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May 13, 2024

Good Morning? 49

By Lydia Manx

I'd be the first to admit I really sucked at patiently waiting for someone -- anyone. It wasn't any easier knowing that Riley could possibly be dead and I had another ten and a half hours until the witching hour passed -- as it were. I had taken the first half hour to take stock of what was needed once I went shopping. Well, that was if I stayed, but at least it occupied a bit of time. The next hour I poured over the diaries and journals I'd accumulated while trying to figure out the stuff Riley had scrawled down. I wasn't good at Latin since I usually found decent translations when needed or gave my stuff to Uncle Harry to decipher. I was pretty sure that Uncle Harry read Latin; if not he knew folks who did.

Horror etched my thoughts of what I'd sent to Uncle Harry to translate over the years. It was quite possible that Riley had been the creature who translated my various quests for treasures and fun pieces of bright and shiny history. My mind tossed and turned with that idea when the power suddenly surged back on. I was relieved to hear some weird sounds coming from the basement. They weren't like supernatural weird noises but something to do with the furnace, I hoped. The wind still found the cracks and spaces in the house and pushed the blizzard's icy chill rather well into the house. I was layered with blankets and blinking at the bright lights. My eyes had grown used to the gloom and shadows. I turned the TV on to see the news desk of one of the local stations filled with solemn-faced talking heads.

The bottom of the screen was running the news feed of all the closed places and schools scattered throughout the storm's bandwidth. I focused on the couple sitting pretty at the anchor desk and turned the volume up a few notches so I could hear them over the furnace and the snowstorm.

"This just in," a perky blonde with a slight frown almost marring her heavily botoxed forehead, "Blizzard Jimmy is making his way through the Great Lakes region and stretching from Chicago to Buffalo. As one of the named blizzards, the potential for damage from the snowfall and power outages may easily clear the billions by the time the storm dies off. The airports are shut down through most of the affected area, and not expected to be reopening for at least another day. If you have any travel plans it's suggested you contact and double check the status of your travel to avoid being stranded."

Her desk mate was looking concerned while nodding, waiting for his lines. She took a second to pause to breathe and the man jumped in and from the slight widening of her eyes I figured he was stealing her lines.

"Ice conditions have caused the majority of planes to be grounded for the foreseeable future. There are some smaller craft that are attempting to fly, but it is uncertain if they will be allowed out in this current weather. Nobody wants to see another air disaster from inadequate de-icing and the FAA is well aware that this blizzard has the potential to grow much stronger before settling down. Right, Joe?" The man pointedly turned away from the news desk and the fuming blonde to look to a chubby guy standing next to a large, colorful weather map being projected onto the space directly behind him. The guy was wearing a winter hat with ear flaps. His plaid shirt and jeans made it look like he'd just walked through a foot of snow to get into the studio. I'd never seen a single shot of him outside since I'd gotten to Detroit during any news report, and though his face was nicely powdered, I was pretty sure it was with a dusting of powdered sugar, not snow. Somebody must have noticed, because the camera snapped back to the desk while the weather man put a hand to his chin. The two anchors were staring at each other and hissing something softly.

I'd seen deer in my car's headlights look less surprised when I quickly came around a bend in the road than the two 'professional' newscasters sitting in front of a live news camera. They quickly pasted on fake smiles and nodded while mumbling inarticulately, having no scripts in front of them. Someone in the studio finally woke up and pushed a button, letting them escape scrutiny while a commercial played. I sighed and wondered what to do next. Zombie-like, I let the commercial slide from one bad ad to the next without flipping channels, and then saw there were now two different anchors at the news desk. I guess the other two were off having a 'discussion' about their little on-camera tiff. Interchangeable pretty people read the news I'd just heard, but now when they swung the camera over to the weather man he was no longer sporting a face full of powdered donut or whatever.

Joe stood looking mildly distressed and it seemed like more than concern at having his snack on his face. I gathered the other two anchors were probably hissing and shrieking out of sight from the way his eyes kept jumping off to the left of the camera. He was making the cardinal mistake of not looking 'right into' the viewer's eyes at home, and if he lasted through his segment, I doubted he'd be back for the next breaking news bit. It was a shark-eat-shark world in the land of television. Being in Michigan just meant the anchors were either on their way up the ladder to a bigger audience, or trying to stay in the limelight while they aged. Larger choices in channels made for a short career for news folks. Not to mention the TV sizes had gone from 'Wow we have a 32-inch screen' to 'Gee it's only 52-inches?'

"So, as we have been saying, this blizzard looks to be massive and is causing damage as it sweeps across the states picking up more snow and winds. There is another power outage reported in the Detroit metro area that has shut down the traffic lights. As we have been telling you all day, if you don't need to be outside, stay home: this is a serious storm." He nodded and footage rolled of kids making a snowman with bare hands and they had blue lips. I don't think it was from anything they ate but rather because it was so damned cold out there. The little kids waved to the camera and tossed a sloppy snowball at the cameraman's lens.

The news went back to the studio where Joe was grinning and said, "Nice to see the kids are having some fun, isn't it?"

The anchors both moved their heads in agreement while rustling through papers on the desk. A frown actually framed on the face of the new male anchor and his eyes went really wide. A brisk nod and he began to speak in a very serious tone.

"This just in. There's a huge structure fire just outside the Wayne State University area that is devouring an abandoned building. We have a crew heading out, but the storm is causing delays in traffic. Steer clear of that section of town until we hear more." He looked directly in the camera and finished with, "Keep it safe. We'll be right back."

I gathered that was his 'line' since it sounded canned, not genuine. As another set of commercials began to ply, I changed stations to see another news team actually had a camera crew in place and filming the fire. With the oddity of huge mounds of snow in the frame, I could see the flames racing through the building with no visible signs of slowing. There were quite a few folks milling around the edges of the fire with rapt expressions of both fear and enjoyment. Detroit definitely liked their fires. The billboard signs were still lining roads and highways asking for people to report fires. The night before Halloween had gained notoriety as the time to torch your neighborhood for fun and profit, and every year there was a huge outpouring of information on who to contact if you witnessed anything. I hadn't ever heard of many people calling the cops to report their neighbor's house was in flames. It was more like they were enjoying the anarchy -- as long as it didn't get them.

My heart stopped as I caught someone moving swiftly behind the growing crowd. His face was turned from the lens, but his clothing and movements were very familiar. In fact, I'd just seen him leave in the same jacket nearly two hours ago.

Yup, it was Riley fleeing the scene. I didn't know if that was good or bad, given the massive fire out of control. The cameraman had swung back to the burning building, and was able to catch the sight of one of the upper floors collapsing into the one beneath with an impressive cloud of smoke and sparks. Nervously I turned off the TV and sat back on the couch. Now what?

The phone rang and I ran to pick it up.

"Hello?"

"Is this Esmeralda Meredith?" A deep voice rumbled in my ear. My heart jerked and I felt a shiver run down my spine.

"Yes?" I didn't recognize the voice.

"You don't have heat?" My throat relaxed as it dawned on me that the call wasn't anything to do with Riley or the werewolves, but rather someone connected to the landlord. I quickly described the situation and the man assured me that he'd have someone over to look at the furnace in the next twenty-four hours, weather permitting. I rolled my eyes knowing damn well it would be closer to forty-eight hours at the best. I thanked him and took down the number he gave me. I put the receiver back and rubbed my hands over my arms. I didn't know what to do. I was sick of reading about the salt mines, and hadn't a clue if Riley was heading back or still playing werewolf games. Sighing, I turned the television back on and found a station playing an old movie. I let myself be pulled into the familiar movie and tried to stop worrying ... which was easier said than done.

The movie was one of those classic bad sci-fi movies that play repetitively on the higher-end cable channels. I was happy that not only was the power back but the area still had cable. I took that as a good sign, and nibbled on the carrots I'd picked up when shopping what now seemed like weeks ago. The storm was still hammering the house and the room actually seemed a little bit warmer, but I think it was wishful thinking since I could still hear the furnace making noises. I still had tons of blankets on me and I wasn't exactly sweating. The movie was getting to the part where things go boom -- always a favorite of mine. This had the hero naturally hurtling through about fifty feet of air with flames licking his heels -- when my front door blasted open. I jumped as did the carrots. And when I say jumped I mean I popped off the couch and was in the kitchen grabbing a sharp knife as I heard Riley shout, "Where the fuck did you go?"

Eyes wide, still holding the knife, I went to see Riley covered with soot and snow framed in the doorway looking at the couch I'd so recently vacated. Just as quickly he spun on his foot and was crouched ready to leap towards me. His eyes were wild and he looked less than tightly wrapped.

I automatically dropped the knife and put my hands up saying, "Sorry, I didn't know it was you."

He shut the door behind him and said, "I hope not. And damn you can move!" Blinking at me and the spot I'd left, he said, "I guess you do have a sense of self-preservation after all. Sit back down. I have some news to share with you."

Nodding, I returned to the couch and watched him dust off the snow and ashes. This ought to be good. I waited, not knowing where this conversation was heading.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2013-09-02
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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