The Fallowing – The Third, Part III

by Steppen Sawicki

Novel: Occult Adventure

“Half the day was over when he showed up.  Cassie and Kelly were seeing to the crops in the next house over.  Sasha and George were starting on dinner.  I was patching up the side of the house with Kyle playing in the snow behind me.  It was cold, I remember that.  I mean, it’s always cold but at that time it was frigid, like a wind was blowing the freezing air under my coat and through my gloves, but there was no wind.  It was dead still.  I heard Kyle call me and I turned, and he was pointing down the road.  Someone was approaching us.  It was easy to see him because he was dressed all in black, like a priest.  Stuck out like a sore thumb against the snow.

“I watched him come closer.  We don’t see many people traveling by our house, and this was our third visitor in a single day.  As he came closer he waved, and I waved back.  Then he came close enough to talk and for me to see him clearly.

“’Nice house,’ he said across the yard.  His eyes were dark, not just his irises but all the shadows of the world rested around his eyes, as if it was dark instead of day and he was holding a flashlight to his chin to tell a ghost story.  But I thought nothing of it.  People have angles to their face and birthmarks and discolored skin.

“’It’s not bad,’ I said.  ‘But always needs fixing, like everything these days.’

“He nodded.  ‘Oh, I know.’

“’You traveling someplace?’

“’You could say that.’

“’Well,’ I wiped the board-dust off my gloves, ‘we had two visitors earlier, and though my wife wasn’t none too happy about it, everyone else seemed to like it.  So how about staying for dinner?’

“’Oh I would love that,’ he said.  And those shadows around his eyes seemed to darken even further.  But I thought nothing of it.

“He ate Sasha’s radishes like they were steak, and told us about Chicago, about how they had the trains running now and the city half lit up, and how people woke up in the morning and rode the Elevated to work in offices and factories just like the old days.  And George told him his fishing stories just like he had told you them at breakfast and the man grinned and applauded, but those shadows never left his eyes.  By then I was thinking that was pretty strange, that something about him was off.  How sometimes I would look at him when he didn’t think anyone was looking, and he was close to snarling he would glare so hard at one of us.  But then he would grin again and then it all seemed fine.  Like it was just a trick of the light like those shadows around his eyes.

“So we invited him to stay the night, like we had you.  But unlike you, he accepted.  Said the night would be cold, so very cold and dark that night.  And I remembered that chill I had felt right before he came walking down that road, and I felt it then and shivered.  But I shook it off and we laughed.  But we didn’t really laugh, we just tried to laugh.  Because I think we all felt that chill and thought better to think nothing of it.

“We all went to bed.  I was feeling somewhat peculiar like there was a charge in the air like lightning but I went to bed all the same.

“At precisely midnight I woke up outside, standing in my socks in the snow, like I had been sleepwalking.  But everyone was there in a circle – Kelly, George, Cassie, Kyle…and Sasha.  And we were all looking around all confused and a little frightened because he was there too in the circle, between George and Cassie.  In the dark it was so hard to see his eyes.  It was like there were two big black holes in his head filled with shadow.

“He grinned and clapped his hands, once.  ‘So glad you could all join me out here,’ he said.  ‘You’re all very good listeners.’

“We all just stared at him and shivered, dressed only in our nightclothes.

“He broke from the circle into the center of us.  ‘We’re going to play a game.  It’s called “What Does Simon Want?”  You all are Simon.  And the loser…well, you’ll see.’

“We looked at each other.  We should by this point have started going indoors.  We were freezing and confused.  But it was like we were still sleepwalking, sleepstanding, somehow unable to leave the circle.

“He started to walk around inside the circle, studying each one of us, though it was hard to tell where those dark pools of his eyes were really looking.

“’What does,’ he said, ‘Kyle want?’

“He pointed at Kyle, not stopping in his walk around the inside of the circle.

“Kyle only blinked and shivered, and I felt so bad for him that I thought he really really needs to be taken in out of the cold.  But we all just stood there, every one of us.

“’Kyle,’ he said, boots crunching in the snow, ‘wants to be older, like Cassandra, and do work in the gardens.  So sweet.’

“We looked at Kyle, and then at each other, as if to say we weren’t understanding.

“’What does Cassandra want?’  He pointed at Cassandra.  ‘Cassandra wants to play all the time like Kyle does.  Oh the irony.’

“Cassandra had the worst of it I think.  She had on only a nightshirt and no socks.  Her lips and the tips of her fingers were turning bright pink.

“’What does Rick want?’  He pointed at me and I could suddenly feel those black eyes on me, even if I couldn’t see them.  They felt like spiders crawling over my skin, itchy and skittery.  I wanted to tell him to stop, to shut up and let us go inside, because I knew it was him keeping us out there.  But I said nothing, just stood there, shaking, dumb.

“’Rick wants to provide for his family like George does.  But he can’t stand how slimy and scaly fish are.  And he can’t stand the sight of blood, so hunting’s right out.  And every plant he touches dies.’  He passed right in front of me, brought his face close to mine, those black holes right before me and I still couldn’t see his eyes.  I wanted to pull away from him, he disgusted me so much at that moment.  But I stood still and shivered.  ‘Good thing George is around,’ he whispered in my ear.

“’What does Sasha want?’ he walked on and pointed at Sasha.  ‘Sasha wants memories of her mother like her sister Kelly has.  After all, Sasha did kill her dear mom on her way out of her.  If only they had had some time together.  Very sad.’

“Sasha’s mouth fell open and her cheeks flushed, but if it was from what he had said or the cold I couldn’t tell.

“’What does Kelly want?’  He walked on.  ‘Well that one’s obvious.  Kelly wants a baby to grow inside of her, like Sasha has.  Like Sasha has had three times, but that Kelly can’t get just once.  And it’s not for lack of trying.  Er, that is, it didn’t use to be for lack of trying.’

“I was scared now.  I wanted to dig into the snow and huddle underneath it, and freeze to death if need be, because that might be easier than whatever was coming, whatever this man was going to do at the end of all this.  Because we could all tell this was no man, who could keep us out here and read our minds.

“’What does George want?’  He pointed at George, who jumped, startled.  ‘George wants to know how it feels to have his child growing inside his own body, like Sasha is feeling and has felt three times.  That one’s a little weird, George.’

“He had spiraled into the very center of our circle, and he now stopped and clapped his hands as if to capture our attention.  ‘So two people want what Sasha has.  This means our loser…’  He spun around and stopped, hand out to Sasha.  ‘Is Sasha!’

“He stepped towards Sasha, and none of us moved.  I don’t know if I even thought of moving.  I certainly didn’t try.  Sasha didn’t move – she only stood wide-eyed as he crept towards her, slowly.

“’Everyone give a hand to our loser,’ he said, and began clapping.  All at once every one of us raised our hands and clapped.  The sound was almost in unison.  Then he had reached Sasha and put his hand on her belly, and she screamed in pain and the snow below her was stained red.

“When we came to, he was gone.  There was no sign of the baby.”