Chapter Twenty-Seven

After Chris dropped off Carly, he went driving around the Monopoly street neighborhood in Eagan where he had seen Kimberly jogging. He didn’t think he would be lucky enough to spot her out in her yard with the rain still coming down or even through an undraped window, but he hoped he might see her car sitting out in a driveway or on the street in front of her house. He had watched her run to one of those new era Volkswagen beetles, a metallic sky blue one, after their lunch on Monday. He had no plans on dropping in on her, he just wanted to know where she lived. Of course, if he couldn’t find her house this way, he figured he could ask her for her address in his next dream.

His next dream. That was the other reason he was out driving around instead of going home. He was very tired, but had already decided he wasn’t ready to return to the gravesite yet. He wasn’t ready to face the Priest, knowing now that He was His own person, or whatever He was, and not just a part of Chris’ imagination. Chris planned on staying awake the rest of the day, doing his routes, possibly finding Kimberly out jogging in the morning, arrange the Friday night meeting with Carly, and then, finally, get some sleep.

After an hour of aimlessly driving around the area, Chris gave up on spotting her car. With all the rain the last two days, few cars were out of their garages and all the garage doors were closed keeping the dampness out. By three o’clock, Chris was pulling his van into his own garage and shutting the door behind him.

Inside, Chris took two NoDoz and sat down at his computer to pass a few hours surfing his usual sites. The NoDoz didn’t make him any less tired, it just gave his body a small tingling sensation that seemed to keep it from shutting down. Between that and the six-pack of Mountain Dew he drank, he managed to stay awake until he heard the truck with his papers back up into his driveway.

He went outside and helped the driver unload the papers directly into his van in the garage so that the driver didn’t have to deal with putting them under a tarp to protect them from the rain that had continued to fall throughout the day and into the night The physical exertion of this task also helped re-energize his system for the job in front of him. He also took two more NoDoz, just in case. He didn’t want to be finally falling asleep near the end of his routes and, say, run over some poor innocent jogger dressed in an orange sweat suit running with her back to him while he coasted down the wrong side of the street nodding off.

The night seemed to take forever. The lightning was back, accompanied by a booming thunder to accentuate the flashes that lit up the night every few seconds. The rain was coming down full force again through most of the night. By morning, he was soaked through and through. His feet squished in his tennis shoes on the floor of the van. The two towels he had brought were full of water, weighing about ten pounds each. His hair was matted to his skin which was smeared with black ink from his hands as he’d wiped the rain from his face. Kimberly had predictably not been seen.

At 7:15 a.m., his eyelids feeling heavier than the soaked towels had, Chris finally stretched out on his bed and allowed his eyes to close.

* * * * *

Chris stood at the foot of the small hill, the tombstones and their watching eyes behind him; the Priest, his book already closed and clutched to his chest, and his party in black, stood before him awaiting his arrival. Even as he told himself to hold his position, to go no farther, his feet began to climb the hill, the wind pushing softly but firmly at his back. As familiar as this entire scene was to him after months and months of daily visits, everything seemed different now that he knew all those present were as real as he and the coffin’s guests were.

Chris tried to peer into the shadow of the Priest’s hood, trying to get a glimpse of his face, wanting to learn anything that might help him discover the identity of the tall robed man…if indeed he was even a man. Chris was not jumping to any unproven conclusions at this point. But the face remained unnamed, just out of sight.

Chris obediently stepped up to his side of the grave, daring to continue looking directly at the Priest on the other side. The Priest paid him no mind, concentrating on the closed coffin as He always did. Chris wanted to speak to Him, was trying to manufacture the courage to do so, when the coffin began to open with the faint creaking sound of old wood, drawing his attention away from the Priest.

Kimberly was still there, but Chris was unable to hide the anxiety on his face after the lid had fully opened. The whites of her eyes seemed to bleed into her irises which were no longer the bright blue that he had first seen but now looked more like a cloudy day. Her pupils were more gray than black. She was wearing a silky sheer blue nightgown that looked somehow thicker than her skin. Her lips, full and red before, were now thin and pale. Her fading had not only begun, it had become advanced since the time he had last seen her here.

Which had been when? he wondered. Only two days ago. Not even that, he thought. A day and a half. A panic slipped into his skin and struck him bone deep. And it showed on his face.

"What’s the matter?" Kimberly asked as soon as her eyes fell on Chris, who had turned about as pale as Kimberly. Then she remembered. "I’m fading, aren’t I?" she said with a sadness in her voice that made Chris’ heart skip a beat.

"Yes," he said feeling completely helpless.

"Am I going to die?" she asked, trying to sound brave.

"Not if I can help it," Chris said, looking up at the Priest as he spoke. And then speaking directly to the Priest, "I am not going to let her die. I don’t know who you are or why you are doing this," he said, without giving thought to the words he was saying, letting his anger take control, "but I am not going to let you take her!"

Slowly, the Priest raised his head and directed his attention to Chris, but said nothing. Chris tried to hold on to his anger, but felt fear creeping in as he waited out the silence for a response.

The coffin again whispered a quiet creak as the lid began to close and Chris braced himself for the Priest’s words. He caught a glimpse of Kimberly before the lid snapped shut, agony and worry dominating her soft, pale face, and briefly wondered if it would be the last time he ever saw her. Forever passed in a minute before Chris’ wait was over.

"I do not take," the gravely voice finally said, seemingly again from inside Chris’ head. "I only receive."

"Well you can not have her!" Chris cried back, putting his fear aside. "You don’t need her!"

"It is not for you to decide her fate," the voice replied calmly. "Her time has come."

"No," Chris challenged. "Her time has not come. We control our own fate. Not you. Her destiny, like my own, is in our hands, not yours." And then remembering what the Priest had said last time he had been provoked into speaking, Chris added, "I will deny you. You can not exist. You are not real!"

"You may deny me, for you are a fool!" the voice boomed in anger inside Chris’ head, making his eye sockets ache at the sound. "But you will not defy me again! I will have her!"

The next moment, Chris was sitting up in bed, tears flowing down his face, his chest heaving, gasping for breath.

"You can’t be real!" he screamed before he realized he was alone in his room. The Priest, His followers, the coffin, all gone. The thunder and the pounding rain outside his bedroom window, along with his pounding heart, were the only sounds that remained.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Eight


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