Autumn – Chapter 2 – 01

            “Bloody hell.”  She shoved her hands into a bowl of cold water, cursing under her breath.  First her eye, now her hands?  How paranoid were these people?
            Gray crossed his arms, staring at her.  “Now what?”
            “Practically set the mirror on fire, that’s what,” Terézia Ramsay growled, taking her hands slowly out of the bowl to inspect them for blisters in the making.  “First it’s like someone threw a handful of sand in my eye, and then blazing hot mirror?  What are these people?”
            “You’re the one scrying for other sensitives, Teca.  Don’t tell me you didn’t expect something like this to happen.”
            She almost threw the mirror at him.  Is he blasé about everything, or am I just blessed with the brunt of his apathy?  “Thank you, Gray, I really needed someone to point out that it could be dangerous to do what I’m doing.  Thank you very much for telling me it’s my own damned fault.”
            His brow arched.  “Are you saying it’s not?”
            All right, he’s got you there. “Just shut up.”  She touched the mirror cautiously, lightly.  It was cool again, unlike the scalding heat that she’d felt while scrying on the concentration of sensitives somewhere west of them.  She lifted it and inspected the cloth below.  Scorched in a ring around where the mirror had lain, but otherwise serviceable.  She put the mirror back down, then wrapped it in the cloth and left it on the table, sighing as she stood up.
            Gray just smirked a little and stepped out of the tiny room inside the lodge.
            There were twelve of them here.  More than half had come up together, a group of friends on a retreat.  Then there was a pair of hikers and a widower with his two kids.  All of them had proved to have varying levels of sensitivity.  They’d been lucky to find each other and later the abandoned lodge up here in the park.
            They hadn’t seen anyone else alive in the last month, since they managed to duck a biker gang cruising through, apparently looking for resources of some kind or another.  They’d bypassed this area of the park, and the two that had spotted them had been mercifully ignored.  They’d all known, though, somehow, that there were more survivors out there—maybe dozens, maybe hundreds, but they were out there.
            So Terézia began looking, over the objections of some of their friends.
            She emerged into the lodge’s main room and glanced toward the large windows at the front end.  The sky was gray above the trees and it looked chill.  Kess was sitting by the fire with a pile of fabric in her lap and a needle in her hand.  She looked up at the sound of the door’s opening and peered at Terézia.
            “Gray was walking like some kind of one man army when he came out of there, had that little I-told-you-so look he gets.  You find something?”
            Terézia grimaced.  “Yeah, I found something, and that something bit me twice before I backed off.”
            “Only twice?  They must not have been that interesting.”  Kess moved part of the pile over—it was apparently a sleeping bag that she was repairing—and patted the space next to her on the floor.  “Done for the day, then, huh?”
            “Done for the moment.”  Terézia inspected her hands again.  A little red, still, but no blisters.  Good.  “It’s not that they weren’t that interesting, it’s that they knew I was watching.  I might look again another time.  Their defenses against me just kept escalating—not sure what would have happened next if I looked again.”
            “Ah.  So that’s why Gray had that look.”
            Her nose wrinkled.  “More than likely.  I’m still not sure he thinks I should have been looking in the first place, though.  But how else are we supposed to figure out where anyone is, or how many people like us are out there?”
            Kess shrugged and went back to sewing, her neat, tiny stitches attaching a patch over a rip in the sleeping bag’s lining.  “Maybe he doesn’t think we should be looking.  Maybe he has a better way.  I don’t know.  He doesn’t belong to me, he’s just my friend.
            Terézia snorted softly and leaned back against her palms. “That’s for sure.  Where’d he go?”
            “With Wat to check the snares.  Said they’d be back in half an hour or so.  Elton and the kids went with them, but I think they’re looking for berries and shit.”  Kess shook her head.  “Are we going to have enough food to get through the winter, Teca?  Do we even know?  Have a plan?”
            She shrugged.  “That’s between Elton and Wat.  They’re the ones looking after that part of the equation.”
            Kess sighed and shook her head.  “I never thought my survival would be in the hands of someone named Sherlock Watson.”
            Terézia grinned.  “It’s not his fault.”
            “I know, I know.”  Kess pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes.  Her voice came vaguely muffled.  “So what did you see before someone started attacking you?  Anything?”
            “Tent camp with a lot of building going on,” Terézia said.  “I was drawn to a cluster by a fire.  Got attacked when I started looking at them too close, I guess.”  She frowned slightly.  “They’re west of us, but I’m not sure where.  There’s a lot of power there, though.  I started seeking and found them first.”
            “So you’ve only found one group so far?”
            Terézia nodded.  “Just the one.  Decided to quit while I was kind of ahead.”  She frowned.  “Why do you sound so surprised?”
            Kess shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I guess because I am a bit.  I mean, you were really crazy gung-ho to find other groups, other survivors, maybe hook up with them at some point and you stopped after you found one.  That’s not like you.”
            Her cheeks flamed with shame.  Kess was right.  It wasn’t like her to just give up like that.  She shook her head slightly.  “Maybe I’m a little afraid,” she mumbled.  “Without even knowing it.  I got angry with Gray for giving me a hard time and yet being incredibly apathetic at the same time.”
            “That’s not quite like you, either.”
            Terézia shook her head.  Usually, she ignored Gray’s apathy in favor of focusing on his quiet insights. Then again, life usually didn’t come with this sort of stress.
            And none of this had quite felt so real before the meteor-fall.  It was as if something inside of their souls had twisted, switched on, something.  Even Elton’s kids could feel it.  There was something markedly different about the world now, something none of them could quite explain or define.
            Terézia stood up.  “Do you want to watch?”
            “Watch what?”  Kess stared at her for a moment, blinking, then her eyes widened in realization.  “You’re going to go back in these and look at them again?”
            “Not them.  There’s got to more out there, right?  We’ll look for others.  Grab a notebook.  We’ll start a list.”
            Kess hesitated a moment, then nodded, knotting off her thread.  “All right.  I’ll be there in a minute.”
            “That’s all I need to get ready,” Terézia said, feeling lighter, buoyed by her friend’s support.  She grinned at Kess and ducked back into the small room, into its shadows and dim.  She unwrapped the mirror again and settled it on the table.
            Kess arrived a moment later, wearing a brave smile as she eased the door closed behind her.  “I’ve never watched you do this before,” she said, almost shyly.  Her friend grinned.
            “First time for everything,” Terézia said.  She leaned over the mirror, let her eyes slide halfway shut, and concentrated.  Something hummed in the back of her brain, drawing her taut like a guitar string, humming with the energy she drew from the world around her.  She imagined a pendulum in her mind, swinging, seeking life, seeking power like her own.
            Gray smoke seemed to bubble up out of nowhere, followed slowly by an image.
            A man dressed in a military uniform walked down a rutted highway, leading a horse along with him.  He squinted, looking around.
            The door to the small room banged open and Terézia’s concentration snapped.  The image winked out as her head came up.
            Sherlock Watson didn’t even have the grace to look abashed at having interrupted.  “Put that thing away,” he said, waving a hand at the mirror.  “We need you out here.”
            Nose wrinkling, Terézia stood up from the chair where she’d seated herself.  “What is it?”
            Kess was peering beyond their friend, back into the main floor of the lodge.  “…I think they found someone.”

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6 Responses to Autumn – Chapter 2 – 01

  1. Welcome to the first (well, second) taste of what’s going on elsewhere.

    Now I wonder who that newcomer could be…

  2. Peter says:

    Not too long ago I would’ve guessed that it was Thom’s brain, but now I’m not sure.

    😀

  3. Antonious says:

    I am wondering if it might be another of Phelan’s “family”.

    • Hm. Now wouldn’t that be a lot like coincidence…and logic?

      • Antonious says:

        Since when has logic been able to co-exist with magic. Logic says none of what has happened could have happened the way it did. Coincidence on the other hand is not only more forgiving of how something happens; it actually favors the difficult to explain. A causality scientist prefers logic. The workers of fey wonders embrace coincidence.

Got thoughts?