Rose's consciousness swam upward in her head, as though through thick cobwebs. With an effort she opened her eyes and came to herself in a dark place. She was lying on a hard, plastic surface of some kind.
It was a safe space, she could tell. The mutter and grumble of the city was far away, muted. She must be surrounded with good stuff, she must be in someone's shelter. But not hers. Hers was familiar and comforting. But this was alien, cramped, stuffy, not hers...
And there was someone in here with her. He was being very quiet, not breathing, barely even thinking, but he was awake, and aware of her.
Oh dear Goddess, she thought, what if it's the Hook? What if he felt me when I was with that poor girl in the truck and he's after me? I am so screwed...
Abruptly, the presence was gone. He had not moved, he had not gone to sleep or lost consciousness. He was simply ... gone. Rose wondered then if she had only dreamed him.
She tried to get up, but it seemed that her arms and legs were made out of lead. She eventually struggled into a sitting position, but flashbulbs behind her eyelids warned her she was dangerously close to passing out.
Suddenly there was light. A woman stood in a doorway, an impossible woman wearing a tee-shirt over a thong bikini, who was covered with phantasmagoric tattoos. Rose knew her name the instant she saw her.
"Indra?" Rose called.
The other swore, and slammed the door. Rose felt a moment of panic, was aware that it was both hers and Indra's. It was dark again, and chains rattled around the door. But what had she seen? This room was tiny, barely five feet high and four wide. There was no place for anyone else to have even been. Its walls, ceilings, and floor were gently curved, rounded in the corners. They were brightly colored, patchwork... Rose suddenly realized that the entire room was bare, coated several inches thick in movie posters, and a layer of clear polyester plastic over all of it. The door was a slab of hand-carved oak.
And then the room began to move, to rock and sway. Rose felt it take a corner and realized she must be inside of some kind of truck.
"Philo, she's awake." Indra swung down into the passenger seat of the vehicle, next to the driver. "I didn't get the cuffs on her, I just locked the door shut. She fucking picked up my name in one second flat. MY name. Nobody can do that. She's way strong, stronger'n anybody."
"Doesn't mean she's the Hook, Indra," said the driver. "Just means she could be. Are we safe with her up there?" Philo jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "The box is good, but if she's strong enough to..."
"It's what we got, Philo," said Indra. "If it ain't good enough, we're dead anyway, so let's not worry about it."
They rode in silence. It was after eight and there were people all over the place now, pointing and staring at the wild Castle Car. They headed south, making for the San Mateo Bridge. Philo wanted to get out of the city as fast as possible, but there was some kind of construction on the Bay Bridge that had lowered its clearance too much for the Carstle.
Reflecting on the dilemma at hand, Philo shrugged and smiled. Indra, bless her heart, was right, as usual. Whether they lived or died, there was no point not enjoying it. It was a warm, sunny day. Birds were singing. The Carstle was in good tune. Its new air shocks had smoothed out the ride and the motor was purring. And inside its dungeon, they had a pale, thin, beautiful, vulnerable looking redheaded woman who just might be the single most dangerous, treacherous, and evil thing this side of Hell.
God, Philo figured, must have a funny sense of humor. Philo appreciated that, because Philo had a funny sense of humor too. He turned on the stereo and a Chanticleer mix tape he'd made with a throbbing techno bass line started playing. He flipped over a double-throw knife switch under the dash to cut in the PA speakers and share it with the world. Then he lit up a cigarette, adjusted his collar, grinned a broad grin, and started waving back at the gawkers on the street.
YOU ARE READING
This is a story that tells, among other things, why it really sucks to be psychic, what people who endlessly collect art and trivia are really doing, and where Gods, Goddesses and Devils come from. Rose is a telepath - but it isn't really "readin...