Free Read Friday: Covenant Part IV


Part IV

Read the story from the beginning to this point HERE!

She stood on the other side of the glass, watching him with sparkling blue eyes, a faint smile playing hide and seek on her full red lips.  His back complained loudly as he pushed himself to his feet, and pulled open the door. She took a step back, her eyes never leaving his, as he emerged from the phone booth.

“Who are you?” He asked.

“Don’t you know? She answered before she turned and walked away, sashaying down the length of the bar to her seat. She stopped, turned, and motioned for him to follow with a crooked finger.

“Who is she? He wondered as he moved the length of the bar, aware of others on their seats, obscure shadowy shapes that muttered and groaned at each other in his peripheral vision. 

Coming abreast of where she sat he stopped and gazed at her. She looked so much like Pat when she was younger, yet there was something missing, some little thing that stood her apart from the woman he loved and had grown old with.

She motioned to the seat beside her, inviting him to sit down, and the shadows to her left shifted with a faint, yet menacing, growl, to clear a seat for him. As he sat down he realized he still had the baby monitor clipped to his belt, the hard plastic shell digging into his belly as it became trapped against his thigh. Removing it he placed it on the bar in front of him. A harsh white object surrounded by the murky depths of a bar that could be anywhere from a lonely stretch of two lane blacktop in the middle of nowhere, to the bustling center of a crowded city that never slept.

She lifted her hand, her index and middle finger pointing up, and two drinks appeared on the bar in front of them. Emerging from the shadows crowded around them. Above the bar a faint neon light glowed with a muted brilliance, its light battling the dense shadows that were as thick as smoke. From his left came assorted growls, moans, and monosyllable grunts, accompanied by the muted tinkling of glasses colliding with one another, and the surface of the bar.

“What is this place? What do you want?”

She smiled over the rim of her glass as she took a small sip. Archie followed suit, the amber liquid burning on its journey to his belly, almost taking his breath away, and causing him to choke. That was some powerful stuff.  As the heat faded he detected a nuttiness about it that left a strange aftertaste in his mouth.

“Don’t you remember me?” she said as she lowered her glass to the bar, turning to look up at him with sparkling blue eyes. Her eyes grew brighter, glowing with an internal light. They looked as if sparks were about to start shooting from them.

He shook his head as he tried to recall, the features of her face were familiar, her name playing hide and seek on the tip of his tongue, frustrating him as his thoughts became a muddled morass of shadowy images like the indistinct shapes that jostled around them.

He knew her, he knew he should know her, yet every time he tried to put his finger on that elusive name, to pin it in place long enough for him to grab it, it faded into the crowding darkness that was threatening to overwhelm him from within, and without.

Something bumped into his back and he swiveled his head around, an act that seemed to take impossibly long, and peered into the murky depths that pressed in close on every side of him.

“Hey, watch it,” he said, his words slurred as he peered into the that crowded emptiness. A hand shot out, slapping him across the face, hard, and a memory blossomed. They were supposed to have been home by supper, but hadn’t made it until after dark. He sensed fear and anger, tempered with a touch of love and caring, all battling for dominance. Something could have happened to you, the sensation trickled through his thoughts as the memory that didn’t belong to him faded into the shadowy recesses.

He spun back around, intent on finding out once and for all who she was, but she had vanished. Her empty stool remained, glowing in a soft light that held the crowding shadows at bay. He spun round on his seat searching for her in the murkiness that was gathering even closer around him. Dark shapes moved through the emptiness, bustling and jostling for position as ebony hands darted out of the shadows to snatch at him. He slapped at the shadow hands that reached out for him.

Spinning around on his stool he reached for the baby monitor as a pair of black hands emerged from the darkness to grab it.  Each finger was tipped by an ebony claw that clicked against the plastic case with a sound reminiscent of a bird pecking at a window.

“Archie,” Pat’s voice shrieked from the monitor and he struggled to pull it loose from those shadowy hands as one of the claws raked his hand, laying open his finger that bled onto the white surface of the monitor, staining it with his blood. 

He yanked on it with all he had, pulling it free, his actions causing him to spin around in his seat and slam his elbow against the side of the phone booth. Pain shot down to his hand as numbness danced through his fingers. He dropped the baby monitor with a clatter. He looked around wildly, searching for shadows that weren’t there as the realization slowly dawned that he was still sitting in the phone booth.

It had been a dream bordering on a nightmare.

“Archie,” Pat cried out again, her voice tinny, and filled with static, coming from the plastic grill of the monitor lying on the floor at his feet. 

It was just a dream, he sought to console himself. All the stress he’d been feeling coupled with his horror at his recent revelation had given him a nightmare.

“Archie,” she cried out for a third time, driving him up from his seat, and he pulled open the door of the phone booth. As he did he noticed the small cut on his finger, already starting to scab over, and a cold fear slowly unwound in the pit of his belly.

It had been a dream, right?  He sought to convince himself.

To be continued!

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New This Week in Post Apocalyptic Fiction 9/6/2017

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Free Read Friday: Covenant Part III


Part III

For a week he kept his promise, remaining attentive to her every need, even though it seemed she was unaware of him. Her mind having wandered to a remote place that lay beyond the edge of reason. He tried not to think about the phone booth in the basement, or the strange dream he’d had, a dream that had felt more real that imagined. But it was hard, that brief moment had reminded him what it felt like to really be alive.  That mysterious woman haunting his thoughts as he went about his duties.

Every day he brought her breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the appointed time. Every day she watched him with guarded mistrust. Like he was a stranger in her home, and not the man she had spent over fifty years with. She was slowly becoming just like her own mother in her final days, and the thought brought out another that had lain buried by sorrow.

The day they laid her mother to rest she had cornered him in the cemetery, in the older section where the stones were not as polished, and the names once chiseled sharply on those granite faces were losing their edge. Fading into the past like all of them would eventually.

“I don’t want to end like that,” she’d said as they walked among the tombstones. Her once vibrant red hair had already started to lose it luster, here and there the gray of her approaching old age had started to show through. Her steps were not as assured as they once were, and she carefully picked her way through the graveyard, ever watchful for hazards that might cause her to lose her footing.

“Like what?” he’d asked as he followed, noting, not for the first time, that the curvy figure that had caught his eyes so many years ago had softened around the edges. It was still there, just not as pronounced as it once was.

“Like my mother,” she said as she spun on him, forcing him to stop abruptly, “I don’t care what you’ve gotta do, I don’t want to end up like that.”

“What are you talking about? What are you saying?”

“You know. “ She looked at him with a hard stare, an unrelenting gaze, her blue eyes as cold as ice. He was forced to look at his feet, the ground, the tombstone to their right that carried the worn name of another. Anywhere but into her unrelenting gaze. A part of him noticed the crows feet spreading out from the side of each eye, the way her cheeks had grown just a tad heavier, her lips a little less defined.

“A bullet to the brain would be preferable to spending the last years of my life confined to bed, unaware of who or where I am, not even recognizing you or the boys. I couldn’t live with myself like that,” she said.

Archie was taken back by the sheer intensity in her voice.

“Promise me,” she said, stepping close enough for him to see the fine lines gathered at the corners of her lips.

“Promise you what?” He asked, but he knew all too well what she wanted. It was what anyone else in the same situation would want. What many already trapped in the illness likely begged for silently every day. An end to the suffering, the not knowing, the loss of self. An end to the indignity of being forced to rely on others for even the simplest of things.

“You know what,” she said, following him step for step as he backed away from her. The backs of his legs came against the curved top of a tombstone and he was forced to put his hand back to steady himself.

“What?” he said again. “Say it out loud, tell me what you want me to do.”

“I want you to kill me, it if comes to it. The doctors say I have a seventy five percent chance of becoming just like my mom. If I do, I want you to end my suffering.”

How? How could he kill the one thing he truly loved. He knew death, had walked hand in hand with it in the jungles of Vietnam, but that had been war. This was different, this was murder plain and simple

“I’m begging you not to let me suffer the same fate as my mom.”

He couldn’t respond, hell he couldn’t even wrap his mind around it, to kill his wife, the mother of his children, the woman he loved. It was too much to ask. It was one thing to kill your enemy in a battle. It was quite the opposite to kill the one you loved.

He stood at the foot of her bed as she slept, the memory of that day receding into the dark depths of his mind. It would be so easy. Hold the pillow over her face until she stopped struggling.

Would she struggle?

The direction his mind was taking frightened him and he raced from her room as fast as a man his age was capable of. Seeking the refuge of the basement. He reached the bottom of the steps and stared across the room at the phone booth as the memory of her sparkling blue eyes filled his mind. Before he even realized he was going to do it he was halfway across the room.

Reaching the phone booth he yanked open the door and stepped in to settle onto the hard wooden seat. There he sat as the stress from the past week slowly drained away and a heavy sadness settled over him. Lowering his head he cried softly, his hot tears dropping onto his hands.

It was too much to ask.

There was a knock at the door, and he looked up.

To be continued!

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