A/N... yes, I know, it took longer to get here than it should. I stopped to enter a writing contest (again) this time I got first runner up! I'll put the story on fictionpress when I'm alowed. In the meantime, please enjoy!
CAMPBELLTOWN, '61, SUMMER
Simon's mom brushed her hair back from her eyes and smiled sadly at her son. He lay in a stark hospital bed, his eyes closed, his face as pale as death.
The door to the spartan room opened and Simon's dad ushered in a small seven year old boy.
A boy who looked exactly like Simon.
"Shaun, honey" Simon's mom opened her arms as the little boy rushed to her. "Are you okay? You had a good time at Michael's house?"
Shaun nodded, his bright eyes wide as he looked at his twin brother laying prone in the bed. "Is he going to be okay?" he asked.
Simon's dad sat in the vinyl leather chair next to his wife. "We think so."
"Why isn't he waking up?" Shaun's voice started to waiver as his eyes filled with tears.
"The doctor gave him something to help him sleep, dear. He will be fine" Simon's mom looked at her husband, her forehead creased with worry. "He'll be fine"
"What say you and Shaun go get something to eat, I'll stay here with Simon" dad leaned forward and pulled his wallet from his back pocket. "Just bring me back a coffee. And maybe a sandwich"
Shaun stepped away from his mom and moved to the hospital bed. It was weird seeing his brother so still, so pale. He looked dead.
Shaun gasped and stumbled backwards as Simon's eyes snapped open.
The boy's parents jumped up and rushed to the bedside, their faces creased with concern.
Simon looked at his parents, his eyes steady, focused.
He then saw his brother.
"You're back" he said, his voice barely above a croaky whisper. Shaun nodded.
"The sleep over finished. They kept us longer 'cause of, well, you know"
"Are you okay? Are you gonna be okay?" Shaun leaned forward and took his brother's hand. "You're going to be all right, aren't you?"
Simon smiled at his twin, but shook his head. "No, Shaun, I'm not. I'm never going to be okay. Never again"
The mom grabbed her prone son by the shoulders and leaned her face close to his. "Don't you say that. Don't. You are going to be fine, do you hear me? Fine"
Simon blinked once, very slowly, then gently shook his head. "No, mom, I'm not."
Simon's dad stepped closer. "Why would you say that, boy?" he asked, his face twisted with concern. "The doctor's say you'll be fine, you just need some rest. They say you can come home later today"
A sigh escaped the child as he looked up at the three worried faces. "He's gonna come back, dad. He will come back and take me. He won't stop till he gets me"
Dad shook his head firmly. "No, Simon, that's not true. Why would you think that?"
Another slow blink from the boy and he made eye contact with his brother.
"Because he told me he would"
On the far side of town, right over the other side of the woods lay a large, serene lake. A small creek fed into the lake on one side, filling it to capacity in the wet season and topping up the blue waters in the dry. A small creek led out from the other side, through the woods and away, but it held water only in the wetter months. Even though it was late in the year for the creek to be full, this year it still ran rather strongly as it carried the over flow from the lake on its journey to faraway places.
On the town side of the lake was a park, recently established, planted with trees and garden beds, dotted with picnic areas and shelters. Though still fairly new it still showed promise of being a botanical beauty in the future.
On the far side of the lake was a sandy shore line, a few cheery basket willows and just back a little, right on the edge of the sand, stood a timber cottage. Small and quaint, it was made from pine logs and had a stone chimney at each end, with a long verandah surrounding the entire cottage. There was a full vegetable garden to the back and a chicken house to the side. Pretty flower beds in the front and a rocking chair on the verandah gave the cottage a story book visage.
A sturdy jetty jutted out from one side of the shoreline, adjoining the sand just as the bank fell away to a steep incline and reached out about thirty foot into the water.
On this jetty sat a man, his pant legs rolled up and his feet dangling over the edge, toes dipped into the cool blue water. He held a fishing rod, a battered tack box propped beside him. Around his head buzzed the occasional dragon fly, the sun reflecting off its wings in a cacophony of rainbow shimmer.
The sun caressed the surface of the lake through the waving branches of the willows, popping diamonds of reflected across the smooth water.
The day could not look more perfect, the picture a postcard snap shot of serenity.
But something startled the ducks gliding effortlessly across the water and they hustled into the sky in a screech of squawking panic.
The man huffed at the fickle water fowl and resumed his quite musings as he dangled his line. It wasn't until the cold fog that had slipped in around him and started to cover his legs that he noticed the change in the day.
Frowning, he pulled his legs from the water just as the fog rushed out from under the jetty and sped out silently across the lake. It followed the shadow that had fallen across the water. Looking up the man saw the fog was covering the sky, lifting above his head in some unholy shroud.
He stood, unsure and a little frightened at the weird envelope of mist spreading out around him, turning he saw the fog had covered the tall pines and was falling like a waterfall across the roof of his cottage, obscuring it completely from view.
Cold fingers of fear started to twist in his viscera as he turned one way, then the other, looking for an exit. There was none. The fog had completely taken over everything in sight and was rapidly closing behind him. He dropped his rod and slipped of the side of the jetty and rolled silently into the water.
Around the man the fog had settled in, cocooning him in a hazy white shroud. The temperature had dropped several degrees and he could feel goose flesh break out on all of his exposed skin.
Stepping forward the man started to reach for his tackle box but a flicker of movement caught his eye and he froze. Through the mist had thickened and he could barely make out anything, a tall, slender shape started to take form near the end of the jetty. As he watched, his heart racing, the shape started to move closer, its form becoming more apparent as it drew near.
A man. But not a man. He was tall, too tall, and so thin he should not be able to stand. His legs had to be at least six feet long, his torso about the same, his arms were as long as his legs. As he stepped even closer the man was shocked at the jutting, robotic way the thing walked, his movements stiff and jerking.
Except for his arms. They seemed to flow and wave much like the legs of an octopus. As the man watched the arms grew longer, more tentacle like as they swirled around the slender man.
His face… there was no face. It was smooth, white, void of all features. But even though it lacked eyes, the man could feel it looking at him, staring at him, drawing ever closer and closer with its slow motion movements.
The man stooped forward to his tackle box and grabbed it up to his chest. He pulled the top open and started to rummage around inside, pushing the bait and hooks and various fishing accoutrements aside, searching fervently for an item beyond his sight.
The name was not spoken, but somehow he heard it.
The sound seemed to reverberate in his skull and through his bones, though the creature had no mouth, no orifice to speak from.
It is your time, Jeremiah Wallis. I have come for you
The man stopped searching through his tackle box and looked up at the thing that stood now before him. He had to tip his head far back as he tried to look at its face. The creature's long arms swirled and danced around itself, and as Jeremiah watched it sprouted several more arms, all quickly growing to the same nightmarish length as the originals.
You are mine today, Jeremiah Wallis
The man took an involuntary step backwards. The creature did not move forward but its arms grew longer, now swirling and writhing towards the hapless fellow.
You cannot escape me. Today I have come for you.
"I don't think so" Jeremiah took another step back, then another. He only stopped as his next step did not make contact with the jetty, and he glanced behind himself to see he had run out of room. "I know how to stop you. You forget, I have the means to keep you at bay"
You do not have it with you. Today you come with me, Jeremiah Wallis.
Jeremiah let the tackle box fall, his hand still tight against his chest as the box's contents scattering across the jetty and some fell into the water. He didn't look at it, didn't track the progress of his fallen possessions.
I take you now, Jeremiah Wallis.
The thing moved the twisting, swirling arms towards Jeremiah, but the man did not shrink back, instead he stood tall, almost confident. Taking a sharp breath he thrust his hand forward and lifted it, palm up, towards the slender man's face.
Campbelltown, Present Day
Rachel looked down at the sleeping form of her youngest child. The pretty girl looked so pale, so vulnerable. Her dark hair swirled in soft curls around her angelic face, her gypsy eyes shrouded with dark shadows. The crisp white hospital sheets only served to make her look more tiny, more ill, as she slowly opened her eyes and looked up at her family.
"How're you feeling, baby?"
Harry blinked very slowly and offered her mother a weak smile. "Not too good" she croaked. "I feel real strange, like I'm stuck in a dream" she looked over at her brother. "You saw it too, didn't you, Henry?"
Rachel frowned and turned to her son. He didn't make eye contact with her. She turned back to her youngest child. "You mean….. you mean It, don't you? The thing that grabbed at the boys in the woods…you saw it?" She turned to Henry. "You both saw It?"
Henry turned to face his mother, his face drawn, worried. "Mom, if we both saw it, that means it's coming for us, isn't it? It's coming for Harry, then me?" He turned to his sister. "Did it talk to you? Did it tell you it'd be back?"
Harriet frowned. She closed her eyes and a tear escaped from the thick lashes and started a slow trek down her cheek. Henry took her hand. "Harry, it did, didn't it?" Harriet nodded, her eyes still firmly closed. Henry looked back at his mother. "What're we going to do? You know it'll come for us, mom. What are we going to do?"
Rachel grabbed Henry's shoulders and pulled his face close to hers. "I'll ask Harry's dad. If anyone can help us, it's him"
Henry nodded, tears forming in his own eyes. "Okay. Okay. Yes. Let's try that"
Alex shouldered his bag and looked over at his friends. "I just rang my dad, he can't pick us up. Coz of, you know, Danny and his bros makin' up that shiz about the thing coming after them" he shrugged his bag into position on his back. "Sucks big time, but we're gonna have to walk"
His friends moaned and bitched, but they all turned to the exit and trudged off, school bags and back packs hoisted and various snack items in hand. Alex turned to Liam, standing at his locker which was only a couple away from his. "Dude, you walking with us?"
Liam didn't respond, he just stood there, face downcast as he shifted his backpack on his thin frame. "Hey dude, you deaf? Are you coming with us or what?" Liam looked up at Alex who had moved close in front of him and was snapping his fingers in the quiet boy's face. "Hello? Earth to Liam Wallis! C'mon, cuz, you walking with us or what?"
Liam gave a short bob of his head and shadowed his cousin down the school hallway and out into the afternoon sun. He squinted against the brightness and hung his head, following the other boys a few paces behind. The three other boys laughed and joked, eating their food and enjoying the day as they walked. After a few moments Alex stopped and looked behind to his cousin. "We're cutting through the woods. Dad said not to, but it's way too far to go around. You okay with that?"
Liam shrugged then nodded. He didn't lift his gaze to meet Alex's face, he just moved on, following the boys into the dark stretch of tall pines.
The daylight was lost in an instant as the four boys entered the woods, the high branches of the ancient trees blocking all but the most persistent rays. The boy trudged along the well worn path the only part of the forest that was not covered in rusty colored pine needles.
The sweet, permeating fragrance of pine trees gently warmed their senses as they moved through the dark woods, three teens laughing and mucking around, one just following, quiet, almost sullen, and falling further behind as his boisterous companions skipped ahead.
The path was dimly lit here and there by breaks in the canopy of the forest, but as they boys drew further ahead a soft layer of mist had coated the ground and it swirled and danced around their playful feet. "Race you to the broken pine!" called Alex and he ran head, laughing as he sped off.
His two school mates struggle to keep up and Alex won the race easily, leaning back on the dead tree and catching his breath as the other two sped to his side. He turned to face them and was shocked to see how thick the fog had grown behind him. "Dudes, when did that happen?"
The other two boys looked at him an shrugged. "Dunno" said one.
"It's so thick I can't see your stoned cousin anymore" the other added.
"Don't call him that" snarled Alex. "You don't know how hard he's got it. I'd like to see you two put up with his life"
The boys nodded, easily put in their place. Everyone at school knew the hard life Liam was forced to endure, and no one gave him grief over it. They were all just glad it wasn't them with town slut for a mother and a madman for a father. "Where is he, anyway?" the second boy asked.
Alex looked down the path. The fog had grown so think they could see more than a few feet. "Liam!" he called, cupping his hands to his mouth to amplify the sound.
There was no reply. "LIAM!" he shouted again, and this time the soft echo of his own voice mocked him in with its hollow emptiness. "LIAM!"
"You think he's playing games?" one of the boys asked.
Alex shook his head. "No. I don't. He didn't seem in the mood to play games. He's been kinda weird for days. You know?" He frowned, leaning forward as he strained to see through the thick fog. "LII-AMM!"
Once again the only reply he received was the soft echo of his own voice as it reverberated around the pine forest and returned to the caller.
Worried, he turned to his two friends. "I think we should go back. There's something wrong. Maybe he like, passed out or something"
They walked back into the fog, this time they were quiet, subdued, the further they got into the mist the more their apprehension grew. The sunlight was completely gone; there was only the softly luminescent mist and nothing else. No sky, no scrub, and no path. The only way the boys could tell where the path lay was to follow the gap in the few black pine trunks that guarded the way, the ground was completely covered in the liquid mist the swirled and ebbed like waves at the beach.
They walked for some time, worried, hushed, looking for their errant companion. The fog seemed to folding closer around them lending a claustrophobic aura to the boys. Unconsciously they had moved closer to each other, their shoulders almost touching as they crept in silence down the path.
There was no noise. Nothing at all. Normally the woods held a cacophony of chirruping insects, the odd animal call and the loud rapport of mating birds. With the heavy fog the boys couldn't even hear their footsteps as they moved along the hidden path.
"Should I call again?" whispered Alex.
"Dude, no. Just, let's keep going, okay?" his friend hissed back.
Suddenly, without warning, a terrifying scream split the silence.
The horror, fear and pain cut through the fog and assaulted the boys like a blow. The three stopped in their tracks, hearts silent, eyes wide as their breath froze in their throats.
Another scream hit them and they turned, running, themselves screaming with as much fear and horror as the sound that had set them on their flight.
They ran. They sped off for their lives, passing the dead tree they had raced to, tearing through the thick fog. Then, as they ran, lungs burning, eyes bulging, hearts hammering, the sound of someone following them. "It could be Liam" panted Alex.
"No. Keep running. Just keep running" his friend said, one hand on the small of his back to urge him on. Alex needed no urging. The heavy thumps of steps behind them left no doubt that it was not Liam, they were too far apart, as if the runner was taking huge steps that covered many feet of ground. Alex somehow found an extra burst of adrenaline as he surged ahead of his friends.
He reached the edge of the woods and stopped. The tree line also heralded the end of the fog; it stopped perfectly around the trees as if it had been trimmed. Alex turned back to the woods to see if he could see his companions. He could barely see a head, someone getting closer, and as the friend drew near enough for him to make out a torso the sheer outline of the other companion fell in behind him.
Then the third boy fell.
The boy had stumbled and tripped, rolling forward into the thick fog and was momentarily rendered invisible to Alex. He only knew where the teen was when the boy called out in fear.
The second boy turned, slowing, and then started to run back, his arm outstretched to help his fallen companion off the ground. Alex could see the fallen boy's hand reach up, stretching out, a disembodied arm raised from the fog as the boy struggled to grasp the hand of his helper.
As if in pulled from behind the arm suddenly flew backwards, the boy screaming as he was yanked back into the fog. The other boy dropped to his knees in shock, his face white and his arm still outstretched.
The screaming seemed to continue for a very long time, then abruptly stopped as if a switch was flicked. Alex grabbed his friend by the back of his jacket and pulled him to his feet, ripping him backwards as he dragged him as fast as he could from the fog shrouded forest, out of the tree line, leaving the fog behind them.
A/N...so, some of the characters are revealing themselves. Some ae becoming more involved, and everything is coming together. What do you think so far?