Synopsis: “Beacons” was entered in the 2009 Literary Harvest writing contest sponsored by Central Oregon Writers Guild. It placed 4th and has been published in the 2009 Literary Harvest chapbook.
The mysterious lights are based on a real experience I had coming home from the observatory one night. I never did figure out what they were. They weren’t really scary, just strange. Best of all, they are great inspiration. Hope to run into them again some time.
Story Trailer by: TruNeVar
by M. Pax
There was no color to behold under the stark shadows of the waxing moon, but Diana knew the landscapes to be wild and beautiful. The high desert stretched out in all directions in sweeping vistas of water-starved brush and undulating ridges. Above it, the sky stretched out in an endless drape of black, sparkling with strewn bits of pageantry. Heady scents of juniper, sage and cedar flooded in the wide open windows. Diana breathed deeply of cooling summer heat and an ambience that was the essence of home. It called to her like a beacon.
Like Emmett, the land and sky were filled with alluring and rugged beauty that she felt she could never get enough of. Yet, it left parts of her feeling vastly empty and yearning. More, more, her soul cast out like the thirsty bushes.
Diana had heard people in the cities, or so Tony had said, dreamed of vistas like this: limitless sky, a ribbon of blacktop without end and not another car in sight. Not one glaring beam, except for her headlights and taillights, marred this sublime slice of the world. The warm night air filled Diana with the past and present as it caressed her skin and teased her hair. Her eyes stared at the future and possibility laid out before her in an etched line that just went on and on and on. It was glorious and Tony, gorgeous Tony, was waiting up there for her. Was that where she wanted to go? Brushing wind-whipped strands of copper out of her eyes, Diana couldn’t decide.
Emmett made her ache. He was safe. He was home. Like the constant breeze and the bouquet of high desert flora, he called to her. Tony filled her head with the luster of the tempting unknown. There, the future dripped in the totality of freedom. She could be whatever she dreamed to make of herself. That made her ache, too. Glittery and wonderful, Tony called to her just as strongly.
A shimmer in the rearview mirror caught her attention. Her hazel eyes followed a pair of lights approaching in the distance. They made her heart leap. Was it Emmett? Was he coming for her? She felt joy and dread.
As clear as the tailing beams, she could see the man of few words and unfathomable strength awkwardly shuffling in front of her and asking if she’d attend Homecoming with him. It was an old-fashioned phrase, but bits of Emmett were like that. He was as rugged as the landscape rolling past her windows. His steely eyes were always serious and they seared through her heart whenever he considered her, which was often. Her mother said that was rare and she ought to be grateful. Oh hell, she was grateful for Emmett, but was this it? They would marry, have a couple of kids and look back on this time as the high point of their lives. There were too many years ahead for the climax of her life to have come and gone.
As her decision wavered, Diana let up off the gas to let Emmett catch up, or punched it back down to increase the distance between them. If he stood before her right now and broke with a quiver of vulnerability, she’d never leave him. She sighed heavily and searched in the mirror for him, but the homeward lights had disappeared. Diana felt disappointed and freed. “I am so mixed up,” she complained to the night as it tumbled through the pickup.
The returning glimmer in the rearview mirror caught Diana’s breath. Emmett was back and this time he was so much closer. “How …?” she started and let the words drift off. How had Emmett snuck up on her like that?
“Tony,” she murmured, pleading for salvation. How long would he wait? She wanted to come to love the places he loved and know his kind of sky filled with blazing buildings and blaring traffic. She could get out of here and rewrite the chapters of her life. With Tony they were all splendidly blank and filled with neon lights. That devilish, care-free smile and those laughing eyes promised a future beyond what Diana could imagine.
The wind shifted and took a turn toward chill. Her skin broke out in goosebumps. As she was rolling up the window, the view in the sideview mirror made her start. The lights were so startlingly close. Were they going to ram her? She hadn’t noticed until now that the lights were vertical and not horizontal. That was odd. So she craned her neck around to look. Nothing was there. The emptiness made her shiver.
Diana shook her head and rubbed at her eyes. She turned up the radio. A wistful ballad blared out over the summer night and aroma of cedar. That was Emmett. Pure Emmett. It hurt her to think that she could wound him so deeply.
She cursed meeting Tony, yet would sell her soul to keep him. He had sparkled like crystal amongst a room of glass in that smoky tavern in Portland. It had smelled like beer and bustled with a kaleidoscope of noise and color, but Diana had noticed nothing beyond Tony. She had gone with some of her girlfriends to hear a band. They had made a weekend of it. Tony had made it so much more.
A lonely bush tumbled across the road. A hare darted after it and stopped. It stared at the truck, mouth gaping so that Diana wondered whether rabbits screamed. The lights suddenly reappeared. They were so far back that they were nothing more than ghostly pinpricks. This didn’t seem like Emmett. It was some kind of odd game. Emmett didn’t play games.
She knew this road had odd reflections. So, Diana reasoned to the pricking at the back of her thoughts, it was just a motorbike. She nodded in relief at that. Yes, someone out for a joyride in the desert on their dirt bike made perfect sense.
Her fingers tapped in time to a snazzy light-hearted tune. That was like Tony. Glamour and hullabaloo he whispered in her ears. He made her heart feel light and her spirit soar. The miles churned by under her wheels.
A lone coyote balefully called to the moon at the side of the road. It brought Diana up short. A flash sparked in the mirrors. The desert seemed suddenly lonely and desolate as she stared at the flaring beams. Their reflection never wavered. They burst forward in an astonishing rush of speed. In seconds the lights were so close that Diana was certain they were going to drive through her. She felt a sudden chill. There was no glare like there should be if someone was that close. The lights were still dim and murky. There was no roar from another motor and the lights reflected in only two of her mirrors, not all three. “What the hell?” Diana turned to look. Once again, the lights were suddenly gone as if they had never been.
She heard no rumble, no roaring vroom. “Hell,” Diana swore again to ward off the growing tension. This drive was supposed to be clearing her head, yet she felt distinctly jittery. She kept her eyes determinedly straight ahead and stepped down hard on the accelerator. Whatever those two lights were, she wanted nothing more to do with them.
A patch of haze hovered over the road ahead. The steering wheel felt slick. Her palms felt icy. Diana’s heart beat furiously. The world wailed in sickening surges as she raced on by. Dread pulsed in her veins as the two lights reappeared. Her foot stomped harder on the gas. The truck lurched. The lights raced the night with her and impossibly caught up. Right on her bumper they sat poised with a judging glare. “What do you want?” Diana shrieked.
A trash can skidded and clattered into the road. Diana swerved. The lights moved closer. In a blinding flash, they roared through her. Diana screamed. In that moment everything became crystal clear.
Copyright 2009 M. Pax, all rights reserved