We hurried as fast as our rather injured bodies could take us. There were sounds of pursuit coming from within the tower, but they hadn’t made it outside yet. Night had nearly fallen, but there was no refuge in darkness; the street lamps prevented us from being able to disappear. It took us a few minutes to reach the back street where we had parked the motorcycles. When we made it behind the storefronts, a disheartening sight awaited us. Our rides out of the city had been deliberately smashed to pieces.
Milo threw his hands in the air.
“First the vandalism, now this!”
“I don’t think these were some hoodlums. I think Teklos did this so we couldn’t escape.” Sera postulated. “They’re in no real hurry to catch us, because they know we’ve got no ride.”
The sounds of our attackers grew louder as they made their way into the side street. Milo scanned the surroundings rapidly, then pointed to the back of a large Volkswagen hippie van.
“Quick! In the back of that van!”
Without checking to make sure no one was looking, he threw open the back door, and all three of us leapt into the dark interior. Milo pulled the door shut just before Teklos’ men came storming around the side of the storefronts and into the back parking area where we were. All three of us held our breath as the sounds of the hunting soldiers reached us inside the van. They searched around for quite some time, making a large ruckus.
All of our hearts jumped at once as the front door of the van opened, someone entered, and it slammed shut.
“Man, there’s all kinds of stuff going on out there. Those guys really need to try some yoga or somethin’, they’re madder than a bunch of overweight elephants on acid at a Democratic political rally.”
I got a peek at the newcomer. He looked like a big hippie with a Hawaiian shirt. OK, evidently the driver wasn’t one of Teklos’ soldiers. The man turned the key in the ignition, and the van came to life after a few seconds of cranking. He then began singing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (although he changed the lyrics to Larry in the Sky with Diamonds. Maybe that was his name…Larry…) as he pulled the bulky van out of the parking spot.
Milo motioned for us to stay put. This guy was our ticket out of there. We could escape the city as stowaways, and hop out next time the van stopped. Hopefully, Teklos would lose our trail.
I noticed that the van headed north out of Calmingo, but past that, I had no idea where we were going. We traveled for an uncertain amount of time, before eventually coming to a stop. Larry opened the driver’s side door, and climbed out of his gas-guzzling chariot. After a moment, Milo poked his head up from our hiding place in the back and looked around. There was no sign of the hippie, so he motioned for us to get out of the van. The three of us stealthily descended from the vehicle, and closed the door behind us. It appeared that we were in a small, privately owned gas station.
“Whoa…did I do too many magic mushrooms, or are there people coming out of my van?”
The man had just come around the side of the vehicle and spotted us, much to both of our surprise.
Milo started to speak, but then he nodded to Sera. She smiled, and began to offer an explanation.
“Yeah, we just needed used your soul van as an ark of safety, man. We had to spread our wings and be free, and get away from…” she leaned forward and lowered her voice. “The government.”
A look of awe passed across the hippie’s face.
“Far out! I just made a sanctuary of peace for some fellow Children of the World! Whoooooa…”
Sera stepped forward and gave the man a big hug.
“Much obliged, brother.”
Larry was surprised for a second, before he relaxed and hugged her back. Milo and I exchanged weird glances. He shrugged.
“Come one guys, lets share the love here…” The man gestured for us to join the hug.
“NothanksI’mgood” “I’llpassthanks” Milo and I simultaneously declined.
After a few seconds, Sera let Larry go, and he looked us over for a second.
“Say…those are some pretty rich threads you got on there. Are you…”
Sera shook her head.
“Oh, no. We’re not part of the elite or anything. These are just our disguises. Our friend there has our normal clothes for life’s journey.”
“Ah. Well, I won’t get in your way anymore. It was groovy meeting you.”
“Thanks for the hand, man. You really helped us out.”
“Just doing what anyone would do.”
We began walking away from the hippie, and waved goodbye. He lazily waved back, before turning to the fuel pump beside his van. As we departed, I noticed that he had parked with the gas cap on the side facing away from the pump.
“Not groovy, man.” He professed while attempting to pull the hose around the back of the vehicle.
I turned to Sera. “That was incredible! How did you do that?”
“Oh, it’s easy. You just need to think like whoever you’re talking to.”
“Yeah, thanks again.” Milo expressed his gratification.
“You can thank me by buying me something from the convenience store there! I’m starving!” She then began running toward the small store attached to the gas station.
“Sera, wait! I don’t have…” But it was too late to stop her.
Milo and I followed behind the girl. While heading inside, I took a quick look around. It appeared that the small gas station also had a car repair garage, in addition to the fuel pumps and convenience store. There was a tall white sign which was lit up against the dark sky. The words read “AEGIS Car Care” in bright red letters. Huh, that’s a rather strange name for a repair center/gas station, but I guess people like to be original. Maybe the owner gives the cars he fixes “AEGIS Engine protection”, or something to that effect.
When we had gone inside, Milo began following Sera around the store. She was moving from aisle to aisle, looking at all the stuff to satisfy one’s hunger. The girl ended up grabbing a handful of different varieties of granola bars, as well as a bag of combos. Eventually, Milo caught up to her, and explained the situation.
“Sera, I don’t have any money. I spent the last of it buying these clothes to get into that ridiculous party. We can’t afford any food right now.”
Sera looked really disappointed, but she understood. She began putting back the items, even as her stomach gurgled unhappily.
“Well, let’s change out of them, anyway. I’m done wearing this dress.” She stated, letting her hair down with a shake of her head.. “It’s much harder to kick butt while gussied up like this.”
I handed her the bag of clothes, and she took her items out of it. Milo then took the bag which now contained his stuff.
“We’ll be back in a second, Hal.” He said.
Milo and Sera went into the men’s and women’s restrooms respectively to change. As I stood awkwardly outside, I noticed a young man start walking through the store, picking up everything that Sera had just put back. I tried not to stare, but I couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing. He finished gathering the items, then walked back over and stood next to me. I stared straight ahead, not looking at him. I was feeling extremely self-conscious. Oh, please, hurry up, Milo and Sera.
The young man turned to me.
“Are you their friend?” He asked.
I nodded without turning my head.
“You know, I like your tattoos. They remind me of something that someone I know used to have.”
My cheeks reddened. I hated when people drew attention to my markings, but this guy didn’t seem at all hostile. I didn’t look closely at his face, but I noticed that he wore a plain white t-shirt and jeans. They were both stained with grease.
Just then, Sera came out of the restroom. Milo exited the men’s room shortly after.
“Who are you supposed to be?” Milo demanded.
The young man bowed his head momentarily.
“Excuse me. I couldn’t help but overhear your predicament, and I just wanted to do what I could to help you out.”
He held out his hands, with a variety of snacks, including granola bars, a jumbo beef stick, and a banana.
Milo shook his head.
“Thanks, but we’re not looking for charity.”
“Milo! Don’t be stupid!” Sera exclaimed, and immediately grabbed a granola bar. “This guy’s *munch munch munch* just trying to be nice. Let him be nice and (reaches for the next bar) let me survive!”
The young man turned to Milo.
“She’s right. I’m not trying to mess with you. I just want to help people in need.”
Milo hesitated for a second, before reluctantly taking the beef stick.
“Thanks.” He said, and started unwrapping it.
Last, the muscle-toned Santa turned to me.
“Do you want anything?”
I finally got the chance to look into his eyes. They were a brilliant blue, and seemed to radiate some kind of kindness that I had never seen before. Was it…love? Not romantic love, but a compassionate, brotherly love. The look on his face promptly put me more at ease. I reached for the banana.
“There we go! We’re all friends here.”
Sera grabbed the last granola bar from his hands, and he brushed them together like he had just finished a job.
“So, if you don’t mind my asking, what are your names?” He requested.
Sera immediately replied.
“I’m Sera. *crunch crunch* It’s short for Seraphina.”
“Nice! Good to meet you Sera.”
It didn’t look like Milo was going to respond, so I added my identification.
The young man nodded.
“Gotcha. I think I can remember Hal.”
He then turned patiently to Milo. Unenthusiastically, Milo introduced himself.
“Hello, Milo.” Our food giver bowed slightly. “I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Devon Persich.”