Chapter XXIII:

The Place of His Dreams

Lying on the table, or whatever it was, Heather’s thoughts kept returning to Leon. How he acted the night he came to her wineshop, like he was almost afraid for her, but out of some urge to selfishness he was putting that worry out of his mind. Did he know what he was doing, putting her in the line of fire? Did he do it anyway or did he underestimate the risk? And what had he gotten mixed up with anyways? What, exactly was he seeing, and what did it have to do with the statuette, the Quixote? What was everyone else seeing, for that matter? She supposed there were incarnations of it everywhere, driving everyone crazy, just as she noticed with the sun-orb creatures. But there were so many sides to the story that she was missing. If she ever saw him again she would be sure to ask him.

Unfortunately she was still confined to this table.

And why had she fucked him, after all? It was like she’d had a premonition that he would need her, and she, out of the goodness of her heart, had decided to be there for him, even if his had been a purely selfish urge. He had wanted to clear his mind, had known that she was his best avenue for such, and had had his little plot in mind even when they’d gone to the sushi restaurant, as if he’d known that he would need her, which was why he invited her into his ‘adventure’. And he did need her, even now, she was sure of it. In her heart of hearts she knew that he would come for her. If there were someone who could weather a national or even super-national apocalypse, Heather hazarded it was Leon. He had just the right mixture of creativity, ego, and selfishness. Selfishness was a very important part of it. But he also had a good heart. He wouldn’t want his selfishness to hurt adversely anyone he ostensibly cared about, and she included the word ‘ostensibly’ in her account fully aware of the implications; she didn’t believe that he really cared for her, only after what happened in her wine shop he would feel perversely responsible for her. This was not what Heather wanted, in an ideal world. She far would have preferred to be able to take care of herself, but given the circumstances, being tethered to some operating table in an alternate dimension, she could imagine that she would need all the help that she could get. And after she had freely helped Leon by fucking him, what would he do now to return the favor?

While she was strapped to the table, thinking things over, time altogether lost meaning. She drifted in and out of consciousness, silence around her impenetrable. It was something like how she would have imagined taking a Native American vision quest would have been, only without nature, freedom, or the sounds of nature to keep her company.

The doctor creature came to visit her again. Lifted the table and measured her heart rate. Heather began screaming at him as soon as the doors slid open; obscenities, demands and questions. “Where the fuck am I!? What are you doing to me? Let me go right now and keep that fucking stethoscope away from me!” She received no response, and when it left the room again, the table reclining back to its prone position, it left Heather crying in its wake, her mind wild and afraid.

So, it was with some surprise when, some interminable period of time later, a ring of fluorescent tube-lighting, binding the bullet-shaped chamber at the tapering point, came to life.

With the lights came, all at once, the realization that she could move her legs and arms again. The leather straps had retracted and she hadn’t noticed it. Instantly upon drawing in her arms and legs she cried out in pain at an intense attack of pins and needles, and her shoulders were sore from holding the ’T’ position for so long.

Eventually she was able to curl into a ball and hug her limbs to her chest, rubbing her legs and arms vigorously.

She wondered how long she had been here. There was absolutely no way to tell.

It was some time yet before she hazarded to swing her feet, which were bare, over the side of the table and stand. She stumbled at the weight of herself, and felt a dizzying head rush, but before too long she was standing erect next to the table.

She walked to the door that the stethoscope creature had come through and she pushed it.

To her vast surprise, it swung open.

The first few hundred miles were the hardest. After he left the gas station and its grisly surprise behind Leon buckled into the drive and the hours and distance swept past him, faster and faster. About him, the country burned. In the populated areas traffic accidents and snarled lanes of cars caused him delay. There were dead bodies in the street, just like they had been at the gas station. War had finally boiled over, the defenseless Quixotes versus the legions of crazed people. Leon kept the gas pedal close to the floor when he could, reaching on the open highways somewhere between eighty and ninety. He timed his rests to correspond with the entrance into civilization so that he would miss the worst of the traffic, but what with the bedlam surrounding him, this proved to be more art than science. In Salt Lake City he saw a group of four Quixotes, perhaps a family, chased down the street by a mob of the unturned. In Akron, Ohio he saw two Quixotes trapped in their car, surrounded by a like group of people, who turned the car over before his very eyes, and he saw a fire start.

Leon parked his car and approached the group of people, drawing the Quixote from his pocket, the thing in total agreement as to his intention.

“Hey!” he shouted. “Over here!”

His voice boomed supernaturally from his chest and the crowd turned towards him as one and there was fear in their eyes when they saw what he had in his hand. He raised the Quixote and some of them turned to run, those that did not, when Leon reached the burning car, all at once, with a popping sound in the air, became Quixotes themselves.

“Help me,” Leon said. “Help them.”

Leon reached down into the car and helped to drag one of the Quixotes out. On the other side of the car several Quixotes, setting their lances aside, did the same.

When they were out they looked at Leon, wordless and silent. Leon shrugged off the disgust he felt at their mute helplessness and returned to his own car. He had just saved two lives, but what kind of lives were they to lead anyways, if they were to be bound behind their motorcycle helmets, or, at best, to become leather-skinned monsters in the vein of Consuela? If the things could thank him perhaps they would have, perhaps why they stood there and stared at him, followed him, tagged at his heels everywhere he went. But they didn’t follow his car.

He got back onto the highway and after Akron he stayed his course through the industrial midwest, following the signs for his destination. It wasn’t until another ten hours had passed before he arrived, and at this point he was a nervous wreck. There was something in the air that oppressed him, stifled his mind and caused his more base emotions to shine forth. The country was tearing itself apart around him. Maybe the Quixotes, most of them, would choose to stay in doors until whatever was happening passed, but Leon wasn’t sure that it would. It reminded him of a movie he’d seen, Hotel Rwanda, where the hotelier portrayed by Don Cheadle witnesses his country’s popular, genocidal descent into murderous hate, neighbor against neighbor, machetes, blood and fires all around. He couldn’t put any time to waste. He had to find Heather. He had to reach the nexus, the place of his dreams.

Get yourself a hotel room close by, the Quixote told him, when, at long last, he had reached the town he sought.

“Which one?”

I’ll tell you. You need your rest.

“Just for the night.”

I’m afraid that’s all the time you have.

Leon took the next exit, sliding off the freeway into a mayhem of fires and marauding gangs. Many had chosen not to drive at all, so traffic in the traditional sense was nothing to worry about. Furthermore no one attacked Leon, his importance too apparent, his Quixote too powerful.

“I want to see it first,” Leon said aloud, but more to himself than the Quixote, which remained silent.

Large brick buildings lined the streets. He wove through them toward the Northwest Quadrant, and when he reached his destination, the nexus, he could tell by the absence of chaos around it that his dreams and instincts had not led him wrong. It was a veritable oasis of tranquility: A large, sprawling, wholly familiar white mansion of marble and plaster, heavily columned at its entrance, surrounded by a vast, solid green lawn ringed with a towering wrought iron fence, patrolled by armed squadrons of security guards. Leon imagined there were cameras everywhere.

He had seen this place so many times on television and in movies. To see it in person, though, was to see how imposing, how presidential, it truly was.

The nexus was in there somewhere, and Leon, to fulfill the role that had come to him, was going to find it.

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