“You!” The ghoulish nightmare shrilled and seemingly stepped back, if it had any legs with which to take a step back.
Michelle teetered on her heels, and Chase caught her just before she was about to crash to the concrete. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she began convulsing in Chase’s arms.
The creature slid back another step and then melted into the form of a man, a tall, pale human dressed in a black double-breasted frock coat and black trousers, with a black top hat that sat atop his long, wispy charcoal hair. The black and red eyes dissolved into a pair of dark browns and his teeth morphed into something more human-like, straight and alabaster.
This new figure doffed his top hat and bowed. “Until we meet again, Latro. She was a most delicious snack that I do wish to finish.”
At that, the wind seemed to carry the creature off like smoke, folding itself over in great plumes like volcanic ash until completely disintegrated into the night air down the road.
Chase had no time to contemplate what he had just seen. Michelle was still convulsing in his arms, and she desperately needed some help. Without a working cell phone in a world apparently in chaos, he wasn’t sure what he was going to be able to do. He carried her into the yard of the house on the corner and placed her down on the cool grass.
Claire rushed over to his side. “What happened to her?”
“I have no idea. It looked like he was biting her, but I don’t see any teeth marks or blood.”
“What do you think that was?”
“It was… no, never mind. Right now we have to figure out how to help Michelle. She appears to be in shock, but I really don’t have much medical training aside from a few things still rattling around from my military days. Maybe we can find some help, I don’t know. You hear all the sirens in the distance, and did you see all those people running? Something terrible has happened.” Chase glanced up and down the now desolate street. “I’ll see if there’s anyone in this house that can help us. You watch her for a moment.”
Chase ran to the front door of the white colonial house on the corner and pounded on the door, but nobody answered. He tried the handle, but it was locked. He then ran to the house next door and discovered its front door wide open, as if its inhabitants rushed out from a house fire. The house was intact and not burning, however, and Chase called inside. Nobody answered. He slipped inside and searched for a phone, but none was to be found.
“Does no one have a landline anymore?”
Chase dashed back to Claire and Michelle, but stopped dead in his tracks before he even got close. Claire was hunched over Michelle, hands outstretched and slightly cupped inches above Michelle’s chest. Michelle’s convulsions had stopped, and color was slowly trickling back into her cheeks. Chase may have been mistaken, but he swore he saw the soft glow of white light between Claire’s hands and Michelle.
“I-I think I’m healing her.”
The soft glow wavered, then grew brighter for a a brief moment before suddenly disappearing above Michelle whose color was restoring rapidly. Eyes wide, Claire sat back and opened her mouth, but nothing came out.
Michelle stirred, ever so faint at first, then she moaned while sitting up, rubbed her face, and glanced at her two friends, “Chase? Claire?”
Claire slumped into a heap and began to cry while Chase knelt beside his friend. “Michelle! Are you ok? What happened?”
Michelle shook her head. “I don’t know. I-I just don’t know… but one thing… I think I know what it feels like to die!”
The ceiling creaked overhead and the candles in the parlor flickered.
“And this is why I was looking out in the hallway, Cornelius. She’s still too new.”
Elise shook her head. “Too new at what? And did you just tell me a vampire story?”
“Quite right! On both accounts, from a certain perspective, in any case.” Cornelius craned his head upward. “Well, off you go! About 3:45 in the afternoon on the 14th is what I’ve deduced. I ought to have what you need, but don’t tarry there long either.”
“I don’t tarry anywhere anymore, you know,” Chase muttered, then turned to Elise, “Take my hand again.”
When she did so the motley fog of colors returned, and when the swirls subsided they were within familiar surroundings.
Elise glanced about, taking in the hearth, the paintings, the armchairs. “We haven’t gone anywhere.”
“Yes, we have. Look at the floor.”
Elise’s eyes scanned the room, but she was baffled. “The floor? What’s the –” Then she saw it, or, rather, didn’t. “The hand print. It’s not there.”
“Right. We’re at a time before that incident occurred.”
Chase shrugged. “I don’t know. I haven’t been there yet.”
Suddenly, the front door creaked open, and Chase motioned for Elise to crouch down behind one of the armchairs. She stood back up, however, when Cornelius Bones slinked into the room, and then she tripped backward when she realized this wasn’t the same Cornelius Bones. He was younger, perhaps by ten or twenty years. His hair was a shade or two darker, and there was more of it, and his clothes weren’t as unkempt, although still slightly tattered.
Cornelius stopped in his tracks and straightened when he noticed the two intruders in his parlor. “Oh, good. You’re already here. I don’t have to figure out how to hide this, so it’s fantastic that you can take it now.”
From a waist coast pocket Cornelius brandished a key and held it out to Chase. “Did I tell you where to take this?”
“Yes.” Chase took the key and eyed it for a long moment before slipping inside his trenchcoat.
“Good! Because I haven’t the foggiest.”
“It probably best you don’t know right now. At least, that is, according to yourself.”
“Oh, that’s quite all right. It’s all rather peculiar, isn’t it?” Cornelius turned to Elise, “Pardon me, Elise. A fine choice in channeling companion, yes!”
Chase’s face darkened and withdrew. “It wasn’t exactly a choice. She’s – never mind. You don’t know yet.”
Cornelius clasped Chase’s shoulder. “Best save it for another time then. You know how these things are. Well, off you go then!”
And with that, Chase took Elise’s hand and they disappeared with the key into another place in time.