Winter – Chapter 18 – 02

            Without a doubt, something wasn’t right with the world.  J.T. could feel it in a tightness across his shoulders that just wouldn’t go away, no matter how hard anyone kneeded the muscles.  His expression locked into a grimace, shakes barely contained, he crossed the snowy, muddy ground toward where Thom and Matt were inspecting the forge roof.
            “I guess the real test will be the first bad storm we get,” Thom was saying to Matt.  “It looks okay to me, but there’s no way to really be sure.”
            “I need to talk to you,” J.T. interrupted.  “Both of you, I guess.”
            His tone must have sounded strange, based on the expression on Thom’s face as he turned.
            “What’s wrong?”
            “We need people on the roofs,” J.T. said.  “And they need to be armed when they go up there and they need to watch the road as much as they’re watching their work.  Is there any way we can get the watchtowers up?”
            “Whoa, whoa,” Thom said, holding up his hands, blue eyes widening.  “Slow down and back up.  What the hell is going on?  Did Mar just see something and send you up here?”
            “She wouldn’t send him if she was able to come herself,” Matt said, scrubbing a smudge of something off his cheekbone as he stared at J.T.  “And he’s too damned calm for something to have happened to her.”
            This is calm?  Fuck me sideways.  J.T. grit his teeth.  “Something’s going to go sideways if not today, then soon, but we’ve got to be ready for anything that might be coming—anything.”
            “All right,” Thom said.  “I get that part.”  He started walking back toward the tents and the rows of sheds, the walls below.  “We’ll walk and talk.  I don’t think we can get those watchtowers up today, but maybe we’ll be able to handle one of them.  What’s got you spooked, Jay?  Phelan feel something?  Carolyn’s fairies?”
            Damn, I should have had her scatter them along the road to give us early warning.  He always forgot about them—usually because he tried not to think about them in the first place.  Bad news her tiny friends brought to them was something he couldn’t protect her from.
            “No, none of those,” J.T. said.  “Constance found me last night and warned me.”
            Thom slowed and looked at him, his eyes growing flinty.  “The ghosts are back?  I thought that’s why you guys went out to the burial three weeks ago.”
            “It was.  I thought they were gone, too.”  He knuckled his eyes.  “But she was there, in the room with Carolyn and I.  Woke me up out of a dead sleep to warn me that danger was coming.  She said they couldn’t protect us this time.”
            “Did she say what was coming?”  Matt asked.  J.T. was surprised not to hear even the barest trace of doubt in his voice.
            I guess we’re all turning from doubting Thomases into true believers.  “People.”
            Both men walking with him stopped dead in their tracks.  “People?”  Matt finally echoed after a moment of shocked silence spent staring at J.T.
            J.T. turned back toward them and nodded grimly.  “Yes, people.  Not the good kind, either.  She wouldn’t have warned me like that if she didn’t think they were a threat to us.”
            “When?”  Thom demanded, already starting to move again.  J.T. spun and fell into step with him, leaving Matt jogging a few steps to catch up with both of them.
            “She couldn’t tell me that.  She couldn’t even tell me how many.  They’re coming from the south.”  J.T. scrubbed both hands roughly over his face.  “And she seemed to think they weren’t going to be nice.”
            Thom shook his head.  “Great,” he muttered.  “Just great.”
            “How do we know if your ghosts are right or not?”  Matt asked as he caught up.  “They might be friendly, right?”
            We don’t know that they’re right.  But we’ve got to err on the side of caution.  J.T. swallowed and shook his head.  “We’ve got to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  That’s all I can say and all we can do.”
            Thom outpaced them both, yelling at both Rory and Davon to join them as he made a beeline for where they’d staked out a spot for one of their watchtowers.  J.T. exhaled a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.
            It’s something, at least.
            Hammers echoed from the rooftops of the sheds, where Jack and a few of the others were up top, building a lattice of two-by-fours to lay plywood and additional roofing over.  It was slow, careful work, but they were making progress.  Hopefully they’d have covered walkways by winter solstice.
            By the time the time offered by the Shadow Man was up.
            Hopefully.  Of course, that’s not going to matter if we get ourselves killed before then.  J.T.’s lips thinned as shivers shot down his spine again.
            Did he know?  Is this all part of some kind of cosmic plan we’re not privy to?  His stomach twisted at the thought.
            Matt clapped him on the shoulder.  “You’re right,” the younger man said.  “That’s all we can do.  Be ready for anything, right?”
            Yeah.  Ready for anything.  J.T. took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly, forcing himself to steady.  “That’s right.  There’s nothing else we can do beyond that.”
            “Then we’ll be ready,”  Matt said firmly.  J.T. wished he had half his confidence.
            Confidence, hubris, or hope?  At the end of the day, it didn’t really matter, so long as they were, in fact, ready for whatever came their way.  That was the only reason J.T. had spoken up, he realized.  If I hadn’t said anything, we might not be ready for a threat that may or may not come.  If it never comes, at least we’ll be ready for the next threat.  If it does, we’ll be able to face it head-on and hopefully not get ourselves killed in the process.
            Hopefully.
            “C’mon over here, Jay, we need your back to help us with the post-digging.”
            “On my way,” he said.  At least working with his hands would get his  mind off seeing ghosts.
            Or so he hoped.
            Hope’s all I’ve got.
            Nearby, just out of the corner of his eye, he saw the shade of Constance Baile smile.
            He shivered and got to work.

Liked it? Take a second to support Erin on Patreon!
This entry was posted in Book 2 and 3, Chapter 18, Winter, Year One. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Winter – Chapter 18 – 02

  1. Great story. I am no writer. I am an avid reader though.

    Thanks for the adventure.

    S.

Got thoughts?