The Leaves Are Turning Brown – Chapter 25

The morning comes, bringing the sun through the curtains in the small country hotel.  I look down at the bed and see another pair of feet sticking out near the bottom.  The duvet is on diagonally, and Jules has cocooned herself in a corner, at 45 degrees to the way I’m lying.  I sit up and my head resonates with a sharp pain.  It starts coming back to me.  We drank last night. A lot.  I can tell the second bit from the several empty wine bottles, one on each nightstand and at least one down on the floor, on it’s side, with a small red bloom on the floor next to it.  Our clothes are strewn across the room, and the quaint furnishings look completely out of place under the mess.

I get up carefully, slowly reaching for the floor with my feet.  As I step away from the bed the duvet slides and falls on the floor, leaving a naked woman curled up on the bed.  Her head turns sideways and she groans a complaint at the wall near me.  I pick up the duvet and put it over her.  She lets out a small satisfied grunt and I go to the bathroom.

I know it’ll be a mistake, but I close the door and look in the mirror.  I’m a little shocked I don’t look worse, in fact, I don’t look bad at all.  I perform some internal arithmetic relating to how I feel compared to how I look, and decide I look normal, but feel terrible.  The warm water hits me and feels uncomfortable.  A moment later the warm water from the shower feels like home, comfy and caring.  I wash for so long the condensation on the mirror starts to drip down.  When I’m done I go back into the bedroom.  A hand comes out from under the covers, reaches around near my leg, finds the bottom of my towel and pulls it hard, with a muffled giggle.  I jump on the lump in the bed and roll around until she squeals.  I turn over the corner and ask her foot if it’s ok. I spin around and get back under the covers.  Jules is hot to the touch after standing in the cold, and I press my whole body against hers.

Time passes slowly in the room, just the two of us up here, uninterrupted and unheard.  A few hours later we both pull down the duvet and let the cold air flow over our bodies.  Jules gets up first and goes to shower.  As she walks into the bathroom she calls out “What time is it? I’m guessing we missed breakfast”.

I can’t reach my watch, or see a clock, so, in my laziness, I fire off a glimmer to go and look.  It’s after 12, much later than I guessed, and the sun is barely as high as the top of the window form the bed.  It feels chilly so I dissolve the glimmer and pull the covers back up.

After we have washed and dressed we head downstairs.  We bring our bags, deciding last night that we’d stayed long enough here, and needed to move on.  The woman by the counter grins as I come down the stairs. “Here’s the miracle man himself.  Fantastic show last night, the best thing I’ve ever seen in the flesh”.

This throws me, and I pause looking at her for a moment.  A flash of memory from last night comes forth. We were drinking heavily, and I was showing some of the other guests how I could see around corners, under tables, behind the bar.  I immediately regret all of it.  How stupid could I be. That’s exactly the kind of behaviour that will get me noticed, and at some point, I know, that will get back to Esther.  I smile and ask her if we owe anything, signing the small checkout slip.

“Just the bar bill from last night, well, it’s quite a biggun.” she says handing me a handwritten slip of paper.  The bill comes to £70, not a simple feat in this part of the world. As if on cue, I feel a sharp pain in my temples.  I pull out the cash and count out the money.  The woman thanks us and tells us to come back any time.  We smile politely and head out the door, towards the car.  I turn around and look back at the hotel, sitting alone in a field of green.

“That was nice, wasn’t it?” I say towards Jules, who is half in the car, putting her bag down on the back seat.  She looks back, smiles, winks, and gets into the passenger seat.  I walk around and get into the car, turning the ignition on and putting it into reverse.  As I rev the engine a black saloon car pulls into the drive and goes past us, up to the front door.  Out gets one of Esther’s men.  I panic, hoping the clutch and skidding backwards.  The man sees me and runs back down towards us.  I put the car in first and pull out, accelerating fast.  I look at Jules, who is staring behind us. She just says “Go!”.  I drive dow the small country road, accelerating and braking hard at the corners.

“Are they behind us!?” I shout, but Jules does’t reply. I know they’ll be after us, and it’s only a matter of time until they catch us.  I remember this section of road from when we arrived.  There is a T-junction up ahead, but I don;t know which is the best route to take.  I fire off several glimmers and watch them zip ahead, driving their invisible cars along the road in front.

I realised last night that I could control the movement of time in a glimmer, speeding up and slowing down the reality around them.  It was quite confusing at first, and I couldn’t focus when time moved too fast, but got the hang of it.  Now I was watching the glimmers moving through along the road.  I focused in and saw them each take a turn.  I followed them, barely seeing the road they were on, through fear of losing the actual road in front of me here.  One road was small and ran over open ground, but the two that headed left were both high-walled with shrubs, and seemed a better option.  I don’t have time to see any further, so take the sharpest left, skidding the wheels and accelerating as soon as we are pointing in the right direction.

I accelerate off and continue along the road, going faster than I should.  I see firing off glimmers left and right, looking for options and seeing if we can get away fro the car that I’m sure is just around the corner behind us.

Jules is turned almost fully around in her seat, looking back behind us, trying to catch sight of the twisting road as we bomb along.  I ask her if she sees anything, but the road winds too much.  I keep on going, flat out along the small road.  In time we come to a bigger road, and then a motorway.  I get on the motorway, heading North, and keep in the fast lane, pacing the faster stream of traffic that always operates on the motorways. Jules is keeping a keen eye on the road behind us, but can’t see the car.  I relax for a moment, realising it would be difficult for them to catch us up at this speed, without drawing too much attention to themselves.

The road signs point to towns and cities, the names of which I recognise, but have no frame of reference about their suitability for two people on the run.  I am getting used to driving whilst following several glimmers ahead, and keep at least two out there, watching ahead, to see what will happen around the next slow bend.  We pass several exits and services without stopping. The car has plenty of petrol, and I can see us up ahead in a glimmer.  As we approach a very hilly area, one of the glimmers turns off the motorway, onto a smaller road.  I decide this is the best place to do so, and follow it off, letting it dissolve as it collides with the real car.  I drive on for another few hours, until we come to motel-type building, away from the road.  I pull into the car park and Jules looks over at me, nervously.  She looks truly frightened and I want to wrap myself around her, but she turns away quickly and gets out of the car.  I get out on my side, collect my bag, and follow her up to the generic foyer and furnishings.

We get to the room and Jules goes straight into the bathroom, while I sit on the bed, trying to collect my thoughts.  I feel that something is wrong between us, that Julie’s reaction to all this is more severe than before, that it has something to do with me.

Jules comes out from the bathroom, avoiding looking in my direction.  I ask her what’s the matter, and she sighs into the curtains.

“In the car, just before we turned off the road, I felt you.  I felt you reach out to me and put your hand on my shoulder.  I could feel it.  When I turned around you had both hands on the steering wheel.” I froze, sitting still, everything in the world slowed down around me, all sound disappeared and there was just the two of us in this room.  She was right, I had sent a glimmer out to her, but I hadn’t done it consciously.

Her eyes looked up to me, glistening with a veneer of liquid.

“I told you how it made me feel, and you did it anyway.  I could see you were doing it all over the place.  Your head and eyes were darting around, following all those things you were sending out.  It was scary.  I don’t feel safe with you anymore. I don’t trust you.” She stood up, walked over to the door and paused before she walked out.

“I’m going to the vending machine downstairs, then I need to rest.  Please just give me that.  We can talk again afterwards, ok?”

It was a rhetorical question, as she pulled the door behind her I watched her disappear out of sight.  I lay back on the bed, staring at the ceiling.  I was scared.  She was absolutely right, I had lost control back there.  I couldn’t stop myself.  I imagined her in the car, feeling my hand, feeling comforted and the realising it wasn’t really there.

I wondered where she was, whether she was crying.  I wondered if she would run away and leave me.  For a moment I wanted to send a glimmer out to see where she was, but held back.  This was the problem.  I was trying to solve every solution by seeing the options, by looking beyond the reality everyone was else was permitted to see.  I was no longer restrained by the flow of photons.  I pulled myself up, to rest my head on the pillow.

All my thoughts were rushing now, feeling the panic and chaos from before all this started.  I began to imagine that Jules was working with Esther, sent to restrain me and control me, as Esther could not.  I imagined them sitting together laughing about me when Jules was, supposedly, taken.

I need to get out of here. I need to find out what Jules is up to, and find out if she really is on my side.  Without thinking I send a glimmer off, out the door and down the hallway.  As it turns the corner I see Jules, bending down to get something from the bottom of the vending machine.  She stands up and looks out the window for a moment, then carries on down the hallway.  Where is she going?  I watch her walking, looking at her legs move, her arms, still by her side and she walks slowly down the hallway.  There are a few chairs by the window and she makes her way to them.  Just before she sits down she spins round fast.  I see the anger in her eyes.

“You couldn’t stop yourself could you!” she screams at me, at nothing. The shock of her interacting with me dissolves the glimmer, and I fall back onto the bed with a twitch.  The powerful waves of euphoria I usually feel are replaced by strong physical pain in my chest.  I feel myself bend over double on the bed.  I know what I’ve done.  I can see that Jules knew I was there, watching her.  The guilt and regret is so strong it paralyses me.  This is different to before, when I felt paranoid walking out of my house.  This is real. I deserve this.  I understand the reason and the cause. It was me.

I get up off the bed and walk fast out the door, down the hallway. I need to see Jules, even if only for her to shout at me, to slap me, to tear at my skin with her nails.  I want her to hate me, like I am hating myself.  I want to her to rend my mind from my body and smash it on the floor.  I can feel my breath, sharp and painful in my chest.

I turn the corner and see the empty chairs, the can of drink sits, unopened, on the table in front of me.  I walk forward and look out the window, but she is gone. I know there is no way to catch her. I also know I could send out glimmers to find her, but I have no energy, and no will to do so.

I walk solemnly back to the room, lie on the bed and close my eyes.