The Fallowing – The Fourth, Part VII
by Steppen Sawicki
Claire talking here.
Novel: Occult Adventure
“I saw him in the light of the children’s lamp and I screamed, and I didn’t know yet why Uncle Taylor didn’t come. I knew later it was because that man didn’t want him to come, didn’t even let him hear me scream. But I screamed and ran in, thinking only of the children. He turned, still on the bed, ruffling Mary’s hair, and he put a finger to his lips and shushed me. And somehow that stopped me and calmed me all at the same time.
“And he said ‘Don’t wake the children.’
“That chilled me down to my bones, because I knew that’s what he was here about. But I couldn’t speak, couldn’t grab them and run like I had meant to do when I first saw him sitting on Mary’s bed.
“He looked down at her again, brushing a strand of hair from her forehead, and his profile in the light of the lamp was so perfectly beautiful, but wrong somehow. Something in the set of his brows or lips.
“’They don’t have long,’ he said.
“’Don’t hurt them,’ I whispered. I could only whisper.
“He smiled at me, a smile both lovely and disturbing. ‘No. I’m here to help them. To help you.’ He reached into a pocket and pulled out a watch on a chain. He opened it and moved the watch’s hand back with a finger.
“Mary coughed, and her eyes fluttered open. She rubbed them sleepily and looked at the man and at me.
“’Momma,’ she said, and she sat up on her own, propped up on her own two hands. ‘Can I go outside today?’
“Then Paul’s voice came from the other bed. ‘Can we both go?’ I turned and he had his legs dangling over the edge of the bed, sitting straight up, stretching with his arms in the air.
“And then he stood. With no one there to help him he stood, all on his own.
“I collapsed to the floor and they came to me, Mary and Paul both, and I put my hands on them and felt no trace of fever or chills. No part of them had sores or blisters.
“’They want to go outside,’ the man said. ‘You should take them.’
“Though I was crying I dressed them in coats and snowpants and mittens and boots, and they ran off into the snow, shouting and laughing. Paul waved at me and shouted ‘Mom, join us,’ and I only shook my head and waved back, unable to speak for fear I would burst into a fresh bout of tears should I open my mouth.
“He had stayed beside me the whole time, watching me file them down the steps and dress them for the cold, and he stood beside me watching them throw snowballs. I should have been relieved. A weight should have been lifted from my heart, but I was terrified. I knew he had done this somehow, but I didn’t know why, and didn’t that mean he could take it away?
“I chanced a look at him. He wore an odd half-smile. A half-frown.
“He leaned over, bringing his lips close to my ear, and I was repulsed but didn’t move away.
“’They could stay this way,’ he said. ‘Stay this way forever. I only ask one thing of you.’
“Fresh tears sprang to my eyes. ‘Anything,’ I said.
“He brought his hand to my face, and I saw it was gripping this broken knife.
“’Kill Sam and his companion.’
“He let the knife go to fall and sink itself into the porch. And the children fell in the snow and couldn’t rise.”