Guardian’s War 14: White Rabbit

One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small.

And the one that Mother gives you won’t do anything at all.

It’s Jefferson Airplane’s biggest hit and Shadow has been listening to it on repeat for six hours.

Every hour Guardian shows up to take Katherine outside, walk her around the yard and let her do her business. Every two hours he comes back to take Katherine on a walk through every room in the house. Other than that, it’s Shadow and this song.

The music is loud. I am not sure how loud, but loud. It is the drums, I think. The constant rolling, the sudden popping. It might be that lazy guitar that hangs in the air like smoke from a cigarette. Trying not to blend in with the rest of the song, it wants to drift and draw lines in the air. Her voice is not helping. It’s a whining cry, mournful and mesmerizing. And after two hours, Shadow starts to see it all.

He sees the coming of the final confrontation. He knows that things cannot keep going like this. He knows that he will have to give, or they will. He will have to break or they will. He will have to die or they will.

He is toying, more and more, with the idea of murder. He closes his eyes now, and sees himself sprayed with blood. He can feel it on his hands. Warm and sticky on his face. He reaches up to wipe the blood off of his face but the result is a slick smear. He can hear the weeping of his mother at the death of her son. And he finds these cries justified.

Let her suffer with the knowledge that one of her sons killed the other. Let that follow her into Hell. She was such an effective and healthy mother, that one of her children killed the other. Would she stand beside Shadow? Now that he is a criminal and has done something horrific, would she start to make excuses for him? Is this how he gets his mommy back?

Murder stays for a while but it is fleeting as the flutter of an eyelash or a butterfly wing.

And you have just had some kind of mushroom

And your mind is losing all. Go ask Alice,

I think she’ll know.

The room is trembling now with the suddenness of the music. The music is in his bones, and when Shadow opens his mouth, his bones rattle out the rhythm of the rolling drums and the sudden pops.

He is in his room now. It’s not his room anymore, he lives in the same room as Bekah now, but Shadow still comes here to pretend this is his room. He has a futon and a chair. He has a stool shaped like a giant mushroom and he has a large collection of elephants. He has no idea why he started to collect elephants, he just did. He won’t know why for a few more years. When Assassin takes on the name H and things start to make sense in ways that some would say is impossible.

Shadow is bracing himself. He has been preparing all day. Gem and Star want to see him. They want him to save them in some important way. But he is running out of ways to save them. He is running out of answers. All he has to protect them with is rage, and he dreams of it sometimes. Crouching over them, four of them, his claws curled, his back hunched, his eyes scanning as he roars. His roar is a cry of hate, or loss, or desolation and of righteousness. But it can’t help these kids.

He needs to be something to them that he can’t be. They need answers but he is running out of them. He has too many questions himself, and he knows that one day they will ask about Grasp and where he went, and Shadow will have to tell them nowhere.

Grasp has not been arrested. He was brought in for questioning the night the phone call was made, but he was not arrested. With all the evidence they have and all the testimony they can get, with all the horror stories and the public outcry, still nothing. He walks free and every time he looks at any child, his mind wanders to places that Shush has been.

When these thoughts cross our mind, Shush is in the back, screaming. But I can’t hear him over the wailing of the lyrics as White Rabbit reaches its ecstasy.

And the White Knight is talking backwards,

And the Red Queen’s off with her head.

Remember what the door mouse said,

Feed your head! Feed your head!

Bekah hears it when she pulls in the back, even though her car is parked across the large yard and all the doors and windows of the house are bolted up tight.

More smoky guitar. More rolling, popping drums. More sinister lyrics sung by a strung-out visionary.

Bekah walks into the house, to darkness, and she fumbles for a light. When she smacks it on, Shadow shifts to Assassin. He looks up and gauges the distance to the door. When she walks in, he can cross the room, and with the blade in his hand he can have her throat slashed, and all four main arteries cut in a matter of seconds. He thinks about it, the death of something beautiful that loves him, and the thought soothes him. He thumbs the blade closed and slides it back in his pocket.

She does not turn on the light but the streams of kitchen light fall on us and show us off. She stares, nothing but a silhouette, and she has nothing to say. She is trying to decide if she can call out to us. If she can turn the music down, if she can just come over and hug us. She can’t tell. She has no idea what to do.

She finally leaves the room and goes to the music. She turns it down and she comes into the room I’m in, and sits beside me.

“We don’t have to go,” she says.

“They need me. I’m going,” Guardian says.

“Have you eaten?”

“Not today.”

“It’s nine at night. When was the last time you ate?”

“I’m not sure. We can get something on the way out of town,” Guardian says.

“I think we ought to think about not going at all. You look tired. We could just stay home this weekend.”

“I can’t!” Guardian says. “I can’t! They need me! Everyone is letting them down. I can’t let them down. I can’t, if I do, I will die. Do you understand? If I let them down, I will—”

“Okay, shh, it’s okay. We will go. I will pack. Why don’t you start packing the car? I’m assuming all of your stuff is packed.”

“Yes.”

“We need to bring the crate, too. Katherine can’t be left in my grandparents’ rooms alone. If we are both going to Mumble and Horrid’s house, and I think we should, then we need Katherine’s crate.”

“Fine,” Shadow says. He grabs his bag and takes it out to the car. He drops it and goes for the crate.

But you have to take it apart. It takes patience and a bit of skill and he has been listening to the insanity of White Rabbit for six hours. His hands are shaking and his mind is rattling free and filled with smoke.

When he can’t get the crate taken apart, he goes outside and smokes a cigarette but before he does, he turns the volume up again.

When logic and proportion have fallen smoky dead.

And the White Knight is talking backwards,

And the Red Queen’s off with her head.

Back at the crate and Bekah is trying to talk to me but I have to ignore her because if I don’t, I will look up, shake my head and scream. So, I concentrate on the crate and I finally get it taken apart.

Bekah is still talking to me but I can feel the rolling drums in my teeth and I can feel the smoky guitar in my mouth whipping and flipping as I try to clench my teeth.

She grabs me and I flinch. I jump back and whine.

“Let me turn the music off,” she says.

I shake my head and burst into tears.

“Let’s not go. You can’t see them like this.”

I curl my fingers, “We have to go. I can’t let them down. Don’t you understand? I can’t let him down. He won’t stop screaming back there, and Star’s teeth will shatter, and Gem can’t sleep.”

“Okay. Let’s just load up and go,” Bekah says.

I grab the crate and try to fit it in the car. Even though there is plenty of room, the crate won’t go in the trunk. I move it, I move it again. And logic has fallen smoky dead. And this damn thing won’t get in the car.

“Here is all of my stuff,” she says. She pats me on the back as I fight to get this crate in the car and finally, I snap.

I can’t hear the music anymore. Everything is silent. I can’t feel the cold wind on my hands and face. Everything is warm. I can’t taste the cigarette smoke on my tongue anymore. I can’t taste anything.

I’m hitting something.

I’m punching the trunk. I have my mouth open and I am screaming. I have a bag in my hand. I am waving it around.

“I can’t, I can’t pack it, and I can’t get to them, and they will know I let them down and he is getting away with it, and he won’t stop screaming back there and—” I just pound the trunk until she grabs my hand. She pulls me into a hug and takes me away from the car.

“I’m going to get you there,” she whispers in my ear. “You will see them tomorrow morning and see that they are fine. Now, I want you to go back into the house and sit down. Just sit and relax and calm down, and I will get you when the car is packed.”

I go into the back door, to the kitchen and collapse on the floor. I roll over and look up at the ceiling. Me and Johnson’s ceiling. And I cry. Me and Bekah’s ceiling and I sob.

And you have just had some kind of mushroom,

And your mind is moving over. Go ask Alice,

I think she’ll know.

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