The Fallowing – The Third, Part VIII

by Steppen Sawicki

This chapter has the weakest ending of all the chapters.  And I’m okay with that.

Novel: Occult Adventure

Cain showed up forty minutes later.  He walked into the dead center of the front yard and just stood there.  It had started to snow, but flashes of lightning lit up the dreary morning and thunder rumbled faintly far off in the distance.

When he appeared I jumped up, ready to run out and face him, but I was immediately drenched in fear as if it were water from a bucket.  My legs gave out from under me and I crumpled to the floor.  Sam had the sense not to mention it.

“Come out, Sam,” Cain announced from his place on the lawn.

There was a stifled cry from the living room as if someone had muffled their own scream.

Sam watched him from behind the curtain for a minute or two and then stood, gripping the knife and his bow.  After a moment of consideration he picked up the curved sword as well, and then walked through the front door.

I followed, but remained behind the open door, peeking out through the crack between the door and the frame.  I could see the lightning flare in the clouds behind Cain.

Sam descended the porch steps and planted his feet in the snow, a veritable armory in his hands.

“Where is the watch?” he said.

“Somewhere on the lake,” Cain replied flippantly.  “Probably a fifth of the way to Chicago.  I sent the mumbly guy ahead with it.”

I couldn’t see Sam’s face with his back to me.  I only heard his silence, and then “So either you win this little fight, and you get to deal with Atsel, or I win and you die.  I don’t see what you’re getting out of this.”

“Then how about you just die, and then you won’t have to bother with him?  I had a chance to tip things in our favor, so I did it.”

“Atsel will kill you all just as readily as I will, if not more.”

“Yes, he’s good at that.  Though you’ve got more kills under your belt.  Maybe I just want you to fail, even if I don’t get to be the one to take you down.”  The last he said gravely, in anger.

“I have no choice.”  Sam’s voice was just as grave.  “I can’t expect any of you to let me live.”

“I don’t think you have a chance right now regardless.  Your helper is out of commission back there.”

I stood and pushed the door open, just a little, but lost momentum.

“Well then,” Cain said, “come on out here.  And bring my sword.”

I fell to my knees on the floor again, silently cursing him.

“You’ll get your damned sword,” Sam said.  He stuck his bow and arrow in the snow to one side of him, the knife to the other.  Then he swung the sword in an arc around him and let it go.  It flew through the air, lightning flashing in it, and landed meters away from Cain.

“Why are you so terrible with blades?” Cain scoffed, and picked his way through the snow to it.  He bent to pick it up, and when he rose the bow was in Sam’s hands, arrow nocked.

Sam released it, not daring to give Cain time to react.  Even a hit to the eye would give Sam the advantage to race up to him and strike with the knife.  But Sam didn’t aim for the eye.

The lightning flashed very close, perhaps in the backyard, close enough to try to illuminate Cain’s face.  But those shadows around his eyes remained, as if only empty sockets were there.

As the arrow flew, Sam spoke a word, quiet, like a breath.

The arrow hit Cain’s chest, his heart.  He screamed and fell.

Sam released a breath that puffed in the cold morning air.  But he didn’t move.

I rushed out the door, but halted on the porch, shivering.  Sam bent to pick up the knife, turned, and walked up the steps towards me.  I held my hands out, trying to stop him and get him to turn around, knowing Cain would rise up at any moment.

“He’s finished,” Sam said.  He held the knife up so I could see that one edge was gone, as if the knife had been roughly split in half lengthwise.  “While the knife was disfigured from Gehazi, I broke off two sections of it, and lashed them onto arrows.”

***

Strapping on our packs, we prepared once again for the trip to the lake.  We hadn’t even asked whether we could spend time at the house; the family for the most part only watched us out the windows.  Rick came to the door and peered outside through the crack, much as I had earlier.

“What about the body?” he said, voice cracking.

“Do what you want with it,” Sam answered.  “Burn it, bury it, chop it up, flay it.  Doesn’t matter.  It’s up to you.”

“But it’s dead?”

Sam looked in the direction of the prone body.  Snow fell lightly on its coat.  “He’s dead.”  His voice cracked almost as much as Rick’s had.  He turned to set off.

Cassandra shoved Rick aside and flung the door open wide to bound down the steps.  Sam and I both stopped as she ran to us.  She didn’t have her coat on.

“I’ll burn it,” she said.  She bunched her tiny calloused hands into fists.  “I’ll destroy it.”

Sam blinked at her, and then shrugged.  “Whatever you want.  It’s all the same now.”

Cassandra quivered, whether from cold or emotion I didn’t know.  She looked down at her slippered feet.  “I won’t forget.  I won’t forget my anger.  One day I’ll kill them too.”

Sam watched her shaking in the snow.  Then he kneeled before her and put a finger under her chin, raising her eyes to his.  “No,” he said.  “Burn him, and forget everything.  Don’t chase after him.  Raise your cows and your crops.  Be proud of your work.  That’s what will make you happy.”

He stood and walked away, towards the trees.  I couldn’t say anything.  I could only follow.

We never found out whether killing Cain allowed the baby to return, but Sam told me he doubted it would.  Retrieving bravery is one thing, retrieving a life is something else entirely.

I did, however, get my courage back.  But not before we got my voice back.  But that’s a whole other story, and boring.  You wouldn’t be interested.