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like dreamin' 'em, but pictures all the same."
"Like what? I've gotten nothing."
"Like well, outlines. Like people drawn in one-color out-lines. Some things,
too. Not stuff that just sits there, but anything that you need to turn on and
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off, like lights and stuff. Like cartoons, only I know it ain't. Right now it
comes and it goes, but it seems like the more we stay here and the more blind
I get, the more I can see it."
A different kind of sight. That wasn't cataracts, that was something else
happening to her. Was she seeing just in the invisible range of the
spectrum heat? Light? Or was it something else, something more allied to the
true nature of this world?
"Well," I told her, "if you can get some kind of second sight, 'specially if
it's tuned to that stuff over there and them people, it'll help us figure a
way in.
It may even explain why you got stricken like this. But it don't help you day
to day right now."
"I'll be okay."
"No, it ain't right," I told her. "There oughta be somebody with you who can
help you get around."
And that was how I found Wilma Starblanket.
Wilma was a full-blooded American Indian and looked it, a member of a tribe I
couldn't pronounce that was apparently related to the Nez Perce, one of the
native tribes that had been in
Washington and Idaho before the white settlers and who were in fact the last
to fight for their land, with the usual results.
She was five two, chubby okay, fat with a classical almost-round
American Indian face and big brown eyes and shoulder-length black hair.
She actually finished high school, which made her a lot better educated than
Angel or Joshua, but she'd stuck home rather than try anything more
ambi-tious, apparently because of family problems. That didn't mean she didn't
continue to learn, but she directed herself to the older healing arts of the
shaman, the herb and potion and who knew what else kind of treatments that
went back to an-cient times. She couldn't actually be a shaman in her culture,
but she was in all but title, and she believed in it.
She had been through the trees and the rocks and down through the tunnels that
crisscrossed the world and to the spirit world be-yond, she told
me.
Having seen a hookah-smoking caterpillar and in fact ac-cepted advice from
him, I wasn't about to call her nuts, but the important thing was that she was
here because "I'm the only one with the traditional knowledge who'll come and
my people need me here, sometimes," and she was willing to help out with
Angel.
In point of fact, the two of them took to each other like long-lost relatives
in spite of having nothing apparently in common. Wilma also had some
experience with the blind, it seemed, and, more important, she was eager to
hear about this second sight and interpreted it in a metaphysical sense.
I liked her a lot myself, and found having two women around was no burden on
me at all.
In a few days, though, we were told we were going to be moving again, and this
time some distance away from town or campus. Angel got upset at that idea.
"It's where we got to be
, Joshua!"
I had to agree, but I wasn't sure how close we could re-main or how she could
cope if I kept the job and commuted from someplace in town. It was
Wilma who stepped in.
"Look, my own people are heading home after this batch is in," she told us.
"It's nothing to me if I get back soon or not. On the other hand, Angel and
I have done pretty well to-gether and there's no sense breaking up a team."
"You mean move in with us?" I was surprised. "Um, what about your family?
I mean, it's gonna look, well, funny."
"Don't worry about that
! I got no real family left now, got nothin' much to go back to, so it doesn't
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matter when I get there. We'll make do. And you can commute out to wherever
the job site is."
"But I can just hardly support the two of us," I pointed out. "I ain't too
sure I can handle three."
She gave an odd grin. "Don't worry about that. I got my own business here, and
I brought enough money to be on my own myself. I won't be any burden."
I accepted the offer, and even let Wilma borrow the motor-cycle so she could
scout out nearby accommodations. I admit that I was more than a little
suspicious of her there seemed no reason for her to do what she was doing, and
when some of our friends had turned out to be the meanest of skunks it was
easy to suspect anybody but ourselves.
Her tales of the Native American shamen and their powers and secret knowledge
began to ring some bells, if not in An-gel then certainly in me as well.
Spirits in trees and rocks and such weren't something I was ready to accept,
but the idea of being able to find and travel through strange tunnels "beneath
the Earth" to even-more-bizarre realms might well be a
de-scription of the rabbit holes, and perhaps other worlds at the ends of
them. If Walt Slidecker could mount a small army of creatures that looked like
they crawled out of a Ninja Turtle movie, then why doubt tales of bird-headed
manlike creatures rowing across a golden lake under a dark and alien sky?
I finally had to press her on it. "Wilma, just why did you come here? And
what's your interest in this?"
"You know," she answered, giving me a twinge of ner-vousness. "You feel it,
too. So does Angel. Somewhere here, there is the most powerful of mana,
controlled, shaped, directed, drawing all those who can sense it and its
power. Years ago I felt it, but did not know what it was and did not answer
its call. Now it comes again."
"Have have you contacted any others? Met or told any-body else about this?"
"I told my uncle, whose name is Samuel if you can believe that, and he nodded
and bid me follow it. No one else."
"And nobody here until you spoke to us?"
"No, nobody. Why?"
" 'Cause they're bad folks over there what got that thing runnin'," Angel told
her. "And they got soldiers and guns and all the rest, too. And the folks what
are against 'em, well, they're just as bad, maybe worse."
"I know the ones over there," Wilma assured us. "At least, I know Mr. Stark
and his friends pretty well. I've had a tough time ducking them, but they've
had a hard time picking me out. This other group against 'em, well, that's
news to me. but it's not surprising. They're dealing with powers they don't
understand, that nobody in this life oughta understand. I think they want to
rule the world with it, and who's to say they can't? Us?"
I smiled and shook my head and forced as much of Cory Maddox to the front as I
could one-on-one with somebody else. "Not rule the world, Wilma. Get out of
it. Get to a new world, and get there alive. This this isn't the real world, [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]