They get to Samson's HQ

Brigitte looked over at me, sitting up straighter. I stared at Samson, who had reduced his speed more now, so we were moving along a little more reasonably, through row after row of houses with yards and fences and sand and rocks, mostly, behind the fences. Off in the distance, I could see the main city with more modern looking buildings. All of the houses had a southwesterny-cowboy-indianish kind of style, more or less. It was kind of net.

“I don’t think you should hide stuff from me,” I said, after a minute.

“I’m not hiding anything from you. I’m just not telling you yet.”

“That’s the same thing as hiding it from me.”

“No, it’s not. I could have lied and said I didn’t know. I told you, I know stuff but I’m not telling you just yet.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’ll tell you what I can when I get a chance and this is not that chance and I’m distracted because I’ve got to figure out where we are and get where we’re going before the Blockers figure out what happened and come looking for us.”

“The who?”

“That’s what I call them.”

What do you call them?”

“The Blockers.”

”Why what?”

“Why do you call them the Blockers?”

“Because that’s there name.”

“Samson!” that was Brigitte. “Don’t toy with her, please.” She turned to me.

“He gets like this. He was like this a little during the days we were looking for you.” Turning back forward, she leaned up a little and put her hand on her shoulder. “If you know something, Samson, you should just tell us.”

“I will. I will. All in good time.” He patted her hand and looked over his shoulder at her.

I did not entirely like the way he looked at her. And more, I did not like the fact that he had to have known I would see his look, would see the look he gave Brigitte because I was sitting in the back seat and he looked at Brigitte sitting next to me in the back seat, too. I was about to say something when Brigitte sat back and said “I think we can trust him. He’s been really helpful so far.”

Samson turned again. “Got to get out of the city,” he said.

“Where are we going?”

“Headquarters?” I didn’t like the sound of that.

“Yes. Headquarters. Home base. My operating base.”

“Who’s at headquarters? I don’t know that I want to go there.”

“Nobody’s at headquarters. It was where I worked. I called it headquarters because that’s what you call the base of operations. But with Sharing and telecommunications nowadays, and the nature of our operation, I didn’t need more than me there. And the portal.”

“The portal?”

“Again, I’ll tell you in a minute.”

Naked Girl still crouched in the back, stumbling everytime we took a sharp turn. Samson saw that and said “Tell her she can come sit up front.”

“Go ahead,” I said. I wasn’t in the mood to help him.

“She won’t listen to me.”

“Try her.”

Samson shrugged and said “Naked Girl, come sit up front.”

Naked Girl didn’t react.

“You tell, her.” He said. Then he added: “Please.”

Even his please didn’t sound very good.

“I don’t like you,” I said.

“I know,” he said.

“Rachel, please. He was really very helpful to me. He might have saved my life. Those cops were really shooting at us, and then I had no idea what to do or how to find you.” Brigitte put her hand on my elbow, then moved it to my thigh. She knew how that would work on me. But I tried to resist.

“From what I can see, he just came along for the ride. Those cops and Reverend Tommy just wanted me, not you guys.”

“They kept shooting at us, even after they had you in that net. He helped steer us away and then helped us come and find where you were. We kept a watch on your body that whole time you were … in Hell.” She shuddered a bit when she said that last part. I grumped down, folding my arms over my breasts and sitting a little lower in the seat. I tried not to look like I was pouting. I probably didn’t succeed.

“Fine.” I said. “Naked Girl,” I motioned over my shoulder. “Come sit up front.”

She scrambled through to the front seat, climbing over and around the left of Brigitte. There was a lot of nakedness rumbling around the back seat for a moment and then she sat down. On Samson’s instructions, I had her strap the belt across her. He kept driving and looking around. There were other people around us now. Some of them looked at us, some of them didn’t.

“Do you think it’s a good idea, to have a naked girl sitting in the front seat of this thing?” I asked, trying to prove to Samson that I know some things, too, and he should listen to me.

“It’s a lot better for her than to be crashing around back there and hurting herself. I’d have you or Brigitte sit up here but I didn’t want to split you up.”

I really didn’t like him.

“Why does she listen to me, anyway?” I asked him.

“Because she’s like you,” he said.

“What’s that mean?”

He looked over his shoulder at me with a look of surprise. It was lucky, I thought, that we weren’t moving but were sitting at a traffic podium waiting for the Go Sign to pop up. “I suppose I should not be surprised,” he said. “Not a lot figure it out. I thought maybe you’d have worked it out by now. Or that Revenant you hung around with, what’s his name, Bob, would have told you.”

Bob. I felt bad for him, then, remembering what Reverend Tomny had done to him. Then I felt bad, too, because Brigitte’s dad was dead and I hadn’t told her that yet, too. There was never enough time! But I didn’t want to tell her now because Samson sighed and said “I guess there’s no harm in telling you. Maybe there is. I don’t know. But I’ll tell you anyway. You’re a zombie.”

“What?” I asked. My mouth felt dry. I looked down at my body.

Brigitte hugged me.

It wasn’t until later, a lot later, that I realized that Brigitte had not reacted. If I’d thought of it then, I might have thought that Samson had told her about me while I was in Hell or that she’d figured it out. But I didn’t think of it then and when I did think of it it was because I learned other things, too, that helped explain why she didn’t react. But she didn’t react at all and I didn’t notice it then, which isn’t really my fault because when a stinky dead soul that you’ve pulled out of Hell tells you as your driving in a van through Albuquerque that you’re a zombie, you don’t notice much else and you probably would have done what I did, which was stare down at my body, with its all-dirty and raggedy clothes and sit there in shock.

My hands, though, did not match up. They were different. The left one was longer and darker skinned than the right, which was sort of blockier and while still a girl’s hand was less feminine. And neither of my arms matched my body; my body had smooth white skin that didn’t seem to have ever seen the sun, but my right arm was a little darker and my left arm was darker still. My right and left legs weren’t quite the same length and my right toes were all curled and bunched up and little while my left toes were long and straight and separated.

“That’s…” I said.

“That’s…” I tried again.

I swallowed. My voice was really cracking and dry and I thought I was going to choke.

“That’s…” I said one more time.

“We’re here,” Samson said, and I looked up and so did Brigitte. “Here,” wherever we were supposed to be, was a convenience store near the edge of the downtown, one of those stores that someday will probably be torn down to have a larger building put up in its place and would no longer exist then, as a separate building but instead would be a little area in the cornerstone of a larger building. Through the plate glass windows I could see the kinds of things that convenience stores along my walking route from New York to Brigitte’s town had contained, things that I assumed all convenience stores carried: Newspapers, candy bars, squid jerky, Liquipods, and those 98 ounce-Behemoth soda pops. There was a bored-looking guy behind the counter.

“Come on,” Samson said. He maneuvered the van into a spot off to the left, marked with one of those handicapped symbols, and opened his door. “Rachel, tell Naked Girl to follow me,” he said.

I tried to talk but my voice wouldn’t come. I just kept staring at my bare feet, my two nonidentical bare feet.

I was, am, are, a zombie.

“Come on, Rachel, we don’t have much time,” Samson said, and snapped his fingers impatiently.

“Come on, Rachel,” Brigitte murmured into my ear. She kissed my earlobe and I snapped out of it a bit. Just a bit.

“What?” I asked. I sort of croaked it.

“Naked Girl. Have her follow me. And come on,” Samson said. He was looking around nervously now. There were a lot of people walking by and I thought this was not the best place to get us out of the van but what did I know?

I was, am, a zombie. That’s all I could think.

“Naked Girl, follow Samson,” I said. “Do what he says.”

Naked Girl got up and opened her door and Brigitte leaned across me – our breasts pressed against each other and that helped a little – and pulled on the lever to open the door and said “Come on, honey. Let’s follow him.” Doc zipped out and Brigitte gave me a little nudge and I swung my legs out.

People on the sidewalk were stopping and pointing at Naked Girl. Samson told her to go inside and wait for us and she did that.

“Stand clear,” he said, and Brigitte closed the door behind me and pulled me by the hand up onto the sidewalk outside the little convenience store, right in front of the container of Dry Ice for sale, 99 cents a bag.

Doc walked up and as he walked towards the door of the convenience store, he pressed his hand against a brick to the right, down on the side of the door.

There was a flash and some steam and the parking spot holding the van suddenly flipped over and the van disappeared underneath it. The parking lot was empty of vehicles now. A few of the people who were walking by looked up but they’d missed whatever happened. Samson looked back at them and shrugged. “I hope nobody noticed.”

He hoped nobody noticed that a naked girl had gotten out of a van that then disappeared?

We followed him inside. Brigitte was tugging at my hand as we did, getting me to go with her. I just felt numb. We walked past the front counter with its Win-A-House pulltab games and the Lotto advertisements and Cinnamon Rolls and went to the Behemoth Soda Fountain, a giant row of nozzles with all the 45 flavors of soda Behemoth sold and the stacks of 98 ounce cups. The guy behind the counter paid us no attention, even though we were a mess and Samson really smelled – really smelled; he was getting worse, I thought – and I was a zombie and Naked Girl was standing by the soda fountain.

Doc took a cup, calmly, and then began filling it. He put in a little ice and then ran down the fountain, putting a squirt of each kind of soda in it. When he reached the 45th flavor and the cup was almost full, a door opened off to the right. He put a lid on the soda and a straw in it and began sipping from it.

“Come on in,” he said, and motioned to us to follow him through the narrow door. We did that. I looked back at the counter guy, who was not watching us at all. Weird.

We went inside and there was a little room there with an old-fashioned desk, a computer monitor, and a couple of little gadgets on it. One of the gadgets was lit up and Samson picked it up.

“Hmm,” he said, looking at it. He held it up. “Ever seen one of these?”

Brigitte shook her head.

Naked Girl shook her head.

I didn’t react. I was, am a zombie, and I was still trying to process that.

“This,” said Samson, “Is an old fashioned cell phone. They still work and some people like to use them because they’re so secure.” He seemed proud of it. He looked at it again, reading the display.

“And,” he said, “It’s telling me that I’ve missed a call.” He put the phone back down. “From God.”


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