Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chapter 10: Dawning, Part I

Vernon jerked awake, heart thumping loudly in his ears. The dream faded as consciousness took over, but the dregs remained with him as a feeling of loss and frustration, as if he chased something that fled further the closer he got. He settled into the mattress and stared at the bright ceiling while his breathing and pulse slowed. Dirt streaked away from the light fixture like the brown fingers of a river delta. He made an exasperated noise in his throat and closed his eyes. Cheryl always made him scrub those marks off, usually while scolding him for letting him get to that point in the first place. Vernon hated climbing the step stool; it never felt sturdy enough. Besides, who on earth cleaned a ceiling? He'd argue, he'd find anything else to do, he'd try doing nothing at all. Then he'd give in and do it. She's going to make me move the bed to make sure I get it all. That woman's going to...

Cheryl! His eyes popped open and took in the light overhead. How could I have slept so long? I'm too late... He turned his head toward the window, which still showed it was dark outside. Vernon heaved a sigh and sat up. Raymond lay on his side, snoring slightly between the glowing lanterns. A small smile flitted across his face. Vernon grinned back, leaned over and kissed his son's forehead. Moving gently, he scooted to the edge of the bed and slipped off onto the floor. He grabbed his one remaining flashlight and tiptoed to the living room. Going to have to stop leaving the lights in the kitchen, he thought, glancing back at the sleeping baby before heading toward his recliner.

Resting in a coiled heap, the rope looked like a napping snake. Vernon snatched it up and hoisted it onto his shoulder. He crossed the room, opened the front door and flipped on the light switch. Holding onto one end, he let the rest of the rope slither to the floor. He yawned and leaned against the doorframe. Slapping the cord against the planks of the porch, Vernon watched the night try to push its way in. It rippled along the light's boundary. Deeper blackness shifted and circled further out. Somewhere out there, his wife and daughter waited rescue. Get to work.

Standing the flashlight against the wall on the porch, Vernon stood and swung the rope. It hissed as it cut through the air and whipped through the window. The end drooped over the frame. He grabbed it and pulled. The rope buzzed as it scraped over wood. Gathering a long section, he looped it and started coiling the end around the rope. He worked slowly. His gaze rested on the night outside more than the rope. Will they come? His hands paused. The thought hurt, and he wanted to shy away from it. He tried to push it away. But the thought wouldn't go. I've already seen Cheryl once. What if that's the only time she shows up? Vernon shook his head. He still had Alexis to consider. He'd rescue whoever he could tonight and leave the rope in place until he had them both. What if Ware sees it? He snarled and shook his head. That didn't matter. Let him see it. Let anyone see it. And let them think what they wanted. They can't stop me. All they could do was lecture him again.

He looked down and finished the noose with a few quick jerks on the rope. He nodded in satisfaction. Even if something grabbed him, the rope would only grow tighter. He played out the line until he found the other end and wrapped it around his waist, securing it with a series of square knots. Once he ran out of rope to tie, Vernon twisted the knotted end around to his back. He winced as the snug cord pinched his skin through his jeans. Shouldn't have tied it so tight. At least it won't slip off. He sighed and stepped out on the porch.

Alexis stood at the bottom of the steps, staring up at him. Just like her mother's earlier apparition, she was a pale reflection of herself, but with more detail than the last time he'd seen her figure. She stood hands clasped before her, long hair still despite a breeze blowing across the front of the house. A soft giggle floated to him on the wind.

"Hey, sweetie," he whispered. "Daddy's here."

____ACDS photograph install

Part II of Chapter 10 coming next week!


ACDS photograph install