10 - A Night To Remember

Yo 

Same song and dance 

Damn girl, everywhere I go 

Same song and dance’ 

Lizzy swiped wildly at her cellphone, knocking it off the charging cradle onto the bedroom floor. From there, it careened underneath her bed… 

‘I like the way you move all over the globe 

Same song and dance 

Something about it man’ 

Wide awake and frantic now, Lizzy realized she needed to silence the phone quickly. It was two o’clock in the morning, and she didn't want to wake up her mother. 

‘Same song and dance 

In the pale moo…’ 

Finally! Lizzy retrieved the phone and swiped the DISMISS button. She liked Eminem, but right now, she needed to keep noise to a minimum if she was going to have any chance of sneaking out of the house for tonight’s adventure. 

She leaped up and peered slowly out her bedroom window. Danny was there, just as he said he would be, hunched down behind the wheel of his “trusted steel stead” - a 2009 Toyota Prius. Danny Whitehorse was a tall, big-boned young man. He had a chiseled chin, high cheekbones, dark moon eyes, and long straight jet-black hair. 

Danny was adopted by a local couple who owned a hardware store when he was twelve years old. His parents were killed in a freak accident while they were on their way to work tribal farmland. The man who owned the hardware store and Danny’s father were life-long friends and tribal council members. Danny’s adopted parents raised Danny like one of their own. 

Lizzy met Danny on her first day of high school. Danny was a senior and approached Lizzy when she seemed overwhelmed by the juggernaut one faces on their first day in a new school. Lizzy was like a “deer in the headlights.” However, she sensed that Danny was sincere and not just looking for some “sophomore action.” He offered to help her navigate the school’s crowded hallways and the constant banter exemplified by high-school teens freshly back from a summer of fun and frolic. She also sensed the young man was special somehow, and her ‘sixth sense’ as she had come to call it, compelled her to discover more about him. 

Lizzy knew there were “voices” in Danny’s head - she could hear them. During their second week of school, they met at a Starbucks for coffee one day. She asked him about “the voices.” Danny started to explain, but before he could even finish his first sentence, Lizzy blurted out, “Oh my god! You talk to the dead!!” Danny looked shocked and replied, “Yes, but- “She cut him off, “I know, I know, only when you’re dreaming, right? Danny looked stunned. “I’m sorry. I tend to let things spew out as soon as they come to me. My mom says I have no filter,” Lizzy explained. 

Danny laughed at Lizzy's revelation and asked, “How did you know that about me?” Lizzy looked around the room full of latte sippers to make sure there were no eavesdroppers. She leaned over toward him and spoke somewhat softly, “Sorry if I seem a little paranoid, but my dad taught me to try and keep this kind of stuff to myself as much as possible. He didn’t want people showing up at our front door with white jackets and start attaching wires to my head or something.” 

Her voice got even lower now, “I have this feeling. I call it a sixth sense. My mom and dad told me that I’d had it since I was a little girl. My Grandpa John thinks I read minds, but it's more complicated than that. “Whatd'ya mean more complicated?” Danny asked. “Well, it’s not something I have complete control over, for one thing. For example, I’ll be talking to someone, and these thoughts just pop into my head, but then I realize they’re not my thoughts – they’re someone else’s thoughts. Then, at different times -- there’s nothing.” 

“Sometimes, I’ll just start hearing what sounds like a conversation off in the distance – then in my mind’s eye, I’m transported to where that person is at that moment.” Danny’s eyes were fixated intently on Lizzy’s soft round lips as she spoke when she abruptly broke his gaze. “So enough about me. What’s your story? How long have you been talking to dead people?” she asked - still speaking in a measured volume so others wouldn’t overhear their conversation. 

Danny began to tell a story about how much he loved his Nani – his maternal grandmother. On Danny's ninth birthday, Nani gave him an ornate looking hoop-shaped Native American artifact with three small eagle feathers hanging from it. Danny’s mother had told Nani that he was having terrible dreams. When Nani gave the ornamental figure to Danny, she told him to hang it above his bed. She said it was in her family for generations and would protect him from “the bad dreams.” Much to his relief, it worked! It also cemented in Danny’s mind that Native American spirituality was authentic, not just something discussed academically in books he had read. 

Nani died in her sleep about six months later. Not long after her death, she started showing up in his dreams. She told him “not to be afraid” and that she “was doing just fine in the great plain beyond.” She would ask him how he was doing in school and stuff like that. Sometimes his Nani would introduce him to his ancestral kin. 

In one dream, he asked her why she came to visit him? How did she get the power to do that? Nani smiled at him and said, “Oh my young dream warrior, it is not me who has the power, but you! I come to you in your dreams because you summon me.” 

Lizzy and Danny became close friends after that day at Starbucks. It was never so much like they were in a “relationship,” but more like they were on a journey together. It was a spiritual journey. Yes, definitely a spiritual journey. Lizzy gave Danny the nickname Shadowhawk. In Native American cultures, hawks are thought to be symbols of strength, but they’re sometimes considered messengers from deities or deceased ancestors. 

Lizzy got the name Shadowhawk from a comic book series her dad used to read. The character was sort-of a vigilante anti-hero, and besides – the name just sounded cool! More importantly, Lizzy and Danny felt like they were beginning to be “pushed along” on what seemed like an epic journey by an unseen force. They didn’t know where the power came from, but they were both sure it was for good – not evil. 

Lizzy crept out of the front door, then turned and quietly locked the door to her house. She waited for a moment to make sure her mom was still asleep, then scampered over to the waiting Prius. “Hurry up! Let’s get out of here before our neighbor’s dog wakes up the entire block,” Lizzy said softly. She slid into the front seat of the Toyota and closed the door. 

It was a full moon that night, and there was a dull grey light cast everywhere. Danny had kept the Prius headlights turned off and made sure the interior light was disabled, so his eyes wouldn’t need to adjust when Lizzy opened the door. They quietly rolled down the street, with the headlights still turned off until they turned onto State Road 95, headed southbound through downtown Parker and then onto Quartzsite. 

“Did you get everything?” Lizzy asked Danny. “It’s all right there in the hatchback,” he replied. “Are you sure you want to do this, Lizzy? It’s kind of dangerous out there on the Interstate in the middle of the night.” Lizzy gave him a quick sneer and said, “Don’t get cold feet on me now, Shadowhawk!” “I’m not girl!” he retorted. “I just want to make sure we don’t get run over out there. You gotta admit things have been pretty weird on that stretch of highway lately. I mean, first, your dad gets killed, then over the past month, other people are dropping like flies. 

“Danny, tonight I just want to focus on reminding people of just how much I cared about my dad,” Lizzy declared. “Well, reflective neon spray paint in the middle of the highway should certainly get everyone’s attention,” Danny replied. “Yeah, it probably won’t stay there for long,” Lizzy lamented, “but I’ll feel better that at least I DID SOMETHING!” “I just hope we don’t get spotted by anyone. It’ll be a hefty fine if we get caught in the act,” Danny cautioned. “We won’t. Hardly anyone is on the Interstate at this time of night, and if they are, I’ll know they’re coming well in advance,” Lizzy reminded him. 

The pair reached Quartzsite and took the Business Loop I-10 road under the Interstate, then turned right on Dome Rock Road. They drove the few miles down to where the road turns back under the freeway, but instead of following the road, they turned left and drove down a dirt road that roughly paralleled the Interstate's eastbound lanes for several miles. The dirt road was a few hundred yards from the main highway, but soon they could make out the barren area on the highway shoulder right next to where her dad’s truck plowed into the semi. Danny quickly doused his headlights when an SUV, pulling an RV trailer, passed by the spot where they were headed. 

Danny got out of his car and popped the release on the hatchback, lifting a small moving box full of stuff out of the back of the vehicle. Lizzy joined him behind the Prius. They confirmed their plan. “Ok. You plant the cross and wreath just off the shoulder while I go out and spray paint – I Love You Dad – on the road. Got it?” Lizzy barked. “I’ll know when it’s the right time to start. Until then, we’ll hide behind that road grader parked on the shoulder nearby, “she commanded. “I got it, boss!” Danny replied emphatically. 

The moonlight night provided more than enough illumination to guide them as the duo started down a small path through a wash leading up to the roadway. When they were about to cross the wash, a warm wind suddenly started picking up around them. At first, it was hardly a whisper, but quickly, it amplified into a gale strong enough to start kicking up the sandy dirt from the desert ground below them. 

They walked a few more steps but soon, the wind-blown dust made it impossible to see more than a foot or so in front of them. “Danny, what do we do now?” Lizzy said, now just trying to keep the dust out of her eyes and mouth. Danny replied, “Let’s just sit down here for a minute. Maybe it will calm down, or-,” but just then, he noticed a bright blueish glow begin to appear behind them. It grew brighter and larger, pulsating rapidly, and it was blocking their path back to the safety of the Prius. 

Lizzy looked at the blue glow and turned to Danny with a puzzled expression. “What is it, Danny?” “I don’t know Lizzy, but… but… it’s talking to me,” he said in a voice so low that Lizzy almost didn’t hear him over the whirring wind. “In my head, I mean. I can hear a voice coming from that glow. It’s telling me it needs… no something needs… no, someone WE KNOW needs help,” his voice rising in volume with every breath he took. 

Lizzy looked back at the blue glow, and now it appeared as though it had shape to it. It seemed to be forming into a tunnel – wide at the near end and narrow at the far end. As she stared into the shape, she sensed someone was getting closer to them. She turned to Danny and shouted, “Danny, look out! Someone’s coming!” They scanned 360 degrees around themselves but could see nothing but the dust storm that had engulfed them. 

As Lizzy turned back to the blue shape, she noticed the ghostly form of a person walking towards them from the tunnel's end. At first, she couldn’t tell who or what it was, but as it got closer and more defined, her mouth gaped. She thought her heart would stop. It was her dad!! “Lizzy… I miss you… I need your help,“ the apparition of her dad pleaded in a voice that was more like a dreamy whisper than speech. “Dad! I love you. What can- “but just then, another ghostly figure appeared - this one much larger than her dad, with an ill-formed human shape composed of what looked like blackish smoke. It had menacing eyes that were like balls of orange and red fire. It jumped between Lizzy and her dad. Lizzy could see its long-jagged teeth that looked like metal razor blades as it opened its mouth. “Sorry, missy! We don’t need no help tonight!” it bellowed and covered Lizzy with a putrid breath that was the worst thing she’d ever smelled. Then wham!!!! The blue glow broke into a thousand smaller pieces of light like shattered glass, and in an instant, everything returned to as it was before. The wind subsided almost instantly, and the grey darkness of the moonlight night returned. 

Lizzy spun around frantically and turned to Danny, screaming, “Tell me you just saw all of that!” Danny looked dazed. “Ah… um… yeah… I did see that,” he replied, in a voice that sounded almost like he was asking a question rather than stating a fact. Danny happened to look down at his watch and, with a shocked look on his face, said, “Let’s get out of here, Lizzy. We can talk about this on the way back home. We’ve been out here for almost two hours! I don’t know how that much time passed, but it did.” 

“What if my dad comes back?” she shouted, but somehow, both of them already knew the answer to that question. “Oh, alright,” Lizzy said, grudgingly. “My mom gets up early on Tuesdays. I need to be back in my room before she wakes up. Besides, there’s a road crew coming this way from Ehrenberg to do some lane striping work, so our plan would have been foiled anyway.” 

They had driven almost halfway back to Parker before either of them said a word. They stared out into the night sky and tried to make sense of what they had just experienced. When the Prius reached the outskirts of Parker, Danny turned to his companion, “Lizzy, I never saw anything like that before, I mean not in real life.” “What do you mean ‘in real life’?” she asked. “I mean, I did see something like that in a dream one time. When I was with my Nani.” “And?” Lizzy poked at him. “Well, Nani used to tell me that friendly spirits would visit her. They would often appear to her as a white or light blue light.” Danny paused and looked briefly at the odometer to make sure he wasn’t speeding. That’s all they needed now was to get pulled over by the cops. 

“Anyway, in this one dream, Nani introduced me to her great-grandfather. He was an influential and beloved tribal leader who was revered by his people and many neighboring tribes. Anyway, he had this pulsating blueish glow that surrounded him. Just like the glow, we saw tonight. Later I asked my Nani about the blueish light, and she said that it was the Great Spirit - always there to guide her great-grandfather on his journey through the afterlife. 

As they pulled into Lizzy’s subdivision, she turned to Danny, “Isn’t that weird that we both actually saw my dad? “Yeah, and I’m pretty sure neither of us was dreaming either, so it’s NOT something I’ve ever experienced. Then, Lizzy said, “What was that creepy thing? I’ve never been so frightened in all my life - then POOF! It was gone.” “I don’t know,” said Danny, “but whatever it was, it sure didn’t want you talking to your dad. “That’s for sure,” she replied. 

“Are you going to be able to get back to sleep?” he asked her. “I think so,” she said. “After all, I’m not the one who has spirits coming to me in my dreams - you are!” “Indeed!” Danny replied with a slight grin. “I’ll be just a few minutes away if you get freaked out or something after I leave,” he assured her as he pulled up in front of Lizzy’s house. She gave Danny a quick peck on the cheek, slipped out of the Prius, and crept up to her front door, while Danny drove off - again with his headlights off. 

Inside the safety of her house, Lizzy’s mind was whirling with all kinds of thoughts. For sure, she knew deep down inside that her father was in some sort of trouble. “Seems like he can never catch a break,” she thought to herself. “Even in the afterlife, his woes persist.” She would need to find a way to reach him again and soon. For that, she knew she would need Danny’s help. That thought reminded her of how grateful she was that Danny was in her life as she rested her head on the pillow - just as the early morning light began to filter through her bedroom window. 

To be continued...

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