The Fallowing – The Third, Part II
by Steppen Sawicki
Novel: Occult Adventure
The moon was somewhere high in the sky judging from the silvery haze. Sam was on watch, and he already had arrow to bow when he woke me. I didn’t have to ask what it was; I heard. A multitude of voices whispered in the dark, barely audible over the crackle of the fire. I looked around us, trying to gauge where they were all coming from, but the breeze confused them, sent them rushing around. For a horrible moment I feared we might be surrounded, and I brought out my pistol expecting to be ambushed. But I could hear no crowd of snapping twigs under feet, no myriad of crunching snow. There was only one set of footsteps.
Sam and I both aimed for the source of the noise, for the shadow that materialized at the edge of the firelight. The voices were all coming from that one figure, as if it held an army behind it.
“…I don’t suppose you could gather this for me…”
“…go ask your mother dear…”
“…conforming to known specifications…”
“Who’s there?” I said. “Show yourselves or we start shooting.”
The voices didn’t quiet, but one spoke above the others. “I do not come for you. I only bring a message.”
It stepped forward, into the greater light of the fire, and I could see it. Its face, head, and hands were uncovered, and every visible surface of them was filled with blinking eyes, flaring nostrils, and flapping mouths. There were so many orifices I couldn’t tell if it even had the regular in the correct places or if they had just been sprinkled irrelevantly like confetti over the body. As they opened and closed the firelight danced over the thing and marked shadows that shifted unnervingly.
Sam was unfazed. “What then? Tell us and we’ll see if we might still kill you.”
The eyes blinked, every possible color and shape. The mouths whispered and muttered in all languages, in the voices of men, women, children…and other things.
“Cain wants to see you,” it finally said louder than the others. I couldn’t tell which mouth said it. “But you ran too far ahead. He’s enjoying the hospitality you partook of this morning.”
It had hardly finished before Sam let fly his arrow. It screamed in a hundred different screams and scampered away into the dark, fast as if it had multiple legs as well. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had. Even as it screamed, other parts of it laughed. The resulting vortex of shrieks and cackles was maddening.
I looked at Sam, a little taken aback that he had shot at the thing so quickly. His face was twisted in anger.
“We have to go back to them,” I said.
Sam watched the darkness where the thing had vanished into and thought. Finally he said “It’s too dark. There may be others.”
“Then we’ll kill them. I’m going, now.”
He was pensive for a moment, but then nodded once, as if he had intended to go all along.
It was horrible, that walk back. We were on constant alert in case anything crept up on us. The silvery haze of the moon did nothing to illuminate the woods, and my flashlight couldn’t uncover what was behind the movements in the trees or the whistle in the wind, which reminded me of the multifaceted cacklings of the monster that gave us the message. But more than any of that was the thought that the Reeses were very likely in immediate danger. It was a long march not knowing what we would find in that little farmhouse.
The morning sunlight was fading in before we made it to the house. We spent the final few miles on edge, all muscles tensed, but there was nothing to show for it. The silent woods gave on a silent house, lonely next to the broken barn.
I heard a crow caw, somewhere far off. No call answered it.
Sam covered my rear as I went up to the front door. I tried the knob and, finding it locked, knocked. A choked scream sounded from within.
I would have kicked the door in, but I had seen their lock setup. I moved to make my way to a window, but on my way I heard George’s voice through the door. It had lost all of its boisterousness and shook with uncertainty even as he tried to sound intimidating.
“Who’s there? I’ll blow your head off!”
“George?” I ran back to the door. “It’s Faye. Are you alright?”
He didn’t answer for so long that I thought something might have happened to him, but then I heard the door unlock. He opened the door and stood in the crack, a rifle in his hands. He was pale and sickly, looking as if he hadn’t slept last night, or for a week.
“What’s going on?” I said. “I heard a scream.”
He looked around, both at me and Sam and at the landscape behind us. “What are you doing here?”
I was thrown off by his refusal to answer. “We came back. Something told us you were in trouble. Did something happen?”
His eyes darkened. “How did you know? What told you? Are you with him?”
“Him? He was here then?”
“Go away.” He tried to shove the door closed, but I blocked it.
“We’re hunting him. We need to find him. If he harmed any of you, he may strike again.”
He thought about what I said, looking so weary, so different from how he had looked that morning, no longer his boisterous self.
“Please,” I pleaded, “we want to help you. I want to kill him.”
He swallowed hard and then nodded. He backed away to let me enter. Sam came in backwards, facing the trees.
“The scream was Sasha’s,” George explained as he walked us up the stairs. “You surprised us.”
We were shown to a bedroom, where the family clustered around the bed, eyes wide at our sudden intrusion. In the bed lay Sasha, gripping the sheets tightly in her hands. The crowd showed some relief when Sam and I came into view, but not much. They remained guarded, as if ready to run.
Kelly stood and approached us. “What are you two doing here?” There was no menace in the question, only confusion and, lying beneath, sadness.
“Is everyone okay?” I asked, not daring to answer Kelly’s question yet. “Is Sasha okay?”
Tears sprang to Sasha’s eyes and fell down her cheeks silently. The tears of someone who has passed the manic sobbing period and is entering mental shock.
“I’ll tell you,” spoke Kelly’s quiet husband Rick.
“Go downstairs and do it then,” Kelly said.
Everyone turned to Sasha, who swallowed hard and spoke again. “No. I want to hear. I want to know what you saw.”
The room was silent for a moment, full of tense and barely controlled frantic energy. Then Rick began.