Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Janus Dominion (formerly Reverse Haunting) – Kevin: 5

The sound of rain pitter patters on the roof and the side of the cabin as the wind lightly blows.  It seems to rain on a fairly regular basis in the area.  Sometimes it rains heavily up river and the only evidence is the water level slightly above the watermarks that have painted themselves on the trunks of trees lucky enough to have grown near the bank.

As Kevin slowly opens his eyes, the sound of the rain remains the same as it did in his half-awakened state.  What surprises him is the fact that he is standing right outside of Jenn’s room.  Have I been stuck here?  How long has it been?  As Kevin looks around the living room, he notices a certain dreariness about it.  The room is definitely messier than it was before he went to sleep.  The pile of clothing is also back on the floor near the kitchen.  He can’t tell whether or not it is a new pile, but the clothes are definitely Jenn’s.

Nasty bitch.

Kevin steps over food wrappers and trash as he makes his way to the couch.  He sits there pondering whether or not he trashed the place during some kind of sleepwalking fit.  A more troubling thought is that Jenn did it when he and Juan were sleep, after failing to figure out what they were secretly meeting about.  Kevin was never one to keep secrets from friends, but has grown to favor them in response to Jenn’s behavior.

A roach sneaks across the end table next to the couch.  Kevin’s hand reflexively moves with blinding speed to smash the unsuspecting creature.  For a second, he feels a bit of dizziness hit him as he looks at the hand that’s still covering the mass of guts and exoskeleton.  His hand looks as if it belongs to someone else and his fingernails look completely black.  He blinks and everything returns to normal.  I must be still waking up.

Kevin almost wipes his hand on his clothes but instead heads to the kitchen.  Both sinks are full, so he has to shift dishes around to wash his hands.  The awful smell coming from the sink almost makes him gag.  Pale green fuzz is growing on some of the dishes.  Kevin dries his hands on his pants because he wouldn’t dare touch one of the dish towels on the counter for fear of what might be lurking inside them.  Kevin almost grabs a broom to clean up a bit but grudgingly tears himself away from the thought.  He imagines Juan in a karategi wagging an admonishing finger at him.  Staying on task is important if he is going to complete his investigation before Jenn awakens.

Kevin grabs a lantern-style flashlight as well as a heavy black, tactical flashlight.  The tactical part would be useless as a blunt force weapon against the wispy shadow creatures.  The light part makes it much easier to see them at night although they still rarely appear after dark.

He thinks about taking Jenn’s gun, which would be even more useless as a weapon than the flashlight.  If he happens to encounter a hostile person and doesn’t have a gun, he would be less likely to thin the already small human population.  There is also the small matter of waking Jenn to open the locked drawer where it rests.  Earlier that day, Jenn insinuated that Kevin might hurt her or Juan, so there is no question about it being locked.

Kevin abandons that thought and grabs a few other survivalist provisions that might prove useful should he find himself lost in the woods.  The junk food he stuffs in the bag might last a few days at least.  He fills a large thermos with fresh water although the constant rain should provide plenty of water if it comes to that.  The lighter he was using earlier is still in his pocket.  The last important item he needs is his raincoat hanging from a hook behind the bathroom door.

Kevin passes Jenn’s door and pauses as he peers through the small crack.  He thinks about getting her camera, which is beside her bed in the same locked drawer as her gun.  If he finds something compelling in the woods, photographic evidence would be useful.  No, I can’t chance it.  I can’t pick that lock without waking her.  What else is in that drawer that requires locking and a hidden key?  He grunts softly and hastily snatches his raincoat off the door and puts it on.  Jenn stirs momentarily, so he picks up the backpack and puts it on more quietly.

Kevin feels weighted down by the full backpack as he walks across the porch, down the path and out the gate.  He prefers being able to move quickly, if necessary, but he knows this is not a 'move quickly' kind of mission.  He must take his time and be methodical for as long as he can.  As he walks down the road, his boots sometimes make a sucking sound as he lifts them.  The mud is thicker than expected in some places.  The middle of the road is still a little stonier, so he drifts there.  Gripping the cold, steel body of the black flashlight tightly, he marks the path ahead with the intense beam.  The rain hitting the hood of his raincoat almost taps out a cadence to which he marches.  He realizes his teeth are tightly clenched to the point of almost grinding as he takes each step.

He eventually reaches the first major curve in the road and looks back at the cabin one last time before it becomes hidden behind the dense forest on the other side of the curve.  As he rounds it, the infamous ‘Keep Out’ sign becomes visible.  The main road would sort of fork at this point, if the trail wasn’t hidden.  The overgrown trail is much wider than the few hiking trails he has been on.

Kevin pauses in front of the sign in a way similar to how he paused in front of Jenn’s door earlier.   He shines the flashlight on the path and looks at the branches and vines that were clearly placed on it.  The light also illuminates the weather-beaten sign.  The paint is cracked and completely gone in some places.  The letters ‘P’ and ‘T’ are partially missing because of rotting wood where the paint wore away long ago.  Smudges of dirt and mud are all over it.  He wonders if it is possible that someone had recently made this sign, and it only looks really old.  Jenn has some art skills, but there’s no way she is that good.

He sets the flashlight by a tree and aims it in his direction as he clears the loose foliage.  He has a hard time gripping some of the branches in the rain.  After finishing, he picks up the flashlight and starts making his way down the forbidden lane.  The trail is wider than he expects.  Although tall grass has grown over it, the grass is much higher in the middle than on the sides, and no shrubs or bushes are growing on it.  Kevin walks slower than his usual pace as he scans from side to side with the flashlight.  ‘Slow’ is not his thing, but he keeps reminding himself, Slow and methodical, slow and methodical.

The bright beam sweeps from the trees on one side of the path to the path itself and then to the other side.  The overgrowth is very thick on both sides with some branches hanging so low across the road, Kevin has to duck to get under them.  He gets the eerie feeling that the forest is slowly enveloping the path behind him as he walks further down it.  The thought almost makes him turn around to check behind him, but he realizes how ridiculous that would be.  The only sounds are the rain hitting the leaves and his raincoat and the slosh of his boots when one hits a puddle hidden in the grass.  There’s no rustling or creaking of trees coming to life and closing in on him, but he feels like he really needs to look behind him every now and then.

He quickly turns around, allowing the light to halfway strobe like a lighthouse beam and rest slightly above the trail a few yards away.  Kevin starts to panic as he sees a wall of trees, but then remembers that the trail curved a couple of times.  The tall grass is disturbed, in places, by his careful treading.  The view is quite unremarkable although he is surprised by how far he has walked beyond the battered sign.  He becomes the lighthouse again and spins around to continue his journey.  As the flashlight beam passes a patch of grass up ahead, what he sees makes the hair on the back of his neck stand up.  Something white darts out of the light and into the woods.  Kevin freezes and grips the flashlight tightly with both hands.

Whatever that was, is large enough to do some damage if it is an animal.  Maybe it was just a coyote or a stray dog.  Kevin’s efforts to reassure himself fail as he feels the goosebumps spread to his shoulders and arms.  He walks forward as he shines the flashlight on the patch of grass where it first appeared and the tree where it darted.  He gives the patch of grass where the thing appeared a wide berth and shines the light on that spot as well as the place where it made its exit.  The patch of wet grass looks completely undisturbed.  The light can’t penetrate the dense foliage, so it is difficult to see very far into the woods where it may have gone.  After spending a minute, unsuccessfully, trying to get a good angle to shine light through the wall of leaves and bark, he gives up and continues along the path.

As he walks, he encounters a sharper curve.  Before the adrenalin from the previous sighting can completely wear off, he encounters another shocker just around the bend.  Some of the grass stops abruptly or at least appears to.  Closer inspection reveals tracts of grass on each side of the road flattened in the mud and worn away.  The grass in between these tracts is still long although more slanted than the grass he had already been walking through.  He doesn’t need to be an expert tracker to know what it looks like when someone has been repeatedly driving a car on a muddy road.

Anger wells up in him as he continues down what clearly is a road and not a wide path.  It is only slightly narrower than the main road leading to the cabin.  Kevin’s anger causes him to forget about the fast white thing.  Jenn fucking knows someone with a working car and didn’t tell us?  He can see tread marks in places where the grass is thinner.  These tracks are fresh.  He speeds up his pace, anxious to find out where the tracks lead.  He doesn’t get far before hearing the sound of wet footsteps behind him.

Kevin turns around and the light immediately lands on something that makes him scream.  Standing in the center of the road is a tall slender girl in all white.  Her wet, blonde hair covers most of her face in stringy tendrils.  She is wearing a halter top and a white, knee-high skirt that is much frayed at the bottom.  She has no shoes on and her skin is as pale white as the clothes she’s wearing.  He start to walk toward her to see if she needs help, but there’s something about her that seems off.  It makes him walk back a couple of steps.  The weight of his backpack is more noticeable now than ever.

“Don’t go,” the woman says, “I…”  She mumbles something as her voice trails off.

The girl is staggers toward him in a way that is oddly quick as her feet make a slapping sound on the muddy road.  She mumbles the same unintelligible words as she reaches toward him with both hands.  Kevin quickens his backward pace but she closes the gap easily.  He thinks about turning around to run.  What if she really needs some help?  If she is dangerous, I’m pretty sure I can handle myself against a girl who is probably 120 pounds soaking wet.  That’s when he realizes what seems so off-kilter.  Now that she is closer he can see that her skin and hair are all wet, but her clothes are completely dry, even as the rain comes down harder.  Before Kevin can turn and run, she throws her arms around his neck and practically hangs from it.  As she looks up at him, her hair shifts, revealing a face that makes him shudder.



Copyright 2018 Darrell Winfrey