WiP: Oakfield – chapter eleven

Work in Progress

Here’s one I finished during the weekend.  Apologies for any typos. Straight off the machine.  Oakfield. It’s a cyberpunk / horror story set in the South West of England and is a direct prequel to the epic novel God Seed.  Enjoy!

Start from the beginning: Chapter 1 here

Chapter Eleven

Robert Briggs was moving like a man still getting used to the idea his body might actually achieve a full run.  Still dressed in formal dinner garb, minus the jacket, his hips wobbled side to side and his arms were up in the air as he crossed the hall.  James and David had leapt out from the Zero-Gees and now James was already ahead, yanking the door open and stepping through the porch into the night outside.

The first thing that struck him was the unnatural coldness of the fog; which swirled around him like chilled cream in a coffee cup as he stepped into it.  Then came the absolute silence. The experience was immediately unnerving.  James rotated and stepped back towards the fuzzy, semi-visible glow of the front door as fog-smudged form of David barreled through, closely followed by Robert.

Even Robert, not a man renowned for his sensitivity in any walk of life, abruptly stopped all movement and commotion.

David sought out his gaze; concern written all over his face. This was not a normal situation. Both of them knew it.

Annabelle arrived with Anthony. Everybody was no stood just outside the doorway, peering intently in all directions.  James noted everybody had started rubbing hands up and down arms that were clenched tightly about chests; even him.

“What did you see Briggs?” He asked bluntly.

Robert’s florid features were lost in fog and shadow, “Damned lights. Up on the roof. At the back where my room is.”

James twisted his face, irritated: Robert’s room was on the first floor.  He took several large steps backwards, feet crunching on the gravel, and arched his spine to look up towards the roof. All he could see was fog. David moved alongside him, arm held out ready to catch him in case he tripped and tumbled.

“Careful old boy.  Can you see anything?”

“Nah.” James grumbled the word.

“Smell that?”

James could.  The fog – or whatever was in the fog – had an unpleasant, metallic tang to it.  “Chemicals.”

“Gas?”

“Jesus I don’t know David.  This is weird.”

Annabelle’s voice called out – a disembodied voice.  “What can you see? Can you see lights?”

“Stay by the door.” David advised, his voice betraying his nerves.

James made a shush sound. Took another couple of paces backwards. He thought he’d heard something above them. David paced alongside, his arm still held out.  It was impossible. All he could see was an inky darkness with swirls of the fog reaching down and catching the ambient glow from the open doorway. The freezing temperature was making his face go numb.

Then he did hear it.  A sound a few metres above him like a very large curtain being swept back, or a rug being thrown down and unfurled across the floor.  And it was moving.  A moment later he caught a surreal pulse of light. Purple. Or dark violet.  A metre or so across, it appeared, a flickering tangle of twisted lines of light, moved languidly for a moment, and then it disappeared.  It was like no colour he’d ever seen before and he struggled to even make a sound, never mind attempt to describe what he’d just seen.

But David had seen it. “What the hell…”

James snapped a glance down to see David, barely visible, was standing with his neck twisted at a funny angle to see above him.  David moved to meet his gaze. It was impossible to make out features or facial expressions but James could sense the dark dismay in the shadows where his eyes should be.

Annabelle’s voice again, “David?”

“Wait there. Don’t come out here Bella,” David told her.

“What can you see?” She challenged, fear in her voice.

“There!” Anthony’s voice, coming from some distance away. He’d obviously moved from the doorway. “I can see a light or something. Up there.”

Shit, James cursed.  He tried to work out where Anthony had moved to.  David whirled round and started to move off in that direction but James lunged after him and grabbed his arm. David stopped and stared at him with a look that said: what?

“Don’t split up.”  James told him. He made out the frown quickly reshape David’s face; saw his perfectly groomed her was a tangled mess now.

David allowed James to hold him there, turned his head and called over: “Ant. Get your sister and get back inside the house.  Where’s Briggs?”

“Right here. I’m by the door with Bella.”

More sounds. Large, arrhythmic Flapping or something like it, only metres above their heads.  Was it… circling?  It was too big to be a bird.  And what kind of bird flew at night and in freezing fog with weird coloured lights pulsing from it?  James began to cautiously move himself and David with him, back towards the house.

Barking.

Distant but growing rapidly closer and louder.  Hiram Sykes dog.  It sounded as if it was in a mad dash across the open ground towards them.

The sound of the flapping changed.  Several quick throbs of that alien, purple, violet, dark-blue light.  Both he and David instinctively dropped into a crouch.  James glanced over: the house seemed much further away than it should have been.  A trick of the fog?

Sound of paws racing across gravel.  The barking now a ferocious series of snarls and yelps.  James whirled to see the white form of Hiram’s dog as it skidded across the gravel and slammed against his legs.  A brief respite from barking to circle around James and David, licking their hands, wagging its tail, before it trotted several paces away and took up a sitting position, head pointed upwards, snarling and barking.

David began tugging at his arm.  “Come on James. Back inside.”

James held his ground and swiveled his head back the way the dog had come. Was Hiram alright?  Why was the dog doing lose?

As if in answer, the aberrant quiet of the fog-choked air was torn apart by a singular, bass-like, blast from a horn.  It came from the direction of the sea and Hiram’s house. The noise was like a bloody didgeridoo; the sound deep, primal, and struck him somewhere in his belly.

The atmosphere shifted. Some invisible, preternatural oppressive influence suddenly lifted.  James stood erect, as did David, and both men moved quickly back to the open doorway.

“What was that?” Annabelle asked, her face a rigid mask of distress.

Robert wasn’t impressed: “We should get inside.”

Anthony had one hand on his sister’s shoulder, and was holding a kitchen knife in the other.

What a scene. Happy families? Jesus! James raged as a fury ignited inside of him. They were being toyed with.

He wanted to go and see Hiram but the idea of crossing the open ground, alone in the dark and the fog, away from the house, filled him with an acute dread that he couldn’t push away.

It could wait for the morning.

The dog trotted over to the doorway and sniffed at the old stone walls. It seemed relaxed.  James stared at it as everyone else moved inside.  Then as if silently summoned, the dog’s ears pricked up, it snapped a glance behind then turned and darted away.

Inside, James locked the outer and then the inner door of the porch. He followed everyone into the kitchen.

“Are any windows open in the house?” he asked.

Nobody seemed to think there were.

They stayed awake for nearly an hour, talking, drinking tea.  Robert explained he had been in his room, working at a table next to the window.  He’d heard a sound upstairs which alerted his suspicions. He’d left his room and climbed the smaller staircase up to the top floor.  Going into a room above his he’d seen a strange coloured light or lantern floating outside the window.  He couldn’t answer when James queried if he’d seen the light actually floating outside the window, or if he’d seen it reflecting off the fog – if the light had been on the roof.

Upstairs, everyone went to bed with the doors to their rooms left open.

Despite being exhausted James drifted over the chasm of sleep like a drowning man unable to get a grip on a piece of driftwood.  Troublesome memories rolled against him, causing a slow, familiar sense of panic to build up, but after a while he was able to focus on the idea of spending an entire day in the house.  One thing that seemed to help was when he realised that the strange, icy fog had evaporated away.  The moon flooded through the window and painted the room in its alabaster light.  Maybe it would be a nice day, weather wise, and he’d get to spend time in the garden? With the bedding bunched up in tightly clenched fists, he concentrated on generating positive imagery and thoughts.

Mariana waltzed into the low-vaulted chambers that led towards slumber.  His eyelids flicked open several times, slow and lazy, as his mind wondered if maybe she was lying in a room staring out at the same moon as him.

He slipped and tumbled into warm darkness.  A sense of falling without fear.  He let go of everything that might stop him vanishing.  His fists released the bedding. Fingers uncoiled like badly rusted springs.

Mariana Lockheart fell with him – into his dreams.

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