Chapter Twenty-Five

"So you still up for the game Friday night?"

Billy and Jerry were sitting in their orange maintenance truck on the side of Interstate 94 waiting to see if the rain was going to let up for the afternoon or not. The weather forecast had called for light rain, no thunder and lightning, but so far the light rain had still been too heavy to work in.

"Yeah," Jerry said. "But I don’t think we’re going to surprise her."

"What did you do?" Billy asked. "You fuckin’ chicken out an’ ask her for permission?"

"I don’t need no fuckin’ permission," Jerry said. "But I saw her talkin’ to someone on the Internet yesterday when I got home early. Looked like she was meeting someone on Monday. I didn’t see much, just a couple lines when she was in the kitchen. I didn’t want her to see that I saw."

"Really!" Billy raised his eyebrows. "So who was the dude? Could you tell?"

"I couldn’t tell, but I don’t think it was a dude," Jerry told him. "They don’t use their real names on that damn computer, but it looked like some flowery bullshit name like ‘forget-me-not’ or something, ‘cept spelled weird." Jerry shifted in his seat, stared out the windshield at the rain. "I might have been wrong about her," he said. "She’s been real good to me ever since last weekend. I mean, all of a sudden like, it’s as if we never fought. She’s bein’ real nice."

"Uh-oh," Billy said shaking his head. "That ain’t good. Man, that’s a dead give away that somethin’ is goin’ on. She’s feelin’ guilty, man. Don’t you see it?"

"I don’t think so. I think she just wants things to be like they were when we got married," Billy said in Carly’s defense. "I don’t think she could cheat and still look me in the eye. She just ain’t built that way."

"Why the hell do you think she’s meetin’ with someone Monday, you idiot? If it’s a woman, she needs someone to talk about it with. If it’s a man, ‘cause you said yourself, you don’t know, then I don’t need to tell you why they’re meetin’," Billy chided. "Just answer me this, man. Did she tell you about this meetin’?"

Jerry shook his head.

"And how many other meetin’s you think she’s had while you’re at work all day that she never told you about?" Billy continued. "I mean, I ain’t sayin’ she done it for sure. Maybe you’re right. Maybe. Only she knows that right now. But if you suspected before, you were probably right. And if you are thinkin’ now you were wrong to suspect because ‘all of a sudden like’ she’s bein’ nice, then it sounds to me like she’s gettin’ done what she wanted to get done. Foolin’ your dumb ass. You followin’ me?"

"Fuck you, man," Jerry said, fighting back the urge to hit something. "Yes, I follow you. But you don’t know her like I do." But silently, he wondered if he himself knew her like he thought he did. Maybe she was more capable of lying to him than he gave her credit for. Why was she meeting someone on Monday? And why hadn’t she mentioned it to him? And most importantly, why was she all of a sudden being so loving after such a long dry spell?

Jerry picked up the walkie-talkie sitting on the seat between them and pressed the talk button. "Hey, Jack. You gonna make us sit out here all day or you gonna call it!"

Billy snickered hearing the anger in Jerry’s voice. "What’s the matter there, pal?" he said. "Got someplace you need to go?"

"Shut the fuck up," Jerry snapped. "I heard enough of you. Just you bring a lot of money Friday night ‘cause I’m gonna take you for every penny you got."

The walkie-talkie crackled back finally, "Reel it in, guys. No more work today. Check in at the office for weekend make-up schedules."

"s’bout fuckin’ time," Jerry said as he threw the truck in gear and peeled out too fast, fish-tailing slightly and showering the truck behind him with loose gravel.

* * * * *

Chris and Carly sat silently sipping their hot chocolates, reflecting on their new conclusions. The idea that the Priest character in Chris’ dream was real seemed to change everything. But as much as each of them was trying to think of a way to discredit this concept before speaking again, neither was able to do so.

Finally Carly broke the silence. "Do you think He’s dangerous?"

"No," Chris replied quietly, still deep in thought. "He isn’t the one killing these people I see. I think He’s more like a mediator or something." He looked up at Carly. "But I think He knows exactly what’s going on."

"But who is He?"

"The one whom I deny," Chris replied.

"God?" Carly suggested.

Chris laughed a beat or two. "No," he said with a smile. "Not God. God wouldn’t be torturing people like this. I do deny God’s existence, or at least I always have. I’m not sure I can deny Him now as strongly as I used to, but even so, this isn’t God. I’m sure of that."

"Do you think He will tell you who He is if you ask?" Carly asked.

"I already asked Him once and He answered me with a damn riddle," Chris said. "I just know that somehow this guy, this thing, can get into my head." Chris was thinking out loud now. "The others don’t see Him, don’t hear Him, so it is my head He is in. The others are going to die with or without my knowledge. So it is me he is trying to torture. He knew a tornado was going to kill Benjamin, so as much as I want to deny the possibility, He must be able to see the future."

"Maybe not," Carly interrupted. "What if He just knows they are going to die but not how it is going to happen? Does He still have to be able to see the future to know that?"

"That’s still seeing the future," Chris pointed out, "knowing that they are going to die. I guess if He knows that, it really doesn’t matter whether or not he knows how."

"Maybe it’s not telling the future though," Carly said. "You know how a dog will sometimes go sit in front of a door ten minutes before his master comes home? Maybe it’s like that. A kind of ESP thing. He senses death in certain people. He may not know how they are going to die because He can’t see the future. But He just knows that their time is coming."

"The Grim Reaper," Chris said leaning forward on his knees, speaking to the floor. "Another one I deny exists."

"Geez," Carly quietly exclaimed. "You think?"

"Shit, I don’t know," Chris said, throwing his hands in the air and leaning back on the couch. "It’s obviously someone that I don’t believe in so I guess now I gotta believe in everything. This really sucks."

"Okay, let’s start over," Carly said, seeing his frustration starting to cloud his mind. She knew they had to remain level-headed as well as open-minded if they were going to figure anything out at all. "What do we know?" she asked. And answering herself, she continued, "We know the people you see are real. We know that so far they have all died. We know that the Priest is real and that He knows the people are going to die."

"Wait a minute there," Chris interrupted this time. "We don’t know that He knows they are going to die. All we know is that so far they all have died. As far as we know, He only thinks they are going to die. If he can’t see the future, and I really don’t believe that is possible because you can’t see what hasn’t happened yet, then maybe it’s just that odds are that they are going to die. It might not mean they have to." Chris looked up and felt his first real pang of hope in a long time.

"Benjamin," Chris continued to explain, "didn’t necessarily have to die in the tornado. If I could have talked his father into taking Benjamin away, right then and there after we spoke on the phone, then he could have lived. He didn’t have to die, but maybe the odds just weren't in his favor."

"So are you thinking you should tell Kimberly to go away for a week or two?" Carly asked.

"No," Chris said. "I already thought of that. What if she did and then got hit by a truck on the highway while fleeing in a panic for her life? Then I would have killed her by telling her to go. There’s no way of knowing how they might die. But if I can be there when it is supposed to happen, maybe I can prevent something from happening."

"If you had been with Benjamin," Carly pointed out, "then you would only have died with him instead of saving him."

"I know, I know," Chris admitted. "But there’s not going to be a tornado here. I think we need to tell Kimberly now. I think we need to move up the time that we all get together. I think I need you to help me convince her that she needs to be watched. She needs to be ready, and I need to be ready. I want her to be with me starting very soon, maybe even before she starts to fade in my dream, now that I think about it, until this is over. It may be the only chance she’s got."

"How about Friday night," Carly offered. "Jerry always goes out with his buddies. You can bring her over to my place. You already told her about me, right?"

"Yeah. I told her. She knows I want us all to meet. She doesn’t know why yet." Chris was silent a moment. Then added, "And it might be better to be in a private place than a public place when we break all this to her. No telling how she will react."

"I agree," Carly nodded. "Let me know if she will do it. I’ll need to confirm that Jerry’s doing his normal Friday night thing, whatever that is. We’ll plan on my place around eight after I get the kids to bed. Jerry’s usually not home until midnight or so. We’d have until eleven for sure. And if he comes home early, so what, we’ll just explain what we’re doing. Of course," she laughed a little to herself thinking of explaining all this to Jerry, "he’d probably try to have us all committed after we told him. Me at any rate, after you left."

"I like the idea of meeting at your place," Chris confirmed. "If you are sure it’s okay."

"I’ll find out and let you know," Carly said. "You just try to get Kimberly to come."

"I don’t want to go to sleep again," Chris said. "I don’t know if I can face this Priest again now knowing He is real. But I have to go. I have to watch for Kimberly’s fading. I wish I knew who the hell He was."

"And why you?" Carly asked. "Why did He pick you to torture?"

Chris didn’t know the whole answer to that, but he did know part of it. "Because of my accident," he told her. "It started after my accident. I’m being punished or something for causing Sherry’s death."

"You didn’t cause her death, Chris. The bungee cord company did," she reminded him. "And they paid quite a hefty amount for it, too. I don’t buy the punishment angle."

"Well," Chris sighed, "I’m fresh out of reasons. But I know it has something to do with the accident. How could it not?"

Carly looked at the time. Almost one o’clock and she still had a lot to do before Jerry was due home. She looked at Chris’ tired, sad eyes and felt so helpless. She wanted so desperately to make things better for her friend. It seemed the more they learned, the more they didn’t know. She hoped, for Chris’ sake even more than Kimberly’s sake, that they could manage to delay Kimberly’s destiny with death, at least this time around. She didn’t want to think about the effect Kimberly’s death would have on Chris’ sanity if they failed.

"I should probably get going," Carly finally said reluctantly. "Are you going to be okay?"

"Yeah. I’ll be fine," Chris assured her. "It’s Kimberly I am worried about. The idea that the Priest actually exists is very disturbing and kinda tears apart my entire belief system, but I don’t think He is any threat to me directly. Just scary." He smiled weakly, "You want a ride down the street again?"

"Yeah," she said. "I better get going. But I don’t really feel like I’ve been much help."

"You’ve been a godsend, Carly," he chuckled at his choice of words and saw her smile at the irony, too. A different time and a different place, he thought again looking into her beautiful brown eyes. Damn my luck. One married, the other about to die. "I’d be even more lost than I am without your friendship through this. I’d be going certifiably insane without you to talk to. I really can’t thank you enough, Carly," he said as they stood.

She took his hand, pulled him close, gave him his second quick kiss on the cheek. "We might not be able to save her, Chris," she said. "But if anyone can, it’d be you. I do believe that." She gave him a smile and, keeping his hand in hers, headed towards the door.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Six


Front Desk

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As Fate Would Have It

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven