I woke up this morning. Ryan shot the laughing man two days ago and from that point on I remember very little. I remember being scared and painting a bus. I remember countless hours of fading in and out of a shallow slumber, of freeway mile markers with my face pressed up against the window marking each one, focusing in on each number to keep from sliding over the edge, to keep from losing the only fingertip grasp I had on myself. I didn't say, or at least don't remember saying, a single word for those two days. I was too caught up in the web of suspicion woven through my head. That kind of thing can sneak up on you, trying to figure out what everyone is thinking, convinced that if you don't figure it out, or at least keep trying, they'll have you. I sat in the passenger seat of that deathly white cadillac, face pressed up against the window, calculating, sweating, staying just below the surface of panic by counting out those mile markers. "I've got to stay on top". I've got to stay on top of everyone's thoughts, everyone’s motives. Got to keep it all in check, got to keep the pot watched or it'll boil over into trouble and they'll have me. And the next thing you know you're fingering the trigger every time a friend approaches.

But this morning I woke up with the sun rising on a whole new landscape. Pink clouds rimmed a sky of infinite opportunity. Everything had opened up into endless rolling grasslands under a giant prairie sky. I could feel the pressure of all the dark secrets of a dirty, windy city, of secrets that had festered in the shade of the Minnesota north woods - I could feel all these secrets caught up and blown away by the wide open spaces. I woke up from the eeriest dreamy sleep into a bright sunny Saturday. I've somewhat lost track of the days since we left and can't even recall what day this whole thing started on, but today, despite any calendar, was a Saturday. You can smell it in the air, all the dirt that will work it's way into the knees of your jeans, all the sweat that will collect in your hair, the dew and pond water that will soak your socks well past the tops of your shoes. I could feel all the scars of childhood start to itch as the sun lit the sky up blue on that Saturday morning.

The caravan plowed on down the freeway like a string of toy boats through a bathtub sea, rolling through the waves of grass under a ocean-blue sky. It was the road trip feeling, with so much of the same thing in every direction that you no longer care if you get anywhere as long as you just keep going. I know that Saturday feeling had gotten everyone just like me because although we had been driving most of the night, the speed of the convoy picked up another 10 mph, we all tuned into trash-rock radio with Bruce Springsteen grunting out a song and Ryan was slowly creeping forward, hunching up over the steering wheel as I rolled down the window shouting out to the others and the rest of the world what ever came to mind. We tore off 200 miles in two and a half hours and pulled into a rutty side road just as the sun was really starting to warm the world.

It's almost spooky how the warm weather has followed us, but by the time we reached the bridge the cold water of the river felt refreshing, for a minute at least. Everyone piled in knee-deep at least and splashed around. It was absolutely comical to see this motley crew, cursed with a mission and a dead body, playing like nine-year-olds in the river. I stood letting the river wash over my feet, and made more definite plans with Ryan. This was Bates' stop in that he had brought us here. Ours would be next. As we sat on the rocks of the far bank, letting the sun warm us again, Rob read us the letter, and with that the last of the secrets fluttered of into the wide sky.

We move on West tomorrow, but tonight we have indulged in a small camp fire and a good night's sleep. As the dark embers of the fire glowed quietly, quietly dying out, ten weary travelers, ten of the strangest bedfellows, climbed into the bus and spread out on the floor tired from a long Saturday.

I found myself curled up into Chris, laying in his shadow, with my arm around Sally, who lie in front of me. I've never been more content with my position. Curled up into the security of a warm giants lap, I will always be safe with the strength and warmth of the mutants. Holding close the one I never really knew, I wonder how she is taking this all in. As usual we never spoke in confidence -who could blame her, so lovely immersed in a mutant wonderland -and who could blame me, she is the queen of our court.

"Good night, compadre." says Chris, patting me on the head.

"Good night, Alice" I whisper, though she is already asleep and dreaming.

-the gilded frame-
--Letters from a Savior; Offer for a few--


Prairie fires are a trully impressive and awe-inspiring sight, as flames can reach up to forty feet high.

Unlike forest fires, prairie fires do not smolder. Instead, they can best be described as a wave, an expanding circle of flame which leaves the center bare and flat, covered only with ash.

Prairie fires are usually performed either in the spring or fall, when the majority of the grass is dead or dying. If it is done in the spring, it encourages the growth of the summer grasses and discourages the spring flowers; if it is performed in the fall, the situation is reversed. Native Americans prefered to set fires in the fall, but today the managers of many prairie remnants prefer to alternate between fall and spring burns, in order to create a balance between both types of plants.

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