The Roads to Megiddo, Canto Two
By Patrick M. Tracy
Amanda Naguchi clutched the book to her chest, running through the chill October night. The fog crawled up from the coast and coated the ground, but she knew the path well. They couldn’t catch her now. Even closed, even through her leather jacket, she could feel the heat coming from the book. When she opened it, when she read the twenty-third line on the twenty-third page, it would start again. They couldn’t stop her. The family oath would finally be redeemed.
“That book killed dad, ‘Manda. Killed me, too. It’s going to get you if you keep going the way you are.”
The damn voice. It had come back. Her brother, Arnie, who had been dead for six years, wouldn’t leave her alone. She put her head down and ran harder, hoping he was done with his soothsaying for a bit. It’s not like the book had really killed him, anyway. Falling from a balcony when you’re dead drunk isn’t easy to blame on a book. It was on the landing, sure, and after her father, it had been spooky, but nothing had been proven.
“Are you listening to me, ‘Manda?”
“You’re in my head, Arnie. I can’t help it, even when you’re being an ass,” she panted.
“I’m not the one about to do something stupendously foolish.”
“You already had your chance, Arnie. I don’t know what happened. Maybe you blew it, maybe the book got you, but you always did rush into things. I’ve been studying for years. I know what to expect.”
Amanda could see the old lighthouse rise above the fog and the tree line now. She was close. It was too bad that she’d had to put a bullet in Elliot’s leg, too bad she’d had to go up against Clair’s head with the ashtray, but they’d been in her way. There’s really nothing to do with people who think you’re crazy. Prove them right—that’s the quickest way around.
She could hear the sea slurping at the rocks just below, but the fog hid anything below the jutting headland. She came upon the heath beyond the spruces, running the final steps. The gravel road’s scratching noise at her footfalls traveled only a few feet, then died in the mist. She reached the door to the lighthouse and tried the latch. Locked.
Amanda held the book hard to her body and reached out with her left hand. Here would be the first big test. If she could really do this…
She closed her eyes, closing her fist as well. “No portal can stand before me, no blockage of the road ahead. Open all the gates, out of the way of my path.”
Her whole body hummed for a moment, then there was a momentary rush of metaphysical wind. The door didn’t simply unlatch or even burst open. It exploded into matchsticks with the noise of a thousand axe blades hitting at once.
Amanda opened her eyes. “Good. I can do this.”
She ran into the lighthouse, up the winding metal stair, onto the observation deck. Dropping to her knees, averting her eyes so that the big lamp wouldn’t blind her, she threw the book open. It fell to the proper page, the one fringed with her father’s blood and her brother’s spilled gin. She scanned down the lines. The many nestings of twenty-three. This would finally do it.
“Please, ‘Manda. Don’t. It’s not too late for you, even now. You could turn back,” Arnie’s voice pleaded within her mind.
“It’s years too late for turning back, Bro. Years.”
She began to read. The darkness descended. She knew she would die. She’d known that right from the beginning. That was the difference. You can’t bring down the thunder if you’re afraid of the sound. Without the resolve to sacrifice everything, you can’t accomplish the big stuff, the great deeds.
She would die, sure. But so would everyone else.