Pretty sure Linda isn’t human.
We were watching Bringing Up Baby, having a grand old time and these two men came stomping in and Linda looked around with her usual smile, and then she saw who it was and she lurched to her feet to get away from them.
“I thought we might find something like you around here.” The bigger of the two — a big brute with hairy knuckles — caught the tube from her oxygen tank and tugged it off.
Immediately Linda began to clutch at her chest.
I obviously started screaming, which is p much my go-to solution. “What the fuck are you doing? What’s wrong with you?” that sort of thing.
The other man, who was bald in the skin-head kind of way, said, “you even know what you’re trying to protect bitch?”
So I shouted, “you can’t just come in and take someone’s oxygen!!!!!!!”
The skin head one laughed. “It’s not even oxygen!”
Which gave me brief pause and I turned to look at Linda, who was making desperate gasping gulping sounds, eyes frantic. Her knees buckled and she fell half way into her chair, half back onto the floor.
I decided I didn’t care what was in the tanks. I launched myself over the counter at Hairy Knuckles, and I must have caught him off guard because he couldn’t quite bat me away fast enough and we both went toppling sideways into Skin Head. I banged my hip on the counter on the way over it, and then Hairy Knuckles grabbed for my face to try and push me off, but he caught my tooth and my mouth filled with blood. We must have made some kind of commotion because within a few moments another trucker stormed in, bellowing, and pulled Hairy Knuckles off me.
“What the hell is this?” he demanded.
I skidded to the coffee window and seized the shotgun from the under the desk.
The whole room got real still.
“Out,” I said, aiming it at them.
“You know how to use that thing?” Skin Head sneered. Luckily I haven’t quite learned nothing hunting with the Hawthornes. I cocked it and it made that bad ass shot gun noise.
“Get out,” I said and they listened to me. My hands started to shake the moment they left the room. I dumped the gun and retrieved Linda’s oxygen.
Except that as I was scrambling to get the tank and tubes all in order, I realized that it really wasn’t oxygen. It was helium.
Linda was lying on her back on the floor chest rising and falling rapidly. I put the little tubes into her nose and when it didn’t seem to be helping I put my hand over her mouth.
It only took a moment before she took a long breath and her eyes opened — which is when I noticed that she totally had a second set of eyelids, sliding back and forth under her human-looking pair.
“You okay?” I asked.
She nodded. “I’m okay now,” she managed and her voice sounded strange and low. She managed a creaky smile and I noticed that her tongue was lightly forked. “You saved my life just now I think. Oxygen doesn’t agree with me so much.”
The trucker came and helped Linda up.
“Who were those guys?” he asked. Linda shook her head and waved him off.
“Oh they come sometimes,” she said. “It’s okay, I always deal with them.”
I was horrified, but when I pressed her she just said, “some people just don’t understand what it’s like to land in a strange world all by yourself.” She smiled at me. “But some people do.”
She reached to squeeze my hand. Her skin was dry and soft as vellum.
So instead of being super dramatic, we finished Bringing Up Baby. I brushed my teeth to get that guy’s blood taste out of my mouth. Then I finally asked why the sun wouldn’t set or rise.
Linda barely looked up from Katharine Hepburn when she said, “well I don’t know why not dear, but it took me ages to find a place like this and I’m not about to leave, no matter who comes looking for me.”
Fair enough Linda.
Just a few hours later, she was making coffee by the window and said, “Well Shiloh, are these your boys?”
I knocked over the ratty old office chair in my rush to get to the window.
Sure enough, climbing out of their criminally uncool car and looking slightly sheepish were Neal and Julian.
“Finally,” I groaned and headed to the door to greet them.
I was just relieved to see them as I wrenched open the door but by the time they’d seen me and were waving me over, I was furious again.
“There you are!” Neal called. “Thought you’d like to stay at the truck stop didja?”
I was so pissed.
Julian must have seen this because he said, “we didn’t notice that you get out of the car.”
They were talking like they’d been gone maybe five minutes not some indeterminate amount of time that felt closer to five days.
Clearly they were expecting me to be self righteous and indignant and demand we go to finally go to New York City (which I’ve been asking to do for like a month) but I couldn’t think of what to say. I just stared at them.
Then I said, “give me a sec.”
Linda had followed me tentatively outside. She smiled when I turned back towards her.
“You ready?” she asked.
I nodded. Then I gave her a hug, which I think startled her a little. I said, “Thanks for everything.”
“Oh any time honey,” she replied. “Thank you! Come back and see me.” She smiled at me and peeked over my shoulder at Neal and Julian. “They’re very nice-looking aren’t they? That one looks like a young Montgomery Clift.”
She meant Neal. I wouldn’t have known who Montgomery Clift was except we’d just watched Red River. I’m outraged to report that he sort of does resemble a more unkempt Montgomery Clift.
Anyways, I said a last goodbye to Linda, and then I marched towards them and got into the car. The boys looked at each other, concerned, before following me.
“Everything okay back there?” Julian asked.
“Just drive,” I said, and Neal put the keys in the ignition and did so.
We drove a while. I watched my phone, waiting for it to get service. It only took about a hundred yards out of the parking lot for the time to come up. It was 6:17 pm Friday evening. It had been maybe twenty minutes since we’d pulled off the highway.
I told them what happened as we got to open road.
“Shit,” Neal said.
“I’ve heard of something like that,” Julian said. “Liminal spaces that become… well, more and more liminal. Hunters patrol them sometimes, from what I understand. Creatures like to collect there. I’ve never seen one though.”
But is he sure about that? I mean none of us would have noticed there was anything strange about that rest stop except that I happened to get stuck there for longer than anyone else ever has. Anyone except Linda, that is.
I didn’t tell them about Linda. She’s not doing anyone any harm. I don’t know what their policy is for creatures that don’t do anything wrong, and it isn’t like I think they’d hunt her or anything. I just figure it’s better she’s left alone.
We drove maybe an hour before the sun set and it finally got dark. Julian fell asleep in the passenger seat so it was just me and Neal, so I said, “I could have hitched a ride out of there you know. I could have just gone home.”
I caught his eye briefly in the rearview.
“You could have,” he agreed.
“I thought about it,” I said.
We were listening to Nick Drake. Julian music. For a while that was the only sound in the car, but then Neal said, “I’ll take you home any time you like Shiloh, it’s no trouble.”
I sighed and leaned against window. “No,” I said. “That’s not what I meant.”
“Okay,” he said gamely.
“I think I want to be here,” I said, and chanced a glance at him. He smiled.
“Idiot,” he said, affectionate.
“I know,” I said.
After a moment, “You don’t want to run off to art school?” he said. “Grow into your early-twenties art-ho ennui? Discover the meaninglessness of the universe?”
“Oh please,” I said. “No one can out-ennui me at this point. I literally died once. I don’t need art school to be the #edgiest art bitch in the game.” I watched out the window. “Anyways,” I said. “I think probably helping people not die might be good for me.”
Neal huffed his amusement. “I still won’t let you come on cases,” he said. When I didn’t rise to the bait he added, “You’re not ready.”
Neal scoffed. “You’re still not sleeping,” he said. “You still spend forty five minutes every morning staring at your eye in the mirror.”
I hadn’t realized he knew I did that. Yikes.
“Ever shot a gun?” he continued, “Ever backpacked? Ever worked with wild animals?”
He rolled his eyes. “Feather Dog is a kitten compared to what’s out there. Plus, girl you look 14 on a good day.”
“I’ll get an eye patch,” I said. “That’ll age me up, right?”
Neal laughed, but didn’t budge. “Give it time,” he said. “We’ll teach you. But we’re trying this thing where we don’t put the teenage girl we kidnapped in mortal danger.” And that was the end of that. So annoying.
The boys say it’s okay if I start posting on my blog again, so long as I’m careful about it. So that’s exciting. I’ve missed writing on this thing, especially since I have literally nothing else to do. So I’m back! Check in Mon, Wed, Fri for updates. Or you can subscribe I guess. It would cool to know there are other people out there. Tell me more about liminal spaces. Tell me anything really, I’m so bored.