Photo credit: Julie MissButterflies
Ray sat in the booth sipping his coffee. His sneakers and the bottom of his jeans, from his knee to his ankles were soaked and sticking to him. The storm came out of nowhere. It was sunny one minute and then torrential rains with thunder and lightning ripped through the sky the next moment. He was glad the diner was just half a block away from the bus stop. There was no bus shelter on the corner to protect him from the elements and he had no idea how long the storm would last. He didn’t want to be out in the open if any of the lingerers were around. Something about the charge in the air during storms seemed to bring them out in droves. He knew it was a matter of time before they would find him. But until then, he would enjoy his tall black coffee and the wedge of apple pie the waitress placed before him. He took his first bite of apple pie and closed his eyes, savoring the combined flavors of the sweet apples and spices, and the perfectly buttery crust. It was an almost climatic experience that was interrupted by the sound of a man rushing into the diner and yelling, “RAY! I’m so glad I found you!”
Ray’s blissful expression did not change, but his heart sank. One of them found him and it knew his name. The man sat across from him in the booth. He ignored him, opened his eyes and focused on the plate of apple pie. There was a drizzled ribbon of caramel over the pie and the scoop of ice cream that was slowly melting beside the pie. It was beautiful. He considered taking a picture of it and posting it on his Pics with Friends account. Pictures of comfort foods always drew the attention of the masses. Instead, he scooped up a spoonful of ice cream and savored the cool sweetness as it melted on his tongue.
“Ray, I know you see me. I know you hear me. You have to hide! They are trying to find you and they are NOT happy!” Jack was one of the lingerers he didn’t mind having around – most of the time. He casually looked across the table at Jack and then refocussed on his meal. He put another spoonful of pie in his mouth and then dug his cellphone out of his pocket. He looked at it, pretended to read a message and then pretended to dial a number. He pressed the phone to his ear, looked at Jack again and said, “Jack! I just got your message. What’s going on?”
“We don’t have time for this! You have to leave now! They’re coming!”
“They are? What do they want?”
“I don’t understand. Why do they want that? It’s not worth much.”
“Maybe not to you. But taking your life keeps them in power. They only need one life and yours is the one they’re after. You have to leave NOW! Get to The Light House!”
Ray bit his lip. He didn’t want to be that exposed. He was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t. He wanted to be able to hide in the dark like everyone else, but his path wasn’t like everyone else’s. He dropped a few dollars on the table and stepped out into the elements. The heavens seemed to be enraged. Thunder rumbled and boomed as lightening ripped through clouds and hit the cafe. The street lights and lights in the buildings up and down the street blinked out.
“RUN,” Jack screamed in his ear. His destination was just two blocks away. Icy rain hit his face with a force that made each drop feel like slivers of glass penetrating his flesh. He grit his teeth against the pain and ran harder. He darted into traffic and barely missed getting clipped by a delivery truck. The driver leaned on his horn as two other vehicles swerved to avoid colliding with the truck. Jack could see the door to The Light House, the warehouse where they met in secret, ahead. Two members of council were looking out for his arrival.
“I’m here,” he shouted. As he ran through the open door, he could hear the voices of the other six members of council. The room fell quiet as Jack stepped into the room and all eyes turned his direction.
“Are you alone,” Rueben, the eldest member of the council asked.
“No. Jack is with me.”
“What does it want?”
“He says they are coming.”
“Does it say anything else?”
Ray looked behind him to shadow where Jack hid, as if anyone else could see him. Jack stepped forward and whispered, his voice trembled with fear.
“They’re getting closer. You all have to leave this place. They know what you are looking for. They plan to kill you, Ray. They’ll kill the others to get to you if they have to. You have to leave. They’re coming!”
Ray told them what was said. Thunder rumbled outside and seemed to vibrate the brick walls of their hiding place. The other six members of the council exchanged concerned looks. They tried to remain hidden and conduct their business in secret. They were the minority in the city and what they were trying to resurrect was frightening to many. The Lingerers had access to and influence over the leaders and would reveal the names of anyone they found operating outside of the law.
“Then we must leave. We must leave now. You know the way,” Rueben announced. He looked to Ray and instructed him to make the lingerer who gave them the warning leave. They members of council didn’t trust Jack. Neither did Ray, but this time he may have saved their lives. Each of the members understood Rueben when he said, “You know the way.” Ray turned toward Jack as the others left through several secret passages so they would not been seen together and to be sure Jack could not follow them. They would meet later at a their secret location outside of the city. Ray left through the front entrance. Jack followed. The street was still dark and the rain still fell, but the rumbling was distant. He looked up and saw the bus pull up to the stop across from the coffee shop. He ran to catch it before it pulled off. He stepped onto the empty bus and took at seat at the front. Jack lingered across from him, his head on a swivel, looking out for anyone or anything that may be following them. The bus stopped a block away from his house. He stepped down and began quickly walking home. He was a few steps away from safety. As he approached his door, Jack’s frightened voice whispered in his ear,
“Oh no! Ray, they found us! They found us! They’re here!”