Galveston, TX – 1970
Davis stood in the restroom doorway, silhouetted by the waning rays of the setting sun, and the pink cast of a warming sodium vapor light.
“Maybe your mommy’s in here,” he said to the little girl in front of him.
He quickly inspected the stalls to ensure he and Heather were, in fact, alone. He pushed the door shut, and jammed a mop through the handle, crudely securing it.
Heather completed her own investigation, and stepped out of the last stall to face the man.
“This bathroom is for girls,” she said, noticing the closed door, oblivious to the wicked intentions directed at her. Even seasoned professionals had been confounded by this quiet stranger’s capacity for evil.
“Where shall we look next?” Davis asked, slowly stepping toward her.
An animal instinct flared inside Heather, a reaction to the diminishing space between herself, and the grimy wall, and this mysterious grown-up. She stepped back and her foot slipped out from under her. She fell sharply against the wall, and looked up, whimpering as the man, made black in the shadow of the single light fixture behind him, reached out for her.
Somewhere close, but insensible, 27-year-old Heather witnessed this moment, from outside of it. She had been transported there by a potent drug and a steady guiding voice, and her will to conquer the fear and shame born on this day in her own past. Her memory of it had been murky before, but now it was unfolding clearly before her. She would not turn away.
At this moment, the Air Today plant erupted in a massive, chaotic discharge of chemical energy. The power of this explosion focused through the aperture of Heather’s displaced consciousness, directing its power through young Heather’s fear. She closed her eyes and curled up tight against the wall, experiencing the following moments as a nightmare concert of sounds. She heard a chime, like when she would stroke the edge of her water glass at Christmas dinner, except louder and deep in her ears. Above that, she heard the man scream; a short, sharp scream as if a dog’s tail were stepped on. Then thumping, like her sneakers in the drier, and finally, the sound of a cantaloupe knocked a table, thunk-splatting on a tile floor. After, that Heather remembered only what she could comprehend, which was the color red, and little else.
Portillo, TX – Present
The unconscious, adult body of Heather Slown was still alive, but dormant in the absence of its derelict psyche. She had been secured to a body board and carefully transported down the spiral stairs at the rear of the Momus house, by two diligent EMT’s. A dozen units had been summoned to the Air Today site, but none were actually needed. This one had travelled swiftly to the nearby neighborhood, and Heather was on her way to Portillo General Hospital. The fire at the plant was under control, but would burn a while longer.
Galveston, TX – 1929
Heather continued travelling, backward in time, while hovering about the same point on the Galveston seawall. The wave of energy from the Air Today explosion propelled her. The peak of the wave leveled out, and Heather halted, trying to ascertain her surroundings. The restroom had not been built yet, nor had most of the other surrounding structures. To Heather’s perception, the landscape had instantly transformed. Dusk became deep night. The tea house and gift shop standing over the surf was suddenly a neon-lit nightclub. The area directly before her seemed to be lit from directly behind her, or, however improbably, by her. A golden light, soft but inconceivably intense, emanated from her. Her form had been stretched out, reduced; she seemed to be only one eyeball, through which she observed the moment on the boulevard, and illuminated it, at the same time. She witnessed what looked like a photographic multiple exposure, a superposition of several simultaneous permutations.
A young man sat in an old car, a Ford Model-T. He pitched a small glass bottle over the edge of the seawall, into the sand below. As her light entered the scene, he turned away looking at the beach, then raising a revolver in the air and firing it, whooping. The scene blurred as she saw the young man, overlaid on his own image, taking another course of action. She could see another man observing the same scene, an old man in overalls, who flickered away just as quickly. Yet another man appeared in the passenger seat, dressed in hospital clothes, she thought she could see a scar on his forehead, but he too vanished before she could be sure what she saw.
All of this stretched out with dreamy inertia, but occurred in fractured fractions of seconds. Her presence here, enabled by the powerful combination of pharmaceutical, metaphysical, and chemical powers, created a nexus, a spiritual mass weighing down a fabric which all these souls slid toward.
The wave carrying Heather began to coil back. Her light diminished, and she detected, with a sense beyond sight – new to her in this journey – the tendrils of effect which radiated from this moment. Branches budded out, ideas were transmitted, lives diverted, ripples pushed forward into the ether. Finally, dragged in the undertow, she drew back from the strange instant. It shifted into sharp focus as her observation collapsed the possibilities into a singular outcome. The young man, now in darkness, brought the weapon to his own head and used it.
She could not bear to see it, for she knew, at that extra-sensory level, that this man’s demise somehow made her own life possible. There was not enough room for the both of them. The gray union of lead and brain was like a forming zygote, her own conception; her life allowed to come into existence, and now, to continue, to be made worthwhile by her own perseverance and will to endure. She felt young Molo’s misery cease. He slumped in the old car, becoming a tiny dot as she rushed back on the retreating wave, returning to her time, and place, and her mute, damaged body.
Portillo, TX – Present
I am Kyle Blyte. Having collected myself, and dragged my ass out of the Sol-Mart dumper, I’m standing in the median of Center Street. Gawking with the others, I watch the emergency responders, the flashing lights, the blaze steadily vanquished. Several others rushed away, like Nemo, worried about their parents. Most of their dads have spent their adult lives sweating in those blue AT jumpsuits. There’s a line at the bank of payphones, the ones up front calling home worried, the rest answering 911 pages from parents worried about them. The reports are all positive so far, no injuries. Reports on the radio say the same. There’s a single ambulance coming up Center Street. It passes, and I wonder who it carries. I’m compelled to fear not.