The Fallowing – Interlude II, Part III
by Steppen Sawicki
Or: Sawicki Still Has Writer’s Block and Puts a Spider in the Room
Novel: Occult Adventure
I swallowed hard, suddenly back on the bed in Sam’s room.
“I never heard my father call my name again. I had hit that thing well enough that it gave up on me. I sat in the house with my rifle for weeks but it never came back. So I went after it.”
Sam was silent for several minutes. Finally I flipped over, propped myself up on my elbows, and looked at him. “Whatever. We got the bastard. And we’ll get the others.”
Sam didn’t look back at me. He stared at a point somewhere to the left of the cake, looking as grim as I’ve ever seen him. “I would,” he spoke softly, “say I’m sorry, but you would hate that, wouldn’t you?”
“I’d thank you for recognizing that.” I lay back down, on my side. Recalling the memory had worn me out despite the sugary cake.
I was about to speak again when I noticed something move in the corner of the ceiling.
“Oh my god,” I whispered. “Look.”
Sam turned to look where I was staring. “Where?”
“There’s a spider there.”
“That’s impossible.” Still he stood up to look closer and asked again “Where?”
“In the corner. No, the other corner.”
He was speechless. It really was a spider.
“It must be one of those mutated kinds that eats roaches,” I said.
“It must be. Maybe. But it looks normal enough.” He blew on it and it scurried in a circle as its web billowed.
“I think that’s good luck. Finding a spider in your room.” Something about that spider relaxed me, just having something from so long ago there. Like it was just a three month winter from decades past and the spiders had all come indoors until spring came. I yawned.
“Well,” Sam said, “I guess I shouldn’t kill it then.”
“Don’t kill it. It’s just a spider.”
“A hundred years ago, people killed spiders without a second thought. Usually screaming too much to think.”
“I think it’s pretty,” I murmured.
I didn’t respond. I was asleep.
When I woke, Sam was sleeping next to me, feet to head and head to feet. He had draped my coat over me but taken the section of blankets I wasn’t lying on. Which only made sense; he was the one who was always freezing. It was still night out, but he had left the light on. I think he was a little bit afraid of the dark. I sat up and watched him for a moment. It was strange to see his face so relaxed. His breathing was slow and even. I thought he must be between dreams.
I slipped off the bed, noticing that the cake had been returned to its box and set on the floor by the window. I stepped around the bed and saw Sam’s pack on the floor near his head. The knife was sitting on top of it. With the death of Gehazi, it had reverted back to its original form. But I remembered how ugly, misshapen, and cruel it had looked, and the sound of it driving into the thing Gehazi’s flesh. It had made a thick sucking sound.
I shivered. Beside me, Sam shifted in his sleep, as if he had remembered it just then as well. I was about to turn away when I noticed a small gold chain under the knife, half lying out of the pack. I put the knife aside and pulled at the chain, and a gold pocket watch slipped out. The cover was ornately carved in arabesques and polished to a shine. I snapped it open and saw that there were no numerals on the face, but that it had more elaborate gold decorations etched into the background behind the hands. I turned it over, looking for an engraving, but found none.
The clock was stopped. I tapped the dial down to restart it.
In downtown Chicago, the haze is a moot point. Glass and concrete crowd you on all sides, the buildings block out all but a glimpse of sky, the trains rumble through the tracery of the elevated above, falsely promising travel to brighter spaces. It’s an ironic kind of claustrophobia, where everything is huge but you still feel like you’re trapped in a tiny box. This is where the emptied Macys and abandoned Lord & Taylors have been flipped into upscale studio apartments, complete with electricity and central heating.
Within the walls of one of these was a modest set of modern furniture. Against a wall rested a figure draped in a white sheet, a statue or carving prone but twisted into a semblance of tortured motion, evidenced by frantic curves set in the sheet. In the low light of that room, surrounding a table, were what appeared to be three men, though they were anything but. These three men were dark, but in different ways. One was merely dark-skinned, and appeared the least melancholy of them all. The second had a darkness in and around his eyes, so that you might think he never slept save for the sharpness of those eyes. Those eyes studied everyone and everything they encountered.
The last man had none of these physical characteristics, but was black all the same. Darkness rested in him like it was coming home, and threatened to break from him at any moment. It seeped from every pore of his body and dripped from his every word. This one stood leaning against the wall, as if the terrible energy in him couldn’t bear to rest at the table as the other two were doing.
The three were there to make plans, but it was not going well. They spat words back and forth, argued with every idea, barely contained their violence. Whenever the dark-skinned one put forth an idea, the dark-eyed one argued with it and minutes later claimed it as his own. Whenever the darkest of them shouted loudly or growled low, the light would flicker dim. Circumstances had brought them here against a common enemy, but they weren’t used to working together.
In the low light, none of them saw the figure in the corner move, the shadows on the sheet covering it shift like water. As the three argued, a corner of the sheet was grasped from underneath and pulled away. It revealed long blond hair that fell over a face masked in torment, a mouth breathing low cries, green eyes radiating an innermost pain. The eyes looked up and saw the men moving. Those eyes widened. The figure stood.
Dark Eyes noticed the movement and gaped. He held up a hand to halt conversation, and the other two followed his gaze.
“Well,” the darkest one said, his voice dripping derision. “Atsel is awake.”
“He’s always awake,” said Dark Eyes, as if he didn’t want to stop squabbling, even now.
Atsel opened his mouth and spoke in a strained voice, as if he had been screaming for hours, and he might well have been. “Where is it?”
“With Sam, of course,” said Dark Eyes.
“Where?” The word was a sob.
Dark Skin shrugged.
Atsel’s eyes found the door, and he dragged his body towards it as if even in standing he crawled.
Dark Skin and Dark Eyes went to stop him, held him back from the door as he howled at them to let go, and the darkest of them laughed.
“Let him go,” he said. “Let him get stuck out in the streets.”
“Why?” Atsel crumpled to the floor, pulling the other two down with him. “Why did he start it?”
“Purely to torture you, I assume,” said the darkest. He was lighting a cigarette as if bored already.
“To send us a message?” said Dark Eyes.
“’Hey guys, I still have this.’” Dark Skin laughed.
Atsel said nothing. He was still again, looking for all the world as if he were frozen in place.
Sam’s eyes were wild, his breathing heavy. He had ripped the watch from my hands and tugged at the dial as if he would rip it off. He looked at me with fury in every inch of his face.
“Never,” he growled, “touch this watch.”
My mouth opened and closed for a moment. I had never seen him like this. I was a little disarmed. “Why?” I finally asked.
He sneered, so angry I actually thought he might hit me. Then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath to steady himself. He clutched the watch as if trying to crush it.
“I suppose I should have told you already,” he said. “I should have known you’d go rummaging through my things.”
“I did not. It was sitting right on top of your pack.” A thought occurred to me. “This is why you gave my watch to that monster along with that regular knife. It was two messages saying you were there in Marx’s house. I know why they want the knife, but what about the watch? Do they want that too?”
Sam had turned his back to me, still gripping the watch. “You don’t know why they want the knife, but that’s irrelevant right now.” He sighed. “I’ll tell you why they want this watch.”