Welcome back to the road trip that is The Guitar Mancer! Are you wondering what a 1929 Packard could possibly have to do with a story set in 1970? Read on to learn the answer.
Timothy Price, a photography artist in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area has also been doing some posts about Route 66. So it seemed appropriate to feature him with this installment of The Guitar Mancer.
Tim calls his blog Off Center & Not Even @ T & L Photos. Click here for one of his Route 66 posts. Check out his photo blog to learn more about Tim and the collection of pets who own him and Laurie. You might also learn about Tim and the challenges he takes on every day.
About This Episode
In the early days of this blog I was doing the spontaneously written “Three Things” serials, with 1920s settings. Often photographs of movie stars in that era reminded me of bohemian hippie styles, particularly the women’s hairstyles. So I had the idea to “cast” the female Route 66 faeries from Roaring Twenties starlets. You’ll see a couple of them today.
Last time we got a better idea of what means the Mother would use to unblock Luci’s mancer abilities. It all ties to the Reflected Road, a strange version of Route 66 where absolutely anything might happen. Now we rejoin the story. In this installment Luci is led onto the Reflected Road by Mist, one of the Route 66 faeries.
Episode 24 — Oklahoma
Luci held tightly to Mist’s hand as the Mother Road sprite led her through the silvery fog. When the fog cleared, Luci beheld a dry, barren landscape.
The hippie faery guided Luci along wooded trails. Mist still held her hand, and Luci was unnerved enough that she didn’t try to let go of the physical contact. She was even grateful for Lychnis occasionally getting too close to her feet and causing her to stumble. Somehow that made her feel connected with the real world while in a place that was utterly surreal.
When Lychnis looked up at Luci, she was startled by his eyes. They shone the way they would at night, but with a brighter light, like small twin lamps.
They had not spoken much, Luci and the Route 66 faery. Mist seemed to intuit Luci’s need for quiet. She was still processing all the things the Mother had said. Her instructions and cautions were not something Luci wanted to risk forgetting. However, what was even more strongly on her mind was the comment the Spirit of Route 66 had made about Luci’s mother.
Luci thought that often it is not the words that are spoken, but how they are said. The way the Mother described Luci’s mom as having “great aspirations.” Luci felt it was good to aspire to things, to keep improving one’s self. But the Mother’s words made it sound like a criticism.
Growing up, whenever Luci had questioned her dad about her mom, the answering seemed to cause Grover pain. Luci could recognize the hurt in his eyes even when she was small. She couldn’t bear to cause her dad pain, so she stopped asking questions or even talking about her mom.
She had always thought the pain Grover felt was from loss and grief. What if it was something else? The Spirit of the Mother Road suggested Darla Harper was ambitious. Luci had met unpleasant women and men in Nashville who had a thirst for power or prestige. What if her mom had been like that. There might have been strife between her parents. She wondered if there was a conflict between them when her mom was lost.
“Mist,” Luci began. “Did you know my mom?”
“Darla Harper?” Mist asked and Luci nodded. “I met her, but I would not say that I knew her. When the Mother allows people onto the Reflected Road, we sprites are paired as escorts to those who have traits of character or personality that are the most similar to our own. So I had little contact with Darla Harper,” Mist explained.
Mist’s response was intriguing. Luci wondered how she was like Mist. The sprite seemed to guess her thoughts.
“You are quiet and analyze things well,” Mist said. “It makes you seem more timid than you really are. And you have a kind heart. Those are traits we share,” Mist told her with a sweet smile.
“Who was chosen to escort my mom?” Luci asked returning the smile, and supposed it must have been the playful Sunshine.
Mist looked at her briefly before she spoke. She didn’t return Luci’s smile, though her lips twitched as if she tried. “It was Midnight,” she said. “She would be the one among us sprites to know Darla Harper best.”
That troubled Luci. It was unusual for Luci Harper to have an instant dislike to anyone. However, she couldn’t say that she liked Midnight. She certainly didn’t like the way the faery flirted with Tam.
Not that I’d care, Luci thought. She still didn’t exactly admit her crush on the green-eyed mancer, even to herself.
What bothered her about the Route 66 faery flirting with Tam was the glances at herself that she caught from Midnight. It suggested the sprite was not flirting with Tam because she was attracted to him, but for some unknown reason of her own.
Based on what she had seen of Midnight, it confirmed what the Mother said about her mom having aspirations, as she called it. Plus Midnight flirted shamelessly with Tam. She had a suggestive way about her, and her eyes held desire, but not love. Midnight seemed mildly calculating, not spontaneous. Were those characteristics she shared with Darla Harper? Luci found the idea of her mother acting the way Midnight did appalling.
Mist didn’t offer any more information, and Luci fell silent. They traveled quietly for a while. Mist began to walk slowly. She gazed all around at the trees and up at the sky seeming to ponder something. Mist tilted her head as if listing, though Luci didn’t hear anything.
“We’ve arrived,” the Mother Road faery stated.
It didn’t look to Luci like they had gotten anywhere. However, she noticed that the trail they had been walking came to a dead end. A broad stand of trees cut off the path.
“This is where we were going?” Luci turned in a circle, looking around as she asked in a puzzled tone.
Mist pointed to show Luci a break in the trees. The sprite led her through the opening. They stood atop a small hill, looking down at Route 66.
Tumbleweeds seemed to chase each other down the road. A battered old car rounded the bend and went the same direction as the tumbleweeds.
Mist let go of Luci’s hand, her eyes following the antique car. Until that moment, the sprite’s expression had always been serene, almost beatific. However, at that moment her brow knitted in a worried expression.
“This is going to be hard. I wonder if the Mother realizes just how hard,” Mist whispered to herself.
“What do you mean?” Luci asked nervously.
Mist smoothed her facial expression and smiled sweetly. “Huh? Oh, this is just not the kind of challenge I expected, that’s all,” she stammered. “Don’t worry, you will be fine. I have faith in you, Carolina Lucille Harper,” Mist said in a reassuring voice, though her eyes showed concern.
“Remember,” the hippie faery said. “What you experience on the Reflected Road may be from your past, from your ancestors, or from other incarnations of your own. Sometimes, it isn’t any of those things. Rather it is just a possibility, something that might have happened, but never did — past, present, or future. You might see ghosts — a true past, happy or horrible,” Mist said as she looked intently into Luci’s eyes. “Do you understand?”
Luci felt like Mist was trying to tell her something with her gaze, something she was not permitted to say aloud. However, Luci couldn’t imagine what the unspoken message was. “Which of those is this place?” she asked cautiously.
“I may not say,” Mist told her with a slow shake of her head. “But I have a bad feeling, so please be alert and cautious,” she finished in a whisper.
She lifted her voice to a normal volume and continued. “Be alert, and listen for the mancers’ music. It might come to you at a time when you are extremely preoccupied, or in the middle of something… well, something dangerous to you or to someone near you. But unless you want to stay in this place forever, you must heed the mancers’ call. Do not tarry,” Mist said in such a grave voice that a chill went down Luci’s spine.
A cold wind blew Luci’s hair, but the sun was hot, beating down on the desolate hillside. Mist took a step away from her, apparently ready to part company with Luci.
“Wait,” Luci said frightened. “Where do I go from here?”
Mist raised her open palms and shrugged. “The choices you make while here take part in determining what potentials you experience. After I leave, from your first step, from your first word, you will set the tone for what comes to you.
Luci looked down the hill. She saw a battered road sign that said “Oklahoma, US 66.” Otherwise the emptiness of the dusty road was all she could see in either direction.
“Oklahoma,” she muttered in astonishment. “Have we really traveled that far? We were in Missouri a little while ago. If we stepped back onto the real Route 66 right now, I wonder if we would still be in Oklahoma,” she pondered.
What was it the Mother had said? Time and distance flowed differently on the Reflected Road? Luci felt a chill as she remembered the words.
Lychnis sat patiently looking up at her. She stooped to scratch behind his tufted ears. The sound of an engine drew her eyes back to the road. It was another antique car. Based on the body style, she guessed it was from the 1930’s.
The air at the bottom of the hill seemed clouded with dust, so the visibility wasn’t terribly high. However, if she stretched her neck, looking in the direction the cars traveled, she could make out a cluster of buildings a considerable walk down the highway.
A series of sharp sounds came to her ears. They seemed so far away that she wasn’t sure what could have caused them. While she thought, a third car came into view. That time it moved toward her location. It wasn’t moving as fast as the others. There also appeared to be several dips in the road, and the car repeatedly left her view only to reappear a moment later. As it drew closer she saw that it was a similar model to the first two vehicles.
“Wait a minute,” she began to ask Mist, but her eyes were glued to the approaching car. “Are those antiques? You said it might be from the past. Is that where we are?” she said turning to the hippie sprite, but Mist was gone.
Luci felt a moment of abject terror. She turned in every direction, looking for Mist. However, it was as if she had never been there at all. There was neither a footprint nor a broken twig to prove her presence had been real.
Lychnis looked up at her and gave a reassuring purr-rawr.. She couldn’t help smiling at his comical face. “Well,” she reminded herself aloud. “I knew we’d be on our own eventually, right? That was part of the deal. What do you think, Your Kitten-ness?” she nervously asked the oversized lynx kitten, and he head-butted her shins. “I guess that means get going then… but which way?” she said aloud, more to herself than to the lynx.
Since the only signs of nearby life were the cluster of distant buildings, Luci decided to head that way. There might well be something closer, around a bend in the other direction, but she chose what she could see. As she headed down the hill, dust stirring behind her heels, Lychnis walked at her side.
They walked a short way. She hadn’t seen the vehicle that had been headed her way in a while. The slow moving car came over a dip in the road. It swerved wildly. Luci thought it was a good thing it wasn’t traveling any faster or the driver might have lost control. However, she realized there wasn’t much for him to run into on that stretch of highway. He’d just run off the road and into the dirt.
She hesitated. Something was not right about the way that car was moving. Lychnis sniffed the air in a way that made her think he smelled something he recognized.
The car began to move even slower. Slower. Luci tilted her head considering it. She thought it was as if the driver had taken his foot off the gas pedal. Finally it was close enough for her to see inside. She gasped when she couldn’t see anyone in the driver’s seat.
Ever so slowly the car veered and ran off the side of the road, coasting to a stop on the shoulder. Luci was afraid to approach the apparently driverless car. Curiosity and intuitive concern got the better of her and she ran to the vehicle.
The car was probably white under all the dirt. The top, fenders and spare tire cover were blue, and it had a chrome front bumper. Luci guessed it was from the late 1920’s. When she was close enough she spotted the brand logo for Packard.
She kept a good three feet between her and the car. Seeing an empty car roll down the road unnerved her. Luci walked cautiously from the passenger side around to the back of the car. It had a New Mexico license plate.
It was a really long car, with four doors and a compartment behind the backseat. Looking through the windshield, she still didn’t see anyone inside. She moved from the front of the car to the driver’s side. The window was down and she looked inside as she approached. That’s when she noticed how far back the seat was from the steering wheel.
Movement caught her eye and she jumped. An involuntary step back caused her to bump into Lychnis. She regained her balance and looked inside. Yes, someone was lying across the driver’s seat. She heard a moan.
Pieces of glass littered the ground beside the car. She tried to keep Lychnis back, worried that his paws would be cut. It registered with her that the window had not been rolled down. No, it was broken out. There was broken glass inside the car too.
For an instant she thought she saw a snake on the seat by the person’s head, but it turned out to be a long black braid. As the body shifted up to prop on one elbow she could see that it was a man. Luci leaned forward and gasped. He was injured and bleeding heavily. Worse, he was Bodaway Thunder.
End Episode 24
I already hear you screaming about that cliffhanger. So I thought I’d double the comfort food this time.
Recipes: Tumbleweeds Two
I found tumbleweed recipes! Here’s one to eat and one to drink.
Four Ingredient Tumbleweeds
Find this easy little treat at Taste of Home.com.
Here’s something to wash it down, as long as you’re over 21. It’s from Leaf.
Do you forgive me for the cliffhanger yet? Stay tuned and stay groovy, Mega hugs!
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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