The Fallowing – The Fourth, Part XXI

by Steppen Sawicki

END of this chapter.

Novel: Occult Adventure

His face twisted to a snarl, and he lunged at me.  But with the watch in my hands running, he couldn’t stop his; he just ran at me.  So I wasn’t sure the one I had was going to work.  But I stopped it all the same.

For a moment he stopped, face twisted in rage, fingers crooked like claws.  He had been running, so his center of balance was forward.  He began to fall.

Sam thrust at him with the knife.

The watch in my hand creaked, whirred, and fell apart.  Little gears and screws went flying off in all direction.

Atsel pulled up so that Sam missed, but the watch was still in his hand, and the knife hit that instead of his body.

The knife cut through it like butter.  Atsel froze again, and this time he did fall over.

Things started speeding up.  And I mean speeding up.  With the watch broken – with both of Atsel’s watches broken – time seemed to realize me and Sam and Claire didn’t belong here, and started to rush us towards the present.  The grass turned brown, white with snow, then green again, too fast for me to track.  The seasons turned the air over and over from hot to cold.  Wind constantly twisted and changed direction, whirling around and around.  I tried to stand but only fell back down, not quite comprehending the movement of the earth and air.  The temperature changes were a tumult against my flesh, until I was freezing and burning at the same time.  People ran past us, but so fast they were only streaks of color.

I would ask Sam later how no one had noticed us standing or lying around.  It seemed we would have been like statues.  But Sam said we simply weren’t noticed because we didn’t belong there.  We didn’t match anyone’s perceptions at the time we traveled through.  I like to think we were something like ghosts, haunting the plains and the house and the backyard.  Even if we were just rolling around moaning.  Which is sort of what ghosts do.

Sam held himself together.  He had enough of a crash course in time perception to allow him to do a few things: stab Atsel in the heart, killing him; find his watch, which he was drawn to as if he had some psychic link to it, which I suppose he sort of did; and drag me and Claire to the backyard as the house rose up around us so we wouldn’t be stuck in the floorboards somewhere.  Then all three of us lay on the ground, eyes screwed shut and stomachs churning.

Once it was over we were covered in a thick layer of snow.  We clawed our way out like zombies popping out of graves, gasping for breath, snow in our mouths like gravedirt.

***

We found the doctor in an inner room of the house.  Atsel had deemed him unimportant and told him to stay put until and if needed.

Claire went to the children’s bedroom, I think expecting it to have been an illusion, a trick of perception.  That they would be driven back into their beds by the same forces that had propelled us forward.

But they weren’t there.

I went to her and laid a hand on her shoulder.  She shook it off.

“Get out,” she whispered.

“Claire,” I said, “I’m so, so sorry.”

Get out.”  She didn’t shout, and that somehow made it worse.  “You brought him here.  You did this.  Get out.”

I was too shocked to move.  “Claire…” I began.  But Sam took my arm and led me out.

I was numb as we exited into the night.  The chill air barely touched me.  The elation of ending another monster was gone.

It must have shown on my face, because Sam said “It was bound to happen.  People are going to get hurt.”

I shook my head blankly.  “But not because of us.  First that baby, now two children.  Because of us.”

“It’s not your fault.”  He took in a breath and let it out in a huff, unsure of what to say, of how to comfort me.  “More people would get hurt if we didn’t do what we’re doing.”

I looked up at the windows, blinking back tears.

“That’s why you’re doing this right?” he said.

But that’s not why you’re doing this, I thought bitterly, angry at the circumstances, at how things had fallen, and projecting that onto Sam, as if that would release me from blame.

Still, I shivered.