David's flight from the island was unceremonious. He woke up one morning, walked into his mother's kitchen, sat at the end of the table and silently ate his share of the breakfast. It was room temperature, coordinating with the hour. His father had gone, and left his guards. Something about listening to his mother sing as she washed the dishes, as if she couldn't see the posted sentries, the men in suits designed to shrink their world. Something about that made everything click for David.
When his father came home for lunch David told him.
And not just him, David realized, but his mother, too, and the uncle or cousin his father had brought home with him. The words came out of his mouth and it was almost like sneezing, something his body needed to expel, a violent, involuntary gesture. After he spoke, there was nothing left to do but to have an ugly family confrontation. Except David had prepared for that, too, had practiced in the mirror, the way he held his posture, the way he fixed his eyes.
As it turned out, none of that was necessary. If push came to shove, they couldn't stop him, after all. The cage no longer troubled him, so far as they knew. And the bars, the men who watched him and his mother while his father was away, they were only as powerful as they were allowed to be.
"Do you know for how long?" his father asked.
David wanted to follow through. He wanted to stand up tall and tell everyone who was in the sound of his voice that he was never coming back, that this was the last they would ever see of him.
But then his father accepted his mother's hand. She needed something, someone to cling to, and found a willing buoy in the man she had married.
David looked from his father down to the hand that was holding onto his mother. "I don't know." That made it impermanent. Powerless. That made it a youthful touring.
His father stood happily, spoke of worldliness and sowing oats. He snapped his fingers and made arrangements immediately, as if this was all his plan. Within the hour, he was pressing documents and currency into David's palm as he shook his hand.
David didn't pack much. In his memory, the gesture of leaving most everything behind meant something else when he had planned everything out. In his mind, he would need to travel fast and light, by nightfall in his heroic imaginings.
When they dropped him off at the docks in the middle of the afternoon, waved goodbye as the towncar reversed direction, the knapsack on his shoulder seemed appropriate. He wouldn't be gone long. His mother had been forbade to give him the kind of send off that was appropriate to David's occasion. Just a hug, a kiss, a sweep of fingernails through his hair, and a foil covered dish with leftovers from lunch.
He couldn't remember the name of the boat, or even the name of the captain, but the smell of the docks, and the scents of the ship would be with him always. The freighter was so large though, it felt like he wasn't on the sea at all, felt like he was still on land. There was still no need for affirming. Every other part of him knew he was floating further and further away. When he walked the deck on the second day and couldn't see the island at all, he wasn't surprised. He did thoroughly wash his mother's bowl. For safekeeping.
David avoided Miami, all Floridian ports, actually. He told himself it was because he didn't want the hassle. Because his skin was always on the lighter side, more yellow than brown, more Caucasian than Hispanic.
"What's next?" he asked the captain.
"Savannah," the man said. He seemed agreeable, but he was providing a favor, and his men did not understand. Likely, they were losing money by the day because of their bizarre route, and over time, everyone had come to understand who was at fault, but not why.
David knew only small bits about the shipping industry, and sailing business, such were his family's interests, and his involvement in them. He knew even less about Georgia. "And after that?"
The captain looked down at his notebook, and turned a page. "Well, Bay City."
David knew absolutely nothing about the US eastern seaboard except there was New York, Boston, and then a bunch of other places with less important names to the south.
"It's near the capital," the captain said. He had finally gotten to the point of trying to influence the very important stranger off of his ship.
David nodded, trying to look considerate in inconsiderate circumstances.
Several more days passed, and the weather made his decision for him. David knew there were cold places in the world, places where animals needed layers of fat and fur, and one's urine would freeze moments after leaving the body. He had seen snow in the movies, and heard about things like mittens and sleds. But those places always seemed far away. He had never considered that there were a thousand different grades of unpleasant weather in between the perfect climes of his home and the north pole.
He couldn't have them turn back to Savannah, so Bay City it was. Bay City, where from the boat he still couldn't look back and see the island. He didn't realize until right then that he was unconsciously trying to sail as far as possible away.
He thanked the captain. He didn't know how much money his father had given the man, but he added to the sum. When he walked down the gangway, he did not look back. The new scents mingled with the memories of older ones. This was a dock area, but it was also not like any dock area he was familiar with.
The first night was spent at a hotel several miles away. The first series smelled strange, unsanitary and spoiled. The next were the same. By the third group, David realized all stay over stops would have a similar combination of chemical cocktails covering the odor of a hundred different guests. He spared no expense on a room on an upper floor, stared out at the lights of the frigid city that was his new home, and slept in the bath tub. He dreamed of the cage.
The next morning he spent on the phone, calling local engineering firms in the city, explaining that he had a dual degree in civil planning and engineering, and was looking for work. Two of the places sounded interested until he explained where his degree was from, and how reputable it was, despite the fact that they had never heard of it. He changed his story to looking for a paid internship. Hunger forced him downstairs, to the hotel bar.
A dozen different people were discussing all sorts of things. David ate fish, and eavesdropped. He heard the woman coming, and smelled her before that.
"Is this seat taken?" she asked.
David turned to see a woman about his age, slim and pretty. How she looked did not match how she smelled at all. Her perfume was pleasant enough, but beneath it, she smelled like one of the dockside hotels. "No," he said, because it wasn't.
She sat, and they began to talk. The topic of the weather folded into commentary on the city beneath it, which segued into David's earlier failures at securing work. The conversation swerved strangely around David's residence in the hotel despite his joblessness, and he could feel her tugging, pulling at something. Eventually, she remembered she had some place to be, an important business meeting she had been waiting for. The man behind the bar smirked. He looked like he would say something, and then an older man down the bar from David cursed while shaking his head at the television screen.
David scanned the flat panel and squinted. The sound wasn't muted, just very, very low. A body had been discovered, and police believed it was an animal attack.
"Third this season," the older man said.
David paid stiffly, then quickly went back to his phonebook upstairs. His distracted efforts were even less successful than his focused ones from earlier. Laying in his bed, looking up at the ceiling, he did math in his head, and thought about his need for proper interview clothes, a resume, a briefcase, a firm handshake and gel for his hair.
By the time night fell, he was in the cage again. For every year of his life, he had a memory of his mother, and the men guarding them. His father. He even lived at home when he went off to school. Just because he couldn't see the island, didn't mean that the island couldn't see him.
The next morning he checked out of the expensive hotel. He walked to the nearest bank, and investigated the fullest qualities of the plastic cards his father had given him. The teller looked perplexed. He had questions, but didn't ask any of them. David didn't help the man's curiosity, only accepted the windfall and absconded.
With a new number in mind, he walked and contemplated. What if he couldn't find work? He needed to find a more efficient way to live for the time being. What if he couldn't find work? With a new daily allowance, he could extend his situation for a substantial amount of time. What if he couldn't find work.
David walked into an alley and put his hands to a brick wall. He pushed, dissipating some of the stress in his shoulders and back. He grit his teeth and breathed. He wasn't going back.
"Hey, you hear me?" someone asked.
David looked over his shoulder at two men, dressed for the season and the setting. One of them even had a knife. "What?"
"I said give me your wallet," and he held the knife up.
David began to reach for his wallet slowly, and froze. "I'm sorry, I can't do that."
The one with the knife blinked, and glanced at his accomplice. "Look. Shorty. Where do you see this going? We don't want to hurt you, man."
"It's all the money I have," David said. He couldn't ask for more. Calling home and asking… he couldn't call home at all. David thought about the last kiss and hug he would ever receive from his mother.
"I don't give a, man get this fool," the one with the knife said, and stepped forward.
David turned and ran. He was facing the wrong end of the alley, but he had to hope there was an outlet. Outrunning the thugs wouldn't be difficult, but a dead end was still a dead end. Sprinting along, David felt better, like breaking down the fuel in his legs was breaking down the worry in his bones. He needed a job, that was plain, but it didn't have to be in civil planning. Just so long as he didn't have to go home. Go back to the island.
There wasn't a dead end, but there was a high fence. David glanced over his shoulder. He'd left the robbers at a previous turn in the alley. Staring ahead, there didn't seem to be anyone around. David accelerated, angling for one of the walls. He exploded from the pavement, aiming at the patch of bricks adjacent to the fence, and kicked over. He landed on his feet, like always.
When he stood up, he heard a croaking noise, and looked over to see what appeared to be a homeless man gawking at him. And that wasn't all. The homeless man appeared to have a pet, a malnourished Jack Russel, that was barking with its ears back. David puts his hands out in front of him, and squatted.
"Whoa there, sorry, hey, sorry, I'm sorry," he said soothingly. How had he not seen the man? He was in the garbage, almost literally, but still, looking at him, he was clearly not garbage.
The man pointed, slowly. The dog inched forward.
David had to get out of the alley. He had to get out of the alley and back… where? He lowered his head and looked the animal in the face. "No," he said.
The Jack Russell and nameless man both reacted. The man didn't have the agility to sprint away, but the dog did, directly into traffic.
Watching it all happen was like a crazy sort of disaster. David found himself looking ahead, and projecting backwards, trying to piece out what had happened and why. How he could have avoided things. Then there was screeching tires and crumpled metal.
David ran into the scene, perceiving the smell of blood and fear, hearing screams and whimpers. A near miss. That's what they would end up calling it. David found the Jack Russell's crumpled form shaking from pain. He could see that one of its back legs was broken, and maybe some ribs.
"I'm sorry," David said, on his knees, reaching a hand down to pet the animal's head.
This time he did hear the footsteps approach. A woman in scrubs was sprinting over with a medical bag.
David looked up and around, at the wrecked cars. Air bags had deployed. A round man was speaking to a thin woman as she clutched her head.
"He's still alive," the woman said, crouching near David. "Good, good. Okay. Can you back away please?"
David moved backwards, and looked at the people again. "What are you..?"
"No one was seriously hurt. Paramedics will be here shortly. Plus I'm a vet, not a doctor."
The strange day continued on into late afternoon. David waited in the waiting room as if the animal was his. "We just met," is what he said when people asked the obvious question.
The woman from before, the vet, came out from behind the closed doors, and gestured to him. She wanted to talk privately. Her posture matched that of the people in his mother's telanovelas. It wasn't good news.
"I'm sorry, I never got your name," she said.
"David. Cruz." Maybe she needed his full name for paperwork or something.
The woman nodded. Her eyes lingered on his face, then looked at his shoes. "Alex. Marsh. Doctor." She shook her head, and her eyes stopped dilating. "They told me you had been waiting,"
"Oh." David thought. "I just figured it was the right thing to do. I didn't really have anywhere to be."
"I see. So who are you?" she asked. "I'm sorry, that isn't really how I meant to ask that."
"No, no, it's fine," David said, and passed a hand through his hair. "I've been trying to figure that out myself, honestly. But, you aren't here to tell me," and he lingered.
"Oh," Dr. Marsh threw on a different attitude altogether. "It's still touch and go. The little guy is a fighter. A tech just told me that someone was still waiting, and I had some time."
"Right, right," David said. "Well, I hope he makes it. I've actually been looking for work, so I think I'll take after his example, and fight. Thank you, Dr. Alex Marsh," he said, and smiled.
He was halfway to the door when she offered him a job.
All told, the terrier survived the surgery, but his life was irrevocably altered. He didn't see Summer. The homeless man, presumably his owner, never resurfaced. David went looking but the man had vanished in a mysterious sort of way, a Bay City sort of way. But he had secured a job. Steady, decent work doing something he could convince himself to be invested in on most days. Except for the occasional animal with a particularly bad owner, once he had acclimated to the facility, things went smoothly. The others accepted him for what he was, and behaved when he asked. The murders did not abate. David learned that Bay City had the nation's highest death rate for homicide killings as well as unsolved missing persons cases. The people weren't soft, unlike the people on the island, who only sometimes had harder layers deep within themselves. The people of Bay City were guarded, some even predatory, like the hooker in the hotel bar, or the robbers in the alley. The ability to identify oneself, as a member of a group, was meaningful, and like a new pack, the co workers at the clinic took him in, and helped him about places to go in the city, and not to, where to live, where to eat, places to avoid after dark, or even during the day.
After a humid summer came a gray Fall. David had found his bearings along with a fuller appreciation of the seasons. Bay City was not always cold. Sometimes it was sweltering, sometimes mild, and most usually wet. He'd even taken the train twice to see the capital of a nation his island could only be a territory to. Life was engaged in a smooth dance where everything blended together, and he blissfully lost track of the fleeting days and weeks. When his six month lease ended for his first apartment, he upgraded into a year-long arrangement with a nicer place, in a better part of town. That was the first plan of his to succeed. David hoped it wasn't the last. At his new apartment, settled into his new life, he sought out the physical distraction of exercise. Running was most natural, so running is what he did, at night, in the safe environs in his new part of town, down alleys, through parks, and across squares.
David just knew he was running for the enjoyment, but one cold evening, he thought that maybe he was still running from other things.
It was a flash of white on an otherwise black clad man, on either side of a dark tie, between two breasts of a matching suit jacket. David remembered his mother's kitchen in a way that made him realize that slowly, slowly he had been forgetting those memories all along. He skidded to a stop and reversed course. He glanced over his shoulder, scanned his surroundings, but the man was gone. Everything clung to the baseline of his beating heart, and David found himself hidden away in the parking structure of a nearby office park, cowering. He waited, and then he waited some more. He waited until long after it should've been safe, then he climbed stairs to look down on the area around him, crouched down in the shadows, peering into the open darkness.
Part of him expected to laugh about it later, to be elated that he had loitered in an empty parking deck for over an hour for no reason at all. And maybe without some months in a place like Bay City, most of him would've believed that were possible. As it was, he was rewarded by his paranoia.
There wasn't just the one man in the suit, looking around like he wasn't looking around. There were several. They never met up with one another, but they were all encroaching on David's hiding place. They moved as if directed by a careful and controlling hand. This was it. They thought he would fall on his face, fail because he had been set up for failure, undereducated and underequipped. The miracle of his work at the clinic had forced their hand, and now they were coming to take him back. To put him back in the cage. David thought about his savings account at the bank with the nice people in their offices. It always smelled like jasmine. David thought about a different savings account in a different city with different people in different offices. Every time, for the rest of his life.
But he also didn't want to kill again.
"Target location confirmed," he heard someone say.
David's heckles rose as he sunk down even lower, examined the area around him, an open garage space with no vehicles, a stairwell leading up and down.
Movement in the stairwell stopped him cold. Two pair of footsteps, no three, and they were moving quickly. They reached his floor and… kept moving.
David blinked in surprise, quietly stepping over to the door of the stairwell.
"Target is on the roof," he heard someone say.
Through the narrow window, he saw the men continue up to the third floor, the last of them removing a pistol from a side holster. David looked around again, as if it was all a trick. He checked and double checked, and every time he confirmed that they weren't coming for him. The men in suits were there for someone else.
The simplest thing would've been to jump from the second floor, not to enter the stairwell at all. But it was easier to open the stairwell door, and walk out onto the landing. It was easier, and yet more difficult. The roof was up two floors, twice the distance, twice the amount of stairs that would lead him to freedom. There was no good reason he could think of to go up instead of down. No good reason.
At the top of the stairwell, several men were discussing a plan. David couldn't put sense to the words they were using, but he understood the concept of hunting. Their quarry was within their grasp, and they had overwhelming numbers, however their intent was not to kill. They were going to great pains to capture intact whomever it was they were after. David wondered about what kind of fugitive hunt this was. These weren't police.
Then those in the stair well walked out onto the top floor, and David stealthily followed them. He'd seen a movie like this once. Part of him was expecting to see a different version of himself, from the future, or the past, or an alternate reality.
What he saw was a giant. Since leaving the island, people's description of David had changed, all reflecting how much smaller he was than the average American male. Several inches shorter, and less broad, it was something he was noticing more and more. The men in suits were taller than him, with bulging chests and legs beneath their formal wear. The individual they were after was to them as they were to David. He was wearing clothes not too dissimilar from the thugs from the alley, tough looking boots and military pants, a light jacket thrown over a zip up hoodie. All black. Things began to fall apart in David's mind. Nothing made sense.
From his floor level vantage point, the man did not look cornered at all. His posture, even ringed with a dozen pursuers was unaffected. David strained to hear, but the distance was too great. He couldn't know what they were talking about. He could not imagine someone defying what was so obviously encasement.
Then the wind changed, and what assaulted David's nostrils made him clamp a hand against his mouth to suppress a snarl. He tumbled back into the stairwell and clamped a fist onto the guard rail, grinding his teeth. He had never sensed such… rot. It reminded David of the family's cemetery, what an open grave smelled like after a gentle rain. Deep, dark, dead earth. He knew, without knowing, that everyone on the rooftop had already died.
The gun shots shocked him back to his senses, and he chanced another look, but he immediately wished he hadn't been so curious. The scene was surreal. It was like watching a crowd of people running underwater, trying to catch one person who was unaffected by the medium, the lack of traction, the need to breath.
It wasn't David's intention to stay for the massacre, but he was there for the last body to drop, a perplexed man looking down into his empty holster, then raising his head to look around at all the prone bodies of his colleagues. He made eye contact with David there at the end, right before he was shot in the head from the side. He was shot three more times as he fell, and then his pistol was dropped onto his chest, still smoking.
David was angry, and he couldn't say why, which was a terrible sign. It had taken him years to understand that when most people became furious, usually there was something they could point to. Pain, or frustration, powerlessness or grief. This was the other anger, the one David had avoided for a lack of control. But it had been building for longer moments than he acknowledged, and as always, disrespectfully tossed him over its shoulder and carried him off. There was a golden explosion in his vision, and all his other senses were multiplied in intensity. His skin burned. His bones broke. And David Cruz was gone.
His hearing came back first. There was a booming, a thump, distant vibration, then noise charging in his direction, ricocheting off of objects. It was more rhythmic than chaotic though, almost like music. Breathing in, David caught the stench that triggered memory. He jerked away from the contemplations, feeling sore muscles beneath naked flesh. Wood pricked his skin, and glass, and cold. He creaked his eyes open to see a blurry room with skeletal walls and unevenly spaced floorboards. A gaping hole in the structure cast blinding brightness on his prone form. David tried to move again, and recoiled from the pain.
He remembered what would usually follow the disorientation and mystery. People with their hands on him, grabbing and pulling, faceless assailants that always ushered him back to the cage. The pain was much greater this time, and the soreness, to the point that this time, even though he knew they were on their way, he would not try and hide. He had killed all those men, after all.
The stench made him frown. Made him realize that time was passing, and he could sense no one approaching. Just the strange, booming music, and now and again snippets of unintelligible conversation. David tried his eyes again, and found the scene around him clear and in focus this time. He turned his head. That didn't hurt too much. At first, when he laid eyes on the very large man, he didn't recognize him at all, then things in his mind snapped into focus, too.
Again, David tried to move, but gingerly this time. He groaned as he rolled onto his side, then screwed up his face as he sat up slowly. The man, the giant, was at one of the skeletal building's windows, looking out. He seemed to have no awareness, or at least care, for David's movements.
After David was sitting upright, panting from his efforts, there were footsteps. No, not footsteps. The building cried at each step's application of weight on its old braces. The big man made no sound at all, unto himself.
David turned to see him moving in a wide arc, around and into David's field of vision, but he was several rooms away, visible through the framing beams. Between two slats, the giant placed an old radio, and then turned it on. At first, it was only static, and then, with a few careful adjustments, the device began playing voices.
More music. David had never heard Jazz before, but assumed that's what he was listening to. He waited through the trumpets and drums and piano for things to make sense. He looked into the face of the man, and saw the same expression from… how long had it been? David opened his mouth, and the big man went back to twisting on the dials.
This time following the static was a conversation between radio DJs about speculation of recent violence in Bay City. One person spoke about the police discovery of the bodies of several men on the top of a parking structure, and the other questioned if it related at all to the wild animal that tore through the shopping district. They joked about the kind of animal that would kill a dozen men, then go on a shopping spree. They both agreed that people should stay in doors come nightfall, and that it would be another bad winter.
The giant turned off the radio with a succinct click.
David didn't know what to say. He looked down at his body. He knew how to take whatever nick or cut or bruise, and extrapolate what actually happened. He was blue and purple in places, injuries he couldn't place. He had been cut, and he had been bruised, to the point of bleeding.
A wallet flopped in between his legs. "There were nothing else among what remained of your clothes," the giant said.
David's ears twitched at hearing the voice. It was a deep and hollow sound, like wind blowing through a rotten tree. There was no life to it. He picked up the wallet, and opened it to see his ID card. He still hadn't gotten around to taking the driving exam. David closed his eyes. "Thank you," he said. It felt strange, and it felt wrong, but he could not have fathomed what would've happened had the police found his wallet so near the murder scene. Murder. His eyes opened again. "Who are you?" he asked. When the man did not answer, he turned and looked.
Those same pitiless eyes were boring down into David's head. "Jarvis."
David waited for a last name. Which reminded him of Dr. Alex, and his job, and his life. He slowly, slowly stood up, wobbling on unsure legs.
"Why are you here?" Jarvis asked.
David wondered that himself. He observed the hole in the side of the wall, but found no real evidence aside from that. But no, Jarvis would know why David was there specifically. It was difficult to understand, a lot of things were, but he had brought him. Jarvis wanted to know why David was in Bay City. "I'm," it was a strange time to be honest. His being naked pronounced the horror. "I'm hiding."
"Good," Jarvis said. David watched him pick up the radio again, a bit carefully, and walk deeper into the building, toward a set of stairs. "Go back to your life, and pretend like this never happened."
David watched him go, resolved to do just that. "I don't know where I am. And I don' have any clothes." He felt the words coming, but didn't think about whether or not he should say them. They just came out. He was back on the landing again, thinking about up or down.
Jarvis stopped, but did not turn around. Then he kept walking, down the stairs.
David felt dejected and abandoned. He also felt better, that Jarvis was out of the vicinity. All the shudders and chills not brought on by the weather afflicted him and David crouched and clutched at his wallet. He remembered the stories from his father, the occasional tale of his siblings when they came to visit. There were none on the island. But David wasn't on the island anymore.
When the music outside stopped, David remembered it had been on the entire time, far enough away that it was just in the background. He snuck to the same window Jarvis was using and looked out. He appeared to be on the second floor of an incomplete housing community. He could see other buildings that had been faced, or were just frames, others without roofs that sagged from having water rained on their insides. There were lines drawn out to pour concrete and an empty fountain surrounded by a dirt and gravel turnabout.
In the circular driveway was a colorful sedan, bright green with humorously enormous wheels. It had stylized writing on the back window and exhaust fumes flowed from aggressive tailpipes. The trunk was open, and two men were watching something intently together. Jarvis entered the scene and the men with the car cautiously greeted him. David frowned in thought. Jarvis wasn't dressed very similarly, but his attire and theirs could be classified as urban. He looked like their big brother, or father, if they were children. Maybe he stayed nearby.
Their conversation was brief, and looked a lot like a robbery. One of the men surrendered his jacket, and the other his pants and boots. Jarvis gave them a whole wad of money. No one died. After that, the two men rolled away in their bizarre vehicle. Moments later, Jarvis was presenting David with the clothes.
"Thank you," David found himself saying again. And again, he found himself speaking to Jarvis' back as the big man walked away. "Why did you kill those men?"
This time when Jarvis stopped, he also spoke. "You fight like someone who has never lost something. Naïve. There is a difference between being curious, and really wanting to know. This is not the manner of thing that you can unknow once you do." Then he walked off.
After he navigated his way out of the modern ruins, and to a bus stop, and then onto a recognizable bus, David wondered about the things Jarvis said. He wondered if he was just curious, or if he really wanted to know.
When he closed his apartment door behind him, he sighed. He locked it, too, as if maybe turning it would turn back everything that had happened. He was famished, so he ate. He checked his messages while eating as he cooked. He cleaned his teeth and steadied his voice before making the return calls. Something had hit him after he left work. Not feeling well he went right to bed, and woke up the next day, only an hour previous. He was feeling much better now. Truth was the best vehicle for lies.
That night, he did not run. The oddest thought occurred to him when he realized that Jarvis knew his address because he had returned his wallet. He thought about the huge man swooping in through one of his windows. And doing what? He had his chance to kill David, and he didn't. Not like all those men on that roof. Or the two strangers with their green car. David thought about what his father had told him. It probably wasn't all lies. He probably told his son whatever he needed to, to garner the desired results. But he didn't lie outright. Truth was the best vehicle for lies.
David had his worst week of work since getting the job. He told his co workers it was the last remnants of the bug. By the middle of the week, he recognized that something had changed, and by the end he realized that he needed to make a decision.
On Sunday, he thought about church for the first time in years. It would've been nice, he thought, to have some place to go to get the answers to his questions. Instead, David went back into the ghetto. He brought along a bag that had his wallet and a change of clothes, but he also kept his teeth hidden behind the top of his zippered jacket, and his hands in his pockets, except for when he knocked.
The place wasn't difficult to locate. He had the scent, and when it came down to locating which specific house, the area of dead grass and weeds, the rot in the wood and foundation, gave the place away.
Jarvis opened the door, and did not look surprised. David wondered if they tracked by scent also.
"What is it that you want?"
David thought about that, about the man's odd way of speaking. "I'm not just curious," he said. "I really want to know."
Jarvis observed him for a long moment. Then a longer one. "Wait here." He left the doorway and the door open, and returned in a few moments. When he returned he closed the door behind him as he walked past David, who followed.
"Where are we going?"
"To answer your questions."
Jarvis had the same familiarity with the bus system that David did, who felt better about not being able to drive. It was a bit strange for people such as them to be taking the bus, but there they were. He didn't sit next to the larger man. He couldn't; he told himself it was because Jarvis was so broad.
David thought about the man in the garbage and his fighter of a dog, as the scenery outside transitioned from abandoned businesses and liquor stores to grocery stores and strip malls. The bus took them even further past that, but eventually, when things got too nice, they were back to walking.
David was dressed comfortably, but even if he was jogging his attire would not have been confused for workout clothes. Jarvis looked out of place from head to toe.
"On your left," the man said, but didn't stop walking.
David turned his head to look across the street. He saw the gates of a closed community, broad and iron, but beyond it there were several police cars and flashing lights.
"Walter Lancaster," Jarvis said. "Was a man of great means. He had nothing left to consider in his life but how long it would take for him to die, despite his excess."
David watched the people passing by in their cars watch the two of them. He thought about the friends of his family. He thought about his family.
"He wanted me to make him what I am," Jarvis said. "I refused. Walter Lancaster was the kind of man that believed he could control people, because so many things had turned in his favor before."
"Those men had something to do with that,"
"They were sent by him."
"Wait," David said, stopping. "You even killed this Walter Lancaster person?"
This time when Jarvis stopped, he turned around before he spoke. "I did. But not because he asked me, and I refused. Because he was behind the killings."
David was struck again, things in his mind that he knew, or had at least been told and believed, were torn down.
Jarvis held his stare. It was particularly effective because the man never seemed to blink. "Were they normal killings, I would have abided, but he designed them to call out to me. In doing so, he was attracting the attention of others."
David felt the old urge draw breath. He had been completely healthy for days, such was his constitution. His father had lied, but he was not wrong. There was something wrong about Jarvis. In Jarvis. The stench was there, too, but something let him pull back on the leash. "So you killed him because he threatened," and David looked around, trying to see all of Bay City, or at least understand what it was.
"Yes," Jarvis said. "What would you do with forever?"
David picked his head up, but Jarvis was already walking away.
"So now you know. There are those in this city who know of us, and our character. Some are like us, most are not. The truth is, there is no hiding. You see them. They see you."
David spun a slow circle, in the present and in the past. He wondered back through every conversation and interaction, for clues to separate the bystanders from the ones Jarvis spoke of, the Walter Lancasters.
When he caught up to Jarvis again, he was back at the bus stop, waiting. David wondered how long the other man had had to come to grips with the things that David was wrestling with. And even then, how had he.
"I spoke of us. I was partially mistaken. I understand your kind to form groups. Packs. Dens. Families. What I learned from dying is the trouble with moving one finger one inch when not motivated to do so. Speaking is the most difficult part, as if it is the most impossible thing in all of this."
David watched, as Jarvis spoke. His chest was inert. His words did not disturb the air at all. It was almost as if he were moving his lips, and thinking his thoughts loud enough for David to hear.
"When one has spent so much energy and focus in existing, to take lives to extend one's own, everything else going into that becomes less complicated. I have never heard of one such as you, alive, and alone. I suppose your decisions will be difficult."
David said nothing. He waited with Jarvis in silence. And when the bus came, he boarded in silence, and sat in silence. His stop came up first. On the ladder of society, Jarvis' residence was nearer the bottom, as close to the bottom as Walter Lancaster's was to the top.
"Would you mind if I came by every now and again?" it was the question David had been saving up all his energy to ask. He wasn't very involved with any process to mine out what else he wanted to talk to Jarvis about. But he had said us.
"Do as you wish," Jarvis said.
David nodded. It was a cold response, but it was also a consistent one. He left the bus, and watched as it rolled off toward the Barrow. That was the first on the list of places his co workers told him not to go. That was where Jarvis could be found.
Drained, he laid on his bed as soon as he was back inside his apartment. He didn't bother with his shoes, or this time, even checking his messages. What to do with forever. An eerie question. He was deeply, deeply glad that he did not have to be burdened with such. Only tomorrow. Which was plenty heavy enough.