Into the Hollow
I sunk back into my seat a bit and lowered my scarf over my V-neck. “Can I help you?”
He grinned and popped a piece of gum in his mouth. For once, it wasn’t Nicorette.
“Just wondering why your breasts are on display when we’re heading up to the Canadian Rockies at the end of winter. That’s all.”
I grunted and pulled my cardigan around me. “I’m running out of clothes. This was the only clean shirt left.”
“You know we could make a clothing optional rule around each other. That way we’d always be naked and never have to do laundry.”
The way he said it made me shift in my seat uncomfortably.
“All right, Dex, quit it. You’re beating a dead horse.”
“I’m beating something horse-sized, that’s for sure.”
I shot him an unimpressed look. “Do you really think you’ll win me over by having sex with me?”
He scratched at the side of his chin. “Well, they say the way to a woman’s heart is through her vagina.”
I almost laughed and stopped myself just in time. I shook my head instead and looked out the window at the rolling white, treeless hills. I thought that now that we were on our way to do the show, he would have simmered down a bit and gotten distracted by the Sasquatch project, but that didn’t seem to be the case. It made me wonder if perhaps he needed to up his meds, perhaps down some Ritalin. Maybe I needed that too.
“I forget, are you going to get hassled for bringing your medication across the border?” I asked, having a hard time remembering if we got hassled the last time we went to BC.
“What medication?” he asked.
I had to look at him. He was looking back at me with an open expression.
“Your medication…you know. The…”
“The pills you switched on me without telling me?” he filled in. His voice had a flinty edge to it which made me cringe internally.
“Uh, yeah those.”
“I’m not on medication anymore, kiddo. I quit the day you left. And I never looked back.”
I was dumbstruck. And impressed. “But…the ghosts. Haven’t they come back?”
He shrugged and sucked on his lip before speaking. “Sometimes they do. They did at first. The first month was the roughest. But things have been fine since. I think maybe all the working out has been helping too, somehow. Maybe it’s a body-mind thing.”
Shit. I had seen Dex on withdrawal from his meds. He was making it sound easy but I couldn’t imagine how he must have been after I left, to go through all of that on his own, with only friends who didn’t really understand the way I did. No wonder he never came after me right away. He was probably too afraid to leave the house.
I looked down at my hands, feeling small. The guilt over the pill-switching was swarming over me with hot flashes.
“I’m OK,” he said after he shot me a reassuring look. “I feel great. If you can believe it, my sex drive is much higher now.”
“What a surprise,” I muttered softly. I raised my eyes to meet him. “Listen, I’m so sorry about the pill-switching, I didn’t know what I was doing, I-”
“Perry, it’s all right.”
“No, it’s not. That was a terrible thing for me to do. I totally broke your trust.”
“Yeah, you did,” he sniped, eyes flashing. A beat later he relaxed. “But I understand too. I know why you did it. It didn’t mean I wasn’t angry as all hell but I know why. I’m over it. Remember, like you said, it’s in the past. It’s done.”
I squinted at him. “You’re really not mad?”
He smiled, his eyes soft. “Do I look mad?”
I shook my head, hoping he’d always look like that to me. Open and trusting in ways I could never be.
We sat in silence for a few moments, lost in our thoughts.
“We are really fucked up,” I finally remarked.
“Yeah, kiddo, we are. Now come on, let’s go hunt Sasquatch.”
The drive to the small town of Snow Crest took most of the day, passing through the dry, arid landscapes of Eastern Washington and the panhandle of Idaho before we reached the winding, snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. By the time we got to our vintage motel with its antler-motif and mint-green coloring scheme, it was dark out and I was an unfortunate combination of feeling cagey and hungry.
Compared to all the other times Dex and I had gone “hunting” for our show, I was completely at ease. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t feel any trepidation about our subject. This so-called Sasquatch would be the perfect way to sink back into Experiment in Terror and there was practically no research to be done. What could really be said about the beast that didn’t exist?
Dex, on the other hand, seemed a bit more serious about the whole ordeal and was pensive for a lot of the car ride, making only the occasional small talk and changing songs on the mp3 player. Maybe it was because he was going to be on camera for once.
There just wasn’t all that much to go on. A man called Rigby Adams ran an outfitters company out of the mountains surrounding Snow Crest, taking tourists out on week-long hiking expeditions. Sometimes on horseback, but recently with llamas, who handled all the gear as people towed them along. He also ran hunting trips on the side. According to Jimmy, he’d always been seeing glimpses of this supposed creature in the woods and had evidence of the extra-large footprints it left behind. The reports had made the local news and attracted some explorers over the winter but nothing had turned up. That was until last week, when a member of his staff, a woman named Christina, was reportedly attacked by the creature and needed to get treatment for lacerations to her leg.
Christina was better now and would be meeting Dex and I for breakfast in the morning. The thought of it made my stomach rumble as we checked into the motel, the mountain air chilling me to my core. Even though we were in a bastion of civilization, the sky was black against the ghostly white peaks, looking faded in the darkness like old photographs.
Inside, the motel clerk was a smiling woman with a ton of turquoise jewelry around her neck and wild grey hair.
“Here are your keys.” She passed them over the counter to Dex, who gave her a wink of thanks.
As we walked toward our rooms, my fingers growing numb from the cold, I had to remark, “I’m surprised you got me my own room.”
“Well, you’re right next door to me, as usual. Wouldn’t want to break any of the rules, even on vacation.”
My room was, in fact, right next to his and even had one of those locked doors that joined the rooms from the inside. I had just put my bag on the ground and tested the bed for firmness when there was an abrupt rap at the inner door, making my heart jump.
I got up and stood anxiously beside it.
“Who is it?” I asked teasingly.
“Bigfoot,” Dex answered from his room.
“What do you want, Mr. Foot?”
“Please, just call me Big.”
I snorted. “You wish.”
I really didn’t need to picture his dick at that moment.
“Dex?” I prodded.
“I think I saw a pizza joint when we rolled into town,” he said, voice muffled. “This is buttfuck Canada so I’m not sure we’ll have much more selection than that. I’m going to try and order in, do you want some?”
Being with Dex was doing hell to my waistline. Unlike him and his daily gym sessions, I couldn’t afford to keep eating junk. But we would be hiking for the next few days, so what the hell. I told him to get me whatever he wanted and in 30 minutes we were sitting cross-legged in his room, me on one bed and him on the other. We ate the thin pizza with its overdose of marinara sauce and flipped through the three crackly television channels until we were stuck watching a documentary on the CBC.
Despite the casual munchies and TV watching, sitting there with Dex wasn’t as comfortable as I would have hoped. He seemed content just to relax and kept oddly quiet, though the constant drumming of his fingers on his thigh suggested he had something on his mind. His face was ashen from the long drive, which might have explained why the witty and suggestive comments had dwindled. It sounded funny, but I kind of missed them. Though, when you thought about it, being in a cheap motel room together probably wasn’t the safest place for sexual sparring.
When the program was coming to an end, he gave a yawn, settling back into the stiff floral comforter.
I eyed the clock, which read 9pm.
“Hey, I think the hot tub is still open,” I suggested, recalling the tiny tub outside surrounded by a tall metal gate. “The sign said it closed at 10.”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “Did you bring a bathing suit with you?”
I hadn’t thought of that. “Well, no. But I have matching bra and underwear.”
He turned his attention back to the television. “So going commando was just a one-time thing, then.”
My cheeks burned at the memory. “You sure you don’t want to go?”
He frowned and glanced at me from the corner of his eye. “You’re being strangely insistent. I didn’t know you wanted me with my shirt off that badly.”
“What does your new tattoo say?” I pounced, unable to help myself.
His grin spread and he folded his hands behind his head, his black sweater lifting up slightly, showing off a tempting trail of hair and the dark waistband of his boxer briefs. “Oh, so you really do want to get my shirt off. I’m flattered, Perry. I thought it was just the other way around.”
I leaned over so I was at the edge of my bed, my eyes imploring his. “What does it say?”
He gave his head one shake. “You’ll find out in due time, kiddo.”
“Why is it a secret?”
His eyes shone as he tilted his head at me. “It’s not a secret. It’s a tattoo. And now it’s a bargaining chip.”
“Bargaining chip?” I didn’t like the sounds of this.
“Yes. I’ll show you my back if you show me yours.”
I straightened up. “Just my back?”
“Did I say back? I meant front.” His eyebrows wagged. “No bra.”
I crossed my arms and inched back. “You’re a jerk.”
He shrugged. “So I’ve heard.”
Even though I had mastered the art of glaring thanks to being around him, Dex looked totally amused and unaffected.
I quickly had to remind myself that I didn’t care.
“All right, well I’m going to go sleep,” I told him, getting up.
“Don’t let the bedbugs bite,” he replied. “Knowing us, they’d probably be demonic.”
“Right,” I muttered and left Dex lying back on his bed, eyes on the ancient television, still and blasé except for the tapping of his fingers on the quilt. The tattoo remained a mystery. And, in a way, so did Dex.
Even though it was quite early, the drive had taken a toll on me too and after I had taken a hot shower from a woefully low-pressure faucet, I crawled right into bed. The foreign, scratchy bedsheets and unfamiliar darkness of the room didn’t even keep me up for more than a few minutes. This was a rarity, considering that ever since the possession, I hadn’t been sleeping well. And who could blame me, really. When you’ve had actual monsters under your bed, nighttime becomes that much scarier.