The road wound into the mists. It wrapped back on itself several times. In fact at one point it ran parallel to itself. All that time it went in a straight line. Orpheus seemed unperturbed, munching on beef jerky. Angela was beginning to accept the weirdness. It hurt not to be hungry though. Her hand touched her mouth, searching for breath that never came. What use is food to the dead?
Those weird thoughts too, that seemed to just arise from the dark recesses of the mind. Like the urge to thump the noisy chewer ahead of her.
“You sure this is the way?” Orpheus asked.
She sighed. This was the third time he’d pestered her. Show him who’s boss.
She stopped dead. Orpheus went another pace before slowing.
“What?” he asked blithely.
“I just realised this is the wrong way,” She said mildly.
Orpheus growled. “Right. Very funny,”
“Really,” Angela let the spite carry her. “We’ll have to turn back,”
Orpheus cast his gaze to one side. “I don’t have time for this shit,”
“Why not? Afraid you’ll run out of oxygen?”
Orpheus plucked something from a pocket. It looked distinctly like a rubik's cube. He gave it a few twists, the clicks echoing.
“Look. I know the station’s down this road. You, you’re probably insane, like the ones back at the Tower. So how about you sod off,”
He continued on without her. Angela took a few steps after him.
“You’re a jerk!” She yelled.
The mists lapped around Orpheus’ receding figure. She chided herself. She needed him to get out of here.
Assuming there is a way out.
It took another moment for her to chase him. She valiantly held back. He didn’t deserve help. Then she gave in and pursued.
The crossroads were lit weakly. An ancient lamp post stood at their centre, not so much holding back the mist as outlining it. Indeed its light was that useless white they had in the older models. And it looked old. The timber looked fossilized and every inch of it lay covered in graffiti. Angela slunk forward, fascinated by it. There was something almost holy about the post. The light brought a warmth she hadn’t felt since the dream bubble.
Orpheus stood at the centre of the criss-cross, head turning this way and that. He said something but the words were fuzzy. Close up she could see that the graffiti were names, messages, initials. The post was riddled with the signs of those who had passed. She picked out one, J. Copernicus. There was a dirty poster advertising a missing child. Someone had carved a heart and painstakingly wrote M. D. inside it. All these people, were they dead too? Had they come this way and left something behind? She reached for her handbag. It wasn’t there, it lay on asphalt somewhere. Frantically she cast about for something to write with.
“Damn it,” said Orpheus.
He had another instrument in his hands. It pinged cheerily. He shook the device then thrust it into a pocket.
Angela approached him hesitantly, rage subsumed by this strange urge.
“Can I have a knife?” she asked.
“Gonna slit your wrists?” He chuckled.
His barb didn't hurt. she merely pointed at the lamp post. Orpheus' eyes trailed its length and then it dawned on him. His head cocked slightly, staring pointedly at her. She waited, still pointing. Some wordless agreement passed between them and he shrugged.
Orpheus brandished a scrap of iron. He spun it about and as Angela watched the metal reshaped. Whispering incoherently he pulled back folds to sharpen one edge. He ceased the whispers with a sharp exhale. The metal solidified and he offered her the result. Angela clasped the crude blade. It felt so real, a comforting weight in her hands. She scurried over to the lamp and began whittling at the wood.
Orpheus watched her with some bemusement. The silence that settled was thick, rendering her chipping insubstantial. She finished finally and there was another set of initials on the post.
A O M
She stared at them, lost amidst a sea of others' marks. Her head bowed and she felt tears. A hand touched her shoulder. It was Orpheus. His face was drawn back in a tight expression. He patted her awkwardly. For a moment there was nothing between them.
Angela stood to one side. She’d dried her eyes and tried to fix herself. There had been little to fix. Her clothes were as clean as this morning; her hair did not fall out of place. Even the tears had simply vanished.
“He said west of the crossroads,” she said.
Orpheus stood at the centre again. He grimaced “Did he say which West?”
“I... no. I kind of assumed that, well…,” Angela felt stupid.
“That we’d go by the north pole?” Orpheus scowled.
“What about those toys you keep pulling out?”
“The wayfinders? They only help with directions that exist,”
“Well I didn’t think, I mean, you can’t be angry,”
I’m not angry. I’m fucking furious,” He turned away and swore some more.
Angela clenched her fists. She remembered all those times she’d gone babysitting. This had to be hell, with an ill-tempered manchild to boot. She laid a kick on the lamp post. There was a sharp crack. She jumped to one side as the lamp post toppled forward. It landed a few feet from Orpheus and the light shattered across the road. He stared at it in shock and that was when she saw it.
“Are you trying to kill me?”
Her finger ran across the relief. There was no mistaking it. Orpheus was upon her. “You stupid-“
“Look!” she declared.
“Let’s go,” she said.
She took one of the roads and marched confidently away.
On the back of the post, higher than one could easily spot was affixed a plate. Prominently printed on it was the letter N.
“Oh fuck you,” Orpheus muttered.