"How could you see it in the dark?"
"The blue glow. It wasn't very bright, but it was there. I was on my way upstairs when I heard the scream."
"That would be me. I woke up to a glowing blue face right above my head. It was bright blue then. Took me a moment to focus on it and realize what it was. It was already crackling with an electrical charge and I guess I shouldn't have startled it. I was never very good at being cool."
Steve had to ask for a little clarification.
"You yelled before it hit you?"
"Yeah. My fault it hit me at all. Maybe if I hadn't yelled and tried to jump out of the lawn chair, maybe it wouldn't have lost it's perch and fallen on me like it did."
"Did it really bite you?"
"What happened to your arm?"
"Ok, that could be a bite. Or you could say that I broke its fall by putting my arm in its mouth."
"I don't think it meant to bite me. It's just that, well, there it was. It fell. I covered my face with this arm, and that's where its open mouth landed. Of course it bit. Nobody wants a sweating arm in their mouth. Especially somebody else's."
Steve tried to put it all together, and just about got it right.
"So it fell out of the tree and landed on you, mouth open. When it hit, all it tried to do was get away?"
"That's about the size of it. It was making tracks. Unfortunately, it was making tracks all over me."
"Where'd it go?"
"Straight up. Back into the tree. I kind of lost sight of it since it had discharged it's electrical charge. I think they stop glowing then."
"They do. How do you feel right now?"
"Like I could juggle live rats running up and down a spiral staircase. I'm sure it will pass."
"No, it won't."
Barbara looked over at Steve after that last comment. Was he serious?
"What do you mean, Steve? He's going to be alright, isn't he?"
"Oh, yeah, he should heal up ok. Some scars. Great for war story night around the old campfire at night. But the wired feeling? The wide awake jitters? Welcome to the club and late night TV."
"Maybe worse. I only grabbed the thing. You got bit. Intentional or not, you got a very strong dose of whatever it is those things put out. Kind of the rocking pneumonia and boogie-woogie flu. You're going to be awake for awhile. The sedatives will kill the pain, but they won't put you to sleep. Not now.
"I don't know. I cat napped for about six months before I could settle into to getting at about four hours of sleep in an afternoon. Didn't sleep at all- not a wink- for about the first week or so after it happened. Last night was the first night I've slept in darkness for more than a few minutes at a time."
There wasn't much to be said after that. Small talk was made to fill in the awkward silence, but no real conversation reared its ugly head until Ray finally got around to it. He had been thinking about it, and something didn't quite add up.
"Steve, how did you know to show up last night? You couldn't have known about all this. And how did you get here?"
"I didn't know. Bad timing, that's all. I showed up about eleven last night at an empty house. There was yellow crime scene tape all over the back yard, medical supplies strewn around and a climber cage in the open garage. Looked like someone got a free trip to the hospital. All I had to do was call around to see where you were admitted. Just dumb luck that I showed up last night. And I got here on that old Honda motorbike you saw. Slow, but sure. Mostly slow. I left Lyndon before dawn yesterday.
Barbara had to ask what both she and Ray were thinking.
ORIGINAL FICTION: "Climbers" (Chapter Twenty)
"How could you see it in the dark?"