Apologies, folks – no updates this week since the final stretch of the semester is quite literally killing me right now.

Pandemic Christmas retail doesn’t help, either.

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Due to a longer than expected shift at work and end of the semester crazy, no Friday update this week.

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Fourteen – 05

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

She was gone when I opened my eyes again.  I didn’t know how long I’d slept, just that the ache had started to recede at least a little and that I was alone in my cottage.  The lamp Anne had held was sitting on my bedside table, the wick turned down so low that the flame was barely visible, the glow almost non-existent.  I sat up carefully before I reached for it, turning up the flame just slightly, enough that the room was still more dark than light, with shadows dancing along with the lamp’s flame.  I took one slow breath, then another before I risked sliding out of bed.  For a second, I worried my knees would buckle, but they held and I was able to straighten, leaning slightly against the edge of the bed.

I stood there for a few seconds, listening to the sounds outside, hearing only the faint sound of the wind and a dog barking in the distance—normal sounds for sometime after midnight in the Valley.  I exhaled quietly and slowly padded across the floor, heading to the small stove and my kettle.  Some tea would undoubtedly help me, and I was half certain that there was probably some bread in the basket someone had left on my table, as if knowing I wouldn’t venture out again anytime soon—and I wouldn’t, not unless someone made me.

I lit the stove and set the kettle on to heat.  I closed my eyes for a few seconds as I measured tea into a tiny ceramic pot that had been my mother’s in the Time Before.

I wished I knew more of the things that they’d seen but never spoken about.  I wished I knew more about what they’d seen and spoken about.

I wished they were still here with me and that I wasn’t facing this alone.

The once and future king will ride again.

I blinked back tears and shook my head slightly.  He wasn’t ready.  I wasn’t ready.

The universe didn’t care.

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Due to work on this Blackest of Fridays, no update today.

Stay home or shop curbside to protect yourself and others today.

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Fourteen – 04

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

When the darkness lifted, I was in bed, bundled in blankets, listening to the sound of distant crickets and the wind in the trees.  Every inch of me hurt—hurt more than I wanted to countenance, but it was something I’d just have to deal with one way or another.  Near as I could tell, night had fallen, but it was hard to know whether or not I was alone without moving.

I stared at the ceiling for a few seconds, breathing slowly and as deeply as I dared.

There was a rustling sound at the far end of the room.  I closed my eyes, knowing it had to be one of my friends, stifling the urge to sigh.  Anne’s voice came quietly.

“Are you awake?”

“No,” I lied.  “I’m asleep.  You’re hallucinating.  Better get that checked.”

“You’re not funny,” she said, her footsteps crossing the room until she was standing at my bedside.  “You scared the shit out of Tory.”

“He shouldn’t have chased me,” I said, not looking at her.  “I’d have been fine if he’d just left well enough alone.  I’d have made it back to bed without passing out.”  I almost said something about popping stitches and bandages, but I held my tongue.  She was upset enough already.  I didn’t need to make it any worse.

“Was that the goal?”

“Pretty much.”  I opened my eyes and winced slightly—the lamp she held in one hand was almost too bright, sending an ache lancing straight back through my skull.  “It’s been a long day, Anne.  Can’t I just sleep?”

“I just wanted to be sure you’re okay,” she said softly.  “Tory went to talk to Mom and Uncle Matt.  He’s not going to like what they tell him, is he?”

I swallowed hard.  “I don’t know, Anne,” I said.  “I don’t know because I don’t know what they’re going to tell him, but whatever they do tell him, he’s got to sort out for himself.”

“It’s never been that way for us, has it?”

“Things are changing,” I said, closing my eyes again.  “We’ll just have to adapt.”

“Adapt,” she echoed softly, almost bitterly.  I knew she shook her head without looking.

“Yeah,” I said, already fading back into sleep.  “We’ll figure it out.  All of us, in our own ways.  Things are changing.  You’ll see.  We’ll all see.”

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Will probably be missing Monday updates until mid-December.

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Fourteen – 03

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

“Lin, dammit, slow down.”

I ignored Tory, my head down as I kept walking.  I was determined to get back—hopefully before he and Anne had the time to ask more questions.

Then he grasped my shoulder and I almost blacked out from the white-hot pain that shot through me as his hand closed over the bandages hidden beneath my shirt.  I nearly went to my knees, stumbling the next few steps as he let go, eyes going wide.

“What the hell?” he blurted.  “Lin?”

“Just leave me alone,” I said through gritted teeth, regaining my stride after those few stumbled paces.  “I’m not in the mood.”

“Did they do this to you?  The strangers?”

“No.”  I bit off the word.  He fell in behind me, though he didn’t try to draw up alongside or touch me again, just stayed an arms’ length behind me.  “They had nothing to do with it.”

“Then what happened?”

“Ask someone else.  I’m going to bed.”

“I’m asking you.”

I swallowed a curse and shook my head.  My vision twinned for a second, then returned to normal.  The thumping pain just got worse.

I should have stayed in bed like Aunt Jac said.  Dammit anyway.

“Lin, seriously.  What—”

“Next time you’re going to run off to the lake, tell someone you’re going,” I said.  “Because it’s fucking dangerous out there and my uncle will tell you all about it once you check in with him and let him know you’re alive.  Or your mother will—your mother, who’s probably worried about both of you.  You should probably go see her.”

His footsteps stopped.  I kept walking.

One foot in front of the other.

It was all I could manage as darkness nibbled at the edges of my vision.  I just wanted to make it back to my bed before I fell over.

I failed.

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Fourteen – 02

[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]

Their voices followed me as I walked and I winced, knowing that whatever respite I’d hoped to garner wasn’t going to come.

“What’s going on with him?  Is it because of whoever showed up?”  Anne asked.

“Something like that,” Kailey said.  I could sense the grimace in her voice.  “It’s—it’s been a really long day.”

“Every day is long lately,” Tory said.  “There’s a weight to everything we’ve been trying to ignore for weeks.  Dad should’ve been back by now but no one’s saying it out loud.  Shit doesn’t feel quite right.  Something’s happening but we’re not talking about it.”  He paused, then added, “Especially not Lin.”

Dammit.  I just want time to sleep and think.  My limbs felt heavy.  It was like I was walking through water to my waist, slowing me down, trying to drag me under.

Was this what it was like when Mom and Dad had to deal with things?  Gods and monsters, I wish I knew for sure.  The journals said a lot, but there were things that they left unsaid—to what ends, I couldn’t be sure.  I wasn’t even sure it was strictly necessary for me to fully understand what they’d left unsaid at this point.  Maybe they’d done it on purpose.  Maybe they’d known.

Knowing them, they probably had—they’d known a lot of things they never spoke about, never told anyone.

“Lin!  Lin, wait up.”

I could hear Tory’s footsteps behind me, though I didn’t slow down—I was moving slow enough already for him to catch up easily, and if I stopped walking, I was probably not going to start again.  The weariness and pain was starting to grind me down like grain under a millstone.  It wasn’t a pleasant feeling by any stretch.

Did you live with this, Mom and Dad?  Was this every day  of your lives?

Is it still this now?

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No Monday update this week – there have been no Monday updates lately due to a combination of my work and school schedules, unfortunately.

Stay tuned!

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No updates this week.

November is weird.

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