The road was an oily black ribbon unraveling quickly ahead of them. The car blew through the bends, crooks and hollows with the low, loud scream of a man falling from the sky.
Inside, Huck turned and craned looking for their pursuers. The forest canopy's dark, flickering static blotted everything out. Somewhere behind it, giant black shapes scattered and swung. The only way Huck still knew they were there were by the shifting pinpricks of light and sudden rushes of wind. It was as though the night sky itself reached down with huge silky hands to sift through the trees.
Behind the wheel, Garcia saw what was coming and mouthed an old curse. "Clearing," he told his partner. The soft tunnel of the forest broke around them. The world got darker as the headlights rushed off into miles of empty space. Only the reflection off the cliffside and the road's yellow vein let them know there were anywhere at all.
The box between them lit up once quickly. It lit up two more times, each time making a dull, urgent squawk. After that everything went quiet long enough for both of them to relax. Then there was a sound like a dam bursting and rocks that came tumbling all around them. Garcia repeated the word "dammit" in a low soft prayer as he swung the car screeching around a bend. "They're not even waiting," screamed Huck, "I thought we had five seconds!" The box lit up again this time staying on. Its dull tone picked up where the shrieking tires left off. Huck hit the box as though it would do something, "They're going to-" "No. They won't," Garcia said. His voice was distant and calm.
Their headlights scattered into a brown and green strobe as the car dove back into the forest. The box shut up and they both let out a held breath. From somewhere behind them the world flashed briefly orange. Trees and stone shattered in echoing waves. The debris swept across the road and the car bucked hard. A sharp rock cracked the rear windshield turning it into a useless silver web.
"Next one's us," Garcia said. "Are you ready?"
"Yeah," said Huck - too distracted for Garcia's taste.
"People freeze the first time they go over, Huck. They stop paying attention and go dumb. We'll die all the same if you do that. Are you ready?"
"Yes. And I'm not people."
The road straightened and Garcia pushed the accelerator to the floor. A window of black open air grew fast ahead of them. The box lit up again before they even reached the next clearing. One, two, three seconds ticked by. Garcia reached out a hand and Huck grabbed it. "Hold tight," said Garcia, "We have to clear the railing first." The box whined its dull aching tone. Garcia finally recognized where he'd heard it before. flatline. . .
The car punched through the guardrail much easier than either of them thought. The car was now flying through the air and already pitching down to the great valley below. Garcia took a deep breath and let his mind lead him back over. As his breath spilled out he dropped all the clumps of meat, clothing and matter that held him down. His hand clamped tightly on Huck's as he focused all his energy on bringing them both through.
When they crossed over the world around them became a faint postcard of some fashionable place everyone had long forgotten. Sound didn't stop so much as it passed into memory. Like their earthly bodies the car fell away from them and they kept gliding outward in a soft, graceful arc. A few seconds later the car exploded in midair behind them. Even that looked like something on an old television set planted in the back of a dusty store. Having never seen anything like it before, Garcia forgot his own words and stared at it hypnotized. Only the sudden tug from his partner broke the trance.
"Don't freeze! Remember?" chided Huck's deepening voice. With a quickly shrinking hand and arm Garcia was pulled onto Huck's back. Huck's body shifted and expanded and Garcia soon found himself on a great, winged reptile whose scales felt like heavy steel plates. Garcia remembered to concentrate, merging his energy into Huck's body. The longer he could keep them both over, the better chance they had of surviving.
"Fly," he said, "As fast and as far as you can. I don't think I can keep us here longer than a few minutes." There was a growl Garcia hoped to be a laugh. "We will be long gone by then," came Huck's gravelly voice. They flew over the forested spine of the mountains leaving behind the angry black machines and their merciless search. Their flight was windless and still, as thought they were suspended on threads and pulled along by invisible stagehands. Garcia felt no less wonder to be riding a dragon's back over a countryside.
They were both silent for a minute as they took in their surroundings. Huck's great neck swung a wide arc to scan the horizon. The energy Garcia poured into keeping them both between worlds allowed him to feel every muscle of the dragon's body. Huck's magnificent neck and claws tensed and exerted. Garcia felt the great moving of the wings as though there were his own. Garcia could understand why some spirits got greedy and took the communion too far. Huck's muscles suddenly tightened. Their neck arced upward, eyes gazing at the thing in the sky. A great glowing beetle floated higher than the mountains and clouds, its million limbs pushed and weaved enormous cables, threads and dark metal girders all around it.
"Great Mother," Huck said softly, "What in all the worlds is that?"
"That's just the moon," Garcia said. "It always looks like that."