Silverwood: Chapter 16

The lights of the city had shrunk to pinpoints speckling the horizon far behind. The station wagon rolled along, crossing a lonely steel bridge and then a field and then another field. The windshield wipers thumped back and forth. Street lamps made stripes of light then dark then light again. The silver trailer bounced along. The shrubs and the mountains ahead shared a palette of greens and purples.

Clarence slept soundly in the backseat. Henry scratched the top of his head which made the dog’s ears shrug up and down.

Here we go again Clarence, Henry thought. He stared at the sketchbook in his lap. The top page was blank. Henry had drawn nothing today. He saw nothing. Because they were on the move. Whenever such a change happened his mind would go blank and he had to stop and wait to start seeing again. Like walking into a dark room and waiting for his eyes to adjust. The water below the bridge looked the way Henry felt. Murky and shapeless and dark.

The car tires thump-thumped over the seams in the road.

Helen ran her fingers over the bandage wrapped around her hand. She thought about her dreams that were not dreams at all. Each face. Each encounter. These were real people. She wondered where they all were now. She wondered what it meant to destroy one life form to save another. Who was to say what was the right thing to do? Was the predator always in the wrong? Were there good guys and bad guys? Or just creatures going about their business and sometimes they had to eat and sometimes they ate each other? The car ride and the quiet road opened up far too much space in Helen’s head for such thoughts to rise up and wander around.

She turned to her mom. “Do you think it’s real?”

“Is what real?” Kate asked.

“Brokeneck. Henry seems super sure that it’s real.” Henry had fallen asleep or he would have added his agreement.

“I have to assume it’s real,” Kate said. “The coordinates are real. They’re located in the redwood forest. It looks legit. So I’m going with that.”

Going with that.

“So is this what you do?” Helen asked. “Leapfrog from one thing to another? Like pinball? Whatever seems like the next option? Is there any bigger plan than that? Because to me, it feels like this will never ever end. Like there’s no actual goal. What’s the goal?”

“To find your father,” Kate said. Her hands tightened on the steering wheel.
“Has that always been the goal?”

“Not always. Sometimes the goal has been to survive. Or to hide. The goal is whatever the goal is.”

“And this is… what? What Silverwoods do? Are we stuck with this? We just run around all over the place?”

“There’s more to it than that,” Kate said.

“Like what?” Helen asked. “What is so important that our particular family has to be the ones constantly looking over our shoulder? Why us?”

“Because that’s what time has told us,” Kate said.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Helen said. “What is this, a magic spell? What are we, wizards? Being a wizard is supposed to be cool.”

“It is a conflict between different ways of looking at the world and different philosophies about who should be the keepers of power,” Kate said. “And we, the Silverwoods, our clan and our Agents, are caught up in it.”

“There’s the ancient way, and there’s the modern way,” Kate continued. “Our clan, our family, our Agents, we come from the ancient way. That way was based on bloodlines and on certain particular people holding the responsibility and having certain characteristics. We carried the burden of the tools and kept them safe and out of the wrong hands. We inherited that responsibility. We didn’t ask for it. It was passed down.”

“The ancient ways require ancient tools. Portals. Books. Old-timey stuff. Stuff of fairy tales. Those were our legacy and our burden. We didn’t question it. We knew what the tools were, and how they worked, and you either had them or you didn’t. But that all changed.”

“So if it worked so well, what happened? Why did it change?” Helen asked.
“The ancient way was not good enough for those who thought that power should be in their own hands and not the hands of some family and certainly not people who were just born into it.”

“Like the French Revolution or something,” Helen said.

“Kind of,” Kate said, “but in that scenario we’re the ones getting our heads chopped off so I really hope that’s not how this plays out.”

“So what now?” Helen asked. “We just are on the run all the time?”

“We do the best we can,” Kate answered. “A lot of people, the Tromindox included, have a stake in this.”

“You keep saying tools,” Helen said. “And power. And ancient ways. Ancient ways of what? What are we supposed to be protecting?”

“There are many many pieces, Helen,” Kate said. She looked worn. Her speech slowed. “So much to explain. I’m sorry this is a big jumble. But you’re a part of it, Henry is a part of it, we are all a part of it. Whether we like it or not. So we do the best we can.”

“And so we go looking for some town in the trees somewhere that may or may not exist and that may or may not have our dad-slash-husband in it,” Helen said.

“You’re right. It’s not a great decision. It’s a bad decision chosen from a menu of bad decisions. A choice from terrible choices. Like being asked would you like dog poop or cat poop for dinner and you say you don’t want poop at all but it’s all just poop and that’s the only choice and the one thing you get to choose is the kind of poop. That’s what this is like. That’s what this life is. What kind of life…” Kate trailed off.

Clarence yawned in the backseat. Henry was still asleep on top of him, holding his ear.

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