Winter – Chapter 18 – 01

            “Jameson.”
            He jerked awake out of a sound sleep and then stayed very still, breathing hard but shallow, body tense.
            Constance.  It was her voice again.
            He hadn’t heard any of them since the Morrigan…
            Stupid to think they’d gone away, right?  Of course not.  I’m the goddamned Spiritweaver, if I’m supposed to believe all the supernatural women we’ve run into in the past three months.
            J.T. shuddered slightly and swallowed hard.  Next to him, Carolyn stirred and pressed closer.  He chewed the inside of his lip as his arms closed around her, drawing her more tightly against him.  She was warm, real, alive.  The voices…weren’t.
            That didn’t stop the ghostly voice from saying his name again.
            “Jameson, trouble’s coming.  Be vigilant, my friend, please.  We cannot help you more than warning you this time.”
            His throat convulsed.  Damn it anyway, Constance.  Damn it anyway.  We did that ritual so you could go on to your rest.  Why didn’t you go?  Can’t you just leave well enough alone?
            If they had, though—she and the other ghosts—he and his friends would have joined them in death at least twice over by now.  Three times, in some cases.  In any case, she clearly hadn’t moved on after the rites they’d performed the night the shifters came, so the least he could do was acknowledge her warning.
            He took a shuddering breath and opened his eyes, looking toward the sound of her voice.
            It was as if she was built of silver light and smoke, dimly lit and misty, though her features were clear as daylight to him, right down to the polo and Bermuda shorts she’d been wearing when she died.  “Constance,” he whispered, “this had better be a pretty dire threat for you to wake me up out of a de—hard sleep to tell me about it.”
            “Someone is coming,” Constance said, her eyes like chips of polished flint in the darkness.  It was pitch black inside their shed but he could see her clear as day.  “We can’t save you, J.T.  Not this time.”
            All right, who?  He suppressed a groan.  “Something like Vammatar or the Shadow Man?”
            “No,” the ghost whispered, her spectral lips thinning.  “Something worse.  People.”
            It shouldn’t have been enough to make his heart and stomach sink in unison, but it did.  Supernatural threats had been easy to face compared to the idea that they might have to duke it out with some kind of band of marauders.
            That’s what we have the walls for, though, right?  He winced.  What if they’ve got guns—a lot of them?  And cars that somehow still work?  None of the ones left on campus did.  It was as if the asteroid had shorted out all of their vital systems, fried everything.  They’d been able to start a few of them in the days after the world ended, but within weeks even the oldest and least complex of them had just stopped working.  The flatbed had been last, sputtering and dying within the first weeks.
            He didn’t have any explanation for it.  No one had.  It just was.  Just like the generators.  Sort of like the radio that had blown up in Matt’s face.
            Of course, I don’t think Kellin and Drew think it actually exploded on accident, either.  J.T. closed his eyes for a moment, took two breaths and exhaled slowly before he opened his eyes and looked at the ghost standing over him again.  “How many? How long do we have?”
            “I don’t know,” she said.  “We just know that they’re coming.  Look to the south.  They’ll come from there.  Good luck.”  Her lips brushed his forehead in a phantom kiss that shot shivers through him, then she vanished into nothing.
            His arms tightened around Carolyn again as he kept right on shivering, as if the blankets suddenly weren’t enough to keep him warm.  Carolyn murmured in her sleep and pressed closer to him.  He swallowed hard.
            Raiders of some kind, coming here.  We don’t know how many or when they’ll come, but they’re coming.  How’s that going to sound to everyone else?  Like I’ve lost my bloody marbles.  He squeezed his eyes shut.  It wouldn’t be as bad as all that, would it?  No, it couldn’t be.  If everyone could believe that Thom and Marin saw things in visions, they could handle him getting warnings from ghosts.
            Couldn’t they?
            “Bloody hell,” he sighed, then buried his face in Carolyn’s hair, waiting for the shakes to stop.
            It took a long time, but eventually they did and he dropped off to sleep again.
            It didn’t last.

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