White Walker: Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Teddy followed Judy into the hallway. He had been totally unprepared for her reaction, and he stopped when she entered the ladies’ room. Reason overpowered emotion as he decided to let her have the time and space she needed. He was turning towards the main room when he caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned back to the rear door leading to the smoking area. A small wire mesh window set at eye level revealed a white world of swirling snow. The falling snow, driven this way and that by a restless wind, parted to reveal a person standing on the bank opposite the dock. He was dressed in a heavy leather coat whose hem stopped between the knee and ankle.  A filthy red scarf was wrapped around his neck, covering the lower half of his face, and a battered leather hat rode low over his forehead. His eyes were hidden in the deep shadows of the brim.

The stranger’s presence sent a shiver down Teddy’s spine before his natural desire to protect others kicked in and he pushed his way through the door. The wind tore at his shirt, causing his tie to whip around his throat as he crossed to the edge of the dock to search for that lonely figure.

“Anybody out here?” he shouted, the words ripped away by the restless wind. But the person he’d seen, or thought he’d seen, was gone.

He was about to go back inside when he was overcome with the sensation of being watched. The shifting sheets of falling snow parted, likes the curtains on a stage, to reveal the stranger standing on the hill across  from the dock.

Byelii, the name whispered through his mind, rising from the dark recesses of his childhood memories. As a child he had been cared for one summer by an ancient Slavic woman who was as wide as she was tall. Teddy never learned what her real age was, but it was a fair bet that she was on the other side of seventy, yet even with her massive girth she was light on her feet and entertained him, if it could be called that, with antique tales of the old country.

She had grown up during the German invasion, in a little village that escaped most of the atrocities that had occurred along the eastern front. Of little military significance, her village had been bypassed by the advancing armies of the Third Reich. It helped that they had hung a warning at the edge of their little village, a simple sign that to the advancing German armies meant the plague was present. If there were anything the Germans feared more than a Russian bullet, it was disease, especially a disease as devastating as the plague.

Other villages had tried the same thing with varying degrees of success. Depending on their location, the warning resulted in either the village being burned to the ground while the inhabitants were trapped in their homes, or being bypassed entirely and left to die at its own leisurely pace.

One day, his Nanny told him, the Germans had camped outside the village. That night her grandmother had prayed in some forgotten language to an ancient entity she could only translate as meaning White One. That same night a fierce winter storm accosted the village, which was strange as spring had already established a foothold. A steady wind screamed down from the north, carrying with it the cold artic air of the vast northern plains.

The following morning the Germans were gone. Their tents, bedding, weapons, and even half-eaten food still in metal mess kits, was all that remained. It was as if they had simply laid down their possessions and walked off. No one in the village knew what had happened; there was wild speculation,  but no reason for their disappearance was ever uncovered. Her grandmother had remained silent throughout the day, a knowing smile on her face, and when she asked her later that evening what happened to the German soldiers, her grandmother had simply said the White One had led them away.

The memory faded and Teddy was once more on the dock as he gazed into the swirling snow, trying to catch sight of whoever was out there. It never once crossed his mind to take care of himself first. Ever since he had been a child he’d had this natural desire to protect those around him, strangers included. He had tried out several times to join the local fire department but he just didn’t have the physical ability to do the job, forcing him to settle for being an EMT. He’d been blessed with a very skinny frame. Wiry is what his aunt once called it.

Then he saw him, standing on the bank directly across from him. One moment he wasn’t there, and the next he appeared as if he had stepped out from between the sheets of shifting snow. They watched one another across the intervening space and Teddy realized that the stranger was smiling at him, nodding in recognition of the memory his presence had stirred.

Was he the White One his nanny had spoken of?

As if in answer he felt the presence of that creature all around him. It was of the storm that was even now battering at the walls of the building. Its voice the shriek of that wintry wind that swirled around him like the waters of a whirlpool, threatening to drag him down into the black depths of an eternally frozen world. Its touch the caress of frozen snowflakes that clung to the warm flesh of his cheeks, melting into tiny pools of water that froze on contact with the wintry air.

Suddenly he was a part of the storm, swirling across the frozen landscape like a wild thing uncaged as a strange exhilaration gripped him. He was impervious and nothing could stand in his way. He was an irresistible force of nature unleashed upon an unsuspecting world.

Everything stopped. The wind ceased it restless casting about. The snow, still falling in sheets, dropped straight to the ground in a vertical path.

May I come in? a sinister voice whispered in his mind and Teddy realized how alone he truly was. Nipping at the heels of that realization came the fear of what this stranger represented.

The White One led them astray. The voice of his nanny whispered in soft counterpoint to this creature’s simple request.

Would he lead them astray? The question filled him with remorse.

Of course, came the answer unbidden from the black depths that surrounded him.

Time ground to a halt as the two men gazed across the intervening space at one another. One a leader of sorts, the other a taker of souls. Teddy had what the other wanted and with that realization came the terrified cries of a group of children. The cold was driven away by the memory of a raging fire that seared his flesh and served to break the spell the stranger had placed upon him.

Teddy staggered back as the wind howled in his ears and as it did he heard a forlorn voice crying out with rage at his refusal to permit it access.

Click here to return to Chapter 9

Purchase your copy today from these fine retailers

No comments:

Post a Comment