A Thing Greatly Feared, Chapter 24

Caledonian Pine forest and stream near Loch an...

The stream James began following. ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“So … Sara … are you saying that witchcraft is involved in what’s been going on here in town?”

“Well I can’t say for sure, Darrell, but that’s my suspicion.”

“Like he’s using witchcraft to control this creature?”

She nodded. “Maybe.”

“Sara, I– I’m sorry for all this. I’m sorry that all this has come down on you.”

“Yes, well … at least we now know what’s going on, so we can try to do something about it.”

“But Dad, what can we do? I just realized that even if Uncle Hank or Mr. Morgan kills that creature, what if her uncle has another one? It seems like it could be a neverending cycle, ’specially since we ain’t even got the law on our side.”

“You might be right, but we do have some options.”

“Such as?”

“Well, the law in this town isn’t on our side, but we have James – he used to be in law enforcement, so maybe he has contacts who could help us out – police in other towns, for example. We also have this curious connection with Mr. John Schaeffer that I’d like to follow up on.”

“The real estate man?” said Sara.

“Yeah. Maybe he’s got something we could use against– ” He looked at Sara. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound so harsh.”

“No, no, that’s alright. I mean, it’s not as if it’s my Mum or Dad; and he needs to be stopped.”

Darrell was glad she felt that way, but still he hesitated before continuing, not wanting to say anything that would upset her more.

“Like I was saying, I’d like to talk with Mr. Schaeffer; he might have some useful information. And then there’s the matter of educating ourselves.”

“What do you mean?” said Sara.

“Well, I presume that none of us has any experience with the occult.” He looked at Wade and Sara, who shook their heads. “Then we need to learn as much as we can about it.”

“You want to study witchcraft, Dad?”

“Know your enemy, son. The devils on the prowl; we need to arm ourselves.”

* * *

James tramped through the woods. Yes, he knew that it was evening, dark, and that being out in the woods at night with that creature roaming free didn’t seem like the best idea – but it wasn’t his idea. He had stoked the fires and gone to bed in his tent – quite early because he planned on getting up with the sun – but before long woke up with the image of a dream still fresh in his mind.

He had been told to go. He hadn’t been told where, just to go – though he was sure this at least meant “get up, pack, and head farther into the woods.” So that’s what he did: he packed, doused the fires, and  headed deeper into the woods with the help of the moon, and his flashlight when necessary.

It wasn’t long before he came upon a rocky stream that shone liquidy silver in the stark moonlight. The water glided, flowed – a living, breathing piece of art – over smooth rocks it had been polishing for centuries. He stared at the spectacle for several moments, caught up in the sight, then felt a tap on the shoulder of his mind.

He saw that the stream was flowing to his left.

As good a direction to start as any.

And so he went, following along on this side of the stream, managing to stay close to the water – not only for direction but for the light of the open sky above it in many places.

He went on in this way for what seemed to him quite a long while, and he estimated that he had covered a good distance, stopping just a few short times. The gurgling of the stream he considered his lone disadvantage, so he made a habit of taking extra peeks in every direction, in case anything had a mind to sneak up on him.

He came to a thick spot and flicked on his flashlight to help find his way around it.

“Grealf! Rawrrrralf!”

He shut off the light, stuck in his tracks.

Same as before. And it’s getting closer.

* * *

“Grealf! Rawrrrralf!”

Hank lay on his back, staring at the sky. He’d already been awake, contemplating his misery: How could this have happened? But he never flinched at the threatening sound. Oh, he heard it, alright. Heard it clear as day, and he knew what it was that made the sound.

But he’d gone beyond the realm of scared.

That thing owns me – could’ve had me once, could’ve had me twice; why not now? Third time’s a charm. An’ I ain’t in no condition to fight. I could shoot, but I gotta see it to shoot at it, an’ it’s never seen unless it wants to be. … It’s sneaky; snuck up on me before, it could sneak up on me now, have my head in a vice fore I even lay eyes on my gun. … But why worry? I’m here, it’s there; soon it’ll be here an’ I’ll get what I deserve.

That’s right, you will, ’cause you were a coward.

I was a coward then.

And you’re a coward now.

An’ I’m a coward now.

You should’ve known that it would go after a person sooner or later.

I should’ve known it’d go after someone sooner or later; why stick to sheep and horses?

But it’s too late now.

It’s too late now, though.

You missed your chance – chances.

I missed my chance – chances.

I think you’ll die now.

I think I’ll–

You’ll die now.

I’ll–

You’ll die now!

A tiny particle floated, flickering, through his mind, his heart – through him. And he couldn’t bring himself to think that last horrible thought that he’d thought of thinking.

Then he remembered the growl he’d heard just a minute ago. He remembered where he was, what position he was in, just what was out there – and that it was after him. Fear returned. Adrenaline flowed through him once again, and his senses seemed to be back on. He checked his guns: loaded, ready to go. He cradled them against his body, then laid his head back and sighed.

* * *

“Maybe now’s the right time to ask those questions I’ve been meaning to ask,” said Sara.

“Okay,” said Darrell. “As long as you’re comfortable.”

She looked down at her feet. “I am. I’m just not sure where to begin. I’ve never done anything like this before.”

“Start anywhere. Whatever’s the first thing that comes into your mind.”

“Alright, well … the first thing in my mind just now … is love.” She looked at Darrell, expecting him to say something, some word of guidance or affirmation, but his response was a simple nod, though his eyes never left her.

“What I mean is, you all have shown such courtesy – and I don’t mean a simple case of holding the door for me; you’ve shown me great hospitality, opening your home to me, keeping me company, making the effort to know me in the first place. You’ve been real friends – something I’ve never had before – and I want to know why.”

“I’m glad you asked me something I’m able to answer.” A small chuckle rippled across the room. “The easiest way to explain it is this: Treat people the way you want to be treated.”

“Isn’t that … the Golden Rule?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s something I’ve always tried to follow.”

“Good. But did you know it comes from the Bible?”

“No.”

“Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us; it’s only fitting that we should show others the same love He showed us.”

“But … He didn’t have to do that. I mean, it was a choice.”

“I know,” said Darrell.

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