Okay, first of all, wow, it's been a while since I updated. It's been a busy couple of months, what with a death in the family and two conventions. I had a lot of fun at Konsplosion and Archon, and I'm looking forward to going back to both next year. I don't have any more solid convention dates for the rest of the year, though Arkansas Anime Fest in November is a possibility, and I may have some coming up with new projects that I'll talk more about later, once everything is finalized.
But for now, here's a taste of Vision Quest for you. Enjoy.
“I’m beginning to see the appeal of car sickness,” Gage said after the first hour on the road. Lucas was leading the way, and I had Linkin Park in the CD player. “At least then I would have something else to focus on than that noise and this God-forsaken landscape.” He looked a little less dapper without his blazer, and no amount of product in the world was going to keep his hair in place in a car doing seventy with the windows down. Okay, seventy-ish. Most of the time. His white shirt was unbuttoned at the top, and it was still visibly damp under his armpits. Of course, the back of my Miskatonic U. shirt was pretty much soaked with sweat, but that wasn’t unusual for an eighty degree morning.
“There’s a box of eight tracks in the trunk,” I said as “Burn It Down” ended. “If you’re looking for something a little more classic rock.”
“I believe I’ll pass,” he said. “Perhaps we can forego the music entirely for a bit.”
“Sure,” I said, and hit the stop button. The Mustang’s muted rumble filled the sudden silence, and I drove on, all the while envying Lucas, whom I could see through his rear window bouncing to whatever he was listening to.
“Lord, what is that smell?” Gage asked a moment later. We had topped a hill, and I could see the rows of white buildings to our left. The morning sun was just hitting them, and we were being treated to the smell of agriculture in action. Below us, I could see the road ahead, with patches of sunlight and shadow from the big, puffy columns of cumulonimbus clouds to the east.
“Fresh air and eau de pig,” I said with a little more relish than the moment called for. In the rearview mirror, I saw Junkyard pop his head up. He sniffed the air for a moment, then nudged at my neck with his nose.
“What is it, big guy?” I asked as we hit the base of the hill. He gave a soft huff of a bark and put a paw on the seat.
“He probably objects to the smell even more than I do,” Gage said. “Though I’m amazed he even has a nose left, given the stench he produced last night.”
I ignored the comment and grabbed the walkie talkie from the middle console. “Lucas!” I called out. There was no response, and I could see his head still bobbing in time with his music. I tried again, but he still didn’t respond so I sped up a little and flashed my headlights at him. It wasn’t until I honked my horn that he noticed me.
“Sorry, dude, what’s up?” he asked over the radio.
“Junkyard’s—” was all I got out before the world around us went dark.
“Whoa!” Lucas called back. “You didn’t just play a glowing ocarina did you?”
“This isn’t me,” I said. “No matter what, you just keep moving till you see sunlight. You got it? Keep heading north.”
“Yeah, I got it! Keep movi—” Lucas’s voice disappeared in the hiss of static. His tail lights came on in front of us and the road in front of him lit up under his headlights. I let up on the gas and watched him pull away.
“Junkyard, backpack,” I said as I opened the top of the center console. The LeMat was nestled inside. I reached over my shoulder and felt Junkyard’s fuzzy head under my hand, so I reached down and followed his jaw until I could grab the handle of my backpack. “Good boy,” I said, and he let go.
“What are you doing?” Gage demanded. He had his phone out and was busy running his finger over the surface of it. “We need to set a ward and call for help!”
“Yeah, you have fun with that,” I said as I dropped the pack into his lap. “And once you figure out you don’t have signal, open that up and grab my Ariakon.” The car coasted to a stop, and I opened the door.
“Your what?” he asked.
“The big pistol-looking thing in the holster-looking thing,” I said as I got out of the car and reached into my front pocket. The smooth, flat surface of my touchstone slid beneath my finger as I fished for what I wanted, finding the rounded surface of the stone Dr. C had given me. I pulled it out and held it in the palm of my open hand. This was different magick than I usually did, mostly because I was asking someone else to do all the heavy lifting. “Little brother, I need roots that go deep and hold strong.” The stone suddenly grew heavy in my hand, and my skin tingled as something out in the darkness turned a powerful and horrible attention on me. The taint of true darkness had a different feel from what we were in the middle of. This was shadow, easily lit. We’d passed under the shadow of a cloud right before this had started, so I was guessing whatever was behind this wasn’t looking to get a tan. And that could work for me. All I needed to do was ground the shadow.
“I found it!” Gage called out, his voice high-pitched and bordering on panic. “Get in the car!”
I stepped away from the Mustang and straddled the yellow line in the middle of the gray asphalt. My left side seemed to tingle more than my right, so I turned my head to face that way.
“I feel you out there,” I said to whatever it was. “I drop a rock on your shadow.” My hand turned slowly, and the rock slid across my palm and fell toward the ground. It seemed to drop forever, and when it hit I could feel a surge of power pulse by me. The world seemed to ripple at my feet for a moment, then it was past, and I heard the otherworldly screech of something Infernal and pissed-off. “What did you just do?” Gage demanded as I slid back behind the steering wheel. “Dropped an anchor on something’s foot,” I said, and then floored it.