The Fallowing – The Second, Part VIII

by Steppen Sawicki

Last part for this chapter.

Novel: Occult adventure

I had spent hours that day playing and replaying the tune of the music box. Sitting cross-legged on the bed in my room at the inn, I turned the knarled knob that pricked at my fingers as if warning me against the action. I listened to the tine pick at the wheel, every chime off-note, every twang picking at something deep inside of me, blackening some part of my psyche.

But I had learned the song. I hummed it now. The notes were too high, too low, and sounded at all the wrong times. But I knew I had the tune right when his eyes opened wide. Out of focus behind him I could see Sam.

“Tell me where it is,” he said, voice bottomless as if it were sounding from a pit.

I stopped humming. I couldn’t help it, I just did as if I would tell him. “I don’t know where it is,” I said instead. I forced myself to breathe, as a force in his eyes had made me stop. “Sam hid it.”

He cursed. Fury was in his eyes. He grabbed the collar of my coat. “Then we’ll have to get him to tell us,” he snarled, his face close to mine. I noted with some surprise that his breath was fresh, as if he had just brushed his teeth.

“Gehazi! Behind you!” a voice shouted.

Gehazi turned right as Sam swung the knife down. He had started to speak that word I would always forget, but it died in his throat as the blade sunk into the thing’s shoulder. Then Sam was holding nothing, and there was no knife in Gehazi’s shoulder. Gehazi held up a new knife – longer, black, twisted and spiked. This thing wouldn’t just kill – it would disembowel.

Sam stared horrified at it. Gehazi’s hand was still on my collar, but I twisted around to see Marx in the doorway.

“You rotten son of a bitch,” I shouted at him. It didn’t help the situation any, but I felt better for saying it.

“See Sam,” Gehazi was saying. “There’s the first of what I wanted.”

He elbowed Sam in the face. Sam was still in a state of shock over the plan not working, and the hit connected and sent him flying to the floor. Trash puffed up around him.

I knew Gehazi would turn on me next with the knife, as I didn’t know where his music box was and was of no use to him. I wasn’t interested in meeting that knife. As he turned back to me I kneed him in the side. It didn’t hurt him much, but he bent just enough for me to grip and punch his wounded shoulder. I tore at it like a cat and he howled and pushed me away. I tried to grab at the knife as I went but it was no use. He had the sense of mind even through the pain to keep it out of my reach. That or pain meant that little to him.

As I hit the floor he came at me, swinging the knife down. But Sam was up and wrapping his arms around him and the hand gripping the knife.

Marx rushed in them and wrestled with Sam, but poorly. He dived in between Gehazi and me and blocked Gehazi from doing any action.

“Both of you get off me,” Gehazi snarled.

Marx obeyed, backing off from him but still in his way.

I pushed Marx aside and swung my rifle at Gehazi’s head. The butt connected with a sharp crack. There was a fracture in the grip from that day forward, but I couldn’t have shot him with Sam there beside him and the two of them tussling. As it was their heads connected with a sound like coconuts hitting and they both fell.

I stood over Gehazi and took the knife while Marx howled and scratched at me. But it was like the buzzing of a fly, he was so weak.

“Sam,” I called. I looked over at him, and saw him unconscious.

Now in movies and books people always get knocked unconscious and are out for hours, allowing others to tie up and transport them and whatever else they fancy. That’s not how it really works. People only stay knocked out for a minute or two. If they’re out longer than that, their brain’s been messed up. I hadn’t hit Sam directly with the rifle, so I knew he couldn’t be out that badly. Unless he was. But a minute or two was a little long to wait here. There was barely a line of blood on Gehazi’s temple.

So I shot his head off.

It was bloodier than I expected. I had shot animals, plenty of animals. But you don’t shoot animals with the barrel pressed against their head.

I felt the sharp bite of a blade in my back and I cried out in more surprise than pain. I turned to see Marx, a little wide-eyed, his hands in the air as if he were still grasping a handle. I reached behind me and pulled out what was there. It hurt worse to do that than the actual stabbing had been.

It was that stupid knife Sam had given Marx for a message.

Marx wasn’t looking at me anymore. His eyes turned to the body of Gehazi, the blood seeping into the bits of paper and cardboard and wood around him. Marx collapsed beside him, crying for the loss of his revenue. He didn’t notice that the ruined tissue was stitching back together, the blood dripping from the ceiling back into the skull in threads, the brain matter crawling back into the head like insects, the bone crunching slightly as it fitted back together.

Sam was starting to come around too. He groaned and moved his head. I fell to a knee beside him and was elated to find I didn’t cough up blood. Good sign.

“Sam.” I slapped his cheeks. “Sam, wake up. You’ve got to do your thing.”

He mumbled incoherently.

I put the ugly black knife in his hand. He held it up, focused on it. “Oh,” he said.

He rolled over and pushed the knife into Gehazi’s chest with all his effort and spoke, his voice a bit shaky.

Marx still hadn’t noticed one eye had coalesced in the bloodied head. It twitched, attempting to focus, before falling still.

***

It snowed the next morning, lightly, like when I had first entered the town. In the gray dark of 8:30 am I stood once again in front of Marx’s house. My wound had been bandaged. The knife had entered below my right shoulderblade but missed all vital organs. Sam had suffered a minor concussion and was sleeping when I left, as usual.

I found the body half-frozen, half-bloodied, in the kitchen, where we had left it with Marx. Marx himself hadn’t tried anything else once the thing was dead. Sam and I had left him sobbing over the body, looking around at his collection as if to say Where will I find more of this? I didn’t see him now.

I went up the stairs. The second floor was every bit as bad as the first, if not worse in depth of the garbage. On the landing I heard a voice speaking in one of the rooms. I followed it and found Marx, sitting chest-deep in trash, back to me, murmuring to himself.

I took a step into the room and the resulting noise caused Marx to turn. He looked like he hadn’t slept in years. He was clutching a broken bit of metal to his chest as if I were there to take it. He didn’t speak.

“Hello Marx,” I said, a little guarded.

He looked down at his piece of metal. Then he held it out to me like a child presenting a flower. “This is worth something, isn’t it?”

I said nothing.

“I mean this,” he held up a torn dirtied rag that might have once been a dress. “This is garbage. I don’t know how that got here. And that.” He pointed to something across the room, but it was hard to tell exactly what he was indicating. “That’s worthless. But this, this…”

He shook his head, started mumbling under his breath again. It was as if he didn’t recognize me, saw me only as a passer-by. I didn’t have the heart to confront him about his stabbing me.

Sam was standing in the street when I left the house. He stifled a yawn as I approached him.

“Did you get what you wanted in there?” he said.

“I don’t understand,” I said. “He sees some of that stuff in there as trash, and some he’s on the fence about, but it’s like…”

“Like the illusion’s falling away.”

“I guess.”

He rolled his shoulders, stretching slightly and burying his hands in his pockets. “Silas is dead. His influence is falling away. Not all at once, but slowly.”

“And then Marx will see what he really owns.”

He looked off down Copper Street, where the people were waking in their slums. “He’s not the only one.”