Hubs pulled the black Rogue up to the curb between 2011 Resnick and 2015. “There ain’t nothin’ here, Wubs.”
“There’s something here,” Carol insisted. “Emil thought this address was important enough to leave it as a clue.”
“It’s just an empty stretch of road. There’s not even… There’s nothin’.”
Carol looked at her husband. “Why did you say it like that?”
“‘There’s not even…’ And then you paused. Like you wanted to say something else.
“Ye’re gonna think I’m daft.”
Carol laughed. “Oh, I thought I was the daft one. I already think this whole business is daft, so don’t let that stop you.”
“It’s just… I was gonna say there’s not even a house here, except I feel like there is. Or should be. Our used to be. Somethin’ like that.”
“Something like that. Exactly. Like something unseen, in plain sight. Where there’s an address, there should be a house, but we don’t see it.”
“Like in them stories you read.”
“Like in them stories. Like something’s stopping us from noticing.”
Hubs opened his door. “So you’re telling me that if I get out –” he did so “– and walk up to that lot, there’s going to be a house there even though we don’t see none.”
“I don’t know what I’m telling you.” Carol emerged from the other side of the Rogue. “We’re not guessing, we’re experimenting.”
“I can experiment. Ye just got out of the hospital. Ye should stay in the truck. I can do this.”
Carol shook her head, walked up to Hubs, and grabbed his hand. “Whatever were doing, we do it together.” Whatever this… this force is, I’m not going to take a chance on it separating us.”
Hubs tried to pull his hand away, but Carol’s grip was too strong. She wasn’t letting go. At last he said, “Then let’s get this over with. I guess we’re both daft.”
They stepped back onto the sidewalk in front of the empty… Carol realized that empty lot didn’t really cover it. Geometry said there was a space there between fill 2011 and 2015. A lot or something. But her eyes insisted there was nothing, just a small stretch of walk between the two houses. She couldn’t say if the stretch between was prairie grass or pavement. If she really looked, hedges came to mind, but she couldn’t say how high nor what variety.
Then they had walked past, standing in front of 2015. Hubs looked at Carol, and she looked back. “I thought we were gonna walk into the lot.”
Carol looked over her shoulder, past the empty space and to 2011. Then she turned back to Hubs. “I thought we were, too. But we didn’t. Why not?”
“You kept goin’, pullin’ me on.”
Carol shook her head. “I thought you kept going.”
They both stared down at their clasped hands. “There’s just you an’ me here, isn’t there?”
Carol raised their hands up and down, then swung them in and out. “I don’t feel anyone. Or see them.”
“But if you didn’t pull us, and I didn’t pull us…”
Without releasing Hubs’s hand, Carol spun them around and back toward the empty space. “One data point does not an experiment make. We’re trying again.”
“Agreed.” Now swinging their hands jauntily in an effort to make light, they stepped off the sidewalk and marched toward 2013.
It seemed mere seconds later that they once more felt concrete under their feet as they stepped back onto the sidewalk. “Did ye turn us back?”
“No. And you didn’t, either?”
Hubs shook his head. “Either we’re out of control, or something else has taken control.”
“And whatever else, Emil knew about it. And sent us here.”
“Sent somebody,” said Hubs. “He couldn’t know who would find his message.”
“Emil could surprise you, sometimes. He had a knack for understanding people. Maybe he left that message just for me, or another one of the Skëlëtön Crüe.”
“Carol, love, this is gettin’ to me. I ain’t been this frightened since my Grandda used to tell his stories from the old country, of all the dark spirits that roamed the land. But I was a kid, then. I long since outgrew believin’ in those tales. Now…”
But Carol was no longer paying attention. She wasn’t looking at Hubs, nor at the big empty space they couldn’t see. She was looking at a big white van pulling up to the curb. “Hubs, it’s them!”
Hubs turned and looked at the van as a woman in a nurse’s uniform and a guy wrapped in bandages climbed out, the man moving slowly as if in pain. “Them who?”
“Wanda and Wayne, my stalkers! Somehow they’re mixed up in this.”
“Oh, they are, eh…”
Wayne had his seat belt unbuckled before Wanda brought the van to a halt, and he popped the door as soon as she did. “Wayne, wait!” she said.
“No time to waste, Wanda. It’s already way too late. Emil said to get to this place…” He stood and fell against the door, slamming it shut. “This place…”
They had parked in front of an empty stretch of the street. 2013 Resnick was right between two houses. A black Nissan Rogue was parked along the road, with a tall red haired man and a woman standing in front of it, looking toward them. He recognized the woman. Car, couple, but no house.
No. Emil didn’t send him here without a reason. There was something here, more than a vacant lot.
Wayne closed his eyes, leaned on the van, and mumbled some of his Cognitive Logic axioms. This mental exercise gave him focus, helped his to reestablish a true perspective instead of false perceptions that someone had chosen for him. It was like the mantras of yogis. Perhaps in their way, they had discovered the fundamentals of Cognitive Logic, and Wayne had simply rediscovered and added mathematical rigor to instincts. However these techniques had worked in the past, Wayne could definitely feel the effects today. Every sense became sharper, truer.
He opened his eyes to see a big, old dark Victorian house where the empty lot had been. The house was surrounded by tangled hedges and fronted by twisted old trees.
The next Wayne noticed was a big, angry red scowl as a fist came straight toward his face.
“Hubs!” Carol shouted. She didn’t like this Wayne, didn’t trust him, but you don’t start a fight with a crippled man!
But her came too late, and Wayne fell flat upon the ground, shouting out in pain.
Carol ran up to pull Hubs away, but Wanda was closer and faster, and she had a mean spin kick. She caught Hubs right across the knee, and he went down with a cry, cradling his injury.
“Get away from him, you bitch!” Carol shouted. But before she got there, Hubs was already back on his feet, hobbling away from Wanda and raising his fists in a fighting stance.
Wayne staggered up on one knee. “Leave my wife alone!”
“Wait! Stop!” Carol shouted. She had been angry in the moment. Now she just wanted everyone to calm down.
Wanda bent down to inspect Wayne, but then she glared up at Hubs. “You come anywhere near him, and I’ve got plenty more for you.”
Hubs shook his head. “You caught me by surprise, darlin’. That won’t happen twice.”
Wayne rose to a crouch and shouted, “Will you all shut the fuck up!” His vehemence startled Carol. It startled the others, too, giving him time to continue. “We’re facing a horrific threat, and you’re all playing their game by fighting each other instead of them.”
As Wanda helped Wayne to his feet, she asked, “Them who? The crazy pucas you keep talking about?”
“You mean pookas, don’t you?” said a new voice. Carol looked up at a woman in blonde curls who must have arrived in the green Chevy that was parked in front of the van.
“No,” Wayne answered. He brushed Wanda’s hands away, and he stood shakily on his own feet. “We only wish it was pucas. I think we’re dealing with pucks.” Then he looked at the man standing behind the newcomer. “Hello, Kevin.”
The older man had a fringe of white hair around his balding head. He said, “Wayne, is that you inside the mummy wrappings?”
“It is. Long time no see. Let me guess, Emil sent you.”
Kevin shook his head. “Not directly, no, but he’s part of this. That just feels true.” Then he nodded down at a big brown cardboard carton that he carried. “No, we came to make a delivery.”
Paula looked around at the strange assembly. She knew Carol Scott by name, but had never seen her before. The others were strangers to her. “Look, are we done with all the fighting now? Can I make my delivery so we can get the hell away from here and that crazy house?”
The injured guy – Wayne? – turned to her in surprise. “You can see the house?”
“I can now. I couldn’t yesterday, or last week, not once it started fading. A month ago I saw it easily, no big deal. But then the man… A man appeared inside my delivery man and said I needed to forget the house existed. Don’t come back.”
Wayne shook his head. “That wasn’t a man, it was a puck. Or maybe a puca.”
Paula looked at Wayne, and she felt the truth there. “You could be right. How do we tell the difference?”
Wayne stared into her eyes, and he said, “It was probably a puca. You’re still alive.”
In an uneasy truce, all six of them carried the package up onto the porch. Paula was nervous as hell. After watching the house fade, suddenly it was back. And after a few words and gestures from Wayne, the others saw it, to. Was he a hypnotist?
Or was somebody else a hypnotist, these mysterious pucas and pucks, and Wayne had simply broken their hold? That frightened her even more.
Paula noticed that Carol made a point to stand between her husband – Hubs, she called him, no other name – and Wayne. Wanda did as well. Maybe the two women could remain sensible while they kept the men apart.
When they got to the porch, Paula took the box from Kevin, set it down on the mat on the doorstep, and took two steps back. The rest stepped back as well, and they were all silent for nearly a minute.
Finally Hubs broke the spell. “What are we waitin’ for?”
Paula shook her head. We don’t know. “Maybe for a long time. Maybe… Maybe forever. Maybe they’ve left, and they aren’t returning.”
“Maybe…” Wayne shook his head. “But I don’t know. If the house was still here but hidden, maybe they are too.” He paused. “Emil told me what to do, it’s time to try it.” Paula watched him stepped up to the door. He looked up at the gables and said, “Puca, I ask for sanctuary.”
For a moment everyone held their breath, waiting for they weren’t sure what. A puca to appear? Wayne to disappear? The door to open?
But whatever they expected, they got nothing. After another minute, Wayne remained on the doorstep, unanswered.
Paula looked down at the box. Sometimes, when a package required a signature or other special delivery, Mr. Myerink expected his drivers to spend a little extra time searching for the recipient before bringing the package back as undeliverable. If they could do it without breaking and entering, he even recommended… “Let’s try the back door,” she said.
Wanda shook her head. “You don’t even know if this… this place has a back door.”
Paula side. She was beginning to understand what Wayne said. “There is a back door, because I expect there’s a back door. Besides, what old Victorian doesn’t have a back door?” Before anyone could object, she picked up the box, stepped off the porch, wended her way through the hedges and trees, and found a path leading south behind the house. She looked back to make sure they were following her – safety in numbers and all that – and then walked around the hedges to the rear of the house.
Then she stopped at a horrifying sight, so abruptly that the others almost ran her over. Shifting the box to her left arm, with her right hand she pointed out at the middle of the backyard, where a six foot long mound of fresh earth rose in the center of the grass. A tall granite headstone stood at one end.
“Folks, I think we found Emil.”
The good folks at Fyrecon have declared this to be Fyretober: a month of creative prompts, encouraging writers, poets, and artists to share their explorations. Today’s prompt: Jack-o-Lantern avatars,
Oh, so close! That prompt doesn’t work for today’s story, but maybe soon…