Tim and Grizzly mounted their respective choppers and peeled out of the Stop-N-Go parking lot spraying gravel and plumes of dust into the scorching Arizona air. Tim's bike had the sidecar. He typically loaded it up with their crusty duffel bags and other sundries they'd gather along the way, but today it featured something -rather, someone- a little unusual: Erin McAllister. But she wasn't along for a joyride through the sizzling desert, rather she was roped, duct taped, and masked and currently unconscious and coated with tacky, drying blood.
Erin's day began not unlike any other: alarm jolting her from sleep, shuffling to the shower, dressing in her cleanest (and often shortest -customers appreciated it) shorts and Stop-N-Go T-shirt, brush the hair and teeth, and head out the door. Her mom would smile and wave with a blown kiss from her home office across the family room, barely acknowledging, and Erin would slide out the mobile home's screen door and begin her half-mile trot to work. This was the standard procedure every week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. She padded past her only two neighbors along County Road 560: Bev and Harold Shumaker (elderly, always complaining, but more than willing to share their all-but unused pool), and Dr. Albert Marx and his son, eight-year old Gus (he who was obviously hitting puberty a tad early) and followed the gentle curve to where the rocky road met I-40 right at the Stop-N-Go. But today, Thursday July 29th, Erin saw something out of the corner of her eye.
The dirt road itself always fairly glinted and sparkled with detritus from ages-old car accidents and broken bottles, but this particular Thursday Erin saw something just a bit brighter and somehow more odd than anything else. It gleamed to her left and made her stutter a bit in her jog. She skidded and caught her breath tossing up mini clouds of rain-parched dry earth. Just off the side of the road buried about half-way up was something round and grayed with dust and age. It jutted askew and shone in the early morning son. Erin crouched near, as it appeared sharp and somehow dangerous; she balanced between wanting to touch it and knowing she shouldn't, teetering precariously between somehow right, and also very wrong. But often times curiosity actually does, as they say, kill the cat. Her outstretched hand brushed the rough surface of the metallic object and a dull thrum lanced up her arm feeling... well, not entirely unpleasant, actually. She snatched her arm away and rubbed it as she furrowed her brow, giving the object a cursory glance. And then the object's color began to change.
Tim Ames and Dexter 'Grizzly' Adams slowly arced into the parking lot of the Stop-N-Go just off interstate 40, cruising their Harley's into adjacent spots. Following on their wheels blew in wafts of tire-thrown road dust and mini twisters. The dirty ghosts of the road past meandered and furled past the men as they dismounted their hogs, unlatched their helmets, and patted clods of brown, caked-on filth from their leathers. The men breathed deeply, took in new air that wasn't muggy from helmet glass, stretched loudly and languidly, and waltzed slowly to the doors. The bell dinged slightly as Tim pushed it into the air-conditioned interior, and he and Grizzly sighed a little at its comforting embrace.
Erin crouched, her backside nearly touching the calloused earth below her, and gingerly stroked the shimmering, and now red-glowing, metallic object poking from the ground in front of her. It occurred to her just then that more of it was below the ground and so she went about considering options for its removal. Nothing shy of her actually pulling it free made any sense at all, and so she did. She tenderly gripped the rim, all the while taking in its constant vibrating hum, and pulled. It came free like the decay of a rotted tooth; no resistance as the parched ground around it rolled away in loose bits. In her had appeared a disk the rough size and shape of a small dessert plate. She'd seen things it's ilk before; her mother had a collection of inherited China sitting in a small cabinet in the family room. Emily brushed off the dirt and dust and stared at the rune's intricate loops and whorls, etchings and textures, reliefs and carvings... it was ornate to say the least, but it was surely the dead center where the pulsating red originated that held her attention. She absently swatted at a few flies that had begun to gather, ignored a runnel of sweat that trickled down her back into her shorts, and never even felt a small rivulet of blood that dropped from her nose...
Stay Tuned For Part 2