Nothing To Be Afraid Of
by Catherine J. Link
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
A satellite drifted before Carly’s eyes, crystal clear against the starry background of space. She could make out various external components, but she had no knowledge of scientific things. She’d seen photographs, read about them on the internet. There were thousands of them, but the satellite she saw, even though it was from Earth, was no longer of the Earth.
When Carly awoke, her uncle was sitting in a rocking chair in the darkest corner of her bedroom.
“What did you see?”
Carly was not a child, but she answered in a child-like voice. “The satellite again.”
“Did you see aliens?”
“Were you in mental communication with them?”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“How do we know you’re not imagining all this?”
“I wish I was.”
Lorna appeared and pulled her older brother from the room by one arm. “Good morning, dear. Forgive Uncle Andrew. He’s a grouch in the morning.”
Once in the hallway...
“Stop watching her sleep, Andrew. It’s creepy.”
“I need to know if she’s imagining all this. If not—”
“She’s not imagining things,” Lorna said. “Trust me. I know.”
“How can you be sure?”
“She has an amazing prediction rate. Since the accident, her dreams come true or have a basis in truth.”
“A basis in truth? What does that even mean?”
“She had a dream about her father being killed, and that very morning Charlie crashed his jet ski and died. She dreamed about tornados, and a town in Italy was wiped out. She dreamed about a gas explosion, and there it was on the morning news. So when my daughter tells me extra-terrestrials are coming to Earth, I believe that something out of the ordinary will happen.”
“But she’s not always right. You’ve admitted that in the past. And she’s not completely right in the head since—”
Before she could stop herself, Lorna slapped her older brother across the face. “Don’t you ever say that again.”
“I didn’t mean... it’s the seizures. They do something to her. What if she’s wrong this time?”
“I pray to God she’s wrong this time. Try saying a prayer once in a while, Andrew. You may not believe in God, but I do.”
Andrew topped off his cold black coffee, then turned on the radio, listening to local news.
“The accident has been cleared, and Texdot says the on-ramp will be reopened. In other news—”
Carly found her favorite mug and wiped dust out of it.
“I don’t mean to push, Sweet Pea, but we have to alert the authorities,” Andrew said.
“That won’t help.” She took two pecan sandies from the cookie jar, dunking one in her tea.
“Nobody will believe us.”
Carly’s voice was docile, more childlike than usual, her face expressionless.
“But we do have free speech in this country. Pastor Dawney can say whatever he wants, but he should not be given publicity. The media should ignore him—”
Uncle Andrew sighed, frustrated.
“I don’t mean to be an ass, Lorna, but she’s a kid. Drama is a way of life for kids, especially these days.”
Carly’s eyes filled with tears.
“She’s not a kid, Andrew. She’s twenty-eight years old.”
“Yeah, well, I’m sixty and that’s a kid to me. You’re still a kid to me.” He looked at Carly, seeing the hurt. “I’m sorry, Sweet Pea.”
“This is not just any man. Dawney is a famous evangelist with some serious credibility in both the religious and secular communities. People—”
“I’m going out,” he said, sniffling into a handkerchief. He slammed the screen door, and a billow of dust followed him.
“I’ve never seen him like this,” Carly said. She sat on the kitchen chair with her legs folded under her.
“I have. When Aunt Sherry was sick, he had the same look on his face all the time,” Lorna said. “And when you crashed into Josh on the zipline and injured your head, he looked the way he does now. Frightened.”
Carly dunked another cookie, but before she could eat it, her eyes rolled back and her head fell forward. The teacup slipped from her fingers, crashing to the floor. She started to slide from the chair, but Lorna caught her. It was the third seizure in as many days.
“He’s not saying anything new, but people are taking Dawney seriously and that can be dangerous.”
* * *
Uncle Andrew’s demeanor was different when he returned for Saturday night dinner. He even brought a bottle of red wine, which was out of character; Uncle Andrew was a beer and bourbon man.
“Will red wine go with chicken?” Lorna asked.
“I don’t listen to the experts when it comes to alcohol or politics.”
“Open the bottle.”
“I’d better dust it first. It looks like I stole it out of some ancient wine cellar.” He dusted the bottle with a towel then filled the glasses. “Let it breathe, whatever the hell that means.”
“Too late. You poured it already,” Carly said.
“For the past few days, I’ve searched news sites out of Dallas and Austin, national news, world news, you name it, and I’ve found nothing about UFOs or aliens. As usual, there’s always some crackpot claiming he’s been abducted and had something shoved up his backside, but nothing credible has been reported.”
Carly was silent, picking at her food. She’d lost her appetite lately and was looking gaunt.
“What do you think, Carly?” Lorna asked.
“I’m not the only one who knows. I saw a show on television yesterday and other people are talking about the end times.”
“End times... That’s not the same thing. That’s religion. People have been talking about that, and the rapture, since before I was a tadpole,” Andrew said.
“That preacher, Clayton Dawney,” Lorna said. “He’s been all over the news and talk shows for weeks saying end times are happening now.”
“Don’t worry about your dreams, Sweet Pea. I’m not saying you’re wrong. Something might be happening, but why does it have to be bad? It’s probably something we’ll never notice. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“Of course. I’m sure you’re right,” Lorna said before her daughter could disagree. “Carly’s not worried, are you?”
Carly looked into her mother’s eyes and understood. “No, I’m not worried.”
“To better days,” Andrew said, draining his wineglass. Lorna still saw fear in his eyes.
* * *
Carly woke up clawing at her throat. She managed a cough, then drew in a few ragged breaths. Her throat was so dry, she could barely swallow.
The house was dark. She went to the kitchen, poured a goblet of red wine and gulped it, feeling her throat burn. Looking out a window over the sink, she saw the full moon. It was surrounded by storm clouds and a red ring. “A moonbow,” she said. “Bad things are happening tonight.”
Thunderheads raced across the sky, blotting out the moon, and everything went dark.
“Is this what it’s like to be blind?”
The wind picked up, gusting, causing shutters to bang against the house. Carly could see nothing, but she heard the sound of leaves quivering. She imagined trees in the yard struggling to pull their roots from the ground, fighting for freedom, but to do what?
“To run for their lives?”
Again, Carly gulped wine. Her throat still burned. She recognized the sound of bushes scratching against the window screens, and in her aberrant frame of mind, she pictured small animals clawing their way into the house.
“Poor things. I’d let you in, if I could.”
There was a bolt of lightning followed by a clap of thunder.
Her retinas were left with a gash of white light that haunted her, even when she closed her eyes. Cloud-to-cloud lightning lit up the room, but she could not see it. Then something banged against the house. Startled, she dropped the wine goblet, hearing it shatter on the tile. She jumped back to keep from cutting her feet.
More lightning and thunder followed. A storm seemed to be hovering directly overhead. Carly’s sight had not yet recovered; she was afraid to move, afraid of stepping on broken glass, but even worse, she had a horrible feeling that something evil had worked its way into the house.
She forced her feet to move. She bumped against the kitchen table, ran her hands along it, then held onto the chairs. Carly followed familiar landmarks to the door. She found the switch and flipped it. Darkness remained. The sound of the storm thrashed against the house, causing her to cry out, while streaks of lightning lit up the windows.
Her eyes had adjusted. Carly could see again and her fear subsided. She felt foolish. “I grew up in this house. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Now all she wanted to do was go back to bed and sleep until the storm passed. As she walked down the hallway, the door to her mother’s bedroom opened.
“I’m sorry, Mama. I didn’t mean to—”
Something stepped out, tall and thin with enormous almond-shaped eyes. It held up one clawed hand where her mother’s severed head dangled by bloodied hair. Maniacal screams, from deep in her belly, were ripped from Carly causing pain that knocked her to the floor. Blood spewed from her lungs, drowning her, yet she continued to scream and did not stop until she choked to death.
* * *
Lorna awoke from her nightmare and bolted upright in bed. Her heart was pounding. She felt pain in the side of her neck and down her left arm. She searched for a vial in the nightstand drawer, finding it shoved way in the back. She put a pill beneath her tongue, then lay back down and waited.
“God, please help me! I can’t die now. My daughter needs me.”
Carly entered the kitchen looking disheveled. She was still in her nightgown; her hair was damp and stuck to her head. She was shaking.
“Are you all right?” Lorna asked.
“I wish the dreams would stop.” She hit herself in the head with one hand, over and over again. She was muddled, looking around the kitchen but not seeing it.
“Here, sit.” Lorna put her on a chair and knelt down in front of her. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
“They’ve drifted... settled... I don’t know how to say it.” Her speech was halting, confused. Carly hit herself in the head again.
Lorna grabbed her wrist. “Stop that. Calm down and say it the best you can. I will understand you.”
“From somewhere...” — she made a sweeping gesture over her head, seeming to indicate the vastness of the universe — “to satellites, then to other things... Floating junk... drifting down, always down, to the animals.”
“I saw them in my dreams. Owls attacking children, scratching out their eyes. Wolves ripping old people apart. Elephants crushing human babies, and horses running wild, biting, stomping, unborn foals falling from their mother’s wombs. But then they weren’t foals. They were human fetuses.” Carly burst into tears.
“Listen to me. Those are nightmares, not visions. And we all have nightmares. There’s nothing to be afraid of, Carly. Nothing bad is happening.”
“But it will.”
“You don’t know that for sure. Your dreams don’t always come true. Isn’t that so?”
“You haven’t seen monsters in your dreams, have you?”
“Have you heard voices, telling you things?”
“Now you sound like Uncle Andrew.”
“Well, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.”
Carly calmed and managed to smile.
“Do you want to cancel the fishing trip? I’ll call Uncle Andrew and tell him you’re sick.”
“No, I want to go,” she said. “I want to go, Mama, Please don’t call.” At that moment, Carly looked more than ever like a little girl.
Lorna felt dizziness, palpitations. My poor child, Lorna thought. She’s getting worse. I think it might be killing me.
* * *
Copyright © 2019 by Catherine J. Link