33,510 / 50,000
Ahhh, that's a little better. Even though I'm stupidly distracted tonight with tons of shit on my mind.
Chapter Four - If Dreams Can Come True, Then What of Our Nightmares?
For what seemed like hours, and in truth was not far off from that, the creature continued to bray into the frigid air. Charlie remained not far from the door, having fallen to his knees the moment it was shut behind him.
It was not long after he entered the house that the strange yet familiar cry changed. It shifted to match the other animals howling in response. Charlie could tell it was the same creature, though. Something about the sound of it was wrong. Like a parrot trying to mimic human speech, it was close, but obviously no a dog howling at the moon.
Charlie listened to it, as much as he wanted to do anything but. The sound remained steady, growing no closer or further, an audible beacon echoing into the night, marking where the road was.
The fake dog noise continued as he remained huddled into a corner made by the stairs bending around the front entry way. Charlie often came to this spot to think when he was young, even though it was far from private, he had always gravitated to this spot. He could see anyone coming up to the house, and could listen to people everywhere else inside, except the basement. Many a day was spent listening to his mother cooking in the kitchen, and his father upstairs snoring as he slept the day away after another late shift at work. Adrienne would often take the opposite corner near the door, looking down the hall. The two would just sit there in silence, or sometimes they would talk, or scribble in notebooks.
Now, Charlie did his best to not listen to the outside as he sat there on the floor, knees against his chest. It was one thing when his dreams were just that; dreams. No matter how frightening they may have been. But when they followed him home, things changed. He didn't know what to make of this. Was he going crazy? Was that worse than being sane? And as he sat there questioning reality for the first time in a long time, he knew something was different. His eyes caught the throw rug his sister had placed on the hardwood floor, and he remembered what he had done, right on that very spot. All of Charlie's horrors were coming home to roost at once.
He was so wrapped up staring at the spot on the floor, even thought it was covered, Charlie actually missed the sound fading away. How anyone could have been so engrossed to miss that, Charlie would find himself wondering later.
Not only was he lost in thought about his mother to the point of missing the creature's howls fading off like the end of a song, but Charlie also missed the front door opening.
It wasn't until the door clicked shut and Adrienne's jingling keys scattered across the table next to Charlie.
His head jerked up, and he looked at his sister. His eyes were frantic with surprise, suspecting the thing had found its way up the driveway and inside. Charlie was kicking himself for not locking the door behind him. This was not the first time Adrienne had seen that look on a man's face, and not the first she had seen it on Charlie's either. She did note that the other time she had seen it, was in that exact spot, however.
Seeing his sister, Charlie began to refocus on reality. He could still hear dogs off in the distance, but far fewer than before. None of them sounded like the thing in the road either, thankfully.
In Adrienne's hand, balancing with care while one hand had the keys to the front door, was the promised pizza. Charlie could smell the spicy fragrance of the cooked pepperoni, and onions. Just the way he liked it.
He began to scramble to his feet, shifting and adjusting every which way to best clamber up. Adrienne didn't say a word, just held up her free hand, and Charlie slid back down the angle where the two walls met.
She set the box down upon the table, leaving the keys underneath so the box sat tilted at a precarious angle, half hanging into the air. After a quick run down to the kitchen where Charlie could hear her in the fridge, she returned with twon brown glass bottles of a dark ale, and handed one to Charlie.
While Charlie gripped the bottle cap in his hand and popped it off with a hiss, Adrienne grabbed the pizza box and placed it on the floor, as she took up her old spot in the opposite corner from Charlie.
"Tell me you don't do this often," said Charlie as he broke the silence.
"Nope. First time. I gotta say, it's kinda nice. Rather nostalgic." She turned towards the door as she took her first sip from the beer bottle. "Man, the dogs are really howling tonight."
Charlie nodded, knowing just what she meant by nostalgia, and chose to ignore the other comment. As much as he hated being back here, with all the memories, and everything that had happened that day, Charlie had to admit this was nice; enjoying a quiet - finally - dinner with his kid sister. It made everything seem like a distant memory. None of it mattered for those few moments while they sat there enjoying their pizza and beer.
"Heard some stories going around town while I was getting dinner."
Rather than let Adrienne try and dig for information, acting coy about what she knew and just wanting to hear Charlie say it, he cut right to the chase. "What did you hear? Outburst at church, or the murder?"
Adrienne arched an eyebrow in an almost perfect mimic of his own inquisitive tick. It wasn't an uncommon thing for people to do, but in that moment one could tell that these two were unquestionably family.
"Actually, what I heard was some shifty guy roaming through town, wearing a dark blue winter jacket an worn jeans. I'd missed out on the big news, it seems."
Charlie pressed the cold bottle against his forehead. The last thing he needed was people thinking he was shifty, or dangerous. His reputation was bad enough on these streets.
"Care to tell me the rest, brother of mine?"
"Do I have to?" he asked.
His sister gave a stern nod, and used the neck of the bottle to point at Charlie. "You better, Charles Boxer. I come home and see you huddle up in the corner like you've just seen a ghost, then tell me there was a murder? I'd say you've got some explaining to do."
"The whole truth?" He knew weaseling out to anything less wasn't possible, but it was worth the effort.
Adrienne proved him right with her retort, "It would be a nice change of pace. I know you've always kept secrets from me, but I just want to know what's going on inside that head of yours."
He took a long pull on his beer, coming close to finishing the entire bottle in a single gulp. "We're going to need more beer. Like, a lot."
Charlie did not know why he was at long last opening up to his sister. Why he was spilling every last detail as best he knew it, from the moment of his birth until the present day. He told her about the dreams he had known his entire life, the creatures, the haze he was in on that fateful day nine years ago, and everything that had happened since he returned. Was it the beer, or the nostalgia of being in this spot with his sister, over good food? Or was it the guilt of keeping it bottled up for 27 years, as nothing got better and more was piled on top of his suffering?
He didn't know, and he didn't care. All that mattered was how good it felt. How good it was to let someone in, especially his sister. She hung on every word, every detail, and remained silent throughout. At least, until Charlie began going into details she could do without, such as the creature that chased him that day, and the one he encountered earlier.
They were both well into their third bottle of ale by the time Charlie finished. He had caught Adrienne up on the secret history of his life, right up until the moment she walked through the door.
"That..." Adrienne began to speak, then stopped. Rather than fill her mouth with words, she took another swallow of beer, then set aside the empty bottle. Already she was pondering another. Charlie was right about needing them.
She tried again, "That is some story, Charlie."
All Charlie did was nod his head, a weight lifted as he at long last was able to let it all out to someone he trusted. There was no one he trust more than the young woman sitting across from him.
"As crazy as it all sounds, I think I might actually believe you. I don't know what that says about me."
Charlie's face brightened. He knew she'd listen, he knew she'd offer support, but he never dared to hope she'd believe him. Even he had trouble with that one, from time to time. "You do?!" he asked, stunned.
Adrienne gave a very unwomanlike burp before responding. "Don't get to excited. I'm still a bit weirded out, and it may be the beer talking, but yeah, I think I do. Well, mostly."
"I am totally with you, right up until the tonight. I can buy the dreams. They might not be anything outside influencing you, they could just be some mental thing wrong with your brain. I believe you have them, and what happened with them and mom. I believe you when you say there might even be a conspiracy around you, that got the Benjamin fellow killed. I gotta draw the line of sanity at what you saw on the road, though."
Charlie's finger idly traced the rim of one of his empty bottles sitting next to him. "Yeah, that's rather where I start having a hard time, myself. Like you said, it's all quite explainable, in a rather messed up way, up to that point. However..."
As he drifted off, his sister picked up, "However, you saw what you saw."
"Yeah. So maybe I really am as batshit crazy as everyone thought a decade ago. That would almost be a comfort. Having those things be real?"
They both shuddered at the thought.
"So, what now, Chuckles?"
"That's the $64,000 dollar question, isn't it?" He considered for a moment. "I still think the Cerulean Order is involved somehow. Which reminds me; you're a member?"
It was Adrienne's turn to feel chided. "Sorta. Dad went there a bunch of times, and it really helped him. He was almost his old self again, the last few years. I've been pretty ok after what happened, but I won't say it didn't affect me at all, I was 13 for Christ's sake. And after I broke up with Jeremy two years ago, I was still a mess, so I went to check it out. How was I supposed to know they were a cult?"
Charlie gave his sister a closer examination. If there were indeed signs of a member of their order, he didn't see any in Adrienne. Her eyes were as bright and vibrant as always, and she did not appear to be sweating all the time. There was also a distinct lack of a blue mark around her neck. Maybe she was right about them, and there was some other connection between some of the Cerulean people and what he had seen. In a town this size, surely a large precentage of them would end up within those doors, with other connections unrelated to their activities there.
"Say, where's your pendant? The damned clam thing."
Adrienne laughed. "You noticed those, huh? Did Rich try to give you one? No, if you yelled at him like you said, probably not... Anyways, I haven't worn that thing in weeks. They need to come up with a better way to colour the chains. Hated having to wash that line off my neck. Besides, I hate jewlery."
Charlie knew. Even now, all he could see on his sister was a pair of stud earrings, and nothing else.
"Pisses Richard off to no end that I stopped wearing it. But I'm not sure that's enough to blame them, though. They seem nice enough, Charlie."
He considered this as he gnawd on a piece of crust. "You bring up good points, but..."
Adrienne winced. "I hate when you but. What's going through that head of yours?"
"It still feels like them, and I really want to check out that basement. You up for breaking into a church tonight?"
His sister sighed, and wished her beer bottle wasn't empty. "Sure, why not? I'm probably already going to hell anyways, right?"