The motel room was clean, and easy to get to from the cracked window of the clerk's office.
Todd took a scalding shower.
He sat on the bed, stared at the pharmacy bag.
"This is it." he said to himself.
He took out the packet of pens and the five black and white marble notepads. He stared at them for a while. Part of him wanted to turn the television on, but the waitress's words caught it off guard, pushed it into a corner.
He wrote about Toa climbing the side of the crater, the huge blast of mud and crystal. He wrote how she traded the spear to a snake, who filled one of her empty water bags with spit and venom.
It was dark and starless when Toa reached the top of the crater. She was thirsty, but the marks were worn off her last two flasks.
Mind dry, Toa choose one and drank it down, and sat, staring into the crater.
Toa could not see the bottom of the crater. The side furthest from her was pocketed like an abandoned bee hive, the density of honeycombing lessened, the cells becoming larger, as they descended and spread.
Toa thought, once, that she saw a light dance from one edge of the cavern to another, but it was so brief and her thirst so heavy she wasn't sure.
She stood. "I think here is a good place to die." she said.
"No." Came a voice from behind her.
Toa turned. It was the crone, again. Toa asked, "No?"
"Now is a bad time to die, and you won't anyway. You can't die, as it turns out." Replied the crone. "You see, if you jump, you'll eventually fall into a honeycomb and befriend the alien living in it. It will try to fly you to safety, but you'll betray it, it will die, somehow --I don't know how-- and you will live. And you will think fondly of your brave friend the fallen alien."
Toa's eyes stung, remained dry. Her cheeks twitched.
The crone only stared, ocean luminescence leaking slowly from the depths of her cloak. "Listen, child." The crone talked for a while and Toa sat. The crone talked a while more and toa laid. The crone whispered and Toa's eyes closed.
And when she was asleep, the crone ate Toa. The hushed army of shadows, an infinite blanket of cauls and bone-limbs, behind the crone, spilling from a sink hole like a geyser -- the army vanished.
When she was asleep, the crone sucked the poison from Toa's body and leapt into the infinite crater herself --soundless as a drooping cloud.
When Toa fell asleep, the crone stared at her for a long time. The crone sat, too, and slowly, with weizening creaks she spread and uncurled her seventy-seven limbs, wrapped them around Toa and, singing the oldest of lullabies, scurried her back to the tree where her curiosity had first touched her. Mixed with the oldest of lullabies, the crone whispered three of her secrets to Toa.
When Toa woke, she was more hungry than she could remember being in her whole life. She ate plants and found a slaughtered monkey --its head and right arm missing. She cleaned it carefully with a knife and washed the blood from her teeth with water in the stream that flowed next to her tree.
Toa wondered about the creature she'd left in the tide pool of tears --was it grown? Had it left? She remembered being curious, but there was no direction, suddenly, no pull on her, so she decided to head back to her camp.
When Toa fell asleep the crone pulled back her hood, cleared the
from its eyes and looked once, unhindered, on Toa before softly nudging her over the edge of the crater.
Todd stood up and stretched. At some point the power had flickered: the ancient alarm clock on the night stand between the two useless beds flickered 12:00 over and over. It had been 2:13 AM when he last looked at the clock.
Todd stretched, thought momentarily about the last cup of coffee he drank in the diner, and passed into oblivion.