It sounded like thunder. We could see a strange, red cloud rising up in the distance. Having had only the blank landscape in front of us for hours on end, the cloud was an irresistible sight. Keep moving, I thought, stay in the Jeep. Before I had a chance to say anything you were pulling off the road. I climbed out too, uncapping the binoculars. In a rumbling roar they descended.
I lost track of you in the confusion that followed. By the grace of God, they didn’t see me. Hundreds of leather clad warriors on horseback, silent but for the pounding of hooves, their eyes black and soulless, their weapons primitive and bloody.
I put my head down and tried to protect myself with my arms. I didn’t dare to call out to you. They seemed to disappear into thin air as they reached the two lane highway that split the hard baked earth. The desolate whir of the wind out of the cold canyons traveled on their heels to let me know I was without you again. I had barely let out the breath I’d been holding when your voice raced behind a thought in my head, “RUN! RUN!”
I was on my feet, flying back to the Jeep, knowing what was coming. I had to find you. Whatever had happened to you, you would need me too. Besides, who would believe either of us without the other to back us up? The silent calm that held around me in the moments of realization and revelation was the strength of the will of God within me. Every molecule of my being tingled with the energy of destiny moving through me.
With the sun setting, I put the Jeep in gear and headed for the mountains. I wanted to know what was going on in the world. Had anyone else seen them? I smiled then knowing that it would only be the two of us again. No one else would know anything. It was just us.
I would need shelter from the growing darkness. The smell of the rain of the coming storm tinged the first cool drafts of evening. Hours of driving, climbing steadily, finally put the desert floor out of sight in the rear view mirror. I would not let myself think about it all too much. It was pointless to wonder. It had begun. I was not afraid. I knew there would be no greater crucible for me than that of my own loneliness, for even in the presence of God, I would dare to be lonely without you.
With the first drops of rain falling, I was relieved to find a tavern hugging a bend in the road and pulled into the gravel parking lot. My heart felt like a jackhammer in my chest. Inside the rustic dining room things were fairly normal if not a little busy for that time of night, people were seeking shelter. Travelers, locals, no one paid much notice. I was grateful for the anonymity as I sat at a table near the windows, sipped my coffee and scanned the papers.
There was nothing out of the ordinary in the news. Nothing unusual appeared on the little television droning away at its place behind the counter. Eavesdropping on the other customers around me confirmed what I already knew, no one else had seen a thing.
I managed to eat a cup of soup. I wasn’t hungry but there was no telling when I would get a chance to eat again. I checked my watch. It had stopped, as had the clock on the wall. I asked the waitress for the time, she said that it was midnight. When she reached across the table to fill my coffee cup, I noticed that her watch had stopped. Half way through the crossword puzzle from the local paper, I asked her again what time it was. “I just told you hon, it’s midnight.” She shook her head at me and moved on.
I watched the rain turn the world outside the window into mud. There was something hypnotic in the rhythm of the drops on the glass. Where were you? Why was it that we managed to become separated when we needed each other like this? This time I knew we wouldn’t be apart for long. Two crossword puzzles and a word search later, you finally slid into the chair across from me. You were soaked to the skin. You looked exhausted. “We have to go now.” You spoke to me without opening your mouth.
It took me a few seconds before it sunk in. I could hear your thoughts, and you…could hear mine!
“Let’s go.” You said to me out loud, smiling a bit.
You paid my bill and we left the tavern as I had found it. The people inside would not remember us. They would not know anything about what was coming until it was breathing down their necks, until it was on top of them. I thought to look at my watch as we stepped out into the rain. Ten after midnight, ticking away. It had to have been at least three hours since I had asked the waitress for the time.
It was morning before you freed one of your hands from the steering wheel of the Jeep. There were no thoughts about what was next, no lingering over what we had seen. The pounding in my head was the repetition of only one thought. “I love you, I love you, I love you…”
With your hand resting on my knee, I settled back into the curve of the seat, closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep…
…until I was awake.
From RED LINE WINE