( Some gore. Set immediately after Wanderer’s Web.)
The truck dropped him off just inside the city limits. It was a rusted out white Chevy from sometime in the 1970s.
Kint stumbled a little, his legs having fallen asleep on the old trucks stiff seat. It roared off with a wave from the happy driver, and a shout of, “‘Luck buddy!”
He waved the friendly driver off with a huge smile, before stumbling around a bit more. His cane, well worn and made of cherry wood, braced him upright for a moment while he waited for the pins and needles to wear.
Eugene wasn’t exactly a metropolis, but it was big to him, so he figured it might be a nice place to get lost and heal up for a few days before he started again. See if he got some direction in the meantime.
The first thing he saw was a fast food chain, but a shower sounded a lot better than food right now, so he sought a motel first. He wanted to leave his red backpack behind anyway. His arm was still swollen and he hated carrying it on his right.
It took him a lot of walking before he gave in and went into a store for directions, he had to be near the center of town now. It was a chain-convenience store, all white with blue trim. It was cleaner than some he’d seen, but the edges of most the tiles were cracked. The coffeepots looked as if they’d never seen soap, and the whole place smelled like canned air freshener.
Kint filled himself up a large soda, adding more ice into the cup than soda. It was already a hot day, the sun blazing overhead. Before heading to the counter he grabbed a few packs of powdered donuts. It had been a long time since that blueberry muffin, and even longer since he had a proper meal, but that would have to wait until he showered at least.
“Your hair is burnt,” the lady behind the counter informed him.
“I was there when it happened,” Kint replied, a playful smile on his lips.
“5.34,” she said with a dour look on her face. “Barber out that way.” A strict gesture down the road he’d just walked up. Her arm was covered in faded green tattoos.
“Motel?” he asked putting a straw into his soda. An impatient man in jeans began tapping his foot just behind Kint.
“One over, two up,” she said with another gesture. “You see Cain’s Tattoo, you’ve gone too far. There ye be.” She dropped his change on the counter.
The motel was right where she said, The End Road Inn printed on a giant banner hung over the original sign. If Kint had looked down a side street he would have seen it on his way to the store. It was only 12:54, so they tried to turn him down for a room but he talked his way into an early check-in
The shower was clean and boiling. The whole room was surprisingly well kept for a non-chain motel. Kint stepped out of the shower and wiped the mirror clear of steam.
His arm was still swollen, and tender. The puncture wounds were healing and he only felt them if he moved or breathed so that was good. Better than he expected.
His lanky frame looked off center because of the swollen arm. The rest of the cuts were healing and would soon fade into just a few more of the scars that dotted his body. The ones on his face were the only one most people saw. A star shaped one on his cheek, and a long slice across the lower part of his nose.
He glanced at his right hand, and shuddered a bit. He washed them again, scrubbing hard while staring at the mirror. It was something he did every day.
‘Never gonna help,’ he thought, considering investing in gloves soon. ‘Maybe some boots too.’
His hair was worse than his shoulder. At least he could hide that with a long sleeve shirt. His one hat was lost when he burnt his hair. His black hair had been long, down to his hips, but it had burnt almost perfectly on top of his head.
‘Shave it,’ he told himself. He would need a new hat as well. Luckily the skin beneath the hair was just a little pink, the fire only lasting enough to ruin his hair.
He dressed simply. A long sleeve gray shirt and black jeans. He added a second shirt to the first. His coat had been left behind too. The wounds in the shoulder made it stand out too much.
“Lots to do,” he looked at the bed wistfully, but his growling stomach propelled him out the door.
There was a cafe on the same street he’d walked into town. A larger place that advertised several pancake and waffle specials.
Before walking in he walked into a small head-shop across the street and bought a ‘Eugene’ ball cap. It covered the bald spot at least, and if he put the remainder of his hair in a ponytail he supposed he could get through a meal.
The cafe was packed for lunch. Waitresses in yellow aprons, and blue dresses dodged between tables of people rushing down BLT’s and chicken fried steak. The smell was intense but pleasant, and the inside was a bit too warm for Kint’s taste.
“Hello, and wel-come!,” a bubbly young waitress said in a sing-song voice. “Alone? There’s a seat at the counter, hon.” She gestured as she walked off, not waiting for an answer.
He moved among the tables carefully, holding his cane against his chest. The counter was old Formica, chipped at the edges. Perching on the farther of the two empty seats he ended up with only one neighbor, an angry looking man with a white suit.
Kint ordered a stack of blueberry pancakes, and two orders of bacon with it. He ate swiftly, not acknowledging the man who sat down part way through the meal, or taking any focus from his food. The berries were fresh, and the crispy cakes tinged a slight blue from them.
He drank three glasses of milk, and had to fight the urge to order a piece of pie when he was done. He lost and regretted it as the apples were canned, he could tell, and the crust was less than flaky. The pancakes had been better.
Feeling properly full for the first time since arriving in Oregon, he headed straight for the barber. It was a little white shop with a classic red, blue and white pole spinning outside.
The inside was covered in memorabilia, rusted out farm tools, a few bear traps, and the smell of strong cigars. Most of it was hung on the walls, except a few pieces, like the old butter churn placed against the back wall.
“How’d you do this?” the old man, Walt going by the shop’s name, asked as Kint took his hat off.
“Stumbled on a campfire,” Kint replied more or less truthfully. “Just shave it all.” He was a bit surprised his voice didn’t catch.
“You’re the boss,” he said with a laugh, throwing a plastic apron over Kint.
Kint waited patiently for the man to reach the back of his head, almost exactly opposite the puncture scar on his cheek just a little higher up.
“Christ,” Walt said, taking a step back, and dropping the electric razor. Kint caught it by the cord and held it out for him.
“It’s just a war wound,” Kint explained truthfully. The two inch diameter hole had a metal plate over it but the flesh stopped at the edges leaving a good 3 inches of bare steel and tiny rivets
“Sorry kid. Thanks for your service,” Walt said taking the razor. “Buck off military discount.”
“Thanks,” Kint said, wishing he wouldn’t but not wanting to argue with him.
“Walt,” the man said.
“Buck less to cut anyway, James,” he said with a wheezing laugh. They both laughed a few minutes, but Kint was mildly disconcerted when the barber offered him a drink from a flask, and then took a long pull himself. “That the entry.” He gestured to the puncture scar with the bottle.
“Yep,” Kint lied.
“Second wife shot me in the ass,” Walt confessed. “Hurt like hell.”
Eugene had a really nice bus depot, Kint discovered after his haircut. It was all soft pink and white stones, in a simple wide construction. Large entryway with an expensive sign, made of some dark weathered wood with white letters.
Gathered in the on the sidewalks around the station were a motley assortment of hippies, vagrants, street performers, and some not so normal people the others couldn’t begin to see. The human mind didn’t like what it couldn’t comprehend.
Nothing that would interest him very much though. Certainly nothing dangerous, unless you counted a few shapeshifters or spirits. A few rowdy looking elves smoked pot near a cafe with some humans.
An old god, Viking or Nordic, Kint couldn’t tell sat outside a small cafe.His looks marred by loss of faith and drugs, but he still played a good ‘Wonderwall’. Kint dropped a dollar into the open case and got a scowl in return.
A few less than savory types, a witch and some type of cat-creature, both wearing hoodies sat near the entrance, braiding string into long intricate necklaces. As he past they both looked up, staring at him, but almost past him. Their look was strong enough to cause him to turn around, but he saw nothing. Just rooftops and empty sky.
Their eyes stayed with him throughout the day.
He wandered around a bit, ignoring the few ‘people’ who stared at his cane. The non-humans could see something odd, even if it wasn’t always obvious they had great instincts, most the time.
The bus stop cleared he wandered around few more hours, enjoying the sights and searching around for shops or people who might know of the shops he looked for.
Even if the others at the station believed he was one of them, they certainly wouldn’t give him directions. He just didn’t fit in with them, and they knew it. He could tell a few were suspicious but even the underworld had rules.
‘Don’t ask, don’t see,’ he repeated in his head. He wasn’t sure if that was the exact phrase, but it’s how it always seemed to him.
Not exactly a wasted day, but Kint called it a night early, returning to his motel.
He ordered pizza, and then settled in to sleep.
At 12:19 his eyes shot open. His heart beating fast, at first he thought it was another nightmare. Another scream ripped through the calm of the night.
Kint was already holding his cane, as he stood, slipping his feet into his shoes. He always slept dressed these days and always with his cane. The bed called to him, and his body protested as he stood and propelled himself toward the door.
The motel room locked behind him automatically, he hoped he had the key somewhere on him. The streets were empty, this are of town not fashionable enough to have a nightlife.
The screams had stopped but he found the source easy enough. A blue sedan was stopped at the light, just a few blocks away and the drivers corpse was hanging out of the window.
The passenger door was open and he could see the other persons legs propped up on the seat. It had caught her as she tried to escape.
Kint focused on the driver, his hand flexing on the hilt of his cane as he began to examine her. She was young, not old enough to drive to his eyes. Her own eyes were gone, as was a large part of her scalp and skull. Ripped apart, he could tell from the jagged break. The bottom part of her face was there, and the rest of her. A few marks on her shoulders.
‘Neck is intact. Alive when it happened, Jesus.’
The other girl was not so lucky. She’d been feed on, and he couldn’t tell if she was alive when whatever it was had ripped into her.
‘I don’t want to know,’ Kint thought, his face flushing. He stumbled back a bit, trying not to focus on her clear young eyes or soft frilly skirt, more red than white now.
Sirens coming. No lights in the houses, but someone must have called. Kint ran into the shadows across the street and took the long way back to his hotel. It was a long trip, longer because he got lost twice, and stopped every few minutes to listen.
No steps, no sounds besides his own breathing. The cool night air was comforting and he felt at home on the dark streets, but still something was out of place.
Back in the motel, he paced for an hour or so before finishing his pizza.The only light was from the muted TV, and he glanced out the window every few minutes. When he went back to sleep it was against the wall, sitting up, and fitfully.
‘It was challenging itself,’ he thought as he drifted off to sleep.
(That’s the end of part one. Part two will be out soon. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. )