The Sounds of Towns
It didn’t take long for Evie to faint again; but at least this time she had someone to catch her.
"You will pay for this, lab rat. I promise you."
She woke with a gasp as voices drifted away from her mind. They had been quieter than before, and she figured she could thank Con for that. She felt around for the ground, but it wasn’t there. She was sitting and leaning against something cool, but not uncomfortably so.
"Wakey wakes, Vodka."
"Don’t worry. I’s got ya. You seem to fall more than me."
“S-Sorry. I’m not used to the sun.”
"But it ain’t even been out that long. You must be pretty wiped out too then, huh?"
Evie nodded and Con sat her down on the road.
"You’re bleeding, kid."
Evie put a hand to her eyes and knees. “The sand; it got in my cuts. I guess they aren’t healing.”
"Fuck, that probably hurts like Hell."
“Not Hell, but somewhere close.”
Con looked down at the beer on his hand and frowned. He then sighed and reached for Evie’s eye cloth.
“Huh? Please don’t, Mister.”
"Hush for a sec, okay?" Con took her cloth off and winced at the sight in front of him. Her eyes were caked in a paste of sand and blood, and were starting to puss. He kissed his bottle and poured the liquid slowly into her sockets. Evie turned her face away quickly.
“Ah! What is that? It hurts!”
"That is my friend al...alco...alcohaul. It’ll disinfect your face."
Evie nodded slowly and kept still; wincing as her eyes were cleaned.
"Shh...there we go..." Con rinsed her eyes slowly and cleaned the sand out as best he could. He then moved onto the scratches on her knees with the extra. Evie winced and put her cloth back on.
When Con was done he swirled the tiny amount of liquid around in the bottle and sighed sadly. Evie touched his hand.
“Thank you, Mister.”
Con looked over and smiled a bit. ”Aw shucks, Vodka."
He looked past her and stood, squinting a bit.
"I can see a town I think; in that distance there." Again he pointed, and Evie pretended she knew where he was pointing. ”Be there real soon, and I can get myself s’more beer!"
“I wonder if Ireane would have gone through there. If we hurry, we might still be able to catch up.”
Evie started to walk, but Con stopped her. ”Hey, I can’t let ya go on walkin’ again. What if you fall an’ I don’t notice? You could hurt yourself."
“But we can’t stop now!”
"Aw, hush Vodka. I got this."
He reached down and hauled her onto his shoulders; she gasped and reached to hold on. She found his shoulders surprisingly solid; not like the first time she tried to touch him; and he had been holding her before. She was thankful for that, and he started walking.
"You know, you’s pretty light for a boy."
When they neared the town Con let Evie down on her insistence.
“If they can’t see you, they might think I’m flying and call the guards.”
"The po-po? Shit. They might get mad at me for crashing that truck..."
“I...don’t think that will be the problem. And your beer. You have one, right?”
"Y-up. Snagged it from a dead guy."
“That was your corpse. Anyway, I think you should put it down now.”
"What!? My BEER!?"
“Well they’ll see it, Mister!”
Con sighed and dropped the bottle. ”Aw Hell, it was empty anyway..."
Evie held tight onto Con’s hand as they walked into town. It was sometime in the afternoon by then, and people were out walking. It was a small town, and even that was saying a lot. Most of the houses were on the outskirts or an hour-or-so away. People came here to shop or drink or get supplies. There was a liquor store, a pub, a gas station slash convenient store, a hardware store and a clothes store slash grocer’s. There was also a truck stop on the edge of town.
"You go there if ya wanna hitch."
"You know, get a free ride."
“You think Ireane might’ve gone there to ‘hitch’?”
Con shrugged. ”Maybe. But why don’t we go to the pub and get you cleaned up? People are staring."
Evie sunk her body in a bit and realized that she was still covered in blood. She let Con lead her to the pub. He opened the door for her, and she walked in.
The pub was dark and damp; a few people were eating or drinking at the counter, and a group of young men were playing pool. It smelled of beer, sweat and urine, but it had a bathroom. A few patrons stared at Evie as she walked around, but no one seemed to stop her.
Con lead her into the bathroom, then told her he’d be at the counter, testing if he could be seen or not. In truth, he wanted some beer.
Evie closed the door and felt around for a sink. She turned the cold water on and started to wash her face and hands. She wished that Con had stayed, since she couldn’t tell where the blood was now that it was dry, but she did her best. She then took her eye cloth of and washed it. She had just put it back on when the door opened.
“Mister? Is that you?”
There was no reply, just footsteps coming closer to her. She stepped back upon hearing more than one set. A man waved his hand in front of her face and smiled.
“Well lookie here, a blind nigger.”
Some men laughed in the background.
“I’m just blind. And I’m a girl, not a ‘nigger’.”
“Oh, I think you’s a nigger, girl.” A new voice smirked.
“I don’t understand...”
“We don’t like your kind in here, kid. You’re dirty.”
“Oh! Well I’ve been walking outside and fell down a lot. I’m washing up now and-”
One of the men pushed her and she stumbled back. “Yer skin, nigger. We don’t like it.”
“My...skin? I don’t understand...”
“It’s black, you idiot!”
Evie turned her head in the direction of the voice. “I don’t even know what ‘black’ is!”
“Stupid blind... Maybe we should teach her just why she’s dirty, eh boys?”
The men started to chuckle, and Evie stepped back to the wall. “G-Go away! I haven’t done anything wrong!”
“You were born wrong, nigger!”
Evie screamed as the men came after her, and Con ran to the bathroom. The patrons in the bar jumped as several bottle crashed to the ground for seemingly no reason.
Con tried desperately to pull the men away, but phased right through them. Then he ran to Evie.
"Open those eyes wide, ya hear?" He said, and pulled her eye cloth off. The men stepped back in horror as Evie stared at them through black, puss-ing holes. Con picked up her hand and raised it to her eye, then put one of her fingers in it and twisted. All the men could see, of course, was an eyeless girl twisting her finger in blood and puss, then walking towards them.
"Say what I says."
Evie spoke. “Come to me, boys. I could use some eyes a’ my own, and yours look so nice...”
“SHE’S A DEVIL!” One yelled at her.
The man in front turned and ran, pushing the others over. They stumbled down and one hit his head on a table. Evie kept walking slowly forward until Con told her that they had left. She then ran back into the bathroom and Con showed her how to lock the door.
Evie rushed to Con and hugged him tight, crying dry heaves.
"Don’t you got any tears, Vodka?"
Evie shook her head and held on tighter. Con frowned and hugged her, petting her head.
"Shh... It’s okay now. They all gone."
“I-I don’t understand! I hadn’t done anything! I was washing even! I wasn’t dirty!”
"They said you was dirty?"
She nodded and clutched at his shirt. “They called me ‘black’ and said I was a ‘nigger’. I don’t even know what that means!”
Con sighed heavily. ”Those words don’t mean nothin’. People just think that ’cause of how ya look. But jokes on them, ’cause you can’t see!"
Slowly, Evie started to smile. “Am I a ‘nigger’, Mister?”
"No. You a person."
“A-Am I a rat?”
Con stroked her head. ”I’s told ya; you a person."
Con helped Evie clean the blood off herself and held her hand as they walked out. Again people stared at her, but for different reasons now. Con grabbed a fresh bottle on his way out, and most of the patrons just looked away and thought it best not to even notice it.
Evie breathed deeply as they walked through the town and towards the truck stop. There was so much around her that she didn’t understand; so much to listen for. She could hear people taking, and large engines like what Con had passing by in the distance; she heard coins dropping and bottles smashing. In the distance, past he engines, she heard clucking and large feet stamping the ground.
“What’s that?” She asked, pointing in the general direction of the noise.
"I think those’re horses. Always stamping around like fucking bosses; they’ll run ya over if you ain’t careful."
“And what is a ‘horses’?”
"An animal, Vodka. You know, they neigh. Have ’em on them ‘sound an’ say″s."
Evie shook her head and listened for neighing. She smiled when she heard it. She tried to listen harder, but was interrupted by some whispering.
"There was another one around here yesterday wearing that... Do you think there’s a cult around?"
"I dunno... Maybe."
“Mister! They people over there saw Ireane maybe! Can you lead me over there please?”
Con nodded and moved his beer behind Evie’s back before leading her over.
“Excuse me? Hello.”
A man and woman looked down at her; wincing a bit that a possible cult member was talking to them right after they had been talking about her.
“Y-Yes, little girl?”
“Did you see someone else around who looked like me?”
“Uh...yeah. She was wearing that outfit; saw her yesterday.”
“Can you tell me where she went please?”
The man looked over to the woman, and she shrugged.
“She came around nightfall and I saw her hanging around the stop. I was in the attached diner and she went in a...red truck?” He looked to the woman, who nodded. “Yeah. Red truck. “B&G” branding. Left with ’er.”
“Thank you.” Evie started to walk away, when the woman put a hand on her shoulder.
“What’s on your eyes there?”
“Oh uh...it protects them from...the sun. I’m blind and can’t tell when it’s light out.”
The woman frowned. “How are you going to find the truck then?”
“I...I don’t know. Luck maybe?” She couldn’t mention she had some unseen help; or so she thought.
“Well all the trucks stop at the diner, at they wear their worker’s caps. Someone probably knows him. Just ask for “B&G”.”
Evie nodded and went off in the direction of the diner. Con, of course, forgot to move his beer from her back to her front, and left the couple convinced that there was a new cult in the area.
Evie hung on tight to Con as they neared the diner. All around her were the sounds of large engines and spitting. She could smell gas and sweat in a putrid mixture, and someone spat at her once as she walked by.
"Don’t even worry about it, Vodka. He stupid as Hell."
Once at the diner, Con opened the door and led her to an open spot at the counter. The lunch rush was just ending, so most of the men were out smoking.
“Hello lil’ miss. Can I get you somethin’?” A large woman with tied-back ginger hair said; a smile in her voice.
“I’m looking for Mister ‘B&G’. Have you seen him?”
“‘B&G’? Let me see... He went off with a white-dressed girl with an attitude a couple a’ hours ago. She your friend? You’re dressed the same.”
“I’m just looking for her. Do you know where they went?”
The woman saw the slight stains of blood on Evie’s clothing and frowned. “Say, would you like some pancakes or something?”
Evie looked puzzled. “I...don’t know what those are.”
The woman almost gasped. “You don’t know ’bout pancakes? You know what; I’ll get you some, then ask around ’bout that ‘B&G’. How’s that sound?”
“Oh, that would be nice. Thank you, ...?” Evie smiled in the woman’s general direction.
“‘Miss Jenny’. Now, I’ll go get those griddles for ya.”
Evie smiled and whispered to Con when she had left. “I thought she was getting ‘panned cakes.’”
"They’s the same thing."
“Oh...” She nodded in slight understanding and awe.
A bit later Miss Jenny came back and set something sweet-smelling and hot in front of Evie.
“Now, these are...oh. Can you see, honey?”
“No Miss Jenny.”
She smiled. “Well, these are pancakes. They smell buttery, right? Got buttermilk an’ everything in ’em. Now, to this side is syrup. It’s hot now, so I’ll pour it for ya.”
Miss Jenny put the syrup near Evie’s nose so she could smell it. When Evie smiled, she slowly poured the syrup on her cakes and handed Evie and fork.
Evie put her fingers softly on the plate and moved her fork down. The cakes had already been cut for her, and she took a piece up to her mouth. Miss Jenny waited for her first bite eagerly. Evie put the food in her mouth and swallowed almost immediately; as she normally did with food. But this was different; this didn’t taste like barely or mush; it tasted sweet and fluffy. She took another bite and chewed slowly, to make sure it was real. She chewed it about fifty times before swallowing; and when she did, she started to cry a bit.
“Wh-what’s wrong, honey? Is it too hot?”
“I-It...it’s people food...isn’t it?”
“Well a’ course...”
Evie moved her head up to face Miss Jenny. “I’ve never had people food before. Thank you.”
Miss Jenny was silent for a long while; so long that Evie thought she had left. “Eat as much as you like, honey. I’mma find out exactly where that trucker went.”
Evie ate slowly; chewing at least fifty times before swallowing. People sitting at the counter couldn’t help but stare at how much she was enjoying her food. Some people even ordered the pancakes to see what the fuss was about. Evie could hear them whispering about her a bit, but she didn’t care. This wasn’t cattle feed; this was food, and she planned to enjoy every bite of it.
“I found your ‘B&G’, honey. He went West with that friend of yours; to BurnTown. It’s at the edge of the desert, close to the city.”
“There’s a city near here?”
“It’s...not exactly near. It’s about a twelve-hour drive.”
“How long of a walk would it be?”
Miss Jenny frowned. “Oh, honey...that’d take a day an’ a half at least. You can’t walk that.”
“I can now that I’ve had some food.” Evie smiled; Miss Jenny smiled sadly.
“Let me see what I can do. You want s’more pancakes?”
Evie reached down and grabbed Con’s wallet, which she had put in her shoe, and handed it to Miss Jenny. “Do I have enough?”
Miss Jenny rejected the wallet. “On the house, honey. Now I’ll go see if I can get you into town...”
Missy Jenny walked away and Evie whispered to Con again. “I thought this was a diner...”
"Them griddles are free; that’s what she means."
“I found ya a ride!” Miss Jenny exclaimed, walking up to Evie, who was now enjoying her second plate of pancakes. “There’s a ‘Hog Time’ trucker headin’ up to BurnTown today, an’ she’s going to have to stay the night. She says she’ll let you hitch if you’re quiet.”
“I can be quiet!”
She smiled at Evie’s enthusiasm and went to her side of the counter. “Good, but ya gotta go now. She’s a bit impatient.”
Miss Jenny led Evie, who led Con, to the ‘Hog Time’ truck, where a short woman was standing. She had brown hair in a ponytail and ’Hog Time” cap. She had a cigarette in her mouth and wore a green plaid shirt; tied up at the waist and arms so it would fit her. Her jeans were sun-bleached and worn, and she wore steel-toed boots with spikes on the front. She looked up at Evie and Miss Jenny as she finished her cigarette and replaced it with toothpick.
“Yup. She’s a good kid, so she won’t cause you no trouble.”
She wasn’t too much taller than Evie, but she looked down on her none the less. “She’d better not.”
Miss Jenny nudged Evie on and the woman led her into the truck’s cab before getting in herself. Her seat was a bit higher than Evie’s, and the wheel of the truck looked much bigger on her short body than it did on most truckers. She pulled her horn cord and started off; it wasn’t long until they were on a dirt road.
“My name’s Evie.”
There was a pause.
“What’s your name?”
Evie nodded and leaned back in the large seat. She could hear the engine and the tires, and it confused her a bit.
"Ain’t too social, is she?"
Evie shook her head subtly.
"Cute though." Con muttered as he raised his bottle to his lips. Danny looked back in the mirror and raised an eyebrow.
“Somebody back there!?” She growled. When there was no answer, and she couldn’t see anything else, she shrugged. Evie made a motion with her head, trying to tell Con to ‘be careful’.
"Sorry, Vodka. I’s just thirsty."
“So, kid.” Danny said, breaking the silence. “What’s with the band-aids?”
Evie looked confused.
"Your eye cloth."
“Oh! I’m...blind. It protects my...eyes.”
“Well I knew you were blind, idiot. I helped you to the truck for a reason.”
“What’ll happen if they come off?”
“It usually hurts. Sun, sand...all these things I can’t see will get into to my...eyes. And it will hurt.”
And it was silent again.
“Have you...always done truck stuff?” Evie asked, listening to the engine.
“Yup. First job. It’ll probably be m’ last too.”
“Is truck hard?”
“Truck. This is a truck. We’re in the truck. You are truck the truck.”
Danny glanced at Evie and raised an eyebrow. “I’m driving the truck. You stupid or somethin’?”
“No... I just...never learned about this stuff.”
Danny scoffed a bit. “Well drivin’ ain’t hard...if you can see.”
“The day the blind’s start drivin’ ’ll be the day Hell comes up to take baby Jesus away.”
Evie opened her mouth to say something, then decided it was better left un-said.
“So why you wanna go to BurnTown?”
“Someone I know ‘hitched’ there. I need to find her.”
“Oh? You seem a little young to be havin’ a girlfriend worth followin’ that far.”
“Well she...is important. To me, at least.”
“How old is you anyway?”
"Twelve? An’ your here all by yourself, hitchin’ with a stranger? Where’re your parents kid?”
“You know, your mother and father.”
“Oh, well they’re dead. Most of them, anyway...”
Danny glanced at Evie once more; eyebrow raised. “You live in some sort a’ brothel?”
"Don’t ask. Just say ‘no’."
“No. No I don’t.”
Danny shrugged and went back to the road. Things were quiet after that, and Evie started to waver. Danny looked over.
“How ’bout you sleep for a bit, kid? It’ll be quieter for me anyway...”
Evie sighed and leaned her head against the window. Con held onto her hand and stroked it gently with his thumb, letting her know he’d watch out for her, and she drifted slowly into sleep.
"Clever girl, sneaking off with others. Are you going to kill her too?"
“No...I don’t want to kill anyone...”
"Oh, so you’re a liar now too?"
“I’m not a liar!”
"Shut up! We knew she was already, so why even bother ASKING her questions. Not a word of truth can leave those lips."
"Should’ve been born without those instead of without eyes, lab rat. Be better for all of us..."
Evie woke with a gasp and the swirling voices dissipated. Danny was still driving, and Con held firm to her hand.
“What the Hell was that about?” Danny asked, eyes on the road.
“I...had a bad dream.”
“I’d fucking say so! You were thrashing around an’ moanin’...”
“I’m sorry if it was noisy.”
“Creepy is what it was.”
Evie sat up in her chair. “How long have you been truck?”
“Driving. And about eight hours now; in total.”
“That means there’s...only four more to go?”
“Y-up. Then you can get outta my cab.”
“What does ‘Hog Time’ mean?”
“That’s the company I’m delivering for. I got me a contract for, like, thirty-seven hundred deliveries. Set cash, that’s what that is. They have pork ‘n’ shit... Tastes like crap but hey, I don’t have to buy it.”
“And what does ‘B&G’ mean?”
“‘Baker and Garder’. They sell clothes. It’s a good place to work for if you’re short on cash. They give you a free hat, free shirt and a coupon for delivering.”
“Coupon...?” Evie whispered to no one in particular.
“Cash off stuff. Look, if you’s gunna ask every definition for every word you don’t know, this is gunna be a long drive.”
Evie decided to keep quiet after that.
Evie fell asleep two more times on her way to BurnTown. She thought a lot, too. She thought about how strange everything was, and how she never knew about it. She thought about how good pancakes were, and the art of truck; but most of all, she thought about how she was travelling through a place she never even knew existed, that had been just outside her unreachable door.
“You’ve been awful quiet lately,” Danny mentioned, turning the truck to the left.
“Is that bad?”
“...ehhh.” Danny wavered her hand a bit. “Just...unusual I guess.”
“I was just thinking about how everything’s supposed to be.”
“And how is it supposed to be?”
“Far away. Very, very far away.”
When they drove into BurnTown Danny helped Evie out of the cab and stretched. Evie fell down at first, and Con had to catch her and set her down.
“Whoa; careful kid. You gotta take it slow.”
Evie nodded and slowly made her way up to her feet.
“Sittin’ in a cab for twelve hours can wear ya down.”
Again, Evie nodded.
“Listen, you’s better find somewhere to sleep, kid. It’s one in the morning; the creeps are out.”
“Well where are you sleeping?”
"I’m sleeping in my cab; and I ain’t got room for two.”
“Oh...okay. I’ll find somewhere else. Don’t worry.”
Danny finished stretching and got back in her truck. “I wasn’t.”
The truck door slammed and Evie started walking. It was cold out, and it reminded her of her first night outside.
"Ain’t she just a ray of fucking sunshine?"
“Don’t be mean, Mister. She drove us a long way ‘on the house’.”
Con smiled and pet Evie’s short hair. ”Still. She was rude there, so’s I stole her beer."
Con lifted up a four-pack of bottles and smiled. Evie heard the slight clanking of the glass and sighed before walking on.
“Do you think Ireane would be out this late?”
“But you were drunk.”
"And I still am!" Con laughed and threw his empty bottle away, grabbing another one from the pack. Evie took a deep breath and listened. She listened for a sound; something that might lead her in the right direction. But this town was silent, and all she could hear was wind...and Con.