The Fork In The Road is a diner- the only one in the town of Five Corners and it’s done up to look fisherman’s shack complete with white sand on the floor and sea shells and starfish hanging from the walls and ceiling.
The owner is named Mr Darkmouth and when Alona walked in dripping wet he didn’t look surprised or even a little annoyed at the mess she was making.
He didn’t even flinch when she dropped one of her bags to the floor and little jets of muddy brown water sprayed the counter he was sitting at.
” Does it ever, even for a minute stop raining around here? ”
” Can’t say it ever has.”
” Really? It never stops raining? ”
Mr Darkmouth shook his head and he smiled…just a little.
” Well, that sucks. Look, I’m headed out to Rainbow Beach, which is the best way to get there?”
Mr. Darkmouth sat there in his cold dark Diner and he didn’t answer right away.
Eventually he said:
“Most of the time when people come in here asking for directions they ask for the fastest way, or the safest way out of Five Corners to Rainbow Beach. Sometimes they ask for the quickest way back home.”
” And I’ll bet you don’t just tell them what they want to know for free…I’ll bet it costs something doesn’t it?”
” Indeed it does.”
Alona left her bags and she said as she walked up to Mr Darkmouth sitting on his red bar-stool in front of his now mud splattered counter, ” I’m not paying for anything Mister …”
” Darkmouth- Mr. Darkmouth.”
” Mr Darkmouth it is. I’m out here- Mr Darkmouth- to retrieve something that was taken from me.”
Alona stopped inches away from Mr. Darkmouth. ” Rainbow Beach. The best route- I want it.”
” Have you asked yourself-”
” Miss Darelyn.”
” Miss Darelyn why someone in your condition is willing to go to a place like Rainbow Beach.”
Alona looked over her shoulder out the window and up into the cloud filled night sky. ” All the more reason for you to get me out of here Mr Darkmouth.”
Mr Darkmouth stood up and from his apron he pulled out a little notepad and asked her, ” Rainbow Beach is quite some distance from your home- isn’t it? And I don’t mean the miles. No. Nothing as simple as that. I mean it’s far away from the kitchens and gardens and those soft sweet smells coming from those little drawers in our safe warm homes where we like to hide our special treats. ”
From the behind the dusty starfish on the walls Alona could smell peaches and wafting up from below the floorboards she could smell warm cornbread and coffee and as she dripped more water on the floor she asked herself-
exactly how much more wet and cold and alone could she possibly get then she was right now?
The Diner got a little warmer and Alona was about to sit down when Mr Darkmouth was at her elbow and pulling a chair out for her. ” What’s up at the Beach Miss Darelyn isn’t for you.”
” Not for me. ” She said slowly.
” Heavens no- someone like yourself Miss Darelyn is intended to know adventure. To chase life down and make it your own. A creature like yourself is intended to be in the light- isn’t that right?”
” I- I think so. No you’re right. That’s what I do.”
From the kitchen behind the counter came the sounds of chopping and cutting and the warm smell of garlic and onions frying together in butter.
” The Beach and what’s there- well now common sense will tell you that belongs to the Night Miss Darelyn. It’s always Dark out there- darker since the tragedy of course. You don’t belong there.”
” No he doesn’t.” Alona said.
The sounds of chopping stopped and the smell of peaches faded- just a little.
” Excuse me? ” Mr. Darkmouth asked. ” Don’t you mean….”
” I mean Kanden. He doesn’t belong there. He’s always been afraid of the dark- he has been since we were children.”
The warmth golden smells coming up from the floor were replaced on a breath of cold air by the smell of wood-rot.
Alona’s dark eyes reflected the cold blue light of the diner back towards Mr. Darkmouth.
” I want that route .”
Mr. Darkmouth smiled and from his parted lips came the smell of fetid water. ” No.”
Alona dropped herself into a chair and scooted up to a table. ” That’s just fine. But you know Mr. Darkmouth, someone in my- how did you put it- oh yes, condition is always being followed. I’m sure you know that. I’m also very sure that if you can’t smell them by now you can most certainly hear them. And I’m sure you are fully aware that the things that those things that are following me-”
Alona smiled a bright smile.
” Well…if they can’t have me, they’ll take you. Why not? You’d make a somewhat exotic trophy yourself.”
” Get out.”
” The route Mr. Darkmouth.”
Mr. Darkmouth grabbed one of the paper place-mats from out in front of Alona and then he wadded it up and threw it in her face. ” Take it and go. Don’t think I’m not getting something out of this Miss Darelyn. The one thought that will make me a rich man- that fill me with absolute joy, with pleasure, is knowing that you will die out there Miss Darelyn and it will not be an easy or a painless death.”
Alona reached down and smoothed out the wadded piece of paper. And then she took her time folding it when she was done she put it in her bag next to her postcard.
” You better hope that your wish comes true Mr. Darkmouth. Because if your luck turns on you I think I’ll be stopping back in in for a bite.” Alona opened her mouth and in the darkness her jagged pointed teeth glowed.
When she was sure Mr. Darkmouth got the point she snapped her teeth together.
Alona smiled, shook some of the water from her hair and then reached down and picked up her bags.
And then she started out for Rainbow Beach.
” Woven “
is coming soon