Cal and Oscar looked at Angel.
“What’s your better idea?” Cal asked.
“There’s a water tower down past the golf course,” she said. “From up there, I think we could see the whole golf course.”
“Great time to bring that up,” Oscar said. “It’s probably blocked off anyways.”
“No, you can get up there,” she said. “I’ve been up there before.”
Oscar looked at Cal. Not going into the golf course sure had it’s merits, but taking the time to go over to the water tower didn’t sound all that fun. He was exhausted and scared and just wanted to get this over. Besides they may not even be able to see the lake from the water tower.
“We’re already here,” Cal said. “Let’s go and take a look. We’ll go to the water tower next time and see what we can see.”
“I don’t know if I can go back in there,” Angel said.
“Well why did you come then?” Oscar said.
“Don’t be a jerk,” Angel said. Cal agreed with her. Oscar was being weird.
“I wasn’t scared until I got here,” she said. “Can’t you feel it?”
“You’re just psyching yourself out,” Oscar said.
“No,” Cal said. “I can feel it too.”
Cal walked towards the fence. Fear built up in him the closer he got to it. The dark, quiet night took on a sinister quality. Every little noise had Cal looking around.
“Come over here, Oscar,” Cal whispered.
Oscar walked over, his steps slowing the closer he got.
“You feel that?” Cal asked.
Oscar nodded and backed up to Angel.
“See?” Angel whispered. “I’m not making stuff up.”
A cold pit was growing in Cal’s stomach. He clenched his fists, trying to resist the fear. He looked around, trying to prove to himself that there was nothing there to be afraid of, but the fear persisted. He thought of his mom. What would Thor do?
Oscar called to him, alarm in his voice, but it was a background noise in his head. Every instinct screamed to turn around.
He took a step forward. It was like walking through water, but the pressure against movement were his own muscles revolting. His legs started shaking. He knelt down, one hand on the fence. The metal chilled his hand.
He closed his eyes and clenched his jaw, trying to push the fear down. He knew if he sat too long, he would convince himself not to go. The fear would win. He nodded to himself and before he could rethink his decision he launched himself under the fence.
He cried out as raw fear drove a cold spike through his brain. The thought something had tried to snatch him as he passed under the fence, but he now realized he had just scraped his back on the chain links. He could feel the scratches across his back warming up.
He rolled onto his back and sat up, rubbing his numb hands together. He’d gone through. Whatever it was, it had passed.
“Cal,” Oscar called from the other side. He and Angel were still well back from the fence.
“I’m okay,” Cal said, standing up on legs that were still shaky. “I think it’s gone, whatever it was.”
“No, it’s still here,” Oscar said.
“Well it’s not on this side,” Cal said, puzzled.
“It’s to keep us out,” Angel said.
“What the fence?” Oscar asked. “How?”
“Of course, the fence,” Angel snapped. “Fences are made to keep people out. This one has something else. Maybe some kind of spell?”
“A spell?” Oscar asked in a dismissive tone.
“What?” asked Angel. “Like anything else around here is making sense? Do you have a better explanation?”
“No,” Oscar said.
“Then shut it,” she quipped.
“Guys,” Cal said, standing at the fence. “C’mon over, I’ll help you through.”
He needed to get them doing something before they really started tearing into each other.
Angel nodded and walked towards the fence. Her walking slowed as she approached, but she continued. She took a few more steps, then stopped suddenly, looking past Cal, eyes wide.
Cal turned quickly, his heart racing, but there was nothing there. He turned back and reached under the fence.
“Angel,” he said. “There’s nothing there. It’s just the fence that’s scaring you.”
She looked back down to him, then to his outstretched hand. She reached out to him, shuffling forward in tentative steps. He could see her chin quivering.
“It’ll be okay,” Cal said. “Just take my hand.”
She grabbed his hand. Her’s was freezing. The fear seemed like a distant memory to Cal now, but he appreciated how terrified she was right now. Her grip tightened on Cal’s. He winced at the pain, but held her hand tight. They stood there holding hands for a bit. She seemed to be calming down.
“C’mon,” he said. “Don’t sit there in it, just come through, and stay low.”
She nodded, ducked down, and followed Cal’s lead under the fence. He put his other hand on her back to keep her from scraping her back, too.
Cal was shocked as she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him. He put his arms around her, uncertain where exactly to place his hands, and patted her on the back. She was breathing hard. He felt her heart beating rapidly against his chest.
“Holy crap,” she said over his shoulder. “I don’t think I’ve ever been that scared.”
“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s over now.”
“That’s the problem,” she said, pulling away from him. Cal regretted the distance between them, but now wasn’t really an ideal make-out time. Especially not with Oscar still sitting in the fear across the fence.
“I don’t think it is,” she continued, rubbing her arms and looking into the golf course. “Whoever put that fence up is still in here.”
That thought hadn’t occurred to Cal. It wasn’t a pleasant one.
The two of them coaxed Oscar through. He was a tough one. Once both he and Angel had a hand, they were able to pull him through, but he didn’t help them much. He sat on the edge of the ditch, inside the fence. He apparently needed a moment. Cal sat down next to him.
“So what now?” Angel asked, sitting next to Cal.
“We head for the lake,” he said.
He looked up at the cloudy sky. No moonlight or starlight, but the city lights reflected a dim amber light.
“I guess we should keep to the edge of the trees,” he said.
He looked over to Oscar and clapped him on the back.
“You ready, buddy?” Cal asked him, keeping his arm around Oscar.
“Are we going to run into more of that?” Oscar asked.
“I don’t know,” said Cal.
“Yes,” answered Angel. “Remember the lake last time? It wasn’t as bad as that fence, but it was the same, I don’t know, feel?”
“Yeah,” Cal said. “But I think it’s just like the fence. There’s nothing there to really be afraid of.”
“And what are you basing that on?” Oscar said. “You saw the lake.” Oscar shrugged away from Cal. His voice sounded angry and uncomfortably loud in the quiet night. “There was something real in there.”
“I don’t know,” Cal said. “The fence seemed very real. To me at least. But getting through it made me feel silly for being afraid.”
“I just,” Oscar said then stopped.
He took a few breaths.
“Sorry,” he said quietly, rubbing at his eyes. “This stuff is really freaking me out.”
Cal felt bad for dragging Oscar along on this. Oscar, who, from day one, said it was a bad idea.
Cal pushed himself up, facing Oscar.
“Look,” Cal said to Oscar. “I got us into this mess, and I’m going to fix it. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”
Silence hung in the air, punctuated by sniffles from Oscar. He looked sideways at Angel then up at Cal.
“I don’t want you to send me home,” he said, laughing. “I’m just really scared of being scared again.”
Cal found himself laughing with Oscar. There was something darkly funny about their situation. The fact that nobody believed them. That the three of them would have to go it alone. That all of them were frightened out of their wits.
* * *
They lay on their bellies at the crest of the hill over the lake. It was dark, but creepy. Cal couldn’t figure out if it was just his own memories of what they had seen before, or if there was something, like the fence, causing his discomfort.
Cal hadn’t noticed before, but the clubhouse overlooked the lake. Lights from it reflected on the smooth surface of the water.
Angel took off her backpack and rummaged through it. She pulled out a pair of binoculars and caught Cal’s eye before training them on the lake.
“I thought it would be smart to come prepared,” she said with a shrug, then looked through them.
Cal nodded in agreement. He hadn’t brought anything.
“You see anything?” Cal asked.
“Give me a minute,” she said, adjusting the binoculars.
Oscar crawled up close to the other side of Cal to listen in.
“Do you feel it?” Cal asked Oscar.
Oscar shook his head.
“No,” he said. “At least nothing like last time.”
Cal nodded, staring at the water, inky black between the reflections of the lights. It looked like a warped version of a clear night sky. Wind blew across the grass. At least it wasn’t raining tonight.
“Okay, the big building looks empty,” Angel said. “Just some exterior lights on.”
She moved the binoculars.
“It’s hard to see around the lake”, she said. “But I don’t see anything moving.”
“There’s a little house just to the right of the lake,” she continued, pointing off to their right with her hand. “I think we could get to it without being seen.”
In the silence that followed, Cal felt them waiting for him. Aside from the fence, which was it’s own mystery, their sneaking around the golf course had been uneventful. He didn’t want to go home empty handed. If they could get closer and see what was down there, they probably should.
“I guess we should go down,” Cal said.
“One of us should stay here,” Angel said. “With the binoculars as a lookout.”
“I’ll do it,” Oscar said. “I’m probably better up here if the freak-out ray starts anyways.”
He took the binoculars from Angel.
“So do I whistle if I see something?” he asked.
“Oh, no wait,” Angel said, pulling her backpack up between them.
She rifled through it again, then pulled out two little radios. She turned them on and handed one to Oscar.
“Breaker breaker,” she said across the radios.
“Anything else in your magic bag we should know about,” Cal said.
“Yeah, there’s one more thing,” she said searching through her bag again.
She pulled out a foil packet.
“Pop Tarts?” she offered with a smile.
“Were you a Boy Scout or something?” Oscar asked, accepting a piece of a Pop Tart.
“Brownies,” she said, handing another piece to Cal. “Two years.”
The laughed quietly as they enjoyed their snack.
* * *
Cal and Angel followed the hill around to the side of the club house. From there it was a short jog to what seemed to be a maintenance shed. Cal’s heart was thumping when he reached the shed. Running across the open seemed to take forever. He was sure somebody would see him.
He flattened himself against the building and looked around. The grounds around the shed were still. He waved Angel over.
“I saw you guys,” Oscar’s voice came across the radio. “Still looks quiet though.”
“What time do you think it was that we saw that thing last time?” Cal asked Angel.
“I have no idea,” she said shrugging. “I got home about 3am, so maybe 2am?”
Cal looked down at his watch.
“Three minutes until 2am,” he said. “Though I doubt they care all that much about time.”
“Do you really think it’s a good idea to be this close with that thing pulsing,” she asked.
Cal pursed his lips. He hadn’t gotten that far in the plan.
“Uh, yeah,” he said. “Probably not a good idea. Let’s see what we can see an get out of here.”
They crept to the edge of the shed furthest from the club house and peeked around the corner. They had a clear view of the lake.
Cal started to go around the corner, and stepped into some gardening tools leaning against the side. They started to fall over and he grabbed them, pressing them against the wall to keep them from falling. He had his eyes closed, fearing the noise of some missed tool, but it was quiet. He breathed a sigh of relief and opened his eyes.
He started to stand up, slowly moving the tools back to the wall when his eye caught something in the lake.
“Angel?” he whispered.
“Yeah?” she whispered back, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Do you see that?”
One stream of luminous green lightning skittered under the surface of the pool. A large, thick shadow of a man stood at the edge of the water, no less than fifty yards from the shed.
“Guys,” Oscar’s voice hissed on the radio. “It’s starting.”
* * *
Cal was frozen. He didn’t want to move and attract either the attention of the man-shadow, or the thing in the lake. Angel apparently felt the same as her hand on his back hadn’t moved.
Another line of the green, undulating lightning faded into view. He wasn’t sure when it would start pulsing, but he was getting really worried about what would happen when it did and they were this close.
Another line faded in.
Cal’s legs were starting to tire from his half-bent over position. He couldn’t maintain this position much longer, especially if a pulse came. He really wanted to be behind the shed by the time a pulse came.
He started to lower the tools slowly, keeping an eye on the shadow and the lake. He got one set of them down, then the other set. Relived, he shuffled backwards and he and Angel sat with their backs against the shed.
There was a slight crackle of static on the radio.
“Agent X in the clubhouse,” Oscar said.
Cal and Angel looked up from the radio at each other. Cal could see the confusion in Angel’s eyes.
Then a pulse hit, lub-dub.
Vivid imagery shot through Cal’s mind too fast to catch, but it left a remnant disgust and fear behind. A fear that was becoming too familiar to him. It began to build on itself, the fear growing, a nausea starting to nip at his stomach. He felt Angel’s hand in his, not knowing if he grabbed hers or she grabbed his. He pulled her to him and they held each other as the imagery faded away.
He slowly opened his eyes. Their faces were inches apart. He could see pain in her eyes, a tear going down one cheek.
“I think this was a bad idea,” he said.
“Problems,” Oscar said over the radio. “Agent X heading towards the shed. The light is being weird too.”
Cal and Angel locked eyes.
“What do we do?” she asked.
“If Agent X is at the club house, we can’t get away without being seen,” Cal said.
He needed to know what the light was doing, though.
“We run for it?” Angel said standing up.
Cal stood and nodded.
“I want to see something first though,” he said.
“Cal, no,” Angel said as he poked his head around the corner.
The green light was spasming under the surface. Previously it had looked like entangled kelp, but now there was no pattern to it. It almost seemed to be searching for something. Cal noticed the man-shadow was waving its arms around more frantically as well, though it seemed to stay in a man-like form. There was some low noise as well. It almost sounded like shouting, but it was much too low to be a voice.
“That’s weird,” he whispered over his shoulder to Angel.
The green lightning stopped it’s random movements and snapped to a location at the shore in front of Cal. He felt the ground soften under his feet and he stumbled forward, tripping over the gardening tools and tumbling towards the water.
He heard Angel scream something as he went into the water.
It was deeper than he thought it would be.
He looked up at a clear night sky. Inky black with millions of points of light. Were they stars? Or eyes? Millions of dark eyes watching him. Something reached out to him.
A hand grabbed his shirt and yanked him up out of the water.
“Cal,” Angel screamed, shaking him.
“ - coming down,” Oscar’s voice over the radio.
He sputtered, wiping water from his eyes. A green glow surrounded them. Fear shot through him when he realized where he was.
“Run,” he said, struggling to his feet, struggling to get out of the water as soon as he could.
The man-shadow was still gesturing at the water, the low screaming louder now.
They stumbled up the gentle rise together, putting distance between them and the water.
Cal felt an odd yearning to go back to the water, but it was outvoted by his desire to get himself and his friends out of there.
As they got close to the shed, a shadow stepped out. The FBI agent stood before them. His eyes were too obvious in the dark night. They had a light to them that grew in intensity. Cal and Angel stopped short.
The agent shimmered, like a mirage, heat waves traveling up his body. Sometimes he was an FBI agent, other times parts of him were something else. Cal saw sharp teeth, a shock of white hair, pale skin, but the gray eyes only grew larger and brighter. The beams from them light headlights, trapping Cal and Angel where they were. The only thing keeping Cal from curling up into a fetal position was the grip he had on Angel’s hand. Her hand was normal, an anchor in the insanity going on around them. He could feel her squeezing him back.
Cal heard Oscar’s voice, and, in an instant, the agent was a normal looking FBI agent again. Only now Oscar was wailing on him. Aside from the short and sweet last fight they had with the bully, Cal had never seen Oscar fight before. It was a thing of beauty. He battered the agent around like a punching bag, landing and obviously rehearsed series of kicks and punches. The agent seemed incapable of defending himself, but Cal’s brief moment of hope started to dwindle as he noticed that although the agent was being knocked around by Oscar’s blows, he seemed mostly unaffected.
Apparently it was a rehearsed sequence as Oscar stopped and fell back into a fighting stance, breathing hard. Agent X stepped forward. Oscar started another series of moves, but the agent grabbed him, picked him up and threw him back several yards. He landed with a groan and was still.
Cal ran up to the agent, intending to revenge his fallen friend. What felt like a tree trunk slammed him back against the shed wall and he fell into the tools, something with metal teeth gouging into side.
The agent turned on Angel. She shrunk and withered away from him. Although he appeared a normal FBI agent to Cal, he could tell from Angel’s reactions that he was putting on the freak show for her.
Cal pushed himself up. Oscar was sitting up, but still looked dazed. The shadow thing at the lake edge still seemed to be ignoring them.
The agent reached down and pulled Angel up by her arm, her eyes locked on his.
Her screams tore into Cal. He stood, trying to figure out what to do. She screamed his name and something clicked. Fear transformed into anger. Potential into action.
He picked up a stick, ran to the agent, and hit him with a scream of rage.
The stick was a shovel, and it tore the agent’s head off his body with a ringing clank.
The momentum carried Cal around in an unstable circle. He tripped over Angel and fell at the agent’s feet.
The agent’s body remained upright, still holding Angel’s arm. She pried her arm loose and she and Cal detangled themselves and stood up.
The inanimate body exploded into ash, catching on the wind and getting into their eyes.
Cal blinked at the pile of ash on the grass. He looked over at the shadow-man who still seemed unaware of their presence. Oscar was standing now, that was a good sign. Angel stared down at the pile of ash with a lost look.
“Let’s go,” Cal said, pulling her towards Oscar. Oscar turned and started running up the hill as well.
Something caught Cal’s eye. He slowed, Angel wouldn’t let go of his hand, so she slowed with him.
There was a smaller pile of ash. Cal guessed this was where the head landed. In the ash was something that glinted. He reached down and picked it up. It seemed to be a large, thick coin.
Angel started pulling on his arm.
“Cal,” she pleaded. “Let’s go.”
He pocketed the coin and let her pull him away.
They followed Oscar all the way back to his car. The fence didn’t seem to have any problem with them leaving.
* * *
Denny’s wasn’t Cal’s first choice, but Angel had a good point. It was the only place open at 2:30am.
Nadine was the night manager for the graveyard shift. She also happened to be the hostess, waitress, and bus person for the graveyard shift. Fortunately she was much nicer than Mr. Tower, and gave them a booth in the back, away from the windows. They didn’t need any attention from passing officers of the law.
Nadine had a wary look in her eye as she sat them.
“You kids doing okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, we’re okay,” Cal said. “Been a rough night though.”
He gave her a weak smile. She replied with an unconvincing nod, then zipped away to another table.
Cal slumped down in the booth, exhaustion working its way through the numbness he felt.
“What the hell are we going to do?” Oscar asked.
Nobody answered his question.
“You just killed a federal agent,” Oscar said. His voice had a lost, far away quality to it.
“A fake federal agent,” Angel corrected. “And some kind of demon.”
“No,” Cal said. “I think Oscar has a point. Regardless of what Agent X was, the sheriff, and our parents, think he was a real federal agent. This isn’t going to go down well.”
“But we can explain it to them,” Angel said.
Cal looked at her. Her eyes were large, her brow furrowed. She was trying to convince herself as much as them. She wasn’t succeeding with anybody.
“I can’t explain it to anybody,” Oscar said.
“I know,” Cal replied. “I was right in the middle of it and I don’t understand any of what just happened.”
“We need a game plan,” Oscar said.
“I think the only thing we can do,” Cal said, thinking things through as he talked. “Is I turn myself in, and say I was alone. Leave you guys out of it.”
“No,” Angel said. Cal hadn’t known her long, but he could tell there was no room for a disagreement in her tone.
“Yeah,” Oscar said. “I’m not excited about being wrapped up in some crime, but we’re in this together, Cal.”
Cal nodded, but remained unconvinced. He saw no other way.
“They’re going to come for me,” Cal said. “Turning myself in is the best way. I don’t want to wind up on the evening news doing some slow-speed chase through town on my scooter.”
“We don’t know what they know,” Angel said. “We should wait to see. I mean there’s not even a body.”
“Yeah, we should wait,” Oscar said. “I’m having a hard time seeing how they can really tie us to a murder here.”
“From what we’ve seen,” Cal said. “They seem pretty capable of doing pretty much anything.”
“You need to go wash up,” Angel said to Cal.
“Yeah,” Oscar said. “You look like crap.”
Angel pushed on Cal until he got out of the booth.
“We’ll order you a milkshake,” she said.
“No,” Cal said. “Just some soup and hot chocolate. Nadine hates making milkshakes.”
When he got to the bathroom, he saw what they were talking about. His hair was plastered to his head from the lake, and the ash from the agent was crusted in his hair and on his face. He had a little cut on his right cheek as well. He cleaned up the best he could, noticing the sore spots across his back and side.
He stared into the mirror trying to come to grips with what happened tonight. Things had shifted in a moment. He used to be an innocent person accused of something he hadn’t done, but he was no longer innocent now. He had struck back. He was glad that he had, but there was a growing anxiety over what the fallout would be.
He pulled the coin out of his pocket. It was dirty and had some thin twine wrapped around it. He washed it in the sink and pulled the twine off. It had weird carvings on both sides. He couldn’t identify the metal, but it was soft. He could make marks in it with his fingernails. The carvings had a simple, almost cartoonish quality to them. I looked like some grade school art project. Did Agent X have a kid?
He looked back at himself in the mirror. Looking at the eyes of a killer.
He had to turn himself in. He’d wait until morning and see what the morning news said, then he’d turn himself in.
He slipped the coin back into his pocket and went back to the table.
* * *
Nobody seemed eager to talk all that much about what had happened, and with Cal agreeing to wait things out, while secretly knowing that he wouldn’t, there wasn’t a lot of planning to do. Oscar and Angel took a cue from Cal and did not order milkshakes, but something warm and soothing.
They left at 4am, feeling that if they pushed it any later, they ran the risk of being discovered by their parents.
Oscar dropped Angel off first. Cal got out of the car to say goodbye and she gave him a warm hug. She kissed him on the cheek and looked him in the eye.
“Thank you,” she said. Then with a quirky smile, “You’re my hero.”
He laughed with her, and she broke their embrace and walked away. Cal’s mind seized up from that exchange, and he watched her walk a few houses up and turn in. She waved, and he waved back.
“Cal,” Oscar hissed from the car. “Get in, let’s go.”
Although the doom of the following day loomed on the horizon, Cal fell asleep happy and content with a dopey grin on his face.
It didn’t last.
His dreams were dark, cold, and full of eyes watching him.