I can’t do this anymore.
Not if I want a life.
It didn’t stop his feet from moving forward nor his ears from listening to the tidal wash in his brain. He was a rhabdomancer, a dowser, the last in his line, and he was all too cyclic. He was too tied in to a feral Earth that other humans dismissed as just so much rock and soil.
There’d been a time when he’d prided himself on his inner knowledge-for this weird connection that set him apart-but that had been kid stuff, belonging to those years when he’d wanted desperately to own, to be, something special. It hadn’t seemed like such a handicap then.
For a while he’d even assumed that most people could do it given the opportunity. It’s what they said in the books and it made him less of a freak. The difference being other people did it by choice. It didn’t always happen that way for him. There were too many times like tonight, when the urgency demanded action.
He could think of a dozen things he’d rather be doing, and most of them involved sleeping.
Jasper wiped the sweat out of his eyes and listened to his pounding heart. Hearing anything besides the gush and churn of the Earth was a good thing.
He was thirsty as hell now. He’d sweated out so much in this race through the night, oblivious as he’d been to everything except getting here.
And here I am.
Again. This house, this place, was haunting him. There was some core here-some surge of restless energies beyond the siphoning runoff beneath the surface. It drew him here-had drawn him here over the years.
Again and again and again.
Toad’s Hole.Ramshackle house, which always managed to hook him like a hungry fish. There were a few other places that lured him nearly as strongly but with them he maintained some power to resist, whereas the Hole could roust him from a sound sleep. On nights like this he wanted to burn it to the ground but, seeing as that was unlikely to address its native soils, some time back he’d decided a heavy dose of explosive might fix the situation nicely.
Not for his friend Tim of course. He owned the Hole. Blowing the place to smithereens would definitely reduce its property value.
If it were mine...
Jasper ignored the familiar creak of the half-hinged gate. His eyes rested briefly on moon-glazed surfaces-the dew-drenched shingles, the beaten and half-sunken porch, the matted roughness of dirty glass. This ancient derelict might be his friend Tim’s heritage but the truth was it didn’t interest Jasper as it stood-not as wood and block and stone. It drew him for another reason entirely that he’d never been able to figure out. Even now, as he dropped to his knees and forced his fingers through the weedy mat of lodged over, lop-lurched grass to seek the soil beneath, he wondered whether the contact would be enough. Angry he jabbed stiff fingertips into the humus layer, finding a weak satisfaction in the way he had to ferret his way through the heavy thatch.
Like water seeping through the rock layers.
Like lava jettisoning all blockages aside.
He lost time, his eyes trapped by his inner vision. Black fluids and jagged, sharp-edged stones, dead-white roots, moist like maggots, tapping their way into the heavier soil beneath, sandy loams, rich and red, masses of granitic slabs with speckled scatters of shiny quartz, beckoning him on. It was beautiful, terrible, wondrously... irresistible.
Images of detritus and organic residue kept clouding his vision. There was a purity to the inorganic-to rock-that the organic didn’t own. To Jasper the rock might be a living entity but it bore no emotion to wear a man down. And it didn’t tear a man apart the way the organic could. Every microbe, every rotting carcass, every expanding rootlet held a signature and demanded a piece of his perspective.
An owl on the last flight of her nightly hunt landed on his back, talons digging into his shoulder. Shocked out of his reverie, his statue-self jolted and the bird lifted, dropping her mouse burden onto his shirt.
A dead organic on your back was the most startling distraction of all. Jasper jerked fully awake. The deceased mouse slid down onto the dirt next to his chilled fingers. Without its sudden appearance he would have been in danger of losing himself and only awakening when the sun stained the skies pink. It had happened before.
He withdrew bloodied fingertips from the soil, staining the wet grass culms as he went. He spared a regretful look for the mouse lying there in bloodstained inglory. It had been a lousy night to be out-for him and the mouse. Jasper shivered. Too damp and chill for comfort.
At least though now he’d be tired enough to sleep.
Sleep on, little mouse. He covered its repose with a layering of dead leaves.
Resolutely and with the first inklings of peaceful resolve that could numb him to his talents, Jasper Muscovite Gray turned around and trudged back the way he’d come.