Autumn – Chapter 1 – 02

            Thom’s cursing had tapered down to nothing by the time Matt and Phelan joined him under the pop-up tent at the center of the settlement’s construction zone.  He’d slumped into the folding chair near a makeshift desk and was scowling at the papers strewn across it, a pencil over his ear and another drumming irritably against the desktop.
            Phelan didn’t seem to notice the other man’s foul mood.  “Hey, Thom?  You guys drew a map of the proposed layout of the place, right?”
            Matt tried to smother a grimace as Thom looked sharply up at Phelan.  Here comes the wrath.
            “Rory’s got it right now,” Thom said.  His eyes narrowed.  “Why?”
            Phelan jerked a thumb toward Matt, who crossed his arms.  “We’re trying to find a spot to set up a forge for Matt.”
            “A forge?”  Thom glanced at Matt, sour expression melting into a quizzical look.  “Like you made noises about a few weeks ago?”
            I did mention something about that a few weeks ago, didn’t I?  When I had them haul the anvil back.  Matt nodded.  “Yeah, something like that.  Phelan’s going to help me get my shit together.”
            Thom’s gaze flicked to Phelan.  Matt rocked back against his heels as the ghost of a smile flitted across Thom’s expression.
            Shit.  Does he actually like Phelan?  That was unexpected.  Matt was fairly sure that the two men wouldn’t get along, given everything that Phelan claimed, everything that he represented—for Thom, for all of them.
            Then again, Thom seemed different since Phelan had come, but Matt had chalked that up to the engagement.  Now he stood there, staring at his brother-to-be, and felt confusion bubbling up from somewhere deep in his belly.  “Anyway,” Matt said, breaking the awkward momentary silence, “do you have any suggestions?  About where we should maybe grid out a space?  There’s room, right?”
            “Oh, yeah.  Of course there’s room.”  Thom pushed himself upright with a wince and reached for his crutches.  “Come on, I’ll show you a spot I think might work out.  Pretty close to one of the dorms, so we’ll be able to salvage some bricks, too.”  His brows knit and he paused in the process of getting his crutches under his arms.  “Tala said something about maybe putting together a brick oven later, but I’m not sure if she was talking about one to bake bricks or bread.  Maybe I should’ve asked her.”  He shrugged slightly and waved a dismissive hand before he started to limp out from the small tent and into the autumn sunshine.  Weeks of rain had left the ground sodden, though it was slowly starting to dry out as days passed, sunny and breezy.
            “Well, that’s a relief,” Matt said.  At least I think it is.  Neither he nor Phelan had to hurry to keep up with Thom’s limping gait as he led them toward the rear of the gridded-out settlement, past the makeshift shelters of storage sheds salvaged from the local home improvement warehouse.  They were still laying additional roofing over the clusters of those and debating how to insulate them against the coming Michigan winter—no one knew how much time they’d have before that hit.
            Beyond where Thom had made noises about building the bathhouse, a few dozen yards from the well, Thom stopped walking.  He turned back to the other two and leaned against one crutch, a trace of pain crossing through his expression as his ribs probably protested against the shifting of his weight.  “What about right here?”
            Phelan immediately began to pace the area, muttering to himself under his breath.  He crouched, checking the grade, touched the ground to check the drainage, then bounced back to his feet and apparently began doing mental calculations, gesturing mostly to himself as he seemed to map out the forge they were thinking about building.  Matt just watched him, dumbfounded.
            Either he knows what he’s about, or he’s completely out of his mind, and so am I for asking his advice in the first place.  The fact that Phelan has mostly volunteered his supposed expertise momentarily escaped Matt’s notice as Thom edged closer, watching Phelan with as much morbid fascination as Matt.
            “So what brought up the whole forge issue?” Thom murmured, still leaning more on one crutch than the other, probably to make it easier to keep weight off his bad ankle.
            Matt frowned for a moment. Bah. He’s not going to get upset over wanting to defend ourselves against whatever’s out there. We both know it. Still, he said, “Are you sure you want to know?”
            Thom smiled ruefully.  “Maybe not, but I’m asking anyway.  Out with it.”
            After another moment of silent indecision, Matt just shook his head.  “Weapons.  God knows we need them for when those things come back for another stab at us.”
            Thom’s lips thinned. “Because we know they’ll come,” he murmured, shivering slightly.  Matt put a hand on his arm.
            “You okay?”
            “Yeah,” Thom said quietly, his eyes on Phelan.  “Just thinking. The damned things talked to me, Matt.  That day your sister almost died?  It talked to me and then it laughed at me.  That’s not going to happen again.”
            Shivers shot down Matt’s spine. Shit and goddamn. “Does Marin know?”
            “No.  Just Jay and Phelan.  Now you.  It stays that way until I say otherwise.”
            “Right,” Matt said quietly, marveling at how much his relationship with Thom had changed in a matter of days since the end of the world they’d known. Matt had to admit that it was easier on all of them when he and Thom were getting along instead of fighting about stupid, petty things like whether or not Matt thought Thom was good enough for his big sister, or what aspects of said equation were his business.
            No, being friends with Thom was better, even if it wasn’t always easier.
            “Weapons are a good idea,” Thom said quietly, still watching Phelan.  “Any advantage we can get over anyone and anything else is good for the long run in my book.”  His gaze flicked away momentarily, toward where some of the others were working on laying additional roofing over their shelters.  “We’ve still got a lot of work to do, and fewer hands to do it than before.”
            “It’ll get done,” Matt said, trying to inject as much confidence as possible into his voice.  “It’s got to if we’re going to live long enough for everything you and Marin have seen to come true.”
            He regretted the words as soon as they came out of his mouth, and winced as Thom winced.
            “Well,” Thom said quietly, “most of them, anyway.”
            Matt put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently.  “We won’t let anything happen to her, Thom.  Not everything has to be, right?”
            “Yeah,” Thom said, then shook himself, looking at Phelan.  “Well?  Will it work or won’t it?”
            Phelan looked up from gesturing to himself and pacing.  “Huh?  Oh, yeah.  I think it will.  We’ll just have to do a little work on it, that’s all.  We’ll have to build up a little mound and lay some foundation work and—”
            “Fine,” Thom said, turning to go.  “We’ll discuss the particulars after dinner.  I’ve got some stuff I have to check on.”
            As Thom limped away, Phelan dusted his hands off on the seat of his jeans and shot Matt a quizzical look.
            “What’s wrong with him?”
            “Just something I said,” Matt muttered, damning himself for a fool.
            One step forward, two steps back.  If Marin finds out, she’ll take a piece out of my hide for it.
            Of course, his sister would never find out, because that was the one secret that Thom didn’t have the guts to tell her.  No matter how much he loved her—no matter how much anyone loved another person—it was a terrifying thing to tell them that you had trouble believing in your own visions because you saw their death and couldn’t bear it.
            Matt sighed and shook his head, then started following in Thom’s wake, Phelan on his heels.

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7 Responses to Autumn – Chapter 1 – 02

  1. A funny thing happened yesterday while I was working on next week’s updates. I started Chapter 2, which I didn’t intend to start so quickly (Chapter 1 was not meant to be as short as it’s going to be!), but I think it’ll work and we’ll get a taste of what’s going on elsewhere starting Friday next week.

  2. samael ninetails says:

    as usual, erin your writing is what i like to call “cool beans covered in awesome sauce” – which is a good thing btw 🙂

    happy nu yr!

  3. Antonious says:

    Ah yes. Nothing like the occasional emotional landmine to remind us of how precarious our stability is. I often wonder if Thom’s insistence on protecting Marin from the landmine of his dire vision is a good thing. I may be reading too much into what has gone before, but has not action taken with regard to visions had the effect of guiding the events of the vision to less destructive results? Could this same effect be applied to Thom’s vision if the knowledge of the events in the vision become known to those who may be able to take appropriate action when the time comes?

    • Your logic is sound…but part of Thom’s problem is he doesn’t know what he has to prevent from happening in order to stop certain visions from coming to pass. Marin kind of knew what she needed to do in order to shift her own array (ie, get Thom to believe in his own visions again) and had quite a bit of help on that front.

      • Antonious says:

        Hopefully with Phelan’s help, the group can cajole Thom into telling what he has seen in his visions. With more people knowing what Thom has seen, someone can spot points that can be planned for or against. I seem to remember stories of an ancient world general or king the used Cassandra type seers more in the way of planning intelligence sources than prophecy sources. He would repeatedly petition the seers for visions and compare them with previous visions to see what his efforts might have done to change what appeared in the visions.

        • Yup, that’s a theme that pops up in a lot of Greek mythology, at the very least. I’m not entirely certain of generals and kings who can be confirmed as having done it, but I imagine there must be some stories about Alexander the Great doing things like that, among others.

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