Friday, June 14, 2013

Terror In a Tiny Town: a convenience store discovery on a honeymoon trip (from I'd Go Anywhere With You, by Cecil Disharoon)

Late that afternoon, Lewis felt sympathy for his new bride’s queasiness, and offered to pull off at a convenience store. He found it interesting, to ponder what encounters each one might hold, what kind of people worked at each one and frequented each one. When you are from out of town, after all, you never can tell what makes one better than the next. There is a self-contained feeling with long road trips, as one encounters places never seen again, passing through.

This particular stop contained a real blast from the past. There, on the magazine rack, just as they were years ago when he mowed lawns and saved the pittance of grade incentive money from his parents. Comic books! He tried not to dawdle in getting a cold drink and snack back to the car. His choice was obvious: a big reprint volume of stories, starting with a triple-sized issue that came out a couple of years before he could earn money to buy issues of his own. He smelled the air floating down from the red clay of the mountain looming across the street. He invited his love to relish a stretch. She commented on his one splurge item with a smile.

“Yeah, I don’t when I last bought one,” he said, grinning. “Last thing I got was a surreal run of issues of Shade, the Changing Man, and Kid Eternity, from a discount box. This one’s all classic superheroes. In fact, the guy who wrote this first one also drew it and embellished it with ink, for printing, which is pretty unusual in the industry. I always wanted to read it! Hope you don’t mind.” “Anything that makes you smile like that is money well spent,” she said gently. “How about I read it to you while we drive?” “No kidding? Okay, if you feel up to it!”

Without pictures, highway miles often blur one into the next. Gina’s reading, however, came complete with voices for the characters, or at least, inflections, and one day, those pages would become a link with those miles. Occasionally he could look over and take it in, but mostly he settled for a mere glimpse. Reading invigorated her, as she kicked her tennis shoes off and propped up her tiny feet. The story introduced the family of heroes enjoying small town life, with the loves of their lives and favorite occupations, in peace. It fit well with the sleepy places that went by the window. Lewis thought he and Gina were themselves rather unusual adventurers, glancing at so many potential places where they could try some quiet life together.

The arch nemesis of the piece, however, had contrived all their fondest dreams as his trap. After all---if they had everything they needed and longed for, who would know it was a trap? Why would they ever want to escape? Giving them their desires was a brilliant way of getting what he wanted! They would be his tiny dolls, fooled into a dream world. He would have their energies and lord his superiority over them, and they would never try to stop him again. Eventually, their wits revealed the deception, hard as it was to accept. Worst of all, however, even if they fought their way to freedom, they had a glimpse of their hearts’ desires, which might never be theirs to keep. They had been sorely tempted by an illusion, and had to tell themselves reality, however bitter, was better because it was the truth. What they learned there, nonetheless, would have lasting repercussions, especially for the one member for whom a normal life was sadly impossible.

Gina and Lewis had a good conversation afterwards about all these themes, and drove deep into the night. They had breached the Kansas line when they finally could between them drive no further. They simply bundled up in the back seat to keep out the cold, occasionally turning on the engine to prevent icing and to let the heater keep them healthy. They lined the windows off, piled under everything cloth they had handy, including their jackets, and drifted off peacefully.

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