The damp chill had started to settle into J.T.’s bones by the time Thom joined him out near the well. He stood very still, watching the faces in the mist. There were just so many of them, more than he remembered burying.
Thom tapped his arm. “C’mon into the warm and dry, man. I’m sure the others are on their way in. You don’t have to stay out here.”
J.T. shook his head slightly. “I’ll stay and wait. Carolyn told you to get that fire up?”
“Yeah, she’s still adding wood to it, too. What’s going on?”
“Nothing.” Yet. “Just waiting. Thinking that maybe we didn’t need to send so many people out looking for Leah. She was just going down to the river to fish. That doesn’t require a search party, right?”
Thom snorted humorlessly. “You too?” He shook his head, favoring one side as he leaned on his crutches. “Part of me wishes I hadn’t said anything.” He glanced at the sky, watching lightning knife through the darkening clouds. “Of course, who knew this would all roll in.”
Good to know I’m not the only one thinking that this was kind of a waste of manpower. “Yeah, it was starting to burn off when you came in, Matt said.” J.T. risked a sidelong glance at Thom, looking away again quickly. There was a taut set to the other man’s shoulders, despite his attempt to look casual, relaxed. He couldn’t fool him; they’d known each other too long.
Thom was strung as tight as he was, and that wasn’t a good thing.
Thunder grumbled as Thom nodded, crossing his arms. “Yeah, it was. Doesn’t make any sense.”
Sure it does. Just doesn’t have a rational explanation. Tendrils of cold seemed to wrap around his wrists briefly, then dissipated. J.T. suppressed a shiver and looked at Thom again.
“Don’t stay out here, Thom. You’ll catch death and then Marin’ll have to kill me.”
Thom chuckled weakly, then winced. “Not until you bring it in, too, bro. I’m not going to leave you out here alone.”
J.T. was a little relieved despite himself. “You’re not going to play ball, are you?”
“You know me too well.” Thom sank down onto the rock next to the well, half leaning and half sitting on it. J.T. crossed his arms and stared out into the mist.
They were quite for a few long moments before Thom said, “I wish Mar hadn’t gone out looking with them. One of them should have stayed behind.”
J.T. looked back over his shoulder at him. “One of who?”
Thom stared blankly, peering out into the thick, dark mist, clearly seeking shadows that could harbinger the return of their friends. “Marin or Kellin. One of them should have stayed here. They shouldn’t have gone together.”
I don’t disagree on that one, but hearing it come out of his mouth is a little bit of a shock. Was he finally starting to actually believe again? If he’s at least accepting it all instead of acting like we’re all completely batshit crazy, that’s healthier, at least. “Probably right,” J.T. agreed. “You see anything?”
He saw a flutter of movement out of the corner of his eye, gaze snapping toward it. A pale, long-fingered hand disappeared into the deeper mist. J.T.’s pulse quickened.
What was that?
“Not yet,” Thom grumbled.
A figure appeared out of the mist, built of the mist, and stared at J.T. He could hear its whisper, soft but insistent.
“They’re coming. You’re almost out of time.”
He swallowed his question, standing very still. He couldn’t answer it, not with Thom here.
“What’s that?” Thom asked, pointing.
J.T. tore his gaze away from the mist-ghost to look at where Thom was pointing.
A darker shadow moved through the mist toward them, and quickly.
Fuck me, J.T. thought, tensing for a fight. Is that what they were warning me was coming? Are about to be…?
Lightning lit the world and Rory broke through the mist to join them next to the well. His clothing was singed and they both blinked at his somewhat bedraggled appearance.
“What happened?” Thom demanded, straightening up from his lean against the rock.
Rory cast him a baleful look. “You don’t want to know, Thomas.”
J.T.’s mouth went dry. He swallowed twice and looked at both men.
“Maybe you’re right, Thom. We should get the hell out of this damp.”
“There’s no safety in numbers, Jameson,” the ghostly voice whispered.
A shiver shot down his spine. There might not have been safety in numbers, but it would sure as hell be comforting.
He hustled the other men back to the fire, casting glances back over his shoulder at the mist. The figure standing at the edge watched them run with a sad expression. It nodded once, slowly.
Then it vanished into the mist as lightning flashed in the distance and the sound of rolling thunder shook the world again.
Want to help support Awakenings?
Want to chip in to support Awakenings? Buy Erin a coffee through ko-fi and fuel her creativity with a little caffeine.
Want to help support all of Erin’s writing endeavors?
Thank you to my supporters!
Thank you to all of my supporters at Patreon, especially Karen L. Klitzke and Brandon!
Where we’re listed