Tag Archive | End of the World

The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 45

the man who wasnt thereBrian goes into an hypnotic trance before settling in a dream. He looks for, and meets, his ancestor, Luminous Cayce. He claims that Mr. D. somehow possesed him and made him do evil things.

The dream world grew dim. Brian couldn’t sustain his presence there much longer. Luminous reached for him, grasping his hand.

“Find my ring,” he called as Brian faded. “Ask your grandmother—about my ring!” Luminous faded from view. His voice echoed in Brian’s mind as they parted. “My ring!”

Brian woke, groggy and disoriented. Jordan sat beside him on the bed, leaning over him with her hands on his chest. Dr. Meru sat on the end of the bed and Claude held his wrist as he watched the monitors. Brian sat up.

“My ring!” he gasped. “My ring!”

“Brian?” Jordan touched his face.

“Yeah.” His voice sounded strange, so he cleared his throat. “Yeah. How long was I out?”

“An hour,” Claude said, glancing at his watch.

“It felt like five minutes,” Brian said. “I saw Luminous. He said that the Evil possessed him. Somehow, he shook it off, but not until he’d killed someone.” He shuddered, suddenly cold. “Did he do all those things? Was it really his fault?”

“If he was possessed, it wasn’t his fault,” Dr. Meru replied. “But when things go wrong, when people we love die, we will blame ourselves. Because we are men, that is what we do. We swear in our hearts to protect the ones we love. When we fail….” He shook his head slowly.

“When we fail, we don’t see it straight,” Claude replied. “And we will take blame where none exists.”

“He seemed pretty adamant,” Brian said.

“He, would, of course, feel responsible. Imagine if something possessed you. You’d feel as if you were to blame.”

Brian, who know a little bit about being overcome by uncharacteristic urges, nodded. He’d felt the same way after practically mauling Jordan.

“You said something about a ring,” Jordan said. “You repeated it several times.”

“Luminous said something about asking my grandmother for his ring. I have no idea what he’s talking about. I can’t call her in the middle of the night.”

“Ask her in the morning,” Claude suggested.

“He also said we have to replace Cliff as Guardian and he suggested Cynthia.”

“We’ll ask her tomorrow, too,” Jordan said. “Meanwhile….”

“Meanwhile, I need to sleep.”

“I’ll stay with you,” Jordan suggested.

The men exchanged a look. Jordan didn’t see it, but Brian did.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said, touching her face gently. “It’s one thing having you in here with Claude and Meru, but not alone.”

“Why not? It’s not a big deal, Brian.”

“Because,” Meru said softly. “It is a very big deal and a distraction neither of you needs just now.”

“Oh, if you think you’re getting lucky, Brian, you’re mistaken!”

He kissed her passionately. The Rider on his shoulder and the experience he’d just had in his dreams had him jazzed on adrenaline. He could feel the heat of her through their clothing and he wanted nothing more than to make love to her. He didn’t care if it was his parents’ house, he wanted her in ways he’d never imagined.

If Claude’s deep blush was any indication, he knew exactly what Brian was thinking. He was a telepath, but he was also a man. “Another time, I would encourage it, Jordan. But I fear that tonight he must decline. I’ll keep an eye on him. I promise to call you if it’s necessary.”

“Go, please,” Brian begged.

“Why are you forcing me to go? I want to stay and take care of you.”

Brian pushed her abruptly away. She nearly toppled off the bed. Standing, he walked to the other side of the room, body rigid, muscles taut. “Because, if you stay, it won’t matter who else is in the room. I’ll take you in a manly fashion whether you want me to or not. And I’d like our first time to be fun, not frightening, and without an audience. So please, go. Just—just go.”

Wiping away angry tears, Jordan left. She slammed the door. Elise started crying. Brian heard her go into the baby’s room, checking on her.

“That went well.” Brian frowned, pacing his room.

“You were honest with her,” Claude said. “Never lose the honesty. One day, she will understand. Perhaps not today.” He winked. “Time for you to sleep, young son,” he told Brian. “I want to keep you connected, please. I would like to compare these readings to those I cataloged before. I’d also like to compare them to your tests from childhood.”

“Fine. But if either of you snore, I’m throwing you out.”

Claude laughed. “I’ll be awake. Meru, do you snore?”

“I have never been told that I do.”

“We’re set,” Brian replied as he turned off the light.

Meru settled once more in his recliner. Claude watched the monitors in the dim light of the room.

Brian woke to the barking of Janus and Zofia. For some reason, they were in the house, creating a terrible din. His head ached, his throat was dry and sore. Dr. Meru was no longer in the recliner and Claude’s instruments were gone, though Brian still wore the stickers and had goo in his hair.

Sitting up hurt. He ached all over as if he’d been in a fight. Groaning, he struggled to the bathroom. He peeled off the stickers and ran his hands through his hair.

“Ech. It’s like snot—or ectoplasm,” he complained.

Four shampoos later, he felt less contaminated, but he was sure some vestiges remained. He stumbled to his room, glad he’d worn his towel, because Jordan sat on the end of his bed, glaring at him.

“What the hell, Jordan?” He backed into his bathroom. “Can you please leave? I want to get dressed.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 44

the man who wasnt thereBrian hopes that he can get in touch with his ancestor, Luminous Cayce, in his dreams. With the help of Claude and Dr. Meru, he goes to bed with that in mind. Jordan also stays with him, to provide protection.

“I at least want pulse and blood pressure monitors.”

She agreed to that much. Once they were settled, Claude dimmed the lights, leaving only a candle in a pierced tin holder in the far corner. He muttered a short blessing before hypnotizing Brian. He wanted him in a relaxed state, but able to communicate. Once he thought Brian was at the right level, he continued.

“Cast out, Brian. Search for Luminous Cayce. Find him in the ether, Brian. Your long dead ancestor.”

Brian was marginally aware of Jordan’s head on his shoulder. He could feel her breath on his skin. He felt the presence of Claude and Meru. His body was light, like it was floating on a cloud—weightless. Comfortable and warm, he felt safely cocooned. Claude’s voice guided him into the dream world and he cast about, searching for Luminous. It took less time to find him than he’d anticipated.

In answer to his summons, a bright light appeared, glittering far away. It was a tiny, golden spot on the horizon. As Claude talked, the spot grew nearer, so quickly, Brian could hardly follow its movement. When it got opposite Brian, about three feet away, it stopped. Vaguely man shaped, it shimmered with a golden orange aura. Inside, the figure was so bright, Brian couldn’t focus on it.

“Are you Luminous Cayce?”

“In life I was known by that name. It is one of many this soul has carried.”

“My name is Brian Casey. I am a descendant of Olivander, your youngest child with Opal.”

Luminous said nothing, waiting.

“I am the Dreamer from my generation. We’re facing great danger,” Brian continued. “Tomorrow night is the three hundredth anniversary of the Peddler’s appearance, the night Opal died.”

“When the town went mad,” Luminous replied. “The night everything changed.”

Brian waited, respectfully silent.

“And you fear the Evil will return.”

“We had problems with the Evil last year. He came against us. We believe he was testing our strength. One of us has already been killed. Clifford Finley….”

“The Guardian is dead? That’s bodes ill. Has someone from his clan stepped forward as new Guardian?”

“No. We didn’t know that was necessary.”

“There is still time, however, I strongly urge you to find his replacement with all speed. Who is the member for your generation?”

“His only son, Chase.”

“One from Clifford’s siblings would be better. His sister,” Luminous declared. “She is strong and would make a propitious Guardian.”

“I’ll ask her.” Brian waited for more, but Luminous said nothing. “What do we do? Can you help us? We don’t know what to expect. There are few records of this time. What we’ve found doesn’t tell us much. Cliff was our historian.”

Luminous growled slightly. “That is a doubly great loss. You realize, of course, that his knowledge is what killed him. Our strongest members were attacked one by one, brought down and murdered. Their deaths—were—horrendous.” The golden aura shivered.

“How did you survive? The records tell us nothing of the part you played.”

“They would not,” Luminous said. “For I wrote many of the accounts. I could not put my cowardice, my calumny into words. To reveal to anyone how craven I was…. I betrayed them.”

“What? How? You fought! You pushed back the Evil!”

“He possessed me!” Luminous shouted. “The Evil one used me to kill, to condemn, to lie about my friends and family members. He made me do horrible things. He forced me to murder—!” He sobbed, faltering.

The light around him dimmed and Brian saw a man for the first time. In basic features, he resembled Miles Casey, though his hair was blond like Brian’s, pulled back in a ribbon at the base of his neck. His clothing was simple, a pair of britches, tucked into knee boots and a shirt with full sleeves. His blue eyes held deep, abiding torment.

“That wasn’t your fault,” Brian said. “If you’re not expecting him, he can do a lot. He managed to get into the house and had my mother and two of her friends under his spell before we even knew he was there. He almost killed me. If it hadn’t been for my friends and family, he would have. How do we fight him? How do we win?”

“Fight him with every skill you possess. Remember, his major weapons are ice and fire, though he is greatly vulnerable to both. He can make the earth do his bidding, but he is weakest in air. If you stand in unity, he will crumble and fall.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 43

the man who wasnt thereDuring the reception, Dr. Meru asks the teens to meet him in the cemetery where they find a mausoleum with a list of familiar names on it—including one Virtuous Meru.

“I do, indeed. I don’t believe in coincidences. If you look even more closely, you see that they didn’t all die that day. There are other dates among them. Brian’s many greats grandfather, died nearly fifty years later. His last wife lived to be a hundred. This is your heritage, children.”

“How is this so significant?” Chase asked. “It’s interesting and all….”

“Look at its shape,” Meru said. “Does it look familiar?”

It did, especially to Brian. “This is just like the one at Chase’s house.”

“Yes, I believe so.”

“But the bodies, the ashes, weren’t in there. So, what’s the point?”

“That’s what I don’t know yet,” Meru replied, placing his hand on the crypt. “I wish they could speak to me. At times like this, I feel quite dense.”

“Who knows, Dr. Meru, maybe they will speak to us,” Brian said, his eyes meeting the older man’s. “In our dreams, spirits can speak to us, right?”

“So I’m told, Brian, though it doesn’t happen often to me.”

“But it could, right? Maybe they could give me answers, help us defeat Mr. D.”

“It is well worth trying,” he replied. “But you can’t sleep here.”

“No, but dreams are limitless. I don’t have to.” He placed his hand on the crypt plaque. “Anyone got paper? I want to write those names down.”

“No need,” Jordan said, taking out her phone. She went to the memo app and pressed the microphone button. She read off the names and their dates.

When she’d finished, Brian pulled her close, kissing her. “Have I told you today just how incredible you are?”

“No,” she replied with as smirk. “Slacker.”

His laugh followed her back up the hill.

At Brian’s home once again, the friends, minus Chase and Marissa, met in the basement. With computers and the list of names, they did some looking for their dead ancestors. The details were sketchy, but at least they were able to find out a little something about each of them. Brian’s many greats grandfather was easiest to track down. Luminous Cayce was a farmer and minister. He had been at the forefront of the conflict 300 years ago and had lost his wife in the final battle. Amazingly, their twelve children had escaped unscathed, thanks to the Peddler.

It was the death of Cayce’s wife, Opal, which had prompted the Peddler to get involved. She was pregnant when she was struck down. She died, but her baby, Olivander, delivered postmortem by C section, lived. Brian’s family was descended from his line.

“It was after this that the Cayce line received the gift of second sight,” Andre read aloud. “The baby was delivered by Dr. Heath Barrett, Jordan’s ancestor.” He chuckled. “Guess we know where your dad’s name came from.”

They all laughed. Louisa took the laptop, continuing to read to them. “Cayce later married a Choctaw princess and became part of the tribe. He and his royal wife had fifteen children. Damn, that was one prolific man!”

“Don’t get any ideas like that.” Jordan scowled, punching Brian.

“Oh, but honey, I want twenty-eight children, too! Think of all the great Father’s Day gifts I’d get.”

Jordan giggled, tickling him. “Not unless you plan on having them.”

“Babe, I don’t think there’s any magic in the world that could accomplish that.” He kissed her nose.

“Why is it important to know this?” Sweet asked.

“Because, I hope to contact one of these people in my sleep. With Claude’s help, I think I can get in a hypnotic sleep and can speak to someone. The more I know, the more of a feel I have for my contact, the better. I think I’ll try to reach Luminous. We know more about him than any of the others.”

“What, that he was a horny bastard who had twenty-eight kids?” Sweet teased.

Brian rolled his eyes. “All his accomplishments and you take that away.”

“I want to be there,” Jordan said. “I don’t want you doing this without me.”

“Jordan, Claude will be there….”

“If I’m not there, you don’t go under. Got it?”

“Yeah, Jordan. Okay.” He kissed her. “If that’s what will make you feel better, please.”

“Nothing about this will make me feel better,” she said. “But I won’t worry quite as much if I’m with you.”

Jordan’s parents objected to her staying, until Claude pointed out that as his future mate, she could do more to safeguard Brian than he could. Dr. Meru also planned to assist. Since he and Brian had shared dreams before, it seemed natural that he be there.

No one, especially Brian, wanted to delay. After a late dinner, Brian and Jordan got ready for bed. He lay down with her beside him. Dr. Meru settled in a recliner, hands folded over his chest.

“I’ve slept in worse conditions,” he assured them. “This is quite comfortable.”

Claude had his sleep monitor set up with him. Part of his practice was sleep disorders. He got Brian all hooked up with sticky pads on his arms, legs and chest and goo in his hair. He wanted to do the same to Jordan, but she objected.

“You keep your goop to yourself, Dr. Beauchamps,” she replied haughtily. “If Brian has problems with it, he can shave his head. I don’t look good bald.” She shook back her thick brown hair.

The men laughed at her and she grinned.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 42

the man who wasnt thereThe funeral finally over, the teens and their parents go to the reception. Chase refuses to eat, until Jordan and his Aunt Cynthia gang up on him with Marissa.

“You too? Fine!” He grabbed a handful of grapes and stuffed them in his mouth. He chewed and swallowed. “Happy now?”

“Not even remotely,” Marissa said, scooting a plate closer to him. “When you’ve eaten all that. And this,” she moved a second plate next to him.

“And this,” Cynthia said, taking the plate from Jordan.

“Then we’ll be happy,” Marissa said. She, Cynthia and Jordan surrounded him, arms crossed, frowns in place, as they waited for him to eat.

“I can’t eat with y’all watchin’ me like a flock of angry buzzards,” he declared.

“I believe the correct term is wake,” Jordan said.

“Only you would know a thing like that,” Chase said snidely.

“And I’m proud of it,” Jordan said, holding a bite of cake up to his lips.

Chase snatched it off the fork, stuffing it in his mouth. He took the fork from her and ate the rest of the slice. When they were happy that he was eating well, they went to the bathroom.

“I can’t believe you guys let them gank me,” he muttered to his friends. “Sellouts.”

Brian chuckled. “Strangely, I’m okay with that appellation. Guys?”

They all agreed with him.

“Cause see,” Andre leaned in, speaking quietly. “When you’re nice to ’em, listen to what they have to say, all that stuff, they get real grateful. And even the most reluctant woman will eventually be less so, if you stay on her good side. So, my friend, if you ever, in this lifetime, wanna get laid before you’re thirty, you’ll shut up and eat the damn food.” He clapped Chase on the shoulder before straightening his tie. “Now, if you will excuse me, my lady love needs my attention.” He strolled over to Louisa, putting his arm around her shoulders as he gave her a kiss.

The younger men watched him with awe.

“I will never been that smooth,” Sweet complained.

“Not in a million years,” Brian agreed. “I will be, but not you.” He winked at Sweet.

The scrawny young man punched him. “You’d need a whole can of premium oil to be half that slick,” he replied.

“You’d need a case,” Chase countered.

Sweet laughed quietly. “Yeah. But the good news is, Ginnifer thinks my completely inept behavior is oddly endearing. So, while y’all sit here admiring that,” he pointed to Andre. “I’m still getting laid and you’re not. Aha—burn.” He got up and left.

“Sometimes,” Chase said. “I wanna hate that guy.”

“I want to all the time,” Brian replied. “But he’s just so sweet!” He batted his eyes and gave a girlish giggle.

Dwight chose that moment to arrive. Quirky grin on his face, he sat next to them. “Ooh-kay.”

Brian’s face hit the table as Dwight chuckled at him. “You have to realize that I’m a complete inept,” he spoke to the table. “Who, until last year, was a social pariah. And I liked it that way.”

Their new friend chuckled. “We all have our moments, Brian. Just wanted to mention, Dad’s found something and he wants us all to congregate in the cemetery as we’re able. Provided we’re able to—now.”

“What about Chase?” Brian asked, nodding to his friend.

“This concerns him even more than the rest. We shouldn’t all leave at once, but a couple at a time can slip out. I’ve already told the girls. This many people, you lot won’t be missed.”

“What about our folks?”

He shook his head. “Cliff was their dear friend. Let them have this time to grieve.”

Nodding, they rose and wandered past the buffet tables as if they were on the way to the restroom. When they got to the hallway, they turned left instead of right, hurrying outside. Bright sunlight nearly blinded them. It was quite a change from the dower weather earlier. Following Dwight, they walked downhill to the oldest part of the cemetery. Dr. Meru stood beside a mausoleum.

Obviously old, it was made of white marble. Ivy grew over it, neatly obscuring it from view. Roughly ten feet square, it was low with steps going down below ground level. An inscription danced around the arched doorway.

“Those are alchemical symbols,” Chase said. “I recognize those from books my dad had. What is this place?”

“This is the mausoleum where the good people of Miracle were buried after the witch battle,” Dr. Meru said. “Interestingly, there are several names here which are familiar.” He pointed to a weathered metal plaque on the wall.

Protected by the ivy, it had survived the past 300 years well. Jordan squinted at it, mouth dropping. “Elijah Sweet, Henrietta Finley, Camille Beauchamps! Oh, my God, this reads like a family tree. We each have a relative here.”

“Look closer,” Dr. Meru said.

“Virtuous Meru? You had family here?”

“Apparently, though I never knew it. A many greats something, though I’d have to do extensive research to find out.”

“Do you think there’s a connection between your relative being here when the Peddler appeared and later having him appear in your home town?” Brian asked.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 41

the man who wasnt thereIt’s the day of Cliff’s funeral. Miles and Heath both get up to share memories about their friend. Others are invited to get up and speak as they remember Chase’s dad.

More than a dozen people spoke about knowing Cliff. Afterward, the priest motioned to Chase. He walked to the podium, face solemn. It took him a few moments of silence to compose himself. Marissa, Jordan and Brian smiled encouragingly. Drawing a deep breath, he began.

“When I was a kid, everyone in town called me Chip because I was so much like my daddy. I was a chip off the old block and I was always proud when they called me that. Most teenagers, they rebel against their folks, but I never did, because my parents are the greatest people I know. My mom, as you’re aware, can’t be here to say goodbye to her husband, because her heart—” He choked on a sob. “… broke when we found him.” He wrung his hands, lips trembling. “I feel—like I have this hole—right here.” He pointed to his chest. “Because my dad is gone. But everything he was, he gave to me. The man I will become, I attribute to my father because he was and is the best—the best….” He broke down, unable to finish.

Marissa ran to his side, taking him in her arms. The priest came forward and escorted them back to their seats. He motioned to the choir director who started playing the organ. Guitars and other instruments joined the choir as they sang Amazing Grace. Afterward, the priest gave a final blessing and asked for the pall bearers to come forward. Cliff’s three brothers, along with Miles, Heath and Brian, stepped forward. They took their positions beside the casket and led the congregation to the cemetery. The musicians followed, playing Cliff’s favorite song, Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. The choir walked with them, singing the haunting lyrics in eight part harmony.

As the coffin was lowered into the grave, they played Go Rest High on that Mountain by Vince Gill. Marissa stepped forward as the singing started, her lyrical soprano soaring over the others, carrying the song to heaven. The crowd moved slowly past the hole, dropping dirt onto the coffin. Chase stood by the graveside, watching as each handful clattered onto the wooden lid. He didn’t cry, but his jaw worked and he blinked hard every few seconds.

Brian walked over to his friend, putting his arm around his shoulders. Jordan went to the other side. Marissa held his hand as she sang, tears running down her face. The others chosen from their generation, surrounded Chase, all of them holding hands and showing their support. Their parents stood across from them, sorrowful, but proud. This was the comradeship their children needed. It was a pity that it had taken death to solidify them, but Cliff’s passing had served an unexpected purpose. It had unified these diverse, recalcitrant teens into a determined fighting force. They recognized his sacrifice and were determined that his death would not be in vain.

There was a reception at the parish hall. The friends waited with Chase as the last shovel of dirt was tapped down on the grave. In pairs, they walked to the hall, giving what comfort they could to Chase and one another.

Marissa joined Chase in the family receiving line. As the eldest child and only member of the immediate family present, he was the first in line with Marissa by his side. Cynthia stood next to them and her brothers lined up by age. Their parents had chosen not to stand in the line. They had taken Cliff’s death badly and his father’s health was poor. They sat nearby, acknowledging condolences as people left the line.

Once that formality was over, the teenagers gathered at a table. Marissa kept plying Chase with food, which he politely declined. Seeing that she was getting upset, Jordan took the matter in hand. Coming up behind him, she tapped Chase on the shoulder. He turned slowly to face her. Seeing her frown, he sat up straighter.

“What’s wrong, Jordan?”

“Eat,” she demanded, shoving a plate of food in his face.

“I’m not hungry.”

“When’s the last time you had a proper meal?”

Chase shrugged, closing himself off. Jordan tapped him harder.

“What, Jordan?” he asked angrily.

“You’re going to eat,” she commanded. “Or you and I are going to have a call to prayer meeting—you know, like your dad had with mine?”

Marissa had to cover her mouth so she wouldn’t laugh.

“I’d never hit a girl,” Chase said, his ears going red. “Prayer meetings aren’t for little girls anyway.”

“Oh, you think a little bitty thing like me can’t beat your buff, footballer ass?”

Eyes wide, Marissa gasped.

Cynthia walked over, puzzled frown on her face. “Is there a problem here?”

“Chase won’t eat,” Jordan pointed out. “He seems to have some noble idea that starving himself will make up for the fact that his father is gone. Not sure how that works, are you?”

Cynthia frowned. “Nope. Starvation is a pretty nasty way to go. Are you sure, nephew?”

“Would y’all just leave me alone! I said I’m not hungry.” His stomach growled.

“Your belly’s made a liar of you,” Brian said, grinning.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 40

the man who wasnt thereThe spell complete, Brian gathers the remnants of the witches together and together, the group sets them on fire.

The wind picked up, howling around them. The flames leaped higher and they could imagine they heard screaming coming from the center. Shuddering, they kept chanting and singing. The flames engulfed the ash mass, consuming it completely. Nearly thirty minutes later, the last flame dwindled and went out. Nothing was left of the witches, not even a mote of ash, a fleck of metal, a sliver of bone.

The tarp that had held the ashes was as clean as when they laid it down. Experimentally, Brian approached the edge of the tarp, crossing the orange line. The anticipated tingle didn’t come. He felt nothing but sleeping earth once more. Grinning, he walked to the edge of the tarp and picked it up. The ground was whole beneath it. Fresh green grass grew thickly, obscuring any scars that might have been left behind.

Cynthia Finley knelt beside him. She put her hands on the ground, prostrating herself as if she were praying. “It’s gone,” she whispered. “The turbulence that dwelt here. I never realized it was there until it left. It’s gone now. They’re truly at peace.” Sighing, she stood. “I’m so sorry my brother died, but I see that his death wasn’t in vain.”

“I wish we could have done that years ago,” Chase said. “Then maybe Dad would still be alive.”

His aunt hugged him tightly, bursting into tears. “We had to come to this place at this time,” she murmured. “It couldn’t have been done sooner. It had to be now. I don’t know why your dad had to die, Chase. I will never understand my brother’s death. But he died a hero trying to protect his family, his friends and home. Nothing can ever take that away from him.”

They got in the car and left. The others gathered around, cleaning up the bowls and other implements.

“Is that it?” Sweet asked. “Is it over?”

“No,” Brian said. “That was just the beginning. We’ve deprived him of that source of power, but he’ll have backup plans. Something will still happen Thursday night. Be sure of that and be ready. There’s something in that mausoleum, something we didn’t get rid of or kill.”

“Is it Mr. D.?” Jordan asked.

Brian tilted his head as if listening. “I don’t think so.”

“No,” Andre answered, definitively. “He’s not in there. Something else is there. Whatever it is, we don’t ever want it to get out.”

Exhausted, but proud of their accomplishments, they went home. Sleep came easily for Brian that night. He didn’t have any disturbing dreams. Instead, he dreamed of the crystalline pool and the fresh, clean water.

Wednesday morning, Brian woke with a headache. He felt slightly feverish. A hot shower and some breakfast would make him feel better. The weather was muggy, warmer than the last few had been. The air hardly moved and heavy clouds padded the sky. He didn’t feel like doing much, but today was Cliff Finley’s funeral. Brian and Miles were both pall bearers. The funeral was set to start at 10:00.

The Casey family ate a light breakfast of toast and tea. None of them felt like a heavy meal. By 9:30, the were at the church getting last minute instructions from the priest. Jordan’s family joined them there. Heath was another pall bearer. Chase and Marissa sat together in the front pew with his grandparents, aunts and uncles. His mother was still in the hospital. Dora didn’t want to put off his funeral, but the doctor adamantly refused to allow her to come.

The church filled to capacity, with standing room only. Brian looked around, wondering if they were really here to pay their respects, or if they came because of how Cliff had died. Though the real story was a secret, the idea that someone had been killed by a build up of methane gas was rather sensational. Since there had been swamp fires before, it was believable enough to get by.

The service started and the priest walked in with his deacon. Everything went by fairly quickly. Sitting next to Jordan, Brian let his mind wander until the priest asked if anyone would like to get up and share memories of Cliff.

Miles stood first, buttoning his suit jacket as he walked forward. He smiled warmly at everyone, thanking them for coming. “Not all of you know me. I’m Miles Casey. Cliff and I have been friends practically since birth. We grew up together. I’ve never known such a great guy. I have so many memories of him, I can’t even talk about them all, or I’d be here for the next twenty years.” That got a slight chuckle from the congregation.

“Cliff Finley was a great friend, a wonderful family man and a good teacher. It seems like there wasn’t much he couldn’t turn his hand to and he didn’t mind sharing what he knew with others. He told me more than once that the way to make a better world was to make better people. So, I’m here to promise him that I will do my best to follow his footsteps and share my knowledge with others. Maybe I can help make a better world too. Cliff, my friend,” he turned to the closed coffin. “The light in this world got dimmer the day you were taken from it. I miss you.”

He took his seat again and Heath walked up. “Hello, everyone, I’m Heath Barrett. I grew up with Cliff, too. I moved here when I was a teenager. My folks were from here, but moved away, only to return when I hit puberty. They said I was such a trial, they needed a less stressful place to live.” Everyone chuckled. “Cliff actually introduced me to my lovely wife at a party. She didn’t like me much. I’d managed to sneak out of the house with some of Granddad’s shine and I was feeling no pain. But that’s another story. To say I was smitten would be an understatement. I was also royally screwed by my behavior. Cliff gave me what he liked to call a prayer meeting.” More scattered laughter.

After the soft laughs dwindled away, Heath continued. “What it really was, was a beating. See, the beautiful girl I’d managed to insult, was his favorite cousin. After our call to prayer, he made me apologize in front of all our friends. That beat down was a wake up for me. Even at my young age, I was well on the way to developing a bad drinking problem. Cliff made me see that my behavior was unacceptable. He also talked to Jackie and convinced her to give me another chance. Thirty years later, I’m still grateful. I still have a chipped tooth where that crazy swamp rat hit me. Goodbye, my friend.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 39

the man who wasnt thereMaribelle and Brian find some sort of building at one end of the burial ground. Though it’s agonizing, Brian follows the lines of the invisible structure so that they know how large it is. It’s the single worst thing he’s ever done. Even getting gored by Mr. D. wasn’t as bad as this. He tells the group that it’s a mausoleum, not even sure how he knows that.

“Why’s it hidden?” Jordan asked.

“Why not?” Sweet responded, walking up next to them.

“Would you want to have a creepy thing like that in your backyard?” Louisa asked.

“We’ve hung out here hundreds of times,” Marissa said. “Why haven’t we felt it or any of the flat-out spooky that hangs over it?”

“Cliff Finley was extremely adept at wards,” Miles said. “He had this under control—until something happened.”

“What?” Marissa asked.

“We woke it up,” Brian said. “When we summoned the Peddler.”

“Why wouldn’t Cliff warn us?” Heath asked.

“Because I don’t think he knew it was there,” Miles replied. “He knew about the witches, but they’d never caused trouble before. They were warded, protected, well contained.”

“We did this?” Jordan said, turning pale. “Did we get Cliff killed?” Her voice held an edge.

Brian put his arms around her. “No. Whatever killed Cliff, it wasn’t us.”

Miles and Heath put salt and cumin around the edge of the grave, paying special attention to the building. No one felt like disturbing it.

The last members arrived. Marissa had gathered three others to sing with her. Her father would sing bass, Louisa handled alto and Andre sang tenor. They were just about to begin when another car pulled up. Chase hopped out, his father’s sister with him.

“I know I don’t have the skills,” she said. “But I felt like someone needed to be here from the blood, besides Chase. It feels important.”

“She’s right,” Maribelle said. “Thank you, Cynthia.”

“Cliff would want me to do anything I can to help.” She sniffled, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. She stood between Miles and Maribelle.

Chase took his place in the circle, standing between Brian and Marissa. Jackie, Sweet and Meru had fashioned a small altar opposite the invisible mausoleum. The singers gathered around them as they prepared the ingredients. At a nod from Jackie, they started to sing. Their voices rose in close knit harmony as Jackie and the others completed the intricate pattern of the spell.

The earth rumbled. Stones danced across the shattered ground. A low hum accompanied the music, creating loud, discordant notes. The singers didn’t falter, never lost pitch. Holding hands, they moved closer to the Casters, singing louder. With each note, the earth shook more, opening into a giant pit. Those standing on the edges couldn’t help stepping back as the dirt crumbled away. Only Brian stayed in place, willing the ground to support him. He wasn’t afraid of falling in. He was more concerned with what might come out.

Crossing in front of the mausoleum earlier, he’d been more afraid than he’d ever been in his life. Even battling Deidrich last year hadn’t scared him as much as that excruciating walk. Whatever dwelt inside was more evil than Mr. D. He didn’t know what it was yet, but he hoped he could vanquish it before it had a chance to destroy them all.

The earth drifted away like a giant sieve. Bits of metal and bone caught the light. Cynthia Finley gasped, clutching her shirt. She didn’t speak, but the expression on her face was enough. She’d had no idea that all this lurked beneath the yard of her childhood home.

Chase’s face was calmly resolute. Only the working of his jaw attested to his emotional state. Whatever lay beneath the ground had killed his father. He wanted revenge, but more than that, he wanted to keep anyone else from getting killed. As a football player, he knew that the best defense was sometimes a good offense. Boldly, he met Brian’s eye, nodding.

The song ended and the rumbling stopped. Jackie put out the smoldering flame of the altar fire and waited in silence. All eyes went to Brian. He wasn’t entirely sure what to do next, but he felt a warm glow on his right shoulder. Images flashed through his mind. Closing his eyes, he followed the movements he saw himself making.

Gasps of surprise made him open his eyes once more. Bits and pieces of bone, glass and metal rose from the pit, swirling above the broken ground. A layer of thick ash whirled just beneath it. This went on for several minutes. Everyone watched in silence until the last shimmering metallic piece rose from the dirt.

Brian closed the hole in the ground. Andre and Sweet rolled out a tarp. Slowly, gently, the artifacts dropped on top of it, landing in a neat pile. Brian nodded at Jackie. She brought the small metal bowl to the edge of the circle. Brian took it from her. He stepped over the line, expecting to feel the jolt he had before. Nothing happened. Taking another cautious step, he moved toward the heap. With little puffs of air, he moved the detritus into a smaller pile. Approaching cautiously, he poured the contents of the bowel evenly over the remains. Using more wind, he blended the potion into the ash, making a thick, lumpy glob. With care, he gathered all the dust with his mind, adding it to the ball. When he was done, he moved away, encouraging the others to do so.

The group took hands, chanting. The voices of the singers rose once more, supported by the chanting. Five minutes passed, six, seven. As the clock neared the eight minute mark, they saw a flicker of blue flame in the center of the ball of goo. It bubbled and fizzled, giving off a thick, oily black smoke, rising in a steady, unwavering column. The smell of burning tar filled the air.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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