He kept grinding away at the coals with a stick. A couple of hot ashes settled onto his clothes but he didn’t brush them off. They left little burn marks on his pants. “Kinda felt like that,” he said. “Like someone had grabbed me. Or someone was watching. – Or like it was me being buried, not him.”
“It was weird, Man. Your face got all grimacey; it was like everything inside you was backing away, but your body got stuck.
“There really is something about that place, isn’t there? We have got to go back out there. Figure out what’s real from what’s Memorex.”
“That’s a TV commercial, right?”
“There you go getting snotty again. You are in one pisser of a mood tonight, Injun Joe. Maybe I should just leave you out here to cry into your water cup. You gonna tell me what’s eatin’ you?”
He took a few false starts, but finally got going. “It makes no sense. Just some grave in the middle of nowhere, from a long time ago. Not even a whole name on it. Nobody I knew. Why should that bother me? It makes no sense.”
I slapped my leg right in the middle of what he was saying, interrupting him again. “Hey! I know how you knew the name of his horse. You’re getting the dreams now, aren’t ya? They’re coming to you now.”
“So what’re you seeing in them? What are they showing you?”
“Someone dying; someone I loved. Someone else in such pain for such an awful long time it ate away at her. All I could do was just stand there and watch; couldn’t do nothin’ about it.”
“Couldn’t do nothin’?”
“Yeah, that’s the important part of all this; make fun of my grammar. Thank you for your deep, caring, sensitive soul. You can leave any time.”
“No, no, wait. Listen. That might be a key. When the dreams sink in hard, it’s like they take me over; I start talkin’ in this hillbilly dialect. It’s how I know I’m getting close.
“I mean, maybe you just got your words tangled, y’know, and that’s all they was to it. That just happens; we all slip now ’n’ agin; but what if there’s more to it than that? Maybe you’re bein’ pulled into this mess now, too. Maybe like you said, whatever this is, it needs both of us.”
“Oh, God.” He had been distractedly swirling his drink around in his cup, but on this, he froze solid, squeezing his knuckles white. “I don’t want to see no more. It hurts s’bad.”
“We’re goin’ back in agin, ain’t we?” I asked.
“Don’t got no choice.”
Breezes moaned all that night. I sifted through dreams on haunting shadows of longing, but Waters was somewhere else entirely.
He kept building up the fire, but still sat there shivering.
– What I got when I went into my Amazon site for “The Mourning After,” and punched “Surprise me” for an excerpt.