“The medical examiner said the baby has been dead for longer than you and I have been alive, Night Traveler.” She hadn’t given him her name when she first approached him, eleven months ago. But they always met at night in a moving train. Calling her Night Traveler had made sense, except that morning with the sun shining over Silver Lake and roasting the back of his neck. “How did you find the corpse? If you can’t tell me that, I might not be able to continue—”
She raised a quieting hand to his lips. “Malevolence can hear its name and wants when spoken aloud. Its virulence learns to creep on skin, crawl under eyelids and fingernails… festering through flesh and bone until it consumes spine and hope.”
“You haven’t answered.” The detective moved closer to Night Traveler, but stopped when she stepped back into the trees. “My boss threatened to remove me from the case, if I don’t explain how I’m getting my information.” Lying tasted like loss.
Night Traveler lowered her head. The red hood that hid her eyes from him seemed to be covering her entire face from the world. “Will he replace you before tonight?” she said.
“What?” The detective shook his head, trying to erase the look he saw on her face the first and only time they had been together. The shape and taste of her lips remained vivid in his mind’s eyes. He would never sleep with a woman without knowing her name. Never again.
“How much time do we have before your superior puts another in charge of searching for the children?”
We? he thought, then processed the rest of her words. “Children? How many are there?”
“Just the one, but there will be more… I can feel it. And if we don’t—”
“How do you know all this?” He took two strides and grabbed her by the arms before she could get away. Her skin was cold and slick with sweat. “Are you sick?” he said.
“I’m fine.” Her words contradicted the tears he heard in her voice. “This is normal.”
“Normal for what?” He guided her towards a fallen tree. “Come on, we can discuss things while sitting…” The detective was silenced by the trail of bloody prints Night Traveler was leaving on the fallen leaves. With unsteady hands, he lifted her red skirt up to her knees. Brownish blood coated her inner calves. “I’m calling for help.”
“No.” The word was a shouted gasp, and she looked up at him so fast that her loose hood fell back and pooled over her shoulders. She wore a red blindfold under the hood. “There isn’t time for me.” She touched his cheek. “But our child needs our help.”
The detective removed her hand from his face. He had known she was pregnant. It was the reason why he had never tried to be with her again, even though he thought of her touch all the time. “We have a child?” he whispered. “Where?” The detective looked around the park, but only saw trees and lake and the familiar breathing of a woman whose name he didn’t know.
“Somewhere safe,” she said.
“Why didn’t you—”
“It won’t be safe after nightfall. Not if we don’t make it so.”
“A baby is a she or he, not an it.” He grabbed her by the shoulders and squeezed until his arms began to shake. “What kind of mother are you, woman?”
Night Traveler’s jaw tightened. The detective couldn’t see her eyes, but he felt them on him when she spoke. “I’m the kind of mother who will give everything for her child. I’ve spent the last nine and a half months running alone, hiding in the dark—”
“You chose to do that.”
She kept talking as if he hadn’t interrupted. “I tried having our baby alone because I didn’t know how else to protect it.” Tears began to widen two dark spots on her blindfold. “I told the one who helped me bring our baby into the world not to tell me anything, not even its sex. If we don’t assist this person tonight, then our baby… will join the corpse your people took to the morgue.”
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“Let me finish.” She looked down at her bloodstained sneakers and shook her head. I wanted to do this alone. But I can’t. I just can’t. So here I am, asking you the same question: what kind of father are you, detective? What are you willing to give and do to keep your blood from harm?”
This short bit follows after “Neglect” and “Black Rags”. There is another piece coming soon, but I needed a bridge between the first two tales and the fourth; “Night Traveler” is the lucky third. I wrote it before I posted “From Soul-Eating Rot to Life-Giving Fertilizer”. You can say that those two articles got to me… I’ll share a bit more on the topic at a later time. I had a very interesting conversation about “the use of fiction to make sense of life”, which I believe deserves its own post.
Don’t be too upset if you were expecting Lum and Darlene. They’ll be here as soon as I convince the Muse to un-kill a character or three. Her writing was quite murderous during our last two sessions. Someone must inform her that unless she’s writing about zombies, she needs to let more characters live if she wants to see any action.
Blindfolded, by Giuseppe Cristiano