See Jack Die

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Chapter 54

Las Colinas.

Saturday night . . .

Ricky told me about this cool part of Las Colinas that had these big bronze horse statues in the middle of this business park. Under the horses there is a small fountain, with all these little rivers that run along near the horses’ feet and it looks like they’re running across the water. Ricky says that he comes here when he wants to just sit back and think about life-n-shit.

So, we’re reflecting. He’s kneeling down near the edge of the glowing water, wiggling his fingers on the surface. People are walking around, looking at the statues, talking on cell phones, or courting young lovers. This is a pretty cool place.

I’m sitting about halfway up this stepped wall with water trickling around me. The architects who designed this, they must have taken a bunch of old pictures of the Wild West and then hit a bunch of acid. It’s a mixture of new and old, techno and nostalgia, and it’s just noisy enough to be comfortable. You can get lost in the ambiance of cascading water and people’s laughing.

In my mind, I’m deciding how far I’m willing to go to save Kristen. I feel that I owe her. I believe that we shared something in our pasts, and I have to know what that was. I don’t think that I’ll learn anything so horrible about myself that I’ll regret my vigilance in remembering. But I know that I will regret not helping Kristen, and Rupert, and the rest of the trapped souls—living out a life of constantly being hunted by hungry creatures in the darkness.

While Ricky and I are here, just relaxing, they are here too, separated by just the tiniest space. But they are scared, cold, and fighting for their lives. I’m ashamed at myself for not being more noble and courageous when I met them Wednesday. I’m not behaving in a savior-like fashion, that’s for sure.

So basically, that’s going on in my mind. That Dr. Monica, my new caseworker with a keen—if not suspicious—ability to understand what is going on in my head, she said I should do it. I should stop at nothing to save Kristen if I possibly could. She said, to not do so would basically begin a downward spin that would destroy my ability to be a decent person, and to ever have a meaningful life. This is what I took from our meeting, anyway.

If I love Kristen, she told me, I must do everything in my power to save her.

As I sit here watching Ricky make an interference pattern in the lighted water, I wonder if it would have been better if my brain was just boiling.

What about that degenerative brain disease?

Where is that malignant tumor I needed?

What ever happened to my decaying cortex?

The spooks. That’s where it all started. Those shadow hopping little bastards of my sleep and dreary awakenings. And then the Book of Sighs. And then the Gatherers. And then Kristen. Then Rupert. And then I’m looking at a room full of scared souls who think I’m some kind of savior to the world.

Maybe I am Saint John the Divine. Perhaps I did reincarnate, or whatever it is saints do when they die and reappear centuries later. But so what? If I don’t have what it takes to be a hero, then what difference does it make?

But I do have something. I have love. I know I love Kristen, because it destroys me to think that I left her alone. Because I need to feel her touch more than I need to eat. I need her eyes looking at me more than I need to breathe. So this . . . this is passion.

Ricky comes up to me, wiping his hands off on his pants. “That chick is fucking with your head, man.”

Which one? I ask him. The girl of my haunted travels, or my new caseworker—who, for reasons I can’t explain, seems to know way more about me than she should?

He smiles, “Your life, even though it’s been arguably short, seems very complicated.”

Oh, I say, just your average everyday problems. No different from the next guy, really. I’m just ambling on by, trying to do the best I can. The day-to-day grind.

“You have a girlfriend who is stuck in some cold, starless hell with all sorts of shit trying to tear her to ribbons.”

True.

“. . . She is the most wonderful woman in your life. But, unfortunately, she’s in the precarious position of being clinically dead.”

Also true.

“Your new shrink seems to be a psychic.”

Disconcertingly true.

“. . . To add to the other psychic, Ms. Josephine, in your life. Who, by the way, can speak with the dead. And with you, when you yourself are dead.”

Yes, yes.

“And in the last week you have been traipsing around a place referred to as the Land of Sorrows . . . as a half-dead saint.”

Well, there is that.

“And the topping on this paranormal cake. The real zinger,” Ricky says with a laugh, “is that you lost all your memory five months ago, and think you can get it back by playing super-savior on the Deadside.”

When you put it like that, I said, it might seem odd. I mean, to the casual observer.

“Me and you, Jack, we need to get out more. Because, from the outside looking in, we’re stone-cold, shithouse rat in a rubber factory crazy. Two loony tunes stuck in Whackoville, you and I.”

Amen to that.

He stood up, “Let’s go get something to eat before the world falls apart.”

As I stood up I assured him, “But Ricky, we’re going to save the world. Remember?”

“No,” he corrected me, “. . . we’re going to save the dead.”

We headed across the street, down a flight of steps, to a river walk that reminded me of pictures of Venice, Italy I had seen in National Geographic. We joked about life and death, as if it was something sophomoric and we had now grown much too wise and enlightened to be bothered by it. But really, we were both scared shitless.

As we walked by the different restaurants, the canal beside us with little gondolas going back and forth, we had a feeling that innocent times like these were numbered.

We knew, Ricky and I, that there was a good chance that one or the both of us might not come out of all of this the same. We didn’t say it, but there was that unspoken realization that I was going to freeze to death by the time all of this was over. He knew, as did I, that my body couldn’t keep taking this repeated hypothermia. We had just chosen not to talk about it.

He knew I was going to do this, whatever it meant risking.

And I knew that he was with me, no matter how far I pushed it.

And the reason that both of us knew these unspoken things between us is that we believed, maybe for the first time in our lives, that we had a purpose. A destiny. And neither of us would let the other turn their backs on that.

Pursuing your destiny . . . that’s a form of passion, too.

But like Dr. Monica said, passion isn’t always positive.


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