and head bandaged, was up and flirting with a gaggle of twenty-something firemen. All were glued to her every word about the fight with the perp. They all were vying to show her their first aid prowess and perhaps get a phone number.
Beth and her girlfriend, bruised and a bit bloody, were encased in blankets. Beth watched Kenneth wander over to his car, fish in his pockets for his keys, drop them and then have to bend over to retrieve them. He opened the door and plunked himself tiredly into the seat, keying the ignition. His car cruised slowly toward the exit of the lot, past the young people. He took a long final look through his side window at Tony's girlfriend. In his heart, he knew that Beth would stay with that kid, no matter what. Fists, faith, drugs or whatever, he could only hope that she would survive long enough to live.
Kenneth came back, shook himself and sped off into the warm summer night, toward his own family. He never caught sight of Beth in his rearview mirror, waving a shy hand and mouth the words thank you.
The dead Urge lay in a twisted heap piled up by the junk tree and tall marsh grasses. Smaller Urges waited like hungry rats, waiting to consume the carcass. And in their small pitiful brains, hoping to grow as large and dangerous.