A Thing Greatly Feared, Chapter 23

“Sara? … Sara, are you alright?”

Sara sat stiff, her frightened eyes staring into a realm only she knew existed; the folder remained in her lap, the small note clutched in her hands.

Darrel tried again. “Sara?”

Wade was scared. This was just like when she’d told them about seeing the creature – her fear, and the sense he got from being around her in that condition; everything felt the same. He looked around at all the windows to see if any orange eyes were peeking in, but the blinds were drawn. What could it be?

“Sara? Please talk to me. What’s wrong?”

Darrell’s pleas were answered at last when Sara rose, dropping the folder on the floor, and walked towards the door. As concerned as Darrell was for her, he was then struck with another worry: She can’t go barging outside! There might be someone watching!

“Sara, hold on!” he whispered as he sprung after her. He caught her arm just as she was opening the door. “Sara, wait, please. I wanna talk with you.”

She resigned herself to him and stood like a limp doll as Darrell shut the door.

“Hey, Wade. Photocopy everything in that folder, then photocopy everything that’s in that private binder.”

Darrell looked at the sad creature in front of him. Her posture hadn’t changed, but her shoulders now heaved with sobbing, and her hands kept going to her eyes to wipe them clear. She was a little girl whose dog had died, or who had lost her favorite toy, only Darrell knew that this was about something far more serious.

“Sara … what’s wrong?”

She fingered the note for a moment, then held it out to Darrell; he took it and read it. A part of him collapsed.

“This is your uncle … isn’t it?”

She nodded, still looking at the ground.

“And … he’s involved in this, isn’t he?”

For a moment she hesitated, then nodded vigorously as the sobs came harder and louder.

“He tried to kill me, he tried to … kill me.”

“Sara, Sara, you don’t know that. That creature might’ve just been passing through. Wrong place, wrong time, you know?”

She shook her head. “He tried to … .”

“No, Sara, come on.”

As with the first time he saw her break down, he wanted to go to her and console her, but even though he knew her better now, something still held him back.

“Sara– ”

“I … I know this doesn’t look good … my own uncle.” She spoke through sniffles and sobs.

“No, Sara. I don’t think you’re involved in this in any way.”

“No, I’m not, but … I … . When you first mentioned land, that land was involved, I … had a thought about … my Uncle Vernon – not that he was the one, but that … .” But she failed to finish before a fresh wave of grief washed over her.

“Sara, it’s okay. We’ll go back to your house and talk about it more, alright? I think we’re done here anyway.”

She nodded.

“No, wait,” she said. “Can we … go to your house instead? I just … don’t want to go back to my place right now.”

“Okay. … I’ll grab Wade and we’ll go.”

* * *

“Hank. Haa-aaank.”


“Hank, it’s me.”

Hank didn’t know who “me” was, but it was the most pleasant voice he’d ever heard.

“What do you want?”

“You owe me fifty cents.”

He was confused, but he thought he could sit there all day and listen to that sweet voice. “For what?”

“For the paper.”

“The paper?”

“Yeah. Why haven’t you paid me?”

Hank flinched; the voice seemed to have changed a bit – a touch of coldness, perhaps?

“Why haven’t you helped me?” Yes, there was disappointment, even anger now.

“Why didn’t you help me?!” Malice. “Where were you when I needed you?!” The voice had become icicles – pointed, steely teeth clamping down on him.

“Where were you?!”

“Aaah!” Hank bolted up from sleep, then – “Urr! – tipped back over from the pain of sudden movement. His face contorted, and he whimpered and groaned, drawing in sharp breaths around daggerlike spasms – but it was hard to tell precisely where each hurt was coming from, as the physical pain now mingled with grief.

“Molly,” he whimpered.

He lied back down, crying, the darkness now complete.

* * *

The drive back to Darrell’s was the worst trip any of them had ever taken. Sara was riding shotgun (though she wished right then that this adventure was one she could have avoided), trying to maintain some semblance of togetherness about herself; Darrell just drove, except for looking over at Sara once in a while; and Wade sat between them, petrified – as much by his father’s silence as by the debilitated state of Miss Kremshaw. When they at last pulled into Darrell’s driveway, their arrival was like that of a funeral procession at a cemetery.

As they climbed out of the truck, they each felt that they would’ve given a lot right then to have the silence broken, but once they were inside and it came time to talk, they each felt that they would’ve given a lot to not know what they were now learning.

“Wade, why don’t you go into your room for a while, okay?” said Darrell.

Wade began to leave in silent obedience; his comfort level was miles below that of typical teenage awkwardness, and he relished the chance to get away and be by himself.

“No, wait,” said Sara. “He’s been with us throughout this, doing more than I would expect a student to do, and he knows that there’s something the matter with me … please let him stay.”

Darrell paused a moment, and Wade stopped in dreadful disbelief, hoping his dad wouldn’t change his mind.

“Alright,” said Darrell, and with a nod he motioned Wade to come join him.

Wade felt his cheerlessness sink to a new low as he took a seat beside his dad on the couch, while Sara sat down like a board on the edge of one of the chairs, still sniffing. Neither Wade nor Darrell had seen her look up since they left Schaeffer’s.

“I, um … I guess there are some things I need to tell you,” said Sara.

“Okay,” said Darrell. “We’re listening.”

“First of all, I really don’t know anything that’s going on … with the creature … only what you know. But … .” She took a deep breath and exhaled. “My uncle– well, to start off, let me say that my own family was never very religious. We sometimes went to church on important occasions, but my family’s idea of religion was to be good people and not swear often.” She gave a small chuckle, and Darrell’s mouth turned upward just a bit, but Wade sat like a block of big-eyed wood. “Anyway, we were all impressed with my Uncle Vernon when we met him, and we thought he made a fine addition to the family, especially my parents – my Mum was so happy for her sister.

“But one night, when I was still a young girl, I was down in our basement after my bedtime; I left the lights off and snuck down there with a flashlight to search for my Christmas presents – I knew that Mum and Dad kept them hidden down there. So I was searching for them in the back corner behind the stairs when all of a sudden a light came on – the light to the stairwell. I panicked like the girl I was, but I knew enough to keep my head about me, so I tucked myself behind some boxes. I expected the main light in the basement to come on any second – I was sure my parents had discovered my room empty and had come looking for me – but it never came. I heard a few muffled sounds but couldn’t figure out what was going on, so after a minute or two the curiosity became too much, and I poked my head above the boxes to see what was happening.

“The light from the stairwell shone into the basement enough for me to see that it was my Uncle Vernon – he and my aunt were staying with us on holiday – but he was … dressed in a … black cloak, and he was setting up something on a little table not far from the stairs.” She looked up – and at them – for the first time. “He lit some candles … and there might’ve been some other objects that he was doing something with; I couldn’t tell for sure. … Then he pulled up his hood … and he raised his hands and started chanting quietly … and after a few minutes he– he levitated.” She looked down again.

“After that, he looked like he was meditating, and then … then it sounded like– no, I know he was talking to somebody … but there was no one around. And then he left after a while. … But he and my aunt were staying with us two more nights after that, so I snuck down there both those nights … and he showed up each time, doing the same thing.

“A part of me was fascinated – curious, you know? – but mostly I was scared; I had this feeling that something terrible – even … evil – was going on. But I didn’t know what to do. Funny thing – at twelve years, I was old enough to recognize a problem, but too young to know how to solve it. Anyway, after my aunt and uncle left, I did a bit of personal investigating, such as I could at that age … and … I found out from a library book at school that my uncle was practicing Wicca – witchcraft, paganism, whatever you want to call it – but I was too scared to ever tell my parents about it. Maybe they already knew; I don’t know.” She was now looking off to one side with a wistful expression.

“But one thing I do know is that I never again felt comfortable around my Uncle Vernon, and no matter how fuzzy those memories got, they always came back clear at times. … No, never got comfortable – not with the passing of time, not when he gave me the house and land … and not when I heard his voice on my answering machine today.”


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