The Fallowing – The Fifth, Part I
by Steppen Sawicki
When I woke it was noon, light full in the hotel room. I stretched awkwardly beneath the blankets and rolled over, but the space on the bed next to me was empty and cold. I sat up and looked around the room, at the window where Sam spent so much time. He wasn’t there.
“Sam?” I called, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed and starting to panic. If he had left the room without me…
“Yeah?” Sam came around the corner from the bathroom. Soap suds were on his face and a straight razor was in his hand.
I flumped back down on the bed. “I thought you had left.”
“For what? Lunch? I mean, you’ve been snoring a while but I was still going to wait for you.”
I flung a pillow at him and he ducked back into the bathroom to avoid it.
As I dressed I could hear the razor swishing occasionally in the sink. Since when did Sam ever get out of bed before me? I thought back to last night, to a watch dropped on the floor of the room, Sam poising his knife over it. As he brought it down I had fallen forward onto the carpet and thrust out my hands over the watch. He couldn’t quite stop his motion, could only turn the knife aside, nicking the outside of my left hand.
“What are you doing?” I had shouted.
“What?” He gaped at me. “I have to destroy it. If one of them got hold of it…”
“And if none of them did? Think of how powerful it is!”
“Yes, fine, and it’s a gamble either way. But I’d rather have it off my back.”
I thought for a moment, watching blood roll off my hand onto the carpet. “If you can tell me the worst is over, then I’ll concede that we don’t need the watch.”
His eyes widened and he looked away. I took that as a no.
I had taken his hands, over the hilt of the knife. “Then let’s gamble with it.”
I spun the bandage off my hand and looked over the cut, red and inflamed but healing. I still stood by my position, but I knew there were risks involved. I’d just have to make sure nothing happened to Sam. As we stepped out our room’s door into the hallway twenty minutes later, I could almost feel the protective “spell” Sam had put on it fall away. If I could only lock him in there and take down these things on my own…
Lunch was Chinese cabbage stew and jasmine tea in a hole-in-the-wall. Still the place was packed, and we ate and drank on stools at the back counter, both of us turned sideways to the door, holding the bowls in our hands. I wondered when I had first become so paranoid.
“There are two left,” Sam suddenly mentioned. At first I thought he was talking about our spring rolls, but then I understood.
“Will they be here in the city?” I asked.
“It’s possible. At least one of them was here to revive Atsel, or so I assume. But as for whether they would have stayed for the fight, I’m not certain.”
“You said Atsel would have hunted them too had he taken you down. So why would they stay? They’d be hunted no matter which of you survived.”
“Maybe they were expecting me to win,” he said distantly, his eyes roaming over the crowd.
“They’re after me. But maybe they wanted Atsel out of the way, plus benefits.”
I set my bowl down, not quite believing what I was thinking. “Are you saying one of them sent Gin to you? That they wanted you to get that watch?”
He looked at me out of the corner of his eye. “Still think I shouldn’t destroy it?”
“But Gin said that angels asked her to…”
“And you believe her? And even if she was telling the truth…” He trailed off, staring into his stew.
“What then?” I prompted.
He looked to the front of the restaurant, as if looking for a distraction. “Faye, I…”
He paused for so long I prompted him again. “What?”
He opened his mouth, but as he did so he looked directly at me.
“Nothing,” he said, looking away.
I waited to see if he would change his mind but instead he said “I know where we would be likely to find one. But we have to be careful.”
“I’m always careful.”
He didn’t hear me. He was still lost in thought, gazing out the front windows.