I gather my provisions from a store in town, and am now making my way out to the cave. I’m drinking a flavored coffee, one of those late nite convenience store coffees from a pot that’s been sitting on the burner since sundown, getting toasted beyond coffee into a new thing. I can see the lights of Dodge City far below as I climb the hills, and I hear the rushing of the Arkansas River. I like the sound of that — maybe I’ll work on an Arkansas River Blues back in my room, whenever I make it back there. Tonight, I have to get out to the cave. The night is chillier than I thought it would be, and there’s a giant Orthodox-looking church on one of the peaks, a kind of place that probably has vespers and big bells and lots of candles held in circles, and the kissing of gold-leafed saints. I wonder who the main priests in Dodge City are. There might come a time when I need to know, depending on how my business here turns out. Now I’m coming near the cave. Some wolves are watching me, but they keep their distance. They look like they’re standing in a practiced formation, on both sides of my path as I walk. At the lip of the cave, a huge boulder has been rolled into place, blocking the entrance. I smell smoke leaking through the cracks, and hear the very faint sounds of a couple of guitars and a high, strained voice, like it’s trying to get out and into the open night. I stand there against the boulder drinking my coffee with the wolves watching, and I have some candy and toss a little their way. They share it very diplomatically with one another. Unless there are many more wolves back in the darkness where I can’t see, each of them gets a piece. I stand there waiting for a development when an intercom rings. I can’t see quite where it is, but it sounds like it’s coming out of the boulder itself. “Hello?” it says. “Hello,” I say back. It’s a woman’s voice, maybe early middle aged. “David?” “Speaking,” I say. I wonder how much these people know about me, and how much they think I know about them. “Listen, you can’t come in tonight. It’s the bi-monthly meeting of the Dodge City Antique Sounds Collectors’ League, and you have to be a member. We’re listening to some brand new tube amps from the 50s, and some wax cylinders from barely 1900.” I tell her that I can hear something coming faintly through the stone. “Early Sparklehorse,” she says. I nod, wishing I could come in. “How early?” I ask. “Like twelve,” she says. “When he was like twelve. Ten maybe. Still learning to sing and play the guitar.” “Must be quite a collector you work for.” “He’s got more Lovecraft than Lovecraft himself … so goes the saying.” I try to picture that. There’s a pause on both ends. “Listen,” she says, eventually. “Do you have a place to sleep? Cuz he set up the guest room for you. You can stay in there, as long as you don’t wander into the meeting by mistake. If you do, you’ll have to join the League, and you might not want to know what that entails.” I say that I can deal with that, and she buzzes me in. The rock slides away, enough for me to squeeze by, while the wolves watch, knowing not to follow. When I get in there, I see lighted arrows pointing down rock corridors, and hear a boy Sparklehorse crooning like a hundred sparrows, his hands still struggling to find the right chords.

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