(Not Professionally Edited)
While his father held Sam, rocking her in his arms as she wept for the dead, Andrew cleaned up the mess. His stomach had held together while he rinsed and flushed the contents of the bucket, much to his surprise. Setting it aside, he took a quick moment to steady himself by lighting a cigarette. He noticed amongst the mess of bags Sam had strewn on her floor was a take-out bag yet to be opened. If she hadn’t eaten anything, then how had she managed to vomit up what looked like a week’s supply of food. He shuddered, drew in deeply, letting the smoke sting his lungs before running cold water over it and tossing it in the trash.
He could hear Sam crying and his heart ached for her. It was unnerving to see his strong sister so fragile.
Grabbing a glass of ice water, he carried it to the art room and sat on the floor beside his father and sister. His brotherly love popped out as he leaned in to kiss her head. “I brought you some water, Sam. With lots of ice, just how you like it.”
His father smiled, taking the glass he held out. “Have a little sip, sweetheart, it’ll feel good on your sore throat.” Shifting her, he handed her the glass.
She drank as if she’d been parched a week, her hands shaking as she held the glass. And when she was done, she leaned back into her father’s arms. “I feel like I’ve had the life sucked out of me. I’m so weak.”
“That’s one of the after effects of an out of body experience.” He kissed her head, handing the glass to Andrew. “Feel up to talking about it?” She took a deep breath, nodded. “Where were you?”
“I was in the ground, with the bodies, with the children.” She swallowed. “It was cold, so damn cold, and dark. I was so scared, but I couldn’t move.” She closed her eyes, drew in a breath. “There was so much pain, pain from what he did to them, pain at being alone, at death. I felt humiliation at what they’d endured at the hands of the madman, vile things no child should feel. And the terror…” Her eyes met her father. “So much terror. Oh, Daddy, they’re all so scared and alone.” She closed her eyes and the tears fell like a waterfall.
“It’s okay now.”
“I had the urge to create,” she began again. “It was so strong, like it was pulling at me. The instant I started drawing, they took me in, held me, pulling me down into their unholy grave. I saw it all, Dad. I saw what he did to them and I couldn’t do a damn thing to help them,”
“You need to rest now. Andrew, help me get her to bed.”
Andrew slid one arm around Sam’s waist and with his father’s help, lifted her and carried her to her bed.
“Bring her another glass of water please, Andrew,” his father instructed while he tucked Sam into her bed. “She’ll need her fluids.”
“There's a bag of take-out in the living room. I don’t think she’s even touched it.”
“Sam, have you eaten today?”
She shook her head sluggishly.
“That’s probably why you went down so hard. You had nothing in your system to give you the strength to come out of it, or fight it.” He turned to Andrew. “Bring it with the water.”
It didn’t take him long to retrieve the bag and water and bring them back. “Looks like a burger and fries,” he explained, setting the bag and water on her nightstand.
“I was hungry when I picked it up, but by the time I got home, all I could think was to draw. It was so loud, Dad. They were trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t hear them over the bells.”
“You said that, when I found you. You said something about the bells were too loud.” Andrew pulled out the contents of the bag, taking a seat beside her on the bed.
“What bells, Sam?” his father asked casually, taking the burger from Andrew.
“I don’t know, they were loud, really loud, like…church bells on a Sunday morning.” She shook her head when he lifted the burger to her mouth. “I don’t think I can eat anything.”
“You need to put something in your stomach, at least the fries,” he coaxed. “And I can’t believe I’m encouraging you to eat this crap. Do you know where you were?”
She took the fry, begrudgingly. “No, it’s too dark, and cold. I can’t.” Her hands fell to her lap.
“Get her to eat something, Andrew. I need to make a few calls,” he instructed before leaving the room.
Andrew lifted the fries, wiggled them in front of his sisters face. “Come on, be a good little girl and eat for your daddy.”
“Don’t be a jerk, Andrew.” But she smirked and took the fry.
It was nice to see her smile. “Maybe there are bells on this farm that you saw in your dream.”
“Maybe.” She ate the fry, chewing slowly.
“I don’t know many farms with bells though. But it could still mean something.”
“Yeah.” She leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
“Sam.” Andrew turned to his father as he entered the room. “Should she be sleeping?”
“It’s okay, she’s tired. Let’s give her some time to rest.”
Andrew gave Sam’s hair a stroke before leaving the room with his father.
“I called your mother, she’ll be by shortly.”
“What about Colleen?”
“Your mother will call her. Sam will need her family when she wakes up. What she went through will be tough on her.”
That’s what worried him. What she’d gone through. Andrew absently pulled out his pack of cigarettes. “What the hell happened to her, Dad?”
“She was in a trance. You light that up in front of me and I might just put you in a trance,” his father snarled at the cigarette Andrew put between his lips.
Sheepishly, Andrew placed the cigarette back in the pack and tucked it in his pocket. “Sorry.” He hadn’t been thinking.
“I thought you quit?”
“I did. Well, I tried. It’s not easy,” Andrew said defensively.
“Like I don’t know? I’ve smoked for the better part of my life. If I can do it, you can do it.” His hand snaking out, his father lifted the package from Andrew’s pocket, then to his horror, crushed them in his hand. “What happened to your sister,” his father began, tossing the crumpled packed in the trash. “Was an out of body experience. Anyone who can communicate with the dead can do it.”
Andrew was still eyeing the trash where his brand new pack of cigarettes sat. “Can you?”
“Yes, but it’s not something that should be done alone. You could very easily get sucked in and become trapped in the trance forever. I think because her system was off from lack of food and the stress of the situation, her body was weak and unable to fight off the trance alone.”
“She hadn’t eaten anything today, and she sure as hell didn’t sleep much last night either.”
“Why didn’t she sleep much last night, Trent?”
“You know, I’ve been told all my life just how much I look like you. No offense, Dad, but I sure am glad I didn’t inherit your ghost seeing abilities.” He hoped that would give Trent the hint to shut up. He had a feeling he was about to blurt out who Sam had been with last night.
“No offense taken. I wish all of my children would have been spared the ability. Unfortunately, one of you wasn’t. Okay, he knows something and he doesn’t want me to know it.”
“Who? What are you talking about?” Like he didn’t know.
“Trent. He said Sam hadn’t slept much last night and now he’s gone. The tone in his voice implied something other than a restless night’s sleep.” His father frowned.
Time to change the subject. “Did you get a load of that sketch Sam was working on? Eerie.”
“Imagine being there.”
“No thanks. Visual is enough.” He dropped into the chair while his father prepared coffee. “I’m glad I came back here when I did. I’d hate to think what would have happened to her if I hadn’t.”
“She’s safe now, that’s all that matters.”
“Yeah, but what about next time?”
“Your sister would clobber you if she knew you thought of her as fragile.”
“I won’t tell if you don’t.”
His father nodded, grinning. “You would think, having bought a pizza, she would have at least eaten some of it.” He gave the box sitting on her counter a shove.
“We…uh got that last night. I guess we forgot to eat it. We got busy working on the dry board.” Andrew thumbed toward the living room, blowing out a breath. He hoped his father bought the story, and as soon as his sister was feeling better, he was going to inform her that she owed him big time for covering for her.
Walking from the kitchen, his father examined the board filled with names and information. “We should put the bells on here somewhere. It could mean something later on.”
Meeting his father in the living room, Andrew picked up the marker and added the bells to the list, placing a question mark beside it. “She says it’s a farm. Maybe it’s situated near a church and that’s why she hears bells.”
“Possibly.” His father tapped a finger to his temple.
“How many churches do you think there are in and around the Vancouver area?”
“I’m not sure, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find out.”
“Maybe we could research it, before Sam wakes up, then she wouldn’t have to do it.” He caught his father grinning at him. “What?”
“You said you and Sam were working on this last night?”
Andrew hesitated. “Yeah, so?”
His father continued to grin. “Since when did you become interested in what Sam and I do?”
Andrew lifted one shoulder. “No one ever asked me for help before. She seemed kind of frustrated and tired. I gave her some ideas.”
“Well, then maybe we need to get you more involved.”
The front door suddenly burst open, catching both men by surprise.
“Where is she?” his mother asked frantically, her wide eyes darting around the room in search of Sam, Colleen right behind her.
“She’s asleep and she’s fine. Let me show you where she was.” His father held his hand out to Colleen. “Come on.” He led them to Sam’s art room, to the sketch as Andrew followed.
“She was fighting like those arms were grabbing her. Her eyes were white, Mom. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Andrew recited much in the same way he had when his father had first shown up.
“Dear God, C.J., how awful,” his mother gasped, clutching his father’s hands. “She sees all of that?”
He nodded, squeezing his wife’s hands. “And more. She’ll need us when she wakes, though she’ll pretend she’s strong, she’ll need us.”
“I wonder where she gets that from.” His mother smiled faintly, the implication clearly noted. “I want to sit with her, just for a while.”
“I knew you would.”
“It was so freaky, Colleen,” Andrew expressed the instant his parents left the room. “I’ve never seen her like that before. And her eyes…” He shuddered just thinking about it.
Colleen turned to her brother. Extending her hand she rubbed it up and down his arm. “I don’t know how she does it. Let’s get out of here. You look like you could use some fresh air.”
“What I need is crumpled in the trash.” He opened the front door, leaning in close so no one but his sister could hear him. “I need a smoke real bad.”
She shook her head, frowning. “I thought you quit?”
“Yeah, well shit happens. I’m a coward, okay.”
Rolling her eyes, Colleen gave him a hug. “Come on, we’ll walk to the corner store and get you a new pack. But if you tell dad I helped you get it I’ll cut you down at the knees.”
It always amazed him to hear his mild meek sister attempt to sound mean. Colleen didn’t have a mean bone in her body. “You’re cute, Colleen, and I love you.”
“No, I’m not lending you more money.”
“Damn. Well, it was worth a try.”