(written 11/26/2010 - total words 62,147)
A cold splash. The sound and light muted around Cal. There was a warm haze from his right, like the beginnings of dawn only without a horizon. Opposite that, to his left, was pure darkness. He floated between them, drifting along the star speckled continuum towards the darkness.
He still had the shovel in his hand, the metal of the blade reacted with the otherness of where he was and cast off a faint white glow.
He noticed he wasn’t floating freely. There were black tendrils wrapped around him still, pulling with gentle pressure towards the darkness.
He swung the shovel at the tendrils. There was resistance to just moving the shovel. He could feel the space itself reacting to the metal, pushing against any movement. The metal tore through the space with a sound that reminded Cal of unrolling duct tape, only much louder. It resonated in the empty space.
The metal severed the tendrils as it touched them, each stub snapping back towards the darkness, leaving little pieces of inert shadow floating around like pieces of silk blowing in the wind.
The deep sound of his dreams was back. He grit his teeth as the non-words blasted through the space. More tendrils snaked out from the darkness and grabbed him. He cut each one, the tearing sound barely audible over the non-words. For each he cut another seemed to reach out, keeping him moving towards the darkness.
He tried yelling out, but his voice was muffled and distorted as if underwater. He couldn’t even understand his own words.
More tendrils came out, wrapping around the shovel and pulling it. It was trying to get the shovel out of his hands. In his confusion, one thing was clear. If he lost the shovel, he would not make it out of here.
He pulled himself toward the shovel and twisted in the zero gravity environment. He dragged the shovel around, severing the tendrils holding it, but still more came. They wrapped around the shovel, and around him. What started as a gentle pressure grew more intense as the tendrils pulled him in one direction and the shovel in the other. His grip slipped down the shaft of the shovel to the handle and he held that with both arms. He was completely extended now.
His fingers ached as the pressure increased. He tried pulling himself toward the shovel again, but he couldn’t move. He was screwed. It was only a matter of time before his grip gave out and he lost the shovel. The non-words continued to boom in the void. Cal tried to scream, but couldn’t.
His grip failed. The shovel slipped from his grasp.
The booming sound reverberated light laughter, but then suddenly cut out.
Cal heard a sharp hissing noise behind him. He looked towards the noise and saw that the dawn light had grown in intensity. Cracks like lightning came from it, working through the expanse of stars.
The black tendrils faded from inky black to a transparent gray in the growing light. They started to weaken and Cal strained against them. He was able to pry one off of wrist and reached out for the shovel, but it was too far away.
He looked behind again and saw that the glowing light was spreading, the cracks criss crossing across the stars.
He looked back to the darkness and saw eyes. Hundreds of eyes coming from the darkness and the tendrils pulling him down to them. He could feel the cold radiating off of it. His nose filled with a harsh chemical scent. He was close.
He looked over at the shovel, but it had drifted even further away, back toward the light.
He looked back to the light which seemed further away. He was too close to the darkness. He had a sudden realization that he wasn’t going to make it. He wasn’t going to see his friends or his family again. He wasn’t going to kiss Angel again.
Something shifted in the darkness. A mouth opening maybe? Black teeth reaching out for him. His arms and legs were numb from the cold.
Suddenly he jerked to a stop, the tendrils around his body yanking taut.
The sounds of the world shifted. Less bass. More splashing water and screaming. He looked up from the surface of the lake. Angel had him by the shirt.
“God dammit,” Angel screamed, then dropped him, falling back and swinging his shovel at something dark.
He splashed back down into the void. The darkness closing in around him, eclipsing the dawn. There was something glinting at the bottom of the black hole yawning in front of him. Almost like -
He jerked up to the surface again. Angel was shaking him.
“Stand up,” she screamed at him.
Oscar swung his bat at something behind her. Cal heard the ping of the bat striking something solid. Something wrapped around Angel’s face and she was yanked backwards, dropping the shovel and Cal.
He fell under the surface again. Everything was blackness now, and cold. He saw the glimmer in front of him again.
He closed his eyes.
Mind games, he told himself. These are mind games. I’m in the lake.
He reached down with his hand and could imagine the cold, sticky mud beneath him, even though he was accelerating towards that black maw. The mismatch of the two gave him a tickle of vertigo in his belly.
He convinced himself that he was on the lake bed, that the star field was imaginary, and the shovel was just off to his right. He reached out, grabbing for the shovel. His fingers wrapped around the wooden handle. He opened his eyes, focusing on the glimmering object, memorizing where it was in space in front of him.
Pulling his feet under him, he stood up, water and star field dripping off of him. Lunging forward, he drove the shovel down into the water where the glimmering object had been. He slipped in the muck, falling onto the shovel. It sunk into the muck and stopped with a satisfying clank.
He slipped off of the shovel and onto his side, struggling to keep his head out of the water.
The splashing around him died down and the night grew quiet. He heard the sound of crying.
Flipping over he dug under the water in the mud around the shovel. He jammed his finger on a solid, cold object. Pushing the shovel out of the way, he dug with both hands. His fingers found an edge and he pulled. With a slurping noise, it came loose of the muck.
Cal held it up and wiped the mud off of it. A large, thick coin.
He heard somebody walking up behind him and turned, standing. Oscar stopped, holding his hands up.
“It’s me,” Oscar said.
He was soaking wet and breathing hard. One arm of his coat was ripped. He dragged the bat behind him.
“Is it over?” he asked Cal.
Cal nodded and held the coin out.
“I think so,” he said.
“The bat doesn’t work as well as your shovel,” Oscar said. “Still better than nothing, I guess.”
Cal smiled down at his shovel.
“You gotta stick with what works, I guess,” Cal said.
Cal looked around.
“Where’s Angel?” he asked, a worry creeping into his exhaustion.
“I don’t know,” he said looking over his shoulder. “Things were getting pretty crazy there.”
“Angel?” Cal yelled.
“I thought she was right here,” Cal said. “I saw her the last time I surfaced.”
“Angel?” Cal yelled again, panic edging into his voice.
He stepped forward, scanning around the lake for her.
Oscar called out as well, going in the other direction.
Cal saw her in the water, a dark form sprawled out, pale face turned up to the sky.
“Here,” he called to Oscar as he ran to her and knelt.
He pulled her head and shoulders up onto his lap, out of the water. Oscar splashed over to them.
“Is she okay?” he asked, his voice high and clipped.
Cal put a hand on her chest and leaned over to listen. He could feel and hear a shallow breath.
“She’s breathing,” he said.
She coughed, her whole body spasming, and turned into Cal, putting an arm around him.
“Let’s get out of here before we’re caught,” Oscar said pointing across to the bouncing light of a security patrol.
“Angel?” Cal asked, brushing her hair out of her face.
She looked up at him.
“Can you stand and walk?” he asked. “We need to get moving.”
She nodded and he pulled her up to standing as he stood.
“I saw it,” she said to him dreamily. “In the water. The stars and the darkness.”
Cal held her face in his hands and stared into her eyes.
“Did you go into the darkness?” he asked.
“No, no,” she said with a drunken smile. “You were there. You stopped it.”
“Let’s go, guys,” Oscar said from the edge of the water. “They’re heading this way.”
Cal and Angel splashed through the muck and water and joined Oscar. They chose a direct route straight up the hill and back to the car. They weren’t unconcerned about getting caught, they were just more concerned with getting out of there.
* * *
Cal sat in the backseat with Angel again. She was curled up against him. The car was silent.
“Uh-oh,” Oscar said, slowing the car.
“What,” Cal said looking up.
There were two sheriff’s cars outside of Angel’s house. The black SUV, however, Cal noted, was not there.
“You can’t stop here,” Angel said, sitting forward. “They’ve already seen us. Just pull over like normal.
Oscar pulled over and Cal and Angel got out. Oscar stayed in the car and tried not to attract attention, a difficult task in a classic muscle car with yellow lightning bolts painted on the sides.
There was a locksmith working on the front door as Cal and Angel passed. They heard some talking from the kitchen.
Angel’s mom, Curtis, and another sheriff deputy were sitting at the kitchen table.
“Oh, thank God,” Maureen said.
She stood up quickly, knocking over her chair and ran over to hug Angel.
“Somebody broke into the house tonight,” she said, voice shaky. “I didn’t know if you were here or not. Thank God you were out with Cal.”
Maureen pushed Angel back to look at her.
“What have you kids been doing?” she asked looking at Call as well.
“And why didn’t you answer me when I called?” she asked Angel.
“Sorry, mom,” Angel said. “My phone died.”
The two sheriffs deputies stood up, chairs pushing noisily back on the kitchen floor.
“I think we’ve got all we need,” Curtis said. “Just fill out the reports and drop them by tomorrow.”
“Thank you,” Maureen said, looking over her shoulder.
“The locksmith should be done soon,” Curtis said. “We’ll wait outside til he’s gone. Just let us know if we can be of any further assistance.
“Calvin,” Curtis said with a nod as he passed.
Cal decided to try a theory.
“Deputy Curtis?” he asked.
The two deputies stopped.
“What’s the name of the FBI officer in your office?” he asked.
The two deputies glanced at each other.
“Who told you there’s an FBI agent in our office?” Curtis asked.
“Oh,” Cal replied. “Some kids at school mentioned it. They said there was some FBI agent here working on some gang stuff. Last name was Benson, or something like that.
Curtis scratched his head.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” he said, looking at the other deputy who shrugged.
“Dammit,” Cal said, looking at Angel. “I knew those kids were screwing with us.”
Curtis shook his head and the two deputies left.
Cal watched Maureen hold Angel for a bit, feeling uncomfortable but stuck there.
“Well,” he said. “I should probably get going.”
“Oh, yes,” Maureen said, releasing Angel.
Maureen patted Cal on the shoulder then went back to the table and the pile of paperwork she had to go through.
Angel led Cal back to the front door, but they stopped in the hallway as the locksmith was still working on the door.
Angel embraced Cal and gave him a long kiss.
“I thought we lost you,” she said. He could hear the beginnings of tears in her voice.
“It was scary on the lake,” she continued. “The images in my head and the things attacking us, but nothing was as frightening as the feeling of losing you.”
Cal stroked her cheek with a finger.
“Thanks for saving me,” he said. “You’re my hero.”
She laughed through her sniffling tears and gave him another kiss.
“I have to get The Cannon back and hope Rob didn’t notice it missing,” Cal said.
“Good luck with that,” Angel said.
They held hands for a moment, looking into each others eyes in the dark hallway, then Cal left.
He got in the front seat with Oscar.
“You want to drive?” Oscar asked.
“No,” Cal said. “You go ahead.”
Oscar shrugged and started the car.
“It’s a nice car,” he said.
“I asked the deputies about the FBI agents,” Cal said.
“And, they didn’t know what I was talking about.”
Oscar stopped the car.
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“I think it means that we broke the spell,” Cal said. “We got them all.”
Oscar started driving again, shaking his head.
“I hope so,” he said. “Maybe we should check in with Jason?”
“Yeah,” Cal said. “That’s probably a good idea, but later. I just want to sleep now.”
“I hear that,” Oscar said.