Chapter 10: Trouble in Town
Written by: Whitney Emeigh
With a loaf under each arm, Adette made her way back across the square. The whispers chased her out of the village. Adette tried her best not to make out what was being said. She shuffled along, doing her best to keep hold of Karl’s leash. He was being obliging at the moment.
With her head held high, Adette marched out of Swynton’s front gates. People watched but lost interest quickly. Her novelty was finally beginning to wane. A few steps through the front gate, a shiver ran the length of her spine and stopped her dead. When she looked down at Karl, she found that he was looking up at her.
“Oh no.” The scream Adette had anticipated split the air and her skull. She felt her knees crunch into the gravel beneath her feet. Karl skittered out of the way. His eyes twitched back and forth from her to the main gate and back. A cold nose slipped beneath Adette’s arm. Karl’s tongue found her cheek.
“I’m all right. I just hope no one was paying attention to me. Sorry Karl, last time today I promise.” On jellied legs, Adette rose and turned back. Apologetically, she tied Karl to the nearest tree. The bread she stowed just out of reach of Karl. Then she darted back toward the square, feeling nervous that she’d look strange. The farther in she got the more the headache seemed to subside. The other paid her no attention. They seemed to be focused on the center of the square. A ring of people had formed but Adette wasn’t sure around what.
Adette did her best to ignore the subsiding pain in her head and push through the circle of people. She earned herself a few nasty looks but managed to get into the inner circle. A young boy lay on the ground shivering and shaking violently. His mouth stretched open in a silent scream. His eyes stared into the sky above.
Reluctantly, Adette followed his eyes into the bright blue, mid-afternoon sky. As her eyes swept upwards, she spotted a thin shadowy tendril. It pulsed with a darkness that seemed to suck in the light around it. What was it connected to? Bodies jostled hers, trying to force her back into the crowd where she, the outsider, belonged. She cleared her throat and shoved her way forward. In her distraction, she’d lost track of the tendril.
“Everyone make way please,” called a voice from the back of the crowd. This time everyone yielded and backed away from the boy. A tall, scholarly looking man stepped through the cooperating crowd with a leather bag in hand.
“Thank God doctor. He just collapsed. He won’t move.” A woman, who was obviously the boy’s mother, was speaking frantically. The boy hadn’t changed in the least. Adette squinted. She had a suspicion. If only… there it was. Into the boys gaping mouth slithered the same tendril she’d seen before. The closer to the boy’s mouth it got, the finer it became.
“It’s taking him over,” Adette whispered before she could think. A few people turned to look at her. Adette pretended that she hadn’t said anything.
The doctor made a big show of checking everything he knew how to check. Adette could tell by the look on his face that he had no idea what was wrong with the boy. He couldn’t help him. Only Adette could. The trouble was no one else could know about it. The doctor began making motions to get the boy back to his home where he could exam him more thoroughly. She had to do something, but what? The tendril of darkness had all but gone. Soon it would be inside him. Who knew what it would do then.
Adette watched in horror as the boy was scooped into the burly arms of one of the on-looking men. Everything began happening more quickly. The man who’d picked him up was halfway to a standing position when the boy’s mouth snapped shut. All traces of the darkness were now gone. His eyes slowly rolled downwards. They took in the sight of the gathered crowd. They rested slowly, predatorily on each face before finding the familiar face of his mother.
“Mommy? What’s going on?” The desperate mother snatched the boy out of the arms of the man. Adette didn’t buy it for a second.