The Fallowing – The Fourth, Part XI

by Steppen Sawicki

Novel: Occult Adventure

His voice was frantic now, a low feral growl moving quickly.  “And Sam, Sam had it all the time.  I’ll see him dead next.”

He looked at me all of a sudden, and his eyes were mad and on fire.  He walked towards me and it took all my effort not to step back.

“And you two,” he growled, “such companions.  So much in love.  I can feel it.  It feels just like that worm of sadness that was my sister.  And shouldn’t I kill you now, to make him suffer?”

He put a hand to my neck, wrapping his long delicate fingers around it but not yet squeezing, still deciding.

I didn’t move.

He removed his hand, slowly.  He snickered, and the sound was hideous in his throat.  “You’re not afraid at all.  He used to be like you, once.  Back when he had no reason to be afraid.”

Then he vanished.  He was just gone, and the snow was falling again.  Adrenaline was flowing in my veins.  Having nothing to do with it, I went back upstairs to our room.

Sam was still asleep.  I sat carefully in the chair across from the bed and watched him as snow drifted past the window.

Hours passed in this way before he jerked awake, as he always wakes.  He looked around to gauge his surroundings and, finding only boring hotel room, he sat up.

“Hey,” he greeted me.  “How long was I out?”

“About ten hours,” I said.

“Mm.”  He wasn’t phased.  “Is everything holding up?”

“Everything’s peachy.”  I watched him over my steepled fingers as he stood.  “I had a talk with Atsel.”

He stopped in mid-stretch, turned to me slowly.  “How?”

I waved at the window.  “I went out in the street and talked to him.”

He turned pale.  “You’re joking.”

“He told me you were given that watch hundreds of years ago.”

He passed a hand over his face and laughed dryly, without humor.  “He could have killed you.”

“Yes, he could have.”

“You couldn’t stay in hiding for one night?”  He gesticulated wildly and leapt up to pace back and forth in the little room.  “You had to jump out and…have a chat with him?”

“Are you going to explain or not?”

“Oh, now you want to know about me?”  He stopped to look directly at me.  “Don’t act like this was some big plot against you.  You never asked me anything.”

I leaned forward and enunciated each word.  “Are you going to explain or not?”

He rubbed at his forehead, not looking at me now.  It was a while before he spoke.  “You didn’t have to go to him.  You could have just asked.”

I looked away now.  “I guess I just assumed that you would tell me things like…being hundreds of years old.”

“Thousands,” he said.

I looked at him, a little shocked, a little confused.

He took off his shirt, wrestling with it a bit, having trouble raising his arms.  I got up to help him, running on automatic, but he held out his hand to stop me.  His bandages were tinged with red just over his chest.  He winced as he unwound them from around his body, letting them fall to the floor.  I could see the stitches and clotted blood on his chest as he did, and my breath hitched in my throat.  When he was finished he turned around, putting his back to me.

I wasn’t sure what I was seeing in the dim gray light of the room, so I stood and went closer to him.  On his shoulder blades were two horrendous scars, large and rough and uneven.  Whatever had caused them hadn’t been precise.  Beneath the skin and scars lay odd angles, sharp and jagged as if additional bones had grown there once.  He shifted his shoulders and the shadows from those bones crept over his skin.

I touched the area, lightly, so lightly but he still jerked as if my fingers burned.

“What is this?” I asked, my voice low.

After a pause he answered.  “Those are the remains of my wings.”  He turned back to me and looked into my eyes as if daring me to disbelieve.  “I’m half angel.  That’s why I was assigned the task of holding the watch.  That’s why I was assigned to kill them.  And when I was assigned the latter my wings were torn away, along with my powers.”

His gray eyes were looking right into mine, holding me.  I couldn’t look away if I wanted to.  “I don’t understand,” I finally said.  I think my eyes were too wide.  “Why would they take away your powers?”

He looked away then, letting me go of his gaze.  “It would have been too easy otherwise.  Not everyone in this wants me to win.  Not easily, anyway.”

“Even God?”  I don’t know why I asked.  I didn’t know if I even believed in God.

“Especially God,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Why?  What happens if you win?”

He shook his head.  “I don’t have all the answers.  Maybe that’s really why I never told you any of it.  Didn’t want to face how little I know about what I’m doing.  How little information I’m going on.  Just…kill.”

I took his chin in my hand and turned his head to look at me again.  His eyes were sad and strangely defeated.

I kissed him.  And this time I didn’t stop.