Wil's winter by Antoinette Houston

CHAPTER ONE September The muted sounds of “Every Breath You Take” by The Police go ignored by the sole passenger in what looks to be an abandoned car. It’s carelessly parked off the side of interstate 70 heading toward Colorado. The pain is becoming too much to take. "All right!" Thomas shouts, the sound of his own anger hurting his ears as his voice bounces off the inside of the vehicle. His trembling vibrates the car they've been sharing for the past four years. The scent of old take-out and spilled soda is now comforting after years of soaking into the carpet and pleather. But he couldn’t care less about 'man-cave' comforts right now. The left side of his face has gone numb again, this time probably for good. The noise in his head has only gotten worse since his and Bobby’s reunion. Now, when Bobby distances himself with that ‘miracle’ stone, his suffering doubles, sometimes triples. Thomas is addicted to its properties. It mutes all the pain and noise. Thomas closes his eyes as the pounding and thumping threatens to liquefy his brain. He has to be close to it almost all the time now. Everything is so much worse when he’s not. But Bobby will never let him even touch the stone, let alone allow it to be away from him for a second. Thomas wonders if the rock does something for Bobby as well, like amplify his abilities. Is there a chance he’s addicted to the rock as well? That would explain his vicious possessiveness about it. If the stone does anything special for him, Bobby never gives him the slightest hint. Bobby never explained exactly what the stone was or how it was able to alleviate the issues he was suffering. Not that it matters. He’s a tool, simple as that. Well, maybe not. He’s a reluctant tool, but a tool nonetheless. All Thomas knows is that without the rock he would probably still be off in a dark corner in some dark motel waiting to die from madness. Instead, Bobby found him and now he’s being dragged all over the U.S. in search of Rita. For four years they’ve been making their way back and forth, narrowing the location of dear Rita. It’s slow but it is soon coming to a close. The gifts Jason had bestowed upon Thomas took their sweet time to manifest fully. But as they grew stronger, they wreaked havoc on his normally aging body. Killing off cells, shutting down synapses, deadening muscles, reducing blood flow. He looks at his hands. His fingers are painfully curled, no longer any use to him. The nails are dark and flaky. His body is going to give out; he doesn't need Bobby to tell him that he is slowly dying. At present, it's the middle of the night and they are somewhere out in a desert, he thinks. He isn't sure. Thomas can't tell because he can barely see anymore. He bangs on the car door with his good hand as Bobby has yet to answer him or even come back with that stupid grin on his face. One would think that Thomas would learn not to push Bobby like this, but again, Thomas is a reluctant tool. Every few months Thomas has to get a backbone and refuse to be used as a psychic bloodhound. A small backbone. This time he doesn’t even remember what he had said or done. "Bobby!" "I'm here." Bobby watches as Thomas relaxes in the bare presence of the stone. He leans into the car and shakes his head as Thomas moves just a little toward him. The stone alleviates whatever the pain is that Thomas is suffering. Bobby will never understand what Jason had done to him. Honestly, he doesn't really care. All he knows is that the rock led him to Thomas in St. Louis. When Thomas touches the stone, the pain lessens and Thomas can point him in the direction of those like him, Celic's other experimental children. Bobby had honestly forgotten about the others he had 'helped' escape the facility that night. He hadn't realized there had been so many of them. The number was staggering, according to Thomas' new ability. More than Bobby thought had escaped that institute and made normal lives here in the States. He was shocked and honestly a little excited when they found the first one. That was short-lived, as the idiot tried his best to kill Bobby. About a month back, Thomas had led them to an abandoned mine in Arkansas. Before Bobby could yell at Thomas for his blunder, thinking that he had gotten them lost in the middle of nowhere. A crazy man came running out of the mouth of the old cave waving an old pickax. Bobby carefully got out of the car to calm the old man down and let him know they were just lost. He didn’t need the nut having a heart attack. But Bobby was unable to talk reason with the old man before he flung his pickax at Bobby and it went flying in all directions. Seriously, it went in all directions. The ax gave off a resounding crack before it split apart into seven identical axes that whirled about in dangerous arcs meant to tear Bobby apart. His shock at the unexpected attack had him off guard for all of five minutes. Bobby quickly got his wits back about him and killed the nut. He had to keep telling himself it was self-defense the first few days as he felt guilty for a while, having to kill the first of his kind that he’s come across since leaving Georgia. Bobby shakes his head at Thomas before climbing back into the car. Staring through the windshield and into the night, Bobby calls up old memories of Rita and him. He’s trying to tamp down his growing impatience with their search. Hundreds of miles have been traveled. Dozens of cities and towns searched for just one girl. His girl. His Rita. Ever since meeting the crazy in Arkansas, Bobby has been trying to recall the picture he had. The picture of the place he and Rita were going to escape to before all the nonsense with Jason. He remembered all the trouble he went through to legally get the property. But despite everything, he couldn’t recall anything else about it. The name, the area, nothing. He can't even remember if it’s in the United States. "Feeling better?" Bobby looks askance at Thomas, who solemnly nods. He flicks his lengthening bang of raven-colored hair from over his eyes with a sun-bronzed hand. He has added more ink to his pitch-colored tentacles tattooed down the sides of his neck and trailing across his shoulders to wind about his arms. Two small circles of blood-red flames lick at the stars located on the inside of his arms. "Don't do that anymore or I will leave you at a gas station in the middle of nowhere." "Ok," Thomas whispers. "Now,” Bobby says. He starts the motor and turns on the headlights, catching the reflective glare from the eyes of a coyote or fox ahead of them before it scrambles off into the night. Before them is nothing but a long dark road. "What's our next stop?" The crystal, the stone, the mineralized piece of Jason, sits bundled in a simple handkerchief in Bobby's windbreaker, currently wrapped about his waist. He could never figure out exactly what to call it. Honestly, it’s a little creepy. It is, after all, literally a broken-off piece of Jason. That day Bobby had been beside himself with grief and anger. They had left him. Carried off his Rita and left him in that crater with Jason's remains. He would get them back for that. Plans for revenge filled his mind as his body healed that day five years ago, but first he had to get rid of Jason. That was a must. No one could find that.

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