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       Eldnium, p.13

           Enoch Pyle, Jr

  Jackson could feel the vehicle bumping along the road, but the sound of the engine was drowned by the resonating call of the steel tower erected on the outskirts of his home town. He imagined himself lying in the back of the vehicle where people might normally store luggage, sports equipment or other gear, but he couldn’t be sure. He just knew that he was lying down, still bound wrists-to-ankles with a pillowcase over his head.

  By the way the vehicle moved, Jackson estimated that they couldn’t be traveling at more than 20-30 kilometers per hour, and he knew that their trip would take forever, even though he’d had no clue where they were headed. The sound of the tower smashing into the ground didn’t change in volume, and so Jackson couldn’t tell if they were moving toward or away from the structure that seemed to be the center of operations.

  Jackson closed his eyes. He wanted to rest. His leg still throbbed, not at all mended by the doctor, and Jackson now wondered whether the man at the cabin was Doctor Henry Bink at all, or if he’d been duped by someone mentally ill. But he couldn’t concentrate on that just now, because every time he closed his eyes, he saw Underwear Man.

  He couldn’t figure out why he kept thinking about Underwear Man. It bothered him deeply. He didn’t feel especially bad about what had happened, even though he knew that he should. How many children take a life and are not changed by it? Jackson guessed that he might be the first…but then the flash of blue, and—

  He saw the man again, standing at the fence. The bumping of his captors’ vehicle was gone, and an icy breeze blew against his face as he stood at the corner of the building, watching Underwear Man gnaw at the fence’s chain links.

  The siren sounded in the distance, barely audible compared to the sound of the tower that Jackson had left in the back of the big, black utility vehicle, and he had a real feeling that what he was currently experiencing—the wind, the ground beneath his feet, his wounded leg not yet festering, and the old sound of the siren—was real. It was really happening. Again.

  Jackson shifted his weight and the backpack he had lost at some point slid against his shoulders. He considered taking out the knife, but decided against it, instead shifting the pack back into place.

  He watched Underwear Man. Then, remembering that it would soon be dark, he decided to retrace his steps from before…this time, without the knife.

  He crept through the building’s yard, crouching and moving as silently as possible, afraid to startle the man at the fence as he chewed at the metal, his face dripping glints of blood that Jackson could see even from a fair distance. As he moved, his leg shocked him, stabbed with pain, each step like a needle piercing the muscles in his leg, until finally the pain was too much. He winced, sucking air through his teeth, making a clearly audible hiss, and Underwear Man turned and stared him in the eyes.

  Shivers spun down Jackson’s back as the man looked at him, head cocked like a confused puppy, brow furrowed, blocking the path through the fence. The man had a strange mark on his face—a birthmark, maybe. It was splotchy and shaped like a pickle. Jackson choked out a single command, “Move,” and to his surprise, Underwear Man shuffled obediently to the side.

  Jackson moved forward, inching past the man, careful not to turn his back to him. As he passed through the fence, he started running, and the world began to turn a strange shade of blue, flickering in and out of view, and then—


  He was bouncing around in the back of his captors’ vehicle, the siren pounding away. He wondered what had happened. It all felt so real, yet he was sure that his second chance with the man at the fence was simply wishful thinking. But that didn’t change the fact that he still felt little-to-no remorse for killing Underwear Man. Only now, he didn’t even feel bad for not feeling bad.

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