Close Behind

I sighed and walked back to the car, banging my shoulders into them as I passed. My bump got them to stop yelling at each other. I was too exhausted to continue to yell at them to stop their bickering. Honestly, they were both right about the other, which is mostly why I didn’t bother to intervene.

“There is something dark within Me—” 

“Don’t say her name,” I interrupted. “Until we find her and can know for sure what she is capable of, I don’t want either of you saying her name. Understood?” 

They both nodded. 

“She has a lot of darkness within her,” Hatred continued. “I can feel it.” 

“I thought hate was your game?” Jealousy added. 

“Yes, and this darkness is a result of her hate.” 

“Hatred for what?” I asked. 

“I don’t know that part,” she explained. “I just know that she feels hate constantly, even when she doesn’t realize it. It could be self-hatred, it could be hatred for something else, it could be hatred for what she feels and sees. All I know is that the hate is there.” 

“And I’m guessing you know what direction we need to be headed in?” I guessed. 

Hatred nodded with an arrogant smirk. 

“I’m sorry about before, Din,” Jealousy said. “I’ll do my best not to have it happen again.” 

“You are such a suck-up,” Hatred groaned. 

“How would you know? Have you ever sucked up to anything in your life?” he snapped. 

“So you’re not denying it?” she replied, brushing off the insult. 

“I don’t see you answering the question!” 

I sighed and walked back to the car, banging my shoulders into them as I passed. My bump got them to stop yelling at each other. I was too exhausted to continue to yell at them to stop their bickering. Honestly, they were both right about the other, which is mostly why I didn’t bother to intervene. 

I climbed into the car, and Jealousy jumped into the passenger seat, slamming the door to prevent Hatred from getting in. He locked the door and laughed. 

“Grow up,” she said through the window, flipping him a mortal gesture I’ve seen many times during my travels. 

Hatred slipped into the back seat, slumping with her arms folded, and scowled at Jealousy. He  grinned back at her. 

“Tell me where to go,” I said, looking at Hatred in the rearview mirror. 

“You were already headed in the right direction,” she replied, maintaining her glare at Jealousy. 

I smoked what was left of my cigarette and flicked it out of the open window. I put the car in drive and sped off in the same direction I had been going. 

“Should we stop for a drink?” Jealousy asked, positioning himself comfortably in his seat. 

“No, it’s daytime, and we’ve already lost enough ground,” I said. I looked up to the rearview mirror at Hatred. “You’ll tell me if and when the direction changes?” 

“Of course,” she replied, looking out the side window. 

I drove for many hours. I only had to alter our direction a couple of times. To my surprise, my two minions had remained silent. Neither one attempted to badger the other or engage in conversation with me. I can’t remember the last time that happened. I didn’t care. I decided to enjoy it while I could. 

It was dusk, and the sun disappearing behind the opposite ridge from where I saw it rise earlier that morning. I pulled into the next gas station I saw. I needed gas, and I needed cigarettes. 

I parked at the pump and turned off the car. 

“You two need to stay here. Understand?” 

They nodded in unison. 

I climbed out of the car and found many eyes locked on me. For some reason, the mortal onlookers took an interest in me. I assumed it was because of my expensive car and clothes, but their gazes told a different story. 

I walked toward the station, ignoring the bystanders, and entered the store. The bell rang when I opened the door, signaling my arrival to all. The smell of cooked hot dogs and burritos assaulted my nose. I hated that smell. 

The clerk behind the counter glared at me. He had his fists resting on the countertop, with his flannel sleeves rolled up to his elbows. There was a cigarette placed over his ear and held in place by his bushy hair. 

He was a large mortal, taller and fatter than me. The large beard he grew covered his second and third chin, I assumed. His cold stare fixated on me as I approached the counter. 

“Fill up on pump two, and I’ll take a carton of reds,” I said, removing the folded wad of bills from my pocket. 

He didn’t respond or move a muscle. He stared at me as though he didn’t hear what I had said. I wasn’t in the mood for an altercation, especially one I didn’t cause or understand. 

“It’s the black one right there,” I added, pointing at my car. I could see Hatred staring at me from the window with her infamous smirk. 

“Yeah, I can see,” the man replied. 

“That’s great,” I said, throwing three twenty-dollar bills down on the counter. “So, a fill-up there and a carton of reds, please.” I mustered my best smile, trying to not make the situation worse. 

“I have a counteroffer,” he said, never breaking his stare. “How about you climb in that fancy ride of yours with your fancy clothes and drive the hell away from here?” 

“Well, I wouldn’t really call what I said an offer,” I said, mocking his response. “It was more of a request since I’m on empty and I’m out of smokes.” 

“Are you a comedian or something?”

“Comedian? No, I’m not a comedian. Just a customer looking to get service so I can drive my fancy car far away from here.”

“I have the right to refuse service, and that’s exactly what I’m doing,” he grumbled. “I don’t want you in my store, and I don’t want your money.”

I chuckled. “Did I miss something here? Was there something I did?”

“You tell me, dude,” he answered.

I could feel the hate boiling up inside me. I looked at Hatred, and she grinned back at me. She felt what I did, and it surged up inside of me.

“Look, I don’t want any trouble,” I said. “I just want to get gas and smokes, then get back on the road. Can you help me out with that, please?”

“I assume trouble finds you wherever you go,” he growled. “And I can imagine it’s because of the business you’re in.”

“The business I’m in?”

“Yeah,” he snapped. “A young girl came in here less than a half-hour ago saying she was being chased by a guy fitting your description. Are you understanding now?”

It had to be her. There was no other explanation. How did she know where I was, and how did she know I was close? I didn’t have any more time to ponder that question as the man behind the counter pulled a large shotgun from its hiding place and pointed it at my face.

Dinlas (Justin Brimhall)
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