Nellie screamed as the woman in the cloak pulled her away. Her sunken eyes lost in terror stared into his. Her scream pierced through the temples of his head and electrocuted his bones with pain and helplessness. Ruthie’s lifeless arms dangled from the half opened car trunk. Blood trickled down the old yellow bumper. Gallons of it dripped down and seeped through the forest floor towards him. The red liquid came closer and closer, yet he couldn’t move. Shock had rooted his legs into the ground like an old tree stump, completely useless with nothing to give. He followed the trail of blood with his eyes till it reached his feet and there when he looked down he saw Finn who’s young flesh was torn to pieces. Tethered unrecognizable pieces.
The clattering of metal pots jolted Ivor to reality. It was only a dream. Something his mind made up while his sleeping eyes dashed back and forth in REM. His neck was coated with dirt and sweat and the side of his head throbbed with heavy pain. His vision was weak, but he was able to make out the silhouette of a person bent over a stove. The precise thud of a knife slicing through vegetables filled the room. He pulled himself up only to feel the sudden room spin and knock him back down.
“You still have another hour till the white powder lets out of you.”
It was a man’s voice. The knife thudding stopped. He could hear chunks of vegetables flop into water. Ivor closed his eyes to try to make the spinning stop.
“Just hold still and the spinning will soon pass,” the man continued. “There ain’t no where for you to go, or not in this light anyhow.”
With his eyes closed, Ivor grumbled, “who are you?”
He sprinkled some seasonings onto the boiling water and churned the water with a metal ladie. The spoon scrapped the bottom of the pot as David mixed the soup around a few times.
“Why am I so sick, what did you do to me?”
David looked up. What an accusational son of a bitch.
“You ate food from that house.” He put the ladie down on the counter and walked over to Ivor who was laying down on a couch opposite of the kitchen. The house was small so it only took David less than 10 steps to reach the end of the couch. Ivor’s vision was still blurred but he could make out David pretty well. He was tall and quite thin. He wore a dull red and brown flannel and some fitted trousers. Ivor couldn’t count the wrinkles on David’s face, but he was sure he pushing 60. He took a seat on an old green lawn chair that was set up next to the couch. He leaned forward rubbed his face with his hands like he was trying to rub away the fatigue that loomed over him.
“Why did you kill that woman?” Ivor asked.
David chuckled for a moment.
“Answer the fucking question” Ivor spewed out and immediately regretted it. Calm down, he killed her and he’ll you too.
David contemplated kicking Ivor unconscious again for a brief moment, but then decided to give him another chance. He was like him once after all. Accusational and helpless.
“I know you’re confused and scared, but talking to me like that won’t keep you in here where it’s safe, you understand?” he said as he combed a loose thread on the cuff of his shirt.
Ivor sat up as best as he could, “I just want to know what’s going on because my wife and kids are still out there in the woods.”
David looked down at his hands. His feelings were suddenly drenched in pity for Ivor.
“That was no woman and it’s far from dead,” David started. “You been sleeping for nearly 3 hours, and if your wife and kids ate any of that food too, well then,” he paused for a moment looking for the best way to word the rest of the sentence, “I’m sorry but there is no way they’d survive this long out there.”
Ivor sat still for a good minute or so.
“What’s wrong with the food?” he finally said.
“It’s covered in a white powder that makes you vulnerable.”
David explained how this white powder is a sort of poison that strips away one’s most treasured senses. The symptoms start with nausea and dizziness. Then within a few minutes a white haze, like a lense, consumes the outer layer of the eyes causing blurred vision and eventually total blindness. Next a ringing in the ears begins and grows louder and louder. As if an ambulance siren were wailing right next to you. The ringing goes on non stop for several hours which eventually drives one unspeakably crazy. The symptoms go on for a minimum of three to four hours. Although apparently most people don’t make it to see their symptoms fade.
“What do you mean, why not?” Ivor interrupted.
He still wasn’t sure how he felt about David. Was this a joke? This all seemed too much like a stupid fictional story plot. What was he going to say next? Aliens are invading the woods?
“The Rogues will get to them.” David replied with a heaviness in his voice. His eyes froze for a moment as his memory rushed off into a deep thought.
“Rogues?” Now Ivor chuckled. This guy is fucking insane!
“People once thought cars were fiction. Airplanes, cell phones, electricity all that was story-telling once. But things are created over time and they become a part of our world. Then they feed off our world. Engines need gas to run and well look what that’s doing to our lands. And these creators, what do they care. They just turn the other cheek as long as their safe. The world changed and it’s going to keep changing and people along with it. But this isn’t about flying jets and e-mail anymore, it’s about people and how they’re going to change.”
Ivor pulled his legs over the couch and sat up straight. He felt better, that white powder must have worn off. And if David was telling the truth, he had actually saved him from feeling the symptoms.
“Look, I need to go find my wife and kids, what time is it?”
“You can’t go out there, I told you. It’s well past ten and it isn’t safe.”
“My wife and k–”
David’s outburst was followed by the front door swinging wide open. Both men looked toward the open door. There was a soft thud like something dropped to the floor and then a woman walked in. She was dressed in brown trail boots and a thick deep blue jacket. She closed the door gently and then proceeded to take off her gloves. She peered up at Ivor briefly while she rubbed her hands together to warm them.
“This is Elenor, my wife.”
She took a few steps toward them and Ivor, his vision clear now, gasped at the sight of her.
It’s her! She looks different, but it’s her!
Ivor stood up. He wobbled for a moment, but quickly regained himself. “You! You stole our car! What kind of sick game are you guys playing!”
The woman and the man looked at each other. Ivor took a step toward the woman. He wanted to hit her. Maybe he would have, but David came between them.
“That wasn’t Elenor.”
“I’m not stupid, it was her! She looked older, but it was her!
“Get out of my way!”
Ivor tried to push David out of his way. Ivor hadn’t realized how much taller David was than Ivor. At least five inches or so. He was thin, but much stronger than he displayed. He pushed Ivor hard enough to sit him back down on the couch.
“You ungrateful son of –” David began to roar.
“David!” Elenor begged. Then she turned to Ivor and looked at him with sympathy setting deep in her green eyes. “I found your son.”
Ivor’s eyes lit up for a second before realizing the tone in her voice was not with high spirits. No, this tone was all too familiar to him. It was the same tone the police officer had used in November. The phone finally had rung after waiting well over seven hours. Nelly’s eyes were swollen from hours of crying and but he wouldn’t talk to her. He wouldn’t even look at her. Ivor had answered the phone and Officer Reed said “we found her.” But his voice was not excited. His somber voice answered Ivor’s unasked question. Ivor immediately knew, and now, despite the anger he felt toward Nelly, he couldn’t gather the courage to meet her longing eyes. He told him to come down to the station and hung up, but Ivor kept the phone to his ear buying seconds while trying to find his voice.
“Where is he, where’s my son?”
Ivor tried getting up again, but David was still in his way. Elenor placed an arm on David’s back and David moved to the side letting her come up to Ivor. She pulled the lawn chair opposite of Ivor and sat down. They were face to face now and he could see the fine lines of time on the corners of her mouth and around her eyes.
“Where is my son?” Ivor repeated.
“I know this all doesn’t make sense to you, but I need you to try and trust us.” She took a long pause but never broke eye contact with Ivor. Then she continued, “David saw your wife and kids run into the woods. He didn’t think they’d run too far, so he helped you first. Once he pulled you away from that Rogue, he tried looking for them, but they must have ran pretty far and it was getting pretty dark out. So, he brought you here and told me what happened. We almost never go out after dark. If you don’t know your way around here, you won’t last past an hour. So David didn’t like the idea of me going out there, but I had to. I was a mother once too.” Her voice cracked, but she kept going. “I found your son, but I…I was too late.” She put her hand on Ivor’s in a kind gentle manner. The kind of gesture a person is given out of pity.
“Where is he?” Ivor said as he quickly pulled his hand away.
Elenor stood up and Ivor followed her to the front door. She twisted the brass knob and opened the door. Bitter cold whirls of wind hit Ivor’s face. He suddenly became aware of his missing jacket. A chill ran down his neck and the fine hairs on his skin erected themselves. Elenor moved to the side to let Ivor take a step forward. He came to the door frame and stopped. There between the warmth from the inside of the house and the cold of the outside, Ivor stood and looked down. The white light of the moon mixed with the dim light from the house gave just enough light to see exactly what was on the floor. A faint white puff of air wisped out of his mouth and his knees collapsed.
In November Nelly had left the car running for the heater while she took the grocery cart back to the cart drop off. She was only gone two minutes. The exact time it takes to walk the cart six spaces down, wait for a car to pull out, put the cart in, politely decline an insistent beggar asking for spare change, and walk back. She didn’t think it was a big deal leaving the car on for a minute or two. It was cold and she was trying to get the car warm, but she also didn’t see the shadow one car down lurking around in fading sunlight, waiting for a moment just like this. When Nelly passed the big red truck she had parked her small black car next to, she found an empty parking space. Her car was stolen within seconds and their three month old, Ari, along with it. When they got to the police station Officer Reed broke the news to both of them. Nelly fell into a deep depression for months. She stopped eating and overdosed on pills twice in five months. Their marriage was deteriorating from the anger that Ivor felt towards Nelly for being so careless and from Nelly’s inability to forgive herself for the death of Ari. Her small fragile body was found in a park bench that night. Her twelve pound body couldn’t handle ice ridden air of the night and she froze till her tiny pink lips turned blue.
“No no no no!” Ivor cried as he crawled to Finn. His dream had become reality, but this wasn’t a flying car. This was Finn, torn to pieces. Unrecognizable, if not for the remains of his Superman t-shirt and blonde curly hair. His head, nearly torn from his frame hung to the side and empty eyes stared toward the darkness of the woods. Lost in a dream of his own. A dream where monsters don’t exist.
Chapter 5 coming October 22, 2017