I went out at 1 A.M. last night. Parents were asleep. It was ridiculously cold out, must have been under 0 Fahrenheit.
I had my flashlight and a knife, and my sneakers. When I got to the shed, I changed into the sneakers before I opened the door. My feet were freezing but I really didn't care. I'm glad the flashlight was powerful, because it was really dark out. No moon, no stars, just cloud banks.
I pushed open the door, and shone the flashlight in. Same as last time, except I could see a larger area due to the flashlight. I almost threw up at the thought of picking my way through those bags, but I knew I had to. At this point I was just basing everything I knew about that place on the one dream--I don't know what it was I had on the tennis court, but I'll call it a dream. I figured there were walls, as I had seen.
So I picked my way inside. I thought the night outside my house was quiet, but this was far worse. There was literally no sound. Ever heard complete silence? I think I did. It weighed down on my head, and every step I took echoed very loudly, even though I was wearing sneakers. Echoes meant there had to be walls though, so I was right.
I walked up to the first bag, the one I had touched and opened before. There was still dried blood all over the floor. And handprints. At least a hundred handprints in the blood. They led away from the stain, leaving a trail through the pillars.
I shone my flashlight that way. Oh man, was my hand shaking. I saw the wall first. It was marble, like everything else. Just a different shade, a little darker and a little worn down. Then I saw the doors. The same doors as in the dream. Except one of them was propped open a tiny bit, and if I listened closely I could hear something. It sounded like waves on a beach. And I could see a faint sliver of light.
I picked my way among all the pillars and the bags, trying not to touch any of them, and trying to be as careful as possible with my footsteps. Thank the Lord, I got to the door without touching a single one of those bags.
I peered in the door, but I couldn't see anything because my eyes hadn't adjusted to the light. I squinted, and waited for a few seconds. I couldn't see much still, so I slipped my way inside.
It wasn't real. It couldn't have been. Then again, the place I had just come from couldn't have either.
The sky wasn't blue, or gray, or dark. It was red. The sky was red. Nothing was the right color. The ground swayed back and forth. I could see where I heard the waves sound, it was a patch of grass--well, it looked a little like grass--swishing against a cliff face.
I let out a little cry of fear, or I must have, I don't know. Because I could hear something trampling through the bushes (bushes? I think they were) toward me. I knew the shape. I instinctively put my hands behind my back, dropped the flashlight, and stuck the knife in my waistband.
It was the Howler, crawling on God knows how many hands, and carrying James in two other hands. This time I really cried out, and rushed toward them. The swaying ground knocked me to my feet though. James was alive. He was unconscious, but I could see his chest rising and falling as he took breaths.
He had grown so much in the past months. His hair was over his ears now, and unkempt. He had sprouted up, and looked really lanky. But he looked fairly well-fed--he definitely wasn't starving.
The Howler, grinning, placed him against a tree, then turned back to me. It opened its mouth. "As you can see, we have him. Right here, right now."
He scrambled a little closer. The hands that weren't touching the ground were madly twitching, reaching to grab me. "We have one last task for you. All you have to do is bring us one little child. One little boy or girl. Then we will let you have James back. What do you say?" And it grinned, its sick little grin.
I couldn't stand it any more. I charged toward it, screaming. It was only a few feet away, and I pulled out the knife from my waistband as I charged. The grin on its face changed to a look of shock as I stabbed it.
I stabbed it right where its head met its shoulders--there was no neck, nothing between the two parts. I don't think it ever knew I would do anything like that. I didn't really think I would do anything like that either.
Black blood trickled out around the knife. Pure black. I pulled the knife out and stabbed the Howler again, this time in the chest. The Howler gurgled. A few arms flailed weakly, but I just kept stabbing. I don't know how long I stood over it, how many times I stabbed it, but it was limp on the ground by the time I was done. I had black blood spattered all over me. It was warm.
I was crying. I dropped the knife and ran over to James, stumbling over the body and the rolling ground. I shook him, and shouted his name. His eyes fluttered open, and he looked shocked. "R-rye?" he stammered.
"Yes, yes, oh God, you're safe," I hugged him. He hugged me back. But then I felt him go stiff. I pulled away and looked at him. He was looking over my shoulder in terror. "What? WHAT?" I shouted, starting to turn around. James grabbed me, and pulled me back.
"I'm sorry..." he whispered, "But you have to go now. I'll be safe. Find me. You'll see the clues."
With that, something wound around my ankles and dragged me backwards towards the door. It had the same slimy feel as in the dream. My headache--which had gotten almost unbearable as I was in there--exploded through my head. I passed out.
I woke up in my bed. I still had the bloodstains on me. The knife and the flashlight were neatly laid on my desk, and the boots and sneakers were at the foot of my bed.
I killed it. I killed the Howler.