Read Nigh - Book 1 Online

Authors: Marie Bilodeau

Tags: #apocalypse, #fairy, #end of the world, #fairy tale adaptation, #apocalypse adventures, #fairy creatures, #endtime fiction, #fairy tale action adventure

Nigh - Book 1 (5 page)

BOOK: Nigh - Book 1
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Jack was curled up in the back, behind the table and
by the fridge.

“Jack, we have to go,” she repeated. He made another
strangled cry, like a gurgling.

She took a step toward him. “Jack?”

His head was lowered on his knees. She repeated his
name and he gurgled again but looked up. His eyes were white, and
something was coming out of his mouth, like thousands of ants.

Al screamed and almost dropped the flashlight as she
pushed herself back. She smacked into something and turned around.
The thief from earlier was there, his eyes wide, looking from Jack
to her. He grabbed her shoulders as though to snap her out of
it.

“We have to go, now!” Al brought up her knee and
connected with his groin. He folded in two and she brought up Big
Bertha, connecting with his skull. He crumpled and she jumped over
him, away from Jack. She skirted around Carl and ran madly, away
from Jack. She almost dashed out of the shop, but turned back to
grab first aid supplies for Gruff.

Something grabbed hold of her foot from under the
sink. She screamed again and dropped Big Bertha as she fell back.
The thief was beside her, bleeding from a cut on his scalp. He
grabbed her wrench and hit whatever held her leg still, hidden in
shadows.

“Come on!” He shouted, pulling her back up. She
didn’t hit him this time and followed him out of the shop and into
Percival. She pushed him into the back, threw the first aid
supplies after him, slammed her seat back and flung herself in it.
He landed hard in the back beside Molly.

“Al, what…” Gruff started saying, but the thief cut
him off.

“Go! Go! Go!”

The mists around them uncoiled and lashed out at
Percival, taking out a side mirror. Molly screamed. Al turned the
car on and punched it in reverse, gears grinding and tires
screeching as she threw it back into first gear and gunned it down
the road.

To her right, the angel statue was now on its knees,
its stone eyes watching them as the great branches of the cemetery
came ever lower over the road, ever closer to touching the top of
Percival’s hood.

Al stepped on the gas and clutched the steering
wheel for dear life, mists be damned.

No one told her to slow down.

Chapter 4

 

Al gunned it down the road. An overturned truck
blocked the way south so she headed north, not really thinking of
destination, just trying to get away, her eyes peeled on the mists.
Sometimes she thought she saw a shape, an interruption in the roll
of it. Once, a beam of sunlight hit the side of the car. But the
pavement caught fire, and she fought not to close her eyes, fought
to keep her hands on the wheel and Percival moving forward, her
speed wavering as her uncertainty and fear paralyzed her limbs.

She took deep breaths and let them wash over her.
Gruff was pale beside her, Molly reaching around the seat to
comfort him.

“We need to pull over to patch you up, Gruff,” Alva
said, turning the wheel as much as she dared to hug the curb, and
stopped.

The world outside was eerily quiet, holding its
breath for what would happen next. Or having taken its final
one.

Al pushed the thought from her mind and turned to
the thief.

“While we patch him up, maybe you can tell us a bit
about why I shouldn’t beat you to a pulp with Big Bertha?”

His eyes grew wide again, his mouth thin. To Molly’s
credit, she grabbed the wrench and held it before her
threateningly. The thief leaned back in his seat, looking
dejected.

“My name is Hector. Hector Henry Featherson.” He
said. He glanced up at Al through the rearview mirror but quickly
glanced away to look outside. “I was trapped, and just got free. I
thought I could stop it. I thought that if I got the watch in
time...” He leaned his forehead against the window, closing his
eyes and fogging up the glass.

Al focused on Gruff’s shoulder, pulling out a sling
from the first aid kit and wrapping his arm, securing it. Gruff’s
eyes were closed, his breathing shallow and his skin clammy.

“You holding up okay, Gruff?” she asked.

“Never been better,” he whispered. She gave him some
painkillers and offered him her bottle of water. He took them and
leaned back against the seat.

“So,” Gruff said, his voice gaining some strength
already. “What’s this about trying to stop this?”

Al turned around. Hector caught her eye and she
thought she saw him flush before he looked away again. He reminded
her of a skittish animal. She exchanged a glance with Molly, who
still held Big Bertha like it was the last water on earth. Her best
friend merely shrugged.

“It’s, ah, it sounds crazy.” His voice was soft. He
ran a hand in his semi-long brown hair. Not bad looking, but she’d
be more than happy to beat the pretty out of him to get some
answers.

“You know what sounds crazy?” Molly piped up.
“Sunbeams that set fires. Tombstones that move. Mists that seem to
act with a purpose. That sounds crazy. Now dish up your crazy so we
can add it to the menu, or I’ll just save your face for
dessert.”

Al fought against a grin. Hector looked at Molly and
sighed. “Not the most ladylike, are you?” he mumbled.


You think
she’s
not ladylike,” Al said, “you should see
me. Once she’s through with you, I’ll finish you off. Start with my
stuff, thief. What were you looking to get? I assume you’re the one
who broke into my apartment?”

He looked embarrassed. “Yes. I had to, to try and
stop this. To find the watch.”

“The watch I bought? You stole it all right. I’ve
got half a mind to…”

“No, I mean, not that watch. Stella’s watch.”

Al’s eyebrow shot up. “You mean my
great-grandmother’s watch? Why the hell would you try and steal
that? How do you even know her name?” Her hand automatically went
to her jacket pocket to make sure it was still safe in there. She
felt the shape through the fabric and relaxed.

Her movement didn’t escape Hector’s attention. Nor
did his attention escape Molly’s eye. “If you so much as breathe
her way wrong, I will smash you.”

Al didn’t know if Molly had the strength to smash
anyone, but she could certainly do some major damage with Big
Bertha in her hands.

“I won’t. I won’t, I just, if I can have the watch,
I might be able to slow it down. Or you can. You can crank it
yourself and slow things down.”

“I can’t. It’s broken.”

“What do you mean, it’s broken?” His panic echoed in
the car.

“I mean it doesn’t work. Never has as long as I’ve
had it.”

“But… It should. It shouldn’t break down. I made the
best watch I could…”


Wait, what, hold on,” Molly said
before Al could jump in herself. “You
made
the watch? How the hell does that work?
You’re what, thirty, tops? That watch is like a hundred years
old!”

Hector looked out the windshield, as if gauging his
options. He sighed and leaned back, giving Al a slight smile. “You
look like her, you know. Stella Alwilda Taverner. You look so much
like her.”

Gruff, who’d been silent, opened his eyes.

“Al…” He grabbed her arm and she looked to where he
looked, their right. The ground rumbled beneath them.

Al was still deciding what exactly she would do when
a transport truck rumbled past her, blowing its horn continuously.
It was gone as quickly as it had arrived, swallowed by the mist. As
soon as they could no longer see it, they couldn’t hear it,
either.

“Let’s go,” Gruff whispered. Al nodded and pressed
on the gas. She was terrified another truck would come barreling
out of the mists and take them out. Percival had won his fair share
of scrapes, but that was hardly a fair contest.

“Al?” Molly said. “Where are we going? What do we
do?”

“You seem to know more about this,” Al said to
Hector. “Where do we go? Don’t talk too much, I need to hear what’s
going on out there.”

“We need somewhere safe where I can fix the watch
and get it going again.”

“My house,” Gruff said. “I should check on the
missus. She’s probably fine, old spitfire, that one. But
still…”

Al nodded and spoke gently. “Of course. But we have
to get you to the hospital first, Gruff. It’s only two minutes
away.”

“Al, hospital’s gonna be crazy. Let’s check on
Gretchen first, then we can go. You saw how many accidents there
were? And no one in the cars? They’ve probably all headed to the
hospital.”

“I wouldn’t count on that,” Hector whispered from
the back.

Al turned on the radio. No stations were coming
through, as though the mists were managing to stop even their
signals. A thousand questions jumbled in her mind, quarreling with
each other on their importance, but one stood out among all others.
“I have to find my sister Pete. Are things like this all over?”

Hector looked puzzled. “Your sister’s name is
Pete?”

“Nickname. Focus. Could she be in danger?”

He looked outside the window. “I think so. I don’t
see why it wouldn’t be. But I might be able to slow it down. Just
for a little bit.”

“That doesn’t even make sense,” Molly mumbled, still
clutching Big Bertha. “Am I the only one here who thinks this
doesn’t make sense?”

Nobody answered. Gruff’s old house was ten minutes
away. It seemed so far and so long to Al. She wanted her little
sister by her side now. She wanted to hold her tight and never let
her go. She loosened her grip on the steering wheel. Her hands were
starting to cramp up.

“If I give you the watch,” Al said, looking back at
Hector, who still hesitated to meet her gaze. “You have to promise
to give it back. It’s mine, and it’s all I have left from my
family, so you give it back. Understood?”

Hector looked her in the eye this time, his brown
eyes sad in the rearview mirror. He nodded.

Before she could reach for the watch, something
scratched the side of the car. It sounded like claws.

“Faster, faster, faster…” Gruff started whispering.
Alva pressed on the gas just as lilac-blooming branches collapsed
on the windshield, cracking it. Screams echoed in the car and
outside of it. A man’s face followed the branches, twisted by pain
as small buds pushed through his skin, erupting in lilac petals.
Staring at him, Al’s foot loosened from the gas pedal and Percival
barely coasted forward.

His mouth formed a perfect “o,” as wide as
his eyes were. Al couldn’t tear her eyes away. From deep within his
throat something was pushing its way up, fuzzy insect legs pushing
the lips apart as they worked their way
out.

“Al, go!” Gruff screamed. Al slammed on the gas and
the man went flying. Part of her wanted to stop and make sure he
was all right, but a much stronger part of her was terrified and
just wanted to keep driving, as quickly and as far as she
could.

The front tires jumped up and then the back ones,
like they’d hit a speed bump. Hector went flying, hitting his head
on the roof of the car.

“Put your seatbelt on, idiot,” Molly hissed,
reaching around him to fasten it when he just looked at her
confused.

“Speed bump. Just a speed bump,” Al muttered, her
fingers cold on the steering wheel, knowing full well that were no
speed bumps here.

“Speed bump,” Gruff confirmed, clutching the car
door with his good hand.

If they could cross the bridge, they’d be in a more
populated area, nearing downtown. There would be help, and people
who might know what’s happening. They’d check in on Gruff’s wife,
find shelter, contact Pete and get her.

Find safety.

The mists shifted and cleared, the sun streaming
onto the car. Al jumped when it touched her skin, but it didn’t
burn. The metal structure of the small bridge jutted around them.
They could see clearly to the other side of the bridge, ten metres
in length at most.

The front wheels were on the bridge before Hector
screamed from behind: “Don’t go on the bridge!”

Al slammed on the brakes, but too late – the car was
on the bridge.

“Back up slowly,” Hector whispered from the back. Al
nodded and shifted Percival in reverse, but the car wouldn’t budge.
The wheels skidded like they were on pure ice.

A shadow to her left made her jump. A man walked by,
his coat torn on the side. And another, dragging his feet, wearing
only a bathrobe. On the other side of the car, several more walked
by, men, women, even children, dragging their feet, their faces
slack. Some walked to the middle of the bridge. Others stayed
around the car.

Al stopped pressing on the gas and stared at them.
No one said a word or breathed. Al glanced at the back seat. Hector
was looking intently at the people around them. He leaned forward
and she leaned back so he could whisper in her ear. “We’ll have one
chance. Get ready to move when I tell you to.”

She nodded and pointed back and forth, raising her
shoulders as though asking a question. He shrugged. It didn’t
matter which way. She shifted to the first gear, one foot on the
clutch and the other on the brake, and waited for his signal.

He looked intently around him. The people continued
swaying. The mists bookending the bridge shimmered in the sunlight,
translucent wisps dancing toward them. The mists stretched around
the car and around each person, not wrapping them fully but keeping
some distance, as though inviting them to dance.

Hector narrowed his eyes and looked intently at the
wisps nearest them. Al still held her breath, and Gruff and Molly
were so silent she could easily forget they were there.

The mists buckled and shapes began to form, gossamer
strings turning into large cloaks and hoods, hands stretched out
toward the people, who still just swayed there. Translucent hands
appeared from misty cloaks and reached for each person. Hector
placed his hand on Alva’s shoulder. She glanced back and he held up
his finger, as though indicating soon.

BOOK: Nigh - Book 1
9.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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