Poppy Z. Brite - 1992 - Lost Souls (40 page)

BOOK: Poppy Z. Brite - 1992 - Lost Souls
6.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

held his breath for a long time, sighed out a great plume of smoke, and leaned
back against his favorite gravestone: that of Miles Hummingbird, 1846-1865.
Kinsey’s great-great-great-uncle. A private in the Confederate army, shot
somewhere in the Virginia woods on a rainy day near the end of the war,
trundled home to North Carolina and buried in the springtime mud. Miles’s
gravestone was rough and gray and moldering, and Miles’s bones fell softly away
to dust below. In the drifts of his body lay a shell with creamy pink insides,
a shell he had carried home from his family’s one trip to the shore when he was
twelve, a shell his sister had laid in his hands, over his torn chest, a shell
with dry tears inside a hundred and twenty years old.

put his cheek against the cool granite and thought, Is it cold in the shell
tonight, Miles?, and Miles’s rusty Carolina voice, so very far away, said, It’s
warm, Ghost. It’s warm and yellow as the sand, and the ocean is the color my
sister eyes once were.

said Ghost. “Like the calm ocean? Or blue-gray, like before a storm?” He didn’t
realize he had spoken aloud until Steve glared at him.

What a way to spend Halloween, in the graveyard listening to you talk to the
spooks. I ought to be over at R.J.‘s party with five or six brews already down
and another one ready to go. Not in the damn graveyard getting stoned.” Steve
lay back in the pine needles with his hands behind his head and regarded the
smeary glittering stars that were beginning to appear.

looked as if he would like to snuff them out.

don’t need any beer,” Ghost told him. “You’ve been drinking too much. Weed
clears out your brain.”

think Ann will be at that party?”

if she thinks you will.”

I guess not. I guess she’s still hanging around that trailer on Violin Road.

where those creeps moved in.” Steve was silent for a moment. “You know, they
never let her in. I drove past there one day and saw her in their yard. Thought
maybe her car had broken down, so I stopped and asked her if she wanted a ride
into town, but she told me to get lost. Said she was waiting for her true
love.” He sucked at the joint. “I hope they tell her to fuck off.”

lay down next to Steve. “What did you do?”

sprayed gravel. Peeled out of there. I figured if I hung around, I’d either
kill her or that little green-eyed fucker.”

heard Steve’s knuckles cracking. “You don’t want to mess with them,” he said.

I know what you told me. His face was all healed up, and that means he must be
Count Dracula or something. I don’t remember, Ghost I don’t know.”

me, then.”

I better. What else have I got to trust?” There was no anger in Steve’s voice

only sounded sad, and very tired. A man who wanted to stop thinking.

would have done anything to make Steve happier. But what could he do?

Ann? Tell Zillah and his crew to get out of town
before sunrise? He propped himself on his elbows and shook a few pine needles
out of his hair. The sweet orange smell of singeing pumpkin flesh drifted in
from the houses at the edge of the woods.

wondered if the one-eyed jack-o’-lantern he had carved was still burning on
their front porch. He felt desperate to talk about something, anything else.
“The lost souls get to come out tonight,” he said.

You mean us?” The joint had gone out. Steve lit it again.

Ghost sucked spicy smoke, felt his lungs expand and his brain swirl.

the dark things. All the sad things and the minds left over from the bodies,
the minds who don’t know they’re dead, the ones with no place to go.” He felt
his pupils grow larger against the dark. “And the evil things, too.”

you’re trying to give me the creeps. Well, I can play that game too. Want me to
tell you the story of the Hook again? Huh?” The joint had burned down to a
quarter inch. Steve snuffed it and dropped it in the pine needles, then began
to cough. “Fuck it.

want a beer. Let’s go over to R.J.‘s.”


.” Ghost’s head came up. His hair fell over his eyes,
and he brushed it away. After a second Steve sat up and stared into the woods
too. Something flickered through the pines and kudzu, a bright orange smudge on
the night. A jack-o’-lantern, Ghost guessed, burning on someone’s porch. But he
thought he heard a rustle, a noise just slightly too loud to be made by a
squirrel or a night bird—a crunch. Footsteps. Soft footsteps, coming through
the woods.

out there,” he told Steve.

opened his mouth and shut it again. He was going to say something about smoking
too much weed, Ghost supposed, but had thought better of it. Good. “Okay,”
Steve managed in a whisper. “What do we do?”

up quiet. Stay behind me.”

grabbed Ghost’s ann. Ghost felt electricity flowing between them, white and
crackling and pure. “Like hell I will. I’m not letting you—”

behind me,” Ghost said again, and looked straight into the woods, trying to
feel out whatever might be coming.

branches broke, dead leaves rattled down like dry brown bones. Something round
and fiery hurtled toward them. Steve went down fast, pulling Ghost with him.
Ghost fell as limply as a rag doll. The savage orb exploded against Miles’s
gravestone. Ripe orange pulp splattered them.

shielded his face with one hand and felt wildly for Steve with the other, then
heard an unhappy young voice wail, “Shit–I tripped—my shoelace came untied—”

lifted his head. “Nothing?” Chunks of pumpkin and pulp slimed the ground, shiny
black in the moonlight. In the middle of the mess, the boy struggled to his
knees and swiped futilely at his raincoat. He wouldn’t meet Ghost’s eyes.
“Shit! I tripped over my own goddamn shoelace–I’m sorry—”

okay. Don’t worry about it.” Ghost crawled over and put his hand on Nothing’s
shoulder. Nothing’s face tilted up to Ghost’s. His eyes were shadowed, his
cheekbones more prominent than they had been outside the Sacred Yew a month
ago, his lips drawn tight across his teeth. For no good reason, Ghost thought
suddenly of certain strange happenings in Missing Mile lately. The bodies of
two railroad bums, mutilated and decayed, found half-buried in the dead kudzu
near the train tracks. The disappearance of a little boy out on Violin Road.
But those things did not bear thinking about right now.

happened?” he asked Nothing. “They didn’t kick you out, did they?”

the thought, a breath of cold wind seemed to pass through Nothing. He

Oh no. Christian gave me the jack-o’-lantern. I was bringing it to you. I
walked over here–-”

walked all the way from Violin Road?” Steve interrupted. “Shit, kid, that’s
three or four miles.”

said Nothing. “I didn’t want the others to know I was coming. I told them I was
just going out for a–for a walk. And you weren’t home, but I heard your voices
back here, and I saw you lighting matches.”

what do you want?” said Steve. He seemed to have remembered that Nothing was on
the wrong side. “Does your green-eyed buddy want me to send Ghost on over? He
already took my girlfriend. He might as well have my best friend too.” Ghost
poked him, but he kept talking.

voice was unsteady. “Maybe he wants my car. Or my bag of pot. I’ll just go home
and pack it all up for him.”

stared at the ground. “No. I just—I came to tell you that we’re leaving.

of us. Tonight. We’re going to New Orleans.”

Christian?” asked Ghost. “He’s from Now Orleans. He’s going home?”

new barkeep?” said Steve. “How the fuck do you know that?”

said Nothing. “He’s scared to go back. Somebody there is after him. But he
can’t let us leave without him. And I was born in New Orleans. So this time I
really am going home.”

happy for you. I guess.” Ghost was surprised to find that he would miss
Nothing. He hadn’t seen the boy since that night at the club, that horrible
night, but now he realized he had been hoping that Nothing would show up on the
doorstep one day.

his family, or forsaken by them. Saving himself.

that was impossible. Blood calls to blood. Nothing had to go home.

a sec,” said Steve. “How come you walked all the way over here to tell us you
were leaving? This doesn’t have anything to do with Ann, does it?”

studied the ground some more, stirring the pine needles with the toe of his
sneaker. “I was kind of hoping you knew. I’m afraid she’ll try to follow us.
She came and told Christian yesterday–” Nothing swallowed, glanced at Steve,
blinked several times. His eyes looked huge in the haft-light “Forget it,” he
said. “Mostly I just came to tell you goodbye. I’m sorry things turned out like
they did. I wish they could have been different. But I’m with my family now.”
He slipped his arms around Ghost’s neck and quickly kissed Ghost’s cheek with
cold chapped lips. Then he turned away.

Ghost snatched at a thin black-clad arm. Nothing looked back, his face wary,
haft-hidden in shadow.

scares me, Nothing.” Ghost pulled his hair over his face. “But I need to know.
What are they? What are you?”

think you know.” Nothing stopped back and gave them a wide smile. On any other
face so young it would have been a sunny, angelic smile. But on Nothing’s face
it was wrong, so wrong that at first Ghost could not grasp why. Then he knew.
Most of Nothing’s front teeth bad been filed to sharp points.

did Ann say to Christian?” Ghost whispered.

didn’t want to tell you,” said Nothing. “She’s going to have a baby. She says
it’s Zillah’s baby.”

could not speak. After a moment he had to close his eyes. When he opened them,
Nothing had faded back into the woods. Without the glow of the jack-o’-lantern
to mark his path, he disappeared quickly, melting like a black wraith into the
shadows between the trees.

turned to look at Steve. Steve had pulled a plant out of the ground and was
using its leaves to wipe pumpkin pulp off his face.

you okay?” Ghost asked.

Yeah. Why shouldn’t I be?” Steve looked at the leaves he’d been wiping his face
with, held them up to the moonlight. “Poison oak. It figures. Shit.”

BOOK: Poppy Z. Brite - 1992 - Lost Souls
6.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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