Available Darkness: Chapter 16
(Serial and Milk: Available Darkness is a serialized thriller co-written by David Wright and Sean Platt. A new chapter appears here each Friday. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them here.)
John had been rolling through the lonely mountain roads for nearly an hour, embroiled in an aimless search for Abigail’s signal, like fading reception from a dying cell phone.
He was in a rural stretch of nearly nothing; an uneven sampling of homes strewn along the dark and dusty dirt roads. It seemed to John like the sort of place where the people all knew one another, were likely to have guns for protection, and didn’t take kindly to strangers.
The few people he’d seen outside had quietly hurled suspicion as his car drifted by well below the speed limit, with John’s eyes in fastidious search of any little hint that might help him on his quest. A little suspicion was inevitable, but he hoped to keep it dim enough that he wouldn’t prompt a call to the police. Though his body had completely mended itself from the earlier gunshot, John wasn’t sure he would be so lucky if shot several times and shuddered to wonder what would happen if he was hit in the face.
An old woman, being pulled by a dog that was slightly too large for her delicate looking arms, fixed her stare on the hood of John’s car as he drifted into a slow approach. Her hand sank into the pocket of her long brown coat just as he passed, and John kept his eyes on her in the rearview as she retrieved a cell phone and brought it to her ear.
John softly tapped the brakes, then slowly reversed the car until he was even with her. He rolled down the window and gave a slight nod of his head, doing his best to look as though the chill outside meant nothing to his naked torso.
“Howdy, ma’am,” he said, the syllables elasticized in his best approximation of country congeniality. “Any chance you seen a German Shepherd run by these parts? You’d know her by a spot of white she wears on her backside.” John released a slight chuckle. “Course old Lucy likely wouldn’t have been going slow enough for you to have seen the spot.”
The lines on the woman’s face relaxed. She almost smiled. Still holding the cell phone she said, “No I haven’t, did you lose your dog?”
“Yeah,” the lie fell effortlessly from his mouth, “A-gin. my daughter was walking her and BAM! Lucy just took off after a rabbit in the woods like she always does. We’ve been looking for round about half an hour now already.”
“No, I’m sorry,” the woman shook her head, eyes involuntarily drifting to the depths of the surrounding woods.
“Have you seen a dark haired girl and a bald guy? The bald dude’s my dad. He and my daughter got foot patrol. I was lucky enough to get the wheels.” John shot the woman a friendly smile and tapped on the side of the driver’s door.
“No, I haven’t seen anybody,” she said, “but I haven’t been out too long. I hope you didn’t lose them, too.”
John laughed, “Nah, if I know them, they’re probably already back home watching the game and feeding the dog my share of the pizza.”
They exchanged a laugh and then a wave before John put the car into drive and went on to roam the streets, waiting for something. Anything.
After five minutes, the anything emerged to light his vision and he was tuned in to Abigail again. His pulse quickened in excitement.
The road in front of him was suddenly replaced by a inky darkness, darker than black beneath the bleach of the moon. Abigail stared at the bright white satellite, then at her surroundings.
She was in the woods… somewhere nearby?
John shuddered as she looked around, afraid that he (and she) would see the bald man lurking in the nearby shadows, but there was nothing but an endless oath of forest.
Now, Abigail was looking at her arms. Her wrists were red from being bound, but she wasn’t bleeding. He could clearly see she was laying on the ground.
Get up, he thought.
Abigail’s head was woozy as she opened her eyes and saw the moon piercing branches above.
Where am I?
The last thing she remembered was being dragged into a van. Before that… the policeman’s head being blown to grisly little bits. She looked down to see if his blood was still on her. It was.
She wondered how she’d gotten here and if her angel had helped bring her. She started to look around. No sign of him. A cold chill ran through her body and she pulled her legs to her chest.
And then she heard his voice.
She spun around frantically in search of her angel.
John watched through Abigail’s eyes as she looked around frantically.
What was she looking for? What was scaring her?
And then he heard her voice.
Abigail suddenly realized it was John’s voice slipping through the membrane of her mind.
“Woah,” she said as a small laugh escaped into the darkness.
“Can you hear me?” she whispered.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“I think I’m close…. Can you see this?”
She looked around, but could see nothing.
“No, all I see are trees.”
“No, in your mind. Do you see anything?”
She wasn’t following. “No,” she answered.
“Never mind… look around look for a landmark, anything… I think I’m nearby. If you see it, I will see it too.”
Suddenly Abigail understood. She was hearing John’s thoughts, but he was somehow able to both hear her and see through her eyes. She rose unsteadily to her feet and stumbled forward through the darkness. Branches, rocks and grass sliced thin slivers of red into the widened flesh of her feet.
“Do you see anything?”
“No, not yet. Oh, wait,” Abigail said as a swathe of moonlight illuminated a narrow winding path to where the trees were starting to thin, “I think I see something.”
Abigail ascended a slope and the trees thinned. Above her, a water tower, its red light blinking every other second.
“Did you see that?” Abigail asked.
Fear slithered up her spine as she glanced around, suddenly feeling exposed in the middle of the big black open. And alone, so utterly, completely alone.
She wondered if she had imagined the conversation between her and John. Her head started to throb.
The connection was severed before John was able to witness whatever it was she had wanted him to see.
“Abigail!” he cried in frustration and fear. What if something had happened to her? What if the man from his past had re-appeared?
Abigail’s eyes grew blurry with tears as she looked around for a place to go, a place where she might find solace. Part of her was simply willing to lay down and die. She’d been through more than enough already.
What is the point in living if it only heaped more and more misery onto each passing day?
And then she heard her name.
At first she thought it was only in her mind, but then realized it didn’t feel like a whisper between her ears. It was less direct and far more distant, coming from the woods she’d just escaped.
“John?!” she shouted.
John’s heart leapt in his chest. She was close. The steady hand of fate, or something, had led him to her. It was impossible, but every bit as real as the sweat beading across his forehead.
“I’m here, on the hill!” Abigail screamed.
“Stay there, I’m coming! Just keep yelling!” John shouted as he burst into a run, hurdling knotted branches and rocks like a forest native. His instincts had sharpened since his last jaunt in the woods.
Abigail screamed again, this time yelling “hello!” just loud enough to burn her throat. John smiled, even as the tears came streaming down his face. He raced up the hill and saw the moonlit clearing ahead. And then, still small on his horizon, he saw her, standing beneath the satellite’s spotlight, something too beautiful for imagination to conjure.
Abigail saw a flash of motion in the woods below, her angel had arrived. She cried out his name and broke into a sprint towards him.
Ten yards away, and all John wanted to do was embrace Abigail and never let her go. Hold her, protect her with all he had left.
Five yards away and suddenly, and only after they were locked into imminent collision, did they both seem to realize the danger the embrace harbored for Abigail.
Four eyes widened as Abigail tried to swerve left and instead slipped and fell forward, launching herself toward John.
John leapt up, narrowly missing her touch and launched into the sky nearly 20 feet before crashing back to the ground and rolling to a stop.
He quickly shot up and looked back at Abigail, who was lying on the ground, hair spilled across her tender face.
He ran to her, afraid she’d smashed her head on a rock, or worse… what if they had touched? As John approached, he saw that Abigail’s head was moving up and down as she was making some sort of strange noise…. And then he realized that noise was laughter.
She was okay.
She turned and looked up at him, the moon illuminating her face in such a way that it tugged at some phantom memory or emotion he could only call love.
“You’re here,” she said, smiling.
In a room absent anything other than a single door and a small red bulb gently swaying from the ceiling, Jacob sat on the floor lotus style. He had left the girl in the woods and was waiting for his prey to take the bait.
Though his eyes were open, he saw nothing of the room around him. Instead, he was looking through the eyes of Abigail.
A smile crept across his face as John stepped into the girl’s view.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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