31,329 / 50,000
Didn't really like how long this chapter went, and how it ended. Honestly, I'd probably break it up into two different chapters in a rewrite.
For the first time in a long time, Richard was speechless. The man even talked in his sleep, so some people told him. He didn't believe it, but it was a good little joke to tell people. But now, he had nothing to say. His good friend George had shared so much, even about those rough few years, but he had never shared that. In a way, Richard felt betrayed. Everyone who came through the doors and was welcomed into the Cerulean Order was encouraged to share everything.
"Look, just go, please? I can't answer any more of your questions." Not that Charlie had really been given much of a chance to ask any, but the free information was a welcome change from having to drag it out of people. "We don't have anyone here like that. We're good, kind-hearted people, and we don't appreciate your accusations, Mister Boxer. If you would like guidance at a later time, please do come back, and I will be more than willing to make you one of us."
With nothing more than a nod, Charlie stood up from the wall, and turned on his heel. "Thanks for your time, Richard. I'll see if the police are interested in the information I have, then."
As the large oaken door swung shut behind him with a loud bang that made nearby snowbirds take wing, Charlie flashed a self-satisfied smirk. He had no intention of going to the cops with his suspicions just yet, but that's no reason not to make the Clams stew a little.
Having completed everything he set out to do, despite the added surprises, Charlie headed back to his sister's house.
All the way back, he felt as if he was being watched. At first, Charlie thought it was just his own sense of uncomfortableness about returning back to Kraftsbury. He knew many in this town would remember what he did. Charlie was quite astounded that Richard had managed to not hear about it. He spent so much time sequestered away, that it never came up.
After some time, Charlie decided the sensation was not all in his head. He could see the townsfolk watching him. And with good reason, thought Charlie.
As if the accidental murder of his mother wasn't enough, to many he was also a stranger. At least one that had not been in town for over a decade. The people of Kraftsbury had always regarded any new person in town with a somewhat more than healthy dose of suspicion, leaning towards the paranoid. If they recognised him, he was still new from having been around the rest of the country for so long, and if they did not know him, then he was a complete stranger. Either way he was damned with suspicion.
Beyond those people, were those who had been in the cafe that morning, or had heard the word; be it through word of mouth, the police band, or the news. Some would know he was there, and that alone would breed curious, cautious glances. Others would have heard about the murder, and see a stranger in town, and that sent Charlie rocketing straight back to square one.
It would come as no surprise at all to Charlie to learn that there were even a few people giving him sidelong glances that had heard about his outburst at the church not that long ago. In a town like this, that news would spread faster than the chicken pox in an elementary school. Even though it was no longer regarded as such, many in town rememebred it from better days, and despite the changes, it was a church first, and a support and shelter second.
Once Charlie had passed through the more densely populated areas of downtown, and the people started thinning out, he still felt as if there were eyes on him.
Not that such feelings were uncommon to Charlie. His dreams had him in a near constant state of paranoia. Even if that wasn't the case, the quiet loneliness of rural areas can play tricks on a person's mind. A waving branch out of the corner of the eye is transformed into something moving through the woods. A tree branch snaps, and someone is following you. There's always something in the shadows, especially if there's nothing there.
Charlie did his best to put the feeling of being stalked out of his mind as he neared the old victorian home he and his sister grew up in. No matter what, no matter how many times he checked over his shoulder and saw nothing there, Charlie was unable to shake the sense of being watched.
As he reached a break in the low wall of stones that was the driveway up to the house, Charlie came to a halt.
He closed his eyes, and slowed his breathing, driving out all thought and sound inside his head. Charlie stood as motionless as one could in the middle of the dirt road. He mentally picked through every sound around him he could hear, dismissing each one in turn with an explanation.
He dismissed every sound that is, until he picked up a crunching noise, the light snow of snow being packed underneath the weight of something.
The first thought to come into Charlie's head, was that he was being followed by someone. Maybe the man from the cafe, or someone from the Cerulean order. Charlie supposed if it was one, it could just as easily be the other at the same time.
However, there was something wrong with the noise. It didn't sound like the normal rythmic crunching of steady movement. Also, the person was making no attempt to cover up its noise.
If it was someone tracking him, Charlie would have expected someone to be moving slower, doing their best to make as little noise as possible. The covering of snow over even the top of the road made that impossible. The only things that could have made no noise at all would have been something flying or gliding.
Charlie kept his focus on the noise. It was large, lumbering, heavy. The possibility of it being a bear was not out of the question. He had seen more than a fair share of bear walking through his front yard when he was young. Bear, moose, deer, foxes; all kinds of creatures were just lurking in the woods. Charlie could only hope they were creatures that were within the realm of known science.
Opening his eyes, Charlie had seen it was already growing darker. His ears remained focused on the approaching noises. Charlie cocked his head, beginning to turn it. He didn't want to spook whatever it was, human, animal, or otherwise.
Even in the darkening light, Charlie could see the shadow upon the ground. Whatever it was, he was unable to tell just from that. it still appeared to be somewhat human, based upon the dark blob creeping forward.
Charlie continued to turn, being wary of going to fast. Whatever it was, it was not put off by the possibility of being noticed by Charlie. It wasn't spying on him, at least.
What he witnessed standing there in front of him was straight out of his nightmares, which was no exageration.
It was still human, though, at least in rough shape and size. Although it was a human that was passed through the filter of an alien world only Charlie had seen, and only seen when his eyes were closed.
He blinked several times, hoping he had somehow fallen asleep, or passed out along the road back to the house. Despite his best efforts, Charlie only grew more and more certain that he was still awake. While his dreams felt more real than regular dreams, they still had a quality of unreality about them. He always knew that they were dreams. But this was reality without question. If he wasn't paralyzed by fear, Charlie may have tried slapping himself across the face just to be certain, but he knew it was unnecessary.
The creature stood face to face with him. It's eyes had that same dull, uninterested look of several people in town. The eyes also reflected those of creatures from his dreams. Strange colours he had never seen on a man, and the eyes wandered everywhere, focusing upon nothing.
It's skin was mottled with dark splotches, like liver spots from hell. They were the colour of dried blood, as if it had been splatterred by something living exploded nearby and it had not cleaned up. The skin hung loosely to its bones, more befitting to something three times its size. It looked like it had once possessed hair in vast quantities, but all that was left wouldn't have made a cancer patient envious. The thin wisps that remaind upon its scalp blew about in the wind, long and grey.
The source of the sound became clear once Charlie was looking at the creature, as much as he did not wish to do so. One of its legs was seriously deformed, at least on the assumption that this thing was anywhere remotely human. For all Charlie knew, this was what this thing normally looked like. If he had the cognizance to think of it, he would have wondered which was worse, that such a creature was normal, or it was some human hideously deformed into this state by some outside means.
The right leg started out normal, but quickly became a misshapen mess of flesh and bone. It twisted upon itself in angles never seen in a human leg, and was thicker than most humans are wide. The knee hit the ground, and the rest of the leg stretched out behind it, like some freakish tail. The skin had become the shades of a Christmas gone wrong, olive greens mixed with bright reds, and a sickly pink.
Instead of a foot, the leg ended, a whole two feet behind where the thing stood, and became a translucent fin. Looking through the flesh coloured membrane that wavered in the air, Charlie could see black veins and the blood flowing through them, even in the encroaching darkness.
Its arms both seemed normal, aside from long lengths of loose flesh dangling from the limbs. However, they ended not in hands, but in a series of tendrils that reached down to the ground. A part of Charlie's brain, the clinical part that was able to look at this horror and not crawl off to scream in a corner, wondered if there were five on each arm. The rest of Charlie was disinclined to look any closer than it had to.
The tentacles didn't seem to be under any control, as each one whipped around of its own accord. They traced designs in the snow, and were erased just as quick with the next pass, building layer upon layer of scrawlings in twin circles.
The creature opened its mouth, and Charlie saw no teeth within, and instead saw only darkness. The lips were covered in oozing sores, and he could only imagine what was behind them in the black throat.
A sound escaped the darkened chasm of its sored mouth, a howl not unlike a cat howling at another creature invading its territory. The agitated howl grew ever louder in volume, as it changed through octaves and tones, until Charlie heard the jaw stretch back further and pop. The creature emitted a high pitched cry from deep within itself that had become the cry of a young child. A cry that Charlie knew all too well, and his mother would have known as well. It was the same howling scream that Charlie would make when he awoke from the dreams, the same scream he had become so proficient at keeping buried.
The sound kept him frozen still, until one of its tentacles whipped out and encircled his leg. Even through the heavy jeans, the soft fleshy grip broke Charlie out of his trancelike state.
He yanked his leg so hard, the tentacle snapped off, and the creature screamed out again, even louder. The pitch rose and rose until Charlie could no longer hear it. In the distance, dogs began howling in response.
With the thing distracted by the pain, or so Charlie hoped, he flung away the snakelike tendril that felt like dough in his hands.It landed on the ground and flopped like a fish just pulled from the water and dropped upon the deck of a ship.
These things were all far from Charlie's mind, and sight, as he turned and ran up the driveway to his house. He never once looked back, only focused on the front door that was more and more filling his vision. Aside from being the impetus for his running, he gave that thing on the road no more thought.
As he ran, he had enough presence of mind to fish the key from his pocket and it sunk into the keyhole in one fluid motion. Charlie had hardly even paused on the porch before having the door open.
With the door shut behind him, Charlie could still hear the inhuman thing screaming outside.