An explosion of thunder cut across the morning sky heralding the percussion of heavy falling rain drumming around Echo’s car. He stirred in the driver’s side seat blinking away the horrific images of blood and fire which pursued him through his restless sleep.
Curtains of water rolled down his windows cutting off his view of the outside world. He could not recall pulling over for the night nor when he decided to sleep in his car instead of purchasing a cheap room at the Stardust Motel near the edge of town.
Every fiber of his being ached. Much of the night before had been a blur; a whirlwind of images replaying at breakneck speed in his pounding head. The satchel, Officer Wednesday, the fire, the woman in the strange mask.
He threw up his arms to inspect his skin. His flesh was still ghost white; a thick black claw capping each fingertip. Angling the rearview mirror deep set black eyes with forest green irises met his gaze in the reflection.
“What the fuck am I? W-what’s going on?”
The pounding rain was deafening. He pulled at his clothes frantically confirming the sudden and disturbing change to his body. It hadn’t been a dream. Something had happened to him and it had everything to do with the woman in the strange mask and his unexpected return home.
A rapping on the driver’s side window propelled him out of his chaotic confusion and out of his seat. His head hit the low ceiling of the car. He searched in vain for sunglasses. Why didn’t he wear sunglasses? Why didn’t he at least own sunglasses?
Again a heavy rapping sounded over the beating rain. A blurred figure stood outside the car door. In his frantic frenzy to figure out what had happened to him, he hadn’t noticed the water broken tail lights glowing through his windshield.
The details of the vehicle in front of him were impossible to make out through the water falling in sheets over every window. He could only make out that it was a light colored van; possibly an SUV.
Uncertain whether to roll down the window or peel off blindly Echo sat silent and still. His heart beating hard against his chest. The rapping came again. Louder and growingly impatient. The muffle shouts of a man coming through the window.
He reached up and turned the key in the ignition only enough to run power through the car. He exhaled a heavy breath and rolled down his window.
“Shit man! Finally! Hey we found him! He’s good!” Ivan Rose, a stocky man, laughed and called over to the vehicle parked in front of Echo’s car.
Ivan’s smile was bright and warm. He crouched over, his shaggy brown hair wet and plastered close around his head. He wore an old olive drab army issue jacket over a black t-shirt depicting an anime mech robot in battle ready stance and loose fit jeans that had once been several darker shades of blue. His was the first friendly face Echo had seen since returning to Hanford. It had been a great relief.
“Dude! You look awesome!” There was an exuberant energy rolling off Ivan like a reunion of friends, but also something more. Powerful. Otherly.
“Look just follow us back to our place. We can help you.”
“Wait. We? Who else…How did you find me? How did you know I was here?”
Echo stuck his head out the window to see a large white van sitting in front of his car. A familiar bone thin hand complete with lit cigarette extended coolly out the window and retreat back inside. Definitely his old friend Jack Curio.
They were surrounded by barren muddy fields; literally in the middle of nowhere. The road was about ten feet to the right of them. The sky was choked on dark and malicious clouds beating down the earth below. Explosions of thunder accompanied bright and sudden flashes of electrically charged white light.
Echo looked backed to Ivan to ask, “How did you guys…”
“Just follow us man. We’ll explain everything at our place.”
Without waiting for Echo to nod in agreement he ran back to the van soaking from the pouring rain. He knew Echo enough to trust them and follow. Moments later both vehicles were on the road heading towards town.