He had to examine this embodiment of broken dreams and defiant courage. Two empty window frames flanked the black pocket of a missing door that provided access to the debris strewn interior. It shouted, “Look, look, I’m still here. Once I provided warmth and comfort, but now I am empty of all that is meaningful.” It was a structure determined to remain, defying the sun, the blasting sand storms, and torrential desert rains until its rightful owner reappeared. It proudly flaunted the intact two by four timbers and the roof framing firmly in place.
Eric knew the cabin was waiting for him. It’s a shell like me. Everything that once made it pulse with life is gone. All it needs is someone inside to give it life again.
Quickly he ran his slender fingers through his brown hair; a gesture since a long ago childhood. Would it be safe to sleep out here? Would he need a guard? He knew so little about Wonder Valley other than the deserted lightless streets provided a magnificent view of the stars. He would need to go online to discover who owned this particular five acres or even if they were alive. Perhaps he could find someone willing to work by day and respond to him by night, but first he needed nourishment.
It was impossible to knock all of the sand off his tennis shoes when he climbed into his SUV and sand sprinkled the floor. The vehicle responded at the touch of his key and he headed towards the small town of Twentynine Palms, California.
He securely locked his vehicle and skirted the back alleys. Surely someone would appear from the numerous bars. Eric knew better than to select someone too drunk. The alcohol effect could transfer to his system. It was nearly dawn when he saw a middle-aged, non-descript dumpy woman walking toward him. She was checking the dumpsters behind the smaller eateries. Her backpack was bulging and she set a canvas bag stuffed with her life’s possessions beside the dumpster.
Swiftly he ran the distance separating them and clapped his hand over her mouth and drew her back under the darkened overhang. He bent his head and sank his enlarged eyeteeth into her neck to draw her life into his. When she slumped, a whitened mass into his arms, he slipped one of her arms over his left shoulder and supported her dead weight into a position for the morning sun to dispose of her body. She was like the cabin: an empty shell. Unlike the cabin she would dissipate with the rising sun. All that would remain were her empty clothes and backpack. No one would care. She had given him life for another few days and he could devote his waking hours to acquiring his cabin. Later he could think about finding an assistant. Clearly, he would need one if he remained here. He drove to the RV Park for his day of sleep.
The moon rose heavy and full again, beckoning him to return to his cabin. Would it hold the same beauty and fascination this time? Eric had to know. It was well after midnight when he left his computer and headed for his SUV. The RV Park was quiet and few lights were on. No one cared if he went or stayed.
The desert air was soft, almost like the whisper of velvet upon his skin. It was one of the elements that continued to draw him to this corner of the world. His RV made it possible to hide away during the day and emerge at the earlier darkened hours. Late fall, winter, and early spring were his long nights. The earlier setting and later rising sun gave him an opportunity to examine the stars unhidden by the lights of the fear-the-darkness living.
Eric thought he had driven to the correct position, but the desert was empty. He turned off the motor, secured the SUV, and walked to the top of the dune to survey the surrounding desert. One look and he dropped behind the dune.
His cabin was just to the right, but someone had parked a pickup truck with a camper there and a fire was burning inside his cabin. Were they insane? Didn’t they realize the fragile beauty of that timbered symbol of man’s dreams? Eric raised his head over the dune and saw two skinny men sitting in front of the cabin. He would need to approach them and extinguish the fire. A derelict car with a dented side set to the side of the cabin. He sniffed the air. A strange odor floated out over this section of the desert, but the smell of the two mortals was all he recognized. Should he drive around or walk the distance? The two men looked like they were holding cans of something, probably beer, and both were smoking. Two drunks, Eric decided. They would be easy enough for him to overpower.
Quietly he walked down the dune and approached the cabin from the backside. Both men faced the cabin, watching that container. Eric could see through the broken boards that they had improvised a stove by placing a metal plate over the fire. Both were staring intently at it, not even touching their cans.
Eric ran to the front of his cabin. One man pulled a revolver to aim at him when he threw himself through the air, pulling the man down and sinking his fangs into his neck, the warm, blood gushing out filling his being, intensifying his feelings.
“The crank,” yelled the second man. “It aint done. I’ll get him.”
Eric looked up at the second man coming at him with one of the broken timbers. With a snarl he rose to his knees and pulled the man down to feast at his neck. He continued drinking until both were dead. He emptied all the beer cans on the fire and stirred it to make sure it was out. Then he picked up the pot with rags made from their shirts, and staggered outside. What was wrong with him? There had been too much alcohol in their blood, but there was something else, something he’d merely sampled once before that had heightened his senses.
He sat the pot down and ran his fingers through his hair. The fumes coming up from the pot seemed to increase the fuzziness in his head and he looked up at the sky. It was enthralling. Little, dazzling points of lights danced in unison and a wispy cloud was trying to catch them in an embrace.
Eric sank down. I need to rest just a moment and his eyes closed.
Slowly consciousness returned and he looked down at the sand and then upward. Strange, he had never noticed that before. The entire eastern horizon had become a work of abstract art. Dark blue pin-points of skylights began changing into grey. Rose-red was forming at the bottom of the gray. The rose gradually turned to the color of red blood: red blood pushing upward, straining to get out. He decided a few seconds more before trying to stand could not hurt. He had never seen anything so seductive. Soft, voluptuous clouds gradually becoming softening reds, then corals before breaking into a blinding eruption of intense gold against a soft blue sky shielding a landscape of distant purple mountains. He staggered toward the cabin, his eyes widening at the sight of purple mountains turning rose-pink under the spreading sunlight. He paused, hating to end this beauty. He never knew the morning could bring forth such emotion. It was a sight worth dying for. Suddenly, the burning sensation started. He turned towards the doorway and its darkened interior. Darkness, he needed darkness. He tried to sprint and fell face down, his hand reaching out for something, anything to pull himself inward.
The wind ruffled the empty clothing and sent it sailing into the desert. The piles of ash like residue were soon lifted and flung into the air. A dog carried off one of the shoes. At night a coyote came by and snuffed at the finger bones inside the darkened cabin; a stark empty cabin waiting in the darkness for the return of someone who never came.