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 (7 page)

BOOK: Nigh - Book 1
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Al could still see the light of the dancers as she
blinked, in the dark curtained room.

“She’s finally found her knight in shining armour,”
Gruff whispered, still looking at the spot where his wife had just
vanished, blinking away the tears and streaks of light.

“Gruff…” Al didn’t know what to say.

“It’s okay, Al,” he said softly. “I just… need a
moment.”

The mists had retreated, and the room seemed deathly
quiet now. Al nodded and stepped out into the corridor. An old
picture smiled at her from the wall, Gretchen and Gruff, young and
full of hope on their wedding day. Her blond hair curled under her
pulled back veil, his top hat slightly crooked on his head.

He’d been her knight in shining armour, once.

Al grabbed the picture, not sure why. She didn’t
want Gruff to see it when he came out of the room. She didn’t want
him to lose himself further in memories of what might have
been.

She didn’t want to lose him to the mists, or the
past.

 

Chapter 6

 

The cogs were tiny, and Hector’s hands felt numb as
he touched them. He remembered feeling every edge when he’d first
built the watch, what was both a year ago and lifetimes ago. Now,
he couldn’t feel the tiny pieces of metal save for the pressure on
his numb fingertips. Calluses that would take several more
lifetimes to heal blocked the sensations of a life that was so far
gone it might as well have been a dream.

He focused on the tiny gears. The silence was
oppressive. The mists might infiltrate at any moment, or pierce the
house, and the enemy would swarm.

He forced his breathing to relax and his hands to
stop shaking. The quiet before the storm. It had been such a
clichéd saying. Until he’d been on the fields of France, in a
rat-ridden stinking hole, waiting for the bullets to start flying
again. Hoping they would, so he wouldn’t have to wait anymore.

The watch had suffered from age. Age and neglect.
Oh, they’d taken care of her casing. It had been polished, and even
the original glass was still intact. But it was the inside that
mattered.

Stella had known that. But Stella wouldn’t have
known what to do with it, save to keep it. Stella’s
great-granddaughter, Alva, walked into the room, clutching a
portrait, as white as ash. He resisted the urge to stop working on
the watch and go to her. She didn’t know him. Stella hadn’t
mentioned him, ever, as far as he could tell.

Maybe it made things easier. Maybe it was for the
best.

He hesitated and resumed his work on the watch. She
sat on a stool at the kitchen island and stared at the watch.

He sighed. He couldn’t ignore her, no matter how
much he wanted to. She looked like Stella, or parts of her did. The
way she shifted her feet now. The intelligence behind the hazel
eyes, as though always thinking, always planning. The flush of her
cheek. The rust colour of her hair. He looked at her and saw parts
of Stella, and it hurt him more than he could afford to
acknowledge.

But, like a watch, it was the inside that counted.
And, growing up in a world so different than Stella’s, he had no
doubt she would be vastly different.

“Are you all right?” he asked softly. She looked up,
surprised at first. Then she shrugged.

“You said you can stop it?” she whispered.

He hesitated and nodded. “If I can get this watch
going again, I can.”

Alva nodded. She resumed looking at the watch, and
so did he.

Molly joined them. “Are we just going to keep moving
like none of this is weird?”

Alva gave her friend a smile. The care in it formed
a lump in Hector’s throat. A smile so much like Stella’s.

“It’s weird, Molly. I just…” She paused. Gruff
walked into the room and sat down on a stool. The old man looked
even more tired.

“Let’s look at your arm,” Molly whispered. He didn’t
argue or struggle, just letting Alva and Molly work on him. Hector
had seen this before, on the field. The breaking.

He slipped the last gear in place and closed the
back of the watch gently. He ran his fingers along the inscription,
hidden within the watch, wishing his fingers could feel every
groove.

“You’re done?” Alva asked.

He nodded. “I’m going to wind the watch. This should
stop the mists.”

They all looked at him expectantly. He held his
breath as he wound it carefully, the hands of the watch moving in
jerky movements, but moving nonetheless. Away from when Stella had
stopped the watch.

We’ll see each other again, my love. Just keep your
head down and your heart open, and we’ll see each other again.

The watch went to two o’clock, ticked forward once.
Then it began ticking backward.

Hector looked at it, puzzled. The mechanism wasn’t
set to be a timer clock, yet…

Time isn’t the matter. Time will always be on our
side, for our love exists outside of it. It’s the world that might
be the challenge, my love. It’s how we react to its challenges that
will keep us together, or break us apart.

The watch was counting down. Three hours. Three
measly hours was all he had managed to win back.

The house hummed as electricity returned to it. A
radio turned on in the living room. Molly looked down at her small
device. He’d love to open it and see what made it work.

“Everything’s back up! I’ll text Pete,” Molly
exclaimed.

“Thank you,” Alva mumbled, then she turned to
Hector. “Is it over?” Hector closed the front of the watch and
looked to them, his eyes coming to a rest on Alva. He couldn’t save
Stella, anymore.

He shook his head. “For now. We have to get going
and find your sister. I don’t know how long it’ll hold.”

Molly looked up to him, as did Alva. Their eyes were
wide and terrified. Gruff just looked down at the counter.
Broken.

“But I think I can find a safe spot for us,” he
added. Molly looked down right away, but Alva held his eyes, as
though measuring the kind of man he was. He found himself
straightening his back and looking back, unflinching.

“She’s okay!” Molly shrieked. “Their bus went off
the road and they’re trapped in it, but we can get them out!” Alva
and Molly spoke quickly back and forth on details of where she was,
how they’d get there, what supplies they needed, but Hector ignored
them, running his fingers on the watch, lovingly etched details he
could no longer feel.

He couldn’t save Stella, but maybe he could find a
way to save her children. If only he could move quickly enough.

 

 

Chapter 7

 

The mists had lifted and left disaster in their
wake. Entire houses had collapsed. Blood lined the streets like
snow in winter, and bodies were abandoned like trash on the sides
of roads. People were coming out of their houses like they’d woken
up from a bad dream. The wounded were being tended to by paramedics
when possible, otherwise by passers-by or loved ones.

Alva clutched the steering wheel and proceeded
carefully down the residential roads, avoiding any main arteries.
There were lots of accidents, but not as many as might have
happened had it been later in the day, when more people were on
their way to work. Small blessings.

She turned Percival on someone’s lawn to
avoid a gap that had materialized in the road, like something had
crunched it down. Molly lowered
the passenger side window and apologized
to the owner, who sat on his steps without moving. He barely
acknowledged her.

“Should we stop?” Molly asked, rolling her window
back up.

“We need to get your sister,” Hector said right
away. “We might not have much time,”

Alva nodded, but glanced back at the homeowner. She
thought of Steve and Louise in the shop, and how she’d left them
behind. And Jack, who she’d run away from. If her entire life was
to be judged on how she did in that shop, she would fail miserably.
She hadn’t found the courage to help them, but she certainly could
find it to save her sister.

“Pete says the bus still won’t open its doors. A few
of the students were hurt, but not bad.”

“Okay. We get Pete and help those kids off the bus.
Then we get out of here and go…” She looked back to Hector.

“North,” he offered.

“North.” She repeated to reaffirm.

Gruff sat silently in the back and gazed out the
window. Al wanted to take his hand and tell him everything would be
okay, but they still couldn’t reach his children, or his
grandchildren. And he’d just witnessed his wife vanish, or die, or
whatever that was.

She wasn’t sure she could tell him everything would
be okay. The lie refused to tumble from her lips.

 

***

 

The yellow bus had come to a stop in a field by a
quiet road in the country. Al pulled Percival to the side of the
road and threw on her four ways, for good measure. There were no
emergency vehicles or any other vehicles around. The yellow bus was
perfectly quiet and stopped by a shimmering lake. Al felt nauseated
at the thought that the creatures from the bridge might have gotten
her sister, too.

She exited the vehicle with Hector and Molly. She
grabbed Big Bertha and her tool belt. They needed to get those
doors open somehow.

The sun was comforting. There was no breeze blowing,
and it was turning into a warm day for fall. The field was still
covered in green grass, running down a small hill toward the bus,
reeds the only thing separating it from the water.

“If anything happens, we meet back at Percival,
okay?” Al instructed. Molly nodded and looked at Percival as
thought noting its position in the deepest trenches of her
memory.

“Let’s go,” Al said, walking toward the bus. Molly
waved, and Al grinned when she spotted Pete through the window. The
bus’s windows were all closed and it was covered in vines.

“No wonder they couldn’t get out,” Molly muttered.
“Hope you have garden shears in your tool belt.”

“Wire cutters. That oughta do.” She pulled them out
and grinned.

“You would have made an awesome scout,” Molly
said.

They reached the bus and dozens of faces looked at
them through the windows. Al focused on Pete. A rare smile of
gratitude spread her lips apart. Her face seemed even paler than
usual under her veil of long dyed black hair. Al smiled back and
headed around the bus, near the water, to cut the vines keeping the
doors closed. They were thick and it took all of her strength to
get through them. She just needed to get the doors free and they
could all leave.

Maybe she could get all of the vines off and they
could get the bus going again. Pete would ride with them, but the
bus could head back into town. It seemed sensible enough.

Al had just managed to cut one vine when Molly came
around to join her.

“This will take a while,” Al said, grunting.

“Al…” Molly whispered, pointing to the river.

Al’s blood turned cold and she turned around slowly.
The waters were still calm, but the shimmer on it moved in
patterns. They had formed curved lines and danced up and down,
toward the shore then away again. She was cold and realized the sun
wasn’t touching her anymore, despite the fact that it still
shimmered on the water and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

She stood in a shadow. The bus was casting a shadow
on her, even though the sun was in full sight. And on this side of
the bus. Molly grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the door.
Al was too stunned to fight back.

They reached the sun again, but the shadows of a
tree inched towards them. The shadow from the bus began shifting as
well. Towards them.

As though it hunted them.

 

Chapter 8

 

Hector saw the shadows shift and he clicked on the
button atop the watch to pop the front open. The hands of the watch
were quivering with effort to continue forward, skipped and jumped
irregularly, twitching as they reached 10:24. The time of Stella’s
death.

He tried winding it again, but the whole mechanism
refused to shift, as though the gears had gained a mind of their
own.

He closed it, pocketed the watch as he started
running toward Alva and Molly.

They were in a field, beside water, in tall grass…
He could see the sun dancing on the waters, could smell the mists
on the air, a sickening mix of lavender and sugar.

“We have to go!” he screamed, trying to pull Alva
away from the strange shadows. Screams rose from within the bus,
echoing in the still air around them.

“Not without Pete!” Alva screamed, pulling out of
his grasp and running to a window that was still out of the
shadows, her sister looking at her through it, the only one not
screaming in the bus.

The only one who still had hope.

 

***

 

Al cut at the vines and pulled at them with her bare
hands. Thorns began to grow on them and she ignored the cuts,
cursing her own blood for making them slick. Molly joined her in
pulling, her best friend’s mouth drawn in quiet determination.

Pete was banging the window now, trying to force it
open from inside.

“Move aside,” Hector said, pulling sand from his
pocket and throwing it on the vines. The vines browned and
shriveled a bit, but it still took all three of them to pull them
loose.


Pete, open the window,” Al screamed
over the terrified screams from within the bus. Blood splattered
one of the back windows and Al forced herself to focus on
Pete.
Keep
looking at me,
she willed her sister.

“Just open the window!” She screamed, wishing the
despair didn’t ring in her voice so deeply.

Pete was banging on it, but it wouldn’t go down,
wouldn’t budge or open.

“Stand back!” Al screamed, and she slammed Big
Bertha again the window. It cracked on the first hit, and shattered
on the second.

BOOK: Nigh - Book 1
8.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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