Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Watchers: Part Five

A continuation of The Watchers. Copyright, Michael Wescott Loder 2009.

Pastor Benjamin had said good-night to his new hosts and was standing in the bedroom they had provided. He was just saying his last prayers of the day, when he felt a cold hand grasp his neck. The thumb settled just left of his windpipe, the slender fingers easily working their way into the muscles by the back of his neck. He stiffened. “What? Who is this? Ah …?” The finger tips now had blades with sharp tips that already were settling under his skin.
“Do not move, Cleric,” a young voice hissed. “I saved you once. Now your life belongs to me. No! Do not move anything! You asked about my right hand. Do you understand what it can do? A little tightening, just a little, and its fingers will find your spinal cord. It will part easily. Then you will not be able to move even if you want to. A strange life that will be.”
“What do you want, Child?”
“What do you want? Why are you here? The Watchers are curious.”
“The Watchers? I do not know them.” Benjamin found that he was breathing slowly and carefully. It was easy not to want to move at all.
“You don’t have to.”
Benjamin took a deep breath. “My people have heard little from our own kind who live here. I persuaded our Council of Elders to send me here to speak with your elders. They … they wish to know that all is well. I am afraid it is not.”
“You’re pretty smart, Benjamin. No. This place is a mess. Tell me more.”
“My … my eldest disciple was a young man who came from Tartuff. When he spoke of this land, he spoke of wild apples, sweet wines and bold women who dared to show both their hands and faces. He spoke of how your people were hospitable to all, kind and generous in goods and spirit. He said you loved to tell stories and celebrated those who spoke and wrote the best.
“A turning of the seasons ago, he went home. When he returned to my place, he was changed.” Benjamin swallowed and closed his eyes. Even moving his lips was bringing pain to his neck.
The hand settled its grip and Benjamin found he could breathe easier. “What was his name?” the girl asked.
“Titus. Titus Adornett. He was no longer happy. He was with me, you understand, but his spirit remained back here. One morning he was gone. He left a message on his computer, apologizing for taking my time. He said he had to go home. I assumed he meant here; I assumed he returned here”
“Hmm. You came here to look for Titus?” she asked.
“Yes. I had searched the web. Many sites spoke of the bad things happening here. I contacted others of my faith, as I said.”
“I believe you. Come, I will release you now, if you promise not to ask me any more questions about myself, or seek me out again.”
“You fill me with curiosity, but, yes, I will be silent and circumspect.”
“Swear on all you hold holy and sacred.”
“I … I swear.”
“Cross you heart and hope to die?”
“Cross my heart and hope to die.” The hand slipped away from Benjamin’s neck. He sighed, took another deep breath and sighed again before carefully touching his wounds. He glanced at the girl. She was in front of him now, clothed completely in black—including a hood that hid all but her face—the cheeks and nose which bore streaks of black. As he stared at her, trying to see both the beggar of half a day ago and the rich child of supper, she brought up her hands so that to see her eyes, he had to look through ten fingers.
“Do not always believe what you see,” she whispered. “This is a plagued land with many sick people. Be careful. The wall holds many answers; the watchers seek answers.” She lowered her hands, nodded briefly and disappeared into the shadows. By the time Benjamin located the window she had used, she was more than a quarter dial turn gone.

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