They don’t look like they’ve found their god—but you never know. You never know what they’ll do when they get home. Or later, when they’ve had some time. To recover. To think. He cast an eye out for Jason. They wouldn’t let him do it. Why? Was it real at all? Would he have spoiled the illusion? The trick? And who were these masked monks? Where did they come from?
Cynthia appeared: semi-enveloped still within a pack of men, her face was smeared with some unknown substance, the poor hints of makeup she had had on subsumed with it so that her whole face looked as though it had been wiped into an obscene distortion of itself. A sick, woozy leer was plastered in red across the lower part; out of it leaked as they passed by, “We’re going to get—high.” The illicit sentence seemed to ooze from her whole being and the last word was pronounced with a derisive sneer, as though it were a general rebuke. The queasy, rubbery feeling rolled up again in the depths of Ted’s belly as he watched her slide away with the pack.
And then, as the last few spectators emerged his nose picked up something in the air, something that he had detected earlier but at such a low level as to be within his subconscious, stored unexamined. It was the odor of gas. Perhaps Ted had accepted it unconsciously earlier as a remnant from the place’s past life: a faint aura that hovered spectrally about the space. But now the ghost materialized, and exploded:
“The gas station’s on fire!” someone shouted.
Ted gripped the cryptic mosaic tiles of the gas station barricades. The fire’s forked tongue licked around the nearest wall. Ted stared hypnotized at the greedy flames: rooted to the spot, his eyes were sucked in by the crackling red carnage.