Day 3 – Chapter 7 – 07

            Everyone else’s stress had created a dull pounding in his head over the past few days, exacerbated by the atmosphere of desperation mixed with hope and despair.  Marin’s anger and frustration was like a knife cutting through all of that, and Drew broke off from helping unload the building supplies Rory had driven over from the construction site on south campus to intercept her.
            He caught the edge of Rory’s sudden flash of annoyance.  “Drew!  Where’re you going?”
            He waved Rory off.  “Marin needs to stop seething.  I’ll be back when I’ve taken care of that.”  The annoyance faded quickly with the explanation.  Drew suppressed the urge to shake his head.  If I can’t get her to stop seething, I’m going to have a migraine before the end of the night.  I’ve got to learn to control this.  He’d been able to feel strong emotions since childhood, but as he got older, he started to perceive a low-level buzz of other’s emotions in the back of his brain.  In the past three days, that buzz had almost become a howl, one he couldn’t block out.  He’d told Rory about it, but hadn’t told Kellin or Marin yet.  They both had more important things to worry about; namely everything else.  He’d tried to stay away from most of the others when he could and that seemed to help.
            Keeping his distance wouldn’t be a solution forever, but for the moment, it was the only option he had.
            “Marin, wait up.”
            She didn’t stop walking, but she turned and looked toward him.  A tear was oozing down her cheek and Drew jogged to keep up.
            What now?  “Marin?”
            She tried to wave him off as she kept walking, down toward the ravine.  “I’m fine, Drew.  Help Rory.”
            “Rory’s got that mess well in hand,” Drew said evenly, drawing up alongside of her.  “What did Thom say this time?”
            Marin stumbled and would have fallen if Drew hadn’t caught her.  He waited until she’d regained her balance before he let go.  She didn’t look at him.  “How did you know?”  She whispered after a long silence.
            “Because he’s the only one that can ever affect you like this.  He’s the only one you allow to affect you like this.”  He touched her shoulder, squeezed it gently.  “What happened, Mar?”
            “He lied to my face, Drew, that’s what happened.”  She swiped angrily at the tears rolling down her cheeks.  “I don’t care how scared he is, or what the hell he’s dreamed that’s made him freak out, but I can’t take him lying to my face.  I can’t.  It’s not fair, especially when he knows I know he’s lying.”
            There was fear beneath her words, bone-deep, gnawing at the edges of his consciousness.  He’d missed it beneath her rage.
            “You’re afraid,” he breathed.
            “Of course I’m afraid!  He’s in denial and it’s going to kill him one way or another.”  Marin shook off Drew’s hand and started walking again.  “Don’t follow me,” she snapped.  “I need some time alone.”
            “In the ravine?”
            “Just leave me alone, Drew.”
            Her rage beat against him like storm surge against breakers.  He couldn’t follow, just watched her go, watched her disappear down toward the lip of the ravine.
            Can’t leave her down there by herself.  Can’t follow her by myself.  Drew took a deep breath.  Time to snag Rory.  He grimaced and thought about what Kellin was going to say.
            Another thing to talk about tonight, after everyone else’s gone to bed.  Something to announce at breakfast.  No one goes down there alone.  Drew marched back toward where Rory was still unloading the truck, though with a few extra sets of hands, now.
            “Rory, I need you to come with me.”
            Rory stopped in the middle of hefting one end of a three-by-ten plank, almost dropping it on his toes.  The camps staffer at the far end of the board started to push it forward and Rory cursed, this time dropping the beam as it shot through his hands.  “Damn it, Carl, hold up.”  Rory glanced down at his palms, grimacing.  “The hell’s wrong, Drew, other than splinters two inches long in my hands?”  He started picking one of them out, not looking at the older man.  He waved for someone else to take over, stepping away from the back end of the flatbed.  The probably wouldn’t use it very much in the future after they finished most of the heavy lifting from south campus, given the rapidly deteriorating state of the roads, though it was nice to have at their disposal for long as they could get the diesel to run it.
            “We’re going down into the ravine.”
            Rory stopped in the middle of yanking one of the silvers out of the meat of his palm.  His voice came flat, disbelieving.  “What?”
            He thinks I’ve lost it.  Maybe I have.  “Marin went down by herself.  I can’t carry her back kicking and screaming without backup.”
            Rory stared at him.  “What the hell is going on, Drew?  She knows better.”
            Drew shook his head quickly.  “I’ll explain when we’re down there.  Come on.  I need you now.”  Every minute we’re wasting up here is a minute she could be getting into serious trouble down there.
            “Okay, okay.”  Rory glanced to the side.  “Tala, take over, can you?”
            Tala flashed a thumbs up and went back to helping haul a pallet of bricks.  Rory glanced at the sky, frowned, then looked at Drew.
            “Go.”
            Drew took off at a jog, Rory following a little more slowly but catching up quickly.
            “So what the hell is going on?  She went down there alone?  She never goes down there alone.  Not since that time you and her and Thom went down and ran into…whatever the hell you ran into.  When she lost that pendant of hers.”
            When gave it to Thom and he threw it at the thing following us.  Slowed it down at least, because it never caught us.  When we started to really realize what’s out there.  “Yeah, I know.  And it’s Thom that’s the reason she’s out there right now.”
            Rory blinked at him, then frowned.  “I don’t want to know, do I?”
            “Not yet.”  Drew started down the incline into the ravine, the ground slick from the recent rains.  Hopefully it won’t start pouring before we get to her and get out of here.  Otherwise, we’ll never get out of this alive.  “At some point, I think we’re all going to know.”
            “I’ll stay blissful in my ignorance a little longer,” Rory grumbled, following Drew down to the muddy bank of the creek at the bottom of the ravine.  Marin’s footprints crossed the clear-running water about twenty feet away from where the two men were standing.  It was deathly quiet, not even birds made a sound in the trees above, only the sound of the wind and the water near their feet, of their footsteps.
            I wish I had that luxury.  She wasn’t too far ahead of them.  Her anger was slowly bleeding away.  We need to close that gap before she calms down and I can’t track her anymore from her feelings.  “C’mon, we need to hurry.”
            They jogged a little ways, until Rory slipped on the muddy bank and went down, cursing.  “Bloody slick, I guess.  Thought I had my footing.  Maybe we should slow down.”
            Drew took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly.  “It’s all right.  She’s stopped moving.”  At least I think she’s stopped moving.  He helped Rory up, looking further down the ravine.  It opened up into a marsh not far beyond where they were standing, if you followed the right-hand fork.  Feels like she went that way.  Feels like she’s over there.  Of course, that’s where we were when we ran into that thing, but it should be okay right now, right?  It’s still daylight.
            Something brushed past him, something cold.  He caught a fleeting glimpse of gray in his peripheral vision, got impressions of mischief and mayhem.  “Shit,” Drew murmured.
            Rory blinked at him, then grimaced.  “…I didn’t slip, did I?”
            “No,” Drew mumbled.  “I don’t think you did.”
            “It’s those little gremlins, isn’t it?  The little gray things.”
            “You feel it?”
            “Yeah, little grabby hands against my ass shoving me into the creek.”  Rory looked at his soaked and muddy jeans and grimaced again.
            “It’s headed for Marin.”
            “You sure?”
            Drew nodded.  “Pretty sure.”
            Rory started to move again, then glanced back at Drew.  “That is bad, right?”
            God, I hope not.  It probably was.  Drew shook his head.  “Move.”
            Somewhere ahead, Marin yelped.


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2 Responses to Day 3 – Chapter 7 – 07

  1. samael says:

    yay for another update, but have i missed something? the bit where drew is recalling them being chased by something? is this something i missed or is it yet to be detailed? just wondering…
    loving it still 🙂 keep it up

    samael

    • Erin M. Klitzke says:

      No, you didn’t miss anything. The incident in question with the “whatever it was” as Rory put it took place about a year before the story in Awakenings began. I’m not sure if it’ll come up in flashbacks in this text, though I did write the scene a while back when I was working on the eventual sequel to this (which is set decades later and focuses on some of the children of this generation of survivors) because the pendant Marin lost ends up being a little important.

      The mention of it here is designed to remind the reader that some of these people–Kellin, Drew, Rory, Marin, and even Thom–were aware of things beyond ordinary ken well before the end of the world, even to the point of being chased by them. They’re the reason for the shadows beyond the river, and the reason that Kellin wants to set wards.

      Of course, this is the entry where things start to get exciting (and the point where writing this chapter ended up being a lot longer than I’d anticipated). Strap in and hang on.

      Side note: a very happy 27th birthday to my little brother Bill. <3 I hope you enjoy the pie your wife made.

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