The Fallowing – The Fourth, Part V

by Steppen Sawicki

Novel: Occult Adventure

They didn’t want to let Sam go that day, but we insisted.  We didn’t want to involve them, especially once I told Sam there were children in the house.  I had a thermos on me which Claire filled with sweetened coffee, and she waved to us from the doorway with a silly grin on her face as if she knew something we didn’t.  The doctor just frowned at us and mumbled that Sam needed rest.

The sun was fading as we walked towards the river, heading south on Michigan Avenue towards our hotel, a bit cowed knowing that we were likely being watched.  We were silent for a long time as we passed shops and restaurants and bars with music blaring and bands playing.  By the time we hit the river the sky was dark.  I looked up at it, at its zenith where the stars would have been winking on right about now.  Thinking about stars again.

“Faye,” Sam said sternly as he caught my arm.

I brought my head down from the sky and saw I had nearly run into a streetlight.

“Watch out,” he added.  He let go of my arm and walked on.  I watched his back for a moment before jogging to catch up.

“Are we really going back to the hotel?” I asked him.  “I mean, it’s not the safest of bases.”

“I’m trying,” he said through clenched teeth, “to forget how hopeless our situation is.  So if you would be so kind as to not remind me.”  He stopped and looked up like I had.  We were on the bridge proper now, people walking past and standing at the edge looking down at ice skaters.

“You’re going to die if you don’t leave me alone.”

“I know,” I said.  “You keep saying so.”

He lowered his head to look at me.  There was anger in his eyes.  “Then why don’t you leave?”

“Because you’d be dead long ago if I had left you alone.”

“Maybe that’s why I let you tag along before…”

I scoffed.

“But we lost our chance with this one.  He’s going to kill me.  He’s just biding his time.  To make sure I know.  But you don’t know.  Not enough to be afraid like you should be.”

“But I am afraid.”  The words were out before I knew I was going to say them.

He blinked at me, as surprised as I was.

“I was very afraid today,” I blundered on.  “And I’m never afraid.  Not since a monster with the face of my father stepped foot into my house.  Since then I’ve been courageous and determined and capable and…”

“And full of yourself.”

“Yes.  No!  Damn it, Sam, I was afraid because I thought you were going to die.”

Sam’s eyes opened wide, but slowly, as if they were filling with some revelation.

“If I leave you now I’ll have to always be afraid.  Afraid that you died and I wasn’t there to do anything about it.”

My heart was pounding in my chest as if trying to escape.  My palms were sweating under their gloves.  I took a step towards him.

And suddenly time stopped.

That’s not a figure of speech.  The people walking by us stopped in mid-stride, their chatter gone, their mouths open but with no sound coming out.  I tried to turn my head but it was like I was submerged in thick oil.  The effort took forever.  I could tell Sam was trying to look around too, moving softly by centimeters.

Then something, a blur, rushed by and took him away.  In a momentary pause as it lifted him I saw the long luminous hair and perfect features of Atsel, though those features were twisted in a snarl.  I reached for my gun, or tried to, but I didn’t even get my hand to it before that blur dragged Sam to the side of the bridge and chucked him over.

Then my gun was in my hand, people were streaming past, and girls down on the ice were screaming.

I heard the ice snap apart, and a splash.

My stomach fell as I dashed to the side of the bridge, where I had seen the two of them.  I flung myself against the railing and saw a small crowd huddled – at a distance – around a jagged circle in the ice.  There were cries and gasps and sobs as they peered into the dark water and up at the bridge.

I raced back along the bridge, my coat flapping around me, my arms thrusting aside the ones on the bridge that were gathering at the railing.  Thoughts raced through my head: that ice is too thick, you could drive a truck on these rivers, he had to have carved it, and if so how much time did he take did he pause and how fast is this river how far did it take him how will he get out.

There were stairs at the end of the bridge, from the roadway down to the river.  I fell down the last of them, scraping my knee something awful.  I hardly noticed.

Shouts came from downriver, away from the bridge, maybe fifty yards.  People were crowding there now, running that way.  I could do nothing but follow.

As I got closer I saw another circle in the ice, a few girls and boys marveling at it on account of the fact it hadn’t been there when they were skating over this way just minutes ago.  A crowd was to the right of it.  I wrestled my way into the center of it and cried out at the sight of Sam, soaked and shivering on the ice.

I went down on my knees beside him, banging my injured knee but again not caring.  I gripped his face with my gloved hands.  Crystals of ice were already forming on his brows and lashes.

Someone helped me carry him off the ice.  There was a cafe catering to the ice skaters beside the river, and we burst in there, ignoring the murmurs of disapproval from the proprietors.  I saw with immense relief that there was a fireplace in the center of the cafe.  We practically fell down in front of it, and I set right to peeling Sam’s clothes off, amid increased murmurings from the baristas.

A blanket appeared from somewhere.  Some people in Chicago are okay.

The person who had helped me carry Sam was in the process of calming the owners when I handed my thermos of coffee to Sam, clad now only in blanket.  His fingers were blue.  I took off my now soaking wet gloves and held my hands to his, puffing hot breath onto them.

He threw glances around the room as if expecting Atsel to appear suddenly.  I couldn’t blame him.  And I didn’t know what to tell him.

“H-h-he p-pulled me out-t-t,” he stuttered through blue lips.  “H-h-he threw m-me in so he c-could pull m-m-me out.”

I pressed the thermos to his lips and made him drink.