“You’re one of them, aren’t you? From… up there. What are you doing here? Walking the dirt amongst the likes of us?”
The stranger frowned, and brought his arms around again to hug his chest, as if trying to stay warm, though the day was warm enough already. “Why do you say that?”
“Your eyes,” the woodcutter said. “Like two bits of sky. Not like we have now, neither. The part of the sky that’s well beyond the clouds – where the dark creeps in, and the stars reach out.”
The stranger smiled, a weak, pale smile, but there seemed to be real amusement in it. “And they said there were no poets down here.”
The woodcutter grunted. “There ain’t. I won’t ask your name – and I won’t give you mine – but I’ll leave my axe by the wall there, so long as you don’t go blazing up again. I got work to do, and falling asleep ain’t on my agenda just now.”
The stranger nodded. “Fair enough.”
“Right then.” The woodcutter brushed his hands together, to loose the last of the sawdust from his palms. “Feel up to a cuppa tea?”
(10:40 p.m., 16,748 words / Words written today: 3,430)
Mitch lifted a hand to gingerly probe his temples, which were pounding so hard he thought he might be on the verge of having a stroke. The name in his mind, the one that seemed to belong to him, felt strange, alien, like a tag some zoo-keeper had arbitrarily hung around his neck. None of the avalanche of images that had flooded into him seemed any more real than a movie flashing on a screen.
“What did you do to me?”
“It’s more what I did through you,” Eve said. “I had to reach someone, and it meant breaking down a few doors along the way. I wouldn’t have done it if I’d had any other choice, believe me.”
Mitch was filled with so many questions, that picking one seemed to take a great effort. He finally settled on, “What the hell are we doing here?”
Eve tucked the filthy scrap of cloth into her jacket pocket, and rocked back on her heels. “I haven’t quite worked that out yet. What I do know is, that I was stupid enough to drag my cousin into all this, and if anything’s happened to him… He’s just a kid, and he’s out there somewhere. I don’t know if they’ve taken him, or what they might have done if they did. All I know is, I have to find him, and get him back home in one piece, or my mom and Francine are going to kill me. And I wouldn’t blame them. Oh, and by the way…” Her head lifted, and her body went very still. Then she slowly reached down, and picked up the long metal pipe. “I think there’s something else down here with us.”
Aidan suspected that the stranger didn’t smile like that normally, might even be surprised if he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. The man looked oddly… happy. Not lost or harried, but happy. Aidan almost wished he hadn’t said anything, found himself thinking that things would have been better if they had never come here at all. He felt somehow that it was his fault – their fault, his and Eve’s. Why couldn’t they leave the man the way he was? It would be kinder, wouldn’t it? He might stay like this forever, or he might gradually fade away, but maybe that’s what heaven was. Maybe the man was dead, and this was his ghost, or his soul, or spirit, or something like that, and this is where he belonged.
“I hate to be the one to tell you this…” Eve began.
The man looked away, the smile slipping, the contentment hardening into something that happiness had no part in.
“You’re going to say you’re sorry again, aren’t you.”
[Final total at the end of the day: 50,280 words for November]