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In the handful of seconds between Brad reaching the top of his staircase and bursting into Amelia’s boudoir, his mind was in a thousand different places. He was under no illusion that any news would be less than concerting judging by the mortification on his sister’s face but still kept the faith that this new enlightenment would bring him closer to finding his heart’s twin. When he entered the room, April was still stood over by the window but she didn’t turn to face him. Instead, she gazed out, mesmerized by what she was convinced she had seen.
“What is it April?” Brad asked excitedly. “It was Analise” she replied stony-faced and still with her back turned. He darted to the window to join her “Where? Where is she?” he inquired. “She was over there by the creek, in the clearing”. His eyes flitted left and right in a desperate attempt at sharing her vision “I can’t see her. Am I looking in the right place? What the fuck?” He was frantic but April remained almost nonchalant as though she had seen an apparition in those misted distant recesses and fallen under its spell. Eventually she turned to him “She wasn’t wearing any clothes Brad” she stated. “What do you mean no clothes?” Brad quizzed, knowing full well what that suggested but entirely discombobulated.
“She was dancing” April continued. “Dancing?” Brad’s crumpled frown said it all. “I saw it too, fleetingly” Amelia interjected “She was moving around, in and out of the mist. I only caught the end of it but it was definitely her”. He had heard enough and started striding towards the door briskly “We’ve got to go over there” he suggested. Cole had now rejoined them, curious to find out what the ruckus was about. “I’ll come with you buddy” he offered. “Me too” said Amelia while April continued to look forlorn and had no intention of offering her assistance.
Amelia checked on her friend’s status before leaving “You alright?” she asked. “She was covered in blood Amelia. Head to toe in blood”. Much as Amelia wished to offer encouraging words the truth was that she had seen it too, albeit less clearly. “Look, I’ll be back in ten alright. Do me a favor and lay off the hash while I’m gone. Don’t think that’s the best thing for you right now”. April’s forced smile was transparent, underscored by a distinct feeling on unease which was gripping her tightly. “I don’t think you should be going over there” April admitted. “My brother needs me” Amelia replied, giving her a reassuring squeeze “I’ll be ten minutes alright”.
April glanced back outside and considered what she had seen. While it was evidently Analise, the tattoo across her shoulder blades attested to that, there was something disconcerting about her demeanor. She had moved almost ethereally through the reeds by the quayside and, what April hadn’t divulged, was that she had turned and looked up at her, wearing a smile which was deficient of warmth and instead felt chilly and disconnected. That image haunted her now and she could still see those dead eyes glaring wildly from a distance as though she had been standing right before her.
“Why don’t you just call 911?” Vincent asked as Brad prepared himself to take a jaunt down to the quayside. “I have to see this for myself” Brad replied. Edgar leaned across Eden’s comatose shell and whispered into his friend’s ear “Classic horror no-no bro”. The others were all congregated in the living room now and despite Norton’s lack of sobriety, he was all set for the upcoming expedition. Belinda slumped on an armchair in the corner and wasn’t about to make the trip while Edgar and Vince were still hanging out for Sid Haig’s single line of dialogue and nothing would tear them away from their own undertaking. “Y’all ready?” Brad inquired. “All set” Norton replied hurriedly so as to beat Cole to the punch. As far as he was concerned he was still Brad’s head alpha and that jumped-up twat was not about to shit in his cereal.
Just as Amelia was grabbing her jacket Brad stopped her in her tracks “I want you staying here sis” he ordered. “No stay here and make sure the twins of evil don’t burn the place down while we’re gone”. He gestured over to Vince and Edgar “I’ll be back in ten minutes I promise”. Amelia sighed but respected his wishes. She shut the door behind the departing trio and watched from the net curtains as they walked off down to the trail. It sucked being the youngest but she was fully aware how protective Brad was when it come to his sibling. Eden still hadn’t risen from her perpetual slumber and Vince still had designs on copping a feel but had restrained thus far on account of the recent dramatics.
Outside Cole and Norton were struggling to keep up with Brad, who was fiercely focused on finding Analise and bringing her back safely. “You don’t like me much do you” Cole asked. “Not really” Norton’s admitted frankly. “Bummer for me” Cole chipped in and that was as far as their communications stretched. Norton turned his attentions back to Brad who was at least ten yards in front and gaining momentum “Slow down man, you’re killing me. It’s like speed walking with Forrest Gump”. This actually amused Cole who was about to come out with his best rendition of “she died on a Saturday” but instantly thought better of it.
“I’ve gotta find her” Brad informed them sternly “I can feel that she’s close”. Norton had now caught up and rested his hand on his friend’s shoulder before assuring him “we’ll find her”. It took a good ten minutes for them to reach the creek and, when they arrived, the thick veil of mist had begun to lift. Nevertheless there was no visual on Analise. Brad looked back at April who was still at his window and pointing to an area by the thicket a little farther along. “It’s fucking cold here” Cole remarked and when Brad looked around he was indeed standing in the exact point she was signposting. “Never mind that. Come here quick” said Norton who was shining his flashlight at a patch of ground near his feet. Brad about-turned and strode over to join him. “What?” he asked before aligning his sight to the stream of illumination coming from Norton’s torch.
It was faint footsteps, bloody prints, about the same size as Analise’s dainty feet. “It’s her. Where do they lead?” he asked impatiently. Norton shone his light around their immediate proximity and there was no trace of any other prints. “I have no idea Brad. Can’t see any others, just these” he reported defeated. “Analise!” Brad hollered and then again once over. He could feel her presence in some way, as though she was watching him from afar but, rather than this invigorating him, it just made him feel all the more hopeless. He would do anything to have her back and felt as though he was within touching distance while, in the same moment, feeling farther from her than ever.
Cole had begun to wander along the quayside and was almost out of earshot at this point. He felt as though he was being drawn towards the dense overhanging thicket and made his way from the clearing. They hadn’t noticed his departure as yet and were too wrapped up in trying to ascertain the source of the mysterious footprints to discern his movements. He pushed aside the thorns encircling the entrance and waded in. Back at the house April was reeling at having seen her boyfriend wandering off from the others. She called out to Brad but the distance was too far and her plea fell lifelessly to the ground a few hundred yards from their position.
Amelia had heard her panicked tones and rushed up to see if she was okay, fearing primarily for her brother’s safekeeping. When she reached the room April was rigorously shaking her cell phone in intense frustration and cussing like a trucker. “You’ll never get a signal down there, it’s a dead zone” April informed her “now what’s going on? You see something?” She raced to the window and exhaled the moment she discerned Brad looking decidedly bemused but, at least, safe. “Cole’s gone” she said glumly. “What do you mean he’s gone?” Amelia quizzed. April was convinced that her ill-feeling was nothing to do with the copious amounts of hash she’d consumed “He’s gone into the woods. I have a really sick feeling in my stomach right now”.
Cole was submerged deep in the foliage now and was beginning to question his decision to wander off unbeknownst to Brad and Norton. Yet, for all his consternation, something still drew him forward. Snapping branches around him were leaving him distressed and jumpy and, otherwise, there was a still surrounding him which was far less than calming. As he cast his eyes around something caught the edge of his peripheral vision, a couple of dozen yards forward and partially obstructed by shadow. It looked like a figure, standing there looking directly at him, but he couldn’t be sure as it appeared to be moving slowly backwards out of his line of sight. One thing was damned sure and that was that it wasn’t Analise’s slight frame he could see.
“Where’s Cole got to?” asked Brad, spinning around to survey his surroundings. “Dunno. He was here a minute ago. You didn’t see where he went?” said Norton in reply, not that he cared particularly. Brad shrugged “No but we should go find him”. Remembering April’s distant vantage, he glanced behind him but she was no longer at the window. “Well he could only have gone this way” Norton pointed towards the thicket “Let’s get him quick and get back to the house. This place is making me feel nauseous”. Brad nodded in agreement and they made their way over to the opening which Cole had entered earlier.
“Cole!” Brad called out to no avail. Something clearly wasn’t right here. Then, after a few elongated seconds of quiet, Norton spotted him standing in a catatonic state deeper in the wood. “Found him” he reported “over here”. Brad followed Norton over but Cole was trance-like and unaware of their presence. “Cole! Cole! Fuck sake. Cole!” Brad tried to divert his attention from whatever it was that had him mesmerized. “Hey cloth ears” said Norton, as he grabbed Cole’s shoulder and turned him around. He wasn’t expecting a warm reception as there was no love lost between them but he was shocked to see the vacancy in his face. Then Cole finally broke his self-imposed vow of silence “we have to get out of here. Now”.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014