Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chapter Five - The Calm ...

Chapter Five

The Calm…

            WARM rays of sunlight and a cool breeze showered Alex’s face as he sat there in a drug-induced sleep. A soft moan escaped his lips as he began to regain consciousness. His elbows pressed hard against the vinyl padding of the seat.  With heavy concentration, he managed to open his eyes. There was a sudden blur of light, as if someone had pointed a flashlight on his face. He recoiled from it until his eyes adjusted. Then he inclined his head forward. There was a smooth beige dashboard in front of him. He turned his head to the left. A white mug, bearing an oriental inscription rested on the cup holder. Something about the cup was familiar but his head was fogged up and he couldn’t remember.
            It took a moment for him to realize that he wasn’t in the antechamber anymore. He was a passenger on a bus, or maybe a truck. He wondered who was doing the driving. Alex turned his head some more. His eyes continued to focus and blur. It was difficult to ID the driver. With great effort, he honed in on the man’s appearance until his slick spiked hair and slanted eyes became clear.
            “Jason?” he asked, muttering.
            Jason turned to him with relief and said, “You’re awake! Thank God. You had me worried there for a sec, chief.”
            The confused aborigine pushed himself up on the seat. He looked down at himself to check for injuries. There weren’t any. His shirt and jeans weren’t hanging on his skin by a thread.  Everything was ok. Alex pulled down the visor to check his hair in the mirror. It was loose and a mess. He reached into the glove compartment and took out a thin black band and tied his hair back into a pony tail. Then he turned to Jason and asked, “How did I get here?”
            Jason didn’t respond or look at him. 
            Again Alex asked, “Well?”
            Just sit back and relax,” said Jason. “I don’t want to get pulled over by a trooper and have to explain to him why I’m harboring a stoned aborigine in a Bronco that’s not even mine.”
            Alex gave in, rested his head on the seat and kept quiet for the time being. He tried taking a few deep breaths but it did nothing to clear the fuzziness in his head. As a matter of fact, his light-headedness got worse, as did his nausea.
            “Stop the truck!” Alex said with urgency.
            “Pull over now!” he insisted.
            The Bronco made an abrupt halt by the side of the road. The passenger door slammed open and Alex rushed out with one hand clutched firmly to his mouth. Jason got out and watched as his friend ran behind some bushes and gagged.
            “You ok out there?” Jason asked.
            The aborigine did not reply right away. He kept heaving for a minute. It almost made Jason want to vomit too. Then Alex emerged and began to walk toward the Bronco like a drunk. “I’m fine,” he said.
            Jason could tell his friend wasn’t fine at all. His skin tone was pale and his eyes were blood shot. “You look like shit.”
            “Thanks,” Alex said with sarcasm. He started to look around. He recognized the area. It was right where the Bronco had lost its tire. “How did we get here?”
            Jason directed his eyes away from Alex. “That’s a long story,” he said evasively but he knew he couldn’t keep the truth from him for long. “Ok. Don’t be mad but I took you out of the antechamber.”
            “You what?” Alex asked, barely able to contain his anger. “Why did you do that?”
            “I thought you were in danger. Well,” he explained. “We thought you were.”
            “From who? My grandfather?” Alex asked and added, “And who’s we?”
            Alex gasped.

         TEN hours earlier.
            The stars lit the path to the antechamber. Jason and Kayden walked quickly through the forest. They were mutually concerned for Alex but Jason could tell that Kayden was keeping something from him.
            “Alright. You have to tell me what kind of danger Alex is in,” Jason said.
            Kayden looked back for a moment and said, “I assume he learned about his father’s murder by now.”
            Kayden stopped and turned to explain. “If I know Alex, he’ll want to go after the killer. His grandfather has knowledge that may help him find him. If he starts poking around, the killer will become aware of his existence and will hunt him down till he kills him too. I don‘t want that to happen.”
            Jason shook his head. “Ok. Let’s go find him.”
            Kayden began to walk again with Jason following right behind him at a fast pace. After a while, they found the round structure. Two Taulsekan guards protected the antechamber’s entrance. Kayden advanced towards them demanding to know the whereabouts of his beloved. “Where’s Alex?”
            The early 20ish-looking guard fearlessly replied, “You do not belong here. Leave immediately!"
            In response, Kayden grabbed one of them by the collar. The other guard took out a dagger and pressed the blade against Kayden’s neck. Kayden probed the insecure aborigine guard’s dark beady eyes and laughed. “Do you really think you can cut my throat before I snap your friend’s neck?”
            Jason had seen enough. He stepped between Kayden and the guards and demanded they stop. “We don’t want any trouble. All we want is our friend.”
            Then suddenly, Alokai emerged from the antechamber’s draped exit. He was stunned to find one of his guards at Kayden’s mercy. “You are not welcome here!” Then he turned to Jason and said, “Mister Tsai, where is Olahnko?”
            “Look,” Jason began. “Everyone just needs to calm down. I’m sure we can talk about this.”
            Suddenly, Kayden grabbed the guard holding the dagger by the wrist and disarmed him. He then used the dagger to threaten the other guard. “I swear to God I’ll slit his throat!” he told Alokai.
            Jason was alarmed by his violent action. “What are you doing?”
            “Get inside and grab Alex!” Kayden ordered.
            Jason went in grudgingly. There he found Alex convulsing on the ground.  He placed one arm under his shoulder and the other under his legs. Then he lifted him up and began to walk out of the antechamber.
            “Is he ok?” Kayden shouted.
            “I don’t know. He’s unconscious and he won‘t stop shaking!"
            Kayden looked enraged at Alokai. “You gave him the Makta Herb. Didn’t you?”
            “What the hell is that?!” Jason screamed.
            “It’s a hallucinogen,” Kayden explained.
            Alokai begged Jason, “Please! You must not take him. He is not ready yet!”
            “Shut up!” Kayden told the tribal leader. “I won’t let you endanger Alex!”
            “Let’s go!” said Jason.
            Kayden threw the dagger into the woods. The guards took the opportunity to try and ambush him. With Alex in his arms, Jason wasn’t able to help. Kayden was grabbed from behind and held in a bear lock by one of the guards, but he used that guard as leverage while he lifted his legs up and kicked his heels into the other guard’s chest. Then he butted the back of his head against the guard holding him, knocking him unconscious. Alokai was frail and did not have the strength to stop them. Kayden caught up to Jason and they paced away as best they could.
            Jason explained to Alex, “Kayden and I brought you back to the house. Your grandfather didn’t come after us. I looked after you while Kayden found the Bronco and replaced the damage tire. The night was uneventful. I guess he must have hurt your grandfather’s guards pretty badly. Anyway, your seizures stopped about an hour before Kayden returned.”  
         THE sun moved up the oak exterior of the Westcrow home. It searched until it found the clear white frame window and beamed morning into the room where Alex slept. Kayden walked into the room and saw Jason putting a moist cloth over Alex‘s forehead. 
            “How is he?” Kayden asked.
            “The same,” said Jason.  “I’m worried. I need to get him to a hospital.”
            Kayden looked at the unconscious aborigine and knew what had to be done. He felt tears begin to form. He didn’t want to lose Alex again, but keeping him in the tribe would have placed him in too much danger. Kayden tossed the truck’s keys to Jason and said, “Start driving. Don’t slow down or stop until you’re clear of the reservation. After you get on the interstate, get off on the second exit. You’ll find a hospital there on your right.”
            “Wait!” Jason said.  He removed a business card from his pant pocket and handed it to him. “It has the number and address of my Kung-Fu school.  Come pay us a visit when you get a chance. I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you again.”
            “That’s kind of you,” said Kayden. He clasped Jason’s hand and shook it like he would an old friend’s. “When he wakes up, tell him I love him and that I never stopped thinking about him.”

            ALEX'S anger grew as he finished listening to Jason’s account of what he and Kayden had done.

            “You two behaved no differently than the colonists that stole our land centuries ago! You had no right to take me out of the antechamber without my consent!”

            Jason shrugged his shoulders and said, “It didn’t seem to bother you at the time.”

            “I was out cold!” Alex shouted. He crossed his arms and stared at him like an angry bull ready to strike its horns into its prey.

            Jason sighed before he said, “Al, I’m sorry. I know I was out of line back there. Kayden convinced me that you were in danger. I wanted to look out for you the way you used to look out for me in high school.”

            Alex knew his friend meant well. The harshness on his face faded and he shook Jason’s hand when he offered it to him in friendship.

            “You owe me Chinaman!”
            Jason had no problem admitting that. “I do Chief. I owe you big time.”
            Alex whacked his finger back and forth at him and said, “I won’t let you forget it either.”
            Jason rolled his eyes, “I know you won’t.”
            Alex steadied himself against a tree. He was still feeling light-headed but the nausea was gone. After a while he asked, “So how did Kayden look? Did he tell you anything about what he’s been up to all these years? Does he still live in that cottage of his?”
            “There wasn’t much time to talk but I could tell he was still very much in love with you.”
            Alex smiled. “I wish I’d gotten the chance to see him.”
            “You still might. I gave him my business card and told him to stop by for a visit when he got the chance.”
            Gratefully he replied, “Thanks.”
            “We should have you checked out. There’s a hospital not far from here. It‘s where I was headed before you woke up.”
            Alex got pissed and said, “You take me to a hospital and I’ll kill you.”
            Stunned by the threat, Jason backed away a bit and said, “Jeez, Al. Message received.”
            The two friends got back in the Bronco and resumed their journey out of the tribe.  Jason could sense that something had changed in his friend. There was uneasiness in Alex’s eyes, concern even.
            “You sure you’re ok, Chief?”
            Alex tilted his head and said, “Yeah. Why?”
            “I don’t know. You just seem distant.”
            Before Alex could answer, a bolt of lightning streaked across the sky and with it came faint sounds of explosions and gunfire. He jumped out of his seat so fast that he almost hit his forehead against the windshield.  “Did you hear that?” he asked.
            “Yeah, thunder,” Jason said and wondered why his friend was acting so jumpy.
            Alex looked up at the sky ahead but there were no clouds. Then Jason pointed to the rear view mirror and said, “Look.”
            Alex craned his neck back and saw a small patch of swirling dark clouds forming in the horizon.          
            “Looks like quite a storm is brewing up there,” said Jason. “It’s a good thing we left when we did. Not sure how sturdy that roof in your old home would’ve been under that type of weather.”
            Alex gazed at the massive turmoil in the sky as if in a trance. It was a sign. He was sure of it. His grandfather said that the battle was coming. Events had been set in motion. Whoever killed his father would come after him. He didn’t know who to turn to for help.
            He was alone and terrified.


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