The Fallowing – The Fourth, Part XVIII

by Steppen Sawicki

Novel: Occult Adventure

Every window in the clinic and the apartments above it glowed, lit far too brightly for the middle of the night, but it was entirely silent.  At least from the street.

“You should have tested the watch,” I said to Sam.  “He wasn’t even around back at the hotel.”

His face was set and determined.  “I told you I don’t need to,” he said with such conviction that I wanted to believe him.

Instead I clutched the watch in my pocket.

The front door was unlocked.  Sam stepped through it into the lobby, and again I followed.  As the windows had promised, all lights were on, but no one was in sight.  The hum of the florescent bulbs overhead was the only sound.  I tried to close the door with no noise but it betrayed me and the latch clicked, so loud in the silence that it echoed.  Sam and I froze, watching all corners of the clinical white brightness.  For a moment, nothing, and then there was the rustle of paper from somewhere down the corridor.

We inched across the floor, the carpet masking the movement of our boots.  There were two rooms for patients, and then the doctor’s office at the end.  Sam rounded the corner of each doorway ready to strike, but the two rooms were empty.

Again a rustle, coming unmistakably from the office.  We could hear it even through the close door.  Sam’s hands were full, so he kicked the door open.  The latch ripped free and bounded across the carpet.

Atsel sat at the thick wooden desk, legs crossed leisurely.  His large eyes looked at us over a voluminous medical text.  He was wearing the doctor’s thick rectangular glasses.

He smiled, opening his mouth to say something.

Sam flicked the knob on his watch up.  Instantly everything around him stopped.  I didn’t move, only stood there pointing my pistol at Atsel.  Atsel’s mouth hung open in mid-word.  A screw from the latch from the door froze in the air in mid-bounce.  The last is what fucked Sam over.  He stepped forward and tottered, his brain and stomach both trying to accommodate the fact that he was moving and this screw was not.  In the corner of his vision, this screw magnified and seemed to hum like the fluorescents in the lobby.  Everything seemed to be humming, to be bursting with potential energy.  But here was kinetic energy at work in himself, an abomination.  Everything in him screamed that he shouldn’t be doing what he was doing, shouldn’t be moving alone in this new area of space-time.  He fell forward, unable to bring his other leg up to speed.

Atsel bounded into action.  His own watch now at work, he brought his knee up into Sam’s face.  The crack of his nose breaking was like a thunder-clap to me, watching only gray blurred movements.  I heard only a whirring whistle sound as Atsel spoke, but Sam heard.

“Tricky.  So that’s what all the crap I was feeling from you yesterday was about.  Not so easy, is it?”

He rushed out the door like a breath of wind.

The effect of the kick was to Sam like being tossed in a blender.  The blood pouring from his nose hung in the air where it had left his body.  He found now that he couldn’t breathe; the air was too still, too thick.  It was like he was encased in syrup.  His head reeled from the pain of his nose and the impossibility of what he was doing.  He groped for his watch but couldn’t reach it, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t –

It was in his pocket, still in his pocket.  He jammed the knob down.

He instantly changed in my eyes from a gray blur sloshing around on the floor to a bloody-nosed Sam.  He drew in a lungful of air and coughed as if he had been drowning.  He rolled onto his side and retched, though nothing came up.

I went to him but watched the door.

“Stop,” he coughed.  “Stop moving so fast.”

“So much for the element of surprise,” I said.  “Again.”