“What happened is not nearly as important as what is going to happen.”
Chase tried to turn toward the voice of the one who answered him, but that’s when he realized he was unable to move. A faint light shone on him from above revealing to his sore eyes that he was fastened to a wooden chair. With hemp his ankles were bound to the legs, and he suspected that’s what had his wrists bound together behind the chair back. He guessed he was in an empty room, but it was only a guess since he couldn’t see beyond the small area the light encompassed around the chair.
“Who are you and where the hell am I?”
“Again, these are irrelevant questions. Where you are is not nearly as important as where you’re going to go. And they say you’re some great detective?”
Detective? Yes, he was a private investigator, but how come he had nearly forgotten that? It must have been one hell of a blow he suffered to his head; he didn’t even recall what he had previously
been doing before waking in the chair, yet his head felt no pain. Chase Michael DeBarlo, yes, that was his name. Had he really almost forgotten his own name? What the hell happened? Oh, right, that was an unimportant question. For some reason, Chase believed that was actually true.
“What do you want?”
“Now we’re getting somewhere! I want you to return, to integrate yourself within your fellow man, to even help them if you must.”
He couldn’t place the voice. It was male, deep with a touch of malice behind it, and it was seemingly coming from all around him.
“I already do that.”
“You did, yes, but that was a different world back then, all the way back to ten minutes ago.”
“I don’t understand.”
The voice cackled, “You don’t need to. All you need to know is that I’ve given you a gift, and when I choose the right moment I will ask for repayment.”
Chase shook his head. “I’ve struck no bargain with you. Let me out of here!”
“Oh, but you did many years ago, although you may not remember. You will remember, however, that you were here today when your world went to hell. Or was it already there?” The voice cackled again while Chase struggled uselessly with his restraints. “Oh, it seems you’ve dropped your hat.”
The familiar embrace of the black fedora slid down upon Chase’s head, although he did not see the hands that placed it there, and the room grew as still as death.
“Show yourself!” Beads of sweat trickled down his brow, the salt stinging his eyes like
tiny needles. “Damn you!”
The cackle emerged from the darkness one final time. “Touché.”
The tremor reverberated through the floor and jarred his comatose body awake. His eyes strained to focus, his vision warping in and out as if he were trying to view the world through the bottom of a glass soda bottle. He thought it may have been the slam of a door that had awoken him, but he couldn’t be sure. A door slam? Where?
He rubbed his pained eyes and shook his head as his surroundings finally came together. He was crumpled on the floor of a library in a historic home in downtown Fallsbury, Massachusetts. To his right a large stone encased fireplace gaped at him as if it had just spit him out while shelves of books and historic artifacts rose above him on the opposite wall. At one end of the room a set of French doors opened to a parlor while the other end contained a baby grand piano in a
half moon bay beside which an entranceway to the front foyer gaped wide.
He was just starting to get his bearings when he realized he wasn’t the only body on the floor. Sprawled out, eyes opened wide, laid the still figure of a dark, muscular African American man.
It was starting to come back to him. Society of the Haunted had asked him to tag along on one of their paranormal investigations. While he was a licensed private investigator, not someone who went out ghost hunting, he had previously been hired by the team during a case in which they had stumbled upon a corpse in another historic Fallsbury home. Since that time getting to know Chase, if ever they took on an investigation that involved the more historic locations in the area they would invite him along as a guest investigator. He loved the aura of centuries gone by that enveloped him when he entered such places.
This particular house was of Victorian vintage, built in the 1870s, and while there were certainly older homes in Fallsbury, this was one of the more aesthetically interesting ones, recognizable for its three story tower, wrap around porch, and the stone gargoyles that flanked the front entrance
The man remained motionless on the floor and Chase crawled to him. Marcus Davis was an electrical engineer by trade and the technology expert of Society of the Haunted. He had gone to college on a football scholarship, but focused on his studies when he blew out his knee during his sophomore year of school. Friends considered him a large teddy bear of a man, raising his 14 year old son on his own, and now he was completely comatose on the floor. Chase shook the large man, but he had seen dull, lifeless eyes like that before, and he sank back.
What he hadn’t seen before was the small blue ball of light that suddenly emerged over the body of Marcus. Chase stared at it for a moment, baffled at what his eyes were seeing. His head must have hit the floor hard whenever he passed out. He began to recall a massive wave of energy overwhelming him near the fireplace before blacking out. What he may have hit on the way down he had no idea, but whatever happened it was seemingly causing him to hallucinate, for the next moment was even more baffling.
From the French doors a red ball of light zoomed into the room and chased after the blue light which sped off through the doorway near the piano. Chase shook his head. Did that red ball of light have a tail? He wasn’t sure what he had seen, but the one thing of which he was sure was that his friend, Marcus Davis, lay dead before him.
“Why should I believe you?”
“You made the decision to believe me before you even walked through that door, otherwise you would never have come. But why should I believe you?”
She was young, most likely in her early twenties, with short cropped brown hair save for the looping bangs that fell into her emerald eyes, and a lightly freckled complexion that masked her age for a teenager. The way she carried herself, however, the manner in which she spoke with a cool-headed level of maturity, betrayed that youthful visage. It had been subtle clues such as these that Chase Michael DeBarlo had looked for when he had once been a private investigator, and that ability to assess still proved useful in his new occupation, so to speak. He was utilizing them this very moment as he carefully scrutinized the young woman who called herself Elise.
Her slender fingers protruding from black fingerless gloves straightened her worn denim jacket, a similar style Chase had once worn himself during his formative years. He had smirked when he first saw her, and inwardly chuckled at the notion that style always recycles itself. She stared past his shoulder and addressed his question, “I see it behind you. It’s in the corner, lurking, and I think you’ve known it’s been there the whole time.”
The room of the small abandoned house in which they’d met contained a singular light source, a small lantern that burned in the center of the room between them casting a small radius of yellow light. Shadows grew deep beyond the radius of that light, but in one particular corner the shadow loomed much darker.
“Yes, but you must understand. While you are standing there wrestling with the conflict of whether or not to believe me, I must also be sure that you are who you are.”
“Of course I’m –” she stopped short just before stating the obvious response that would have sounded utterly silly. “Are you always like this?”
Chase suppressed a grin. “I’ve always been a wise ass, yes, but I’ve grown a little more mature about it as I’ve aged in this lifetime. Tell me what you see.”
Elise suppressed her own grin and peered into the darkness. “It’s a dark entity, humanoid-type figure, no features… tall, perhaps as much as six feet. It’s just staring at us like it’s sizing us up.”
“And it doesn’t frighten you?”
She shrugged. “It hasn’t done anything yet to make me scared of it. It’s just… there.”
Chase nodded. “Good. You are one of the few that haven’t entirely been affected.”
“Affected by what?”
“Affected by the veil that’s been pulled over most everyone’s eyes. Some years ago that veil was completely lifted and the world erupted into utter chaos, but at some point that veil was dropped back into place, so far, in fact, that nobody even remembers that it had once been lifted. It’s as if the world has been going on its steady beat eternally and the atrocities that unfolded never happened at all.”
Elise shook her head, “I don’t understand,” then noticed that the shadow in the corner had moved. “Um, Chase, that thing is moving toward us.”
“I don’t understand entirely myself. What I know is that the entire world as I’d known it has changed; everyone that I cared for is gone and nobody even remembers that those people had once existed. There is something amiss, and you are one of the few that can see past that. You sought me out because you are seeking answers, like I, and know that I, too, can see past that veil.”
She was listening to him, but a concerned tremble crept into Elise’s voice, “Chase, the shadow.”
“I may be willing to accept your original proposition, but you must be willing to come with me to 1876.”
“1876? That’s a little high for the house numbers on this street, isn’t it?” The shadow now loomed large just a few feet behind Chase, seemingly growing taller by the second. “Well, we can find it. Let’s go.”
“What? Chase – the shadow!”
The tall humanoid figure, devoid of any discernable features was now right on top of Chase, nearly engulfing him.
“Take my hand.” He stretched out an arm in her direction, beckoning her to come forth.
“What? Are you kidding? Let’s just go!”
“Take my hand!”
Hesitantly, Elise slid her hand into his as the shadow bore down upon them… and her whole world went dark.
Watch and listen to The Time Channeler Chronicles “Darkened World”: