© 1997, 2015 Tex Batmart
Lyrics to “Compass Rose” © 1998 Dave Feise
First, catch up with Part One…
And now, Terracrats continues…
It was sometime early in the morning, back in the chill of a January freeze, just after school had started up again. Rick, a friend who I had known for nearly my entire life, had sat beside me on the bench in the visiting team’s dugout, as we looked out over the misty baseball diamond and smoked a cigarette, and he told me about his girlfriend and how his life was falling completely apart.
“I don’t know what to do, Dave.” He said between drags. “It’s like, there’s this stabbing pain that just won’t go away.”
I looked over at him, and saw that he was shivering from more than just the cold. “What’s going on now?” I asked him.
“It just isn’t working anymore. I love her, but I feel like I’m losing her.”
“Have you talked to her about it?”
“What would I say?”
“I don’t know. Shit.” I flicked the ash from my Lucky Strike, and took another drag. “Did she say anything to you?”
“No, but I can tell.”
“You guys still-” I made a gesture with my hands to indicate that I was referring to sexual relations. “You know…”
“Yeah, but she just lays there, you know? Everything will be fine before the clothes come off, but once it’s time for that she turns into a mannequin.”
“Number one: No, I don’t know. Number two: Maybe seeing you naked is the deal breaker?”
Dave punched me in the shoulder, and I stifled the expletive which cried out to be released. I rubbed at my arm and looked away. “It’s not like that,” he said.
“I don’t know, you wrestled other sweaty dudes in front of her. Hell, you wrestled other sweaty dudes in front of us. I know that I don’t see you in the same way anymore.”
“Shut up,” he snarled, “just shut the fuck up.”
“Sorry, dude.” I mumbled, feeling suddenly embarrassed and ashamed. “You know that I’m just giving you shit, right?”
He didn’t say anything for a couple of minutes, and we sat in silence, finishing our cigarettes and waiting for the sunrise. When I looked over at him, I saw that he was crying. Not the kind that makes someone’s face bloated and swollen with mucous, but like when someone litters in front of an Indian. “I-” I started, “I’m sorry.” I reached my arm around him and pulled him into a brotherly embrace. I could feel the silent sobbing shaking his entire frame.
“She was supposed to be the first, the last, the only. And now it’s over.”
I wanted to tell him that I thought that it was almost inevitable that it would never last, being as how “their” song had been better suited for an angsty breakup than the throes of passionate love, but he was bigger than me, and I honestly believed that he might snap.
He looked down at his watch, and then out across the baseball diamond. “I gotta go.” He brushed the ashes off his pants, stood, and silently walked out of the dugout.
“See ya.” I said.
I still had a while yet before I had to head inside, so I sat and smoked another cigarette, and sank into the nic buzz.
“That was his last girlfriend, right? Elena?”
“Yeah. And she treated him better than that redhead is treating him now.”
“He seems happy enough…”
“I don’t know. She’s his rebound. I think he’s just happy not to be alone.”
“Yeah, and look how much good that did me. I swear I’m about to give up entirely.”
“What about that Cassie chick?”
“She’s cute, but I don’t know… I just feel like I’m going to be a virgin forever.”
“There’s more to it than that, you know.”
“I know. But that’s easy for you to say. I mean, don’t get me wrong: there’s no one who likes falling in love more than me. And there’s nothing wrong with making out. I just… I just wonder what it is about me that makes the girls say no.”
“You’re trying too hard.”
“I guess. What about you? How are things with my ex?”
“I wish you wouldn’t keep calling her that.” Bill snarled, and kicked me in the shin.
“Okay, okay. Sorry.” I held my hands up in the darkness to signal my surrender. “But how are things with Helene? You guys seem… happy.” I began to rub my shin where he had kicked me.
“Yeah, I guess. I don’t know.” He paused for a moment, and I could hear him taking another sip of the Chambord. “Let’s just shut up about girlfriends and get back to drinking.”
“Fine with me.” I said, and rubbed my shin again.
We sat in silence after that, drinking from our bottles, and looking out across the Puget Sound. I was staring down the barrel of a state-imposed curfew which I would be missing, my best friend was suffering from emotional issues we had yet to broach, and on top of all of that, his girlfriend (my ex)’s old house was two doors down from where we sat, with only the memorial to lives and deaths of our high school biology teacher, his wife, and their two children between us. Just when it seemed that the laughter might never come, I began to giggle at the absurdity of it all. Less than two months before, this entire area had been full of life and unfettered dreams, and now the only thing which it was suited for was the temporary housing of a couple of drunken kids who’d broken in. It was then that Bill broke into song.
“Once I had a life, and it knew feelings, but no longer.
I used to love, but that you have replaced
with a barren emptiness which tears at me like hunger.
My tears of nothing well up in empty eyes
from thinking of the you that I once had
and the demoness who now has me.
Hope like all things mine shall be destroyed,
burned like heretics on the stake of your heart,
a heart with which mine I tried to warm,
but had better luck fighting the Northern Winds.
And here was crushed
beneath a crumbling, melted avalanche
Once I had a life, and it knew feelings,
but no longer.
I used to love, but that you have replaced
With a barren emptiness that tears at me like hunger.
My silver weakness cascade through space like liquid worlds
crashing on the shores of anguish
like an ocean of pathetic hope.”
I sat stunned throughout, having never actually heard him sing before. He had kept his eyes shut the entire time that he’d been singing, and it was only now, when he reopened them, that I could see the tears glistening in his eyes, reflecting the moonlight streaming in through the window. “What’s going on?” I asked him, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Whatever.” He looked around the room, appearing to have found the solution to a problem which I hadn’t even known was plaguing him. “Let’s go exploring.”
“Carpe Nocturne,” I agreed. “Lords of this world.”
We stumbled down the stairs with as much stealth as we could manage, the alcohol having spun both our emotions and the room. The house was still and dark, and of those traits, we shared only the latter. We had seen flashlights on our way up, and only now thought that they might have been of some use. Considering how drunk we were, and that they were less than a meter from us the whole time we were frantically searching for them, I’m amazed that we beat the sunrise in finding them. Bill snagged another bottle from the mini-fridge, this time the vodka, and with a dim, solitary beam to guide our way, we descended down the second staircase and strolled out of the front door.
The cool scent of the saltwater returned some measure of sobriety. The row of empty houses on either side of us sat like a deeper blackness sunk into the shadows of the night. Our moonlight had all but faded, the clouds racing in above us to blot out the sky in a blanket of purple dimly lit by the reflection of Seattle’s light across the waves. We locked up the front door behind us, having left the sliding glass door upstairs unlocked, and made our way across the mud which had been once been home to a family of four. I felt a knot of dread within my stomach as we marched through Darren White’s graveyard.
A rush of breeze came up from behind the both of us, propelling us forward when we might have faltered, and uncovering the moon for just a moment. Sea-stained toys jumped out at us, flickering and rusted in the brief and scattered moonlight. Makeshift memorials whirled and swayed into our paths, crossing us like nightmares and black cats. Here, in the empty space between two houses, a home had stood which was swept into the sea. The darkness rose up and wrapped us snugly deep within, carrying us from reality, through dream, to memory:
A week before the slide, Henry, their dog, after nearly two years of unremitting hostility and uncompromising hostility, had suddenly befriended me and begun following me home. Whereas I hadn’t been able to walk along the beach without seeing him run up to me as if to drive me out to see, it seemed that there was nothing which I could do to get him to go home. It was if that dog could see glimpses of the future, and had been trying to tell me something before it was too late. Each day I would walk him back along the way I’d come, taking him back to where I thought that he belonged. And every day I’d have to say hello to someone I would have preferred to never see again. A week before that slide, I’d still despised that son of a bitch, as only a high school student could despise one of his teachers.
The door was open to the next house which we entered, the place to where I’d once followed my future ex-girlfriend’s home. She’d followed me off the bus at the stop at the top of the hill, and walked behind me in silence as we descended. As we were nearing the curve down toward the beach, I turned around and confronted her. “Why are you following me?” I demanded. She said nothing, and walked passed me down toward the Walk.
“Hey!” I yelled. “What’s your name?”
“Helene,” she said, and kept on walking.
“You live down on the beach?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“I just haven’t ever seen you around here before. Mind if I walk with you?”
She stopped and looked at me, as if trying to determine whether or not I was a threat. “What’s your name?” she asked.
“Dave.” I pointed at my grandparent’s home, not thirty yards away. “I live there.”
“Neat house.” she said, and resumed walking down the hill.
I watched her go, confused about what was happening. Was I supposed to go with her, or not? Her fire red hair swayed back and forth in a counter rhythm to her stride as she walked away from me. She turned around and asked, “Well, are you coming or not?” I rushed to catch up to her.
She told me that her family had just moved in a short while ago, and that she didn’t really know anyone in the neighborhood. I told her that I’d lived here my entire life, but that I grew up over on the other side of the beach. She was a year younger than me, and had a little sister. I was the fancy high school kid who seemed dark and brooding. She was into cats and witchcraft, and I liked heavy metal. It’s fair to say that I’d fallen in love well before we’d gotten to her house. As she opened the door and invited me inside, I suddenly felt almost completely, but not entirely unwelcome in this place. Her father was inside, and she casually introduced us to one another. To break the ice, I said, “Yeah, so… I followed her home. Can she keep me?” In all the years I’ve lived since then, I’ve never seen a sourer look. It was if a lemon had mated with a rubber band, and their ensuing love child had snuck into the mouth of an unsuspecting cat. He grumbled something, but we were already on our way upstairs so that she could introduce me to her room.
The stairs were narrow, and at a particularly precarious angle. I fell against the wall, as if inebriated and…
Thank you all for your support, and again, if you like what you have read, please consider purchasing the full story when it available for purchase, which, if everything goes well, will be sometime later this coming week.