Shaking and sweating, he hugged his knees and buried his face into the sleeping bag. Hot then cold, his mind racing. Jesus! He thought he’d gotten over this dope sick shit after that first month behind bars. Cold turkey they called it. More like one sick, puking hot pile of chicken shit was how it felt. Till finally, at the other end of it, he’d promised himself no more. A clean slate, head on straight, he was going there no more. So he’d accepted Henry’s offer of help and home and ended up, ended up…

“Fucking it all up again.”

Chapter 2: Approaching Earth: an excerpt.

Except for that article. That photograph that had him halfway across the country parked in a cornfield waiting for dawn and hoping none of those distant headlights were cop cars searching for him.

He dug in the backpack looking for the page he’d torn from the magazine, but his search turned up a different mystery first. He pulled out a folded, creased paper that had yellowed with age. He hesitated, afraid to look at it again. Why had his father kept this all those years? Why hide it in a locked desk drawer?

He’d been searching for money. His father away, Eric’s need at its greatest, he’d been looking for cash to fix what was wrong, whatever that was. Instead, he’d found a child’s drawing, that was all. A stick-drawn little girl with a smile on her face, holding the hand of an adult male with a feathered band across his forehead. All around them crooked, triangular teepees had been drawn with charcoal crayon swirls of smoke spiraling upward.

Why had this one drawing been the impetus that finally drove him away from home?

Eric vaguely remembered it. Was it from kindergarten? Pre-school? Could he even remember that far back? Stupid to think so, even stupider to think something about it had changed. It wasn’t even his drawing. At least, he didn’t think so. The initials M.R. were carefully lettered in the bottom right corner.

So why had this one drawing been the impetus that finally drove him away from home? He had no answer to that any more than he had an answer to the feeling that something about the image was wrong, out of place. He could remember seeing the stick figure of the little girl before, but there had been a woman with her, hadn’t there? A woman with an angry frown. And the little girl had been frightened and crying.

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