It was a long drive back to St. Steven, so much so that Jodi fell asleep two hours into it, after the sun had long since set. She leaned her head on Frankie's shoulder and nodded off, and he stayed stock for nearly an hour, watching her carefully as she slept. After a while, though, he loosened up just a little, just enough to move his hands and head. When this didn't wake her, he began moving once more, reaching ever so subtly for her bag. He pulled the canvas into his lap and began leafing through the contents, dismissing the thin books and multicolored paperwork in favor of something he only half-knew would be there.
With a small noise of victory, he pulled the favored item from the bag. A big, unlined spiral notebook with a purple plastic cover, attatched to a small box of colored pencils. A bit more digging uncovered the pencil sharpener, and he had put the tip of the red pencil to the paper before he remembered.
He didn't know how to draw anymore.
He sat stymied for a moment, then looked over to Jodi. If he moved to go back to the city, then she would wake up, and he would have to unbuckle the belt-thing, which she had told him not to.
And the city hadn't helped anyway—he couldn't find the drawing place and just being there hadn't done any good, had it?
He stared at the paper.
There was white and only white there, rising like the walls of the asylum before him. He felt the small thing called reason drift away, and he scaled the walls and stood atop them, staring out at the forest. The forest was not the forest, but rather all the people from forever on, all running around the asylum walls as fast as they could go. The whole world was dust as the rushing feet trampled everything, and he almost cried out in horror as the stars hit the horizon and were trampled on the ground, until their shining whiteness was dull or dead. The sun followed, turning the sky to the red inside people, and everyone washed away in it, and only the red was left, surging up against the white walls where he stood. And all around was rushing wind and burning fire, and the screaming of a thousand voices in a thousand languages, and he could sense the monsters coming...
Frankie shut his eyes.
He opened them again.
There was only paper.
He looked at the pencil in his hand, and willed it back from where it had melted into wax, turned it back to the shape that his fingers said it was. He closed his eyes and marveled at the blackness.
And he took stock.
The thing in his hand was called a pencil, and it was round and long and pointy at one end. There was color inside it that was meant to come out. Jodi was next to him, so much smaller and tireder than he had remembered her, and he wondered if she could still fight monsters now. Of course she could. The notebook was made of paper, which is where the color was meant to go. It was smooth and thin and perfect, and there had used to be pictures waiting inside it that nobody but him could see.
He opened his eyes and looked for the pictures again.
The paper was still blank, and still white, but there was more than that now. The things inside his mind were never quite happy to stay there, and he let them out for just a second, just a little, so he could see what they were before he let them out all the way.
Slowly, the pictures started to form, flickering, unstable, but there. He smiled, just a little, as they vanished again—he'd seen them, he remembered them, they were there.
And he quite liked them.
He put pencil to paper again.
And slowly, carefully, he started to draw.
He drew the yellow flagpole, the gate and the other side of it, the big dog, the endless trees. He drew the road made of rocks and the road made of nighttime, with all the odd yellow stripes. He drew the people that had said hello, the people that had yelled, and the people that had run. He drew the little buildings, the quiet place, the falling water, the cold and the nighttime. He drew the bad tasting plant, and the good tasting plant. He drew the deer and the wolves. He drew the city, and the big building, and what everything had looked like from way up high.
He drew the everyone star, still there no matter where he was.
And then he drew Jodi.
He drew the way her brown hair started frizzing late in the day. He drew her smooth hands that had always guided him when he was unsure. He drew her smile, the one that showed up in her eyes. He drew her feet, in her comfortable white sneakers, and her legs in the dark green skirt. He drew the scar that he still remembered giving her.
His everyone star, still there no matter where he was, or who he was, or what he was. Constant, unchanging, beautiful.
So far away.