Milham went back inside and came back with the dumb sword and the even dumber helmet. He was very pleased with himself that he had arranged everything so I could test them out.
“You want me to stab a semi with a toy sword?”
“It’s not a toy it’s a replica” he said stubbornly “you have to damage the host to make the spirit feel the pain.”
I gestured to the giant truck “How am I supposed to damage that with this flimsy piece of shit?!”
Ruth examine the sword taking pains not to touch it “It looks sharp, go for the tires.”
That was a good idea. I told her so but she didn’t seem to care. I almost had that ridiculous plastic helmet on my head when I thought to myself “why am I doing this?” Ruth is the one with a cursed truck and Milham is the one who wants to prove it works.
“I’m too weak” was his answer “magically I mean.”
“This isn’t my brand of magic” was all Ruth said.
I was going to complain more but as I put the helmet on I lost my train of thought. The fucking thing works. There wasn’t even a way for me to see, the eye piece thing blocked my field of vision but I could see.
Even though the truck was right in front of my face what I noticed first was the sky. It was a reddish purple like a dark wine. The clouds were a metallic yellow color, copper maybe? I don’t know colors. I never went to art school.
The 18-wheeler was still there, it was an outline in psychedelic purple and pitch black. Inside of that border was a massive snake-like figure made of pitted concrete and road signs and smoldering tar. Dust and road debris fell off it when it moved, cracks appearing in its pockmarked skin as it reared up. A head appeared in the middle of the snake coils. The eyes were bright lights like on an overpass road sign and its mouth yawned like a highway on-ramp.
“Are you talking to us?” I could hear Milham distantly.
“Can you see it?” Ruth’s voice sounded closer but still far away.
I flapped an arm at them ungracefully “Shut up, I’m trying to talk to the thing!”
I heard Milham’s voice again but it was too far away for me to make out the words, I’m pretty sure he was telling me to stab it. The sword looked like a cracking bolt of electricity in my hand. It was so bright that I couldn’t look directly it for more than a moment. The giant snake-road head seemed to be fixed on me but said nothing.
“Can you understand me? Is this the spirit world?”
“There is no spirit world” it spoke with a quiet staticy old radio station going out of range voice, not a booming thunderous voice like I expected “we all live in the same world. Do fish live in a different world just because they’re under the water?”
“Yeah?” I waited but it didn’t have anything more to say on that topic “Why did you tell Bubba to murder all those people?”
A blast of AM radio evangelist anger “You murdered me, revenge is my right.”
“Oh. So you’re dead then?”
“You murdered me in 1985, but you started killing me long before that, renamed, torn up, sectioned off, paved over. I was your mother for sixty years and when you were done with me you cast me aside like bloated roadkill festering in the sun. My hosts have killed hundreds and it nothing compared to what you’ve done to me.”
“Oh. Uh. Sorry. People don’t know about magic, they didn’t do it on purpose.”
It rose up like it was going to strike out at me, I could feel its anger inside my chest. I’ve never had a heart attack so I don’t know what it feels like but if it feels like someone parked an ice cream truck on your chest that’s what was happening to me. The creature seemed to slam into something, like it was in an invisible box, restrained somehow.
“They knew!” Its voice was now the roar of an emergency broadcast signal “They needed ME to do their dirty work. We had a DEAL! They used me and then left me to die!”
“You’re hurting me” I managed to force out of my lips.
“Good” it said in the faux-honey voice of smooth jazz station DJ but the pressure released.
I coughed for a moment before continuing “Who are ‘they’? If you have beef with someone why not go after them?”
The creature settled back down into a snake-curl “They are beyond my reach. I can only influence. But you. You can make them pay for their crimes. Call it justice if it pleases you. I see the mark of Route 1 on you, and the filthy slime of I-95 as well, but they have not claimed you yet. Pledge yourself to me Grace. Give yourself over to me and power will be yours. Become my knight and we will wage war, the streets will run with blood and oil.”
“Jesus Christ, why does everyone want me to be a murderer?”
Its eyes flared red like a stoplight “Jesus?! Don’t get me started on that guy!”
“Uh, we’ll need to come back to that, I want to know more about Jesus. I’m not going to be your assassin and I can’t allow you continue making people flay lot lizards and hitchhikers alive. If you’re not going to stop on your own I’m going to have to stop you.”
Its light eyes glittered with flashing construction zone yellow amusement “How?”
I held up the sword/lightning bolt in my hand “With this I guess.”
It curled back into itself and lay down with the overlaid laughter of a million obnoxious call-in sports show hosts. When I pulled the helmet off Milham asked me if it worked or if I just went insane and was talking to no one. Ruth said that if I wanted to know about Jesus she could tell me.