Chapter XXIV:

Leon Takes a Walk

At the Quixote’s behest, Leon spent some time driving around the city. It was the first time since leaving Oakland that he had navigated the backstreets of a major urban center, and it was the same here, if not worse, than anywhere else, close proximity to the nexus or not. It didn’t matter if it were white neighborhoods or black, rich or poor. The more densely populated the more intense the division. There were fires, gunshots, mobs and the consistent sight of fleeing Quixotes. When there were no Quixotes the regular people walked about in something of a daze, shines in their eyes as if they were only waiting to see a representative of that which was driving them crazy. Maybe the Quixotes would ultimately choose to stay at home, just as Leon had done. But he himself did not feel unsafe. Regular people looked after him as he drove past, but no one sought to attack him. He wondered what they saw, but didn’t bother to stop and ask. The power of the Quixote was such that he felt invincible.

Some several hours later, having learned the lay of the land, Leon pulled into a Holiday Inn no more than a mile from the nexus, and he paid for a room for three days. The attendant at the front desk, a Middle Eastern man with a crazed, toothy smile, supplied him with the paperwork and took his credit card information. After receiving the key Leon took his bags upstairs to the second floor, dodged a dazed-looking Quixote milling about on the landing, and unlocked and entered his room, his base of operations for the assault he was to carry out tomorrow.

“How’s Heather?” Leon asked the thing in his pocket, when it appeared in live person next to him by the double bed.

She’s afraid.

“What are they doing to her?”

They’re giving her the chance to escape.

“What does that mean?”

It means you aren’t necessarily to trust her when you find her. She needs to save her own skin, Leon, and she’s a tougher cookie than you think she is.

Leon dropped his briefcase onto the bed and snapped the clasps back.

“I need to rest,” he said aloud.

Take care of yourself, the Quixote responded.

“I’m so tired.”

It’s understandable.

He took his clothes off and dropped them on the floor. He took a new change of them to the bathroom and, after brushing his teeth, took a long, hot shower, both of which were firsts for him since he’d left Oakland. If he was to execute the assault it would be no use to do so exhausted. But Leon had to admit that he was afraid. How couldn’t he be? Had the nexus been located anywhere else in the world… he couldn’t think of a place more terrifying, but he knew what to do. The Quixote had told him.

Freshly showered, Leon dressed and went downstairs to the Inn’s dinner buffet and was the only patron in the place. Another Middle Eastern attendant was the only sign of life aside from himself. He paced back and forth behind the cash register, talking to himself. Leon paid him and brought his food back to his room, where he turned on the television and before too long had found the local news station. It was no good though: the newscasters were both Quixotes. They stared mutely at the screen, driving every person who saw them into paroxysms of rage, Leon included, at that moment. He despised their helplessness, and his own super-potency, a responsibility that should never have come to him, although he supposed that he had done well enough so far, even if he’d lost his job and girlfriend.

You haven’t lost her, the Quixote whispered. She’s just under assault.

“What the hell are you?” Leon snapped. “My little assistant? What the fuck do you care?”

I care because I want things to be fixed. That’s what I am, Leon. I am everyone’s salvation, yours included.

“Ever cross your mind that I might not trust you?”

Have I given you any reason to think this way?

“No, not yet.”

But you never know.

“No, you never do.”

Heather is in danger, Leon. Is that good enough for you?

“That and everything else,” he answered. But what did he feel about Heather? Did his feelings even matter? He felt that, after the last night they’d spent together, they were ready to turn over a new, meaningful leaf in their relationship. He was ready to be there for her, and she might be the only person in the world who would be there for him.

“You should have told me she would be taken.”

I didn’t know.

“I don’t fucking believe you.”

Leon changed channels on the television, but so many of them were either pure static or those blank multi-colored testing screens. Eventually he found a channel that worked and was Quixote-free, playing The Godfather II.

He sat back on the bed and stretched his legs out, the Quixote beside him, waiting for their conversation to continue.

“You know everything else, how could you not know that?”

I suppose you have to trust me.

“I don’t trust you. How about that?”

You want it to stop, don’t you?

“Yes.”

You want Heather to survive, don’t you?

“Oh my God, yes!”

Then you’ll do as I say. You’ll see, Leon. Together we have more power than you know.

Leon finished eating and dropped the cardboard container to the floor. He got under the covers.

“Tomorrow morning,” he said.

Tomorrow morning.

“I know what I have to do.”

I believe that you do.

The movie playing in the background, Leon closed his eyes. Before too long he was asleep. When he woke the next morning the Quixote was standing by his bedside as if it had never left. Leon did not remember his dreams, though since he woke trembling and in a sweat it was fair to assume that they’d been disturbing.

He got dressed and went downstairs to the buffet and got scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. There was a family of regular people, and there was one Quixote sitting mute at a table in the corner. This time Leon ate at one of the tables, he and his Quixote, just the figurine this time, his larger friend not having made the trip down to the buffet. He would be back though. Leon could count on that.

He wondered again if he were a fool to have decided to trust it, but he assuaged his discomfiture by telling himself that, really, he didn’t have a choice. It was the only thing that seemed to have any idea what was going on. If he’d stayed in Oakland not only would Heather face her fate alone, but Leon, by himself, would probably end up going crazy just like everyone else. When a more glorious path presented itself, it was only natural, he told himself, that he must take it.

Finished with his food, Leon rose up, bussed his table, and walked out the front door of the Holiday Inn, the parking lot a bedlam of broken glass and leaked gasoline. It wasn’t a good neighborhood he was in, but it hardly mattered. It was the same everywhere. When he began his walk to the White House Leon told himself that what was about to happen had to be done. He held the entire world selfishly in balance. Heather’s abduction was merely the crude icing on his abominable cake.

Maybe when it was over he could sell the Quixote for millions of dollars. Maybe someone out there, someone like Frank, would want it. Or maybe it would have lost all of its significance after this day, a decisive day, a day Leon may not survive.

Leon did not notice immediately but the Quixote in the buffet, as if in a daze, had followed him out of the motel and down the street. Before long he was joined by several more, silent followers, collected from their surroundings like dust bunnies hiding in the corners of a room that is being swept. They saw the thing in his hand, its flaming power and significance, something familiar about themselves they hadn’t yet understood, and they were compelled towards it. It told them that it was their only way out.

Before too long there was a sizable contingent of them. A dozen, twenty, thirty, forty. It was a long walk to the White House, and it was just the thing that Leon had to accomplish, most Quixotes at this point staying indoors at all costs, except now, except today, and the regular people they passed along the way didn’t do anything to hurt them. It called to them, it sang to them a beautiful song.

Leon never looked over his shoulder, never saw the crowd behind him. Did he know they were there? Not in the strictest sense of the word, though the growing sounds of their clip clopping hooves should have been telling enough.

They reached Pennsylvania Avenue and the ranks of embassy buildings. They blocked what traffic there was. There had to be more than several hundred of them.

Leon massaged the creature in his hand, but his mind was a blank, functioning purely on instinct based on what he had already decided to do.

The Quixotes kept pouring out of the buildings surrounding the march. At this point there had to be at least a thousand of them, and the regular people, perhaps intimidated, only looked on with hate and fear. There were some fisticuffs on the outer edges of the procession, small fights breaking out here and there as the Quixotes obstructed intersections, but there was no gunfire or blood. There were no killings.

Leon was not aware of all that was going on, but, should at any point he turn around, he wouldn’t be surprised at what he saw.

The thing in his hand was drawing its power from all those around him, just as they drew strength from it.

The nexus was in sight now, and every Quixote knew the destination, and felt that it made as much sense as anywhere else would have.

When they reached the outer gates the nexus guards were ready for them. Heavily armed security people manned the gate with guns drawn.

“THIS IS AN UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY,” crowed someone speaking into a megaphone. “YOU HAVE FIVE MINUTES TO DISPERSE OR WE WILL DO IT FOR YOU!”

Leon stopped across the street from the gates of the White House. The Quixotes gathered in front of him. It was as if one of his disquieting dreams had come true.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: