The Fallowing – The Fourth, Part XIX

by Steppen Sawicki

Novel: Occult Adventure

He grabbed my arm and held on like I was a life preserver.  “It didn’t make any sense.  It was all screaming at me.  I shouldn’t have been able to – ”

You’re not making any sense.”  There was a box of tissues on the desk, and I grabbed one and shoved it into his hand.  “Snap out of it and clean up.”

I went first this time.  The rear door to the staircase was open now.  My heart sank.  Was everyone upstairs?

I led the way up the stairs, for all the good it would do for me to confront Atsel first.  Though I did have the other watch, when was the best time to use it?  I kept it inside my pocket, where Sam couldn’t see it.  Not that he was focused on me at all.

We heard voices coming from above, in the front room.  Two voices arguing heatedly.  Reaching the landing, I saw that they were coming from the television, which was playing some movie.  Pretty sure that thing had been broken.

I peered into the hallway.  The walls of the hall were gutted, stripped to their posts, wiring showing.  The floor was bare plywood.  It was as if the place had been undergoing major renovations for a couple of days.

“He’s changing the area,” whispered Sam, his voice nasally around the tissue in his nose.  “Taking it back in time.  He’s better at this than I knew.”

I reached the children’s’ bedroom, nudged the door with my gun.  I caught a glimpse of the children, standing by a bare frame of window.  Standing and looking out it at something.  Then the entire house vanished.

We fell a story, hitting the ground hard, because the ground was hard – hard compact dirt.  Long grass brushed against my face as I came around and rustled against my coat as I stood.

The children were standing again too, their bodies half-hidden in the grass.  Paul was crying.  His sobs came to me on the wind.

Then he stopped abruptly with seemingly no intervention.

It was dark.  Too dark.  I looked around and saw not a single street light, no people, no snow.  Only the grass.  I heard a great sigh as a breath of wind passed and it took me a moment to figure out that it was the sound of the wind passing through the grass.  And the wind wasn’t freezing or chill or even just cold.  It was heavy with warmth.

A light in the distance caught my eye, but when I looked at it high above as if on a hill, more came into view, then more, higher and higher.  Then I realized – I was looking at stars.  An entire blanket of sky with pinpoint lights.  And the moon.  I could write a book on that moon.

“How are you doing this?” Sam gasped.

I brought myself back down to earth, saw Atsel rise from between the kids, a hand on each of their shoulders.  And now that my eyes were adjusting I could see Claire to their right, sitting in the grass, hands over her mouth but unmoving.

“I know what I’m doing,” Atsel said.  “That’s all.  The past, memories…  What are they if not our perceptions?  What makes us us.  And the land has its own memories.  I feel that too.”  His voice turned dark, sneering.  “But you wouldn’t know anything about that.  Never did ask.  Just took.”

Sam fell on his back, a grunt of pain escaping him.  To me it looked like Atsel didn’t move, but blood dripped down his cheek.  Sam had nicked him with the knife.  Sam was coughing again, but not as badly as the first time he had used his watch.

Atsel flicked the blood from his cheek.  “And it goes the other way too, of course.”

Though the light was dim – the moonlight was dim – a noticeable change came over the two children standing beside Atsel.  Their skin became paler, tighter, then fell away altogether.  Claire groaned in horror, but didn’t leave her spot on the ground.

First flesh melted away, then eyes and muscle.  It left them in rotten rivulets running their course through the striations in the muscle and then the crooks in the bone, until their ribs fell from their spines and their skulls tumbled backward and everything left just scattered into dust on the breeze.

Finally Claire screamed.  But she didn’t move.