Follow up to the A Smoking Hole scene.
The two walked together with the sun at their back. Jon welcomed the warm feeling on his bare shoulders. For the first mile Jon tried to cover his naked shame. But, after ducking one too many vines and meeting no other soul on the road, Jon let it hang freely. He began to mirror Cain’s movements. Whatever his guide did, Jon did one step behind.
They walked endlessly it seemed to Jon, but the path neither wound nor showed signs of heavy use. And yet, they soldiered on. The sun at the their backs dipped, casting their shadows long. As the sky turned a deeper shade of blue, Jon began to hear the chorus of nightcrawlers and felt a chill come upon him.
Jon cleared his throat and spoke up. “Er, Cain. How much longer are we going tonight?”
Cain, dressed in a white t shirt and worn out jeans jerked his head to the right and spit. “Not much further I reckon. How much further do you think it is?”
“Sorry. What did you say?”
“You heard me. How much farther do you think we’re walking tonight? We can go as long as you want to. Or, we can go until you just can’t take it anymore and then we’ll set up camp.” Cain shot both hands into his pockets and shivered a bit.
Jon stopped walking. His teeth chattered now as he looked up to the bright half-face of the moon. “I think I’m ready to stop. Can we make a fire? I’m freezing.”
Cain smiled. “A fire? So soon? I thought for sure that you’d want to stay far away from those for a while. Considering your, uh, ordeal earlier.” He arched an eyebrow. “Tell you hwat Jon. We’ll stop and get you warmed up and something hot in your belly. But first, you’re going to have to tell me the truth.”
Jon cupped both hands to his mouth and breathed. He wasn’t sure if he had heard Cain correctly.
“The truth?” Jon asked, still shaking.
“Have you got something in your ears there? That’s hwat I said: the truth. You’ve been lying to me and, more importantly, yourself.” Cain stepped forward and came eye to eye with the freezing man. A smile crawled across Cain’s face as he crossed his arms and shivered, mocking Jon. “Boy I sure am chilly, it’d be nice to get out of this cold.”
“Are you serious man? At least you’ve got a t shirt and pants. I’ve got jack shit. I’m freezing my balls off here.” Jon said.
Cain raised his left hand to the light, stared at his palm and moved his lips silently. In an instant he reared back and slapped Jon. Jon tasted blood. Cain smiled again and spit a reddish glob onto the soil between them.
“See? It doesn’t hurt.” Cain said smiling.
Jon spit blood next to Cain’s own red glob. He lifted his fingers to his bottom lip. They came away red.
In the light Cain seemed to be getting bigger. His big frame towered over Jon in the moonlight.
“You’re still not telling me the truth Jon. That means no half truth. You aren’t freezing. In fact, you’re as warm as you will yourself to be. See?”
Cain took a deep breath and closed his eyes. The top of his head began to steam as beads of sweat formed on his brow. He opened his eyes and tried to meet Jon’s. They locked gaze briefly before Jon cast his gaze to the ground and shivered. Unconsciously Jon began to rock back and forth on his heals. A hard hand reached down to grab his throat. It tightened. Whatever resistance Jon had left in his body left him then. Even as every fiber of him wanted to punch and kick Jon stiffened in Cain’s grip as he was hoisted high in the air.
“Open your eyes Jon.” Cain’s voice had been joined by a shrill chorus.
“Look at me.” The voice was deep now; dripping with southern sweetness.
Jon looked and saw that he was eye level with Cain. Within he saw himself on fire again. He could feel himself on fire again. After a pause Cain dropped Jon to the ground.
“You did get one thing right earlier Jon. You don’t have jack shit. You have nothing. You are nothing. Imagine where you’d be if I hadn’t been there to pull you out of that ditch.” Cain said.
Jon held his throat and coughed. “I pulled myself out of that hole. You watched.”
Cain bent down and again loomed over Jon. “That’s not how I remember it Jon. You were burning. And I saved you. You owe me. So start with the truth so we can get on with this. As much as I like the outdoors, I do enjoy putting my feet up and relaxing. But that can’t happen until you tell me the truth, per his orders.”
“Whose orders?” Jon asked.
“Oh, in good time Jon. ” Cain stood back up and retained his normal height. “What are you?”
Cain grew impatient. “Jon. What are you?”
“Nothing?” Jon said.
Cain nodded. “Nothing. Thank you Jon. Now, my cabin is just around the bend.”
Jon looked past the the tall man’s legs and saw that the path did bend. Instead of the flat monotony. The path led uphill and to the right. Just above the darkened ridgeline of pines, smoke climbed up into moonlight.
The last few hundred yards were an uphill climb. His feet ached and he was hungry, but Jon’s all but forgot his pains at the sight of the end of the journey.
Cain turned to Jon when he reached the rugged wooden door. “Welcome to my humble home Jon.”