Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Chapter 10: Dawning, Part III

Wrinkling his nose at the smell, he straightened, glanced at the red stain with a shudder and returned his attention to the darkness in front of the stairs. mp3 de Gantz

A small face appeared right in front of his, its sketchy, smiling features full of glee.


Arms flailing, Vernon fell backward. Wooden boards scratched his back and smacked his head. Spots danced in his vision. He rubbed the back of his skull and sat up. A knot rose where he'd hit the porch. Alexis floated in the darkness at least a couple of feet off the ground. He climbed to his knees and paused, panting and grimacing. Once the pain in his head subsided, he stood and turned what he hoped was a stern look on the girl hovering before him. Sweat ran down his cheeks.

"Alexis, you get on this porch right now." Vernon found himself surprised at his own steady voice.

She shook her head. "I want to play." Even though he heard her, he couldn't see her lips move other than to bow in a sulking pout.

Vernon swallowed. "Not now."

She shook her head.

"You do what I tell you, young lady. Now get down here!"

She slowly descended until her feet rested somewhere near where he thought the ground should be. Alexis held out one hand. Vernon stepped forward with his own hand outstretched. He hesitated on the steps. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and reached for her through the darkness. Cold slid along his skin. He shuddered and extended his hand, but felt nothing. He frowned and opened his eyes. Alexis was gone. He glanced at his arm, which had disappeared to the elbow, and pulled back.

Vernon managed to get his arm free before dark fingers reached out and tried to grab him. They snagged on the sleeve of his shirt, ripping fabric as he scrambled back up the porch. He watched the white tatter flutter in the breeze and disappear. Why didn't it try to pull me in before? He shook his head. More questions. All he ever got out of Jennings Grove was more questions. I almost had her. Where did she go? Tears burned his eyes. He turned and rested his head on the doorframe. Wet tracks coursed down his cheeks. Why did she leave?

"That was fun, Daddy."

Whirling around, he found his daughter standing before him again. He took a step. She retreated, winking out then reappearing a few feet back. Scratching his chin, he backed up a step. She advanced to the shadows' edge. He jumped forward. She vanished. Vernon hurried back against the doorframe. Alexis slowly materialized out of the darkness like ink spreading through water. She still wore that playful smile on her face.

Vernon thumped his head against the wall. The blow bumped the goose egg already growing there. He winced and clutched the back of his head. Giggles sounded from left and right, the sound mingling in front of him. Breathing heavily, He slapped his thigh in frustration and stomped a foot on the porch. His ankle clipped the flashlight sitting there and knocked it over. It threw a bright arc across the porch as it rolled over the boards and came to rest pointing at the steps.

Light splashed over Alexis. A shriek drilled into Vernon's ears. The girl threw her arms across her face and fell back. Night rolled in around her like a blanket. The echoes bounced across the yard for several seconds before dissipating. Ears ringing, Vernon kicked the flashlight away. It spun off into the darkness as he called his daughter's name. She did not answer. He scanned the darkness for any pale flicker, but saw only hungry shadows that lashed out for him whenever he got too close. He dropped to the porch and hugged his knees. What happened? Where did she go? "Alexis," he whispered, "please come back."


Part IV of Chapter 10 coming next week!


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