The Fallowing – The Second, Part II
by Steppen Sawicki
I have completed this chapter on paper; I just need to type it all. So there will be many posts coming up. There’s a lot of editing to be done, but I keep telling myself that’s why “Sawicki’s Early Drafts” is underneath the title of the webpage.
Novel: Occult adventure
“So what do we do now?” I said. “Go after it? You said it has other nests.”
We had left the place in silence, shouldered our packs in the lobby hurriedly, and walked from the building into the streets still trying to unshake our cores. Our conversation on the street had been absorbed in which road we should take and where to pass the evening. Our conversation in the bar danced around the topic of the monster we were after for some time, mainly concerning ourselves with what were our supplies and what did we need. Everything in that apartment had struck the deepest part of our souls, and even now we could still see those shadows out of the corners of our eyes and hear the note of the cello lying under the murmur of the bar slash inn we sat in.
“I said,” Sam grumbled over his drink, “that he has other homes. But I’m not so sure chasing him is the best option. He has too many homes. Even if we move on to the next one, he won’t be there.”
I frowned. “Then why did we come to this one?”
He looked over the room as if searching for someone. “Because we’re going to wait for him to come to us.” He held up a hand before I could say anything. “Don’t worry. Even if he takes his time, another one will come here before him. You’ll see plenty of action.”
“Hmph. I still don’t like the idea of sitting like ducks for him.”
“It shouldn’t take long. The others were taken out in close proximity.”
“What if we just went back and burned everything?”
“Why? To piss him off?”
“Because it should be burnt,” I said quietly. “I thought you said you’d been there before.”
“So shouldn’t you have known what to expect?”
He didn’t answer right away. Then, “I thought I knew.” He said this to the air, as if he forgot I was sitting next to him.
When I was about to speak again he stood all of a sudden and announced he was going to bed.
“But we’ve only had one beer,” I argued.
“Have all you want. You can get drunk on your own.”
He disappeared up the stairs. I watched the bar patrons from my corner table – the table Sam had chosen. We were in a place called Ravens. Kind of gothy – black wood paneling and black furniture. Subdued lighting. Scarsdale was fairly well off and could splurge on effect. A coal mine and stupendous luck in the health of the livestock meant they didn’t have to look outside of town for several necessities and the necessities they needed were easily traded for. Walking through the streets, I had noticed the unusual number of unbroken windows, whole roofs, and uncracked siding. It was practically affluent. However, for every well-kept house and well-dressed family there was a ruined house and a poor man or woman on their own on the street. I didn’t think anything of it. Such was everywhere these days. Still the town was so prosperous that our being travelers wasn’t regarded as anything ceremonious. People naturally flocked to Scarsdale. No crowd had gathered around us for news in Ravens. People were clustered in familiar groups at the bar and around center-room tables. On any other night I would leave my spot and join in the rabble, but I was wrapped up in my thoughts.
I don’t like sitting and waiting. It’s always a poor plan, and dangerous. Every direction I came from at the thought ended in a strategic loss for our side, and damned if I would let the enemy come after me. It entered my mind that if Sam insisted on this path, I would have to leave him behind. I just as quickly dismissed this. The idiot knew where this one’s nest would be. He knew how to kill it. He had tracked down the monster in Carrington if nothing else. I needed the guy. And hell, he needed me. Sam would be dead if I weren’t around to look after him.
Surely I could talk Sam into moving on.
“Mind if I join you?”
My head jerked up. I hadn’t noticed the man approaching. He was tall – though not as tall as Sam – and had dark hair, darker eyes, and the angular features that would be at home on the face of a Tibetan monk. He wore a suit, of all things. But never mind that, he was carrying two beers.
“You look like you could use a refill,” he added.
“By all means.” I motioned to the chair Sam had vacated. The man sat.
“You’re new in town, yes?”
“Is it obvious?”
He pointed to my rifle leaning against the wall. “Well, that is a Mauser M 03. Most people here in town, or any town nearby really, carry Remington 870s or Winchesters. Even Ruger Mini 30s.” He shrugged and smiled. “That and I live here.”
“And sell weapons I assume?” I asked, hoping he might have some bullets available.
“Not just weapons.” He reached into the breast of his suit and pulled out a slip of paper, which he held out to me. “I deal in antiques.”
“Antiques?” I was quizzical, but took the slip of paper. I blinked at it. It was a business card. The man’s name was Silas Gehazi, and he dealt in “Fine Antiques and Trinkets of Yesteryear.” Under all that was an address on Cotter Street.
I looked up at him over the card. “People buy antiques?”
“Oh yes. It takes a certain type, but there are many who want to surround themselves with things from a time when everything worked. Even Seiko clocks. Which often don’t work.”
“Seems silly.” I went to sip the beer, but stopped to add “No offense.”
“None taken,” he said. “All careers are silly at some point. Speaking of which, what is it that you do, besides travel?”
“Mm.” I tamped the beer down on the table. “Whatever needs to be done. Search out evil in all its forms. Protect the weak.”
“Ah, a bounty hunter.”
I frowned. “Not quite.”
I then told him the story of my time in Carrington, how I had tracked the monster there, how I had chased the thing and rescued Sam, and how we had slain it.
He listened attentively, clearly engrossed in the tale, and only when I was done did he speak. “That’s an incredible story. But you say it’s all really true?”
“All true,” I announced, waving my glass in the air for emphasis. “You could ask my companion had he not gone to bed. Doesn’t quite have my stamina I’m afraid.”
He laughed, looking quite handsome as he did so. “Does he not?”
“Not at all. He always wants to rest when we’re traveling. You’d think he’s never walked through snow before.”
He laughed again. “Well whether your stories are true or not, you’ve been a most entertaining traveler. You’ll come to my shop before you leave town, yes? And bring your friend.”
And I found at that moment that I really did want to visit this silly man’s silly little antique shop, and wanted Sam to see it too. All of a sudden, I nodded eagerly.
I hardly slept that night, and the little sleep I got was filled with dreams of things that cast creeping shadows. But mostly I tossed and turned, thinking of the antique shop on Cotter Street. I had to get there, and I had to bring Sam along. As soon as the morning began to drape a pale blue outside my window, I went to Sam’s door and pounded on it until he asked who was there.
“It’s me. Faye. Let me in.”
He opened the door. He looked alarmed. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” I shoved past him into the room. “Get dressed. Comb your hair. We’re going on a field trip.”
He rubbed sleep from his eyes. “What time is it?”
“Morning. Doesn’t matter. Get ready.”
“Where are we going? What happened?”
“What’s with all the questions? Nothing happened. We’re going to an antique shop. I met this antique shop owner last night, after you went to bed. He’s great, he’s got this great antique shop. I want to check it out. I want you to see it.” I was babbling.
Sam stared at me, incredulous. “You pounded on my door like the building was on fire, waking me up, for an antique shop?”
“Yes!” Nothing he said seemed amiss. “Here, see?” I fished the business card out of my coat pockets and handed it over.
He snatched it from me and opened his mouth to speak, but looked at the card. Then he gasped and all color drained from his face. “He was…downstairs?”
“Yes, you’ll have to meet him.”
“You fool.” His voice shook slightly. “He told you to come to the shop, didn’t he?”
“Of course,” I droned on. “Why shouldn’t he? It’s such a great shop. It has clocks!”
He wasn’t listening to me. His mind was elsewhere. “Yes,” he said. “We’ll go, but first…”
He took both of my hands in his own and led me to a chair. He sat me down in it and knelt before me.
“Why don’t we go now?” I pleaded.
“Faye, you only want to go to the shop because Gehazi told you to. He is the one we’re looking for.”
I shook my head. “No, no. This guy’s human. And nice. You should meet him.”
Sam took my broken record speech with patience. “You’re thinking in terms of…of the ‘monster’ in Carrington. But he was the least personable of these guys. The rest will happily hold a conversation with you, and that’s when they use their bab. Their power.”
“Their willpower. They can convince a person to do anything. This one convinced you to come to his shop.”
I shook my head again, more fervently. I swallowed hard. “No, he only said I should…”
“Come visit him. That’s all it takes.”
I still wanted desperately to see the shop, but draped over that like a thin veil was the horrible knowledge that the thing had tricked me into that want. “Could it have made me do anything?” I asked, my throat dry.
“They have different preferences on what they influence people to do, but if it came down to it he could make a man kill himself.”
My desire to go see it and bring Sam along lessened, but it was still there, crawling around inside my mind and heart like a worm in my insides. I must have looked pretty nauseous because Sam let go of my hands and turned his eyes away from me.
“It’s not that big a deal,” he said. “He just told you to go to an antique shop.”
“Not a big deal?” I stood up, shouting. “It’s fucking with my mind. Who am I if these things can just come around and change what I want?”
“You’re being dramatic, again.”
“And what if it told me I didn’t want to find all these things like it? If it told me not to care how my father died? Would I just give up?”
“You could fight the influence, now that you know.” He waved a hand in exasperation. “But it would be difficult.”
“And you, you wouldn’t care if he changed you, what you think and want?”
He stomped across the room and starting picking up pieces of clothing. “Let’s… let’s just go to your damned antique shop,” he mumbled.