Brian awoke to the earliest hint of sunrise, a faint milky light that seemed to pursue the car as they had earlier chased the setting sun, driving due west. He and Dave had driven nonstop, swapping out and stopping only long enough to fuel up and buy junk food. They’d kept to the Interstate, gambling that they had a few hours before the issuance of a nationwide APB on the stolen car. The speed with which they’d crossed the better part of the country made it worth the risk.
Brian yawned, eased the passenger seat back up to a sitting position. The approaching dawn revealed a fantasy landscape, an impression of a vast sea the color of slate, frozen motionless, extending in every direction to disappear on the horizon.
“Morning,” Dave said, in the driver’s seat beside him. He sounded downright cheerful.
“Where are we?” Brian asked.
“New Mexico,” Dave answered. “I’m beginning to think we might just make it.”
Brian watched out his window as the ocean of grey warmed to purple, then to crimson as the sun peeked over the horizon at their backs.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Dave asked.
“You think we’re safe?” Brian asked. He could appreciate the landscape rolling past his window, this world of sand and rock and stunted plants, silence and solitude. It was beautiful. But Brian was not currently in the mood to acknowledge it.
“Less likely we’ll encounter any ‘law enforcement personnel’ out here,” Dave answered. “And I’m sure hoping we get where we’re going before the next attack comes.”
“You’re still sure there’s going to be another attack?” Brian asked.
“I’m sure of it,” Dave said. “Whatever it was that kept you hidden before, looks like it’s gone now. You’re on the radar, so to speak.”
“I still don’t get why you think I’m so special,” Brian said. “Like something’s out to get me in particular.”
“Sure you do,” Dave said. “You just won’t admit it.”
Brian sat quietly for a minute. “Okay,” he replied. “Let’s say you’re right. Why hasn’t ‘it’ followed us?”
“I think you bought yourself a little time,” Dave said. “I doubt your enemy expected you to be able to defend yourself.”
“But I didn’t.”
“Ah, ah.” Dave cut him off. “You most certainly did do something, even if we don’t know what it was exactly. And my guess is, you bought yourself some time until ‘It’ musters up the energy to come after you again. Before that can happen, I plan to have us both beyond its reach.”
“And you really think we’ll be safe out here?” Brian asked.
“Holy ground,” Dave replied. “If there’s one place on this planet where ‘It’ can’t get at you, this is going to be that place. I’d bet my last teeth on it.”
Brian waited before replying. “So what exactly do you think is after me?” he asked.
Dave chewed on his moustache. “You sure you want me to answer that?”
“I asked, didn’t I?”
“You also tend to get pissy when I tell you something other than what you’re hoping to hear.”
“I won’t this time, okay?”
Dave sighed. “Remember how I said the Indians believe everything has a spirit? People, animals, plants, rocks?”
“Now your Hindus and Buddhists, any of the transcendentalist religions, they believe in the ‘World Soul’ or Universal Consciousness, meaning that we’re all interconnected. Everyone and everything. The same juice flows through all of us.”
“Kumbaya, my Lord.”
“Are you making fun?”
“Sorry. Go on.”
“Okay, say the Earth is a living thing unto itself,” Dave continued. “But it’s only a single part of the entire cosmos. Just like we’re single parts of the planet as a whole. It’s all connected, all in harmony. You with me so far?”
“Where human beings get into trouble,” Dave said, “is when we choose to act in dis-harmony. It goes against the natural balance, and only pain and suffering can come from it. War, crime, oppression, anything and everything wrong with the world.”
“So what does that have to do with me?” Brian asked.
“Everything,” Dave said. “Look at it like this: all the bad shit comes from disharmony, right? Well, doesn’t it make sense that there’s maybe something causing this, interfering where it can with the natural flow? There are entities that exist on a different spiritual wavelength. We’ve both seen them.”
“Spooks,” Brian said.
“And a whole lotta other things,” Dave said. “And here’s the thing–if we’re all connected on a spiritual level–people, plants, the entire biosphere–wouldn’t it make sense that all the bad things are connected in a similar way? All part of one singular whole?”
“You’ve mentioned that theory of yours before,” Brian said.
“And I firmly believe it,” Dave said. He cleared his throat. “Every belief system has its own name for the personification of evil,” he said. “The Judeo-Christian faith has Lucifer. The ancient Persians believed in virtually the same being, but they called him Ahriman. And before that, they just referred to everything as belonging either to ‘the Truth’ or ‘the Lie.’”
“Harmony and disharmony?” Brian offered.
“Bingo, Champ. Then there’s the Melanesian entity Suqe-Mutua, the Egyptian Set, the Mayan Hunhau–all are pretty much interchangeable. The embodiment of absolute evil, with a definite personality, an intellect.”
“So there’s no one correct version?” Brian asked.
“They’re all correct,” Dave said. “Many different names and titles for the same entity. Just like God, only the exact opposite.”
“And that’s what’s out to get me?” Brian said.
“Yeah, I think so,” Dave said.
Brian stared ahead at the highway, which was becoming distinct from the desert it bisected in the growing light.
“But why would it be after me?” Brian asked at length.
“Because,” Dave said, “It sees you as a threat.”
“I can’t believe that.”
“I know,” Dave said. “And I can’t say as I really blame you. It’s a pretty fantastic concept to try and wrap your head around. But I can’t see any other explanation.” He paused. “I’ve got a feeling. Champ. Something big is brewing. Real big. And I think you have a big part to play in it. I just don’t know what it’s going to be yet.”
Brian shifted, uncomfortable. “If you’re right,” he said. “And that’s a very big ‘if’ as far as I’m concerned.”
“I’m right,” Dave said. “There are no accidents, remember?”
“Well, don’t be disappointed,” Brian said. “But if I do have some part to play in whatever the hell it is that’s coming, then I decline to participate.”
“I’m not sure that’s an option. Champ,” Dave said.
“Then I’ll make it an option,” Brian said. “Whatever’s going on with me, whatever you think it is that I’m supposed to do, I want no part of it.”