Authors: Poppy Z. Brite
that was the case, Nothing wanted to retrieve Molochai and Twig and get out of
seen Missing Mile; he’d seen his show. There was no place for him here, not
with his new family. Nothing caught up with Zillah and walked alongside him. On
their right was a block of abandoned stores. On their left was a line of parked
cars, windshields reflecting the moonlight back at Nothing. Up ahead he could
make out a figure hunched on the hood of one of the cars.
they walked closer, he saw that it was a girl.
long hair spilled down over the back of her sweatshirt. Closer still, and he
saw that she was crying.
pulled him toward the girl. Surely he couldn’t he hungry again, not after last
night—but Nothing put that out of his mind. He couldn’t do that again, not yet.
And Molochai and Twig weren’t here. When Zillah touched the girl’s shoulder and
asked, “Can we help you, my dear?” Nothing thought he understood. He had
crossed Zillah, and his punishment wasn’t over.
Nothing didn’t care. Zillah could have this girl if he wanted her. Or any girl,
now Nothing knew something he hadn’t known before: Zillah wasn’t just angry
because Nothing had gone against him, or even because Nothing had hurt him.
was jealous too, jealous of Steve and Ghost, of Nothing’s love for them and
their music. The new knowledge coursed through him, making him feel weirdly
powerful, like the time he had shot heroin with Spooky. He could make someone
jealous, even someone as beautiful and charismatic as Zillah. It was a heady
could get used to feeling like that.
head jerked up when the man touched her shoulder. She hadn’t heard him
approaching, probably wouldn’t have heard the march of Sherman coming up the
street. At a better moment she might have welcomed a stranger’s attention, but
right now she knew her bangs were plastered to her forehead, her eye makeup
smeared across her cheeks, the pale complexion she cultivated flushed and
blotchy from crying. Damn Steve Finn, she thought, damn him to death. But then
‘she saw the man who had spoken to her, and she forgot about Steve; she even
forgot that she probably looked like a bag lady on crack.
was transfixed. Her stare flicked over the boy beside him, dismissed him as a
high school trendy, and went back to Zillah. The eyes were amazing, the first
thing anyone would notice. The rest of him wasn’t bad either. He was shorter
than she usually liked her guys, and a little more muscular—Steve and Eliot
each other for the
Crane Bodybuilding Award. But the bones of his face were like a mask carved out
of moonstone, perfect and faintly cruel, the face of an aristocrat. His skin
was smooth and flawless.
he reached out and took one of her hands, dwarfing it in both of his, Ann noticed
the dark tracery of veins beneath his silken skin. After a moment she realized
that these were noticeable because the man had almost no hair on the visible
parts of his body—none on the knuckles or the back of his hand, none at the
open collar of his shirt.
wondered if he was so smooth elsewhere, if she was about to find out. Those
green eyes gave her a reckless feeling. How could you turn down a man who
looked at you with those eyes?
were going back to our car to smoke a touch of opium,” Zillah told the girl.
you care to join us?”
a moment Ann was almost afraid. If he had said “pot” or even “hash,” she would
have thought nothing of it, but who had opium in Missing Mile? She thought of
serial killers, of girls found rolled up in rugs with their arms and legs sawed
off, of toolboxes and power drills.
she straightened her back, thrust out her chest, and smiled. None of that could
happen to her. And if it did—well, then Simon couldn’t practice his emotional
torture on her any more, and Steve would feel so bad that it would almost be
not?” she said. “I haven’t gotten stoned in three weeks.”
slid off the hood of the car, and Zillah took her arm and led her toward the
van. Ann kept her arm squeezed against her body so that his fingers would come
into contact with the
of her breast. He
didn’t move his hand away. Soon she felt his fingers begin to move, subtly
caressing her, a forefinger darting out to graze her nipple. The nipple
shivered erect, and he toyed with it a second longer. Ann felt something
happening in her lower pelvis, a warm throbbing tension. If this man really got
her stoned on opium, he might get more than the quickie he seemed to be looking
Ann nor Zillah looked back to see whether Nothing was following, but after a
moment Nothing did.
tailed Zillah and Nothing, keeping to the shadows, staying a good ways behind.
were well into the rundown section now. All the windows here were boarded up or
saw a milky swath of stars reflected in a long splinter of glass. The stars
were cold in the sky. This part of town was always cold. Even in the middle of
summer, nightwalkers might shiver and pull their light clothes more tightly
glinting spears of glass, the crust of dirt in the gutter, the cloud of steam
that boiled like some gray-white phantom from a sewer grate cast a chill over
walked with his hands in his pockets and his hat pulled down low. Once Zillah
turned his head, and Ghost thought he could see hot green light spilling from
those eyes. He ducked into a dark doorway, his heart beating faster.
and Nothing melted into the cold shadows without a glance at the desolation
around them. They moved silently and did not speak or touch, though their hands
sometimes brushed together. Ghost stayed in the doorway and watched them. Down
the sidewalk he saw a girl sitting on the hood of a car. She looked as if she
might be crying. Her long hair could have been any color; the flat illumination
of the few unbroken streetlights turned it black. But Zillah approached her and
spoke to her, and when she looked up at him, Ghost saw her face. The girl was
talking to them for a minute, she slid down from the hood of the ear,
Frantically, Ghost reached out for Ann’s mind. If he could feel her, maybe he
could warn her … of what?
kind, urbane man raising a baseball bat above his head, ready to split Ghost’s
skull? Of Zillah’s smashed face that had magically repaired itself, of Zillah’s
smooth voice murmuring cold lewd words in Ghost’s head?
would never believe it. And at any rate she wasn’t out there tonight, or if she
was, he couldn’t find her. There was only the cold void of the dark. The ether,
his grandmother had called that empty-feeling place. The ether was alone, and
Ghost left it so. He watched as Ann walked away with Zillah, and when they had
gone several paces, he started following again.
they got into the black van, Zillah helping Ann up and motioning Nothing in
after her, Ghost thought it was all over. Up Shit Creek, Steve would have said,
without a paddle. Now they would drive away, and Ghost would have to go back to
the club and try to decide whether to tell Steve that his ex-girlfriend had
just taken off with two of their mysterious visitors.
the headlights never came on; the motor didn’t start. The van didn’t move. A
few times the back window lit up with the red flare of matches. Then the van
stayed dark and still.
walked closer, scared and confused. He didn’t know what to do. He wanted to go
hammer on the windows, break the glass, rescue Nothing and Ann from that
beautiful, awful creature with the bright green eyes.
Nothing had cast his lot already, and Ann was old enough to take care of
herself. If Ghost tried to rescue her, she would probably punch him in the
nose. So he prowled, and shivered, and wished for X-ray vision to see through
the sides of the van.
closed his eyes and stood very still with his hands at his sides, swaying, but
the van might have been a million miles away, might have been empty. He
couldn’t feel anything.
turned away, thinking he would go back to the club. He would keep his mouth
shut if Steve was still conscious. He would take Steve home and give him a lot
of coffee and maybe one of
Maybe everything wouldn’t be so weird tomorrow. He turned away, and then he
heard the door of the van slam.
was standing on the sidewalk, half in the streetlights’ glare, half in the
shadow of the storefronts. He stood as if he might be very tired or very drunk,
but he held his head up, and there was strength in his face, strength and
stubbornness and a resignation that should never have marked a face so young.
said Ghost softly.
eyes sharpened, and his lips parted a little. For a moment he stared into the
darkness, but he didn’t look as if he cared much what came out of it. Then he
saw Ghost and stepped forward, and they stood facing each other on the cold
Steve’s girlfriend in the van there,” said Ghost.
my lover in there with her,” Nothing said. “She’s on top now, He was on top
before, when they started, and the sweat on his back was shining, and she
screamed when he spread her legs and rammed it in …” His voice trailed away,
and he stared at Ghost. His eyes were dark and huge, all pupil. His face was
naked, exquisitely shadowed, desperate. “Be my brother,” he said. “Zillah loves
me. He’ll let me stay now. I can stand it if you’ll be my brother just for one
Ghost put his arms around Nothing and hugged him tight, as he had wanted to do
ever since he first saw the pain in those dark child-eyes. Nothing sagged
against him as if never wanting to let go again, and Ghost felt all the
exhaustion in that thin little body. There was strength in this boy, a lot of
strength, but he was just a kid and God only knew what had been happening to
him. He must have had about all he could stand for today.
me,” said Nothing into the folds of Ghost’s jacket. “Please don’t let me go.
Ghost told him. “Not yet. It’s all right.”
felt so damn helpless. It wasn’t all right. It would never be all right. If
Nothing stayed with those three, with that one, he was lost. “Listen,” he said
into the boy’s lank damp-smelling hair. “Do you want to come stay with me and
Steve? I mean, he’ll cuss about it, but he won’t kick you out. Not if you need
looked up at Ghost for a second. Then be let his head fall back onto Ghost’s
shoulder. The touch of his lips against Ghost’s throat was light, shivery. “I
can’t,” he said. “If I went home with you, they’d come for me. Zillah would.
And I have to go with them.”
What are they to you?” Ghost knew his voice was getting louder, but he couldn’t
stop it. “What the hell are they, Nothing? Steve’s pretty strong, but when that
guy held down, he couldn’t move. And I dreamed about you-or someone—and there
was so much blood. What are they?”
mind,” said Nothing. “Never mind what they are.