Maya and Wendell sat down at a booth in the diner. Maya orders macaroni and cheese with a side of cornbread. Wendell settles for a cheeseburger and steak fries. The booth was clean and even Maya squeaked as she moved about on the white and comfortably padded vinyl bench seat. The place was well maintained and that made her feel safe.
“Now that we are away from the loud noise of the train and in the quiet, you can tell me more about why you are here,” Wendell said while keeping his voice low.
“You would not believe me,” whispered Maya.
“I know you are here to help me but I don’t get how you got all the way here by yourself. Besides, there was hardly a scratch on you until you ran for the train.”
“I found this object that transports me to the people I am supposed to help.”
“Like a machine?”
“No. It’s a real simple tablet.”
The waitress comes over and served them their meals.
“However, I have never had such difficulty helping someone. Usually, my journey is only a few hours and not days. My parents must be worried about me.”
“They probably have a whole town’s worth of folks looking for you,” Wendell said as he chomped down on his burger, letting the tomato slide out and fall to the plate.
“The coyote that attacked me when I jumped for the train has been following me.”
“Yes, but this time Old Duffy seemed to help.”
“Hmmm. Maybe the coyote really wants your help.”
“Really? I never thought of it that way,” Maya said with the thinking gears turning in her head. “I’ve never noticed if his eyes are silver, too.”
“Why do you call him Old Duffy?”
“A girl I helped previously had named him that. I am not sure. Maybe because he sat on his duff all the time,” chuckled Maya.
“The only way to find out is to help me first,” said Wendell as he flaunted his still silvery eyes.
“I know exactly what to do!”
“Then, let’s sleep on it. There’s a motel next door. We’ll get a fresh start early tomorrow. They know me. If they ask, just tell them you’re my second cousin’s daughter and I am escorting you to Edmonton.”
After the quick meal, they pay up at the register. There is a stack of local papers on the counter. Maya grabs one as they head out the door and over to the motel.
Inside the motel room, Wendell laid down on his bed and instantly fell asleep. Maya propped up some pillows on her bed, and started to read the paper she grabbed from the diner. Her heart began to race as she read the front page headline; Local Girl Four Days Missing. She tried to wake Wendell but it was no use. She read about all the efforts to find the missing girl, Emily. She began thinking about the same efforts that her parents must be leading and she drifted away from the story and into a deep sleep. It was the kind of sleep that would cure all the fatigue and struggle she endured the past few days. She dreamed of being in a familiar setting where she sat on the floor of her living room, completing her math exercises. When she was all done and mom gave her the approval, she would have a play break with her dog, Cooper. She would chase Cooper around the house. Each room had a different table, creating a unique racetrack to be mastered. She named each room after a popular speedway. As Maya was at the end of her dream, she started mumbling, “We used to leave the blue lights on. It’s all caffeine-free. None of them want to fight me. Cooper, none of them want to fight me.” She awoke. Eyes staring straight up. Maya sat up and felt wide awake. Refreshed and ready to start the day, she looked over to the other bed. It was empty. She called out for Wendell but there was no answer. She noticed a faint, blue light coming from the bathroom. This triggered the memory of her dream and it frightened her. She called for Wendell one more time. Slowly, she walked to the bathroom and peaked around the doorway. There was a note next to the blue night light between the double sink. She read aloud, “We used to leave the blue lights on. Meet me at the antique shop around the corner, Combat Baby.”
Wendell stood at the street corner as Maya approached. She noticed that he looked different in a clean cut kind of way. He had on a burgundy plaid flannel, dark blue jeans, and a pair of penny loafers.
“Where did you get the clothes?” she asked. “You shaved, too!”
“Oh, the waitress at the diner keeps a fresh change for me when I stop here,” Wendell said hoping to avoid any further explanation.
“C’mon, let’s get to the antique shop,” as Maya walked away from him waving her left hand in a moment of hyper positivity.
“Wait, I’ve got to give you the plan.”
“No need, Wendell. I got this,” Maya said placing emphasis on the verb.
The two of them enter the shop and they are greeted by Heather, one of the owners.
“How can I help you,” asked Heather.
With a twinkle in her eye, Maya jumps right into it and says, “We’ve run into a bit of bad luck and we are out of money to get all the way to Edmonton. My older relative, Wendell, is a great cabinet maker. I was hoping he could help out for a few days and for just enough to be on our way.”
“You can start right away, Heather said with a sense of relief. “We just got a few pieces in that we could turn around for resale quickly if someone makes some minor repairs.”
Maya’s delighted grin only lasted a brief moment as Wendell’s eyes did not turn back to their normal color. She still saw them as silver.
“Thank you. I’ll get started but excuse us for one minute,” Wendell said as he led Maya outside of the shop.
“You need to head out to those hills. That’s where you’ll find your answer.”
“But you,” Maya started to say.
“No buts, I’ve got a hunch.”
Maya started to turn, took off her backpack and reached in for a friendship bracelet. She placed it around Wendell’s wrist.
“Here, something for you to remember me.”
Wendell kneeled down for a long hug. Then, Maya turned and hustled off.
Cooper was transported to the same ridge Maya had found herself earlier in the week. It was not long before Cooper picked up her scent. He came across a crude pile of leaves and pine needles and sniffed at it repeatedly. He rummaged through the pile with his nose, exposing the leftover strawberry yogurt container Maya tried to bury. Cooper gave a few licks retrieving the slim pickings. He trotted down toward the tracks, found a small piece of blue jeans, and gave out a low, angry growl. Someone or something had messed with Maya and Cooper could no longer pick up her scent. However, he recognized the scent of Old Duffy. He determined that when he found Old Duffy he would also find Maya. He followed the trail away from the tracks and into the woods. Cooper tracked all day and all night. There were numerous small ponds and larger lakes in the area so Cooper was never short of water. He decided to bed down for the night in the safety of a rock outcropping near the shoreline of a small lake.
The next morning Cooper awoke to find a light dusting of snow on the ground. Winter was approaching fast in the North and Cooper knew to pick up the pace. He trotted until he came to the next lake. He stopped briefly for a drink of water. Looking all the way to the far end of the lake, he noticed the figure of a girl. He thought it could be Maya. He ran quickly. When he arrived at the girl’s side, he realized it was not Maya. Cooper could sense the girl was in trouble. She could not speak and she was trapped. Her right leg was caught between two boulders, each must have been a thousand pounds. It would later be known that she was walking across the tops of the boulders when one shifted. She slipped and the boulder tilted, trapping her but not crushing her leg. She just did not have enough space to slip her foot back out. Trapped for days, dehydrated and hypothermic, she did not have much longer. She pointed in the direction she thought the town would be. Cooper sensed her feeble command and let out a reassuring bark as he sprinted away for help.
The story concludes next week. Don’t miss out!
Maya’s dream references the lyrics of Combat Baby by Metric.