Philip Kendrick wakes up in his comfortable chair. He is wearing his favorite robe, a dark blue kimono—the one given to him by a biker with an angel tattoo, more than twenty years ago during a febrile weekend, lost in the Mohave Desert outside Needles. He has kicked off one of his slippers. His right foot is cold, as the bedroom window is open. He can smell the sea, which is how he knows he is still dreaming because his mobile home is on a lot just south of Rigby, Idaho.
There is a light perched on the edge of his bed, waiting patiently for him to wake up.
His mouth is dry and his fingers are numb, a sure sign that he has taken a Line-Dose of K, and his back is sore. He wets his lips several times, until he can feel both hisand his teeth again. "Who are you?" he asks the light.
Phil tries to smile. ", , and Holy Ghost? Here to judge me?"
"That unworthy?" He sinks back in the chair, focusing on his right foot. His toes wriggle toward his discarded slipper, trying to worm their way back into the fleece-lined warmth.
"I always thought God would be like Jerry Garcia," Phil says. "That would be nice, like getting a backstage pass to the last show. You know?" His foot finds its way into his slipper. "What about the?" he asks. "Can they be saved?"
By me? No.
Beneath the K and the ever-present hum of LSD, Phil can feel the bite of the . What is left to save? he wonders.
Phil finds that funny without knowing why. His lips finally slide back under his control, and they twist around the dry humor rising in his throat.
The light glints and hardens, and Phil focuses on the offered knife. It isn't one of his; in fact, it's a blade unlike any he's ever seen—rainbow-polished ceramic with a hilt of twisted bone. "It's beautiful," he says as he takes it from the light. The blade is very sharp, and the bead of blood is brighton the ball of his thumb.
His face is suddenly warm, and he realizes he is crying. Through the refraction of his tears, he sees beyond the light. The woman is wrapped with long panels of colored silk, and her smile is both sad and hungry. "I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough, Harry," Phil says. "I'm sorry I was afraid."
We all are, she says. It's why we invented language.
"Yes," he says. The knife taps against his leg, an unconscious twitch of his fingers. "I suppose so. I just . . . I wish . . ."
He nods and, in a swift motion, he raises the knife to his throat and cuts once, left to right. It hurts more than he expects, and he gasps. Blood bubbles from his lips, foam drawn up from the gap in his neck. His hindbrain scrambles. He can feel it clawing and fighting in the back of his head, the lizard part of his body struggling to survive in the sudden lack of oxygen and blood.
The light floats off the bed and envelops him. He feels her arms around him, and he lets his head fall back, exposing the bloody fault of his neck to her.
Philip Kendrick feels the touch of her mouth on his skin, the sucking sensation of her lips as she drinks his blood, as she takes in the drugs, the life, and the memories that are flooding out of his dying flesh.
He is back in the hospital again, caught in the dark folds of the fabric. Jerry, he thinks, the thought fading even as it forms, wait for me . . .
Falling star, she whispers to his vanishing spirit, fall no more.
Thetightens around him, and it is soft and warm. Phil tugs it closer, shutting out the light.
What happens to stars when they fall into the sea? Do they stop burning? Do they stop falling?
Everything becomes dark—deepdark, past the burning blackness—and Phil remembers he never made it back to the yard. He never found out what the scarecrow dropped.
If you ask why, then you will be granted access; if you ask how, then you will be granted passage. All labyrinths have but one path, and that path goes down.