The Cul-de-Sac at Decker Street
Craig M. Sampson
483 Decker Street
Murphy, North Carolina
Angie finally stopped looking out the back of the window of the car as they sped away from what remained of her latest hometown. Despite her youth at age 16, she was so tired that she felt as if she had lived decades. The only thing moving faster than the shaking Toyota beater was her heart. Her breathing had finally calmed from the rasping gasps that she had been experiencing when she felt the strong arms of David scoop her up from what used to be their cottage on Decker Street, her vision locked on the old house smoldering away as she sat immobile in a near catatonic state. The odors surrounding them as they moved north away from the devastation were enough. It was hard for her to describe, but if Angie had been asked it was a unique and overwhelming mélange: a nauseating stench of smoke, fire, and charred flesh If she had been fully locked in, she supposed it would have made her vomit, but as it was, she just stared in a disconnected stupor.
She had never considered the extent of what she had just experienced in Murphy when they had arrived just a few months ago. All she had ever wanted, no matter where she had lived, was to fit in. It had seemed like a harmless thing at the time, her drawings that gave her freedom—she had been sure it was safe by now. If it had not been for David, their caretaker, she probably would have just let the conflagration overwhelm her. After all, she had lost everything: her new home, her mother, all her possessions—limited as they were at her age—everything she had come to know as familiar and comfortable. Only her longtime companion and ever-loyal dog, Takoda, had survived this latest disaster.
Angie stared in disbelief and silent anguish as David maneuvered the rusty sedan expertly around the various piles of burning debris and gaping potholes along the way. He glanced back at her in the mirror when he could to check on her as they swerved along the road, but Angie was not sure if this was out of concern for her well-being or fear of her. He called her name as they drove but right now his voice was like a far-off call, muffled and muted and distant sounding as if he was miles away instead of right next to her on the front seat of the car. Other than her mother, David was the only person to whom she had confided what she had been experiencing in the old house at the end of the cul-de-sac that he had been helping to keep up, and now if he seemed wary of her; she could hardly blame him.
All those places that she and her Mom had bounced around in over the years…from down south in Louisiana, to out west in Colorado, to back east in North Carolina; Angie had always complained of how boring and forgettable all that had been, but right now she would have given most anything she could imagine for a little of that “boredom” or at least a quiet predictability and routine…anything would have been better than what lay behind her. Angie fought back the tears that now came once the bulk of the trauma from the explosion on Decker Street faded into the rear-view mirror of the Toyota, hugging her beloved Takoda to her side.
Even with all Dichali had tutored her on and all the training that Ominotago had invested in her, Angie had just barely gotten away in one piece. The treasured purple amulet still hung from the same black leather lanyard at her neck as it had since it had been gifted to her on the Ute reservation. She had put all her trust and confidence in the possession of that talisman, and to some degree its legacy had been fulfilled: she had indeed survived. But it had not been enough to avoid the massive destruction that now lay behind her. Dichali had warned her that the emanations might not affect anyone beyond her own limited sphere, and Angie now had found out this was indeed true. She had been so utterly convinced she could keep everyone safe. Perhaps it had been arrogance or just simple naivete if she took a kinder view.
Maybe her lack of experience in all of this was making her much too harsh on herself, but as she looked back on all that had transpired since she had immersed herself in these drawings, she just could not let herself off the hook. How wrong she had been. But also, how wrong her Native American confidants had been as well. She had no ill will in that regard; they had meant well, and Angie was sure they had been as surprised as she when the malignant evil that bled back into the world, based on her simple love of art and a more than average sense of imagination, followed her relentlessly, intent on making sure their adversary was neutralized. Angie was sure, when back in Colorado, that she was powerful enough and brave enough and had the heart and soul to put an end to what she had inadvertently released from some twisted portal of hell…or perhaps someplace worse than hell if you could conjure that up in your own mind.
But even her best efforts had not been enough. Or perhaps as Dichali had suggested, the demons she was facing down would gather strength the longer they were allowed to walk among the living. She continued to second-guess herself in that regard now, despite having acted as quickly as she felt she could, based on her training and advice from Dichali, Ominotago, and Eluwilussit. But one look out the window made her realize she had vastly underestimated her task. And it had cost dearly, both to dear friends in Colorado and now her family in Murphy; in particular, the loss of her mother, Claire. This was the deepest cut of all. Her mother had been her hero, her anchor, her role model, and the closest thing Angie had to a true confidant in the Anglo world.
And it was all on her shoulders now, her responsibility, so Angie told herself. Her Ute elders would have told her she was taking on an onus that was far greater than was her due, but to Angie this is how it was. All around her, people died. Period. That was why David, the soft-spoken and courageous caretaker, now at the wheel of the car, rushing her away from the latest disaster of her doing, looked back at her with a wary eye. Wondering maybe if his days were numbered as well. Angie understood his unease and nervousness around her.
She wiped her eyes and turned to face forward as David slowed to a more reasonable speed, as emergency vehicles, police, and other first-responders shot past them in the opposite direction to the cul-de-sac. Angie sighed, knowing they would find little to salvage and certainly nothing to rescue. This was the legacy of her journey it seemed. She hugged Takoda to her side tighter, as she prepared for what we she was sure was her final stand—one way or the other.
“Ready to finish this thing, Takoda?” she asked as she looked into the eager eyes of her Bernese mountain dog.
As always, the dog wagged enthusiastically and woofed happily as he put his head under hand seeking her touch and comfort just as he had since the night Angie and Claire had brought him home with them as a puppy.
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