The Edge of Propinquity

Normal version

The Wild Hunt
An Idolwood story
Ivan Ewert
Start at the beginning of the Idolwood series

He struck her.

Gamine spun, falling to the floor, only half-aware of what had happened before the side of her head connected with the concrete. She stared at the bloated pillars before her, blinking, trying to remember that they were her lover's legs. The fat pooled across the tops of his feet like slack leggings, dark veins thrumming visibly against the pale flesh and sparse blonde hairs.

She felt his hand in her hair, but wrong, all wrong. There was no pride or love in his caresses now, no warm sense of belonging in the core of her soul.

"It's the wrong boy, you stupid cunt," he hissed. "This is the wrong boy. Do you know what this means?"

He cast her to the floor. She realized again that she had been hit, that her cheek was, perhaps, broken; that something else was broken, something deeper, which would never be mended again. He turned his back to her, running both broad hands through his hair, grabbing and tugging at its roots.

"It is going to have to be fast, too fast for any pleasure. Oh, God, the car, tell me you didn't take the car!"

"I thought..." Her voice cracked where she lay.

"Oh my God, Oh, God, you did." He turned and grasped for the handrail, pulling himself along the stairs. She heard the door to the garage, heard the small chirrup of alarm at the car's door opening.

Brandon shifted before her, moaning. He thought it was the wrong boy? How could it be the wrong boy? She'd seen them talking, heard them, even talked to them. It made no sense.

She wanted to die.

The Hanged Man's tread was heavy with more than his own weight.

"Gamine," he said, his voice deepening with something worse than loss of love, "his blood is in the car. The fenders, my God, the fenders. What did you hit?"

"What does it matter?" She lay still, refusing to wonder what came next. It had never been this way with him. It had been love and fire and passion, and again, again, she had broken it and she would be broken for her pains.

"It matters because somebody will have seen. There are eyes everywhere, Gamine. Do you think I am slow? Do you think I'm stupid?" The pitch of his voice was rising now. "Do you think I couldn't have taken him from his bed, his very bed, if I wanted? I have before. I would have with him.

"And now," his breath came in shallow gasps, "now there is evidence, and eyes, and there are always eyes, Gamine. Always. Always. You should know this and you didn't or you chose not to and now..."

His meaty hands wrapped around Brandon's throat, there in the basement.

"Now there are no tools, and no quiet, and no time left."

Her world snapped into focus. There was no time.

She reached for where her purse lay, for the handle of the gun.


"I'm coming with you."

Isaac's voice shook as he shrugged into a windbreaker.

"No, you aren't." Grey and Edie spoke over one another in their haste. The four of them were gathered in Grey's kitchen once more, preparing to go to the woods.

"Dad," he insisted, "I can't stay here alone. I'm scared, dad."

Grey paused, and then turned. "Isaac, please listen. Please. You have the cell phone, and the house is going to be locked up tight. If you hear anything, anything at all, then you call 911."

"They wouldn't be here in time, dad. They wouldn't. They just wouldn't."

"He's right," said Alex. "He's got to come along."

"No," Edie shook her head. "He can't."

"It's too dangerous," said Grey with a nod.

"It's more than that. He's not marked, not one of us. If this is going to work it can only be the three of us."

Alex turned to Grey. "What if you stay here?"

"No, he can't." Frustration sharpened Edie's tone. "Listen. The three of us have to go there, to the Glen. We know where he was kidnapped and we can find him again, but only if we move, and only if it's three, understand? It won't work with four, or two, it won't work with the unmarked."

"So mark Isaac."

"Alex, listen. I can't. We don't have the time, first, and second, I wouldn't do this to a kid, and third, it has to be three.  Understand?"

Grey looked back at her. "It has to be three for the magic, Edie, or for you?"

"Both, Grey. It has to be three for my magic." She pointed to the plant. "Three leaves. Three sprouts. Three arms or eyes per doll, or five, or whatever, but it's got to be some odd number, get it? No fearful symmetry, no golden mean. None of that old-school nonsense or it breaks the way Alex's routine gets broken."

"Magic?" Isaac asked.

Grey rolled his eyes. "You can see across miles but only in odd numbers? What, exactly, is the point of so many restrictions?"

"I don't know, Grey!" She shouted. "Believe me, I want to know. You think I wouldn't change things if I could? I want to be free to leave the house on a whim and not watch the clock for a number divisible by three, but when I do, everything dims, doesn't it? Things get blurry and I get short of breath and the next thing you know it's broken and gone!"

"That doesn't..."

"This isn't school, Grey. It isn't a nice, neat package that gets laid down and explained. It just happens and it works but only, only if you've got that kind of intent focus that breaks some other part of your life, you get it? We're broken. Alex and me and the doll maker, we're all of us shattered somehow!"

She took a deep breath. "And if we don't stop the lecture and move then that boy's going to wind up in a very, very bad way."

"Dad?" Isaac watched the three adults. "What's she talking about?"

Grey took him by the shoulders. "Isaac, listen. There's been a lot going on. Since you found that doll and since Miss Allagash gave you the plants. Mister Pajari and I have been working to find out more, but now... we've got to go. Do you want to save Brandon?"


"Then I guess you've got to stay here. She knows what she's talking about and I'll explain it all. I promise, I will explain it all as best I can. For right now, though; you need to stay here and not move an inch from this house unless you hear something. Stay on the mid-level, between the doors. Don't turn on music, or television. You just sit and listen. Can you do that for me?"


"Can you do that?" Grey's voice was fierce. "Can you do it for me, or for Brandon, or for anything? I just need you to trust me. I wouldn't leave if there was any other way."

Isaac nodded slowly. "I'm scared, Dad."

The door shut behind Edie, followed quickly by Alex.

Grey leaned in and whispered. "I am too. That happens. You have to move on anyway."

"Just come back, Dad."

Grey lowered his forehead to lean against his son's. "Isaac. I promise."


Alex drove, with Edie in the passenger seat of the Jeep and Grey tucked into the rear. The replay of a Sox game on sports radio filled the air, meaningless chatter around a game which had already reached its conclusion.

They pulled into the Morgan Glen entrance unobserved, undisturbed. Alex stopped the Jeep and looked expectantly to Edie.


"So?" Her tone was sharp and clipped.

"What are you going to do?"

"It's got nothing to do with me, Alexei. I don’t have any dolls here, no sculptures, nothing. You're the one who saw her, running through the woods. You moved it forward to protect those kids. Now it's time to protect another one."

"Yeah, but..."

"I don't have time for buts." She jerked a thumb toward the back seat. "I've been spending so much time explaining everything to this one because he just doesn't get it."

"Edie..." Grey's voice rose, but she carried on regardless.

"You do, Alexei. You understand what it's all about. You don't need me to explain a goddamn thing to you, do you?"

He looked to the skid marks along the parking lot, the turf kicked up by Gamine's errant wheels.

Gamine limped toward the car's passenger side, snarling and lifting the gun again. Isaac scrambled to his hands and knees, looking backward, but her attention was on the car. With a sob of relief, he stayed on all fours, crawling as fast as he could for the safety of the trees.

She threw open the passenger's side door and grabbed Brandon by the shirt collar, reaching down to place the pistol at his temple. Dazed, he felt the warmth of the muzzle and the pressure of the metal on his skin.

Alex got out of the car, the muscles in his upper chest throbbing. He'd done chin-ups here, watching the dolls, paying attention and intending to remove them from their perch before she came.

She was clear in his mind—skeletal, insectile, and alien; unknowable.

"Where'd he go? Where's your friend, huh?" Gamine panted. "Never mind. Get up. Get the fuck out of the car. Go. GO!" She dragged him from the door and pushed him to the ground. "Nice and still. Good boy. Nice and still."

He'd seen her type all over the gym floor. Chickenhawks, they called them, after the Looney Tunes character who tried to muss up the rooster. They were all upper body and spitting fire on the floor, desperate to prove what they could do. They were short guys, always; or slight women, pushing themselves to make a point, to show how they belonged.

They made his scalp itch.

"Hello, boys," called Gamine with a wide smile, stepping from the car, halfway into the light. "Little late for you to be out."

Brandon let go of Isaac's shirt, both of them turning. "Who are you?"

Her smile became a smirk, biting her lower lip with tiny teeth, the left canine askew. "What are you two doing so far from home, so late at night? Waiting for someone? You got a date?"

It was posture, always. No cleanliness, no real truth to the desire. They were all about wanting to look like something they weren't, rather than clipping away the masks to reveal the true strength inside.

He felt the muscles in his chest, throbbing.

"Alex," Grey called, "what is it? What are you doing?"

"Quiet," he muttered, moving to the tire treads.

"What's he doing?" Grey leaned forward to Edie. "Tasting the treads? That's not going to do anything. He thinks he's an Apache?"

"Quiet, Grey," whispered Edie. Her face was tight, watching every shift in Alexei's back. Watching as he got the taste of all that had happened, as he sank into the bodies of Isaac and Brandon and the skeletal girl.

He shifted, eyes unfocussed, his breath coming short and quick as he looked to the road. Earlier that night he had been drinking grape juice, eating redfish, had been marked by the smoke of an uncanny fire; and now he stood looking into the past, into a world he could never trust.

Brandon's body slid down, his tailbone striking the wheel well of the back seat, legs and torso crumpling into a V-shape as she turned and jammed the muzzle of the gun into his face.

"That was really, really stupid, little boy," she gasped. "I should've done this earlier."

He'd accepted it all, taken it all in. He had wanted to help.

Jesus, Brandon thought, just let someone see this...

He thought nothing more as the world went dim.

Everything went away as the chloroform hit Brandon.

Alex threw his head back, gasping for breath. It had been too real. All of them were too raw for him; Isaac's bravado, Brandon's fear, Gamine's need. All of it had been too real, and he leaned forward to retch his dinner into the parking lot.

"Alexei!" Edie opened the door. "Oh, Lord, it's too much..."

"Where are they?" Grey demanded, clambering out behind her. "Where are they at, Alex? What's going on?"

"Grey," she spun around, "just leave him be right now. It's a lot to do."

"It's nothing! You saw Isaac, you saw how scared he was, how much he had to lose..."

The taste of fish and bile smacked against his lips, and Alex smiled. He knew that taste. Overworked. Overtraining. In the end it was no more than pain, which was no more than weakness leaving the body. It was an old Marines slogan, too common on the gym floor. It was a way to find them by emptying himself.

Really, what had he ever been? He had been nothing more than helpful and reliable, dependable. While men like Grey had told him what to do.

No great loss, he thought, spewing up another string of flesh and bile across the blacktop.

She dragged him through the door, heels scraping against the concrete and banging on the reinforced wooden stairs. Once inside she set him down to lock the door behind her, and then turned to lift his torso once more. Wrestling him to the basement was trickier, but she managed to bring him to the metal post which sat alongside the Hanged Man's throne.

The handcuffs came off, damp with her sweat. Around the pole, then back on. A nylon rope around both ankles, finishing the job she'd started with the duct tape. He sat then, slumped against the pole on the chill bare concrete, his hands dangling near the drain in the center of the floor.

Alex stood and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. His mother, he thought, would have struck him for the lack of manners.

"Okay," he croaked, "I know where to go. Someone's got to drive."

"It's your Jeep," said Grey, "it's a stick, I don't..."

Alex reached out, and balled Grey's shirtfront in his hand. "Listen. Grey. I'm not here, yeah? I'm half here. Someone's got to drive." He emphasized every syllable with a shake of the smaller man's chest. "I don't care who, but someone's got to drive."

"Hey." Grey put first one hand, then both, against the bigger man's fist. "Alex. Alex. Listen, it's not like I don't want to."

"You can't," Alex said, his eyes glinting in the streetlight. "I know. You've been good at telling me what to do, Grey. And I want to help. Now, though..." he shook his head. "Now I need someone to do what I say."

He turned to Edie, Grey's shirt still in his fist. "Can you drive stick?"

"Yes," she nodded. "Yes, Alexei, I can. Can you tell me where to go?"

"Yes. Yes I can. Like nobody else." Alex's eyes were elsewhere. "Get in the Jeep."

His meaty hands wrapped around Brandon's throat, there in the basement.

"Now there are no tools, and no quiet, and no time left."

Her world snapped into focus. There was no time.

She reached for where her purse lay, for the handle of the gun.


Her fingers wrapped around the pistol like a serpent finding autumn's purchase, a place warm and familiar, but fading from reality, fading like love.

The Hanged Man—her lover—Augustus. His back was to her, a broad and pale constellation of skin tags, ingrown hairs, pimples. It was a hideous thing, and she wondered now why she had never seen it before.

His voice, she thought, his words, his power. Her mind was elsewhere as she caressed the pistol, brought it around in line with her former lover's knees.

He struck her. Not with love, but as a real punishment, as a sign of all he could do.

She had promised herself—promised God, once, long ago—it would never happen twice again.

As the sound of the boy's death echoed through the walls, so too did the slight cough of the silenced bullet.

The Hanged Man's blood spattered across the dead boy's face, and the scream of the Hanged Man mocked the silence she had worked so hard to maintain.

"He's dead, isn't he?" She forced the flatness into her voice, the lack of any emotion. "Tell me the little bastard's dead."

"Gamine," The Hanged Man choked, eyes bulging as he turned. "What..."

"You hit me, you son of a bitch." Her eyes welled up with unshed tears, every word bitten off at its source. He stared, uncomprehending, and she shook her head. "You hit me."

"You wanted me to."

"No," she shook her head and laughed, a low and barking sound, panting with her breath as she stood, the room spinning. "No. It was love before. There's a difference, a real difference."

He tried to summon the words above the pain, but it was too much, a fire in his right leg that overrode everything.

"I thought you loved me," she said, blinking away tears. "I thought you would forgive. I wanted you to be happy."


Gamine stepped forward, leveling the gun. "My name is April," she whispered. "April. And you never asked, August. From the day you picked me up on the side of the road, you never once asked."


"It's too bad," she said, though her tone said it's too late. "I really thought we could have something. We were so good, you and I, spring and autumn, green and gold, death and all that goes with it. But you never once asked, August. I called you what you wanted but you never even knew."

"No. Wait." He fought to regain control, fought the bright red pain and the flare with which it touched the world. "Gamine, April, my love, my light..."

"You hit me," she repeated, and shot out his other knee.

More blood arced across the dead boy's face.

Story by Ivan Ewert, Copyright 2011
Image by Amber Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2011

Last updated on 9/14/2011 2:18:13 PM by Jennifer Brozek
Return to the Library.
Go to Idolwood 2011.

Other documents at this level:
     01 - Foundations
     02 - Fetishes
     03 - Craft
     04 - Little Dolls
     05 - Digging in the Dirt
     06 - Breathless
     07 - Abductions and Reflections
     08 - Fasces
     10 - The Wild Hunt Part Two
     11 - Birth, Breath, Life, Death
     12 - Silent Nights