Bridge laid out the logistics of his plan to the skeptical group. It was bold, ambitious and larger than life, but he was sure it would work. Once they’d all bought into it, he set them to their individual tasks. As they went about their work, he went about his. He had one thing more to do before leaving Boulder, and he needed to do it alone.
The address was easy enough to find. He drove to a modern, somewhat swanky condo complex near the Pearl Street Mall. Bridge wandered through the halls until he found the right door, Condo 17 A, just like the book had said. The place was deserted, barren like every other place under the dome. Though it took only a few minutes to drive there, the sun was already peaking up over the mountains in the distance. He wasn’t sure if the temporal distortion was accelerating or not, but his body sure wanted that sun to be the signal for sleep. He would usually be in bed right about this time and his arms and legs felt as if they moved through molten lead. But he struggled to the door and made his way through it with a few well-placed kicks. He chuckled at the dichotomy of such an expensive place buying such cheap locks. The alarm system blared a deafening claxon to an audience of one. He ignored them as he entered her apartment and sagged into a chair with an audible thud.
He had asked Lydia about the ghosts before leaving. “When do they show up?”
“Random times. I tried to track it the first few days, but there was no discernible pattern other than that they show up once a day… er, once a solar cycle, that is. Close enough to a day for us.”
“So if I hang around here at least a day, they’ll come back?”
She nodded. “For a few minutes. Why do you ask?”
He just waved her off. “One more thing I have to take care of.”
There he sat in Lalasa Freeman’s apartment, waiting to meet her ghost while hoping he didn’t, hoping against every cynical bone in his body that she wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t have been affected, a strange guilt weighing him down. Of course, he didn’t cause her death anymore than he should have felt guilty for not saving her. Guilt was one of the emotions he rarely felt, as if it was a disease and he was immune to its contagion. But he felt the guilt now, felt it like a two-ton stone in his gut. He knew better, but he still found himself hoping she had taken a trip, had gone to visit a friend outside the dome’s range, that they would yet find her somewhere safe and sound. He hoped and he blamed himself and he sat waiting. He tried to stay awake, marveling at the powerful paintings that hung all over the place, but his chin fell to his chest as his body gave in to the urge to sleep.
He woke to the rushing of blood in his ears, the itch of his jack burning on his neck. The hairs on his arm stood on end. He could feel something about to happen, just like it had the first time he’d seen the ghosts, and he steeled himself. The world blinked.
He opened his eyes and there she was. A short, slightly stocky black woman with neat cornrows in her hair and glasses perched on her nose, the ghost of Lalasa Freeman stood before Bridge. She seemed to be staring around the apartment, at her artwork, her counters, her chair where this young intruder sat staring back at her agape. “Who are you?” she asked, the hint of fear cutting through the distortion in her voice.
“Mrs. Freeman was my mother. My name’s Lalasa, son. Now what are you doing in my apartment? Did you bust open my door? Why can’t I see right?” She adjusted the glasses on her nose and scowled. “My prescription ain’t due up for another six months. What’d you do to me?”
“Nothing, ma’am,” Bridge said, an unconscious respect appearing in his voice. “Well, I busted in the door, but didn’t figure you’d be in a position to mind.”
“Mind? Hell yes, I mind, you little fucker. You here to steal an old lady’s purse? I’m on a fixed income and my credit is tied up in this place. You won’t get nothing worth a damn out of me.”
“I’m not here to steal from you, Mrs. F… Lalasa,” he replied. “I’m here because Marcus sent me.”
“Marcus? That boy needs to learn to call his grandmother. I ain’t gonna be around forever.”
An unfamiliar sensation of regret stabbed at Bridge’s heart. “Yeah, about that,” he choked, “he’s fine. But you aren’t. You’re a ghost.”
“Nonsense, boy. You’re the ghost. How you do that, by the way? Gas? Nanovirus? Cloaking suit?”
“It’s not me, it’s you,” he said firmly. “There was an accident, and everyone here is… well, they aren’t dead, exactly, I guess. There’s just ghosts, like you. You blink in and out for a few minutes every day. We don’t have much time.”
She seemed to take the news of her condition in stride. “Well, you’re obviously crazier than a bedbug, but I’ll bite. How is my grandson? Is he keeping his nose clean? No more drugs, gangs?”
“He’s clean,” Bridge lied. “He’s working for me.”
“He’s a bodyguard. But he’s going to college, he’s getting a philosophy degree.”
“Good, good. Boy always was smarter than he let on. I tried to teach him right, teach him that money wasn’t as important as a peaceful spirit. Why’s he bodyguarding you? You ain’t doing nothing criminal, are you?”
He lied again. “No, not exac… no. He’s safe, and I intend to keep him that way. I just wanted to know if there was anything you wanted me to tell him. You might not ever be able to see him again.”
“Oh, I’ll see him again. One day we’ll all be one with the universe, and his spirit will be there right beside mine.”
“Ok, sure, we’ll do that. But while he’s here, is there something you want to say?”
The ghost stood for a moment in concentrated thought. “I don’t know that I believe you, what with the ghost thing, but yeah, I got something to tell him.”
Bridge began to feel the encroaching event, his body tingling, his jack burning. The ghosts would be gone soon. “You don’t have a lot of time, ma’am. Please.”
“Tell him I was always proud of him. Even when he was at his worst, I always knew he’d succeed, he’d get it together. Deep down, he knows who he is. He…” The world blinked, and when Bridge opened his eyes again, she was gone.
With an exhausted sigh, he left the apartment and drove back to the Engineering Center to prepare for the escape.
Go to Chapter 19.0
Thursday, July 9, 2009