The Fallowing – The First, Part III

by Steppen Sawicki

Novel: Occult adventure

Most would think it difficult to hide in a black coat in the snow, and perhaps for many it is.  But it comes easily to me.  I need only seek out the shadows, the spaces where one not only doesn’t look, but also doesn’t want to look.

My father taught me much of this.

The thing I hunted taught me the rest.

I think personal talent also helps a bit.

Through a casual questioning of the grandmother about the architecture of the house, I had learned that the window of Simon’s room faced the back, opening onto a section of the roof.  I had placed myself a fair distance away in the dark of a neighboring yard while still keeping an open view of said window.

The hour was late enough that another might drowse, but I remained wide awake.  The opportunity here was rare.  I was so close.  This thing had eluded me for three years.  I wouldn’t let it slip through my grasp again, as it had the night Ben had been injured.  As much as I had hated Ben for pulling me from the chase, I had had to carry him to help.  When I had returned later that night to where he had been attacked, the night winds had picked up and covered both tracks and blood trail with dunes of snow.  I could only question the town and plan my next steps, and wait for another attack in which I could intervene.

As much as it would put Simon in danger, I hoped that it hadn’t yet found its work in Carrington over.

Now things didn’t happen as I expected, so I’ll tell you my expectation: I was waiting for it to visit that window.  The light there had gone off about an hour before, though lights still glowed dim downstairs.  Perhaps the nervous father never slept.  I watched the house by the half-light of a thinning moon.

That moon was high and glittering on the snowbanks when I finally saw movement.  The window to Simon’s room opened and Simon slid through it.  As he made his way through his boot caught on the sash and he nearly fell over the edge of the roof.  It was clear he wasn’t used to sneaking out.

It was then that I noticed other movement.  In the alley between the houses, there was the slightest wrinkling of shadow, and then stillness again.  I unholstered my pistol and riveted my attention to that shadow even as Simon failed to scale a section of brick siding and fell into a snowdrift with a soft fwump.  The boy sat still for a moment, watching the lighted windows beside him.  When no one came to peer out at him, he climbed to his feet and picked his way across the yard.

He had slipped into the alleys when the shadow came out from between the houses.  It entered the moonlight and though the finer details were masked by the night, I recognized the long black hair and white coat immediately.  It was the man with the poor attitude from the hospital.

I cursed under my breath as I watched him follow Simon’s tracks.  I could wait for him to move some distance before I could follow both of them, but it would put even more distance between me and Simon.  As I had feared, this man was getting in my way, not to mention putting everyone in danger.

I chased after him, to the point where I could hear the snow crunching under his boots.  He wasn’t very perceptive though, as he never turned to look behind him until I was practically on top of him.  He would have already been mincemeat were this thing tracking him.

I stepped in a particularly noisy bit of snow and he stopped, tensed like a dog sniffing the air, and swung around to face me.  Something – a blade – flashed in his hand.  He stumbled a bit as he turned, his boots sliding in the snow.  His eyes were wide and his teeth clenched, and I couldn’t help but like that I had scared him a little.

“Get out of here,” I whispered.  “You don’t know what you’re hunting, fool.”

“Who – ” he started, and then he recalled.  “You.  From the hospital.”

“Very astute.”  I walked up to and past him.  “Now get lost.  This isn’t about bounties.  This is my hunt.”

“Bounty?”  He followed after me.  “What bounty?  You’re the one who has no clue.”

“Hush.  Simon’s going to hear you.”

“He’ll hear you first, stomping through the snow like a bear.”

“And what are you going to do when it hears you?  Stab it with that knife?”

“I suppose you’re going to shoot him again?  How well has that worked for you?”

“I just need a clearer shot.”  I shoved him away.  “Stop following me.”

“You’re following me!  And you can’t shoot him, it will do no – ”

We almost gave ourselves away when we nearly dived out of an alleyway.  Thankfully I noticed that Simon had stopped across the street and was waiting in the alcove of an old shop.  This guy was just going to stumble into the moonlight, but I grabbed his collar and yanked him back into the alley.

The street was, of course, deserted save for us three.  The shop windows were all broken and filled with snow.  Simon looked around himself and peered in the windows but didn’t find anything.  He looked up and down the roadway, walked into the road, turned in a circle, went back to the doorway.  His breath steamed in the cold as if he had run a long way.  He was clearly nervous, impatient, and a little unsure of the address.

I couldn’t speak this close to the boy, so me and this guy stood in a tense silence, watching and waiting.

The moon had traveled enough that all of us were beginning to wonder if the thing’s plans had changed when a rustling sounded from inside the dark shop.  It might have been there the whole time, watching its prey pace back and forth in the doorway.  Simon, being closest, heard it first.  He started, staring into the shop

Footsteps shuffled closer and closer to Simon, but stopped short of the window frames and the moonlight.  It remained clothed in the grimy blackness of the abandoned shop, studying Simon.  It had regarded him through his bedroom window in the same way that it now looked at him up close, sick with a twisted longing.  Sick with hunger as well, but still biding its time, as if it enjoyed this moment.  And Simon stood still in captive dread and anticipation of what might rest within those shadows.

Finally, the thing spoke, and its voice was the voice of a young woman, sweet and high, perhaps too high.

“You came, Simon.”

Simon tried to speak her name, but his voice caught in his throat.  He tried again.  “Carrie?”

“Yesss…” the voice mocked.  “Come here, Simon.”

Simon took a step towards the windows, but stopped.  He gulped hard.  “Come into the light.”

Simon was close enough for an attack now, but still it waited.  For more steps, for further acceptance.

“What light,” the soft high voice whined.  “There is no light here.”  Another rustling as it moved forward, but still far out of moonlight.  It might have beckoned with a hand but it was hard to tell.  “Come to me.”

Simon searched where that hand had beckoned.  “How can you be her?  They saw her body.”

“Did you?”  Was there a hint of impatience?

“No.  I – ”  His voice broke, halfway to a sob.  “But you always showed me.  Even when your father hurt you, you let me see.  So why won’t you let me see you now?  What happened?”

A moan of pain and need came from the dark shop.  “Because you won’t like me as I am now.  I can still love you.  But you won’t see that.  I know it.”

“That’s not true.  That’s not – ”  He stepped forward to the thing again.

“Then come…”

More steps, and then he was close enough.  It leapt for him.  There was only a flash of skin and hair and teeth and a hungry snarl.

I raised my gun, and as I aimed the man next to me grabbed my arm.

Well of course I missed.  Thanks to that.

But not entirely.  The crack of my pistol was followed by a yelp and the thing loped off down the street.

“Damnit,” he hissed.  “I told you not to shoot.”

“And what?” I threw back.  “Watch the kid get torn to pieces?”  I tossed him off me and raced across the street.  He cursed and followed, but didn’t stop when I bent to inspect Simon.  He ran past the two of us after the thing.

“Are you alright?” I asked Simon.  A rancid stench lingered here, as if a rotting corpse had just passed by.

Simon’s eyes stared off down the road where it and the man had run.  His mouth worked soundlessly for a moment before he was able to let out “That wasn’t…it wasn’t…Carrie…”

I spun his head to face me.  The whites of his eyes seemed to glow.  “No, it wasn’t.  Carrie is dead.  Go home, okay?”

He only stared.

I shook him.  “Okay?  Don’t make me slap you.”

He nodded with sharp jerks of his head.

“Good boy.”  I let go of him and stood.  The tracks were obvious, both of the thing and the stupid man who had run after him, as was the blood trail.  I had gotten it pretty good after all.

I switched on my flashlight and started following, listening all the while for the snap of twig or crush of ice that indicated my quarry was right around the corner.  The trail twisted and turned through the streets and alleys, and I could see the man had managed to keep up; his boot-tracks fell beside and over the tracks and spatters of blood.  I raced to keep up, but my little chat with Simon had set me behind.  I didn’t encounter either of them in the cold air, but found myself led to the door of a former factory, squat and weighed down by the dust and decay of the years.  A copious amount of snow propped the door open, leaving a gap large enough for me to squeeze through.  Straining to hear the slightest movement, I aimed flashlight and gun at the corners.

Here the trail ended, even the blood.  I could only suspect that the thing must have stopped momentarily to bandage the wounds.  The dust flying in the beam of my flashlight indicated that someone had come through here.  Seeing little else, I ventured further inside, my gun at the ready.

Here was another trail, lines etched in the dirt on the floor.  Something had been dragged through the halls.  I followed this new trail, through doors held open by debris, past overturned chairs, desks reducing to plywood, record books and empty boxes disintegrating to dust.   Everything of use had been looted long ago.  Here and there I would feel something creeping on my shoulder or head and twist around to find it was only a wire hanging from the ceiling or flaking wall.  Everywhere was rot, the reminder that no one could escape the decay of this world.

The lines turned right into a hallway, then through a door.  I turned the corner, gun ready, but found only a large empty room.  I ventured inside, pointing my flashlight to the corners and blinking against the darkness.  The silence was so loud my ears rang.

There, in the far corner, I found what had been dragged.