"Erik's Journal"
By Niko Wilde
Copyright 2002, all rights reserved

The last time I asked, we were three miles outside of Oklahoma City. I left Christian, dazed and bleeding on a truckstop bathroom floor, back in Dallas. He didn't believe me when I told him that there was someone waiting for me, someone who might not appreciate him turning all grabby-hands, when he thought no one was paying attention. I guess I can't blame him for not believing, though. Especially when I have a hard time believing it, myself.

Where are you? *Who* are you? And why do I suddenly feel like it doesn't matter, that I'd follow you to the ends of the earth, anyway?

I should back up. You don't know who Christian is, or why I'm scribbling away in a notebook at 3am just outside of the Oklahoma City limits. You don't even know who *I* am.

Or do you? I feel like you do, but considering all of the bad choices I've made up until now, I could be very wrong.

I'll start at the beginning, which was when the old man decided that he'd rather not spend his twilight years in prison. His name is Lee, but I've always referred to him as "the old man". Ever since I can remember, he's been my guardian; my father's brother, the only family I have left. I should know, because he's told me enough times. I'm getting off track, though. Lee...the old man...had quite a business going, for a while. He came home one day, and announced that he had found God, and he knew what he was supposed to do with the rest of his life. He was going to help kids. Kids just like me, with no family and nowhere to go. He bought a building downtown that no one else wanted, painted the cinderblock walls sunshine yellow, and called the place a Home for Wayward Children.

I guess, technically, he was right. It *was* a home, for all types of kids who had nowhere else to go...even though most of them wished they did, after their first week inside those falsely cheerful walls. See, getting away wasn't an option. Lee knew the streets and back alleys like the back of his hand- it was almost uncanny. He knew every nook and cranny of the city, every abandoned building that doubled as a squat. He knew where to look, when a kid disappeared. He had friends who knew where to look, too. And god help you if you got caught. Most kids learned after the first lesson, not to try it again.

But eventually, the odds were good that *someone* would get away, right? Yeah, that's exactly what happened. Someone finally managed to get away, and had the brains to go to the police, instead of trying to disappear into the streets. The cops raided the place, and child protective services had a field day. The only problem was, Lee knew they were coming before they actually showed up, and we ran.

That's how we ended up at the end of the world. It was actually a little town in Mexico, called Thunderclap- but it *felt* like the end of the world. The last bastion of civilization in the middle of the desert, population six.

That was where I met the stranger. That was when the dreams started. That was where everything started falling apart, and just as quickly, started coming together again.

You'll want to hear more about the stranger, but not right now. Not until I can understand what it all meant. Maybe after I've gotten it to make sense, I'll be able to tell you exactly what happened.

We're stopping...I can't continue right now. You'll have to wait to hear about Christian.



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