Second Dead

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Chapter 45: Strange interlude

“It’s as light out as it’s going to get,” Chris said, peering through the curtains.

“Come on.” Theo helped me from the couch. “You’ll want to see this.”

Susan ran to the window. “Nothing.” She let the heavy curtain drop.

Theo explained while he led me to the door. “We haven’t seen any moaners since we crossed the highway. Creepy, right?”

“What about Aunt Mary?”

“Well, they were trapped in the house.”

Theo led me outside. It was dark, not the blackness of the dead of night, but like the deep gloom of nightfall.

“What’s the time?” I asked Theo.

“Quarter after eight. The sun’s been up for a half hour.”

Theo stopped at the gable and pointed to a set of bells. “Touch those.”

I was astonished to be shocked by a minor jolt of electricity.

“It’s everywhere,” Theo said while we walked onto the driveway.

“The morning cometh, and also the night,” I murmured.

“What?”

“The hour’s close at hand.” I turned my gaze upward.

Theo’s brow furrowed and he looked pained. “You lost me.”

Dark and gray, the sky churned thick and suffocating. The clouds defied all reasonable laws of nature while they swirled. Clouds rotate for sure, but not like this. Nature did not move with such a sense of purpose, of hidden portent.

Hurricane force winds could not account for the speed with which the clouds roiled. Despite the tumult in the skies, here on the driveway nary a wisp stirred. Not even the tiniest flutter disturbed the thick carpet of leaves.

Unnatural as the clouds were, the lightning appeared even more anomalous. This was as unlike a thunderstorm as could be conceived. The lightning defied comprehension. Great bolts of voltaic discharge stretched from the ground to the clouds, thicker and brighter blue than seemed possible.

A massive bolt flashed in the distance. I watched, awestruck, while the electrical discharge continued for long seconds after any reasonable flash should. High in the clouds where the lightning disappeared into the firmament, a blue corona spread. Only after more than half the sky glowed did the discharge wear out. The blue radiance faded, replaced by another. Thunder reverberated across the land and shook the ground.

“I’ve seen this before, in my--” Thunder rolled across the driveway.

“Dreams? Yeah, we kind of figured,” Chris said when the rumbles subsided.

Such a display of might and grandeur was worthy of any Wagnerian opera. Here raged the storm of the gods themselves, the end times, the Gotterdammerung resplendently conjured into corporeal existence.

“It’s beautiful,” I shouted.

“Yeah well, let it grow on you a bit and you might change your mind,” Chris yelled over the thunder.

Whispers floated through my mind. The voices remained just past my ability to comprehend. Yet they filled me with a sense of foreboding.

“Great danger approaches.” Blank expressions met my utterance. I glanced from Susan to Chris and lastly Theo. It was clear they were frightened, but not nearly frightened enough.

“I need to talk to Mom,” I said, unable to explain to myself why.

“Ummm,” Chris stammered.

“Where’s Mom?” I demanded.

“She’s with Dad,” Susan answered unhelpfully.

I turned to Theo. “Where’s my mother?”

“She -- she thought you were dead.”

“So did I. The book made it seem like a life for a life.”

“Yeah, well after you didn’t die, your mom said you were Troi something.”

Giữa Trời và đất,” Susan said.

“Between heaven and earth,” I whispered. Dread gripped me.

“Yeah, I guess. The thing is, she decided you were in danger. So she -- she....”

“She what, Theo?”

“She went after you.”

“No!” I stumbled back to the house. Heedless, I ran from room to room and called for my mother.

Dad stood at the door to a bedroom. I pushed him aside.

He exclaimed, “Anna, you’re awake.”

Mom was not tied up. My father could not bring himself to do that. I sat on the bed. My hands trembled while I took her hand in mine and turned it over to reveal her wrist. Breathing a sigh of relief, I did the same with the other arm.

“What did she do?” I asked no one in particular. I sat on the bed slumped over and stared at the carpet.

“Mom mixed the medicine,” Susan said.

I closed my eyes to be greeted with the now familiar whispers. Sharper and it seemed, familiar, they remained frustratingly beyond my grasp.

I stood up from the bed and whirled on Dad. “We’ve got to get out of here. Now. Before it’s too late.”

“Anna, I can’t believe you’re okay,” Dad said, slow on the uptake.

“Yes, Father, I’m alive. Now hurry, we have to move.”

“Why?” he asked, struggling to catch up with our conversation.

“We’re in danger as long as we stay here.”

“Have you spotted a herd?” he turned and asked Chris.

“No,” I replied.

“Then what?”

“I don’t know.” I groaned in frustration.

Dad stared at me, sympathy in his eyes. He sighed. “Okay, Anna, when your mom and Laura recover we’ll move out to the quarry.”

“No. Now!”

“Anna, we’re safe here, trust me. My dad fixed the place up real solid.”

“Mom’s in danger,” I yelled.

“We can protect her and everyone else right here,” Dad shot back, anger rising in his voice.

“Can you protect her soul?”

“Anna, what are you talking about?”

“Evil, Father. I don’t know what it is, but I know if Mom is caught Giữa Trời và đất she will be lost forever.”

“Anna.” Dad sighed. “You’ve been poisoned, been delirious with fever for three days. You need to calm down. You’ve obviously not recovered. This isn’t you, Anna. You’re talking nonsense. You’ve been stressed for the last several months and it’s taken its toll. Think about what you’re saying.”

I was about to scream, to rage at the foolish old man in front of me when Mom thrashed on her bed. “Annabel. Decider.”

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