It was late…so late; as in swoony late….
and he was driving to yet another no-name town
to try and hock the very latest in “Amazing Time Saving Devices”
when he pulled into a little rest stop just to lay his head
on the steering wheel….for just a minute.
He had been working the Northeast Territory,
and had made a good name for himself and a pretty penny too
selling handheld mixers and other (“newfangled” was the word),
gadgets and gizmos to help make cooking and housework “Amazingly Easy”.
After all, it was 1959 now.
Things were good and sales were up and he had a family back home to feed.
He had taken charge of his life after the War–
and had found that his role as a Sergeant in the Infantry
during the European Theatre,
barking orders but also getting results,
had come to serve him well, especially now.
Christmas was coming in the wind as it was Autumn now
and soon he would need that extra bonus from selling
“Electra-Blendo” machines that was up for grabs
so his little boy could have that Lone Ranger stuff he was begging for.
He had just dozed off, smiling at the thought,
when there was a knock at the window.
He sat up with start and looked at his watch,
then looked at the window. 3:20am? What??
It had started pouring rain, seemingly out of nowhere,
and there stood a lady, drenched to the bone
just outside the car.
She was small, with high cheekbones and large, brown eyes.
Her hair was drenched, as was she, to the bone and
shivering in the cold, piercing rain, wearing only a thin,
grey dress with a wool sweater pulled tight over her shoulders.
“I\m so sorry!”, she said through the glass,
“Can you let me in until this passes through?”
Not even thinking, I threw open the door and
ran to the other side of the car and beckoned to her to get in.
I opened the door for her, poor near-drowned waif that she was,
and gently guided her into the passenger seat and shut the door.
My God, the rain was driving against me now!
I didn’t know where it came from but it sure was here now…
…as was she.
Life on the road, especially when you are away from your family
for weeks or even months,
can be very hard.
You don’t make friends.
You eat alone.
You drive, mostly, alone.
You ARE alone…most times.
When you have company…even in a rainstorm, it can be so enticing.
I asked if she was warm enough, then thought “well, that was dumb!”
and went ahead and turned up the heater in the car.
I had a couple of blankets the back seat
(after all, people need to prepare for car trouble
and maybe being stuck somewhere shouldn’t they?)
so I reached back and grabbed them and placed them around her
so she would start to dry a little and warm up.
“Are you OK?”, I asked, “Why are you out in this weather?”
“I’m fine”, she said, in a voice as weak and fragile
as my grandmother’s antique china,
“I was walking to get away from someone..my husband..”
and she began to cry.
“It’s Ok”, I tired to calm her, “Is he around here? Did something happen?”,
“Did he hurt you?”, I finally asked.
“Yes he did, and he does..”she sheepishly admitted…
“but I don’t have anywhere to go”.
“What’s your name?”, I asked….””My name is George, George James”
“Beatrice…”she trailed off a little, lost in the rain
and in painful memories, no doubt…”Beatrice”, and she hung her head.
“Let me get you somehwere safe” I said, as I put the car into Drive
and started to leave.
“NO!”, she suddenly screamed. I sitffened and slammed on the brakes.
“What’s wrong?” I shouted, and instantly felt awful for doing so…
“It’s just that..”she started, “If you could just wait a few moments….
I need to collect my thoughts and think”.
It was at that point I noticed something i hadn’t before. She had been hurt.
And pretty badly.
Her left shoulder showed signs of a really bad skin contusion
and, I was no doctor, but I know a dislocated shoulder when I see one…
yet she showed no sign of pain.
I asked her “Young lady, did he do this to you?”
She looked down at her shoulder; for a long, long time…
…and then…she giggled.
It was a giggle that sounded like the bubbles at the bottom of a boat
with a leaky floor; the rubbery, gurgling bubbles that ooze
when you hear paint drip slowly from a spilled can…
“Aww..she said, you didn’t make it that long…you’re no fun like the others…”
She lifted her head and looked at me with eyes that now weren’t brown but
slotted and yellow like a panther, her high cheekbones
rising higher and higher,
and her brown hair, now receding to a tight, slicked patch
of almost fur from her head that had now spread down through
what once was a grey dress and now was a coat of animal ferocity…
“YOU HURT ME! YOU ALWYAS HURT ME!…she ROARED at me;
“You and your kind have always hurt us!”, she howled,
“YOU TAKE AND TAKE AND TAKE!” she screamed again…
and lunged with talons now huge and bony
that had sprung from her fingertips
and a maw of what seemed like dozens of sabers reaching for my neck;
I grabbed for the door handle and wrenched it again, and again,
But it wouldnt budge
She advanced on me, completely lupine now in her own strange way;
Her hot breath on the nape of my neck and in my eyes….
The she stopped..as if she needed to explain before the kill;
She almost purred, “This won’t hurt long my dear…I just got hungry…”
“Forgive me, but between your building up everyting,
tearing down our deep places, and your cars
running us over in the night so much…
we have had to become hunters to survive, and you are now prey
where before you were just curiosities.”
“My people have dwelt in this land for centuries,
living in harmony with all creatures as well as YOUR kind
and asking nothing but to be left to live…”,
her voice now changed to a low growl..
.”BUT YOU DON’T HONOR THAT!”, she shrieked again,
and she was on me….
A seeming eternity of darkness followed
where I fell and fell through time and space; and pain,
and landed in some sort of open grassland..cut and bleeding;
arms and chest clawed and torn..but alive…..”How?”, I asked myself.
I looked around and saw,, almost immediately,
a group of grey animals, not quite the size of panthers or tigers,
sitting a few paces off to my left watching me intently….
One of them broke away and strode, proudly, and full of the grace of ages,
towards me; and sat. I recognized her eyes…”Hello Beatrice”, I said.
She said nothing. She just looked at me with those golden eyes
and I understood….she had spared me. To tell the others.
To tell the others of “my kind” that we were on notice….
That there was a reckoning coming….